At the end of summer a couple of summers ago, the management at Valley Country Club took my job title of “server” in the broad sense and had me running odd jobs during the big annual golf tournament. I puttered around in a little gasoline golf cart, the muffler exploding sometimes like a gun and making men in pastel hats jump and miss their tees. I spent one afternoon breaking blocks of ice, swinging them over my head in bags and smashing them on the asphalt of the employee parking lot. Marine birds kill their fish the same way. On another day, I cut limes for vodka gimlets.

The hours were long — before sunrise until almost midnight — and even though the pay was double for the overtime, and I liked coming home exhausted and sunburnt with stains all over my khaki shorts, it was a pretty raw deal. But at least I earned my sleep. The little that I had.

I never sleep much in August — which is not to say that I don’t sleep well, only that the sleep in August is quick and somehow more restful than it is in other months. It were as if the miraculous power wielded by dreams to restore the body, to regenerate the mind, is at its height in those last weeks of summer, and only three hours in bed is enough to bridge the gap between the 21 hours spent in wakefulness before them and the 21 spent in wakefulness after. Why, I can’t say — perhaps it’s something about that month’s transitory nature, its fleetingness, which makes sleep seem an unaffordable luxury. The mouth of the year, which has been closed in sleep all summer, begins to open again for the start of the school-term and is caught half at a gape in August, that yawn of a month.

So, that August, the first after my freshman year in college, I took advantage of my surplus waking hours by working, filling my pockets with cash. I wasn’t saving up for anything in particular, and the money, for as long as I was earning it, went largely unspent. Nearly everyone my age seemed to be off taking unpaid internships in New York or rescuing orphans in Cambodia — it was always Cambodia. I never quite figured out what it was which drew droves of undergraduates, in their philanthropic fervor, to Cambodia — and my range of expenses had narrowed itself to early-morning coffees, lonely movie tickets and little else. I withdrew 100, one-dollar coins from the bank and stacked them on my dresser to make a little golden city. My parents wished I had a girlfriend.

There was someone, a friend of a friend, whose blue dress and taste in Russian novels I had courted, on and off, for nearly two months. But she was maddeningly difficult to get a hold of, reluctant or else terrified of answering her phone. We had met for a handful of dates, and, on the last of them, over Thai food in an industrial neighborhood, I had promised to take her to the reservoir where she had never been.

That was my favorite place in town, and, as a child, I had spent summer weekends playing in the sand with my cousins and climbing the trees around its bank. It sounded like a lovely place, she had said, and it was perfectly romantic, especially at night when one could watch the traffic moving across the dam, the headlights of commuting bakers, night guards and gravediggers shuttling over the high ridge and into the city. She’d be happy to see it with me.

But that afternoon in the Thai restaurant had been two weeks ago, and my phone calls and text messages had gone unanswered since then. Maybe, I thought, she, too, had gone to Cambodia.

Some mornings, I would wake before work with a mysterious, lingering optimism, as if I had won a lottery in the night and then forgotten about it, and it wasn’t until I was halfway out of the shower that I would remember the dream of the previous night, the dream in which she had appeared among all the other half-formed and siren things which populate dreams, all the dark forests and crumbling teeth, and had offered her hand for mine to hold. Recalling this, once again seeing the day before me as it was, stale and flat, I would towel off, dress and drive to the country club. And secretly some part of me eagerly looked forward to the next night, to the next dream, to sleep.

The tournament was four days long. On the last day, it rained, intermittently in the morning and then straight on through the night. The golfers huddled under shelters between lightning strikes while I caught up on my deliveries: gin and tonics to the cart girls, sandwiches to the caddies. My golf cart didn’t have a roof. I was thin that summer from being on my feet all day, but I looked even thinner in the oversized red polo plastered against my chest with rainwater, the circles under my eyes purpled like bruises.

After the winner was announced, the management put me to work collecting the coolers of booze left scattered around the course like malaria chests in the colonial jungle. A pair of waitresses was dispatched in their own cart to help me in the job, but they split off right away, and I did the work alone. It was dark then, and I could hear music and silverware from the yellow clubhouse on the hill.

Hiding behind a tree on the seventh hole, I swigged from a bottle of tonic and topped it off with Grey Goose from one of the chests. The other servers perpetually drank on the job. It made them luckier with tips, quicker to smile and to give refunds, but I had never joined them before, as I was too afraid of the camera that hung just above the club bar, its eye trained on the glowing liquor.

The rain didn’t let up, and I hoped the golf cart would catch a wheel in the mud so I’d have to walk back to the clubhouse and leave the job to the waitresses who were almost certainly drinking beer in the women’s restroom by the pond. I was in a foul mood, breathing hard through my teeth and talking to myself, and to them, who, in their absence, could neither hear nor defend themselves from my bitter complaints and accusations.

The handles to the coolers were smooth plastic, and I had trouble hefting them onto the cart. More than once, I lost my grip and the coolers tumbled open, forcing me to chase down the cans and bottles on my hands and knees. Mine was a ghoul’s silhouette, looping over hills and around sand traps, and I think that Grendel, left to splash miserably in his mere and hear the Danes at their mead, had had some idea of how I felt.

When I drove back to the clubhouse and unloaded my cargo, I saw that the rest of the staff had gone home. Mark, the red-nosed general manager, helped me empty the coolers and store their contents, at least a hundred thousand dollars in crystal and labels, in the liquor room. He spoke to me about running a business, good management and how to deal with hard customers. I listened, dripping, thinking of sleep.

At one in the morning, the waitresses showed up, drunk. Their cart had run out of battery, they said, and they had been stranded in the rain waiting for the charge to come back. I clocked out with three whole coolers of liquor left to empty and sort, leaving the rest of the job to them, two hours’ work at least, and that was the first time I’d seen anyone look at me with real hate, two pretty girls who hated me, hated my guts, but it didn’t matter because I knew there was another pretty girl who didn’t hate me, and I drove straight to her, and we parked in a copse of trees on the bank of the reservoir and watched the lights of cars track across the dam until morning.

Avery DiUbaldo can be reached at

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