Stuck in a Rut, Part Four

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This short story began with a song I wrote with the same name. With the song as a base, now I’m making it up as I go along.

Tripp told Josie to be standing out front of the Columbia airport – it was allegedly “international” though most of its planes flew to places like Atlanta – and that didn’t make sense to her. She’d had to park her Mazda. Why didn’t he just meet her at the gate, or check-in, or a bar on the concourse?

Sure enough, though, he pulled up in his beat-up Olds – they didn’t even make them anymore – punched the button that lowered the passenger window and told Josie, who was mildly surprised it worked, to get in.

“We got more than an hour,” Tripp said, pulling away.

“So, what? We’re going to eat lunch?”

“No, silly, we’re going to get high. Lunch is so much better if you blaze first.”

What have I got myself into? Josie thought. It was fun, though, she had to admit. They just rode around the two-lane roads that circled around the airport, outside the chain-link fences and the wind sleeves, passing a blunt back and forth and watching planes taxi. Tripp was even more buoyant than the weed made him, anyway. He provided just the right amount of scattershot details for Josie to have little idea what he was talking about. The trip had something to do with golf, and a friend of Tripp’s who was some kind of caddy to the stars, and them playing golf with celebrities, and somehow Tripp was going to make a bunch of money.

At the end of his diatribe, parking the faded Achieva, Tripp actually said, “Simple as that, baby.”

Josie was a little shaky in the airport. When the lady at the counter asked her if her luggage had been in the hands of someone “unknown” to her, she said, “Well, ma’am, like, if it was someone ‘unknown to me,’ well, then, how could I possibly know?” The woman requested assistance.

Tripp interceded and assured the humorless gentleman representing the airline that Josie’s bag was fine. In security, Josie managed somehow to kick her shoes off under the x-ray machine, which caused some confusion, but all the interaction was somewhat convivial as the lines were short and the TSA agents patient. All Josie was guilty of was laughter.

When they got to the gate, passengers were already queuing up to board.

“God, I could use a cigarette,” said Josie, who was up to about half a pack a day.

“No place here,” Tripp said. “They got smoking rooms in Atlanta. It’s just a 20-minute flight.”

She looked at the other passengers. “Look at all these suitcases,” she said. “We should’ve carried ours on.”

“Not really. The suitcases can’t be above a certain size. Neither of ours would make it.” Tripp lowered his voice. “Besides, it’s safer.”

“How so?”

“I’ve got a certain something hidden in my bag.”

“Couldn’t you get busted?”

“They never check for anything but, you know, guns, anything metal, things terrorists might use. I’ve got it hidden. Trust me. It’s cool.”

“How do you know all this shit?” Josie asked.

“Internet,” he replied.

At Jackson-Hartsfield, the Atlanta airport, they landed at one concourse and took a tram to another where the Los Angeles connecting flight boarded. They had an hour to kill and began by visiting one of the glassed-in smoking areas. Josie felt a bit paranoid, gazing outside as travelers hustled by, wondering if one of them would recognize her. She wasn’t accustomed to smoking in front of people she didn’t know. Then they stopped for coffee and blueberry muffins and sat a while in a dining area near the escalators to the trams. It was only then that Tripp explained the purpose of the trip in terms Josie could fathom.

“I got this buddy, Wade,” he said. “He’s a caddy. Makes big money carrying the bags for big-time Hollywood celebrities. He’s got games lined up for Wednesday and Thursday. We got tomorrow to sightsee, then I’ll clean some cash and we’ll fly back Friday. I’m playing with some high rollers, and when I hustle their asses, we’ll fly back home with a couple grand, easy.”

“What happens if you don’t?”

“You mean, if I don’t win?”

“Yeah.”

“Ain’t happening,” Tripp said. “Everybody knows it ain’t happening. These guys got more money than they know what to do with. They throw it away on lessons, and play in pro-ams, and they just want to play a damn pro, Josie.”

“I take it you’ve done this before.”

“Several times.”

“Anybody I’d recognize?”

“You ever heard of Hector Iglesias?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Latino comic. He’s got his own show on cable. Funny as shit. Smokes weed like a fiend. Good shit, too. I played with him in October. Cleared about eight hundred dollars. This buddy of his, a rapper, played, too. He couldn’t play for shit. He just tagged along. I didn’t bet him. The main thing I remember is he had a gun in his bag.”

“What’d you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. What I said was ‘shit.’”

They laughed, Josie nervously.

“So, uh, what am I supposed to do?”

“Whatever you want to do, baby. Stay at the hotel, hang out at the pool, or you can come to the course, they’ll probably have a pool there. You can tag along on the course, if you want.”

“Will there be, like, carts?”

“I think so. See, Wade’s going to be my partner, so he won’t be caddying. He’s buddies with these guys. He’s a hell of a player. Almost good as me.”

On the flight to LAX, Josie noticed Tripp looking out the window. No, he was looking at the window: at himself, reflected. Josie was in the middle seat, which was fine because she could sit in it easier, but it would have been nice for Tripp to offer the window. He tumbled off to sleep, leaning against the window. Josie tried to read the airline magazine, but it just made her sleepy too.

He thinks he’s so cute, she thought, and he kinda is.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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