The Long Game

Marley’s reluctant caddy is given perks his afternoon job.

“Would you quit your bellyaching? It’s a nice, cloudless, sunny weekend, beautiful green landscape, fresh air, and your attitude is raining on my parade,” Marley commented, smiling at the gloomy face glaring at as if trying to summon a rain cloud to descend upon her.

“Rain would be an improvement over this, I can list hundreds of things more exciting.”

“How dare you mock the greatest game in the universe,” she dramatically declared with obvious fake flare, fixing the white cap covering her ponytail, gloved hands on her hips, all making him fake yawn in response. He adjusting the golf bag over his shoulder, half tempted to use it for impromptu weightlifting.

“Assuming the universe is only as big as golf course, I’m sure you’re wrong on that too. Plenty of fun games you could play here that beat boring-ass golf.”

“Perhaps you should’ve played those instead of playing against me and losing.”

“One hand of poker loses a few hundred dollars at best, of which I’m willing to pay $100 now if you let me go.”

“Sorry Bryan, you should’ve read the fine print on the terms of that hand. ‘Goods and/or Services if you lose this one.'”

Bryan huffed loudly.

“And who the hell ever expects indentured servitude like this?”

“Crafty people who like easy marks.” Marley jabbed at Bryan’s pride with a smirk.

“But look at it this way Bry, as good as I am at poker, I’m even better on the golf course, which means you might not be out here as long as you think.”

Eyes narrowed, looking down at the smaller athlete, taking her sweet time with assessing her first shot.

“Bull. Golf on TV is just endless snoozefest, makes baseball seem fast-paced. And I love baseball. And you’re kind of proving my point when you haven’t even taken a swing yet.”

“It’s much different when you’re on the course. A lot of that exciting atmosphere lies in being there. You’re right in that on TV it’s sometimes a bore; blame cameras or production values on not being able to capture the wonder of being there. It’s like looking at the nature channel vs being on-location. Instead of griping, try soaking up the atmosphere while you’re here. I’ll even attempt to give you the full experience, minus all the fluff.”

Marley winked at Bryan, whose eyes still narrowed, but a brow raised quizzically for what she supposedly had in-mind.

“Golf sensation Marley Chandler looks ahead on the first shot of her assured tournament victory. It’s a beautiful, sunny day; you can see her eyes focused and calm, as if exploring the green many yards ahead, letting herself get into that moment, that special state she’s mentioned before. Teeing up the first shot, looks to be a powerful one with her posture, good form, looking to make an impactful swing. Oh yes, she’s certainly in the state now. Lining up her shot, doing her little shimmy, her slight foot dig into the turf, taking her swing. Oooh, a powerful starting swing onto the green. A wonderful drive all the way to its desired point, looks to be just inches away. Yes, this is certainly Marley’s game today.”

Marley smiled cheekily at Bryan as she began to make her way towards the ball, enjoying how Bryan wasn’t even trying to mock her for her commentating imitation. He had to admit that she committed to it fully, sounding as authentic as possible, which didn’t seem hard as she’d been to many tournaments. But it was more the quality of her voice that kept him from trying to circumvent her performance. A few octaves lower than normal, more of a velvety, whispering quality to it. He never heard her speak with that voice, and admitted to himself that her kind of voice might have him tune into golf more often, via radio. One thing still perplexed him though.

“The ‘state’?”

“It’s a golf term for me. Plenty of players use different words for it. I like ‘the state,’ myself,” punctuating it with the signature voice. “Don’t you?”

“Ehhh…” he said, not giving much enthusiasm to his blatant unenthusiasm.

As it turned out, she’d gotten as close as her announcer voice proported to get, easily sinking the ball into the hole and marking her score. He watched Marley, hoping she might use the voice again. He imagined she’d try to whack him with her heaviest club if he tried complementing her saying she had a really great phone sex voice he could listen to all day. Very soothsaying, not in a comforting mommy kind of way, but pleasant female advertisement or operator who could easily lean into getting guys really engaged if she wanted. Instead, it was safer telling himself it seemed to be the only thing entertaining while he was standing around, waiting. He would get his wish later at the next part of the course.

***

“17 holes to go, Marley Chandler continues with a strong start, eying the lush landscape expertly done by course professionals. She seems to really be admiring the quality, the smooth run of the green, shimmering just right in the light, the clear air, the slight breeze brushing the skin of the course attendants. The small smile on her face telling us some of all of it is being used to her advantage in harnessing the state. She tees up gracefully; you can tell with the look in her eyes that she’s focused on that destination, the course must be blurring slightly around her as she flushes it down the course, and it looks to be another safe bet, not much further way than the first hole from coming in under par yet again.”

