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Unpaid Bill

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  • #31
    Morning plane

    The flight was at 6:30 am and it didn't have a number. It was just the morning plane out of Havana. I had come down from Miami the day before. After checking into an old hotel downtown, I had some arroz con pollo, took a nap and went to the Tropicana to see Christine Jorgensen's act. Christine was the 1953 version of Bruce Jenner. A doctor named Christian Hamburger, over in Denmark, had used his knife to make a female entertainer out of an ex-soldier named George, from the Bronx. Everything considered, I thought she looked pretty good, at least from fifty feet away.

    Had to get up about five o'clock to make the flight, but I wasn't the only one on the street at that hour, not by a long shot. Havana was open to visitors. Fulgencio Batista was still the dictator, and the American combination still told him what to do and let him keep some of the money. And they kept the peace – the streets were fairly safe. I flagged a cab for the ride to the airport, and no doubt it must have been a pre-war American car. Traffic in Havana was exciting. The few stop signs meant little, and at intersections the first driver who blew his horn claimed what little right-of-way there was. Cab drivers were exuberant and fearless.

    The plane was a DC-3, and as far as I know Cubana Airlines didn't have anything else. It was mostly full of locals, who used the airline like a bus system. The US Army had been using them since about 1937, and called them C-47s, and they were dependable as hell, no matter how badly you treated them. I believe there are still one or two flying today. The flight attendant was a sharp senorita who would serve you any of several kinds of fruit juice. The pilot knew his business, and this trip eastward down the island kept him pretty busy with his work. Seemed like most of the time we were either taking off or coming down to land. In addition to Santa Clara, Bayamo and Santiago, we landed in a number of pastures or soccer fields to accommodate passengers. Looking out the window was not a comforting

    Just before taking off in Santiago, our plane was ordered back to the terminal, and we all had to go inside to wait for ??. Finally, a military jet landed and two pilots climbed down and strolled into the building, where they bought sodas from the machine before flying away again. Those two might have been Batista's air force. All of it.

    I was finally home, at Preston – a town that does not even appear on current maps of Cuba. The terminal at Preston was maybe twice as roomy as my uncle Avery's two holer, and was opened only when a plane was expected. Preston had one of only a few hard-surface runways on the island. However, the builders had started the paving at opposite ends, and had never managed to complete the job. One section was just barely long enough for a DC-3 to land and take off, and I never heard of a Cubana pilot failing to make it.

    I was the only passenger getting off there, and the plane did not even cut the engines, but wheeled around and taxied back to the end of the runway in preparation for taking off. Suddenly I realized that they were about to fly away with my suitcase, and I charged after the plane, waving my arms. As they turned again and began to make their takeoff run, the side door opened, and the senorita flung my suitcase out onto the runway as they went by, where it bounced once and then blew up like a pinata, scattering my clothes all over hell.

    I made four such visits to Cuba while I was in the military, taking my thirty days leave all at once every year. The journeys were all pretty much alike and never boring. The Cubans were cool. They didn't worry and they didn't hurry. They ate well and drank coffee that would float a peso coin, and didn't miss many siestas, and they knew how to run an airline. That was a long time ago. I hope they haven't changed too much.
    Last edited by vapros; 02-01-2017, 09:50 PM.
    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


    • #32
      The Story of St. Elmo

      I am in need of a four-letter word for 16 down and the clue is St. Elmo's ---- and I don't have the foggiest, so I ask Uncle Avery, who is out of sight behind a Racing Form. This is a great surprise to me. If there is anyone else around; a Jehova's Witness, a lady selling Girl Scout Cookies or even a house burglar, I would ask them before Uncle Avery. 'Fire' says Uncle Avery, and it fits like a glove. You never know.

      I ask him how he comes to know this answer, and he tells me it is because he once bet every banana he has on a horse named St. Elmo's Fire at a track called Tanforan. I want to know if the horse comes in for him, but alas, he says the horse comes in so late that it takes off its horseshoes and tiptoes in. Uncle Avery says he can tell he is in trouble when the jockey goes to the post carrying a ham po-boy and a Nehi Cola. He can tell the boy does not expect to be back in anything like a minute and forty-two seconds.

      Some people, me for example, just don't know when to quit. I ask him why he empties out on such a dog of a horse, and he says it is because the young lady he is with is engaged to a sailor, and she is sure that St. Elmo's Fire will be a lucky pick, as St. Elmo is the patron saint of all the sailors. I inquire why he is traveling with somebody else's fiancee, and he explains that such betrothals are held in abeyance while the sailor is at sea, in case he should fall over the side or get hit by a torpedo or such as that. Uncle Avery goes on to say that after the race his companion goes to the lady's room and never comes back. Who didn't know that?

      He sinks out of sight again, behind the Racing Form, but promises he will tell me just how Elmo happens to be the patron saint of the sailors. Tomorrow, says Uncle Avery, or the day after for sure.
      If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


      • #33
        Elmo becomes a saint

        Many, many years ago – Uncle Avery does not know just how many – Pope Morris the First gets himself into a trap. He promises the sailors a saint of their own. After all, the grave diggers have a saint, and the money lenders and the pastry cooks and the chicken pluckers, but the sailors have none. Custom indicates that if possible the nominee should be a man of similar background, but he knows very few sailors and does not figure to meet very many if he keeps hanging around in the churches. He is hoping for a famous deceased sailor with a reasonably good resume, and not having any luck. The sailors of that time are a much scruffier lot than the gentle swabbies of today.

