Mashie Niblick and the Old Bag

WARNING:  Mashie Niblick’s speech resembles a hard-boiled private eye of the 40s.  He’s out-of-date, but he has a heart of gold.

I saw her as she came into the nineteenth hole at the club.  She approached the barkeep.  I was going to call this dame, Doll, once she quit wasting her time with the guy who hands out tiny umbrellas.  I had to wait for her to sashay her way to the corner table, my office.

For introductions, my name is Mashie Niblick.  I am presently between paid jobs.  I don’t like saying that I am unemployed, because I have plenty to do.  What I have been doing recently is trading off green keeping duties at the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly Country Club in Tracy for green fees.  Since no money exchanges hands, I get my exercise and I remain off the grid.  For reasons that need not be mentioned, I like staying off the grid.  For the purposes of telling this story, assume that Mashie Niblick is an assumed name, but you never heard that from me.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

My problem is that the agreement with the head greens keeper is for free rounds of golf and an occasional sandwich, no golf balls.  I walk through the woods, finding what I can, but I like new balls on occasion.  For sleeves of new golf balls, I find things for the Hoity-Toity members of the Hoity Toity club.

You see, I love playing golf.  I usually have a nice draw, but if there is water to the right, I cannot avoid slicing a few balls into the water.  To be honest, I’ve never finished a round at the Hoity-Toity course.  I lose all my balls, by the fourteenth hole if not sooner.  That brings me back to Doll.

From my corner office, I could tell she had lost something.  I am sure she had lost her mind early in her round of golf, if not sooner, but something else was bothering her.  She’d left an old pink golf bag outside on the bag rack.  She was dressed all in green.  Green golf shoes, green socks, green short shorts, green blouse, vest, and rhinestone cowboy hat.  No self-respecting cowboy would be caught dead in a rhinestone covered green cowboy hat, but that was the style of the hat she wore.  Doll was a blonde, down to the roots, flowing halfway down her back.  She had green eyes, but that could be a result of being decked out in green.  Eye color was filed in my memory banks as ‘to be determined.’

On third glance, I noticed that she had a drab companion.  Her companion, hanging in the shadows, was mostly in grey with a navy-blue stripe in the blouse, no hat.  She had medium brown hair, and for some unknown reason, she wore a fake nose and glasses.  At least she clipped the mustache off the dime store gag disguise.  If she had had the moustache, I would have thought she was the reincarnation of Groucho or Chaplin.

The barkeep pointed at my table.  See, I know these things.

I thought I’d break the ice first.  “Doll, your old bag is right outside.  If you lost anything else, have a seat.”

Doll looked at me, shocked.  It took her a few seconds to recover, and in full Hoity-Toity style: loud, arrogant, and with hand gestures.  She first turned to her friend, “How does this troll know that my name is Doll?!”  She then turned back to me.  “I will report you to the club pro if you call my mother an ‘old bag’ one more time!”

“Doll, I was referring to the pink golf bag on the rack outside.”

“I was told that you had a sixth sense about lost things.  I was obviously deceived!  That golf bag is the problem.  Can you see me?  The fashion plate of this country club wearing green and not carrying a green golf bag?  Can you?”

“I am sure you attracted the eye of more than one available suitor during your round, Doll.  Please, sit down and we can discuss the problem.  You too, Miss.”  I referred to her friend.  At that moment, I realized something that had slipped by me from across the room.  The fake nose and glasses were real.  The eyeglasses were coke-bottle thickness.  As for the nose, I doubt if she could hold her head steady in a strong side wind.  It resembled a sail.  But then, something struck me about her.  If it weren’t for the glasses and nose, she’d be the most beautiful young woman that I’d ever seen, perfectly symmetrical.

My gaze at Doll’s friend was interrupted by plastic tapping on table.  Doll had sat down and was tapping her three-inch fake nails on the table.  How she could grip a golf club with those, I’ll never know.  “Excuse me!  I am the one that is distraught.  Quit staring at the hired help.”

I asked the friend, “Are you Doll’s personal assistant?”  The friend averted my gaze, saying nothing and looking at the floor.

Doll answered, “Pauline is working on her doctorate in athletic phenomena.  She has made some monumental discoveries that will change the way golf clubs are run.  At least, that’s what Daddy says.  But that’s a story for another day.  I just finished a round of golf, wearing green with a pink golf bag!”

“I thought we had already covered that?”

“But, since I have been told that you clean the women’s toilets on occasion, you must know that the women’s locker room is divided into three sections: pink, green, and blue.  My Daddy is important here.”  (Oh boy, a hoity-toity for the hoity toities!)  “I have three lockers, one in each section, everything color coordinated.  I have a matching golf bag to match the color of the locker section and my outfit, and today I CLASHED!  I may have to avoid playing golf here for months until the gossip dies down.”

“Since you have left a few holes in your story, let me recap what you haven’t said.  You came to the club today wearing green.  You went to the green section of the women’s locker room and found that your green golf bag, with matching head covers, is missing from your locker in the green section.  You went to the pink section and got your old bag to play a round with.”

