The shepherd kept coming back for David, leading him slowly toward the human flock. As a senior David won four tournaments and his fourth straight berth as a first-team All-America and came within a stroke of winning both the NCAA individual and team championships. He was getting along with teammates a little better, beginning to believe that Puggy might be, well, a tiny bit right.
Then the day after the NCAA tournament, a story appeared in The Courier-Journal of Louisville. A reporter took three events he had witnessed during the final round—David telling an opponent on the fairway to move his golf bag out of David's sight line, David spitting out apple chunks, David urinating in a stand of trees 40 yards off the fairway rather than waiting in line at a bathroom—and delivered them to the public in the harshest light. A Florida newspaper picked up the story, eyebrows shot up, and athletic director Homer Rice asked David for an explanation.
The shepherd groaned, his work undone. Thunderstruck, David tucked the article inside the cover of his day planner and began a ritual. Each year when the calendar ran out, he would transfer the article to the fold inside the next year's calendar cover. A reminder to refortify his guard.
It's true, there was no one in the passenger seat of David's green Nissan Pathfinder on June 13,1994. But let's imagine we were. It may be instructive.
Odd that it's Cleveland we're in, that it's here that David's world is disintegrating again. Having been the surest bet to go straight from Q school to the PGA in 1993, after leaving Tech two quarters shy of a degree in management, he failed to make the cut and was cast into the minor leagues, the Nike tour. He had failed by $2,875 to break into the top 10 money winners on the '93 Nike tour and was punished with another year there to chew on the husk of his dream. Now the '94 Nike season is half finished, and he's dropped to 22nd place in earnings, losing contact with the top 10 he must crack, staring down the barrel of yet another year in the bushes. For god's sake, he doesn't belong here. For god's sake, he has just shot a 75 and 78 in Cleveland and missed another cut.
His parents' marriage is ending. Brent's death was an acid that finally ate away the last of what once brought them together. Diane is drinking, falling apart. Bobby is unable to stand and face their trouble. It's ugly, and David's caught in the middle, bouncing from city to city across the country, feeling helpless. Just when it's time for him to become a man, the last wisps of his fog-shrouded past are vanishing, but suddenly, for the first time, he can't see his future.
He can barely sleep. His mind keeps churning at night with checklists for the next day, details, minutiae. He is consumed by his own impatience. He can't cry. He's numb. He has lost his Roarkness, the ability to find joy on the reef, the desire to pick up a golf club and do the one thing that saved him, all those years ago, from falling, falling....
He swallows. He has thought about turning down Euclid Avenue, then Adelbert Road. That's where Rainbow Babies & Childrens Hospital is. That's where a padlocked trunk of memories waits. But he has staked his life on the premise that pain is to be locked away, turned into achievement and character. He doesn't make that turn. He turns onto the interstate and heads toward his temporaiy home in Atlanta, 12 hours of flat, gray concrete away.
Nothing happens on this car ride. That's not who David is. It's just important for you to sit here, to know the smell of flatness and the silence of grayness.