        Then, out of the blue he picks up on a third-hand rumor that a very popular sailor named Elmo has gone down on the Messina Ferry during some stormy weather one dark night in March. Morris is certain that Elmo has been sent to him from above, and without fooling around any he takes the necessary steps to anoint him the patron saint of all sailors and the good news is posted outside the Pope House on a large piece of papyrus.

        The sailors are very happy, and they take up a collection and go to a famous sculptor and arrange for a large statue of St. Elmo, fronting him a bunch of lira for the job. Nobody knows what St. Elmo looks like, but they are promised that he will be very handsome, indeed, when the statue is finished.

        But Morris is not comfortable with what he has done in haste, so he sends an Assistant Pope down the coast to round up a bit more information on Elmo. When the report comes back, maybe a fortnight later, it does little to brighten up the Pope's day. First, the Messina Ferry is not a naval vessel by any stretch of the imagination, and second, Elmo is not dead after all, but very much alive and still going down several nights a week in all kinds of weather, as he has done for some years now.

        To his credit, he notifies the sailors about his goof, and to their credit they give him a pass, thanking him for a sincere effort. At least, and at last, they have their own patron saint. But they decide that the great sculpture is no longer indicated and they go back to the chiseler to tell him the deal is off. He admits that he already spends the money they paid him, and they respond that they hope he had a good time with it, and he should forget that it ever happened. This is many years before 'no problem'. Over and out, paisano.

        But being a conscientious artist, the guy calculates that they have paid him enough for a large pair of feet, and he sculpts them and sets them on the pedestal that he already puts in place at the edge of the water in Palermo. However, being also somewhat of a gonif, he makes the feet of common mud instead of fine Italian marble and a bit of the mud is worn away by each high tide until nothing is left but the pedestal, which can still be seen on a clear day.

        The moral here, of course, is that those with feet of clay are not true saints after all, but that is a story for another day, says Uncle Avery.
        If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


        • #34

          It's 3:30 in the morning, and it's 29 degrees outside. For Baton Rouge that's pretty serious. Schools were closed Friday. Rain, heavy and light but continuous, and there's two inches of water in the driveway, and I wouldn't go out today for Francisco Bustamante's stroke. Well, maybe in my rubber boots.

          I am recalling (I do a lot of that) the summer of 1946. The great war has ended, and gas rationing is over and I am fourteen years old. Along with four other guys my age and a couple of dads, we journeyed down Little Caillou Route to Cocodrie. That's the end of the road, and at Cocodrie you are already in the salt marsh. It's Friday afternoon and we board the Evest. Jr., a Lafitte skiff style shrimper, maybe forty feet long. Not by coincidence, the captain is Evest Voisin, Jr. That's 'Waz'zan. We will be on the water until Sunday.

          Taking the tail end of Bayou Petit Caillou out past Pointe Meshe and Bay Sainte Elaine, and then eastward into the protection of Timbalier Island, at an easy cruising speed. We could have turned west to Isle Dernier (Last Island) where a terrible hurricane in August of 1856 destroyed a two story resort hotel and about a hundred summer houses and killed about two hundred people. Nothing left of it today, except a few sandbars.

          Captain Voisin cooked a huge pot of rice on a butane stove in the cabin, and we ate rice until Sunday, always with various and delicious seafood dishes. He caught shrimp in the try net and crabs on a string with a chicken neck attached and a dip net, and picked up a few oysters from a bed belonging to his cousin. On deck, we watched him open the shells with a hammer and a knife. Under the big tarp overhead and anchored far enough offshore to be out of the reach of mosquitos, we were all in shorts and shirtless. The captain said we could go bare-ass if we wanted, but no one did. Not in 1946.

          For two days we ate like kings, threw each other overboard or dived in for a swim, and flopped down on the deck to sleep. We could climb the mast and see across the island to where the surf was breaking between tide changes. This was, and is, the Shangri-La for saltwater sport fishermen. There were some fishing poles on the boat, but in the shallow water behind the island we caught mostly hardhead catfish.

          By mid-day on Sunday, it was time to head back to Cocodrie and then home. Exhausted and sunburned, all the guys slept the whole way. We were too young in 1946 to recognize that we had created the memories that old men would be recalling seventy years later.
          If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


          • #35
            The Ballad of Vapros

            Some of you have seen this, but it's a favorite of mine, so . . .

            Vapros was just a poor old dub who joined the downtown billiard club
            and he cursed the other guys and called 'em trash.
            His money seemed like it had wings, with scratches, fouls and all them things -
            each night he would distribute all his cash.

            Well, he said I'll play 'em tight tonite, no three rail banks will make me bite
            and I'll leave the rock in places you can't reach.
            So he played real close for a little while, but just like always he lost his pile,
            then he looked around and he made a little speech.

            All you guys think you're mighty hot, but no one wants to give a spot,
            so I'm gonna make you a game you can't outrun.
            With a hand as quick as a NASA rocket he reached into his backside pocket
            and he come up waving a pretty good-sized gun.

            Now my stake horse here has got just one barrel, like a three-inch cue without no ferrule
            and Mr. Barker wants to jack the bet.
            So look him right in his beady eye and you will see exactly why
            I may be broke, but I ain't quite busted yet.

            You must all line up at that snooker table and empty out while you're still able
            and don't do nothing to make me think you're shy.
            Vapros grabbed everything in his range (he took the bills, but he left the change)
            Then he tipped his hat and he bid 'em all goodbye.

            He will tell you now if you ask real nice for some good, sound billiardly advice.
            It's a waste of time to sharpen up your stroke.
            The secret is to match up right, like I did in town the other nite,
            and you won't never have to go home broke.

