It’s noontime on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I’m already on my second piña colada, my third nap, and my fourth soak in the Jacuzzi. I’m bored. Not 30 feet in front of me, a sea turtle sunbathes on a rock. It looks in better shape than me. I need some exercise.
But this is Hawaii, so it’s got to be something that I can do in a Hawaiian shirt, that will enhance my tan, and that will be laid back, yet challenging. Hmm, that’s easy — a round of golf.
Just one problem. I haven’t played in years. But who cares? This is Hawaii. If my ball plops into the water here, it’ll probably be a beautiful turquoise lagoon. If it rolls into the rough, it’ll probably be a lush tropical rainforest. If it lands in a bunker, it’ll probably be sand that was once pounded into golden ash by virginal Hawaiian maidens. I head for the nearest course.
I meet my playing partners: Brad, who insists “I’m not very good” (translation: I am, and you’re toast), and his teenage son, Timmy, who looks like a beginner (translation: he isn’t, and you’re toast).
“I guess we’re just a threesome then,” I say.
“Oh, there’ll be a fourth, I’m afraid,” Brad says. “Madam Pele, the volcano goddess.” He explains that we’re on the volcano island. “The most prominent hazard on all the courses here is lava. So her presence will be particularly strong.”
I’ve heard of this silly superstition. Still, one can never be too careful. So as I step up to the first tee, I silently pray that Madam Pele delay all rain, typhoons, tsunamis, and eruptions until the conclusion of our round; that her beauty, grace, and benevolence protect me from all harm, elements, and poor coordination; and that her brother, the Brazilian soccer star, is doing well in retirement. She either has a sense of humor or she doesn’t.
By the time I finally stagger off the first green 45 minutes later, Brad has birdied, Timmy has parred, and I’ve sextuple bogeyed. My Hawaiian shirt is drenched with perspiration, my burned forearms are the color of poinsettias, my hamstrings are as tightly wound as a leaf basket, and I have only one ball left in my bag. Madam Pele doesn’t have a sense of humor.
I place my last ball shakily on the second tee. I take a half-swing at it with a nine-iron to ensure I get it in play but top it. It scoots across the grass like a startled mouse and disappears into a lava field the size of New Jersey.
For 20 minutes I scramble over the coral-like terrain looking for it as Brad and Timmy glare at me from the green. Desperate, I beg Pele’s forgiveness for my inappropriate soccer wisecrack. Suddenly, ahead of me, wedged into the nooks and crannies of the lava bed, are dozens and dozens of lost golf balls. Mahalo, Pele! I hurriedly stuff as many into my pockets as I can and promise to return them all to her lava graveyard before the day is done.
I lose all remaining balls as promised and shoot a 130, which is pretty respectable for nine holes considering the fact that I can’t play golf, will never learn how to play golf, and should never be allowed to play golf again.
At the clubhouse afterward, I wave goodbye to Brad and Timmy, who tell me they enjoyed my company immensely (translation: they didn’t, and if I’m ever so much as on the same course as them again, I’m toast).
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