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718. NuPlanetOne - 7/9/2006 4:12:55 PM

Chapter 4 Scallops Istanbul and The Big Moon Clock

Being under the gun as we approach the dinner service was routine. Fabiano following me into the walk-in while getting last minute instructions was, in effect, me completing a thought. Throughout the course of the day and day before any service, nightly specials were discussed on the fly, pretty much in unison as we went along according to the daily prep sheet and informal daily meetings. It could seem complicated to an outsider but just based on the advance ordering for any particular week, as well as the daily order for seafood and produce, Fabiano always could figure out where I was going in terms of specials. He knew that morning upon seeing the seafood order that I had bought 4 gallons of Nantucket Bay scallops. My main fish guy, Jimmy, ‘Fishee Man’, as we called him, was a one man independent distributor. He had been in the business for forty years and now pretty much just kept a handful of customers so he could have something to do with himself since he sold his big fish house down in New Bedford. He was like seventy years old and had a million ailments peculiar to the trade, but had a robustness and optimism of spirit that could keep a fox hole of bleeding soldiers from realizing they were oozing entrails; just from the strength of his resolve and unshakable matter-of-factness. If I needed facts about fish, Fishee Man had them. If you needed something out of the ocean, Fishee Man could get it, describe it, and tell you every restaurant and Chef that has bought it or even asked about it recently. I say could, but only if he decided you were his pal, and I was one of his best pals. And during scallop season getting the very best real McCoy’s from the myriad coves and lagoons along Cape Cod and actually out of Nantucket Bay, you needed someone who knew someone. Fishee Man knew everyone. If he said he had Gold Nuggets, my mouth watered. Nantucket Bay scallops were prized, and they deserved to be, and aside from perfectly handled and indigenous muscles, Alaskan King Crab, or Wellfleet oysters, these little balls of flesh were like an aphrodisiac of the deep. They made you horny for seafood. No other way to put it.

“I got’em Fab,” I grunted as I pulled the scallops from a lower shelf in the walk-in.
“You gonna run’em out, or save one for tomorrow?” Fabiano was gently poking the risotto on the opposite side of the walk-in where three sheet tray racks held everything important for quick service pulls. “This is good now.” He said as he eyeballed the rice.
“What, oh, I haven’t seen the reservation list yet, but I’m betting all four gallons gone by 8.”
“Ya, this is ready,” I said as I lightly felt the bottom of one of the sheet pans holding the risotto.
“Why you wear that ring now? You never wear that before?” He gestured at my hand that now hung onto the side of the speed rack that held the trays and held me as I leaned there thinking.
“What? Oh, a good luck charm from my brother.” I looked at the ring and got the twinge of fear mixed with the flash memory of slapping my brother’s face when he was 12. All he did for the smack was cry like a girl because a bully threatened him. He never really forgave me.
“Who Boss? The dead one, yes?” I had three more.
“Oh ya. Loco grande.” I lampooned. He smiled the big dimpled pose as he recalled his own flash images.
“The Grip.” He raised his arm and formed an open hand like he was going to try to take hold of a basketball. On more than one occasion I had seen my brother smother the face of a loan client, and depending on the information that had been offered in terms of repayment, he squeezed in varying vise clenches until the new terms were understood. His hands fit around a human skull like a normal guy holding an orange. He was ‘The Grip.’ At 6’5, he was a mountain, and good speed might keep you out of reach, but if those talons snatched you, the only reason he didn’t snap your neck was because he wasn’t supposed to. I never saw him kill anyone on purpose. No one did.
“Ya. The Grip. Big stupid shit.” I muttered
“Boss, that time he picks up Julio by the head!”
“Ya, poco cabasa.” I grinned and shook my head at the memory.
“No one see his other hand hold him by his belt from behind, ha ha!”
“Bobo. Forget that. Here’s how it’s gonna go.” I gestured him out of the walk-in as Brian my pastry chef pushed in. Bingo. I had an idea. “Get some basmati going.” I said as I held the walk-in door slightly ajar and Fabiano drifted off backwards with the stress face that said he was not having fun. He knew I had assumed command and his comfort zone for the night was in jeopardy. “Oh, and tell Julio to clean 2 extra bags of muscles. Just shuck’em and save all the juice.” Almost a smirk and then he spun around the corner. But the head came back around.
“Boss, psssst…she is wearing the tuba.” As he hissed his eyebrows flickered then he rolled his eyeballs in a circle.
“Blue one?” I asked as if I was totally disinterested
“Beee…yankoo!” He sang in an exited drone.
“Bianco.” I said interested.
“Bianco,” he said with a head gesture to follow him.
“No. And that’s tube. Tube top. Now get hopping. We gotta move.”
“Signore Boss. Silver dollars for everyone to see.” I knew he just wanted to get me to abdicate and stay behind the scenes. Although the thought of Rosalie running around in the tuba made me think of moonlight and wanton silhouettes. I resisted. No time now for that. But it pulled hard.
“Fab. Focus. Go with the flow. Basmati, muscles.” I went all business on him then turned my head into the walk-in.
“Brian, I need some plain Anglais.” I barked it and he turned and stood with his snob face and smirky stare behind his thick framed, retro Buddy Holly glasses.
“What!” He looked like he was reacting to an imbecile that had made its second request for an explanation after the first one was exhaustive and precise.
“Hello, remember me? Executive Chef. Kept you. Got rid of Annetta. Anglais?” I grinned like an overfed fat man.
“On the left, back, behind those figs. What for? May I be so bold?” Still with the condescension of self absorption.
“Scallops Istanbul. Lobster Anglais. It’s all about to be invented.”