“Please, my mother is Mildred!  She’s lost, but she always turns up.  She wandered into the woods off the seventh tee.  She has done that before.  She doesn’t wander far… usually.  There was that one time she called from a filthy hotel in a small town two states over…  But please refer to her as Mildred, not ‘the old bag.’”

“Again,“ I smiled as I replied, “I was referring to the pink golf bag outside.  Were you the one to place the green golf bag into the green locker?”

“Heavens, no!  That’s a job for the hired help.  I had to get to my Monopoly game… with the boys.”

I looked at Pauline, and she averted her eyes.  There must have been something fascinating on the floor.

I smiled and nodded, “Your green golf bag will be in your green locker by tomorrow morning.  Payment will be two sleeves of balls, but I have some added requirements for this lost property recovery case.”

Doll bristled, “Absolutely not!  Just thinking of touching you is repulsive.  You will recover my lost green golf bag with no additional payment.  Two sleeves as payment is highway robbery as it is.”

I waved my hand for her to calm down.  “It costs you nothing more, Doll, but I would like to play a round of golf with Pauline, if she will accept.  And I’d like to talk to her about her athletic phenomena that she has discovered.  That is if she has nowhere else to go tonight.”

Pauline blushed.  Doll huffed, “Well, I never!”  She got up and stormed from the room.  I guess she’d never failed at being the center of attention.  She did not react well to the experience.  Pauline handed me two sleeves of new golf balls, the good ones.

She finally looked me in the eye and spoke for the first time.  “Thank you.  I can go fix the problem in the locker room, but when Doll gets into a rage…”  Doll’s voice was like nails on a chalkboard, but Pauline had a mellifluous voice, as if sweetened with honey.

“And you put up with Doll because she is your access to the club.  I figure her Daddy funds your research.  You may get your name on the research paper, but he gets any money the discovery might make.  As for the green golf bag, you stuffed it into your locker the last time Doll used it.  Did you have a hot date?”

She blushed again, “No, I haven’t dated in a long time.  I had a lecture that night at the University.  I was filling in for Glyce Yeggs.  She went on maternity leave a little earlier than expected, and I gladly performed her lectures for a couple of weeks until the scheduled professor was to arrive.  I just threw Doll’s bag next to mine when we finished the round a little late.  I forgot, or I would have made a special trip the next day to fix things.  Doll would have gone nuclear if she had known her green bag was in the blue section in my locker, you know, double contamination.  So, I tried to play the role of the servant, uninformed, anonymous and unseen.”

“I’m getting to like you more and more.  I could tell the moment I saw you that you were not the Hoity Toity type.  Are you related to the Pauline in the movies?”

“Who is that?”

“As in the Perils of Pauline?”

She smiled.  I liked her smile.  “I haven’t had a date in a while, nor have I been in peril, at least not this semester.  Do you double as a hero that rescues damsels in distress?”

“For you, I will be there.  Tell me about your latest discovery.”

“I have been studying newts.  Specifically, newts on golf holes with water to the right of the fairway.”

My heart skipped a beat.  “Like on the thirteenth and fourteenth holes of the course?”

Her smile beamed.  “Exactly!  If there are too many newts per thousand gallons of water in the lake, a golfer will slice the ball 72% more often than usual, even if they normally hit a draw. Thinking of that, you look like a man who can draw the ball.”  She reached over and squeezed my hand.  “Thirteen and fourteen have twice the number of newts necessary to create this phenomenon.  Have you lost a few balls in that lake?”

“Oh, Pauline, I have died and gone to heaven.  I’ve never made it past the fourteenth hole on this course, and now I know that newts are to blame!”

Pauline looked back at that fascinating spot on the floor.  “Mashie, if you are free tomorrow, I can show you places on this course that you’ve never seen.”  Her blush glowed.

“Babe, I’ll clear my calendar for you.”

Credits and Notes

Mashie Niblick has been around a lot longer than any of the Yeggs, but was rejected by the publishers – probably for good reason.  This is a total rewrite of that rejected story.  Mashie is named after an ancient golf club of the same name, the ancient version of the modern 7-Iron.  The Mashie is the ancient name for a 5-Iron, the Niblick for the 9-Iron, the higher the number, the higher the loft and shorter the distance that the ball travels.  The only thing anyone knows about the confidential informant, Mashie Niblick, is that he lives at the club and works for the green’s keeper in exchange for green fees – never touches cash, except for the dime to mark his ball on the green- (working in the morning and late evening for golf balls and green fees, playing golf all afternoon).  He claims to be ex-CIA, but no one has been curious enough to check it out.  He would make a good agent.  He knows everything about everyone in Hoity Toity Land, and he moves around, seemingly unseen.  Hoity Toities do not notice servants.  Odd though, his greatest skill is finding lost things.  He helps everyone in the club in that respect in exchange for more golf balls, but finding his own golf balls?  Forget about it.

The “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” is from Monty Python – usually followed with “Say no more!  Say no more!”

This is a total rewrite of the story that was rejected by a couple of mystery magazines. It provides a prequel to give a back story for Mashie Niblick, who will become Deviled Yeggs’ confidential informant for all things “Hoity-Toity,” meeting Deviled through Pauline’s association with Glyce, but I haven’t written that story… yet.

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