April 4, 2007

So, there I was, walking through the frozen food aisle at the local Fry’s, looking for some healthy butternut squash amidst all the pizza, waffles, fish sticks, and Stouffer’s dinners, when all of a sudden, this little kid – coulda been no more then ten – walks up to me and says, “Say, I know you – you’re The Great White Shank, aren’t you?” Well of course, I was taken aback (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) and I said to him, “why yes, son – what about it?”. He says, “You’re one of the Goodboys, aren’t you? You’re one of the greatest Goodboys ever! I mean, you have four Goodboys Invitational championships to your credit, more than anyone else in this year’s field!”

“Aw shucks”, I says, “it was nothing. I just happened to have some pretty darned good partners that kinda held up their end of the bargain along the way, you might say…” The kid was wide-eyed, and I’ll admit, I was starting to feel a little embarrassed as all kinds of people started to gather around us, including this older, overweight guy who smelled kinda funny and parked his shopping scooter right next to my right leg. I thought he was just curious to see what the hubbub was all about, but instead he pointed a pre-ripe banana at me accusingly.

“You hit that 6-iron to within 3 1/2 inches of the cup on 17 at Killington back in ’93, then three-putted for a double-bogey! If you hadn’t fallen on it as if it were a live hand grenade, I bet it’d still be rollin’! You’re partner saved your ass that year!”, he sneered.

“…And don’t forget that he won only one hole – one hole, mind ya – for his partner Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis that very first year at the Bethel Inn”, a small, older woman wearing a “I’m A Flirt for Englebert!” T-shirt chimed in to the crowd that was still gathering.

But the little kid would have nothing of it. “The Great White Shank is my hero, and I want to grow up to be just like him!”, he said defiantly. His eyes grew wide, and a kind of puppy dog look came across his face. “Whatcha going to do this year, Shank, to win another championship? Would you win one for me?”

I’ll admit, I was touched – so much so that the box of frozen butternut squash was starting to feel a tad mushy in my hand. “You’re darn tootin’ I will, Bobby”, I said, a satisfied grin spreading across my face.

“My name’s Jimmy”, he replied.

“…So how ARE ya gonna do it this year?”, the old man in the scooter then snickered, peeling the same pre-ripe banana that only seconds before had been employed in a threatening manner.

“Do what?”, says I.

“Vulture another Goodboys Invitational championship and take credit for it among strangers”, he said, smartly.

“Well, pops”, I says, “In fact, I’ve got a plan. A four point plan for success.”

“Tell us! Tell us all of them!”, the crowd began to chant in unison, so much so that it drowned out the K.C. and the Sunshine Band disco tune playing overhead.

“OK, I will. 1. I keep the big dog in the bag. 2. I keep using that Gary Koch tip I learned the other week about chipping around the green. 3. Stay with my new flatter take-away on my short irons. 4. Exploit my new King Cobra 9- and 11- fairway woods – those puppies are freakin’ deadly! If I can keep the ball in the fairway, the only Goodboys team that can possibly beat me is any one with Kevin “Goose” Dwyer, since, Lord knows, he’s beyond due.”

By now, the store manager had appeared and, keys jangling from a belt hidden somewhere beneath his massive gut, starts telling the crowd to break it up. Soon, it was just me and the little kid alone, the sound of feet shuffling and creaking shopping carts replaced by the “Macarena” song playing above us and the sound of the old man’s scooter drifting away towards the dairy aisle.

“Great White Shank, you’re the best!”, said the little kid as his mother took his hand and gently led him away.

“I’ll get you a hole-in-one this year, Tommy”, I promise.

“My name’s Jimmy”, he says.

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