719. NuPlanetOne - 7/9/2006 4:13:28 PM

He had that worried look he gets when he senses I’m about to trounce on his overly sensitive cuisine ethics. Brian is a food purist. Perhaps even an intellectual in a food history sense. And because he won’t ‘trend’ his desserts, as he calls the fusing and stretching of classical recipes, he remains on the outskirts of the downtown scene even though he is more than qualified and abundantly creative enough to land a job in one of those top kitchens. I love his end of the line and even did most of the desserts myself for six months, but trying to do both ends was hurting things in the middle, even if Fabiano loved having me diverted. Now, with Brian firmly in place, Fabiano feels crowded when I just step right back in and commandeer the rectangle on a busy Saturday night.

“Good Lord,” Brian half muttered. “Scallops aren’t necessarily a Turkish staple. They tend to favor muscles. And anchovies seem to be rife across all regions. Hamsi, I believe they are called.” He spit that out like he always does as if at some imaginary audience versed in encyclopedic recall.
“No kidding?” I never heard of Hamsi. “Julio is shucking muscles as we speak. Basmati pilaf is contemplated. I am thinking a minature Kabab vrs a Metze. The little fish don’t fit but eggplant and cumin are on board somewhere.” I waited for the smirk, besides I needed to know if I forgot anything perceptually Turkish.
“I see,” he said with the eyeglass magnified squint and blink of blond eyelashes that always precluded the smirk.
“The kicker, Sir Brian, is the olive oil. God neckta. Just a splash over the steaming scallops before the ride to the table.” I realized I had it worked out as I now saw shrimp on my mini Kababs. Piece of eggplant, poached muscle, baby mushroom, small shrimp, red onion. On the plate, 8 o’clock going clockwise: Pyramid of bay scallops. At noon, round mold of pilaf. Then at 4 o’clock the Kabab lying with one end at six to three o’clock. The Anglaise would flow out from under the pyramid from 9 to 5 o’clock. Figs.
“What are the figs for?” I interrupted Brian’s punctuated smirking by grabbing his Black Mission Figs from in front of the Anglais sauce.
“Take them,” he said somewhat expecting it. “You know the meringues didn’t move,” he added as if the world was all wrong and he was all right.
“Oh, ya. The fig apricot beauty. Hazelnuts. Damn delicious. I loved that thing.” We both knew it was world class.
“If it isn’t chewy and gooey, this crowd is not buying it. Generally speaking,” he deadpanned, but brightened.

He was pleased. I won him over. He knew I knew his talent. As long as he prepared the standard classical desserts he was free to do one he really felt inspired about. Besides, he was pretty much in the restaurant six days a week, which meant he could monitor everything that transpired, and he loved to tell me about any little thing that caught his notice. It was his cross in the face of the ‘vampires’ at the other end of the line, the thugs, he said, that manned the grill and ovens. Grill guys tended to be loud, boisterous, machismo fascinated individuals. And Brian, being somewhat delicate and gay, actually, was adept at using my admiration of his skills and importance as his weapon to neutralize their homophobia. Plus, he was the smartest guy in the room, which could actually help in a physical conflict, at least if you were aware that one were imminent.

720. NuPlanetOne - 7/9/2006 4:14:00 PM

“I hear that. And I know my attention to something actually resembling Turkish cuisine will mean nothing to 80% of our diners tonight. They will read Nantucket Bay Scallops, and that is all they will need. Toss in the words lobster and shrimp and voila, instant hit. It’s the other 20% I have to be careful with. They spend the real money. Alfred will do an exit poll as usual. I say we move 20 extra bottles of the Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc Donna is featuring out there. And it’s fabulous. And they scoff at the mark-up.” Brian just nodded and reemphasized his agreement with some fresh fluttering of his lashes.
“How do you poach a muscle?” He asked. Worried there was a new way.
“Simmer it in something nice, out of shell. I use shrimp stock, lemon grass and garlic as a base. Tonight I add the muscle juice. Then cook it perfectly.” I said as if we were one brain talking in turns. “That way the succulence is guaranteed.”
“Suck who?” He grinned. “Where the figs going, skewer?”
“No. Pilaf molded in a ball. Figs, small dice. Pine nuts. Olive oil, a bit of garlic and cumin for color and a hint of flavor. The ball of rice sitting atop granny smith wedges that have been poached and impregnated in an intense Marsala reduction. And now that I’m thinking about it, grilled marinated asparagus sticking out from under like a house fell on them.” I pictured the extra asparagus I was going to pair with the salmon.
“And the Anglais?” He was holding 2 quarts he had fished out from his main dessert shelf.
“Simple. Double boiler back left corner to loosen it. Swirl in my lobster roe paste, salt and white pepper. I got a ton of baby lobster claws I save for garnish. I heat’em in the swirl and lay a few at the base of the scallop pile.” That was the picture I wanted in my head. “OK, make sure Rosalie is all set with the soufflés. What time you got?”

