Daybreak was Randall’s favorite time on the job, before the grounds crew arrived before the staff turned on every light in the clubhouse before golfers littered the view of sweeping greens with their grunts and ungainly swings. Inside the workshop, he chose his favorite trimmer, scraping away a wad of grass someone left stuck to the handle. Randall sighed, slurping his black coffee in mild disgust. One little slip and the course would go all to hell. Didn’t Jason know that?

He set the Gator in the lowest gear and rolled out to do his daily check of the grounds. The previous afternoon, he’d left Jason in charge, who’d been hired less than a year ago. Jason was a go-getter. Randall had high hopes that this young man might have the grit and skills to be the next groundskeeper. But he wasn’t ready to turn over his keys just yet. That crusty grass left on the trimmer didn’t bode well for Jason, no matter how eager he was.

Randall’s mood improved as he moved from hole to hole. He saw no signs of disrepair, new rodents to battle or stray limbs. The ride was smooth, until around hole 16. Randall squinted into the distance. Something was sticking out of the 17th hole. He beelined it. Golfers would be arriving soon.

 The paper curled up inside the hole read “The Rest of Your Life” in red marker. Sounded like some sort of insurance plan advertisement, but how did it get stuck in there? Jason was in charge of an evening sweep of the grounds to make sure everything would be in order the next day. And where there’s one infraction, there are bound to be more. He didn’t trust that kid yet. He wore his hat backward when no one was looking and always left work on time. He smelled funny. Did he leave the note here?

 Sure enough, in the middle of the fairway toward the 18th hole, he found another scrap, pierced with a golf tee through his perfect grass. Randall pulled it free, staring down into the brown scar left behind. “You Will Be Mine,” it read. He ran his tongue back and forth over his dentures, a habit he’d developed after a mild heart attack scared him into giving up smoking. Is that twerp Jason trying to push me out of my job? he thought.

“Not yet, buddy,” Randall growled to himself. He crammed the paper into his pocket with the first note. The sun was up now, and he could see people on the veranda opening umbrellas and shaking out white tablecloths.

It was Saturday, so in addition to golfers, the brunch crowd would arrive soon. Randall didn’t get the brunch crowd. Coming to a course to just eat and drink — having skipped breakfast, by god! — made zero sense to him. But as long as they didn’t mess with his course, he tolerated them.

The notes came fast in his vision now, and they weren’t just on the ground. Two were tied to a tree up toward the 18th hole. He yanked down the first one. “Two Become One,” it read. One? Do you think this is a one-man show? Is that how you treat the guy who’s taught you everything he knows? Not while I’m still standing, you little punk. I’m still here!

He clawed the other note: “A Sweet Ending to a New Beginning.” Pathetic! It’s the end of you, Jason! He shoved the note in his jacket with the others. Randall ignored the quiver in his chest and looked up toward the 18th hole.

 Tied to the blue flag was a fluttering note, a last taunt to Randall’s 43 years tending this course. He climbed into the Gator and threw it in drive. Damned electric vehicle had no pickup. Approaching the flag, he saw a man in a golf shirt standing on the veranda now, his hands planted on the railing, staring in Randall’s direction. 

His phone rang. Randall ignored the caller: Jason. Instead, he stopped short at the pin, tearing at the scroll tied to the flag. He unrolled it and read:

“Dearest Holly,

It has been 3 years now since the day we met, and I have come to love you like I never thought I could love someone. I want to spend the rest of my life with you … ”

The man on the veranda was running toward Randall now, waving frantically. Jason was calling again. Randall dropped the paper and raised the phone to his ear.

“Yeah?” he answered.

“Hey, Randall. What’s up? I forgot to tell you. Some guy’s proposing to his girlfriend this morning. They got the first tee time. You might have noticed some notes,” Jason said.

Randall closed his eyes and clutched the papers in his jacket. Maybe it was time to hang up his trimmer.