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The Country Club

“JESUS, Fellow!...how the heck did ja get in here without me seein' you?  I've been bartendin' here for nearly twenty years, and you're the first one ever snuck up on me like that.   Gettin' old I guess.

“Whew…what can I do for ya?”

The stranger surveyed the array of beer signs and pointed at a Lone Star.


“First time here?  Well, sure.  I've got a memory for faces.  This has got to be your first time here…but you do look familiar.  Where have I seen you before?  Oh, well, it'll come to me.

“Just travelin' through?  Sure.  Most people just pass through.  For a while we had folks stoppin' at our golf course, excuse me, country club.  Increased my business specially after nine.  The bar at the course closed at nine.  I don't know why they closed so early, but it was good for my business.  This used to be the only bar on this end of town.  I thought a bar there might close me down, but after nine it was a gold mine.  They'd get pretty well greased up and ready for more by then.

“I miss the course.  Things just haven't been the same since it closed.”

The stranger raised his eyebrows in interest.

“Well, Hell, it's a bit of a long story and kinda sad too.  You sure you wanta here it?

“Well, it all started one night about three…maybe four years ago.  I got to where my calendar's kinda broke.  A fella came in and sat…well, Hell, just where you're sittin' right now.  Exactly the same spot.  Damn you look familiar.  Well, anyway, this fellow comes in and most of the boys were here whoopin' and hollerin' and havin' a fine old time when this stranger damned near broke up the party when he said---let me think now…what xactly did he say?  Oh yeah, 'You fellows ain't got a hair on your ass if you ain't got no country club.'  He said it kinda mean like and loud too and got everybody's attention.

“I thought for a minute Big Jim was gonna get up and give the fellow a whoopin' but didn't.  He just asked the fellow what he meant by that, and the fellow went on to splain how any community worth its salt would have a country club…you know, a place to hold dances and parties and play golf.  Shuck, the banker, and a heck of a nice guy, seemed to take to the idea and told the other fellows that the stranger might be on to somethin'.  The only one offerin' any different opinion was Clyde, you know, the undertaker.  He offered that they couldn't afford to build no c-o-u-n-t-r-y c-l-u-b.  I said it like that cause that’s the way Clyde talks…real drawn out.  Well, the fellow, the stranger, he shot back real quick, 'Well, of course you can't, being that you're a little one horse town with no hopes for the future.'  I thought Big Jim was gonna whip him for sure for sayin' that, but he didn't.  He just looked kinda uncomfortable and kinda slumped down in his chair.

“I don't know when the stranger, the fellow that caused all the ruckus, left, but he was gone all of a sudden like, but he must have planted a seed because the c-o-u-n-t-r-y c-l-u-b was all the boys talked about for a good month.  They debated it every which way they could.  A couple of times I thought they was gonna come to blows, but they didn't, and they finally decided that the only thing to do was to build the darned thing.

“Bein' the bartender, I didn't offer my opinion, you know.  Not good for business.

“It's real sad.”

The stranger arched an eyebrow in interest as the bartender stared off into space as if he was thinking of all the sad things he had implied.

“Well, it's just two of us, so I guess I have time to tell you about it if you're interested.”

“For a while everything went along real fine.  They raised the money pretty quick and the banker was all for progress and all, and before you know it, there it was the Hadleyburgh Country Club just there across the road.  It was a beauty too.  I mean.  They hired a fellow by the name of Slim Gumper to take care of the place.  Slim took care of it okay and a lot more.  Slim was good lookin' fellow, movie star handsome, ya see, and some of the ladies took a shine to him what with his givin' them golfin' lessons and a few other lessons on top of them, if you get my drift.

“Well, Big Jim got wind of his Suzy, that's Jim's wife you know.  She's a lot younger than Jim.  Some people said he was robbin' the cradle.  Well, anyway, Jim got wind of his Suzy foolin' 'round with Slim, and he went huntin' for Slim.  Well, he found him, but he couldn't catch him, Slim being a young fellow.  The way it was told to me is that Big Jim chased Slim all over that golf course a swearin' and swingin' a golf club, but as I said, Slim was a young fellow and wasn't carrying around Jim's gut, so he didn't have much trouble avoiding what Big Jim was plannin' to do to him.  It's sad.”