It is impossible. Futile really, to explain, to try to explain how the feeling takes hold. Something clicks somewhere within your inner ear, an alarm, a wash over of adrenalin, brief terror, a shortness of breath. Suddenly a big clock face sits above your eyes like a magnificent moon over a sparkled glittering sea with huge hands ready to tick off the seconds in a countdown in reverse time. You know that now your actions control the fall of the hands. Each thing you do, each task that you control from that point on keeps the clock from ticking. Any wasted action or distraction allows the clock to tick off one more second. You also know that if you let the big moon clock tick with the real clock instead of keeping at least a half beat behind, real time will take over. And people die in real time. Hardly anyone dies a beat behind. It is anti-time. If the two meet there is annihilation. Manipulating real time is what we all do. I mean, time doesn’t really exist; it’s just a local measurement of an orbit. It has nothing to do with the actual condition of the universe. But it is real time. The obvious acknowledged condition of our universe. The space we warp and inhabit. And the trick to getting things done in real time is to ignore the people or things measuring it. Just you and the big moon clock. And controlled breathing.

“Two minutes to four.” Brian stared at his wrist like he just set the fuse at Hiroshima. His alarm went off. He looked through me and was gone with an armful of artillery.
“Tell Fab the salmon is going over spinach.” I told his back.

He waved his left hand. No more words. I surveyed the walk-in with the eyes of a circling hawk. I would be able to see every inch of it in my mind for the next five hours. I instantly stacked the next half hour’s tasks in my inner cabinets like an efficient shopper putting away groceries. I noticed suddenly it was cold. Real world condition in a walk-in. I noted it and headed out to the dance.

721. Macnas - 7/14/2006 8:55:44 AM

I still like it.

722. alistairconnor - 7/27/2006 3:50:21 PM

That "scallops Istanbul" thing played out much as I surmised. Means I'm getting into the narrator's head, I suspect.

723. Jenerator - 10/11/2006 1:28:41 PM

Webfeet?

724. NuPlanetOne - 12/1/2006 4:50:38 AM

Proof it Existed

Tony stood looking down into the poolroom from the main level of the bowling alley. He was leaning on his arms, hunched slightly forward, with his hands pointing like he was praying in a pew. And he was preying. He was looking for a live one. A possible quick score. Not one of his regular marks, but some new blood. And Tony could spot them. It was better if they had heard of him or had seen him play, especially, if they had seen him win. Because Tony was always careful to never win convincingly. He would appear to win easily, at times, but he always left room for doubt. And that was the key aspect of hustling pool. Never destroy anyone. Leave them with the dignity to accept defeat, that way they held firmly onto the belief that they could win the next time. And there was always a next time. Because Tony would in fact lose sometimes. It was his working overhead. He had to allow losing as a fixed expense. A reinvestment in the business. A calculated loss that would eventually bear dividends. It was hard work and to lose in just the right way was the difficult part, the real skill necessary, because shooting nineball for Tony was like scratching your ass for you and me. He was the best. And everyone from here to Vegas knew it, that is, except the live ones. And the liveliest of all the live ones, were the ones with money. For them, the concept that they could be hustled out of some money, chump change, never entered into it. They lived for the oos and ahhs. They lived for that one crowning moment that might occur when they execute a really spectacular shot, that surreal feeling as they stood chalking their pool cue and surveying the table as if they were the Master of the universe. And Tony always acted dumbfounded. He not only gave them the moment, but he seemed genuinely startled. And if they believed he was sincere, if everyone around them saw the legend graciously acknowledge the accomplishment, well, then it really didn’t matter, in the end, how much money they forked over. They could slap the c-notes onto the felt table top with the expression and smirk of a boxer that had just been stripped of his title by a rigged decision. And although it might have taken four or five hours, Tony looked like the undeserving victor. The bad guy in the whole ordeal. I mean, Tony didn’t make spectacular combinations and reverse English two rail cross corner shots, they would say. No, in fact, it seemed that Tony hardly ever got fancy at all. And that was the other hard, easy part for Tony. He could literally make any shot or combination or trick shot that was conceivable on a pool table. But he had to make it look simple.