            There's a moral here, if you can find it, about that gun and the man behind it.
            If you ever see it you better watch it close.
            And when you can look right down the hole, it's time to think about your soul,
            'cause your ass belongs to the man they call Vapros!

            * * * * * * *
            I'm indebted to the late Phil Harris and his recording of 'The Darktown Poker Club'.
            If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


            • #36
              Rien du tout

              Don't worry – 'rien du tout' is French for nothing at all – I think. That's about all the French I know, except for Maison Blanche and Chevrolet Coupe. I just didn't want to put 'nothing' as the title of my post.

              I think that Clemson did something last nite that needed doing. It was high time, and yesterday was a fine day, to end Alabama's 26 game win streak. I am a fan of the SEC, and Nick Saban was our guy at LSU for five years, but I was rooting for Clemson. Saban is not such a likable guy. He's humorless, hard driving, one-way and very successful. That must be why he is certainly one of the all-time best. That must be why the nation wanted to see Clemson get it done, and they did, barely. So, who loves the Crimson Tide today, and Nick Saban? Not very many, except the Alabama fans.

              Why all the uproar over the Russians hacking into our presidential election process? Let's have a bit of reality about it. First, if the Russians and the Chinese can do it, then a lot more countries will be capable before long. There are expert geeks all around us. Second, it figures that some countries will have a preference about who wins our elections. And third, did we think there was some sort of gentlemen's agreement among nations that would make them all mind their own business and butt out until the elections are over? Let's get real. The ether has been contaminated for some time now, and it will only get worse. As soon as you log on you become fair game, and maybe sooner than that.

              I am thirteen weeks, now, past my shoulder surgery, and it seems to me I should be making more progress than I am. Still going to rehab two days a week, and doing my exercises, but I think I was better a month ago. I had taken the cover off my table and was making just twenty or thirty strokes at a time. I went to the pool room once or twice and tried to play a little, and had to call it off. They tell me my range of motion is very good and my strength is pretty good, but it's still painful. And lately when I pick up the cue it feels heavy as hell. I had to have the surgery, as the shoulder was very painful, but I wish I were sure it would get better before long. Maybe if I were younger . . .

              Bought those little dryer sheets today, for my laundry. Blooming Jasmine is the fragrance. My snuggies are gonna smell lovely. One never knows.
              If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


              • #37
                Billy Jack and Marvin

                Four days now since I posted in my journal, and that's long enough. We have good pool room stories coming in now, from people who know. I am not likely to tell any pool stories, but now and then I can bring up something from somewhere else.

                Bowling lanes had to be resurfaced periodically – depending on the level of play in the house. A year to two years was the most common interval. And after resurfacing, the local ABC secretary came around to pass judgment on the job. In 1967, the American Bowling Congress ran the game, and with an iron hand. Today's lanes have a synthetic surface of some kind;an overlay with a photograph of a wooden lane surface built in. Pretty sure they never sand it.

                Resurfacing crews roamed the country like gypsies. With a little trailer full of their gear, they came to the front door at closing time and went to work. At a house of eighteen lanes, or even a few more, the two-man team came in and stayed until they were done; generally two days and a night, sometimes a night and a day longer. The proprietor was anxious to reopen his doors, and always looking over their shoulders. Down time is money.

                A bowling lane is sanded with a belt sander. It covers the whole forty-two inches and travels with a wheel in each gutter, sanding across the boards. It goes down the lane and reverses itself and sands its way back to the foul line. Usually one such pass was enough, but not always. The sanding belt sanded under a milled plate designed to dish the lane, perhaps three thousandths of an inch. You must not be able to slide a dime under a level, at any point. That would be 'way out of compliance.

                I was running a little twelve-lane house in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and at resurfacing time I always contacted Billy Jack McGuffin and his partner, who might have been named Marvin. This was around fifty years ago. The sawdust they created was explosive, containing a mix of the lane finish, the wood below and the oil, which was applied daily. The city forbid me to put the sawdust into their trucks, and I always had to go down to the end of the parking lot and dig a big hole to bury it. The machines inhaled it as they went, and the bags had to be emptied.

                I recall sitting at a table in the concourse with a beer in my hand, watching Marvin sand the approaches, which did not have to meet the same specs as the lanes. He had a regular floor sander, with a belt around his waist and a silken bag collecting the sawdust. I was looking right at him when his sander hit something and made a spark and then sucked the spark into the bag. There was a big light and a loud whoosh and a great round ball of fire, five or six feet wide, that jiggled like jello. The sawdust bag disappeared forever, Marvin was burned and the fireball floated up to the ceiling, where it blackened a large area and set off several sprinkler heads. It was all over in three or four seconds.

                Marvin jumped for his fire extinguisher, which was never more than eight feet from where he was sanding, but the fire was out. The sprinklers shut off and Billy Jack went to the trailer and brought back some sort of grease to rub on Marvin's burns. They had a replacement for the sawdust bag and they returned to work and finished up ten or twelve hours later, and packed the trailer. I wrote the check and Billy Jack put it in his shirt pocket. Marvin glowed a bright pink, shiny from the grease, but I doubt they went for medical treatment. Instead, they checked into a motel and slept. Another resurfacing gig was waiting, up in Tennessee. They laughed and joked and insulted one another the whole time they worked. They rarely conferred. Both knew what to do. Such lane resurfacing work must be about gone by now, and the same for Billy Jack and Marvin. A very specialized team, indeed.
                Last edited by vapros; 01-15-2017, 04:10 AM.
                If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                • #38

                  For my duty assignment for the last year of my enlistment, having finished a year of special training, I was given a choice of two locations in the state of New York. I could go to Montauk Point, out on the tip of Long Island, or to Lockport, near Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. The president told me I was to keep the Russians out, and I did exactly that. They never showed up, which may or may not have been due to my presence there. We'll never know for sure.

