Dead Reckoning

           His forehead wrinkles into furrows running seventy years to the day deep as he eagle-eyes the iron stake opposite him. He's planning to pound that post all day long.
           His brow clears. He steps back and closes one eye, squinting off the distance from the stake in his pit to the far one.
           Shaking his head, he picks up his beer, tilts the bottle bottoms-up skyward, and drains it. A little cough. He stands to again, squinting and aiming.
           Again he relaxes, the shoe falling to his side. "I need another beer," he mutters, dropping his well-worn shoes on the grass.
           He walks back to the cooler a few yards behind him, pulls out another San Miguel, pops the top. "Happy Birthday to me."
           He sips. "It's supposed to be forty feet from pin to pin, right?" He glances back at the pits. "That is right, right?"
           Holding the beer up, he runs his forehead back and forth over the cold bottle, feeling the cool seep under his skin.
           Returning to the pit, instead of picking up the shoes, he decides to pace off the distance between the center stakes. "Goddamn tape measure." Halfway along, he stops to take another big swallow.
           "Christ!" He looks down at his feet. "Dammit!" He shakes his head. "Where am I?"
           He looks back at the pin he came from, then swivels his head to look at the one he's going toward. "About halfway?" he mumbles.
           "Twenty-one . . ."
           He stops and looks up at the almost cloudless blue sky. Only a single solitary wisp of cloud floats slowly by. "Twenty-one?" He sips. "Was I at twenty? Hell, I'd rather be at sixty-nine." He chuckles. "Another year, another . . . ." He pauses, thoughtful. "Beer."
           He drains the San Miguel and tosses the bottle in the direction of the cooler. His azimuth is alcohol adjusted and the bottle shatters against the iron stake.
           "For the love of . . . " He walks slowly back to the pit. The shards of brown glass glitter at him as he approaches. "So I guess that's three."
           Stooping, he collects the broken pieces.
           "Hah!" he laughs out loud.
           He gives the sand one more combing with his fingers to make sure he's found anything big enough to hurt somebody. He drags up a worm. It flies to a new home in the bushes off to the side.
           He drops one small piece of glass a foot from the pin and another a foot further on. He wobbles as he stands, but his sense of balance has been perfected through many beers over many years of navigating rough seas, The Horn seven times.
           "Aye aye," he chuckles, stepping slowly backward toward the far pit. Every foot he marks with another crumb of glass.
           When he reaches the other pit, he drops a last piece of glass and tosses the remaining ones in the bushes near the worm. With military precision, he marches back toward the first pit, counting the bits of glass.
           "Thirty eight!" he exclaims with great glee. "I think that calls for another San Magoo."
           As he stoops to pull out another bottle from the cooler, three men wander around the corner of the house in an oddly stealthy manner. The taller haole with the beard calls out: "Ahoy there, Commander. Permission to come aboard."
           "We heard you put in some new horseshoe pits," the shorter bearded haole says, "and we came over for a little quality control drinking – I mean tossing,"
           "What on earth is this?" the Asian looking one asks, doing a double-take when he's sees the neat line of broken glass.
           The three newcomers all stare and wear puzzled looks.
           "As you can see," the Commander says, pulling three more beers from the cooler, "if you count them up, the pits are exactly forty feet apart on center. Goddamn tape measure broke when I was doing the layout yesterday. Solid as Sears my ass!"
           "Very artistic," the Asian looking one says, taking a drag on his cigarette. "You used an empty bottle I trust?"
           The Commander laughs, then opens one bottle after another with his teeth, handing them out. "Cheers everyone." They clink bottles.
           The taller haole opens a brown bag he's carrying. "Happy 70th Birthday AND Merry Christmas." He pulls out a box of brand new horseshoes. "Couldn't get you snow, so we chipped in and bought you these custom made shoes."
           "Well that's fine, fine," the Commander says beaming, admiring the new shoes. "Thank you, gentlemen. A superior set by all appearances. Perhaps they will improve my game. Custom you say?"
           "Yup. Ordered them from the mainland. Hand forged, regulation size and weight. AHPA and NHPA approved. See the stamps? And," he points, "your initials are engraved on each shoe."
           "By the way," the Asian looking one asks, "is your wife here today?"
           "No, no. She flew to Kaua'i this morning to have Christmas dinner with her family."
           "And not spend it with you – her family here?" the taller haole remarks. "And the birthday boy to boot?" That's rather unlady-like, isn't it?"
           "Yes indeed," the shorter haole one laughs. "That's very unwifely."
           "We all need a break sometimes, Dad" the Commander remarks, his eyes twinkling. "I think I'll survive."
           "Right on!" says the Asian looking one. "Let me go to my car. I've got two cases of Coors in the trunk."
           "Save your beer," the Commander says. "I've got enough here to last us 'til next Christmas."
           The four friends clink bottles again, ready to enjoy the game and each others' company for as long as it can all possibly last.

Mahalo for reading!

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  1. teter says:

    The Commander threw a mean shoe and drank a mean San Miguel, O Asian-looking one. A fine man, a fine writer, a fine friend. I miss him, and those days. Cheers.

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