The carpet cleaner seemed concerned when I showed him my problem.
“There’s a brown stain right there,” I said, pointing. “See? It’s as big as a dinner plate.”
“Sir,” he said, his eyes narrowed, “this is a golf course.”
“And a damn good one, too,” I said. “So you can see why I can’t have a stain like this. If my manager knew, he’d have my head. And then where would I be, all headless and unemployed? It would be ludicrous!”
The carpet cleaner squinted. “You’re the groundskeeper, right?”
“The junior groundskeeper,” I clarified. “My boss is the senior groundskeeper. He likes to lord his title over me, as if he’s so special. But I’ll tell you something: I’m going to have his job one day. And when I do, I’ll have the power to fire myself. Not that I’d ever fire myself, of course, because I’m amazingly gifted at what I do. But I could if I wanted to, because then I’d have the power. And that’s what it’s all about — my unquenchable thirst for power. And someday it’ll be all mine. Mine! And then nobody will be able to stop me.”
The carpet cleaner raised his eyebrows.
I coughed. “Anyway, you get the idea. I like to set goals. For years, I despised myself so much that I’d smash the glass with my fist every time I looked in the mirror. But ever since New Year’s, I’ve been trying to stay aboard the self-improvement bandwagon. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I’m still clinging on. So far, so good.”
The carpet cleaner sucked in a breath, as if to say something. Instead, he pursed his lips and shook his head.
“So you can see the scope of the problem,” I said. “It’s not just the stain. It’s my job we’re talking about here. If my boss, the renowned senior groundskeeper, was to see this thing, I’d be toast. Toast smeared with a generous dollop of lemon marmalade. That’s why I called you, the specialist. I don’t want to be a slice of toast smothered in lemon marmalade. I hate lemon marmalade. So you can understand my predicament.”
The carpet cleaner stared. “I’m … um. I’m not sure how I can help.”
“You’re not sure how you can help?” I threw up my arms. “Don’t you have anything in that fancy-pants van of yours that can remove a stain? Like a shampooing machine, or something? You came with the highest recommendations. I even checked you out on Yelp. You have a ton of five-star reviews.”
“And I’m very proud of my reputation,” the carpet cleaner said. “I’m consistently rated No. 1 in the community.”
“But yet you’re standing here telling me there’s nothing you can do? What, is this stain too much for you and your little machine? Maybe I should call someone else, since you can’t seem to handle it. Is that what you’re saying?”
The carpet cleaner held up his hands. “Sir, no. That’s certainly not what I’m saying.”
“Then take a good look at that stain!” I said, pointing. “Look at it! It’s a blight on this otherwise beautiful course — like a pus-engorged zit on smooth, creamy skin. I simply can’t have it. Now, unless you want me to give you a one-star review on Yelp to tarnish your impeccable record, I suggest you get your fancy-pants shampooing machine out of your fancy-pants van and do something about it.”
The carpet cleaner stared at me with his mouth hanging open. “You’re crazy.”
“I’m passionate,” I said. “This course is my life. I trim all of the greens with my toenail clippers, so that each blade of grass is precisely the same height.”
“Maybe that’s your problem,” the carpet cleaner said. “Because this doesn’t look like a stain to me. It looks more like a patch of dead grass killed by an unidentified fungus.”
I placed my thumb and forefinger to my chin. “That lawn is dead?”
The carpet cleaner shrugged. “I’m no landscaper, but it looks dead to me. The blades are crisp and brown. No amount of shampooing is going to take care of that. In fact, the chemicals might do more harm than good.”
I glared. “So you’re saying you can’t do anything?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. There’s nothing in my van that can take care of this.”
“Maybe if you stretched it?” I suggested. “See the fold? Maybe that’s what’s killing the grass?”
“Sir, no. The fold is a tree root. A carpet stretcher wouldn’t fix that.”
“Ah, what the hell do you know?” I said. “You’re no groundskeeper.”
“Right,” the man said. “You are.”
“Indeed,” I said. “Which is why I need to assume a take-charge attitude and rectify the situation myself, seeing as how you’re stupid and incompetent.”
The carpet cleaner took an uncertain step backward. “May I go now?”
“You may,” I said. “And thank you for coming out. I’m sorry to have wasted your time. Do you charge a consultation fee?”
But the man didn’t answer. He was already yards across course, running like mad toward his van, and all of the useless implements it contained.
I gave him a one-star review on Yelp. Serves him right, too, since I ended up getting fired over that stupid brown stain. I didn’t get a severance or nothing. They even kept my toenail clippers.
So now there’s no one to cut the grass, and with my clippers repossessed, my toenails are growing into talons.
And as far as my socks are concerned, there’s a hole in one.