South Beach

by Owen Carry

The hotel’s along the shore-line, among the other hotels and casinos. At the circle of its mosaic entrance, gated off from the ocean strip, is the entrance to its lobby. In the shade of the overhang, bell hops sit on stools, their elbows over podiums, smoking e-cigs in the shadow. The building rises up above them, glass floor after glass floor, strung up by an elevator spine. The driving ranges, one for every five floors of the hotel, make their own shade over themselves in the sunlight. They rise up with the hotel, attached to it. The black nets that protect them cascade down both facades, like a hazmat—looming. As cars pull in through the red-brick entrance-way, valets put down their phones and follow them to where they get out.

They pull up in their car, the large four-door. Her high-heeled leg sticks out to the ground, holding her like a cane—delicately—and they both come out of the vehicle, straightening their clothes. They’re both blonde and they walk over and they hand their keys to the valet, walking inside. The two of them: a purse and golf bag in their hands. Their suitcases roll with the porters that follow. He tips his hat to the woman at the front desk, pinned between the floor and ceiling. Gold patterns run through everything here. They leak through marble and over freshly dusted surfaces. The two of them walk underneath a chandelier as they approach her.

“Howdy,” he says. “Room for Bradshaw?” He taps a finger on the computer as she types it up willingly.

“Yes. Mr. Bradshaw. Your room is ready. It’s right off the fifth driving range on the 29th floor. Oceanside.” She hands him the key card, freshly dipped in the machine behind her. “You’re all checked in, you jus-“ And he waves off the rest of the information, reaching for his wife, holding her shoulders. And they guide each other to the elevators.

“Mr. Bradshaw! Sir.” A bell hop says as they walk passed.

“Billy... How are we?”

“Perfectly swell Mr. Bradshaw, and Mrs…” The bellhop gives her a little curtsey of his own, carrying on through the main hallway afterwards. He stops by the front desk where the woman is who checked the Bradshaw’s in. The Bradshaw’s are just approaching the elevators as he does this. He whispers to the woman at the front desk about them, pointing subtly at them as they press the button down the hallway, waiting for that familiar sound of the elevator’s hum. He holds his wife while they wait, leaning in, kissing her on the top of her hair, already knowing when that door will open—the rhythm of it all—and he puts his hand between them just as they do.

On the 29th floor, the Bradshaw’s begin to unpack their bags. He locks his wallet in the safe. Their suitcases are splayed open on the king bed. They have clothes organized by night and day, gold and silver. A little pocket holds her jewelry, stashed beneath the folds of blouses.

Mr. Bradshaw doesn’t finish unpacking. He gets carried away with the view off the balcony, swept up by the beauty of the driving range extending out into the distance. He loves golf and he loves the driving range and he loves the ocean. He stops unpacking completely, wandering over to the glass, balcony door, leaning on it, and admiring the view of the range high above the ocean. The sound of golf balls being hit echoes from all directions of the evening, as he exhales, and checks his pocket for the can of dip that’s usually there, patting his white blazer, rotating his broad shoulders inside the fabric of it. “Babe, have you seen my Grizzly?” he says. “My Skoal?”

“Probably’n your golf bag,” she says from the end of the king bed, flipping through channels with the remote. Her legs come off it, tight jeans crossed over themselves. Her shoes are slipping off as she is getting comfortable. “It’s gotta be in yer golf bag.”

“Babe, you always know,” he says with a smile. He goes back to the balcony and slides the door open, chewing dip now, continuing to watch and listen to all the balls being hit out into the green expanse. Little balls fly out from every balcony. He moves his head from side to side, watching the men swing their clubs. They line the curved face of the hotel, smoking cigars, keeping the TVs on in their rooms, watching sports, just barely though, while they’re still out there swinging. All different colors—red and blue and purple—being hit out towards the nets, hung up in the distance, where behind them, it’s just the Atlantic Ocean—beautiful—and the sun is just setting. Billboards are pinned beneath them along the walled edges of the driving range, like a baseball stadium, advertising insurance firms and weekend getaways. Other signs are visible, sticking out of the turf which mark the distances to be reached—100 yards, 200 yards, 350 yards—and the 400 yards sign is far away, barely legible. The setting sun makes it hard to even read, reflecting orange light over the number, falling down into the ocean. A dolphin jumps in front of it. The wide stadium, filled with dots. Balls roll over hills designed by engineers. They’re scattered amongst the grounds, collected by the rover, which sweeps the topography like a vacuum. The man inside, there’s four more of him below, in every range on either side. Mr. Bradshaw’s looking over the highest one, on the 29th floor. The whole thing—the hotel—casts a shadow out over the ocean when the sun rises from the city side, making the whales cold; the ones that get caught in the crossfire. The nets prevent the balls from getting stuck inside their blowholes.

