I get my date with Wendy’s cousin, the hot Lt. Emma Casperson. It’s a double-date, really; Wendy and JC are tagging along. Our destination: King Putt.
King Putt is an expansive 18-hole miniature golf fantasy land full of giant monkeys, sphinxes, windmills, shit like that. I couldn’t detect any overriding theme – you would think with a name like King Putt they’d go with an Ancient Egyptian motif or a royal/medieval thing, but no.
Emma is wearing a green off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater with tailored jeans, black boots and a matching belt. Her auburn hair is down; one side is swept back behind her ear while the other side cascades down like a luminous auburn waterfall. Her red lips seemed poised between a snarl and a smile. Emma is hot. I don’t recall what JC and Wendy are wearing.
Young, acne-afflicted King Putt employees in yellow Izods set us all up with clubs, and we’re golfing, baby.
“You ready to get your ass kicked, Connor?” Emma says, grinning.
“Me?” I say. “My golf kung fu is tops. You cannot defeat me.”
“I hope you don’t mind getting beaten by a girl,” she says.
“We are talking about golf here, right?”
We carry on with the adolescent flirting as we golf, accompanied by much eye-rolling from JC and Wendy. Turns out Emma is even more competitive than I am – we’re both shooting one below par by the ninth hole – and our friendly date slowly devolves into a struggle for supremacy.
Emma’s putt gets blocked by a giant monkey tail on the 12th hole and she falls behind by one.
I whistle sadly. “That sucks, Emma. Do you want to quit now? Because you can; we’d understand.”
“Mackenzie, how would you like to ‘crank it up a notch?’” she says, idly swinging her putter in a way that makes it seem like a weapon. When she calls me ‘Mackenzie’ it makes me think of Margo suddenly. Margo always calls me that. It sounds different when she says it. “I’ll bet you fifty bucks that I beat you.”
“Beat me? How about twenty? You’re on a civil servant salary.”
“You a little gun-shy, Mackenzie?” she says.
“Nobody’s ever used my name and the word ‘gun-shy’ in the same sentence before. I’ll take your fifty dollars.”
Emma looks at me like I’m cake. “Bring it,” she says.
“Oh, I’m bringing it all right.”
JC pantomimes vomiting. Wendy throws her hands up. “You guys are killing us with the corny flirting thing!”
On the last six holes of the course our game is loaded with competition and sexual tension. I miss a putt in the dragon castle and Emma pulls even with me. She does this thing every time she putts that I think is very sexy: she wiggles her butt and hums a little tune, then – and you can actually see it – then she gets very still and focuses like a lens on the ball. You can almost feel her concentrating. Then she putts and snaps back into the real world, brushing her hair out of her eyes and grinning.
We’re dead even by the eighteenth hole, a par two where you have to shoot into the mouth of a giant alligator whose mouth slowly opens… then shuts… opens… then shuts. A curved ramp in the belly of the beast guides your ball down on to the green. Easy.
Emma goes first. Wendy and JC have grown weary of our battle and are playing the hole behind us.
“Man, I hope you don’t totally miss, Emma,” I say as she does her little putting shimmy and knocks the ball up towards the alligator’s relentlessly moving jaws.
The jaws open…
They open… and Emma’s ball rolls into the mouth, down the ramp, and on to the putting green, coming to a stop within a foot of the eighteenth hole.
She smiles smugly.
I set up for my shot. The trick, I think, is to watch the alligator jaws and shoot as they are coming down and about to close. I watch the alligator’s mouth.
The jaws open…
I shoot, but too hard. My ball bounces off the alligator’s teeth and rolls slowly, sullenly back to my feet.
Emma easily sinks her ball into the eighteenth hole and looks up at me, beautiful, triumphant. “I think I saw a cash machine in the lobby.”
We finish up and I give Emma her money. I hate losing, but losing to her is kind of exciting. “The least you can do is buy me a drink with your winnings,” I say.
“Uh-uh. Loser buys. Guys?” she says invitingly to JC and Wendy, who both shake their heads.
“No, you kids go do your thing,” Wendy says.
We drive in Emma’s Audi to Lemieux’s, an ancient bar that smells of smoke and old leather, full of The Same Damn People every night. I swear, there are two old people at Lemieux’s, a guy and a gal, who I have never seen move from their barstools. They could be animatronic mannequins for all I know. Anyway, we find a booth, drink gin and tonics and banter.
“Thanks for not gloating when you won, by the way,” I say. “Big of you.”
“I’ve learned that the male ego can only sustain so much punishment,” she says.
“I’ll bet you learned that from experience.”
She smiles. “I think we both know a little something about that.”
There it is. I knew this would come up: years ago in college I made a cruel remark about Emma that she overheard. I was drunk, I was an asshole, what can I say? (see post A birth, a wedding, and a hot cop, 1/19/05) Apparently it was a big deal for her at the time, and Wendy says for years I was the focused target of all Emma’s metaphysical rage. Sometimes I imagine I can see anger in her green eyes when she looks at me and I wonder if she’s just sitting there, smiling, hating me. I’ve completely forgotten my ulterior motive for hooking up with her: to get more information about the ECPD Paracrime Unit.
Man, should I say something, or blow it off? How bad am I supposed to feel about something that happened a decade ago?
“Yeah,” I say lamely. “Umm…”
She’s looking at me. I can’t tell what she’s thinking.
“Let’s go,” she says, finishing her drink with a big gulp. Emma rises and holds out her hand. I take it.
“Where to, boss?”
Emma smiles. “My place.”
She’s looking at me like I’m cake again.