“Under par is a good thing by the way,” she shot a look at Bryan, thinking he would have something negative about the scoring system of golf. Bryan found himself lucky that the sound of the ball being driven woke him enough. Through her commentary, he thought he could see what she was describing.

“Whatever…” he complained softly, lugging the bag closely behind her, handing her her putter for another easy hole.

“At least she’s keeping this brief,” he thought to himself. “On to the next commentary then,” he spoke softly enough that he though he wasn’t heard. Marley smiled ahead of him, eager to make it to the next hole.

***

“16 holes to go. This next hole is a little difficult with its curvature, something some golfers have complained about in the past, but champion Marley Chandler shows it can be done with ease. She’s in her stately mode again, eyes like a hawk, knowing precisely where the ball is going to go. Teeing up, letting the breeze come over her for a second, letting it pass to not impede the shot as well as using in to support the state. A nice, clean drive over the fairway, some wind hitting it, caressing it just right in Marley’s favor, leading it down to just a yard away from the hole. Spectacular, simply spectacular.”

Bryan rarely imagined any kind of sports ball being aided by wind, especially considering what he’s heard about golf. ‘Caressed’ a unique description of what the wind did to it, but as the breeze gently swept over his exposed arms and face, he took a second to himself to enjoy it, making the connection to Marley’s words.

***

“15 holes to go. Surveying the course for strategies, really feeling the air and the setting, letting all of it come into her, increasing her connection to the state. Talking to many golfers, they say they often find themselves in a mode where they are just isolated to the course, the ball, and their swing, narrowed to the necessities. Marley’s state seems to take a different approach, like she absorbs all the elements around her. She says everything is part of the state.”

***

“14 holes to go. You can see as Marley breathes and looks around that the idea of her absorbing things around her to reach her state seems more and more plausible. She specified some of the littlest things that made the biggest differences. The breathless hush of a crowd right as she takes her swing, the weight of the ball tee’d up, the balance of a firm and gentle grip on her club, the shimmy, the foot dig, the heat of the sun against her skin, or how cool and calm it feels in its absence. She notices everything, uses everything, absorbs everything to align her to the perfect shot.”

***

“13 holes to go. Marley’s form and performance have been spectacular so far today, probably all thanks to the absorption of her surroundings, fueling that state, that mindset putting her in-sync with near perfection, as good a game as she’s ever played. Watching her play, you can feel her total command of the course today. You have to wonder if that command extends beyond her shot, as if she’s willing things around her, a synergy that comes together for her benefit. It’s been asked of Marley about this command, this control she has. She characterized it along the lines of the state she uses. She’s referred to it as a shared state.”

***

Bryan for the most part found himself evading boredom, breezing through the course thanks mostly in-part to Marley’s expertly-delivered commentary. The space between each shot and each word spoken seemed less and less relevant, mostly waiting in silent anticipation for that voice to start again, to speak of things that kept him interested. He didn’t dare say that he was enjoying any part of it, but his interest was certainly on the incline, especially about how she talked about the infamous ‘state.’ From anyone else, it might’ve seemed like rambling on, but with Marley’s voice describing it and putting it on display, it was slowly becoming a reality. The incline of interest curved more vertically once she mentioned a shared state, which he couldn’t wait to hear her explain.

***

“12 holes to go, the state is certainly enduring impeccably for Marley today. What she’s spoken of with regard to a shared state must be an acute connection to everything around Marley. The great golfers to come before her probably silently, without a descriptive word for it, used this mode, this state in every game. You could see it in how they play, down to of course their caddies. To look at it from that angle, you’d swear there was some kind of binding, intertwining energy to circulate between golfer and caddy. If the golfer’s movements became precise and perfected as a result, the caddy would often feel something too. You could see it in the way they held themselves up. Even just standing and waiting, their muscles probably fell into a peaceful disposition, resting while upright. Shoulders relaxed, unworried by anything, back straight, not at all sluggish, neck craned back just a little bit to survey the course and shot just as easily as the golfer. That same peaceful disposition would come all the way down to the legs firmly standing dormant, firm and unburdened, all the way down to the soles of the feet. They could be standing there for just a minute or most of an afternoon, it wouldn’t register on their feet, not a trace of stress in them. Their breathing calm and measured, their attention squarely set on their golfer’s actions and their affect, the most affected by their golfer’s state, sharing the most of their success, their energy, working through both of them to produce the best performance possible, improving both of them, empowering both, letting each benefit in a way suitable for each. To be Marley Chandler’s caddy must mean he’s part of an incredibly potent shared state, sharing in the command she wields in every stroke.”

