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Tweet Follow @BORNCURIOUS Daily Question Blog: Friday excerpt from S'mothered. Eleven year old Johnny Orlando's first day at work

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday excerpt from S'mothered. Eleven year old Johnny Orlando's first day at work

"I started working just after the war broke out. I should say I thought I started working. I wanted to be a caddy at the County golf course so I went there one morning and asked the Caddy Master if there was a test I had to take or forms to fill out.

He looked at me as if I was retarded and said “no tests kid and no forms, just sit there until I tell you I have a bag for you. Are you sure, you can carry a bag? You look like a runt.”

I replied in a shaky voice “I’ve never carried a bag on a real golf course for a real golfer but I have carried my Uncle Sal’s bag around the yard.”

My Uncle Sal was a great amateur golfer and had won some County Tournaments. I told the Caddy Master my uncles name and pretended he sent me here to get a job caddying.

He sarcastically shot back, “Listen kid I don’t care if your Uncle is Bobby Jones as long as you can carry a bag when I get you one, so shut up and go sit in the caddy shack until I need you.”

I was puzzled why he referred to my Uncle Sal as Bobby Jones and wondered who Bobby Jones was.

As for being called a runt, I had been called a lot worse than that by my own relatives, so why should I care if a stranger called me that?

My cousin Larry had started caddying here a few months ago and I thought maybe I should mention his name to the Caddy Master but decided to quit while I was behind. I should have asked Larry about the terms they use here. Like what did they mean about getting me a bag? I thought golfers bought their own bags. My uncles did.

Well I waited two or three hours and it was time for lunch. Grandma had made me a spiced ham sandwich on white bread with mustard and put it in a brown bag with a banana. I bought a coke at the refreshment stand and started eating the sandwich.

A caddy was coming off the course and asked me if I had gotten out yet”

I didn’t know what “gotten out” meant but answered “yes.”

“How many bags you carried and how much did the cheap skate pay you?” he asked.

I could see I was getting in over my head now so I changed the subject and offered him half my sandwich.

He could tell I was new and helped me interpret the golf lingo they used here.
“The main thing ,” he said “is to watch where the guy hits the golf ball. Most of the golfers will put up with anything except if you lose their ball. You lose their ball Johnny and they will have a shit fit.”

Oh boy, I thought to myself, this job is going to be tougher than I imagined it would be.

After lunch, I sat around and waited for another two or three hours but the Caddy Master never did call my name. I walked home somewhat dejected, I had already spent what I going to earn. At least in my mind I had spent it. I needed a new tire for my bike after getting three flats in two weeks. The tube was made of more patches than rubber by now. On top of that, I needed fifty cents for the Captain Marvel club dues.

Anyhow, the next day Larry went with me to the course. We signed up with Jack, the caddy master. I was impressed Larry knew his name. We went to the shack and waited, shot some marbles and played a game with our penknives.

Two hours passed and Jack called Larry’s name, he used last names so he shouted out, “Villani, get over to the first tee, you got a bag, ask for Mr. Giardano, get a move on, quick!”

I figured Larry had seniority since he worked here a few months already. I assumed my turn was next and sat down. Two hours later I ate my lunch, a baloney sandwich, except my Grandma forgot to put mustard on it. After lunch, I resumed waiting and when it was 4:00 p.m. I realized I was not getting any bags again. Since it got dark at seven and a round of golf took at least four hours, no golfers would tee off after four o’clock.

I walked home alone. Larry was still caddying for Mr. Giordano. When my mother got home from work, she asked how much money I made.

When I told her none, she said “how come Larry brings home five dollars every time he goes to caddy and you bring home nothing Johnny?”

By now I had figured out how the system worked, the Caddy Master picked caddies by age first, then seniority and then strength or height and then finally he would pick the runts.”

So I answered my mother sarcastically, “I guess it’s because Larry’s Mother gives him milk and cereal for breakfast and I get soda.” I was really telling the truth although in a flippant sort of way. We never had milk in our house and the only cereal Grandma ever made was pastina, which I hated.