                  It was an easy choice for me. Allie Brandt lived in Lockport. Every bowler knew of Allie Brandt, who had set a record for a three game series one night shortly before 1940. His games were 297, 289 and 300, for an 886 total. I went to Lockport, hoping I might get to meet him. Even better, after a few weeks of action there in Lockport, he recruited me for his team and I went to Buffalo with him three nights a week for the entire season. He also owned a small poolroom, where I played or occasionally worked the counter for him. I often wonder what I might have found on Montauk Point.

                  Lockport was an interesting town on the old Erie Canal. (Burl Ives, 'We were forty miles from Albany, forget it I never shall. What a terrible storm we had that night, on the Eer-i-ee Canal.') I remember a huge intersection, paved a hundred years or more ago, with a million wooden blocks, stood on end, and covered many times since with tar. Being from Louisiana – a long way from Louisiana – I was fascinated that all the softball fields were down below street level, and were flooded in the winter for skating. One can ice-skate only when it is too cold to go outside, as I saw it. And the girls skated in very short skirts. Go figure.

                  I was discharged in February of 1955, but with bowling competition and road trips scheduled all the way to June, I had to find a way to make a little money in the interim. The snack bar in the local bowling alley was operated by a guy named Joe Pusateri, and Joe offered to sell it to me. Sounded good, so I gave him about $400, as I recall, for the inventory, and Joe walked out and I walked in. I ran it for the needed period, and patched in a bit of help to work the counter on bowling nights and tournament travels. Not such a bad gig. I kept no records, and at closing time every night I prepared the change bank for the following day and put anything left over (never very much) in my pocket.

                  So, in the first week of June, a couple of guys from the city came in and wandered around my place, saying 'aaah' and 'hmmm' now and then. They pointed out that all the permits had expired a couple of years earlier. Not my fault, I explained. They were already expired when I got here. See Mr. Pusateri about that. Dirty looks. Then they wanted a look at my books, to see how much sales tax I had already failed to remit. I told them my books were not there at the snack bar. That was true. Well, said the two guys from the city, we will come back on Monday to see the books and calculate what you owe us, including interest and penalties. They said I should bring money.

                  The same afternoon, I called Al Frisbee, knowing he wanted to buy the little snack bar, and we worked out a price. About $400 for the inventory, as I recall, the same as I had paid Joe Pusateri. I walked out and Al walked in. I went to my rented room and packed my duffel bag, and caught a flight to Cuba the next day and never looked back. Al's first Monday on the job might have been pretty exciting. Maybe a week later, playing golf in Cuba, I discovered that all the keys to the business were still in my pocket. I guess I could have mailed them back, but I couldn't see much point, so I just chunked them into a water hazard. Life seemed so much simpler in 1955.
                  If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                  • #39
                    The Stake Horses

                    Since the twenty-first century began, there has been a positive change in pool. It's not a major change, to be sure, but a change. A group of championship-level players have succeeded in making a living playing pool. In some other countries, top players are earning a comfortable living, or even better than just comfortable in some cases. Here in the United States, how many? I'm talking about money from tournaments, sponsorships, appearances, and endorsements. I am in no position to guess, but it cannot be very many.

                    Hustling is about over. The internet has assured that if you are a player, they will know you almost anywhere you go. Harder than ever to sneak up on anyone. The world described by Alfie Taylor in his book 'The Other Side of the Road' is now folklore. Most of the players who lived that life have become old men, and when they die, many old hustlers must be subsidized in their final event.

                    When did the stake horses appear, and to what extent do they finance today's players? Pool is unique in the matter of playing for other people's money. I am fascinated by those gamblers who front expenses, travel and entry fees for players, and who lay odds of two to one on supposed even matches by splitting winnings with the player. Tournaments with very little in the prize funds attract players and stake horses, only because other players and other stake horses will be there. And money.

                    The Derby City Classic, just getting under way, offers good money, by pool standards – nothing like the golfers and tennis players see every week – but good for pool events. Even so, many good players will sabotage their chances in tournament matches for a chance to stay up late and play for stake horse money. Let's note that in that venue will be some players carrying large amounts of their own cash with which to gamble, but that's a topic for another day.

                    So who are these deep-pocket financiers of the pool rooms, who might offer to bet they can cover a table with C notes? A love of action is not so hard to understand, and we hear of gambling men who carry enough money to buy the biggest Mack Truck, but is it correct to call these guys gamblers? They are spenders, indulging their own hobbies and habits, being part of the action in a game they don't play and can't win. Correct me if I am wrong here, but surely none can show a profit at the end of the year. The unknown is how much they will lose, but it's known that they will love it. Some will lose it all, some never seem to run out.

                    Now, here is a sobering thought – are they, in fact, the present game of pool itself? What would happen if they all disappeared, taking their money with them? How many players, traveling tournament regulars, could continue without them? The golfers have the PGA tour, and the pool players have the stake horses, from whom many of the blessings flow, in the long run.

                    Anyway, today there are some players making it in pool. That has to be a good sign.
                    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                    • #40
                      Tincup goes off

                      It was an hour until closing time on a slow Saturday night at Tincup Billiards. Which is to say it was 1:00 on Sunday morning. Misty was counting out her bank and closing her register. Tincup, himself, had a rack of balls on table eight and was practicing bank shots when the two kids came in the front door. One of them had a cue case. At the counter, they got their own rack and paid Misty for the one hour she allowed them. This screwed up her counting and checkout and she had to start over.