She joins him on the balcony, nestling into his side. “I can’t wait for the sunrise,” she says, leaning on him. “How ‘bout we wake up early, watch the sunrise. For me, Baby?”

“I promise, Hun. We’ll go up to that top deck and get some mimosas.”

She likes the sound of this.

He pushes his dip to the side and kisses her on the head again. Her bangs shift as she smiles.

“Why they always put us on this side, Babe?” she asks him, looking up.

“Oh, y’know how much I love the ocean.” A breeze sweeps off the water and through the nets, rustling the waves—and them—in the distance. “Ah, see?” he says it when he feels it, the ocean washing over the driving range. “How ‘bout we go up right now?” he suggests. “To the rooftop. Get some dinner and watch the sunset. How ‘bout that?”

“Let’s go now then,” she tugs on his sleeve.

“Be careful now. This Italian leather. And I’m not even hungry. Hand me my bag.” He makes a grab at it. “I think I’ll hit a couple balls first. If you don’t mind.” He shrugs her off him and takes his jacket off, throws it on the bedsheets.

“Fine,” she says. “Ten minutes and that’s that.” She sits back on the bed again.

“Fifteen,” he says, looking at his driver, holding it like a sword.

She squints at him and smirks. “Twelve.

“Hahah! Deal!”

She shakes her head—unbelievable—and she’s back to channel surfing as before.

But he goes on for forty minutes at least, hitting balls in a frenzy. The first one hit, he sailed for 380 or so. In his head he said, Hell yeah. He couldn’t stop after that. From the bed, she smiled quietly after twenty minutes, watching him hit his balls, the sun setting out in front of him.

Once it set for good, beyond the horizon, enough of its light barely visible, the spotlights come on and flood the turf. No more views of the ocean water, just blinding light through window shades. The rover comes out once this happens. Mr. Bradshaw sees it from its cubby. Ball after ball he aims for its cages. Everyone around him is doing the same, holding stoagies between their lips. If someone hits the rover, free drinks on the house for that lucky patron. It’ll buzz and light up once you strike it, playing disco—loud—for everyone to hear. It moves deep, deep into the night, accustomed to balls being hit at all hours of the day. Twenty-four hours in golfer’s heaven.

She goes out to him once he’s had enough. She knows it. She can hear it in his grunts. She hugs him from behind, between golf swings. “I’m sorry, Hun,” he says. “Just one more ball. I’ve got to hit that goddamn rover.” He takes another swing with her still on him, shanking badly. “Damn it!” he yells. “I can never hit that thing. Damn it to Hell. Alright, Honey. Are you ready?”

She’s in a dress now. “Yes. Let’s go.” And he puts on his jacket in the mirror, reaching for his dinner hat, big and brimmed and white like the rest of him. “You look beautiful,” he says to her.

And they’re about to leave when they hear it out there, buzzing and singing like someone's won the lottery. He throws the balcony door open and looks down at the horror. “Goddamn it!” he yells. Throws his hat down. “Who was it?” he asks the air.

There’s a man two floors below dancing gleefully, hugging random women. He picks up one and carries her inside. The rover’s lights shut off and it begins to circle again.

“Just let me try. Just one more time.” He reaches for his clubs again.

“No, Baby. Let’s go eat. I’m starvin’,” she grabs his wrist as he grabs the driver. He sighs with her hand still around him.

“You right,” he says. “You right. You right. You always right. Let’s go now then.” And she picks up his hat and puts it on his head. Touching the elevator button, he says to her, “You’re just beautiful. Absolutely b-e-a-utiful.” And they’re kissing again before it arrives.

At the rooftop bar, the hotel tries to maintain the ambiance of night-time despite the spotlights from the ranges, like smoke rising, seeping into everything. Colored lights line the tables. Subtle down-tempo plays on speakers out of sight. The staff rush in and out of the kitchen. High-tops placed in a grid are laced with tiki underings. The Bradshaw’s opt for the bar.

