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Side A - Song 6

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6) 8 Ball

& I don’t know shit about reputations, but I never lie to Mary-Beth-honest until I absolutely have to. Decide I need another reputation in order to hide this one. Some way to make my new nickname elsewise explainable. She hasn’t heard it yet & I need her to hear it from Mario first like he just made it up. I need her standing there with us when it happens...
The patrons of the Salty Dog are terrible at shooting pool so I suggest we have an 8-ball tournament, but fail to tell them I’m a 9-ball shark, say, “Gorilla, why not? This bar’s dead on Monday nights.”
There’s never been an 8-ball tournament in Belize before. The entire neighborhood comes & we have drink specials, thunderous music & Rosa-the-Spanish has boiled up some vegetables for hors d’houvres. Everybody wears shoes like we’re back in colonial days when this city’s canals were pure enough for drinking & the only pool tables belonged to the British. Everyone keeps saying, “This is just like The States.”
Each Belizean has a personal nickname for every other Belizean they know. But this event is a formal affair so all the men sign up using their actual Christian names, creating this weird registration board showing all these players nobody knows.
“Who in the fuck is Gerald Panting?” Gorilla hollers through the bottom of his beer glass. “& who in the fuck is Michael Henderson? Who in the fuck is William Faber? Who in the fuck are all these people?”
I tell him, “Gerald Panting is Hap. You know Hap...wears a beret...rides that rusty blue bike.”
“Oh,” he says, “Sadsack...lives with him aunt over in Yarborough Square.”
“Yeah, that’s him. & you know William Faber – ‘Big Buffalo’ – hangs around with Dr. Corn.”
“Who in the fuck is Dr. Corn?”
“I don’t really know much about him, Mr. Burns, but I’m willing to bet he’s shitty at pool.”
& he is.
They all are.
Except for Big Buffalo & Spy, the only two Belizeans I’ve ever met who know anything at all about 8-ball & in order to win, I have to beat them both. So, for the championship round, I add some extra rules to make them both nervous, & use every pool-shooting trick I learned from this hustler, Fat Eddie, in Williston, N.D. I play better than I’ll ever play again, beating Big Buffalo 3 games to 1 & Spy 3 games straight, winning myself 100 bucks & a pool-slayer reputation for my new wild name, ‘cuz when the last 8-ball sinks, Mario cries out, as though he & I haven’t planned this all out, as though we are surprised I won the championship, as though we didn’t plant Mary Beth right beside him, as though he’s just thought of a great new name for me, “Mis-tah Fu-ckah! Johnny-boy, fresh name – ‘Mis-tah Fu-ckah!”
Mary Beth can’t help but smile ‘cuz she’s proud of her, “Mister Fucker,” the pool champ, though she never tells this story to her mother & continues to just call me, “John.”
Mission-barkeep is pissed at me for winning & for getting so popular & fucking dear May-Lee-cinnamon-girly-moustache whom he desperately wants to screw but she’d rather vomit than touch him like that. I’m laughing at Mission ‘cuz this is what pirates do to losers when we win. I’m laughing my ass off until over my shoulder I hear Snitch saying, “Listen here, Mistah Fuckah. Give over one flask of Durly Rum, yes-I.”
The mirror shows a crowd of my new Belizean friends merrily gathering behind dear Snitch, all these empty glasses, all these big fat grins. This makes Mission’s copper tooth flash in neon beer-sign light off of his newfound smirk.

credits

from DON'T KNOW SHIT - SIDE A&B, released April 10, 2013
bill bailey
patrick mckinnon
howlin' andy hound
melvin johnson
vincent cadillac

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