“Ah, Pa. Do I gotta?”
Felix scuffed shoes on the grass as he cast peeks from under eyelashes. His father sighed and placed the backpack on the ground. Then he sat on the bumper of the golfcart and patted his leg. His boy climbed up on the waiting knee.
Felix’s father cleared his throat. “Listen good, boy. There’s no other way. Wished there was, but there are things we all gotta do.”
“But people will laugh.” Felix watched a small white ball fly through the air and thunk into the tree hole where angry squeaks echoed. Things quieted down when the stranger approached. Felix pointed his finger at the hole, and the man tipped his hat in thanks.
“Yeah. People can be cruel. But that shouldn’t ever stop us from doing what we believe in.” His father paused when hearing the scream. They watched the stranger rolling through the grass as four angry squirrels hopped from their tree home and kicked ass on the trespasser who owned the white ball.
Meanwhile, the man’s buddy ran up. He raised the metal club trying to beat the bushy-tailed rats away. They headed down the slope as the stranger continued to roll on the ground and his buddy continued to swing the club and the squirrels dodged every hit while the metal bashed into the screaming man. They all disappeared out of sight.
Felix’s father chuckled. Then he wiped the smirk from his face when his son shook his head at the cruel humor. The father sighed and gestured at the port-a-potty. “Every man was once a boy who had to take himself in there. We all did the duty - our right of passage. There’s no fussing about it, son. I did it. My old man did it. His old man did it before him.”
“I ain’t gonna do it to anyone when I’m grown,” Felix declared. He crossed his arms and nodded his head, sure in this conviction.
A gentle smile twitched his father’s lips. “You say that now, son, and gosh darn it if I hadn’t said the same thing to my old pa. But he knew I’d go in there in the end ‘cause he knew about the two most valuable lessons in life. Do you know what those two lessons are, Felix?”
“Don’t stick your hand in a tree hole and have smarter friends?” Felix asked above the wail of sirens. An ambulance pulled up to the cart. Four paramedics ran down the slope with stretchers and tennis rackets. Small angry fur balls flew through the air as the paramedics practiced their tennis serves. Then they reappeared.
The first person they toted up was the angry stranger battered, bruised, and bitten. The second stretcher had his buddy who lay on his stomach. From the back of pants, half the metal club stuck out at an awkward angle. The rest of the shaft was, well, Felix couldn’t see it because his father placed a hand over his eyes until the ambulance drove away.
Felix’s father whistled a little ditty before lowering his palm. He scratched his head, wondering where his train of thought had rumbled off to, then he snapped fingers. “Well, I can see where you’re going with that thinking, Felix, and it’s good advice. But that’s not what my old man taught me.” He watched another white ball sail through the air and thunk into the same tree. This time he pointed down the slope and received another tip of the hat in thankfulness from the next stranger.
Felix tapped a finger against his chin, thinking hard. “Um . . . make sure the squirrels are back in their tree before you send the golfer down the slope?”
“Gosh darn it!” His father slapped his palm against his forehead. A scream echoed from below. The terrified man ran past the cart with the squirrels nesting in his hair. He jumped into the nearby water hazard.
Felix’s father shook his head. “No, boy. My pa taught me two things about going into the port-a-potty. One is that misery loves company. And the second is that if you don’t get your butt in there to change your clothes, I’ll sell all your video games.”
Felix gulped, grabbed the backpack from the ground, and hurried into the portable john. Two minutes later, he returned. He now wore a god-awful plaid shirt and matching pants with a golf beanie slanted on his head.
“I feel stupid,” he grumped. His father picked up the golf bag and rested it on his son’s shoulder.
“Yeah, that’s the misery/company part. But at least our clothes match. It makes me feel a whole lot better.” Felix’s father placed his ball on the tee and swung the club. The whacked ball ricocheted off the port-a-potty, bounced across the roof of the cart, and thunked into the tree. Angry squeaks sounded inside as his father tossed his club and shouted.
“Two more important lessons of the day, boy! Run, and don’t beat your old man with the five-iron!”