The Library

The Putt a the End of the World:

A novel by Lee K. Abbott, Dave Barry, Richard Bausch, James Crumley, James W. Hall, Tami Hoag, Tim O'Brien, Ridley Pearson and Les Standiford

Chapter 1: The Deep Rough

Redfish Key, Florida

"You see that one, Hector?" Alfonzo Zamora called, the squat, stocky form familiar to a generation of golfing fans outlined against the setting sun. He had his eyes screwed tight, squinting down the narrow tunnel of amngroves and palms guarding the brutal eighteenth hole of the Links at Redfish Key.

On toward 7 P.M. of a languid Florida summer evening, the light failing, the shadows murderous, anyone could be forgiven for losing sight of something as tiny as a golf ball, Zamora told himself. His belly was no more formidable than it had been when he'd waded across the Rio Grande from Santa Teresa to El Paso almost forty years before, and his drives were very nearly the equal of those he could hit back then, but, admittedly, his eyes were not the same.

"I saw where it came down," his longtime caddy said.

"Good," Zamora said, turning to hand over his driver.

"I dunno about that, big Hector said as he accepted the club.

"What are you talking about?" Zamora was already off the tee, moving toward their cart, anxious to get things over with. His opponent - one Harvey Byers, a bond trader from Palm Beach who had put up twenty thousand dollars for the privelege of playing eighteen holes with legendary Marvelous Mex this day - was venturing out onto the members tee box a hundred yards or so ahead, waggling his club, readying himself for his own final tee shot.

Hector shrugged. He stowed the driver into the cavernous tooled leather bag that had once been given to Zamora by the president of the state of Chihuahua, then slipped on one of the head covers done up to resemble a tiny sombrero. "That water really sucks up," the caddy said. "That's what I'm talking about."

Zamora swiveled around, stared back down the fairway. The blue of the sky had paled; a bank of distant thunderheads had taken on a pinkish cast. A late breeze off the water stirred the overhanging palms. "No way," he protested. "I hit that ball good."

"You did hit it good," Hector said. He glanced at the little dog-eared yardage book he carried in the pocket of his T-shirt. "I'd say two-eighty, two-ninety, right into that lake of the left side of the fairway."

"What lake?" Zamora demanded.

"That one right down there," Hector said, pointing.

They had always been something of a Mutt and Jeff act, but the big man was truly losing patience with him, Zamora thought. One of the inevitable drawbacks to a long-term relationship. He'd been with Hector for almost thirty years, had run through four marriages in the same length of time.

Zamora stared. A long line of trees bordered the fairway, which seemed to widen out into a blue-green plain, just about where Hector's dusky finger was aimed. "That looks like grass to me," he said.

"Well now, that's the problem isn't it?"

"Shit," Zamora said.

The solid crack of Byers's tee shot drifted back toward them.

"Watch for a splash," Zamora said, hopefully. "You seem to be good at it."

"Ain't splashin," Hector said, peering off into the gloom. "That white man just split himself the middle."

Zamora sighed. "Come on, Hector, get in the cart."

Hector gave him a look. The caddy stood well over six feet weighed somewhere between two-seventy-five and anybody's guess. He shouldered the heavy bag as if it were nothing but a day player's canvas tote and started off down the fairway. "I been carrying this bag for thirty years. I ain't about to turn it over to some machine at this stage of the game."

Zamora sighed again, the pressed the accelerator, heading toward what he's just learned was a lake.

Part Two

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