My wife was particularly interested in my piece that centred on my main character, Alexander ‘Sikunder’ Armstrong, and his round of golf in the Samsara tundra. Now, I’m not a particularly good player myself, indulging in that kind of stress only a few times a year as I do, but I admit to occasionally enjoying the challenge of using a metal club to put a ball in a cup with as few swings as possible. That the fairway looks like the Battle of the Somme afterwards, or that colourful language fills the air with more force than normally delivered by a troop of stevedores, or that I more often than not, come away with a new hatred for the dreaded game is completely irrelevant. I enjoy the challenge, or maybe I enjoy the company as I fail the challenge miserably. I’m not sure I had any particular event when I first thought of including g a round of golf in the story, but I certainly did when I mused for a while upon it. One of my worst games took place on a boggy little par nine in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a small fishing town on the north coast. Sure it was Spring, but after the rains of winter, the grass literally had bubbles of water beneath it, and the ball when it fell, created craters like mortars. It was a terrifically bad game and I lost the better part of 20 balls in the mud and rain that day. The company, however, was good and though I had to, on occasion, throw my ball in order to make any progress, it was just one more bit of comic relief. In the end, I chatted with the locals in a kilt damp with rain and mud, chuckled over my horrific game, and reveled in the companionship of a few of my fellow sailors on a much-needed bit of shore leave.
The story of Sikunder’s round of golf in the tundra, found in The Scarlet Bastards – A Company Soldier, is a celebration of the game and rough companionship of his fellow jawans in the United Nations Off-World Legion. At a time when Sikunder’s spirits had plummeted and he grew morose in the first months of his new life on the colony of Samsara, some 20 light years from Earth, the simple pleasure of the game drew Sikunder from his growing depression and thrust him into an appreciation of living the moment.
I had thought, foolishly in retrospect, that I had seen all of the curious facades of Subedar Angus Motshegwa, but this latest had proven that arrogant assumption quite wrong. Grinning beneath his long sable beard, MacShaka pulled out a One Wood and rested it with a cocky nonchalance upon his broad shoulder – a Doryphoros statue minus the javelin and with a belly as broad as a barrel. Cong grunted beneath his long goatee.
“Năo càn. Is it possible for you not to play fool, Angus?”
Beaming, MacShaka pulled a ball from a cartouche pouch on his hip. “Och, ye mawkit keelie,” he replied as he placed the ball on a tee inserted in the boggy morass, “ye’ve a face like a burst melodeon an’ ye haver somethin’ awful!”
“Shăguā,” Cong replied testily, “must you speak such incomprehensible filth?”
Chuckling, MacShaka swung back his One Wood, then with a grunt, let fly a brilliant drive.
“Marvellous,” Adoula remarked as she watched the ball disappear over a low rise.
“A miracle,” Cong muttered. With a surliness dripping with insubordination he asked, “Did you not slice so far to right last time that you land your first shot in stream?”
“Nonsense,” replied MacShaka as he placed the club back in its bag.
“And before that,” Cong continued with a wry grin, “was not your hook so complete as to ricochet ball off nearby rock and hit your own camel?”
“Hauld yer tongue, ye bletherin’ fantoosh numpty!” MacShaka snapped, parrying the good natured banter.
The biting chatter continued between the two – beyond Adoula’s slice and Cong topping the ball, a shot which resulted in it landing in a thick morass that required a full three swings from myself to clear. The game advanced as MacShaka and Cong shared contemptuous musings while Adoula and I chuckled as each barbed insult scored a mark. One could easily see that these two were close friends – otherwise they would have been at each other’s throats.