The bartender hesitated and sighed and seem to be seeing something awful off in the distance.

“Well, to make a long story short,  Jim's heart just gave out.  He died right there on the tee box.  It's a shame.  I really liked old Jim.  They said he went down like a sack of potatoes.  Heart.  There was a big--I mean king size-funeral, Jim being so well thought of and all.  Of course Slim had to move on before somebody caught him and gave him what he deserved.  Suzy mostly stays home now.  Too embarrassed I guess.  Well, she oughta be embarrassed, killin' her husband and all.”

Once again the bartender looked off thinking of something sad.

“Well, that's not the half of it.  I think I mentioned the banker, Shuck Perkins?  No, well Shuck was the banker forever and he inherited the bank from his old daddy and I guess Shuck did a pretty good job managin' the old man's money because he was always drivin' a new car and givin’ money to charities, the church and such.  I guess he gave away too much because he's poor as church mouse now.  Yeah, it's a shame.  Shuck was a pretty good banker but not much of a poker player.  He got to doin' some high-falutin' poker out at the c-o-u-n-t-r-y c-l-u-b and lost his shirt.  Of course, them that won his land and money made out like bandits.  Hell, one of them became the new bank president, James Smithers, a heck of nice guy.  Always has a new car and he bought him one them Russian women, you know, to marry.  She's kinda snooty, being the banker's wife and all.  I guess she's okay, but 'spect she takes a lot of upkeep funds.  If Smithers ain't careful, he'll find himself workin' for her at the bank.  Shuck claims to be retired, but that ain't the truth.  He just went home after the board said they didn't want him anymore and selected Smithers to run the show.  I guess he gets a social 'curity check.  He drops by some times.  He was here last night as a matter of fact.  Kind of sad sack now.  Drank a couple of beers and drove off in his old Chevy.  What a comedown.  It's sad.

“Some folks don't like Smithers.  I guess they're jealous…I don't know.  I do know some of them took their money out of the bank and moved to the bank in Junction.  They must not be as generous over in Junction being that several fellows closed their doors.  Let's see…the Western Auto, Henry's Sausage, and, oh yeah, Smitty's fillin' station.  Real sad.  Some folks 'low the town's goin' to Hell in a handbasket.”

Once again the barkeep seemed lost in sad thoughts but suddenly brought himself back.

“Ha!  I shouldn't laugh, but I got to tell you one on the preacher, R-e-v-e-r-e-n Jones.  He talks real slow too.   Clyde and him could be brothers, but I don't think Clyde would want to be.

“Well, the Rev was a pretty good golfer.  Somethin' he learned on his travels 'round the state I imagine.  You know how preachers move around.   Well, he volunteers to teach the young boys the gentlemen's game of golf.  He'd meet the boys out at the course couple days after school each week.  He was real faithful 'bout it.  The littlest boys were real cute draggin' those heavy bags around.  I'd sometimes see them as they passed by on the 9th tee box just out there 'cross the road.

“It's real sad.”

The stranger had come to know that the bartender would be back from his reveries momentarily.

“Nobody had a clue the Rev was a pedophile.  Am I sayin' that right?  Pedophile?  Well, he was one, and one of boys wasn't goin' for that kind of shenanagens and told his old poppa and 'fore you know it, old Rev was in the hospital.  Jim, Jim Taylor, took a peek at him in the hospital and told me he ain't never seen a more pitiful creature than old Rev laid up there in the hospital.  I guess he healed up some 'cause he just disappeared.  There's a new Rev now.  I don't think he plays golf.

“Let me go in the back.  Need some more Lone Star.”

In a few moments, the bartender still thinking sad thoughts returned to an empty bar as the door opened.

“Howdy, Clyde.  You pass a fellow out front?  No?  Nice fellow.  Not much of a talker, but a nice fellow.  Seemed real interested in our country club.  I swear I've seen him before.

“Well, how's business, Clyde?”