The Last Hole

By T. C. Weber, USA

It was unseasonably hot for October. At least it was dry, the golfers agreed. That was the important thing.

The foursome piled out of the golf cart and headed for the tee box. Their young caddies trailed behind, golf bags on their backs.

“Well, this is it!” the oil CEO announced ceremoniously. “Last hole!”

It was a long one, about 500 yards. Tall spruce trees lined either side, but opened up about halfway down the fairway.

The gas CEO, who’d shot a birdie on the 17th hole, was first up. His caddie handed him his favorite driver.

“It’s still my game to lose,” the coal CEO said. By his reckoning, he was in the lead by two.

“We’re all pretty close,” the senator said. The oldest in the group, he was still huffing from the last hole.

The gas CEO placed his ball on the tee and turned to the senator. “I’m impressed how you’re keeping up.”

“Thanks. And thanks again for covering my membership here.”

“Anything for a friend,” the gas CEO said. “We’re all in this together.”

“My son-in-law’s looking for a new job, by the way,” the senator told the others. “He’s as good a PR man as anyone in Washington. Invaluable on my re-election campaign.”

“We’ve always got room for more lobbyists,” the oil CEO said.

“Lucky you,” the coal CEO said. “You’re not getting hammered by gas and solar like I am. The ability to mine wherever we want is worthless if the damn stuff can’t be burned.”

The gas CEO didn’t respond. He focused on his ball, bending his knees and hips slightly, peering downrange.

“America should build more coal plants,” the senator said. “And ensure more are built overseas. We’re the greatest country on Earth, and should strive for nothing less than energy- dominance. The whole world’s hungry for coal, gas, and oil, and we can provide it.”

The coal CEO scowled. “We’ve got to recapture public opinion. All that ruckus from so-called scientists about so-called global warming has been bad for business.”

The senator shook his head. “Climate scientists are all radical leftists or in it for the money. They’re playing the same game as the pharma-scientists, making up some scare like the coronavirus and profiting from it. If it were up to me, they’d all be behind bars.”

The gas CEO took a practice swing and the others fell silent. He lined up his club, looked downrange, and swung. With a thwack, the ball blasted into the air and arced toward the distant flag marking the hole. It landed on the fairway about 200 yards away, bounced, and rolled to a stop.

“Nice swing,” the senator said.

The coal CEO swung next. His ball landed about twenty yards short of the gas CEO’s. The oil CEO’s landed closer.

The senator was last. He lifted his club, then swung. The club struck the turf in front of the tee, spraying grass and dirt into the air. The ball tumbled off the tee and rolled a distance of two yards.

The CEOs turned away so the senator wouldn’t see them smirk.

“I’ll take a mulligan,” the senator said. It wasn’t a question.

“What is that, number twenty?” the oil CEO asked.

“Oh, go ahead,” the coal CEO said. “It’s a friendly game.”

The senator placed his ball back on the tee. This time he hit it well downrange. It sliced to the right, though, bouncing into the spruce trees. “Sonofabitch!”

As the golfers and their caddies walked downrange, the senator complained, “Why are there trees on a golf course anyway? They’re nothing but a pain in the ass!”

The gas CEO’s caddie, an African-American girl, sniffed the air. “Smells like smoke.”

The CEO looked around, sniffed, and responded, “I don’t smell anything.”

The senator found his ball in the underbrush and surreptitiously edged it away from the trees to get a clearer shot.

The CEOs also nudged their balls when no one was looking. They’d been doing it all day, along with fudging their stroke count. They considered it a natural part of the game. The caddies pretended not to notice, not wanting to ruin their chance at a good tip.

The next turn, their balls reached the end of the fairway. The caddies sniffed the air as they trudged forward with the bags. “Definitely smoke,” the gas CEO’s caddie said.

The tall spruce trees gave way to an open view of the hills beyond. The caddies stopped and stared.

“Hey, get over here,” the gas CEO told his caddie.

“Right.” She hurried over.

“I need my pitching wedge.”

“Umm, are you sure we should stay?”

The CEO stared at her. “What are you talking about? We have to finish the game.”

The caddie bit her lip and handed over the club. “Watch the rise, sir.”

Each of the CEOs hit their balls onto the green. The senator’s landed in a sand trap. “Mulligan,” he said.

“Sure,” the others agreed.

His next swing was better, and got him near the other three. “I’ve got some more legislative overhauls in the works,” he told them as they studied the green.

“Regulations are killing this country,” the coal CEO said. “In the old days, businessmen could do whatever they needed. And look what those titans accomplished!”

“We’ve already turned back the clock quite a bit,” the senator said. “We’ll be back to the good old days in no time.” He brushed some ash flecks from his immaculate polo shirt.

The foursome ordered up putters from their caddies. The oil CEO sank his ball on the first shot. He pumped the air with his fist, then tallied his final score, fudging the numbers one last time.

The coal CEO sank his ball next, then the gas CEO, and finally, the senator. They compared their final scores. Somehow, they’d managed a four-way tie.

“We all won!” the senator said.

The gas CEO congratulated him. “Knew you had it in you.”

Trailed by their caddies, the partners walked back to their golf cart. Behind them, the caddies began to cough.

“Drinks on me at the clubhouse,” the oil CEO offered.

“Can’t turn that down,” the senator said, rubbing his eyes.

Behind them, writhing orange flames crept down the forested hills overlooking the golf course. The flames leapt up the pine trees and engulfed them. Greasy gray clouds boiled into the sky.

The partners piled into the golf cart. The coal CEO took the driver’s seat. “Hell of a game!” he said as they headed for the clubhouse.

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