It had to be the first bare navel on the Masters veranda. Luckily it came with a shapely adorable. Could have been a bulker. All in all, she was your basic tri-state crime-spree gorgeous. Make you try to eat corn through a chain-link fence, as Cary Grant or Fred Astaire used to say, or maybe it was Grady Don Maples.
Picture this: a long-haired brunette babe poured into a pair of low-hanging stretch jeans looking like the same thing as one of those halftime college showgirls. She stood between the two big trees on the veranda. Her tummy was flat as a West Texas fairway, and she was wearing the minimum legal requirement of a white knit top. This helped her display two tickets that would easily gain her admittance to the hospitality tent at any golf tournament she'd wish to attend.
I should add that she also wore a clubhouse badge for the Masters.
"Screen-saver," Jerry Grimes said alertly.
"Fire in both engines," Grady Don said.
"Riders up," I said.
I don't know that there'd been too many sights at Augusta to equal that one. Usually the veranda was a gathering of geezers in their green jackets, scads of privileged folks sitting at tables under bright umbrellas, scattered groups of serious business execs looking worried about something, and assorted media intellectuals shopping around for scoops and scandals.
As a rule, the serious business execs would be talking to each other, their hands clasped behind their backs while they rocked back and forth in their FootJoys. They could be equipment salesmen, they could be the dapper officials of various golf organizations, or they could be powerful sports agents, but if they were powerful sports agents their eyes would be darting this way and that, and they'd have a tendency to bite their nails.
Assorted wives of Tour pros frequently emerged from indoors--two lookers, say, and one bulker. They would have dined upstairs on the balcony, where they'd discussed maladies, child-rearing, exercise classes, difficult mothers-in-law, catalog orders.
Players' wives have changed over the years. I wasn't around when they were all needlepoint ladies, but I'd been around long enough to see the lookers go from stately former yearbook favorites to Barbie dolls that could actually make noises like human beings talking.
We'd walked up on the roped-off veranda after our Tuesday practice round. I'd smiled at the two security guards who were stationed there to keep out the K mart shoppers. That's when we spotted the shapely screen-saver displaying her finest features.
She was obviously at the magnolia joint for the first time. If she was trying to arouse any of the gentlemen on the veranda, she was making a mistake. Most of the veranda gentlemen were on the high side of sixty and were more likely to be aroused by the report of a new oversized driver that would give them fifteen more yards.
Jerry Grimes said, "It's too bad that lovely thing happens to be the asshole's mother, Bobby Joe."
"That's no mother," I said. "I know what mothers look like. Mothers look like Betty Crocker."
"Mothers look like Cheerios?"
"Detergent . . . type of thing."
Grady Don Maples said, "I guess she don't crochet a lot, but she's still the asshole's mother."
"Which asshole?" I said. "I have choices."
"Scott Pritchard," Grady Don said. "That's old Gwendolyn Pritchard, it sure is. Scott's mom. Right there with her steel belly and her lung problem. Kill me first, Gwen."
"That's the child star's mother?"
I must have blurted it out. The dapper official of a golf organization glared at me. Guy in a dark blue blazer, white shirt, striped tie, red face. Looked like he knew for a fact that I ate with my hands.
Some hasty arithmetic was called for. Scott Pritchard was nineteen, our newest phenom on the Tour--there seemed to be one every year. He was six-three, muscled up, too handsome for his own good. He came out loaded with amateur titles, an average driving distance of 324 yards, a satchel of contracts too heavy to lift, and you could add the blank stare of a young Beverly Hills valet parker. His age meant the mom must have been a tap-in under forty, but she could play younger, as evidenced by this penetrating veranda moment.
"Scott Pritchard's a big kid," I said. "He must get his size from the lumberjack who knocked her up."
"It could have been a tight end," Jerry said.
"Naw, tight ends don't get laid by adorables," Grady Don said. "I was a tight end in college. Might as well be a defensive tackle. Scrap around with the meece."
We were interrupted by a media celeb. It was Irv Klar, a sports columnist for the Washington Post
, as in D.C. I'd first known Irv as an aggressive young guy working for a small paper in California. He'd wanted to do a book with me. Me being the first golfer he'd ever met. I'd dusted him off. But since then, while my back was turned, he'd become a big-shot columnist and a best-selling author.
Irv's first bestseller was Speed Freaks: The Story of How the Nazis Invented Amphetamines to Win the '36 Olympics
When it came out I'd seen Irv at a tournament and said, "Irv, I thought Jesse Owens won the Berlin Olympics, and the Nazis invented speed to keep their troops awake."
"That too," he said.
I'd read almost all the way through the first chapter.
Irv Klar had written two other bestsellers since. With time, I could remember the titles. He was always working on a new book.
Irv was wearing baggy shorts, frayed sneakers, faded knit shirt, and an old Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap, to prove he was a man with a sense of history.
"Hey, guys," he said. "Who's your pick this week? I'm taking a poll for the column."
"Ben Hogan," I said.
"Ben Hogan?" Irv frowned. "Ben Hogan's dead."
"You're shitting me."
"You don't want to pick somebody serious?"
I said, "I'll stick with Hogan. Dead, he's already got me four back."
Irv said, "What about you two? Grady Don . . . Jerry?"
Grady Don said, "I'll go with old dead Sam Snead."
Jerry said, "I'll take Jimmy Demaret. He's dead, too, isn't he?"
Irv had spunk. He said, "I thought y'all had to win something big before you got to be assholes?"
He walked away, shaking his head.
"It's on our list of things to do," I called after him.
We turned our attention back to the shapely, or I should say the chick-babe-mom, who was dolling up the veranda. She was now smoking a cigarette and accepting a drink from a waiter in a white jacket. The waiter had carried the drink on a tray from the outdoor bar that's under an overhang near the main clubhouse door.
