“A baltimore entrepreneur's very fishy idea has several unexpected consequences in Jeff Alphin's hilarious novella, featuring a wonderfully colourful cast of characters.”
(Fiction on the Web, 7/24/2012)
Adlai Dallas situated his ball in the divot-scarred tee box of the 13th hole, second-guessing his decision to blow real dollars on the “luxury” that was a day of golf at Clifton Park.
It was Baltimore's oldest and scruffiest municipal course. And yet despite the unshielded traffic along its borders, and roving bands of Lake Clifton High students shortcutting their way across the fairways, the course had the audacity to charge people 31 dollars to hack away at it.
Adlai's drive scattered the same group of class-cutting delinquents who had flipped him off on 11. He was surprised they did not steal his ball.
Probably because Richie – the third member of their party – hadn't bothered to wait for Adlai and the Prep Cook to tee off, and had played on ahead without them, barreling his golf cart down to where he hooked into scrub pines, singing to himself and looking just crazy enough for the kids not to mess with. A don't-fuck-with-this-threesome ambassador of nutsy.
Adlai stared down at Richie looking for his ball in the rough, lighting up a cigarette and swinging his five-iron like a sickle.
“Who is that guy?”
The Prep Cook choked on his Mello Yello. “You been playing here since April and you don't know Richie?”
“I know he's the guy who plays with driving-range balls no one wants to get paired with, but who is he?”
“I have no fucking idea. The Looney Crooner of Clifton Park?”
Adlai released the brake on the cart and they rolled down the path, jolting to a stop as Richie fired a line drive out of the trees, across North Rose Street, and into the Jewish Cemetery beyond. Without a word, he dropped another ball and sent a 90-foot bump-and-run.
“Nice one Rich,” called the Prep Cook.
Richie twirled and jabbed his iron at an imaginary foe, a la Chi Chi Rodriguez's sword dance. “Riiiight around the cornerr.”
It was Richie's musical catchphrase. A mysterious lyric half-sung for his every occasion: an acceptable shot, a port-o-john stop, the arrival of the beer-cart girl. “Riiiight around the cornerr…”
Adlai grumbled over his ball. “What the fuck is that? Riiiiight around the cor-ner?”
“Probably some old Ralph Kramden Ed Norton type shit.”
“Whatever it is, the damn thing's stuck in my head.”
Adlai got too much loft and landed well short of the green, tracing a rainbow arc over Richie as he zipped across the fairway. The psycho duffer was in a world of his own now, brandishing his pitching wedge like a saber-rattling Roosevelt leading a charge to the green and spurring his EZ-Go on for all it was worth.
Determined to correct a recurring slice, the Prep Cook made some adjustments to his backswing before addressing his ball, only to have Adlai break his concentration.
The Prep Cook stood back up, flashing a grimace. “Dude, we let two waitresses go last week. And one of the dishwashers is getting canned today, although he don't know it.”
Adlai gave a small laugh. “I'm not talking about washing dishes. More like something that requires a little charm. Maître d', valet, something like that.”
“Are you serious? Those jobs were cut last fall. Boss's wife greets you at the door and you park your own. Money's getting so tight I won't be surprised when management starts going through coat-check pockets looking for spare change.”
Like menstruating co-workers the two were in golfer sync now, both overshooting the green into the fringe on the opposite side, not 12 feet from the traffic of 32nd Street.
“I thought you harbor institutions made it no matter what.”
Adlai leaned against a wooden sign that read Golfers are not allowed to leave the course to buy anything while the Prep Cook studied his shot and waited for a fuzz-thumping T-Top Monte Carlo with shredded trunk woofers to pass.
“The steakhouses do. But when the seafood guys get skittish they start fucking up inventory. They over-order one week and under the next. And once the second guessing starts, it's like betting red or black…” The Prep Cook chipped his ball within four feet of the pin. “…And that's the name of that tune.”
“So when you overstock and can't sell it, you take it home and have a big clambake, yes?”
“Hell no. We hold that shit to the almost very last minute. Not the kind of chance I'm gonna subject friends and family to.”
“Don't tell me you guys actually toss the stuff. You mix in some Old Bay with mayo and call it crab dip right?”
“Dumpster babies all of it.”
“But… it's gotta be worth something. Can't you sell it to a homeless shelter or something?”
The Prep Cook took a long look at Adlai.
“You ain't right, Adlai. I guess if you wanted you could can the shit into some kind of hobo chowder, but of course you'd need a canning machine, so unless you know some wharf rat restaurant owner who truly doesn't give a shit about the health inspectors or repeat customers, you're out of luck in the fish business.”
Continue reading “Clam$” at Fiction on the Web.