725. NuPlanetOne - 12/1/2006 4:51:08 AM

You see, the thing about nineball is there really is a pure element of luck involved. Sometimes in attempting an intended and legitimate shot on the object ball in question, providing you hit the object ball first, a missed shot can actually result in the sinking of some other ball out of sequence, allowing for a second life, as it were. Ultimately, a missed shot could awkwardly go awry and knock in the nine ball, resulting in a sudden win. So this idea, this belief that one might get lucky, built up, in the wanabe’s mind, a real belief in luck. Yet, as Tony knew all too well, luck really contributed a fraction of a fraction to the final outcome. As on the other hand, he encouraged people when they would describe him as ‘being born with a horseshoe up his ass.’ Because for that matter Tony would exhort and apologize and just plain draw attention to the fact that he had just made an obvious lucky shot. Even if he did plan it. The point is they needed proof it existed. So he gave it to them. That way they could tell themselves that not even Tony could stage an incalculable ordering of caroms and careening that deliberately resulted in a desired outcome. But in that spatial globe where Tony saw things as an idiot savant processing the outcome of deflections and combinations and probabilities was, for him, tunnel vision. And aside from the margin of error, this unconscious gift, allowed Tony to recognize the percentages. Couple that with a rote memory of every shot he had ever played or witnessed, and only his ignorance of these unusual powers kept him from maybe being truly diabolical. And the fact is that he really only had this one special gift. That is, aside from an infectious and disarming charm that usually made anyone he chose, well, want to be his friend. And that is why, dear reader, I was only a few feet from Tony as he leaned in and surveyed the fish that night on that iron railing looking into the pond. I needed to be his friend.

726. NuPlanetOne - 12/1/2006 4:51:34 AM

“Tony, isn’t it?” I said staring straight ahead and sliding a half foot closer. I felt only his pupils slowly track the origin of the question.
“Ya, who wants to know?” He said shifting his weight to my side without appearing to move.
“Let’s just say, the friend of a friend who is a big fan,” I said then quickly put my eyes up for contact. He looked into them then straight back at the fish pond.
“And?” Tony moved his fingers from praying to interlocked.
“You see the guy four tables down on the right?” I let my leaning arms gesture minutely in that direction. I knew his eyes found my guy.
“Ya, what about him?” Tony took another look at me then went through the process of fumbling out cigarettes and lighting up, then back to leaning with a butt between his fingers while leaning in exactly the same posture.
“How much is he good for?” I asked like we already got to the point.
“Three, maybe four hundred. If I don’t get bored.” He took a drag and blew a succession of smoke rings that drifted out then down into the poolroom.
“See the guy with him, sitting, holding the coats?” Again I gestured carefully.
“Yup, hard to miss.” Tony said describing the hard edged character of considerable bulk that sat stone faced waiting for orders.
“OK, here’s the deal. I work for the guy holding the coats. The Boss knows the legend. The Boss doesn’t believe in luck. The coat holder makes the Bosses wishes come true. Sometimes people get hurt feelings, or just plain hurt. I make sure you don’t get hurt.”
“Go on,” Tony said as he put his cigarette out in a floor ashtray to his left. Then he pretended he was laughing at something off in the distance and waved. He turned back to leaning. I went on.
“You convince the Boss he won. You get five large.” I tapped five times quietly on the railing. Tony didn’t move for three minutes. Then he tapped ten times and put his hands in his pants pockets.
“He gotta believe it,” I paused and looked him in the eyes. “Beyond any kind of doubt and my end is guaranteed.” Then tapped seven times. Four minutes went by. Tony stepped away, lit another butt, and talked on his cell. He settled back in next to me.
“Go to the snack bar,” he said. “Tell the blonde sitting on a stool nearest the coffee machine you are my uncle John. Give her the dough. She will give you my pool stick.” Tony turned to his left and headed for the restrooms. When I got back I handed him his pool case. His cell rang and he told the blonde what to do.
“OK, sell it,” I said.
“Does the guy holding the coats ever smile?” Tony asked with a serious burrowed brow.
“Not that I’m aware of,” I said as if it were common knowledge.
“What’s his name?”
“Lucky Louis,” I said quietly as Tony started down the stairs into the poolroom.
“Perfect.” Is all he said.

727. Magoseph - 12/3/2006 4:50:57 AM

Nu,

If Proof it Existed doesn't bring Macnas to the Mote, nothing will. Do not wait too long to continue, please. For my husband and me,the suspense is too unbearable to stand at this time in our lives.

728. Macnas - 12/5/2006 12:03:12 PM

Ah now Mago, these days, with things to do and people to avoid, I'm out of sync with the things on my usual orbit.

Nu's writing reminds me, in parts, of Seth Morgan's Homeboy, and it's characters like the Barker, Quick Cicero and the Fat Man.
Nu's writing is, for all that, wholly his own. But I love the way it's as if his character inhabits the same world and knows the same people.

729. NuPlanetOne - 12/8/2006 5:28:54 PM

Thanks Mago & Mac. I was thinking of kinda just ending ‘Proof’ as a short story right there, but I think I’ll go for one or two more scenes. All the while keeping ‘Piccatta’ on a back burner. (Excusing the pun, if you will.) I am surprised at how much I enjoy writing fiction, but it really is, if one were serious, a full time job. At any rate, growing up in a poolroom, cooking in an Italian restaurant and being around the Mob are things I know. The rest I will make up as I go. Wherever that may be. Ciao.