The man behind it is always there on weekends. He’s skinny, and tall, and fits inside his uniform’s dress like a sock-puppet losing sand. His tie is tucked beneath his vest and he always knows when the Bradshaw’s are booked, but every time, he acts like he’s surprised. He cleans the bar-top as they sit down. “Good to see you again so soon. That means… y’know…I’ll be eating tonight.” He smiles.

The Bradshaw’s saddle up to their place. He makes their cocktails. “The usual, I assume,” he says once their drinks are already on the coasters.

“Of course,” Mr. Bradshaw stirs his glass. “But put an extra olive in mine.”

“Right away,” and he plops one in his glass before he sips.

“These are on the house tonight, right?” Mr. Bradshaw says.

“Well, did you finally hit the rover?”

She keeps stirring her drink. He just shakes his head. “Nope. Not tonight,” but he smiles and raises his glass, doing a mock-salute to his shortcomings.

“Well, maybe you should ask him for a drink,” the bartender nods to a man near the railing. He’s with a group of three young women. They’re all giggling with their empty glasses. “He hit the rover. ‘Bout an hour ago. I heard the ball was goin’ so fast, it got stuck inside the cage. The driver had to pop it out with a screwdriver.”

Mr. Bradshaw recognizes this man. He hit the rover last time too. He turns back around and signals the bartender. “Rare,” he says. “And bloody. Just bring it out would’ya?”

“Of course, Sir. Right away.”

“A ceasar salad for me. Thanks.” She taps her fingers on the glossy top. Mrs. Bradshaw recognizes the man too. She remembers when he hit the rover. It was late at night when it happened; it had woken both of them up. He must have been the only one hitting balls at that hour, before the sunrise.

Mr. Bradshaw that night tried to fake that it was him, getting in his fastest outfit and running up to the bar. “What a genius,” he had said before he left. “It’s the perfect time to hit it. Babe. Don’t you understand? We could have free drinks all day!” But that was the night that the Bradshaw’s found out they were regulars. The bartender wouldn’t serve him free-bies.

She never cared about the rover. “I can’t even hit the ball,” she’d say to cheer him up. Sometimes that worked. Other times not. Sometimes she had to undress a little. And sometimes, she just had to leave and go to the spa. He’d motion her out and she knew what that meant: zucchini’s over her eyes again.

Waiting for their dinner on the rooftop, Mr. Bradshaw tries to stay un-glued from the man near the railing. Again and again he finds himself looking back there. Mrs. Bradshaw knows this but focuses on her salad, her appletini, and the bag of coke still in her purse. She fiddles with it in her lap, pinching it and flipping it. There’s silence while they eat but the man is laughing with his girlfriends. “Stupid fucking rover,” Mr. Bradshaw finally says.

“Oh, baby. Forget about it. Let’s just go back to the room.”

But he turns to the bartender. “Hey,” he says. “You said you know those rover guys? Like what you said about the screwdriver…”

“Yeah. I do.” The bartender’s cleaning glasses. “But you don’t want to meet those guys. Trust me. They’re not much fun. You know, those drinks come out of their paychecks. They don’t like being hit. They’re payed not to be.”

“Well,” Mr. Bradshaw thinks about it. “Well. Whatever. Shit.” He looks back at the table as the man and his friends are just stumbling to the elevators.

“C’mon, Hun,” he says watching them. “Let’s freshen up. Hit the town. Okay?”

She stands up immediately from her salad as he slips a fifty underneath his plate—unfinished—and slides it forward, not looking at it. A busboy comes and scoops it up, who takes it back to the kitchen, throwing the steak on the Hobart and straightening the bill underneath the fluorescents. “Hey! Gimme that,” a chef says from behind him and snags it from his hands. He stuffs it in his apron and continues to cook the stew in front of him. “Mr. Bradshaw’s my favorite customer. And I’m his favorite cook.” The boy stands with his arms crossed. He does not know what to say except to mouth, Fuck you, turned away. He slams the kitchen doors on his way out while a man in a polo shirt waddles in. He holds a bucket hat in his hands, all rolled up and being squeezed. “Excuse me, Sir?” he says to the chef cooking stew. “Hi. I work for the hotel too. I’m in the driving range.” He points to the logo on his polo “I’m a rover driver.”

The chef rolls his eyes, “Yeah. What do you want?”