In years of athletic experience for Bryan, from being on any field with a ball, to sitting on the sidelines, he could never remember feeling so at peace. He’s remembered seeking what he found being Marley’s caddy, no matter the sport he played, many practices, coaching pep-talks, and attempts at meditation got him to the first steps toward it, but no further. He did well without it usually, but such an edge would’ve been worth having. Just listening to Marley, he’d passively float along to the point he sought. It was so easy to be there, and the motivation to be there was to help Marley, totally discarding his feelings from earlier in the day, hoping the feeling would last as long as it could. It made him smile how Marley communicated to him through an almost knowing smile that she had plenty to share with him in the shared state.

***

“11 holes to go. Bracing one of the toughest parts of the course, Marley Chandler has breezed through it with the grace of a true champion, the feel of that shared state is practically palpable, you could feel it all over the course. Would not at all be surprised if both Marley and her caddy enjoyed the shared state perpetually, at every hole. They could look totally normal, awake, and aware, but internally locked into that concentrated state of taking everything in, letting it drive them deeper. And as Marley progresses, nearly half way done with her game, I would hazard a way for her to not only keep the shared state going, but it increase the energy flowing at every interval. Perhaps a spike of energy, a burst of fresh power toward Marley’s command of the field and surroundings every time she *Clink* takes a beautiful shot, driving it home.”

For some reason, unlike the other swings before it, the collision of the ball and the club made a sound more distinctive. Not necessarily different from the rest, just more punctuated. Absently, Bryan worked through the theory of the shared state bringing that sound into sharper focus. It almost sounded like a higher-pitched clinking of glasses together, a gesture of celebration leading to goodness. Every swing Marley took did get better and better, the results leading to goodness.

The time between golf swings slipped into oblivion more and more, his mind patiently waiting for more words and sounds of swings to hone in on.

***

“10 holes to go, and Marley Chandler still holds a commanding lead. No one seems at all surprised by this, minds of viewers expect it and yet their minds are still blown away each time she takes a *Clink* swing, driving it down the green with even more resolve in her swing. You can hear it more soundly, a jolt of power reverberating across the field, enhancing the shared state. It goes even beyond the starting drives. Switching to different club for slightly less power, the effect of the *Clink* hasn’t lessened any. It’s always a proper effect on the shared state, like the ball properly makes its way close to the hole, where a simple putt, just a gentler *Clink* that puts the ball in the hole, effective, powerful, audible. You can tell by her satisfied smile as each one sounds off that it is a proper commanding drive, moving deeper into the success borne from the shared state. It’s unknown whether the caddy responds to the satisfaction of his golfer or the satisfying sound of the drive; you would think both, and you would hope it is, meaning a double dose of happy for Marley’s carrier.”

“She is on such a hot-streak today, so in the zone of her shared state that time seems to breeze by, so it’s already 9 holes to go, as Marley wastes no time to *Clink* her way to the next hole. You could tell that was a great shot, just by how Marley breathed in and out, and how her caddy followed suit with an even deeper breath, and another for good measure. Must it be a blur for him, handing her different clubs, *Clink* after *Clink* after *Clink*, 9-irons, putters, wedges, every type making a *Clink* to a hole that means 8 holes to go, still feeling the thrill of the rush of wind as the *Clink* strikes, avoiding the course hazards on this hole as if they weren’t there at all. Marley seems completely unfazed, an expert *Clink* past sand traps that are like quicksand for even the most seasoned players, a slow sinking feeling for the state they reside in. Marley *Clinks* her way to keeping her ball dry away from the water traps, staying on level ground, lest she sinks quickly into that water, dropping deeply down in a hurry, yet flowing as smoothly as she *Clinks* her putt to complete that hole with ease so there remains 7 holes to go. *Clink,* the drive is magnificent, you can hear the sound, feel it in the air, let it wash over you, as the pair drown in that shared state, the game of Marley’s life, *Clinking* her way to victory, the shared energy between all leading toward one absolute goal – Marley’s commanding lead.”

***

Bryan felt at a loss for words, for thoughts. The deeper into the game he strolled, assisting Marley, the more it felt like he was never forced to get up early, like he never lost any kind of bet to be here. It felt so wonderful, the shared state, a dream come true for a dream he never knew he had. Part of Bryan’s mind wondered if he was really still in bed, pretending to be walking around, after having offered to be Marley’s caddy, or won a bet that meant he was privileged to caddy for her.

He tried to look normal happy instead of sleepy happy following her, but it was so hard. Every time she asked for a club, he was happy to fish it out for her. Every strike of her club to a ball, he closed his eyes and reveled in the *Clink* opening them quickly to see where Marley’s command would put it. Every step across the field was like a small ripple into the shared state. Every smile of hers, when she was or wasn’t speaking in that voice, reminded her of how beautiful she was, her look, her voice, her golfing skill. He wondered how things could get any better, trusting Marley to eventually explain how it was possible.