"How come I haven't seen her before?" I asked.
"Because she didn't come out till Bay Hill," Jerry said. "You skipped Bay Hill and Doral, remember?"
"True," I said. "I stayed home to do something. Oh, I know what it was. Get divorced."
Gazing at the chick-babe-mom on the veranda I was reminded of the time I was taken prisoner by another showstopper in a pair of low-riding jeans and skimpy top. Only she'd been a blonde. But Alleene Simmons, my first wife, hadn't dressed like that on purpose. It had been required of her by the low-rent owner of the cafe-bar-singles-derelict joint where she'd been employed as the hostess when I met her. The bucktoothed owner, Bodobber Roberts, had long since gone indoors for bookmaking.
Bodobber's was mostly a hangout for gambling degenerates in those days. Guys in Fort Worth who'd bet on everything from ice hockey to bugs crawling up a wall to how many weekend traffic fatalities there'd be--city, county, state, nationwide.
Alleene won my heart the minute I walked in. Not only with her looks but with the first thing she said to me.
As she led me to a spot at the bar, I asked her what was good tonight, meaning what was good to eat. She said, "From everything I've heard, it's Oklahoma, give the six and a half."
Now at the magnolia joint, still looking at the babe, I said to my pals, "You know, your teen trash and your rock sluts flash skin like that, but a mature grownup woman ought to know better. I mean, she could have asked somebody how to dress when you go to the Masters. She must be dumber than dirt."
"Yeah, maybe," Grady Don said. "Of course, as I recall, you don't fuck the dumb."
This was the year the former Cheryl Haney sent me to Downtown Dump City. She joined my heavy-hitting ex-wife lineup as old number 3, falling in there behind Alleene Simmons, old number 1, and Terri Adams, old number 2. I do believe Alleene is the only one of my wives I ever really liked.
Cheryl kicked me out of the $950,000 house she'd made me buy two blocks from the Colonial Country Club because she said that after three years of trying to make a marriage work with an asshole who didn't aspire to do anything with his life but hit a golf ball, it wasn't worth the effort.
I found out I'd missed the cut in my own home the day I came back from a California tournament and found the note that said, "You--out! And I'm putting a sign in the yard that says 'No More Shit-Brains Need Apply for Husband Duties Here.' Now, asshole. Adios your butt and your golf clubs down the road. I don't fuck for food anymore."
What happened was, Cheryl had turned about half socialite on me. She'd decided I didn't measure up to the kind of husband she ought to be seen with. Her a successful businesswoman now who hobnobbed with other Fort Worth rich ladies who shopped in Dallas and supported the symphony and got their hair done all the time. Never mind that those rich ladies had once worked as law firm receptionists and department store salesgirls and had only become socialites because they married rich guys.
I smooth-talked my way out of having to move immediately and our split wasn't finalized until another social occasion. It was the night Cheryl dragged me downtown to the Bass Hall again to hear the Fort Worth Symphony play music for animals romping through the forest. Then afterward to the black-tie dinner party at the Fort Worth Club to discuss cellos with the city's culture lovers.
I was accused of humiliating and embarrassing her all evening by looking bored, yawning, and committing the sin of telling the conductor at the party how much I was in awe of his ability to read music while he waved his stick in the air.
I said I didn't see how anybody could read sheet music. Sheet music looked to me like my nine-iron and sand wedge trying to climb over fences.
"You're a disgusting fuckhead," Cheryl said, pushing me into a corner out of everybody's hearing. I countered by quoting from an old country song: "It wasn't God who made honky-tonk angels."
"You shit-heap!" she said viciously.
"Good," I said. "Fucks and shits. Now you sound like the chick I used to know . . . the one who swam across the Trinity to get out of her old neighborhood and let me introduce her to a better way of life."
Which was a cruel thing to say. I didn't judge people by their neighborhoods. Well, some people, maybe. But Terri Adams, old number 2, had come from the wealthiest side of town, the west side, and I discovered she'd sport-fucked every happy hour sumbitch in Tarrant County before she got around to me.
Cheryl was like a lot of mercenary chicks in this world. Chicks who thought that because they were born good-looking, they deserved to be rich, it was what God intended, and they were determined to become rich, even if it meant marrying a pot-bellied, bald-headed A-rab.
Cheryl took up golf, same as my other wives, although it was hardly because she liked the game as much as Alleene and Terri did. It was a social move, part of her plan. So, divot by divot, she golfed her way into the heart of every well-to-do male member at one of my country clubs, Mira Vista, which I came to learn was Spanish for Take Another Man's Wife to Lunch.
If I'd been as smart as any of those Mozart cellos I would have seen what was happening. Seen Cheryl slipping back into the life she knew before me--that of breaking up homes for sport and pleasure.
Now I was sure that if she ever hooked onto a damage-proof wealthy gentleman who owned a yacht and knew where Sag Harbor was, she'd fall deeply in love overnight and truly believe she'd won the ball game.
One of the last things she said to me was, "Just so there's no mistake about it, I'm keeping the house and the BMW."
"Naturally," I said, faking nonchalance. "Trinity River deal."
I must have hit a bull's-eye. I heard a medley of fucks and shits as I took my leave.
I was back living in a townhouse near the TCU campus. I was lonely, I confess--I'd had some good times with Cheryl when she wasn't giving me shit and spending with both hands--but I was happy to be unattached for the first time in a while. Which was evidently an attitude you could chalk up to being easily distracted by the Gwendolyn Pritchards of the world.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Slim and None by Dan Jenkins. Copyright © 2005 by Dan Jenkins. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.