730. NuPlanetOne - 12/23/2006 6:11:15 PM

Tony Chapter 2

Tony hit the bottom stair, turned his head up at me and winked. It was Showtime. He had his pool case under his arm like the longshoreman heading off to the docks with his lunch box. Three steps in and the chatter picked up and followed behind him like the sparkle trail off Tinkerbell. And in his environment, his element, Tony did have an enchanted aura. He was only twenty eight years old but in the fifteen years since he first saw the inside of a poolhall he had personally shook the hand of every wiseguy that was in anyone’s who’s who of infamous thugs, lugs, bosses and assassins. He had crossed them, fleeced them, embarrassed them and even stole a couple of girls. But he did it all on the felt surface of a pool table. He did it in a way and in a venue that was non-business, non-personal and he always did it right. If he had to lose, if there was any chance the dark side could seep in and cross the line, then he would lose in a spectacular way. And later, when the time was right and the bad guy had had his feast and wore out the brag, there would be a rematch and in a close finish Tony would get paid. And that was the legend. A compilation of seemingly convincing defeats followed by a masterful return bout. And hopefully Tony saw this deal in just that light. Lucky Louis did not return things with a receipt looking for a refund. He tended to smash the hell out of an item he had purchased if it didn’t perform according to manufacturers’ expectations as he understood them. Tony needed to perform as expected. Lucky Louis paid cash. No receipt was involved.

Tony’s first stop was by table one. It was Saturday night and that meant old man Pappy was playing Kelly Pool with a few of the old timers and anyone else who had the patience to wait while Pappy waddled around the table giving diatribes and advice to anyone who so much as looked at him. Kelly Pool was an elimination game. Every pool hall rat played or watched it at some point during their days closed off from the real world or from afternoons skipping school. In Kelly there were 15 pills inside a container representing the balls 1-15. Each pill resembled a billiard ball and had a flat face with the pill’s number. You shook out a pill for each player and the highest number broke the rack, then, after putting them all back in and re-shaking, you got your secret pill telling you which ball you needed to pocket in order to win. You sank the balls in numerical order and any incidental balls you buried, stayed buried, providing you made the object ball in sequence. If a guy had that pill, that guy payed up for being buried. Otherwise incidental sinkings were respotted into play and you lost your turn. If you made your secret pill, game over. All the players fork it over for the win. If someone buried you, you try to kill someoneone else on your next turn, because even though you are buried, you are still in. You can’t get everyone’s cash, but you do grab the cash from the pills you eliminate. Twenty bucks a pill, twenty bucks a kill. If you got ten players, that’s three sixty a rack. It can add up. But it’s like roulette. Hard to control that many variables, fun, but not set up for serious hustlers. Not even Tony could control that many contingencies. Even if he could get nine other guys to play with him.

731. NuPlanetOne - 12/23/2006 6:11:59 PM

“Eh, minchone,” Pappy barked at a young kid playing eight ball with two of his friends on table five across the way. “You play the eight in the side, you scratch. You lose!”
The kid frowned and thought about it. Then tried it and watched hopelessly as the cue ball sailed down into the corner pocket.
“Pappy!” Tony chirped as over his left shoulder the kid’s cue ball banged side to side in the pocket then fell in like a golf ball teetering on the edge of the hole.
“Ah, stupido.” Pappy snorted over Tony’s shoulder. He smiled big at Tony and Tony faked two kisses on both sides of his face. It was an inside joke between him and Pappy from when Tony was a kid at Zazee’s Billiard Lounge, the Mecca of pool halls back in the day. Back then Pappy was the man. The Underboss. Guys had to greet him like that. Kiss both cheeks. Hope that Pappy might do this or that thing for them.
“Hey, I used to be that stupid kid ova there,” Tony said as he gripped the old man around the shoulders.
“Bullshit. At that age you was on the tour. I remember when you was fourteen. You ran 167 balls in a 200 pointer. Lefty stood up and ran 200. The next day I had Shaky teach you Three Rail Billiards. Two days later you beat Shaky. Lefty’s guys put up ten large. I covered and you ran 16 three railers in a row. And I know you remember each and every one of those shots like it was yesterday. Switch, you ever play Three Rail?” Pappy looked over at a demure gaunt guy sitting rigid and holding his pool cue with the tips of his fingers as it stood vertical in front of him. Like he was hiding behind it.
“That the one with no holes on the table.” Switch coughed onto the empty chair next to him then sucked a big drag off his cigarette. Smoke seemed to exhale out of every hole in his head.
Pappy ignored him and finished the Three Rail story. He explained that Three Rail was the Mother of all Pool games. Bigger table. No pockets. Three balls. Bigger than normal. Two white cue calls and one red ball. Maroon really. But fuck the color. You know what I mean, he said. It’s all about English and finesse and thinking inside the head. And I don’t mean the fuckin English language. I’m talking about the spin you apply. I mean seeing the cue ball like it had buttons on it. Instructions. Like those computer things that tell a million things what to do. Except the computer is in your head. And this kid had the head. I knew it when I saw him play those fuckin pinball machines back at Zazee’s. I thought he was retarded. And any pool player, no matter how fuckin good they was, especially if they were just shot makers, shied away from Three Rail. They had no holes to hunt. Sure, they could play position and line up shots in their heads and maybe never miss in pocket pool. But in Three Rail, the world ain’t flat, my friends. We are talking astrogily, what’s that greaseball’s name, Galaleyo, Galupo, what ever. You had to see the planets moving. Things goin through curves and circling around shit. Taking screwy turns and goin opposite ways. Ways you don’t expect. You had to push your white ball into one of those other two balls, then make your ball hit three rails and then hit that third ball you didn’t hit the first time. Or you could hit three rails first then hit the other two balls. Boat ways, it all had to add up in one big dance around the table to hit one ball, three rails, then hit the other ball. Fuck the order. And this kid, at fourteen, did it sixteen times in a row. With ten large on the table.