“Well. I’m short on cash is all. This month,” his eyes go towards the stew. His sentences trail off in the chef’s mind. He’s not listening. He only hears bits and pieces of that same sob-story recited to him every week or so. He gets fed up with it. “Just get out of here man! Just go. Go! I don’t need anymore of you drivers coming up here. Asking for fucking handouts. We work hard up here too. We don’t dip our fingers in the broth.”

“But, please,” the rover driver insists again. “Just a roll of bread, please. I’m working all night with nothing to eat. I only have ten minutes ’til I have to get back in that machine again. C’mon, man. Just one piece of bread.” He reaches for a roll. The chef drops his spoon in the stew and pushes him with both his hands. Silverware shakes on his back’s impact.

“Get out of here! Lazy freeloader. Go. Get. Get hit with another ball. Idiot.” Other chefs have slowed down in the kitchen. A waiter slowly rips an order from his pad. This head chef notices this. “Get back to work,” he shouts. And the rover driver scurries out, making his way through the concrete of the back-door, service stairway. He rushes down the corridor as men he passes shake their heads. He starts the engine very quickly. He doesn’t make a sound. He doesn’t shed a tear. He gets right back out on that green grass, wearing sunglasses to protect from the spotlights.

“There it is! It’s back out!” Mr. Bradshaw sees it from the balcony.

She’s still in the bathroom, preoccupied. “Oh no,” she thinks as she lifts her head up. “Babe. Stop. What about the town?” She comes out from the mirrored bathroom, reflections of her exciting themselves. It’s a weak attempt she makes to stop him. What’s the point? Mr. Bradshaw’s hitting balls again.

“300 yards away!” he exclaims, to no one really. She’s taking selfies in the bedsheets.

“400 now! He’s 400 away!” He swings again—another miss. He keeps on swinging until the balls stop coming. “Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!” He bangs his driver on the ground every time he shouts this, pulling it back up in front of him, seeing now that it’s bent. “Damn it!” he shouts one more time and throws the thing off the balcony—a falling body—landing way down on the base-level, in a bunker, kicking dust up.

She doesn’t say anything, just watches what he’s done. Men keep hitting balls around him. The balcony door slams as he comes inside. The hotel phone rings on the table. She’s sitting on the edge now.

“Yes?” he says into the receiver. “I know,” he continues. “I know. I know. My bad. Okay? Won’t happen again.” Another pause while she puts a shoe on. “Yes. Yes, I’d like another one. Yes. Same brand. Sure. Thank you,” and he hangs up with a little less force.

Mr. Bradshaw sits down on the bed with her, his head in his hands. “I can’t get suspended. What am I thinkin’. Baby, what am I thinkin’?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. It seems like you’re always so close to that rover. But. Baby. Does it really matter? We get all the drinks we want anyway. Plus a little extra. Plus you got me and the room.” She rubs his back and takes a key bump.

The rover outside makes its final round, back to its cubby. It’s almost free when someone hits it. “Woo-hoo! Fuck yeah dudes! Fuck yeah!” Multiple high-fives echo through the dry-wall. Mrs. Bradshaw makes sure to keep rubbing his back.

The driver sits in the rover—in the music. His forehead slumped on top the wheel. Flashing lights excite the cage that he can’t drive until the celebration’s over. He lifts his head and grabs the wheel, shakes it hard but it doesn’t move. He can finally drive it back again. Others in the corridor, holding clipboards, don’t make eye-contact and keep their distance. He hops out and lights a cigarette, walking out to the employee balcony. The breeze sweeps in through his hair, brown and stringy, tucked behind his ears. There are no nets that block the employee balcony from the ocean. He’s free to flick his butt out to the water, let a seagull eat the thing.

In their room, the Bradshaw’s take a break from love-making so that he can get himself hard again. “One second, Hun.” He’s in the bathroom, shaking it in the mirror. The eight-ball’s on the counter and he breaks off a piece, puts it in his mouth, swallows it just because he can. He tries real hard to get things working.

He doesn’t come out for a while. She is on her side when he does. He’s in his boxers, sits down, holds her hand.

She doesn’t turn over right away, on her phone scrolling Instagram. But when she does, she kisses the side of him where love handles would be if he had any.

“You know, I love you,” Mr. Bradshaw says.

“Of course I do,” and she snuggles up to his leg, putting her nose on it.

