Vacation, Minus Two

Detroit: Our top story today is the recall of 7.4 million sport utility vehicles after General Motors technicians discovered they consume unconscionably high quantities of fuel. Company executives were unavailable for comment because they were being held on felony charges for violating the ozone.

Actually, that was just one of the many daydreams and wistful thoughts I had during my recent vacation, where for the first time in 20 years my spouse and I were free from the one thing that can ruin an otherwise enjoyable family trip—namely, the family.

To be fair, I have appreciated the years of memorable beach trips with our children, particularly the part where I personally carried EVERYTHING from the car because the teenagers’ hands were full with a bottle of sunscreen.

But with “Just the Two of Us” being this year’s vacation theme, we found ourselves finally able to sit quietly in the sun, and not once hear the familiar lament of “I’m bored.” (At least not until Tuesday, when I said it.) Relaxing on the sand, watching the setting sun, and listening to the rhythmic surf, I gave voice to my long-suppressed inner contemplative:

ME: (as a single pelican wings by) A penny for your thoughts, my dear?
ME: Okay, 10 bucks. But that’s my final offer.
SHE: (tucking two fives into her beach bag) I was just feeling a little guilty about having such a good time without the girls.
ME: What girls?
SHE: No, seriously. I never knew how romantic the beach could be in the evening. We’re almost completely alone.
ME: Don’t I know it. Beach thugs could swoop down at any moment and forcibly take my new lanyard with the lucky shell. And they would totally get away with it.
SHE: Let’s go for a swim. Look how the moon reflects on the surface of the water ...
ME: : ... making it impossible to see the fin breaking the surface just before the shark’s jaws clamp down on my leg. Why don’t we just put signs around our necks saying “Free Chum”?!
SHE: And just look at all the stars.
ME: Yeah. But I miss Pluto.
SHE: Pluto is not a star. And now it’s not even a planet, poor thing.
ME: No, I mean the real Pluto. You know, that cartoon dog with the floppy ears. Or was that Goofy?

As you can see, in such a blissful state it’s hard not to muse about anything, including favorite Disney characters, or even weightier matters. In fact, after a couple hours on the beach I was able to think up solutions to both the war in Iraq and global warming. But then I saw a dolphin, so I forgot.

BUT THE REAL pleasure of the trip was finally having the time for my first love, the sport that separates the men from the little baby men: miniature golf.

For years I was frustrated in my attempts to hone my skills, because I was distracted by children needing their dad to, say, risk decapitation while retrieving a ball from under a turning windmill, or forced to defend my score to a 12-year-old know-it-all who insisted that, when I accidentally tapped the ball into the hole with my foot, it should count as an extra stroke. (Among gentlemen who revere the sport, foot taps are never counted, especially if preceded by: “Oh look, a dolphin!”)

Finally free of such tedious hindrances, I could concentrate on this challenging sport of kings, knowing that every move, every decision would carry the heavy weight of consequence. Proper club selection was first and foremost, then the choice of ball color. I selected a confident orange, a bold hue that exudes a simple but powerful message: This guy is here to play putt-putt.

Next were the fundamentals: the rock-like grip, the laser focus of the eyes, the steady—if occasionally flirtatious—line of the hip. With every muscle coiled like a spring I let fly—Tiger Woods-like—and watched the ball charge forcefully into the loop-de-loop and settle with authority mere inches from the cup. An unobtrusive tap of the foot makes it a hole-in-one.

It went on like this, round after round, day after day. By week’s end I had became the brash and self-assured maestro of the links, a putt-putt god to whom the owner spoke reverently when he said, “Sir, you can’t wear those spiked shoes in here.” Sadly, as often happens with the true greats, I became overconfident, and I bet myself $1,000 I would finish at par. Unfortunately, I lost. And now I don’t know how I’m going to come up with the money.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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