732. NuPlanetOne - 12/23/2006 6:12:34 PM

“You understand physics, Switch?” Pappy asked as he finished his rant.
“What, physical? Like at the Doc’s?” Switch said and looked around the pool cue as if he just come into view. He waved at the smoke around his head as if he was looking hopefully into a burning toaster to see if the toast could be saved.
“Ya, physical,” Pappy snorted. “Keep suckin on those fuckin things. You won’t need a physical. Just an autopsy.” Switch hid behind the stick again.
“So what’s the game, Pap?” Tony asked as he eyeballed Switch and made sure Switch wasn’t getting pissed. Switch was Pappy’s bodyguard. Nothing Pappy said ever pissed him off. But it wasn’t safe if you were anybody else and you pissed him off. His real name was Angelo Anzoni. He got the nickname Switch on account of his weapon of choice was a personally fashioned switchblade knife that was honed almost to a razor sharp ice pick. According to who you talk to, his method of taking care of business was a thrust into the back of the neck, or a clean slice across the throat. They say he was in that business. The back of the neck meant you had already had a face to face, and the slice meant you deserved a hug, from behind, and a final word in your ear. Tony shrugged as if to say, “What can you do?” and threw a sincere glance of respect and rolled his eyes. Switch raised the hand with the eternal cigarette a tiny inch. This time he moved the stick to the side and nodded through the smoke. He liked Tony.
“Kelly. That’s the game. What else is there now.” Pappy broke free from Tony’s grip and starting chalking his pool cue with the wrong side of the chalk. Switch coughed and Pappy snorted, then righted the chalk.
“How bout you? You got a game yet?” Pappy added smiling now at Tony. Tony looked sideways down at Lucky Louis who sat like a brick holding the coats on his lap.
“Me? Ya, any second now.” Tony put his index finger to his lips to shush Pappy as a guy on the next table stepped into their space to make a shot. They froze in position and watched the guy make a cross corner shot on the three ball. Pappy shook his head approvingly. Tony shook his head with a slight grin. He knew how it ended. It was a straight on bank shot. The guy played it straight on. His cue ball stopped dead at the point of impact. He stuck it there with bottom English. Now his shot on the four ball was partly blocked by the six. All he had to do on the three was suck it back with a little lower right hand English and he would have been sitting comfortably by the side pocket with a clear shot on the four. But this showed the guy was somewhat typical of the above average player. Stopping the cue ball was less challenging than making it do things after hitting something else. Even striking the cue ball dead center and easy still required a prediction as to how far it moves after impact. Never mind drawing it right back at you and using the rail and spin to stop it so it splats instead of bounces. It meant his mind had to watch the other ball going back and forth and he just couldn’t deal with that and making the cue spin at the same time. Not that I could either, consistently, but there was a time when I was way above his level, at any rate.
“What? You thinking the guy down on table six?” Pappy and Tony had turned back my way facing the railing with Louis and the Boss behind them. Pappy talked into Tony’s left ear like he wasn’t really talking to him.
“It’s all set up. I just gutta make it happen,” Tony said, paused, then added, “You know these guys?”
“No. But Switch says they are out of Phoenix. The Boss guy is connected to South American stuff. The pile of rocks is Lucky Louis. Used to work outta Vegas. New York connection. Nobody to fuck with. Switch seemed nervous saying his name. Anyway, nobody I know.” Pappy reached under the table and brought up the bridge to rest his cue on. His days of stretching down the table were over. “Six ball,” he barked.
Pappy cut the six ball into the right corner pocket and sent the cue ball around to the left and took a little piece of the huddled balls down center with the ensuing movement. The seven ball hung in the right side pocket and he had just enough room to sneak through the opened balls, giving him a clear shot.
“Ha! Who’s gut the six. Cough it up!” Before anyone could move he slammed home the seven and stopped his cue ball dead. “Rack’em Scratch! That’s my pill. Dig in. Toss it ova here! Everyone. Let’s go!” Pappy winked at Tony then collected the twenties that the other six players put by the corner pocket. Except for scratch who threw down a fifty. “We draw pills for the break, right Pap?” Scratch asked as he started to pull balls out of the corner pockets to set up the next rack.
“Bullshit, we called winner breaks. Ain’t that right,” Pappy demanded in his unthreatening expecting agreement tone. “And what’s this fifty shit ova here. I got no fuckin tens. Go change that at the snack bar, that better be tobacco you’re smoking ova there. And get me a Reeses. No, that asshole neva has the Reeses. Get me a Mars Bar. Go.” Pappy motioned with his head. Scratch was Gone. Pappy motioned to Tony to come stand with him at the head of the table. “Hey, Rocco, you still with us. Rack’em. What, you got like three fuckin houses down the Cape. Show a little life.” A squat huge bottomed guy with a greasy stupid looking hair piece begrudgingly lifted the side of his fat ass that fit in the rigid plastic seats lined around the walls and headed around the table to finish the rack up. Tony joined Pappy.

