When the doorbell rang, J.B. peeked out his bedroom window to see who was at the door, and as soon as his eyes hit the fuzzy red ball atop Mr. Lawson's tam o'shanter, he ducked, and crawled under his bed to hide.
J.B. knew why Mr. Lawson was looking for him, so he closed his eyes and prayed he would go away. But it was the Fourth of July and his father was home for the holiday. So after a few more rings from the doorbell, Tom Baxter answered the door, and Phil Lawson marched inside.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you like this, Tom. But your son is a monster," Phil said. "I just can't understand how you allow him to get away with all of the havoc he wreaks in this community."
"What are you talking about?" Tom said. "Your son isn't exactly a saint, Phil. I mean, last week at the club, Judge Hanes told me he saw Chad throw a golf ball at a goose and kill it stone dead."
"Don't get that misconstrued, Tom. Those geese are a huge nuisance," Phil said. "Believe me, Chad did us a great service when he assassinated that goose. You can't even walk near the twelfth hole without having to disinfect your spikes."
"Maybe so," Tom said. "But regardless of whatever you came here to accuse my son of doing, I'm sure it's not as cruel and vicious as harming one of God's creatures."
"What? Don't you dare bring God into this, Baxter," Phil said. "Your son is a thief and a menace and I can prove it!"
"A thief!" Tom said. "That's a mighty strong accusation, Lawson. What sort of evidence do you have?"
"Enough to press charges, that's for sure," Phil said, and he raised his right index finger and poked at the air. "Because get this, Baxter. Right after the greens keeper towed that poor golf cart that your son hijacked and pushed off the top of the eighth hole green and into the water hazard formally known as McClearies Pond, I stumbled upon his lacrosse jacket only a chip shot away from where we were standing."
"Oh c'mon, Phil. That's ridiculous. I can't imagine J.B. would do something like that," Tom said. "That's at least a ten foot drop."
"Twelve feet, seven inches, to be exact," Phil said. "So as you can imagine, cart four suffered irreparable damage, and as treasurer of the Greater Connecticut County Golf Club I demand reparations."
"Well, Phil, look," Tom said. "Let's just calm down for a moment, and if in fact J.B. was responsible for this, I'll buy the club as many carts as it needs for this whole ordeal to just go away. Alright?"
"There is no if in this situation, Tom. The evidence speaks for itself."
"Fine, fine," Tom said. "Where's J.B.'s jacket?"
"In the boot of my Bentley," Phil said. "It's still wet, and laced with pond scum."
"Alright, well, please go get it, and I'll get J.B. down here so we can settle all of this once and for all."
"Ok Tom, will do," Phil said with a devilish grin. "I can't wait to see that little scoundrel's face when he sees me holding his jacket."
"Yeah, I'm sure he'll be quite surprised, Phil," Tom said, and he opened the front door and Phil Lawson marched out toward his Bentley to retrieve the evidence he believed would without a doubt prove that J.B. was responsible for stealing and destroying cart four at the Greater Connecticut County Golf Club.
* * *
But what Phil Lawson wasn't aware of was that J.B.'s bedroom was one floor up and a little to the left of the foyer, and while he was telling J.B.'s father his side of the story, J.B. had his right ear pressed to the vent in the floor beneath his bed concocting his. So by the time his father knocked at his bedroom door and opened it, J.B. already had what he believed to be a pretty solid alibi worked out. All he had to do was sell it. But J.B. wasn't intimidated by the predicament he was in, because aside from lacrosse, selling alibies to adults was J.B.'s favorite sport. So while his father reiterated Phil Lawson's accusation, J.B. just sat on his bed with an innocent look on his face and an open book in his hands as if he were reading the whole time Phil Lawson was there, and when his father told him to follow him downstairs, he went willingly, because he strongly believed (as he always did) that he would easily clear his name.
"Don't worry dad, I'm innocent," J.B. said. "You'll see, I can prove it."
"Yeah, I'm sure you are son. Just like you always are," Tom said, and J.B. followed him to the top of the stairs and tugged at the back of his father's shirt.
"No dad, wait up a second, listen to me. This is all just a huge misunderstanding," J.B. whispered.
"You gotta believe me this time. Because if you don't, he won't."
"Would you cut it out, and just come downstairs," Tom said. "You know something, ever since your mother started traveling for work you've been acting like a lunatic. But this business with the golf cart is just too much J.B., so get ready to pack your bags mister, because you just earned yourself a one way ticket to the military academy."
"Aw c'mon dad, that's not fair," J.B. said. "I'm innocent, I didn't do it. You'll see, I can prove it."
"Not while I have this jacket with your initials stitched on it you little thief!" Phil said, and he held up J.B.'s lacrosse jacket, and beads of water dripped down his arms and onto the floor. "You see, just like I told you, Tom. Look here, it's still wet, and laced with pond scum."
"Yes, yes, I can see that, Phil," Tom said, and he walked down to the bottom of the stairs. "But would you mind putting it outside on the porch for now, you're getting that disgusting pond water all over my parquet floor."
"I don't care about your floor, Baxter. This is evidence," Phil said. "Evidence that proves that your son destroyed my golf cart."
"Your golf cart?" Tom said, and he wrinkled his brow and folded his arms. "I thought it was the club's cart. Which is it?"
"Well, technically it was the club's cart, before he destroyed it," Phil said. "But I shot a miraculous sixty-nine while utilizing cart four last year and I haven't played a round without it ever since. So, in essence, not only did that miserable futureless human up there destroy club property, but there's a good chance he destroyed my golf game as well."
"Oh, I see, now everything is crystal clear," Tom said, and he looked up at J.B. and winked at him. "But look here Phil, it appears you've come to the wrong conclusion about my son's involvement in this crime. He's innocent. Isn't that right, J.B.?"