***

*Clink* “6 holes to go, and I think we’re witnessing a record-setting performance for golfing sensation Marley Chandler. Professionals golf all their lives hoping to play a game as well as Marley, and all fall short. Dare it be said that before it’s all over, Marley will have reached legendary status. Don’t be surprised if a book comes out plainly, accurately called The Legend of Marley Chandler.”

*Clink* “5 holes to go, and The Legend of Marley Chandler is writing itself as we speak. What will golf historians note the most. At least a whole chapter or two would have to be dedicated to the shared state, and one toward interviewing the caddy, with his close proximity, and how he felt standing so close to utter perfection. The other chapters, I hope they cover what I think are truly important attributes besides today’s game. Marley’s magnetic personality seems to play a factor, how good fortune and people’s attention and will just seem drawn to her, as if an unspoken command, as if she could smile at a set of circumstances, at a person, and watch things work instantly towards her favor. She brings all of that to the fairway today.”

*Clink* “4 holes to go, and Marley’s magnetism is writing itself onto blank pages. Future golf hopefuls will probably study absolutely every aspect of Marley and her playing. They’ll notice toned, strong legs, the way she softly digs into the ground a little bit with her shoes. The little hip movement, the back and forth shimmy she gives every time before teeing up a signature move that’s sure to be copied and studied. Even something as nonsensical as the light glinting and flashing off of her club becomes a strong focus, especially for the caddy, bedazzled by every motion she makes.”

*Clink* “3 holes to go for incumbent legend Marley Chandler, no signs of stopping, no signs of slowing down. The perfect energy for a paramount game ever flows though this amazing golfer. All eyes will be on her as she generates interest for this sport the world over. Even those who dared called this sport boring will watch Marley Chandler work and find a beauty in the game that may transform them into avid golfers, or mere avid fans of Marley, each easily understandable.”

*Clink* “2 holes to go as The Legend of Marley Chandler as cemented herself in the laurels of sports history, in the hearts and minds of adoring fans and onlookers, magnetized, mesmerized, bedazzled and bound to watching a master golfer work her craft. It will be as if speaking the words The Legend of Marley Chandler can encapsulate all those feelings, all those observations, all those memories of the shared state, and it will come flooding back into to captive minds. The Legend of Marley Chandler, captivating words that leave little else needing to be said. The Legend of Marley Chandler, strikes like a *Clink,* endures like a shared state, as long as Marley Chandler wishes it to endure, such is a main and primary tenet of The Legend of Marley Chandler.”

***

At the 18th hole, Bryan seemed lost about anything that didn’t have to do with being a caddy for the Legend of Marley Chandler. No one was around to see his fawning expression, not that he would’ve cared. It seemed to make Marley giggle gleefully every time she looked at Bryan now, making him love being looked at, knowing she was happy.

There was a touch of wickedness to her smile at this hole, for this is the one she decided to stay silent. Teeing up for the final big drive, Bryan watched her lips carefully as she began to speak her hypnotic commentary, only nothing came out. She hesitated, planned, and smiled at him, bearing a look that stated she already had him, and she’d let the words ruminating in his head bear fruit on their own.

He carefully watched everything, the shimmy, the dig into the turf, the glistening sunlight against her club. He sighed happily and closed his eyes at the *Clink* sound. They walked from *Clink* to *Clink* in silence, everything that could’ve been said already was, in their posture, and how Bryan became a perfect golf puppet for Marley.

On her last put, she studied the turf and the wind with a deep smile, taking her time before teeing up before the last shot. It was then when for the first time all day, she hesitated, walking to consult with her caddy.

“What do you think?” she asked in her normal voice.

He stood there mindlessly, not able to register or respond to the question quickly enough.

“You don’t? Good caddy,” she resumed her hypno-commentator voice, leaving him happy enough to not bother trying to respond.

“The Legend of Marley Chandler deems that when this last putt is sunk, so will you be, my caddy puppet. After this putt, you’ll start to slowly, gradually come back to your wakened self, the difference being your feelings about golf changing forever. You’ll no longer look at it as a boring sport; you might feign to friends or complain to me about it, but we’ll both know better. We’ll know because you’ve found how fun and fulfilling it is to be my caddy, to do everything I want you to do, on and off the course perhaps. You’ll never really forget today, because you learned of the Legend of Marley Chandler today, and you learned that Marley has you, and won’t let you go until you want to be let go, which might never cross your mind if after a few more games with me. Are you ready for the end, and your new beginning my good caddy?”

Bryan simply nodded with a dumb grin, eyes only focused on her smile and the final putt.

*Clink*

It sank easily into the hole. And unlike Marley’s ball, it would never leave.

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