Post Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:10 pm

ACE

<font color="yellow" style="font-size: 15pt">This was a just-for-fun story that I never even really intended for publication. I just wanted to put two of my friends in a story and deal with an unusual sport (Frisbee Golf). Still, in order to be a story it has to have story structure so I had to come up with a conflict. I added one... the immediacy and the stakes just never came through strongly enough.
ACE
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"This will be the first man-powered transatlantic flight. Wish me luck." Glenn gripped the disk. Ahead, a wall of olive trees slanted across the hill obscuring the early morning horizon. A bead of sweat trickled between his eyes. An ache in his stomach that had bothered him since he arrived at the field, increased. The little luck he possessed had been dwindling rapidly. It would take good fortune simply to clear the trees.

Sitting on a bench nearby, Shawn laughed. "It's a big puddle, but not quite the Atlantic. Standing there, it may look like an ocean, though. Most wickedly shanked throw I've seen. If only we'd recorded it for Funniest Home Videos."

Glenn looked at him. Smiling, the curly-haired man pushed his rainbow colored Oakleys back on his nose. Shawn stretched and pulled at the shoulders his blue Morley Field disk golf shirt. Short, wiry, and competitive, that was Shawn. He sometimes tried to needle a few strokes out of Glenn. Not that he stood much chance of losing today.

"Hey, I'm screwing up fine without help from the peanut gallery." Glenn ran a hand through his red hair and focused past the knot in his stomach. "Elllt."

"Whatever that means."

He shot another glance at Shawn and rolled his shoulder. It felt tight. Hell, everything felt tight. His game was falling apart exactly like his life.

Things had been going well then, boom, shattered like his grandmother's antique spirit-mirror he dropped while cleaning out the attic.

The money for his house ran out, the city fined him for an expired contracting license, the van broke down, and now a physical showed chances for colon cancer... Existence looked as sucked as his last frisbee shot; full power head-on into a tree, and one long spiral into the mud twenty feet from where he started.

He'd experienced enough frustration. He came here to escape. To take a walk in the sun throwing a half-dozen kinds of plastic at a distant basket that looked like a galvanized christmas tree with chains for garlands. It took skill, it cost nothing to play, and it was relaxing.

Wish this pain would go away. I must be stressing more than I thought.

The basket lay 327 feet away beyond the wall of olive trees and behind a clump of Palo Verde bushes and eucalyptus. He gauged the wind and the angle and let loose a slice that scattered olives before hooking over and vanishing into the brambles.

"Shit."

Shawn picked up his bag and walked toward the lie of his disk 200 feet down the tree studded fairway. "Could have been worse."

"Yeah, right." Glenn caught up with him.

Shawn searched his bag for his approach frisbee. "Do these test results really worry you? Or is this just a sucked game?"

"It's a really sucked game, and yes I'm worried." He stopped.

Shawn halted too, his expression turning serious.

"I've got this feeling that if I don’t change my luck I'm going to--"

"Going to what?"

"That I-- Nevermind." He laughed. His stomach twisted. Some feeling warned him that if he spoke of dying, it would become a reality.

Some people believed that negative karma was a line. Once you started down the path you couldn't turn back. Recently, it appeared true. No matter what, things found a way to take a bad turn.

After ten years with Laura, the kids, and disputes with his sometimes neurotic family there'd been the inevitable problem times. He weathered those periods with determination. His recent troubles didn't feel the same. Some sadistic power seemed to be sitting on his shoulder making life impossible.

Glenn left Shawn and ducked under the Palo Verde bushes. Rain had saturated the ground and the shadowy undersides of the shrubs smelled like compost.

He saw a flash of yellow. He walked over. The hole 7 basket stood sixty feet away through a narrow space in the vegetation.

"This isn't such a bad--" He blinked.

Nothing there.

"I know I saw..." He scanned around.

Whistling, a disk skidded to a stop twenty feet from the basket. "Find it?" Shawn called over.

"Thought I did--" Agony jabbed into his shoulder as if the talons of an eagle were bearing down. He clutched the area. The pain vanished.

God, what the hell was that?

"You okay?"

He rubbed the shoulder. "Fine." He searched deeper in the brambles. "Christ! Here it is."

He stepped into a hollow in the foliage. The opening between the twigs and leaves was only a yard across.

Shawn rattled the basket chains. "Any more shots in the weeds and we'll start calling you the Bushman."

I know I saw it over there. Glenn tucked away his disk and pulled out a putting disk.

"A narrow window of opportunity." He aimed toward the basket.

Shawn jingled the chains again. "Put it in."

Glenn threw. It sailed through the gap.

"Yes..." Shawn waved at the disk. It hit. "Yeah--!" The putter spun in the basket, hit the rim and toppled out. "No!"

"I don't believe it!" The stomach pain became a burning. It looked as if something gave the disk an extra push at the last second.

"Man, they don't get closer." Shawn putted his in. "Bird. That's three under par for me."

He left the weeds, walked over and slapped the chains. "Four over."