He continues to stare blankly at the TV which is turned off. The spotlights pour in from the driving range; that doesn’t stop her from falling asleep. He tries not to rustle her when he gets up. He snorts another line in the bathroom and puts his blazer on. Quietly, he goes back out, shoves some dip into his cheek, places his whiskey on the small table. He holds a new club in his hands, sets his feet, swings hard—back to front. He lets the ball fly out to the distance. He leaves it up in the air, holding it, then dropping it, letting the metal run through his palms poetically, catching the head of it on his hands before it falls completely. He’s feeling peaceful in the midnight air. He does a little dance between balls popping out. They run up the small tube from the course below, plop themselves right on the tee.

Every thirty minutes or so, the rover comes back out to make its rounds. He tries not to see it. He shakes his head, gathers himself. Oxygen pumps throughout the place. He stays awake. It comes out eight times. Late in the night, she barely opens her eyes to see his silhouette through her lashes. She rolls over on her other side, puts a sleep mask on.

Deeper into the night, Mr. Bradshaw begins taking more trips to the bathroom. Eventually, he just brings the eight-ball out with him onto the balcony. As the Earth rotates, and the sun heats through from the other side, it’s just Mr. Bradshaw hitting balls eventually. The rover’s run out of things to keep it busy. The man inside is just following every ball that Mr. Bradshaw hits.

Mr. Bradshaw’s almost naked. His eyes are red, stiff to nothing. He’s shaking as he avoids his breaking point; the rover is taunting him. He starts hitting balls in a circle, watching it move to his discretion, picking up everything he hits. He starts to hit them closer, right underneath his balcony, now just using a putter to roll them off slowly. The thing’s right below him now. Through the spot-lights, the sky is changing color—barely legible. The man in the rover is on a Red Bull and a half. He doesn’t know who Mr. Bradshaw is. If he stops scooping balls, he thinks he might stop breathing. Sweat marks drip from beneath his eye bags. He chugs the rest of the Red Bull and throws it inside the caged machine.

Mr. Bradshaw sniffles, wipes his nose, takes a breath and plants his feet. His mode of attack is very simple. Nothing’s moving in the stadium. No balls are being hit. Just the ocean is moving. And the driver almost falls asleep.

Mr. Bradshaw puts his club back in the bag again and she rustles in the covers behind him. Between dreams, she’s in a law school lecture hall, sitting down in a class of twenty. Everyone’s eyes are on their own paper. Pencils move in a rhythm around her. She looks up, placed in the middle of them, trying to get a peak at someone else’s.

Mr. Bradshaw takes a double-take to see who is around him, scanning either side of the hotel’s facade. He even peaks around the wall of his neighbor’s balcony just to be sure. The TV’s on but the guy’s asleep, naked with no blankets; he’s too fat to see anything.

The coast is clear. He holds his hand down to the ball-tube so that one will land right in his palm. He chucks the thing at the rover, misses badly. “Fuck,” he yells. The next ball comes out. He throws it too. Ball after ball, he keeps chucking them at the rover.

The driver becomes conscious of it. “Hey! Hey!” he yells, stepping out of the door. “Hey! Stop!”

But Mr. Bradshaw is on autopilot. The idiot’s just left his rover.

Down below, he gets on top the vehicle, waving his arms. “Please! Stop!”

Mr. Bradshaw is now fully naked, his boxers loose from all the sweat, throwing balls by the handful. In her dream, the professor catches Mrs. Bradshaw. “What do you think you are doing?” He stands up from a blood-red desk. She’s chewing gum as he says this and accidentally swallows it. It chokes her in front of everyone.

Mr. Bradshaw’s getting closer.

“Please. Please,” the driver says, loud enough for just himself. He isn’t dodging the balls anymore but actively trying to block them with his body. They hurt when they hit him from so far up, kicking out to stop them. The spindly bones inside his feet rattle; he yelps and tears up on their impact. “Please, stop! Stop!” he yells again. But Mr. Bradshaw doesn’t. He hears the driver’s plea this time, processes it in his mind. He throws one more ball that splits the guy right in the forehead. He falls down and shakes the vehicle. It bounces off him and hits the cage. The rover buzzes and it sings. The disco music fills the air as all the lights shut off from the morning sun. It has risen and someone’s won. The man’s unconscious on the roof. All the noise wakes her up, glad to be conscious after such a dream.