A short story loosely based on The Frog Prince by Ernio Hernandez
Swing after swing, she had played this hole for hours now and just could not manage the par 3. Dusk was long gone and the moon watched over her as she practiced into the night. The moon, though, was not alone.
Cassandra Wu was, by all accounts, the top prospect on the Womens Pro Golf circuit this year. Dubbed (to her dismay) the “Backswing Princess” by Fields and Fairways magazine, she was known for her relentless insistence on mastering a course from first tee to clubhouse.
The third hole of the course at Greenwood Shade Country Club was her current bête noire.
Wu was afforded certain courtesies — like unlimited evening access to the field—by the groundskeeper at Greenwood Shade. He knew of her talent and certainly enjoyed the prestige she brought to his course, but not as much as he loved Cassandra herself. He may have been the longtime overseer of these coveted 18 holes, but being her father came first.
William “The Greens King” Wu loved his daughter so much, he had an old friend at Goldcoast manufacture a special glowing ball so she could use the course off-hours. Often, until she no longer needed the light.
She set the Goldcoast ball on the tee for what was easily the 86th time tonight. Standing with arms akimbo and her gaze downfield, she let out a cleansing breath and took her position at the tee. Closing her eyes, she aligned her feet, knees, hips and arms, then wrapped her fingers around the grip. Eyes open upon her 5-iron, she began her backstroke just as a firefly darted across her face.
Startled, she swung wildly, slicing the ball into a small patch of trees. Laughing at her own awkwardness over a little lightning bug, she made her way over to find her ball.
The grove of trees just off the course was purposefully left untended. Nestled between the 2nd and 3rd holes, a natural spring ran along the backend of a preserve adjacent to the course. By request of the local animal society, the crew at Greenwood Shade let the area grow freely so wildlife — particularly a rare species of frogs—could live there unencumbered by man.
Unbeknownst to the crew and perhaps even the frogs, a man actually lived there.
“What the hell?!” Cassandra shouted as she came upon an unkempt man lying in the underbrush.
“Whoa!” he said, noticing her grip tighten around the 5-iron she was wielding.
“What are you doing here?! I’m calling the cops!”
“Wait… Wait…” he said calmingly as he produced her ball in his hand.
“Keep the ball, I’m out of here,” Cassandra said, backtracking to the fairway.
“You’re cutting too far left!”
She paused and turned back to him with a hesitation. “I’m what?”
“The par 3. You’ll never make it if you cut too far left.”
“Yeah, I know that. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
“It’s counterintuitive, I know, but aim to the right of the green and bank it hard back across. The incline just over the rough will help guide the ball right where you need it.”
Another pause as she tried to figure out the distance back to the cart. “Are you a golf instructor? Stalker?”
“Neither. I’m just… Henry. I live here.”
“Yes, I suppose. Homeless and harmless. Here…” he said slowly taking steps towards her with the glowing ball.
She braced herself, clutching the 5-iron at the ready. He was almost upon her when she whipped the club up, stretching her arm out in front of her, and shouted, “Stop right there!”
He stutter-stepped, stubbing his foot on a raised tree root and stumbled forward. She lunged back, cursing and saw him land facedown. The ball was thrown in the fall. “Awww,” he groaned as he rolled onto his back. “I’m ohh… kay. Ugghhh.”
Not knowing what to do, she grabbed her ball and seized the opportunity to make an exit. She made it to the clearing of the trees and onto the fairway in moments. Her 5-iron in one hand the ball in the other, she spotted her cart and made her way towards it. Tossing the club in the back, she sat and turned the ignition. She was halfway to the 3rd hole when she realized the ball was still in her hand. She looked at it and swerved the golf cart around.
“Dad, dad! I need your help!” William heard as he opened the door. His daughter was propping up a man who was bleeding from the head. He rushed over and grabbed under his other arm and walked him inside. They plopped him down on the cot where Cassandra crashed after long nights of practice.
“What happened, Cassandra?”
“He hit his head on a root of a tree off 3. I don’t know if he’s okay.”
“Where did he come from? Do you know him?”
“His name is Henry, he’s been living in the trees I guess. That’s all I know.”
“Call security, I’ll run and see if Dr. Jacobs is still over at the club.”
She grabbed the phone as her father ran out the door. Henry, bloodied and covered in dirt, slumped down onto the cot. His head hit her pillow hard.
The beep of the heart monitor woke him. Henry slowly opened his eyes and heard footsteps approaching.
“Cassandra?” Henry croaked.
“You’re awake. Wait, how do you know my name?”
“Your father. I heard him say it last night.”
Cassandra smiled. “Henry, you’ve been out for three days.”
“Where am I?”
“Well, speaking of fathers, you’re at Hanau Hospital Center. You know, the one named after yours.”
Henry’s eyes opened fully. “Oh.”
“Yeah… why’s the heir of an iron magnate living on a golf course?”
Henry paused. He looked away and sighed. “I used to play in those trees when I was younger, while my dad golfed with his buddies. It was my playground. Then when my mom got sick, and my dad golfed to get away from it, it was where I went to get away from him. When all his money couldn’t save her and he didn’t even golf anymore, it was where I went to get away from the world.”
Henry exhales in a half-laugh. “Sorry. I…”
“No no, I asked, I guess.”
He looked at her and smiled as his eyes still welled with tears. She looked back and smiled too, not knowing what to say. She leaned over his bedside and gently kissed his head.
“Oh, hey, the par 3. Your tip worked.”
“You got it?!”
“I got it. In 2.”