733. Magoseph - 12/27/2006 12:00:54 PM

Boy, this story has me on pins and needles--How long for Chapter 3, Nu?

734. NuPlanetOne - 1/6/2007 5:48:06 PM

O.K Mago, Chap 3. I wish I had more time to do this, it's getting easier, but the patience required makes for some slow going.

Tony chapter 3

The bowling alley was actually a sports complex. The bowling end of the business was the main draw, but it also had indoor tennis and a health club in an adjacent wing, as well as a sports bar, restaurant, game room, and of course, the poolroom. There was also a swank Motor Lodge on the North end of the property which brought the whole megaplex into one tight world of intrigue. I left Tony and Pappy to tail Switch and see if the blonde was still hanging about. From the railing I had watched Switch head toward the snack bar but he took a quick right in toward the main desk, then, after about five minutes, came back into sight and continued on toward the open snack area. The blonde was scrunch faced staring into a laptop all alone at one of the scattered tables and Switch was standing behind a square block of a woman in a massive New England Patriots team jacket. She might have been a linebacker and Switch stood on guard with antennae up like he was behind an ox that might step back and crush his foot. The cash register made its digital flurry of beeps, she got her change, then headed off toward the lanes with a tray of food packed to feed a small catering event. Switch sashayed with all her movements then eyed her as she strode off. She took a look back at him after a distance. It was a fuck you look if ever there was one and Switch smirked then shook his head. The blonde stayed in her own self absorbed world and Switch ordered a Mars Bar. The background noise was a steady squelch of balls sailing down alleys and muted shrieks and the ping crash of bowling pins being scattered. But the foreground noise was crisp and serene by comparison. I took a stool to the left of the cash register and watched Switch leave with the Mars Bar. Nothing was said about changing a fifty. He headed straight back to the pool hall and disappeared down the steps. Either he already had change of a fifty or that was his reason to stop at the main desk. Even if he wasn’t standing at the spot in front of it when he floated out of sight as I watched from the railing. From my angle now looking toward the pool room I could see a sitting area with a huge selection of bowling balls and other paraphernalia and a door marked office, all of which were the part he disappeared into from my previous angle. Could mean nothing, but I have survived many things sweating little nothings.

735. NuPlanetOne - 1/6/2007 5:48:56 PM

“Uncle John,” the unbelievable mouth and smile of the blonde said as she noticed me sitting there looking past her into open space.
“Oh, hey. Hi.” I tried to match the smile.
“Uncle John. Right. My code name.” I grabbed the other plastic chair at her table and made myself at home.
“Ya. He calls the ones he takes a dive for his Johns.” This she said in a childlike way but it came from a place that was effortlessly sensual and mature and flowed like an air freshener that would never run out of scent.
“What does he call the other ones?” I asked then watched her throw a handful of blond hair over her right shoulder, totally grown up now, allowing a better look at her face, not to mention a quick peek at her somewhat boney chest but wonderfully shaped breasts. I promised myself not to mention those under any circumstances. At least not in that conversation. She showed a wry grin.
“Well, they are all various kinds of fish to him, but when he is paid in advance for his services it can make it a little less interesting,” she said softly through the grin. “Although, when he is paid well, it does improve the performance.” She added with an emphatic coo.
“What’s a girl looking at in a laptop meanwhile?” I said affirming the coo and nodding down at the laptop.
“Oh, real estate. I’m actually working. It’s what I do.” She said then spun her head toward the wall clock in the snack bar. This time she threw all her hair behind her. Wholesome is what she was. Not a line or wrinkle. The kind of skin that would tan perfectly and never age. Perfectly matched blond hair that would cost a fortune to duplicate, except she got hers for nothing. It grew right out of her head. And if the faint golden down that was on her forearms covered any other parts of her I decided I might have to hate Tony just a little, if only to allow me to imagine those other parts.
“Need to be somewhere?” I gestured at the clock. Although I wondered how she could miss the little clock down in the corner on the laptop.
“Ya,” she drooped. “I have to slip out and go over a showing for this weekend. Have they started playing yet?”
“No, he’s warming up to it though. Talking to an old coot that seems to be his Grandpa or something.” I watched her arm as it closed the lid on the laptop then looked up and saw a healthy diamond stud in her left ear. There was a gold star above that.
“Oh, that’s Pappy. He’s known Tony since he was twelve. Pappy gave him a job at his poolroom cleaning up the place. Took him under his wing. Made sure he stayed clear of trouble. Pappy was…” She kind of blinked upward and trailed off a second as if to omit knowledge of inside information. “He was connected to the Mob.” She declared leaning her head in a bit and not really whispering, like it was a secret.
“What about his sidekick? The skinny guy?” I figured since we were telling well known secrets it was worth a shot.
“Oh. That’s Angelo. He goes everywhere Pappy goes. I call him the Boogey-man. He gives me the creeps. He never makes eye-contact, but he’s always staring at you. Weird though, he really likes Tony.” She searched for my eyes. I had to look. We looked at each other for a long minute.
“Everyone likes Tony,” I said. I had to say something to break the spell. Look too long in there and all kinds of things start to percolate. Hormones being born. Yet you felt like little accomplices were sneaking around in the background taking unguarded stuff.
“Ya, Tony,” she breathed. Her eyes sparkled and everything fled from everything. Kind of like it was a wonderful problem that made a bigger problem more bearable. “Thank God for Tony.” She blinked then touched my wrist to straighten it and seemed able to read the time on my watch upside down. Her fingers were warm. I felt it in my toes.

