The Mulligan: Softcover
Twenty-year-old Bobbi Snow is more at home behind an easel than on the golf green. After all, being a pro golfer was her twin brother’s goal and her father’s obsession. But when Bobbi’s careless accident causes a fire that leaves her brother crippled, she’s determined to dust off her clubs and follow his dream.
Playing the hero might be the only way to save her splintering family. Maybe then her father will forgive her.
But can she ever forgive herself?
My twenty-two-year-old twin brother knows me better than anyone else. That’s why he forces a smile when I enter the hospital room.
“It isn’t your fault,” he says. His voice cracks.
I want to run from my place near the door but I remain rooted, my feet frozen like two ice pops.
His broken and burned body is covered with a white hospital sheet. I can’t see his legs, but the doctor told my parents this morning they’ll never be the same. The beam that fell on him crushed too many bones. My lips quiver and my fingers twitch at my sides willing me to touch his arm. I edge closer. “I’m sorry, Robert.”
“It isn’t your fault.” His hand is clammy but he grips mine with his. “I chose what I did.”
I squeeze his hand, my time with him running short. Soon my mother will take her turn at his bedside in ICU.
His eyelids waver. I drop his hand and back out of the room where I meet my disheveled mother. She’s still wearing her same sweatshirt and jeans from yesterday. The waiting room is empty except for her and Grandpa, who is snoring in a vinyl chair in the corner.
“Waiting to talk to you.” She glances toward the hallway.
“Has he calmed down any?”
She raises her gaze to meet mine. Fresh tears form on her lids. I want to hug her, but I’ll need all my remaining strength for my father. “Try to understand, Bobbi. Robert was his future.”
“You are his future, Mom. He should know that.”
She looks away, shoulders slumping. Sometimes I can be too blunt. By now I should know she won’t ever go against him.
“Go inside,” I say. “Robert’s about ready to fall asleep.”
My father is waiting for me next to the soda machine, a can gripped in his thickset hand. His wedding band rides between two rolls of flesh. A bandage covers the burn on his other hand. He snaps the can into the trash container. “What were you thinking?” His jaw barely moves as his accusation snarls past his lips.
“It was an accident, Dad. My studio was cold. I didn’t mean to knock the heater over.”
“Didn’t mean to…”
He steps closer. I can smell the soda on his breath. “Then call the police. Call the fire department. Call the whole stinking town. But why did you have to send your brother in there?”
“I wasn’t thinking. I was worried about my paintings.”
“Your paintings? You almost killed Robert. Do you realize you’ve destroyed his golf career? He’ll be lucky if he can use the bathroom by himself.”
My chest tightens. A part of my mind reminds me I’m in the hospital. If I pass out or have a heart attack, I could end up in ICU. Maybe that’s where I belong, instead of Robert. “I’m sorry. I really am. I’m going to make it up to him…to you.”
His snort makes me jump.
“No one can make up for what happened. What? Do you think you can take a mulligan like in golf? This is real life, Bobbi. There are no free do-overs. Accident or not, you’ve destroyed your brother with your foolishness.”
I know he wants to add “And me,” but instead turns around and stalks down the hallway out of my sight.
My home isn’t far from the hospital, but I take my time returning. I swing through a mini-mart to buy Robert a funny gift, hoping to give my folks time to arrive before me. My father is the last person I want to run into again tonight.
I can’t stop yawning. No one has slept since the accident, except Grandpa, who falls asleep an hour after he wakes. As I pull into our driveway, lights from my parents’ upstairs bedroom greet me. Grandpa’s lights are off downstairs, and of course, Robert’s bedroom is dark. Leaving him at the hospital was harder than anything I’ve ever done before. I feel as though I’ve been split in two.
I take off my shoes by the kitchen door. If I tiptoe, I might be able to get to my room without my mother coming in to talk to me. She’s tried already too many times, making sure I’m OK. As I creep up the front stairs, voices hurl down to me.
I haven’t heard my father this angry in a long time. Crouching on the third step from the landing, I listen as I did when a child, hoping I might glean an understanding about who my parents really are.
“He’ll never golf again. His career is over before it started. I could have been in Florida with him next year if this hadn’t happened. Now I’m stuck playing accountant to a bunch of people I couldn’t care less about. I don’t know how much longer I can take this life.”
“Rick, calm down. Maybe he’ll get better. We don’t know.”
“Better? Are you crazy? You heard the doctors. He’ll be lucky to make anything of himself—and I know how that feels.”
His anger reaches me, choking the wind from my lungs.
“You have made something of yourself. You are important to us. You’re my husband and a good father. That should be enough.”
I press against the wall—waiting. I will him to say what I need to hear—that we are enough. Instead, their bedroom door opens and he stomps down the hallway to Robert’s room. I slide down two steps into the shadows watching. Waiting. Minutes later, I hear my mother’s voice. It’s filled with this pleading sound that sickens me.
“Leave them alone, please. He’ll use them again.”
“Not in my lifetime he won’t. It’s over. The dream is over.”
I recognize the metallic sound. I can’t help myself. I jump up and run to my brother’s room where I find my father hauling Robert’s clubs out of the closet. One by one, he takes each club and throws it to the hardwood floor, making both my mother and me jump.
“Stop it, Dad!” I scream. “Put them back. You’re ruining them.”
At the sound of my voice, he freezes midair, Robert’s favorite driver gripped in his hand. His hair is in disarray and his eyes focus beyond us. I’ve never seen him like this. My mother grabs my arm and moves me back through the doorway. “Go to your room,” she whispers. “Now.”
I can’t. I can’t let him destroy my mother’s heart because of me.
“Please,” she says. She mouths the word again. The blood has left her lips.
“Listen to your mother.” My father lowers the club but his face remains a mask of confusion. He stares at the floor, his head drooping on his neck.
It’s then, staring down at the golf clubs, that I see the truth, how much of my father’s life—our family life—was tied up in knowing that his son would achieve the thing he didn’t. A chance at the pro circuit. And I know what I have to do.
“I’ll check on Grandpa.” I turn around, shutting the door on their grief. There is only one way I can help my father find himself again. Even if it means leaving home and doing something I never thought I would do.
I don’t sleep that night. Not only because of Robert lying in a hospital bed but because I fear what lies ahead.