Maybe I should quit.

Icy claws sliced into his shoulder. Groaning, he went to his knees.

"Hey!" Shawn gripped his arm. "You okay?"

The pain increased.

"It's nothing," he gritted. "Let's finish this round."

The agony stopped. Something wants me to play.

He set his bag on the bench. A glint in a tree caught his eye; something small and red. He looked more closely.

Nothing. An odor like sulfur mixed with something else lingered for only a moment.

"Did you smell anything?"

Shawn raised an eyebrow. "Nothing besides the grass. Why?"

"Nevermind." He cleared his mind and tried to focus as if this were a normal day. Something told him that his performance was vital.

Hole 8 sat at the end of an straight fairway behind an ancient pepper tree. Two huge palms and an olive tree stood in the path to the hole.

"Stay out of my olive tree," Glenn said.

"Keep your tree, Guy." Shawn let fly with a low whistler that set down near the end of the fairway.

Glenn picked out his orange Viper. "Hit that tree one more time and I'll have to put a placard on it." He squinted at the tall olive.

A redness winked in the branches. Glenn stared more intently. He saw something move, but it faded out.

This is not good.

"What's eating you?"

He sighed at Shawn's ironic choice of words. "Nothing." Glenn knocked the dirt of his tennies, aimed and threw.

The disk drilled out, certain to clear the tree. As it passed by, the frisbee abruptly arced into the branches.

Glenn covered his face. "I didn't see that."

"It reached out and grabbed your friz."

"Really? You saw it too?" His stomach burned hotter and jangles of pain danced in his shoulder.

Shawn frowned. "Huh? The wind kicked it around."

"It's 7:30. There's no wind."

He lowered his Oakleys. "You all right?"

"No." Glenn snatched his bag and marched toward the tree.

Shawn caught up to him. "You want to leave?"

Glenn glanced into the branches and narrowed his eyes. He saw a flash of white. A Cheshire Shark's grin faded from view. His nape hair stiffened.

Either I'm nuts or this is a test.

"Earth to Glenn, you in there?"

He focused. "I'm playing."

Shawn shrugged.

Glenn dislodged his disk and made an approach shot that skidded in the dirt close to the basket. He looked up sensing an unfriendly gaze.

His hand shook but he made a fist. "Fuck off."

Shawn stopped. "What?"

"Talking to myself."

As he turned to leave something splattered on his shoulder. He brushed at it. A sticky green-and-white residue covered his hand.

Growling, he hurled a rock into the branches. Nothing fell out of the tree. He stomped over and made an easy putt.

"What was that?"

"Some thing shit on me." Using a rag, Glenn wiped at the substance.

Shawn looked at the stain. "God it stinks. That's a big damn bird."

"Yeah, real big." He removed his shirt and dropped it in the trash can by the bench. Sweat trickled down his bare chest.

Shawn eyed him but didn't say anything.

Glenn slammed a disk on hole 9, the wind pushing his throw into one of two trees bracketing the fairway. A good approach shot left him with a ten foot putt. The disk bounced off the chains as if it hit a wall.

What is this? I play, but it cheats. I don't want to die. Glenn gritted his teeth. The fire in his stomach grew hotter. He went to the next tee. Shawn stared at the basket for a while before following.

The next five holes were variations of the same theme. Every failure to par increased the pain. The trees were uncanny in their ability to snatch the disk off its planned route. He parred three holes with terrific approaches. Maybe there were rules to its game.

Shawn scowled. "What the hell is following you, Man? Trees can't attract frisbees. That disk flipped over like it was on fucking remote control."

Glenn's chest hurt. "It's trying to make me give up."

"IT?" Shawn sat on the bench. "What's 'IT'?"

"You'd think I was crazy." He pointed to the tee-pad. "Throw."

Holding his disk, Shawn looked toward the snack bar. For the 14th they banked left over a ravine and under several eucalyptus to hit the basket. The snack bar and bathrooms sat to the right of the 'L' shaped dirt fairway.

Glenn looked at the sun. For a moment in a huge bloodshot eye seemed to glare at him.

Instinct said run. He knew he would die for certain then. "I said, ‘fuck off’!"

Shawn stared.

"Not you-- IT."

A bemused expression on his face, Shawn ran a hand through his curly hair. He threw. The green disk angled left into the trees eighty feet short of the target.

"It’s getting to you too?"

Shawn frowned. "You're getting to me."

Glenn threw far right, avoiding 'grabby' trees. His shot landed on behind the eucalyptus sixty feet from the basket.

Shawn's approach went wide. Glenn concentrated on keeping his shot close to the basket. His neck prickled. He shut it out.

Would he really die if he failed? He knew the answer. How do I pass this test? Do I beat Shawn? Make zero? To par the course required making a hole-in-one and two bird shots. Beating Shawn was harder still, unless the guy started playing the most miserable game of his existence.

Holding his breath, he lined-up and tossed. His putter floated right then dipped into the chains.

It stayed.

"Yeah!" He gave the finger to the unseen entity.