                      Tincup, looking only out of the corner of his eye with his head turned away, could see that one of the strangers could play just a little bit, and the other one not at all. He made a move and then made a game with the one named Marvin, but Marvin said “I seen you hitting them pretty good down there. I cain't play you even. I got to have at least the seven ball.” Tincup squealed like a pig, which is why his name is Tincup, but he figured that the seven ball would not help Marvin very much, so they played twenty dollar nine ball with the seven.

                      The other one said his name was Lee, and he bought a beer and sat at the counter, looking down the front of Mistly's shirt while she counted change. No big deal – everyone was encouraged to look down the front of her shirt, and she had a couple of items in there that were worth seeing. Tits for tips, said Misty, who had worked a few counters before. The game went on behind them, and by closing time Tincup was down five games and squealing again, and demanding that Marvin give up the seven ball. “Cain't do it,” said Marvin.” We'll just call it off until next time. We got to drive back to Houston.” Tincup could see he had a bad bet, but at least he was gambling, and that was something, so the game continued.

                      At 2:00 am Misty locked up and took her tits and went home, or somewhere, leaving Lee inside with the rest of us. Tincup Billiards was closed, but Tincup's nose was open. By 3:30 he was within a couple of games of being even, but by 6:00 the sun was coming up and he was stuck thirteen bets and sliding. His misery was fast approaching $400. “Two more games,” he said, “and I'm out. My clean-up guy will be in, and you two thieves can go back to Houston and I can go home, like I should have done a long time ago.”

                      Marvin gave Lee twenty dollars and told him to drive down to the Winn Dixie and get some toaster waffles and butter and syrup. “I'm buying this morning, big winner.” Tincup glared at him. “And get a Sunday paper, too. I've got a pocket full of lottery tickets and this might be my lucky day.” Lee let himself out and drove away. Tincup and Marvin each won one of the last two games.

                      Lee wasn't gone very long, and we loaded up Tincup's two four-slice toasters and pigged out on toaster waffles with butter and syrup. The winning lottery numbers for the Saturday night drawing were featured on page one of the Morning Advocate in big red letters, and Marvin had all his tickets spread out on the counter as he searched for lucky numbers.

                      Finally, Tincup said, “Well, did you bust the lottery, too, or just me?”

                      “Naw”, said Marvin, “not quite, but I did hit five out of six on one ticket. Does that pay anything?” Tincup scowled at him and said, “Lemme see that ticket!”
                      If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                      • #41
                        Tincup's premature congratulation

                        Tincup grabbed the golden ticket from Marvin's hand and consulted the front page of the Morning Advocate. “Five out of six,” he announced, “that's fifteen hundred dollars right there, and you're luckier than a shit house mouse.” He gave it back.

                        “I knew good things were gonna happen to me at Tincup Billiards, and sure enough they did. Where do I go to get my money? I'll smile all the way back to Houston.”

                        “Nobody will cash that for you today. Too big. It has to be verified or certified or something like that. You'll have to wait 'til Monday.”

                        Marvin frowned and looked at Lee, and then at Tincup. “Man, I can't stay here until Monday. If I don't show up for work Monday morning I will lose my job. How about if you buy the ticket from me, and you can cash it Monday? You ain't got nothing better to do.”

                        Tincup was trying to keep a straight face. “Sure, I'll do that for you. I'll give you eleven hundred for the ticket and you can be on the job bright and early Monday morning.”

                        “No,” squawked Lee. “Don't give up your cheese, man. Don't let this ugly old man rob you of your ticket!”

                        Now Tincup looked at me. “Mr. Bill, you wanta buy this ticket off Marvin? He's gotta go to work Monday.” He knew I couldn't raise eleven hundred dollars if I cried my eyes out.

                        So Marvin and Lee went down to the end of the counter and pow-wowed. They were arguing about the ticket. Lee threw up his hands and turned away, and Marvin came back to Tincup, who had the money fanned out in his hand. “Well, gimme the eleven hundred, you chinchy old bastard. I got to get on the road. I wish I hadn't bought you them toaster waffles.”

                        The deal was made and I walked the pair to the door and let them out. Tincup put the ticket in his shirt pocket and did a clumsy little dance step by table six. “They's always another way,” he said through a big grin. “If that pair comes back, they better have a gun. I'll skin 'em again!” He was forty bucks ahead for the night, plus at least six toaster waffles with butter and maple syrup.

                        About this time, the. cleanup man came to the front door and let himself in. His name was Tony, and he was no spring chicken. He had been the cleanup man in more than a few rooms around the country, where he might have been known by other names.

                        “I seen a car pullin' out. Did you play pool all night? Who was them two, anyway?”

                        “Couple of children from Houston,” said Tincup. “I had to give up the seven ball just to get a game.”

                        “Did you go off again, Cup? Yer getting' famous, you are, and they are comin' from all over to play you. Them guys was headed east, and their tag said Alabama. How much did you lose?”

                        So Tincup recounted the night for Tony, and added, “I went off on the table, but I got well on the lottery.” He explained how he had made the visitors pay for his action, and waved the fifteen-hundred dollar ticket at him.

                        Tony look at Tincup, and then he looked at me, and then he heaved a great sigh and walked over to table eight, where the game had been. He reached into the rack and picked up the black eight ball. He held it up at arm's length and peered at it for several seconds. Then he wiggled his eyebrows and made some hocus-pocus signs with his free hand and put the ball back on the table.

