“That one’s a horse, definitely. See the tail?”
“No, that’s a leg. There.”
Liam laid back and stared at the sky. Donal was stretched out next to him, talking about the clouds and what he saw in them. He said there were lots of different types and they all had special names, which sounded about right. He also said the clouds were like the hedges, all full of animals and shapes and things, waiting to be found. Liam thought they mostly just looked like clouds. Sheep, maybe. But the grass was soft and the weather was nice. Too nice, really, to be wasted working through it. So Liam didn’t mind listening to Donal ramble as he laid back and enjoyed it. All things considered, cloud watching was quite a good way to spend an afternoon. Better than raking sand bunkers, definitely.
“Would you mind tellin’ me what you’re doing out here?”
Well, it was until you got caught.
Liam shot to his feet and tried to pretend he hadn’t been dozing off on the job.
“Just resting for a minute, Mr Quigley!”
The look on Quigley’s face wasn’t promising.
“A minute, is it? So the call half an hour ago from a disgruntled club member complaining about two layabouts napping on the green was just my imagination?”
Liam winced. “Err…”
“Prickles.” Donal muttered. Suddenly he sat up. “We’re checking for prickles.”
“Can’t have prickles on the green, Mr Quigley.” Liam said innocently as he jabbed Donal with his boot.
Donal leapt to his feet and nodded. “Wouldn’t do at all.”
Quigley just looked at them.
And looked at them.
They looked back, shifting awkwardly. Liam scratched his nose. Donal fidgeted with his coat.
The moment stretched on.
Eventually Quigley shut his eyes, blew a puff of air from his nose, then turned and walked away, shaking his head. “I should’ve moved to England. Then you two’d be too far away to cause me trouble.” He muttered.
“But then we wouldn’t be working for you anyway, Mr Quigley.” Liam called out.
Quigley stopped a moment, then kept walking. “A prospect that isn’t nearly as terrifying as you think, Liam.” He called out without turning.
Liam shoved his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, Mr Quigley.”
“Sorry.” Donal echoed.
Still walking, Quigley waved a hand airily. “Go home, lads. I don’t need you for anything else today.”
And that, apparently, was that.
Liam watched Quigley go. Next to him Donal grinned.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad.” He looked up at Liam, who just pointed. Donal followed his finger and his face fell as he watched Quigley climb into the buggy they’d driven out in that morning and drive away. “Oh.”
“You thought we were getting the day off?” Liam muttered, folding his arms.
“I s’pose not.”
They looked around. Donal looked at Liam. Liam shrugged. They both sighed and started on the long walk back.
“So you think he was mad after all?” Donal piped up after a while.
“No, Donal. I think he’s makin’ us walk all this way ‘cause it’s good for our health.”
Grumbling aside, Liam didn’t mind walking. Between work and staggering home from the pub and wandering off with Donal, he figured he spent a good part of his life walking some place or another. It wasn’t hard and the scenery was usually nice, and people left them to themselves when they did it.
Golf buggies were better, though.
Plodding beside him, Donal had a thought. “Quigley’s right, though. Imagine how much easier life’d be if we hadn’t met him.”
“Much less yellin’.”
They came to the edge of a bunker, looked at each other, backed up several paces, took a runup, and leapt.
Donal cleared it, just, and threw up his hands in triumph.
“Champion!” He turned around to watch Liam’s landing. “Didja see-“
He couldn’t see Liam. All he could see was his friend’s battered yellow and black cap lying on the grass. He poked it gingerly with his foot, only to startle back as a sandy hand appeared out of the dip and groped blindly. Donal watched the hand idly for a moment before picking up the cap, brushing some sand from the brim and plopping it on his head. After a moment Liam’s head appeared out of the dip and was quickly joined by the rest of him as he clambered out of the bunker. He sat on the grass, spitting sand and rubbing it out of his hair.
Donal leaned over him and grinned.
“See my jump?”
Liam glared up at him. “I made it too, you know. Just fell back in after.” He got up and nodded at his cap on Donal’s head. “There’s your proof.”
Donal looked up at the cap, which was starting to slip down over his eyes.
“Or it fell off when you jumped.” He bounced it up and down on his eyebrows. “You got it tight enough?”
Liam snatched his cap back and shoved it back on his head, wincing at the grit he could still feel up there. He was going to be itching all night at this rate.
“Grow a brain, wouldja? It’s too big on you ‘cause I’m bigger than you.” Liam started walking again, Donal close behind. “And it didn’t fall off.”
Donal nodded sagely. “Ah, so you threw it up there, then?”
Liam froze mid-stride, one foot hanging in the air, before continuing as if nothing had happened.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He mumbled.
“’Course you don’t.”
They walked on.
After a while longer they came across a golf club lying by a giraffe-shaped hedge. Liam picked it up and inspected it.
“Did we leave this?” He gave it a few practice swings with what he assumed was proper form. He didn’t know for sure; the one time they’d asked Quigley to let them try a game he’d just laughed for ages.
“Must’ve been one of the rich fellas.” Donal took it and tried a few swings himself. “Feels expensive.”
Liam rolled his eyes. “Ah, how would you know? We’ll take it back to the club. They can sort it out.”
Donal hefted the club. “Reckon I can throw this farther than you?”
Liam grinned. “You’re on.”
After a string of easy wins for Liam, and a string of complaints from Donal, they continued on. They left the golf club in the golf club, a sentence that amused Donal enough that he repeated it about five times during. Then they headed out to the parking area and groaned.
They hadn’t driven the truck to the golf course that morning. They’d caught a lift with Quigley.
