Bennie the Seal coughed. A small, pale blue ball bounced across the concrete.

“You really should get that looked at,” Leo the Lion said.

Bennie watched the gold ball roll across the walkway with an angry glare. “I’ve had it looked at. Lousy technician had to pry that ball out of my mouth four times to day.”

“Surely it wasn’t that same ball every time.”

The plastic seal laughed mirthlessly. “Oh, it’s that same ball all right. I can taste it. Blasted thing has it in for me.”

Leo rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t ‘have it in for you.’ It’s an inanimate object.” He paused for a moment. “I mean, it’s just a piece of plastic… That is… Look, you know what I mean. It can’t think. It can’t hate. It’s probably just slightly bigger than all the other ones. Go hide it in the bushes.”

“I’ve tried that. It sneaks back in with the other ones, I tell you.”

The little bridge creaked as an (almost) life-sized elephant crossed. “Hi Leo. Bennie,” he said with his deep, lazy voice. “What’s going on over here.”

“Hi, Trumpet. Bennie was just telling me how a golf ball is plotting against him.”

“The pale blue one?” Trumpet asked.

“That’s the one, the lousy… thing.” It was times like this that Bennie regretted being part of a family attraction. He just couldn’t release his frustration properly with only PG words.

“Yeah,” Trumpet said. “Every time I see that ball, I just know the kid’s going to swing too hard and hit me in the head.” He let out a heavy sigh. “But what can you do?”

“You, too, Trumpet?” Leo asked. “You really think a golf ball is doing this to you on purpose?”

The elephant shrugged his massive shoulders. “All I know is I get hit by a pale blue ball a lot.”

“Wouldn’t expect you to understand,” Bennie said. “You’re not really part of the course.”

Leo jumped down from his podium, padding over to the seal. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“What hole are you?”

“What do you mean? I’m not-”

“Exactly, you’re not on a hole. You stand there on your little… stand in front of the course. Guests don’t start playing until they’re past you. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

“You’re being ridiculous. I’m going to see the clowns. Have a serious conversation for a change.”

He headed down the path to the back of the park. Bubbles and Giggles were at their usual place on the two haves of hole ten.

“Heya, Leo,” Giggles said. He smiled, which always looked odd underneath his frowning makeup. “What brings you back this way?”

“Just trying to get away from Bennie’s ridiculous conspiracy theories.”

“Oh, the pale blue ball?” Bubbles asked.

“Don’t tell me you believe it hates you, too.”

The two clowns exchanged a look. “Not exactly,” Bubbles said. “It hates everybody.”

Leo lay down and put a paw over his face. “I don’t believe this.”

“Look,” Bubbles said, pointing to the section of the green she stood on. “Both these holes lead to Giggles’s half, right? Only if you can get a shot in the second hole, my flower squirts Giggles in the face, and the ball comes out of his shoe, rather than down at the bottom. It’s supposed to line straight up with the hole.”

“What’s your point?”

“The pale blue ball never goes in,” Giggles said. “It goes slightly to one side or the other, or comes out too fast and bounces off the edge of the hole. It happens with other balls occasionally, but the pale blue one does it every time.”

“I expected better of you two,” Leo said, getting up to his feet. “The ball’s just weighted poorly or something. That’s it. It doesn’t hate anybody.”

He stalked away. This was ridiculous. The ball was just a ball. Sure, the animal and clown statues came to life every evening, but they were different. They had shapes, characters, personalities. The golf ball was a lump of plastic.

As he was passing hole six, his front paw slipped out from underneath him and came crashing painfully to the ground.

He was feeling his muzzle for cracks when he saw it. A pale blue golf ball, rolling down the sidewalk.

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