My Mother never yelled at me or threatened to hit me, never once in my life. She hurt me with words instead and I learned to reply in kind. “Well junior,” she said.” that isn’t my fault, I go to work every day and give Grandma money every week for food. Anyhow, what’s that got to do with caddying?”

I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of finding out I was classified as a runt at the golf course so I walked away, cursing under my breath.

Finally, on Friday, my third day of being a gainfully employed caddy, the course was very crowded. Every available caddy had been used. I was the last one left.

Jack called out “OK, Orlando you got a bag, get over to the tee and ask for Mr. O’Hara. Look for a big heavyset guy, any questions?”

“Nope” I said back to him, and ran over to the first tee, which was up a very steep hill. When I got there, I asked another caddy to point out the golfer I was caddying for. Mr. O’Hara turned out to more than heavy set, he was obese. When I went up to him, I was out of breath from running up the hill.

He noticed it and said “what’s the matter kid.We haven’t started yet and your out of breath. You ever loop before?”

Larry had clued me in on the golf terms the previous day, so I knew “loop” meant 18 holes. I thought of lying but figured he would know by the end of the first hole that this was all Greek to me, so I told him “no, Mr. O’Hara, but I’m a fast learner.”

He smiled and said “I’m not worried about you learning kid, all you have to do is stay out of my line of sight when I’m swinging and then carry my bag to where the ball lands, you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to be a caddy, just don’t lose my ball. What I am worried about though is if you can carry the bag? How much do you weigh?”

I exaggerated a little and said “one hundred and five.”

I could tell by the way he looked at me that he didn’t believe me. He joked, “well the bag weighs more than you do so good luck.”

I didn’t believe he could even swing the club, that’s how fat he was. He got up on the first tee, put his ball on a wooden tee and sunk it into the ground. Then he swung so hard he almost fell down.

I was so fascinated with watching him swing the club; I forgot to watch the ball. I had absolutely no idea where it had gone. “Oh my God,” I said to myself; now I was in trouble. I thought quickly, I’ll just walk behind him and follow him to the ball.
No such luck, he hadn’t seen it either and asked “where did it go kid?”

I looked the other way so he couldn’t see my face, meanwhile thinking, what do I do now? I figured it could have gone left or right so if I just guessed, thinking I had a 50 per cent chance of being right.

I said, “it went left Sir.” We walked down the left side of the fairway. He couldn’t see his ball and neither could I.

I thought even quicker now and told him “it went into the rough.” When you hit a ball, in the rough where the grass is quite high, the player doesn’t hold the caddy responsible. I was off the hook for now.

The other three golfers in the foursome came over to help us look for the ball. Mr. O’Hara said his ball was a brand new Wilson. The five of us searched for the ball for about 10 minutes with no luck. Just as he was putting another ball down to hit from where his lost ball should be, one of the other caddies called from across the fairway.

Your ball’s over here Mr. O’Hara, a Wilson right? Damn, I said under my breath it’s all the way over on the right side of the fairway. I should have said right.

He gave me a dirty look and said “look kid, you keep this up and I am kicking your ass off this course and the Caddy Master’s as well. Why in hell does he always stick me with the runt of the litter?”

Oh boy, I whispered, there’s that damn word again.

Well I may be a little slow on the draw, but when I start concentrating, I pick things up fast, as I had proved the past year in school. I watched every shot the rest of the loop and, being blessed with great eyesight, I never lost another ball.

At the end of the 18 holes, he said “good job, kid, you had me a little worried at the beginning but you’re not bad.” He handed me a five-dollar bill and said “spend this on food and put some meat on those bones.”

With the most money I had ever earned in my pocket, I practically floated home to tell my Mother. I could tell she was impressed but she didn’t say anything.

I said nothing about the first hole, to her, or to Larry, or to anyone else in the town, state or country."