                        “Cup, that eight ball just told me that in your shirt pocket you got a ticket for the lottery drawing this Wednesday, with some numbers that would have been good today.” He looked at Tincup for a response.

                        Tincup kept us waiting for maybe five seconds, and then he took the ticket from his pocket and examined it. He put it back in his pocket, without giving us any hint as to what he had seen. He took a paper napkin from the dispenser on the counter and blew his nose on it, and dropped it gently into the garbage can. He walked to table eight and picked up the offending eight ball and weighed it in his hand. Then he replaced it and took the orange five and tossed it once or twice. This is all in slow motion. Then Tincup jumped into the air and reversed his feet and whirled around like a pitcher going to first base, and fired the five ball across the counter. It went through the drywall like an artillery shell, taking the autographed picture of Buddy Hall with it. In the kitchen it struck with great velocity and set off a loud crash that seemed to go on for a long time. That would be the cups and saucers on the shelf over the sink.

                        He looked at us, as if for some approval. Then he selected a striped ball – it looked like maybe the fifteen – and hurled it at the bathroom door. It shattered the frosted glass panel on the door and made a similar crashing sound inside the room that also seemed to continue for a time. That would be the mirror over the lavatory.

                        All the activity made Tincup appear somewhat disheveled so he unbuckled his belt and lowered the zipper and tucked his shirttail in neatly and closed the fly and buckled up. As if Tony and I were not there, he checked his watch and strolled toward the door. He went about ten feet and then turned and came back and took the ticket from his pocket and gave it to Tony, and continued out the front door, locking it carefully behind him. He still had not said a word. We could see his car crossing the lot slowly as he headed for home.

                        I felt like I had been holding my breath for a long time, and I let it out. “Shit, man,” I said to Tony, who was already gathering up the ashtrays, “I'm glad that's over!”

                        “Well, it ain't quite over yet, Mr. Bill. It will be over when Tincup comes in on Thursday morning and I tell him I win five hundred on that ticket in the Wednesday drawing. That's when it will be over.”
                        Last edited by vapros; 01-26-2017, 02:10 AM.
                        If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                        • #42
                          Harry strikes out

                          Harry Ashcraft was our anchor man, back in 1956; that is, our fifth place bowler. Harry was an engineer. He had a solid game, a sharp haircut, a good job and a new blue Chevrolet with maybe six hundred miles on the clock. He liked for things to go as they were supposed to, and could be a bit peevish when they didn't. In bowling, sometimes they don't.

                          Morgan Stewart was not at all like Harry. His bowling game was somewhat less than great, but Morgan didn't really care. His hair generally needed trimming, he was blue-collar in his employment and he drove an old Packard that weighed only a bit less than the Senate office building. The rear bumper on the Packard was long gone, and Morgan had replaced it with a hefty length of angle iron. He loved it when things were not going as they were supposed to for Harry, and was not above poking at the sore places now and then.

                          One Thursday evening, when the league matches were over, which puts the time at a bit more than eleven pm, Morgan fired up the Packard and left the lot. Harry, who was a bit more than peeved at Morgan that night, due to some minor discourteous incidents, fell in right behind him, in his blue Chevrolet, and proceeded to tailgate him around north Baton Rouge. When the car behind you is so close that you can't see his headlights at the stop signs, it is very irritating, and Morgan got pretty irritated before long. He even made a few extra turns on his route, just to be sure.

                          He turned the Packard back onto North Foster Drive and headed for the big intersection at Florida Boulevard. The light was red, the traffic was very thin, and the tailgater was still snugged up close behind him. Whether he knew it was Harry back there or not was a popular topic of conversation around the Baton Rouge Bowling Center for some time. Anyway, when the light turned green, Morgan shifted into reverse and put the pedal to the metal, as they say, and caved in the front of the Chevrolet like you would not believe. Harry bailed out and went to waving his arms and screaming. Morgan left the Packard and walked around to see the damage, and claimed to be absolutely amazed to discover it was his friend Harry back there.

                          As you might expect, the commotion attracted a policeman in a patrol car. He parked so as to block traffic and turned on the flashing lights and approached the two bowlers. Harry got in the cop's face immediately.

                          “I'm stopped for the light, minding my own business,” hollered Harry, “and when the light turned green, this idiot shifted into reverse and rammed my new Chevrolet!” The cop turned to look at Morgan and Morgan rolled his eyes toward Harry.

                          “That's the worst story I ever heard in my life,” said the cop, and he wrote Harry a pretty long traffic ticket.
                          If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                          • #43
                            How Pig Head got his name

                            This story is about a guy named Pig Head, and the exciting event I will describe to you happened about sixty years ago, a couple of years before I heard the story. I never knew Pig Head, and never knew his last name, but I saw him a few times at the bowling lanes. He had a sizeable dent in his forehead that seemed to be permanent.

                            In north Baton Rouge, there was an unbroken row of chemical plants that stretched from downtown to the Old Bridge. They were bordered on the west by the river (Mississippi, of course) and on the east by Scenic Highway. Pig Head, whose name was Leo in those days, and his friend Jarvis worked at the Ethyl plant, which was right next to the Esso plant. This was pre-Exxon. Every evening, on their way home, they passed the Devil's Swamp area, which they knew well as a prime place to hunt squirrels. There were wild hogs in there, too – clever and dangerous beasts that intimidated hunters. For some time they had pondered on a good plan to catch one, allowing them to bring home the bacon, so to speak.

