Call me a killjoy, but when New Year rolls around, I account it high time to get golfing. It's not that I don't like having firecrackers thrown at me or being made to hand out cash-stuffed envelopes. There is a perverse thrill/sense-of-grating-fulfilment associated with each.
My chief gripe concerns the seething mass of humanity. Not even my own living room is protected against crowds, noise and billows of second-hand smoke. The fairways represent the only sanctuary I know.
So it was that I found myself striding down the 14th hole of my nearest course, a 418-yard Par 4 with trees to the right, green-side bunkers and barely a crowd-control marshal in sight. Peace and quiet was finally mine. That was until the caddy began screaming.
Apparently the signs warning players to "Beware of Snake" had not been a joke as the mythical beast had materialized before us. Anyone unfortunate enough to hear the girl's howls would have concluded that the "snake" was an anaconda with giant fangs and an ability to fly and not as was the case a 12-inch tiddler idling across the grass.
But someone did hear the screams and form this very same impression, for a knight in shining armor and a "marshal" cap on his head now appeared on the horizon. Imploring his electric buggy to greater and greater feats of speed, he veered onto the fairway and charged towards the scene of terror in a peculiar zigzag angle of attack.
Given the marshal's inability to remain on a linear course, it was especially courageous of him to decide to save us by running the creature over.
What steely nerves he possessed to remain cool as the snake disappeared under his tires, only to emerge virtually unharmed! How few would have had the presence of mind to remedy this impotency by running it over again, this time using reverse! And how many former saviors of women and children would then have had the courage to step down and engage the half-flattened snake in hand-to-hand combat!
With wooden stick in hand, the marshal gallantly beat the beast until its tail could spasm no more and the caddy's screaming had abated. With the carcass squeezed dry, the marshal formed a pincer with thumb and forefinger and dropped the leftovers into a bag before re-mounting his buggy, winking at us and disappearing into the distance.
While the caddy swooned, I lamented my latest failure to secure some New Year respite. Judging by the twinkle in the marshal's eye (and his Cantonese extraction), I began to suspect that his victim would likely spend 2007 contributing to the slow fermentation of a jar of homemade snake wine.
And thus, my resolution for the next New Year was conceived. I pledge to spend the week blind drunk on she jiu (snake wine). Not only will I be oblivious to the crowds, firecrackers and requests for "lucky money", I may also have the comfort of knowing my reptilian friend didn't die in vain.
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(China Daily 03/01/2007 page20)