Ace – a short story

After several months of intense courting, Ace Drummond knew that Margaret McKee, who went by Maggie, was the girl for him. He decided to propose, and to do it according to the book. First he took her to spend a weekend with his parents, and then he planned on a follow-up visit to her parents.

Ace’s father, Dan Drummond, was a successful architect with his own business. Now in his early fifties he was slightly portly, and exuded an aura of self-confidence. His confident demeanor served him well when he marketed his firm’s services, and sold his satisfied clients his architectural concepts. He hadn’t always had the self-confidence which now appeared to be natural to him; in fact he had begun life as an underprivileged child with a slight inferiority complex. He attributed his confidence and success to an occurrence on a golf course a year before Ace was born.

The event, which changed his life, was so apocryphal and extraordinary that Ace knew that his father would launch into all the details for Maggie’s benefit. Ace didn’t mind too much, for at least it would explain why he had been named Ace. Sure enough in the midst of their first meal Dan leaned back in his chair, sipped his wine, and asked his favorite question which always introduced his story, “Well, Maggie, did Ace tell you why we named him Ace?”

Maggie had heard Ace’s version of the story but she knew better than to stop her boyfriend’s father from telling his favorite tale. She looked him directly in the face, and gently responded, “Ace mentioned something but I’d love to hear you tell the full story.”

This response was enough and Dan began, “It was in the days that I was starting out and we had very little work.” He coughed and took a sip of wine, “Yes, it seems a long time ago but we once were struggling to get work, and I mean struggling.” He gave extra emphasis to the word ‘struggling’. “I was making a pitch for an office building for an insurance company in Dallas. We had already submitted an elegant response to the project RFP (request for a proposal) and attended an exhaustive interview at the prospective company’s headquarters. The company had narrowed the field to two firms, and sent their proposed project manager, Ralf Cookson, to visit us both. When Mr. Cookson had toured our office he mentioned that his flight out wasn’t until the next morning and suggested that, since the weather was so delightful, a game of golf after the office visit would be fantastic.

“Of course I was anxious to oblige and called and made arrangements. I was glad that I had some decent clubs and played a passable game. It turned out that Mr. Cookson and I were closely matched. It was a glorious cool afternoon with a light breeze. The course was deserted.”

“Everything went quite normally until we came to the ninth hole.  I knew it well as is an interesting par 3 hole with a dip in the ground as you approach the green. We both teed off with spectacular shots into the wind and lost sight of our balls as the driving lane faces almost due west and our vision was hindered by the setting sun.  There is a sand trap at the dip in the ground which meant that we had to circumnavigate it with the green obscured from view.  When we came upon the green we were both astonished to see no balls.” At this point in the narration Dan paused for effect and took another sip of his wine.

Then he continued, “We knew that we had both driven well and so we were surprised that neither of the balls was on the green. We began to search the immediately adjacent grass – still no balls. We were just about to widen our search when I happened to walk past the cup and there nestled inside was a golf ball – my golf ball! Until that moment I had never shot a hole in one and have never shot one since. I called to Mr. Cookson, or Ralf, as we were now on a first name basis, and bent and removed the ball. Now this is where it gets odd for when I removed my ball I saw Ralf’s ball below it. Somehow we had both shot aces!”

Maggie leaned forward and said, “Really?  You both shot aces?” Her surprise was insufficient for Dan who interrupted as he put his elbows on the table taking on the pose of a learned professor. “The probability of an amateur, such as me, acing a hole on a par 3 is about 1 in 12,500 but the probability of two amateurs doing so at the same hole defies my mathematical ability. I think that it is 12,500 factorial. That, of course, is odds exceeding those of winning the lottery.”

“Gosh,” he went on “did you know that golf tournaments nowadays take out Hole-in-one insurance so that they can safely offer extravagant Hole-in-one prizes.”

“Incredible! So what did you do, what happened?” Maggie asked.

“Well for some time we stood there enjoying the moment. It seemed odd to me that the place should be so quiet when something so extraordinary had happened. We looked around. We both hoped that there might be someone else to witness this incredible event but there was no one.”

“We gave each other high fives and, believe it or not, did a little victory dance together. Then we walked back to the club house. We were both too elated to continue playing. Naturally no one believed us!  I think that the world’s disbelief brought Ralf and I together.  Of course he awarded us the job, along with many subsequent referrals and projects. It kicked off the firm and instilled in me a sense of wonder and belief in my own ability.  Wonder at what I could do without even thinking. When Ace was born he had to be named Ace in recognition of that event and to remind him of his own self-worth and uniqueness.”

After Dan’s story and little speech they stood and cleared the table in the knowledge that nothing anyone could say could top his personal, and heartfelt, philosophy of success. The rest of the visit went well and Ace left knowing that he had his parent’s whole-hearted approval of Maggie as his choice for a wife.