"Yes sir, it sure is," J.B. said. "I'm innocent Mr. Lawson, I swear. I did not destroy that golf cart."
"Balderdash!" Phil said, and he lifted J.B.'s jacket in the air. "If you're so innocent, then why don't you come down here right now and explain why your jacket was at the scene of the worst crime in our club's history?"
"Sure, no problem," J.B. said, and he walked down the stairs with his shoulders back and his head up high, and once he was standing beside his father and in front of Phil Lawson he folded his hands and paused for a moment to articulate his thoughts.
"Well, what are you waiting for J.B.? Why don't you just admit it?" Phil said. "Come on boy, be a man here and confess to your atrocity."
"No, Mr. Lawson, I'm sorry. This is all just a huge misunderstanding. I did not destroy that golf cart," J.B. said. "But if I have to admit to this horrible crime and suffer the consequences I will, because I don't want to get my girlfriend in trouble."
"Your girlfriend?" Tom said. "Wow son, bully for you! I had no idea."
"Yes dad, thank you," J.B. said. "It's been great, we're in love."
"Hogwash," Phil said and he huffed. "You really expect me to believe that this girlfriend of yours is responsible for destroying cart four?"
"No sir, not at all. We're both innocent," J.B. said. "But her parents are very strict, and if they find out what we were doing the other night in McClearies Pond when whoever pushed cart four off the green and destroyed it, they'll most likely send her away and I'll never see her again. Ever."
"So you were there!" Phil said. "I knew it!"
"Yes we were, both of us," J.B. said. "But we were skinny-dipping, and we didn't see who did it, because it was dark and we thought we were alone, so we weren't paying attention to anything else except each other. But when cart four hit the pond, the crash was loud and it scared us half to death, so we swam to shore, grabbed our clothes and ran. In fact, we ran away so fast, I didn't even realize that I left my lacrosse jacket behind until I got home. But by then, I was too afraid to go back for it."
"You see, Phil. Leave him alone, he's innocent," Tom said. "He just doesn't want his girlfriend's parents to find out what they've been up too. I'd do the same thing myself if I were in his position. Wouldn't you?"
"Of course I would," Phil said. "I was young once, Baxter. In fact, if I was J.B. right now, the last thing I would want is for my girlfriend to be in hot water with her parents just because she was an innocent bystander."
"Exactly!" J.B. said. "We were innocent bystanders!"
"Yes, yes, I see that now J.B.," Phil said. "But since the both of you were present when this travesty occurred, perhaps I can speak with your girlfriend in confidence. Who knows? There's a chance she caught a glimpse of something that eluded you."
"Um, I don't think that's such a good idea Mr. Lawson," J.B. said. "I mean if it's ok, I'd rather not kiss and tell."
"That's a good point, Phil," Tom said. "Girls do hate it when you do that."
"Yes, quite right, they do don't they," Phil said. "Well, then, for the good of the club J.B., please speak with your girlfriend post haste and see if she remembers anything that may aid my investigation. Any information at all will do a world of good. Alright?"
"Yeah sure, no problem, Mr. Lawson," J.B. said. "If she knows anything more than what I've already told you, I'll let you know right away."
"Perfect," Phil said. "Thank you for your cooperation."
"No problem," J.B. said. "But if you wouldn't mind Mr. Lawson, I'd like my jacket back now."
"Of course, sure thing, son," Phil said, and he held out J.B.'s jacket and J.B. plucked it out of his hand.
"Well, it looks like we're done here, Phil. Wouldn't you say?" Tom said, and he took a few steps toward the front door and opened it wide.
"Oh, yes, quite right, sorry for the inconvenience," Phil said, "But perhaps I'll see you chaps later on tonight at the club for the festivities."
"No, I'm sorry, but we have other plans," Tom said, "Take care now, Phil."
"Yeah, take care of yourself Mr. Lawson." J.B. said.
"Thanks, I will. In fact, I always do," Phil said, and he marched out the door and Tom and J.B. stood beside each other with their eyes affixed to the fuzzy red ball atop his tam o'shanter as it bobbled all the way toward his Bentley.
"What an idiot," Tom said, and he put his hand down on J.B.'s shoulder and gently pulled him close to him. "I can't believe he actually fell for that."
"They always do," J.B. said. "But I can never fool you, Dad."
"Well, I don't know about that," Tom said. "In fact, I hate to even say this because you're my son, but I've never known anyone who could lie as well as you can J.B. You have a gift son. Have you ever though about politics?"
"No, not at all," J.B. said. "But I like Bill Clinton, I think he's a pretty cool guy."
"Yeah I imagine you would," Tom said, and he laughed. "Well, how'd you like to be President of the United States someday, son? Just like your buddy Bill was."
"Oh wow, I'd love that Dad, that would be super duper cool," J.B. said. "What do I have to do?"
"Nothing, just be you, and a few of my friends and I will help you do the rest," Tom said, and the dark green color of the grass spiking up from their large manicured lawn struck J.B. in such a way that it forced him to pause and question it's existence.
"Hey dad, can I ask you something?" J.B. said.
"Sure," Tom said. "Ask away."
"Well, have you ever noticed that our grass is always green?"
"Of course I have," Tom said, and he knelt down on one knee and hugged J.B. "The grass is always green in Connecticut, son. All you need is enough money and a bit of influence to keep it that way."
Charles Joseph lives and writes deep in the heart of New Jersey. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks that people seem to really like, and NO OUTLET (a novel) that he's trying to find a decent home for. His work has appeared in a number of literary journals and online magazines, he's currently finishing up a full-length collection of poetry and short stories that will be published in 2017, and he can be reached via www.charlesjosephlit.com.