                            So, one weekend Leo and Jarvis took axes and shovels and machetes and went into Devil's Swamp. Nobody had chain saws in 1957, as far as I can recall. Anyway, by Sunday afternoon that had built a small corral that they figured was stout enough to hold a hog, at least for a day or two. There was an opening of about two feet in their wall, and a spring-loaded gate with a trip wire to be sure the hog didn't get away. They baited their trap with a bunch of their household table scraps and other inedibles which figured to attract any respectable hog in the swamp, and they went home, dirty, weary and with high hopes.

                            Monday evening on their way home, Jarvis wondered aloud whether they should stop at Devil's Swamp to check their trap, but Leo vetoed that, saying it was too soon and anyway they had no weapon to kill the hog even if they had caught one. But, of course they went anyhow, and sure enough there was a small hog in the corral, and the hog was busy rooting at a weak spot in the wall, planning to exit and beat it. It was obvious that they must take the pig now or lose it, but how? Time was getting short; it got dark early in Devil's Swamp, so they made a plan to bushwhack the porker. They scouted around in the woods and found sizeable clubs for each of them, hefty enough to deal a lethal blow.

                            The plan called for Leo to enter the corral through the spring-loaded gate with his weapon, and to disable the gate, leaving the gap open for the pig's use as it fled the blows from the wooden stick. Jarvis took a stance, not unlike Mickey Mantle's, right outside the gate, ready to peelay the fleeing hog. As you might have guessed, things inside the trap did not go as planned, and in the gathering dusk it was Leo who was forced to dive through the opening in the wall, not the hog. Jarvis nailed his friend just above the eyebrows and caved in the front of his skull. Leo survived, but just barely, and he wore the dent in his forehead and the name Pig Head, as of the last time I saw him. The guy who told me the story was unable to say what had become of the hog, who was, after all, responsible for the whole thing. Life is like that.
                            Last edited by vapros; 01-31-2017, 02:00 PM.
                            If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                            • #44
                              Tincup makes a bet

                              I probably posted this several years ago on this site, but it's a favorite of mine.

                              * * * * * * *

                              Darlene and Sheila were playing eight ball on table five, and playing it very poorly, as neither could play it any better. There were several sweaters seated nearby, only to watch Darlene move around the table. She was long-legged and well prepared for any wet tee shirt contest that might spring up. Tonight she wore denim short shorts that fit her is if she had grown up in them, stretched tight in every dimension. The assembled viewers wondered silently how she could possibly take them off and put them back on, but none of them would ever know. Sheila was what the merchants might call plus size, or even a bit more. She was not a contender; maybe an also-ran, at best. Darlene was her decoy.

                              When he could stand it no longer, Willy went to the counter and got a shop towel from Misty and returned to table five. As Darlene bent far over, stretching to reach the shot, Willy ran up behind her and tore the shop towel in half, making a loud ripping sound. Darlene went straight up like a bottle rocket, throwing the cue into the air, but she joined in the general mirth that followed. It was a normal Tuesday evening at Tincup Billiards.

                              The big snooker table by the door had a golf game going on; a game that threatened to become a riot at any moment. Also normal. The always obnoxious Rolly Rivet bullied the others, and seemed to be hoping for an excuse to push someone. He was big and loud, but he knew Tincup would ban him from the joint if he pushed people, so he didn't.

                              Tincup, himself, was playing nine ball with Tyler on table eight. Tyler needed the last four, but Tincup would give him only the call eight, and was collecting something after nearly every game. They argued baseball as they played, with constant insults and scornful comments about the other's favorite team. 'Cup loved the Yankees, Tyler was a Cardinals fan. A dozen cries of 'I'll bet you a hundred dollars' were offered and ignored.

                              Cup finally threw up his hands. “Yer a wussy, Tyler, and you don't want to gamble. You wouldn't take two to one that two big dogs could whup a little dog. Don't talk to me about bettin' a hundred dollars!”

                              “Tell you what, Cup, we'll see who won't gamble. I could offer a bet you can't lose, and you wouldn't take it.”

                              “Aw, I don't want yer money, Tyler,” said Tincup, who had been taking Tyler's money for the past two hours. “Don't offer anything stupid. It's your shot.”

                              “That's about what I figured, and if I make this bank, you'll prolly cry when you give me my ten dollars.” He missed the bank and lost again.

                              Another game passed, and Cup asked, very casually, “What were you gonna offer me?”

                              “Forget it,” said Tyler. “It was gambling, so it wasn't for such as you.”

                              “Yeah, but just out of curiosity, what was the proposition?”

                              “Well, I was gonna bet a hundred dollars that for the next fifteen games, I would add up all the Cardinals' runs, and you could multiply the Yankees' runs and try to keep up. I saved my hundred dollars by you not having the heart to take the bet.”

                              “Multiply, you say!?”

                              “Yep, that's it. Keep up a running total, multiply by the number of runs they make every day, and see who would have the most after fifteen games. Thank you for being a wussy.”

                              Tincup mentally projected the calculation through even four average games and the light suddenly hit him in his mind's eye. “It's a good thing you were only bumping your gums about that, 'cause I'd have been on that like a duck on a junebug.”

                              “Well then, you can still get it, unless you are feeling sort of faint.”

                              So the bet was made, and each gave Misty a C note to hold. Within fifteen minutes, Darlene knew about the bet, and Sheila and the entire bunch at the snooker table. Tyler won the next three games from Tincup, who was trying not to grin, and then headed for the door. Before he could get out, Rolly Rivet buttonholed him. “I don't guess you got another hundred to bet on that, do you?”