A few weeks later they made the trip to visit Maggie’s parents. On the second day Ace managed to corner Maggie’s parents while she was out having her nails done.  It felt a little odd asking for their permission but when they gave their enthusiastic consent Ace knew that it had been worth it, and that he had gained allies for life. He told them that he intended to take her out to dinner, and ask her the next day. They suggested that they would host an impromptu party for them when they returned from the proposal date. Everything went according to plan, and when Ace and Maggie returned, sporting a beautiful ring on Maggie’s finger, they found a group of Maggie’s friends, augmented by family, and a few of Maggie’s parent’s neighbors, waiting ready to break out champagne.

The happy couple circulated and shared stories and general comradery with the group. As they circulated Maggie couldn’t resist explaining that Ace took his name in recognition that, just before his conception, his father, an amateur golfer, had aced a par 3 hole. Maggie’s parent’s neighbor, a young man about ten years Ace’s senior smiled as Maggie spoke.  He had an engaging twinkle in his eye and infectious laugh.

“Well,” he said “I also have a golf story which dates from about the same time. From what you say it could be the same golf course! My cousin and I were ten years old on our way to the public swimming pool which happened to be on the other side of the golf course to our homes. The right way to get there was to go around the golf course, as we were strictly forbidden to trespass. But, being the boys that we were, we often disobeyed and took the short cut. We were always careful to keep under cover so that we wouldn’t get caught.” He paused to make sure that         his audience was properly attentive and saw Ace’s riveting eyes.

“On this afternoon there were only two men on the course and we watched intently near the ninth green. Suddenly one ball, and then another, landed close to our hiding place. We knew that if the two players claimed their balls so close to our hiding place we would be discovered, and so I picked up the balls. Initially I intended to lob them onto the far side of the green, but then I had a mischievous inspiration, and making sure that I was hidden from their view as they crossed the dip in the fairway, ran and dropped the balls in the cup.”

He paused and took another gulp of champagne, as he surveyed his audience to gauge their response to his story. Then he continued, his eyes dancing with mirth, “Of course we stayed in our hiding place to see what happened. We could hardly contain ourselves as we watched the men looking for their balls. At one point we thought that they might come too close and find us. Just when we were getting anxious one of them happened to look in the cup. He lifted the ball out exclaiming ‘An ace!’ Then he did a double take, ‘No two aces. Can this be?’ We watched the men checking the balls and the golf course and then their glee and victory dance. It was a moment so exuberant and personal that we knew that we had to keep mum.”

Copyright © 2013 Jane Stansfeld

7 thoughts on “Ace – a short story

  1. Reminds me of a true golf story when we were visiting the hill leave station Kodaikanal in South India. There were 5 of us, An American, a Canadian and 3 Australians. One of the Australians demonstrated an ability to hit balls in a giant curve which sometimes collided with the trees, Another Australian (not me) hit a good ball which we followed on its course only to see in the distance a cow with tail up going about its bodily function. Then to our amusement the tail went down and the cow galloped into the trees. When we reached the spot where our balls were scattered around we could not find his ball which set us all into a fit of laughter. We declared him an ace! lol

    • I am still laughing and will share this one with my family! It is a memorable and lovely story and deserves a wide circulation. Thank you for sharing. Cheerio, Jane.

  2. What a delightful tale. You do have a way of telling a story. I can already see you as the proud and successful author of a book of short stories.

    Coming back to the tale, I do hope Ace and his Fiance’ keep this revelation to themselves!

    Shakti

    • Thank you Shakti for your visit and comments. Yes, I agree that it would be best if Dan never hears the “rest of the story” as it might shatter the basis for his self-confidence. On the other hand perhaps it was so long ago that it has become second nature to him. Either way I’m with you and prefer to leave him in ignorant bliss.

  3. Beautiful story, Jane, and very well told. I love particularly your choice of words and phrases.

    Don’t get me wrong but I cottoned on to the finale when the paragraph started with – “Well,” he said “I also have a golf story which dates from about the same time…”

    I read quite a few mysteries/spy thrillers and make it a point to guess the conclusion as early into the novel as possible. Authors usually drop hints – they have to, to prevent the appearance of martians in chapter 14 – if you know what I mean.

    A marvellous read for me.

    Luv and hugz,
    Eric

    • Thank you Eric, I agree that it is hard to offer clues without giving the game away. A couple of days ago someone told me that Agatha Christy sold more books than any other author except the Bible and Shakespeare. It has been a long time since I read one of hers but I decided to keep the statistics true and downloaded “They Came from Bagdad” I am already half way through enjoying her style and ability to says so much with so few words. The tension is there and I haven’t figured out the conclusion yet. A good read and very instructive, as you are, to me in my writing journey. Cheerio, and thanks again for your visit and comments. Jane

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