736. NuPlanetOne - 1/6/2007 5:49:29 PM

“Not gonna stick around to root for our boy?” I said once I stopped analyzing my feelings.
“Well, he never hangs around while I’m working. He’ll call with an update. I’ll be at least two hours going over the details of this house with the owners. If they don’t change things.” She grimaced. “But that would be a first.”
“Be careful with the pay stub,” I said alluding to the tidy sum I had handed over earlier. She tapped her open briefcase sitting next to the closed laptop.
“Safe and sound. Right here,” she said and tapped the briefcase again. “Paid in advance,” she added. “Not worried Tony would run out on you?” She feigned mock concern mildly across her face.
“No one runs out on Lucky Louis. Not much future in that, but I suppose,” I pretended to exaggerate an expectation of an offended reaction, “that you could run out on Tony.”
“Well,” she said flatly unoffended, “then I would be cutting my losses. I make more than that little paystub selling just one property. Even if Tony did care about money. And he really doesn’t. If I didn’t look after it for him, he’d be happy living in his car. Or one of those rooms next door at the motel.” She glanced north as if there was something there that really bothered her. “They give him a room there. Whenever he needs one. He brings in the players.” She finished and stared through the walls toward the motel. I could tell she didn’t like that accommodation.
“Sounds pretty sweet. Everything under one roof. Like a big cruise ship.” I said it quick to keep her going.
“Ya. He helps pick the poker players. The high rollers. There’s always a game over there. And a few pool tables. The game here moves there after hours. The House skims everything. And Tony settles for scraps and leftovers.” She made this last point like she was beating the skeleton of a dead horse. Then quickly brightened as if I had heard it all before.
“Well,” I said as if I had actually heard it all before, “That’s Tony. And don’t tell me about that place, I’ve left more than a few bucks sitting in one or more of those rooms. And I don’t mean the happy ending rooms.” She only considered that part.
“Well, a girl can have her happy ending too,” she said gathering up her gear. She gave me a look that made me want to go to confession and pray I was included in that happy ending. To say she was sexy, missed the point.
“O.K. I’ll go root for our boy.” I said trying to appear neutral in a court proceeding. She nodded and moved away like a schoolgirl lugging books in front of her forcing her hips to sway in response to no arm movement. I remembered why confession required an act of contrition. You could think a sin. I decided to interrogate the snack bar guy. He was holding an empty soda cup and a straw and was staring at me. I smiled.

737. NuPlanetOne - 1/19/2007 4:44:24 AM

Proof it Existed Chapter 3

The bowling alley was actually a sports complex. The bowling end of the business was the main draw, but it also had indoor tennis and a health club in an adjacent wing, as well as a sports bar, restaurant, game room, and of course, the poolroom. There was also a swank Motor Lodge on the North end of the property which brought the whole megaplex into one tight world of intrigue. I left Tony and Pappy to tail Switch and see if the blonde was still hanging about. From the railing I had watched Switch head toward the snack bar but he took a quick right in toward the main desk, then, after about five minutes, came back into sight and continued on toward the open snack area. The blonde was scrunch faced staring into a laptop all alone at one of the scattered tables and Switch was standing behind a square block of a woman in a massive New England Patriots team jacket. She might have been a linebacker and Switch stood on guard with antennae up like he was behind an ox that might step back and crush his foot. The cash register made its digital flurry of beeps, she got her change, then headed off toward the lanes with a tray of food packed to feed a small catering event. Switch sashayed with all her movements then eyed her as she strode off. She took a look back at him after a distance. It was a fuck you look if ever there was one and Switch smirked then shook his head. The blonde stayed in her own self absorbed world and Switch ordered a Mars Bar. The background noise was a steady squelch of balls sailing down alleys and muted shrieks and the ping crash of bowling pins being scattered. But the foreground noise was crisp and serene by comparison. I took a stool to the left of the cash register and watched Switch leave with the Mars Bar. Nothing was said about changing a fifty. He headed straight back to the pool hall and disappeared down the steps. Either he already had change of a fifty or that was his reason to stop at the main desk. Even if he wasn’t standing at the spot in front of it when he floated out of sight as I watched from the railing. From my angle now looking toward the pool room I could see a sitting area with a huge selection of bowling balls and other paraphernalia and a door marked office, all of which were the part he disappeared into from my previous angle. Could mean nothing, but I have survived many things sweating little nothings.

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