Shawn banged his putt off the basket.

"A bogey. Minus one now, right?"

Shawn nodded.

"Six for me." His voice sounded weak.

"Not bad considering the trees are out to get you."

He looked up in the sky. "Seems that way, doesn't it?"

At hole 15 a group of eight were starting to throw. They all looked like beginners. None of them used carrying bags. The first player shanked his disk off so it landed near the hole 16 tee-off.

"Let's skip it and come back. These guys will take forever."

Glenn agreed and they headed for pad sixteen. The foreboding presence followed. Eyes burned into the back of his neck.

Have to get rid of this thing somehow.

The 16th was an open shot over a grassy ravine with only a stunted bush sitting next to the hole. He smelled the compost fumes coming from the city park's manure dump across the way.

He threw a cautious shot that landed well down the fairway.

The malevolent gaze didn't relent. Lava boiled in his guts forcing him to sit hunched over. He clenched his fists.

Shawn threw a banking shot that hit the bush by the pin. The disk fell on its edge and rolled well into the fairway.

"Tell your trees to lay off."

Glenn grimaced. "They're not my trees."

"You look pale."

"I'll last." He couldn't handle the pain much longer.

No doubt remained. He played for his life.

Shawn's putt bounced off the basket and rolled back to him. His next shot toppled out. While he was cursing, Glenn put a thirty footer into the chains.

His score now stood at five over and Shawn at zero.

Perspiration ran down his face. It felt as if he were being jabbed with red hot needles. Mopping his forehead he looked toward the tee-off for seventeen. The worst was coming up.

Mirkwood.

A maze of trees with one slender curving path through them. He usually threw an underhand hook down the groove. The method couldn't work with IT out there magnetizing all the wood. Other people went over the top, a hit-or-miss scenario. The results tended to be either spectacular or horrendous.

"Screw the trees," Shawn said. He took his putter and overhanded it down the groove.

The disk fluttered half way, hit a bole and rolled down the back of the hill.

Glenn hurt too much to smile.

Choosing his lucky 77 disk, he stood on the pad and lined up. It had been years since he tried over the top. He wiped his sweaty palm and focused through the pain.

Little bastard isn't going to get me.

Through a narrow space over the grove and back down near the pin. Done all the time-- except when a tree-magnetizing demon was out there.

His throw skipped off a branch that reached for it. The 77 wobbled as it arced high over the top.

"Looks good..." Shawn's voice trailed off.

They both jumped as it crashed into the chains.

Shawn let out a whoop.

The disk flipped out.

Glenn stared. "What...the...hell?" His whole torso felt dipped in acid, tears welled in his eyes. "What the fuck do you want from me!?" He doubled over, clutching his middle.

"Hey, maybe we should get you a doctor."

All the doctors in the world can't help a dead man. "No! We finish the game." He groaned and forced himself to stand.

Shawn looked at him like he was crazy. A good second shot gave him an easy par.

No way to beat him now. I'm not even sure that's what I need to do.

They both made average throws for the eighteenth. The trees didn't even try to grab Glenn's disk when it passed.

"Maybe they gave up," Shawn said fishing his disk out of the basket.

Glenn shook his head. He mopped his brow again. "IT's still out there."

Shawn made a face. "Whatever. Last hole."

They returned to the tee they skipped because of the beginning players. Three times in recent years Shawn had made a hole-in-one here. Glenn's best throw only hit the chains. If Shawn double-bogeyed and he made the hole-shot they'd end up tied.

The 15th sat on the side of rocky incline bare of vegetation except for a leafless tree that jutted up directly in front of the hole.

Shawn threw a straight shot that skidded across the embankment and stopped near the basket.

A bird.

Glenn swallowed. When he tried to move he staggered to one knee. The lava in his stomach had become an eruption. He levered himself up on the bench and stepped out on the pad, legs trembling.

Not even a hole-in-one can win now.

"Glenn are you--"

"Yes!"

Shawn frowned and folded his arms.

Glenn stared at the basket and wiped his brow with a damp forearm. Red glinted on the tree branch that lay in the path to the basket.

He looked through his disks, letting instinct guide his hand. He pulled out a disk. A Phoenix. The wrong choice-- or was it. He fingered the sharp edge on the disk. One chance left.

Shawn eyed the disk. He didn't say anything, only stepped away.

Glenn closed his eyes, forcing himself to straighten against the agony. In his mind's-eye he saw the tree and the basket. His eyes snapped open, his body went taut and he let fly with a vengeance. Not at the chains.

At the branch.

Driven by pain and frustration, the hard plastic disk hissed out harder than he'd ever thrown it.

The heavy plastic whacked hard into empty air twelve inches above the branch. The disk deflected, staggered through the air and hit the edge of the basket.

"Stay!" Shawn yelled.

It wobbled precariously for a moment, then slid in.

A puff of dirt kicked up at the base of the tree as made an impression in the dirt. Glenn grinned. A feeling told him his luck would be taking a turn for the better. The pain was already fading.

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