Wednesday 14 June 2023

Trial and Error by P. A. Westgate, whisky and soda,



Watch the ball. Just watch it. You’re concentrating. Don’t concentrate. Just watch. Let the information pass to the subconscious. Let the unconscious mind see how the spin and the wind move it. Now, say out loud “fifteen feet past the hole, ten feet to the left.” You know that’s how to do it.

And that’s how you should have handled the last case. Letting the subconscious select, evaluate, include, reject and finally deliver to your conscious mind. The famous ‘letting go’ technique you’ve dined out on more times than you can remember. A pity this time that you didn’t leave it to what your unconscious had worked out. But, no, your conscious mind knew better.

Without a jury! Cocky bastard, taking advantage of that change in the law. Making it a contest between you and him. And you agreed. What were you thinking? Was it vanity; the thought that you could be judge and jury?


Ten feet short, five feet to the right. Say it. You put too much conscious thought into that. You’ve four left now from the six you allow yourself each morning. Another vanity that. Six to get within easy putting distance at least, if not better.

Vanity, or showing off? But you come when no one else is here. Oh, it’s not that it’s the only time you can manage. You could come a good hour later. It’s because no one else is here and there’ll be no one to see.


            Five feet short, six, no seven feet to the left. That gust as the ball rose. Don’t analyse it. Just wait for the wind to settle. Let the mind and body work it out between them.

The prosecution made a good case. Incisive; cutting away the doubts, presenting a compelling argument. You liked that. And the lead was a protégé. Someone you’d watched develop; had helped to develop, to mould. If not in your image, at least into something you recognised. One or two nice turns of phrase as well. Some familiar ones too.


You’ve got the rhythm now. No thought, just action. Just a quick glance around, letting  the unconscious evaluate the conditions, and then the arms slowly back, held and then whipped forward, the club head driving through the ball. The unconscious mind telling the body what to do, how much force to use. There, say it out loud. “Three feet short, four feet to the left.”

What did you think of the defence? Oh, not the arguments, we’ll get to them, but the lead. Not your cup of tea at all. What is the profession coming to, letting people like that practice in England? Wouldn’t have happened in your day. Spoke well, but that accent. No, not one of the chaps. The arguments now. Well that single weakness in the prosecution’s case was certainly identified, eh! Mercilessly exposed in fact. The one where the police had been sloppy and the witnesses didn’t agree and the prosecution couldn’t explain away. That should have been enough by itself.


Ten feet short, four feet to the left. Not too good, you tensed up a bit there. Only one ball left now.

It’s doubtful that you can recall the concluding arguments. But you didn’t really need them by then. You’d made your mind up. The defendant watching you, with that condescending smile and the bored air as if to say that this was a waste of his time and the sooner it was over the better so he could get on. Like your father, when you were trying to explain, stumbling over your words and him with that same smile, wasting his time. You were going to wipe that smile off his face.


You knew. At the moment you spoke. As was your habit, your trademark, you looked the defendant in the eye. At that moment, the moment when your subconscious delivered its conclusion and you ignored it, at that very moment you knew. You knew with an absolute certainty that you were wrong. Completely and tragically wrong. From that point, each succeeding step was inevitable. There was no going back, no second chance, no final ball to try to get it to come right.


About the author

P. A. Westgate is an enthusiastic but sporadic writer. He lives quietly in his native Essex.

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