Years ago my parents left for a quiet little Shangri La retirement community in Florida, where everything from groceries to church is within range of a pink or blue golf cart, and their backyard overlooks the seventeenth green. Every blade of grass and tropical bush is groomed by a community service, every wayward alligator is promptly rounded and reprimanded, and every unknown vehicle or strange noise is located and identified.
While visiting for a few days, my parents asked if I could disconnect the backup buzzer on their golf cart, and a lively debate developed.
“Mrs. Wolski had it done because her husband is on the committee,” mom informed us. “Otherwise it couldn’t happen.”
Dad scowled as I paused beside the cart, screwdriver in hand like a rancher pausing before a nervous bull about to experience castration. “It’s not like they even notice when a cart backs up or not,” he said. “Half the town is on faulty hearing aids, and the other half is blind.”
Mom countered, “Still, you don’t want to get caught taking liberties, and give up a place at tee-off while they reconnect the buzzer.”
Dad pondered this for a moment, remembering some unlucky soul in his foursome.
“Jocko was ratted-out,” he mumbled, staring at his golf equipment stored neatly in a corner of the garage. “Franky rolled on him after he was cornered about his grandson’s illegal fireworks.”
“They were sparklers, dear.”
“Unallowed!” he shouted. “Those things could blow a kid’s head off!”
I envisioned Franky the rat, floundering in a golf course water hazard, orthopedic shoes encased in concrete. His head would be exposed above the surface because someone ruptured a disk trying to throw him from the boat, and the maximum depth is just over five feet. He would be cussing mightily as a tagged alligator regarded possible options, slightly confused by a wild grey hairpiece floating by.
So the buzzer disconnection was scrapped, and another minor dilemma was brought to my attention.
“There’s a tiny animal living in the walls,” mom whispered, as if the creature would hear her and respond in a violent fashion. “It constantly makes holes to get in and out.”
“What’s it look like?” I asked, fearing the most destructive form of exotic Florida wildlife imaginable.
“Well . . .” mom said, looking to dad for assistance.
Dad scowled. “We’ve never actually seen the little bastard. He’s quiet as a church mouse.”
“Say . . . do you think it’s a church mouse?” mom asked, causing dad to go mix a strong drink.
“Show him the hole!” he yelled over his shoulder. “Take him to the garage and show him the destruction!”
Mom sighed and led the way, talking about so much pressure lately, what with rising green fees and annoying buzzers.
“And now this animal,” she said, pointing to a perfectly round hole in the basement wall, near a door to the garage. “He keeps making these holes in the wall, in exactly the same spot. This man comes out to fix it, and the tiny little animal makes a fresh hole over and over.”
“Mom,” I said softly. “Watch this.”
I pulled the door open, and showed her how the doorknob fit perfectly into the hole.
“Ohhhhhhhhh . . .”
“No doorstop,” I said. “When you enter from the garage, this doorknob punches a hole into the wall.”
“I’ll be darned.”
I was thinking of some guy laughing over beers after coming out to repair this hole for the tenth time. “Yes,” I said, slipping into her Minnesota accent. “I’ll be darned.”
My dad had other words, all of which were unapproved by the committee, unless you have a connection, in which case you could probably play Howard Stern at full volume while running around waving sparklers.
There are lessons in all of this for people nearing retirement; perhaps that when our neighborhood simulates a giant golf course, we rely heavily on a caddy for help and advice regarding the course.
I’ll be visiting my parents down there next month, packing a musical backup signal after spotting an obscure loophole in the cart regulations regarding buzzer “tone and pitch.” I’m sure there will be political repercussions, but I’ll be safely in the air before the committee dust settles.
I can only pray my parents don’t take the fall. I would hate to find out that my dad started his car one morning and ignited a hidden sparkler.