                              “Why not?” said Tyler, and Misty found herself holding two hundred more.
                              If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                              • #45
                                Math class at Tincup U

                                Well, in the weekend games the Cardinals scored four, four and six runs, for a total of fourteen. In the Yankees' three games they made two runs and then six runs in each of the next two. When the multiplication was done, that came to seventy-two. Neither team had a Monday game, and when Tyler came in on Tuesday, Tincup had prepared a scoreboard on a large sheet of poster stock from Home Depot, and had it tacked up on the wall at Tincup Billiards. Cup and Rollie Rivet were both on hand to welcome Tyler.

                                Tincup said, “Well, Tyler, it ain't looking so good for your dog-ass Cardinals, is it?”

                                “So far,” responded Tyler, “the news is lousy. I should have known better than to put my foot in my mouth. The old lady and my two little girls might not eat much this month.”

                                “Aw, don't worry about them,” said Rollie. “Me and Tincup will make up a care package for your family. For two hundred bucks we can feed 'em pretty good. If old Tincup ain't screwed up the arithmetic, we're ahead by seventy-two to fourteen. We're gonna muttiply you right into the poorhouse. But just to show you my heart's in the right place, I'll take ninety-nine dollars right this minute. You can save a dollar. How about it?”

                                “I'll think about that. A dollar might come in handy.”

                                The Yankees played at home Tuesday night and erupted for nine runs. With a straight face, Tincup consulted his cell phone and updated the big board and showed 6498 in their column. Rollie Rivet amended his offer, and now offered Tyler a buyout for ninety-nine seventy-five. From the west coast came the news that the Padres had shut out the Cardinals by 4-0, and Rollie roared with laughter, a blast that filled the joint with a combination of garlic, Schlitz beer and cigar. “Cup, don't forget to add on that zero for the Cardinals. What's their score now? Still fourteen, you say – are you sure about that?” Tyler suffered and all the others smirked and wagged their heads.

                                When the Wednesday and Thursday games had been reported and recorded on the scoreboard, the Yankees column had reached 97,470. Tyler failed to show up at the joint either day. Then, on Friday the Indians blanked them, 2-0. Tincup posted the zero in their column, drew the line and repeated the huge total. The Cardinals total had reached twenty-one. As if by magic, Tyler came through the door on Saturday, and went to inspect Cup's math.

                                “Cup, what happened to the Yankees last night?”

                                “Well, Buddy, my boys hit a stump last night, and your Cardinals did a bit of catching up, but we still got a little lead on you. If you're here to negotiate with me and Rollie, we might consider an offer, but it will have to be pretty good. This here ain't no welfare office, you know.”

                                “Tincup, I just checked your poster, and I see that you neglected to do your multiplication today.” Tyler walked over the to the scoreboard and took the marker and crossed out the huge figure and replaced it with a big round zero.

                                “Wait just a minute, there! You can't muttiply by no zero,” Rollie howled. “What the hell are you trying to do, anyway?”

                                “Lemme tell you something, baby boy,” said Tyler. “Multiplying by zero is the easiest multiplying you can do, because the answer is always zero, like I just wrote down over there. You must'a slept through the third grade.”

                                Tincup was struck dumb, and he stared at the board with his jaw hanging open. He turned and appealed to Sidney, who figured to know about such things. Sidney spread his hands and indicated that Tyler was correct. Tyler went to the counter and asked Misty to give him the four hundred dollar stake she was holding, but Rollie was having none of that and hollered that Misty should hold on to the money.

                                “Take it easy, Rollie, and don't get excited,” said Cup. “This is only for the first six games. We can start over tomorrow and run the score up again. Tyler thinks he is putting something over on us with his gimmick bet, but he's messing with the wrong people. Just wait.”

                                Tyler looked at both of them and said, “No, you can't start over, either. According to the bet, you multiply today's score by the running total, and carry the new total over. The running total is now zero and it's gonna stay zero. If your Yankees make twenty-seven runs tomorrow, when you multiply that by zero, the answer is gonna be another zero. Get used to it.”

                                Tincup could see the light. He knew Sidney was right and Tyler had beaten him. Rollie was another matter, however. He was screaming like a stuck pig. “You're trying to cheat us, Tyler, with a crooked bet. You set us up. You're stealing from your best friends, and if you take that money nobody will ever speak to you again. Shame on you!”

                                “It never was a crooked bet, Rollie. I was betting on a shutout – just one shutout. If they scored every day, you and Cup would win by ten million, and don't try to tell me you wouldn't have taken my money. You both took the bet thinking you were stealing, and you're getting what you deserve. I will damn' sure get the cash from Misty, and if you two are my best friends I just might go and jump into the river instead of going home. Have a nice day.” He went to the counter and no one objected when Misty began feeling around in her bosom. “Lemme help you with that,” said Tyler. “No, I got it,” she said and gave him the four C notes. He gave her a twenty from his pocket, and gave the crowd a little two-finger salute as he left.

                                “I can't say nothing,” said Tincup. “I sure figured I was stealing. But at least I showed him I got some gamble, didn't I?”

                                “Oh, hell yeah,” said Rollie Rivet. “You're a gambling motor scooter, you are. And I must be brain dead to think you had something I wanted in on. I was all set to help you rob poor ol' Tyler.”

                                Misty waved the twenty Tyler had given her. “Maybe you Einsteins learned something today at Tincup University. Come on, I'm buying milk and cookies for all the freshmen.”
                                If it ain't funny, it ain't much.