Because the truck, they only just remembered, was in for repairs.
They were going to have to walk home.
And Liam didn’t mind, really. The sun was still out, though behind somewhat darker clouds than before. And he had company, so it wasn’t like he was bored. And he wasn’t tired. They’d have to walk a lot longer than this before Liam got tired.
It was just taking a while, was all.
They hummed as they plodded on, and around the time the hundredth or so green bottle fell off the wall they came to a low stone wall running alongside a field of sheep.
“No Quigley wouldn’t stop the yelling, though.” Donal said suddenly as he climbed onto the wall and began to walk along it. “That’s what people do when you’re workin’, they yell.”
Something about this topic grabbed at Liam. He tried to put his finger on it.
“If we never met Quigley, we’d have no work.”
“Ah, we’d work for someone else. And then they’d yell at us.”
Liam frowned. “Right, but we wouldn’t be workin’ together at all.” He glanced up at Donal. “It was Quigley introduced us, remember?”
Liam nodded, satisfied at having successfully identified the issue. “Right. So if we never met Quigley, we’d never meet each other either.”
“Nah, it’d just take longer.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know you, so I’d have to spend ages looking around ‘till I found you so I could meet you which, mind, wouldn’t be easy ‘cause I wouldn’t know your name to ask for ya.”
Liam’s brow furrowed as he mulled that over.
“But, you wouldn’t know to ask for me in the first place. Since you wouldn’t know me.”
“See?” Donal said confidently. “It’d take ages.”
“No, eejit, that’s not what I-“ Liam paused and jerked his head at a fence across the road from them, seemingly no different from any other fence they had passed so far. Donal hopped down from the wall and they crossed the road. Liam jumped the fence easily and turned back to see Donal slipping between the planks.
“Thought you were the jumping champion.” Smirked Liam.
“Long jump, not high jump.” Said Donal, and stuck out his tongue.
They cut across the field, hopped another fence, and kept going. The sky got darker.
Liam peered at the clouds gathering overhead. He gave Donal a tap and nodded at the sky. “Looks like rain soon.”
Donal stopped and looked. His brow creased, as if deep in thought. He stayed like that for a moment, then nodded decisively. “Nah.” He declared.
They started walking again. Liam shoved his hands in his pockets.
“I’m tellin’ ya, it will.”
As if in response to Donal’s shout, rain started to pour. Within seconds both men were soaked through. Liam glanced sideways at Donal. He smirked.
Donal gave Liam a shove.
They kept walking even longer, though much more quietly than before because the rain was making it too hard to talk. Liam didn’t feel like talking, anyway. He didn’t much feel like walking anymore either. He wasn’t tired but he was cold and soaked and his socks were squelching in his boots. He wanted to go home.
After what felt like forever they passed Quigley’s place. There were lights on in the windows. Liam and Donal looked at each other for a second then decided that probable docked pay be damned, they were taking cover.
They made it halfway up the drive before Quigley stormed up.
“Am I employing drowned rats now? Get in.”
Liam and Donal hesitated, looking down at their rain-soaked clothes and mud-caked boots.
“Don’t talk, just get your arses inside!”
They let themselves be herded in and made it two steps through the door before Quigley blew past them.
“Ah, ah! Boots and coats can stay there, thank you. You walk it through, you clean it up.”
“Right, Mr Quigley.” Liam and Donal chorused.
They set about kicking off their boots and peeling off their sodden coats. Somehow Liam’s shirt wasn’t too wet underneath, which was good. It didn’t matter much if he stripped down in front of people if there was a need to, but that was work and this wasn’t and the hole in his undershirt had gotten a lot bigger after he’d caught it on a nail.
Liam turned around from hanging his coat to find Quigley leaning on a doorframe, staring at them.
“Were you two really planning on walking all the way back? On foot?”
Liam frowned at that. “You took the buggy, Mr Quigley.”
“Yes, Liam, I do know I took the buggy, but I didn’t expect you to actually walk. I was expecting a call begging me to pick you two eejits up an hour ago. You didn’t remember the truck is still in the shop?”
“That’s why we were walkin’.” Donal piped up.
“Have you any idea how long a distance that is? In the rain?”
Donal shrugged. “We walk a long way all the time, Mr Quigley. It’s not hard.”
“Come back when you’re my age and tell me that.” Quigley said, raising an eyebrow. He folded his arms. “What do you two talk about, anyway?”
“Philosophy.” Said Donal as he wrung out his cap.
“Relationships.” Said Liam as he did the same.
Quigley threw up his hands. “Forget it, I don’t want to know.” He stomped off through a doorway, returning only briefly to hurl towels at them before heading for the kitchen. “You may as well have some tea. No use you getting pneumonia. Who’d work for me then?”
Liam gave his cap one last twist and hung it on one of his boots. He tugged the towel off his shoulder where it had landed and cocked his head at it.
The towel was warm and soft and, judging by how nice it felt under Liam’s fingers, one of those fancy ones with lots of string in them or something. Liam towelled at his head absently and stared out the window. Outside the rain was quickly turning into a storm.
He could hear Quigley stomping about, still yelling on about something or other, but that was okay. Donal was right; people yelled all the time. Not much to be done about that.
It was cold and wet outside, but it was warm and dry in here. And Liam really hadn’t minded the walk at all, at least up until the part where the skies had opened up onto his head. But Liam could feel himself drying off and warming up already, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Donal doing the same, and he could smell hot tea brewing, and he was sure if he poked his head into the kitchen he’d see Quigley putting out biscuits too.
Yeah, Liam thought, Donal was wrong about one thing.
Knowing Quigley was fine.