Friday, September 29, 2023
There was this guy from the old neighborhood named Eddie Fishbones. They called him that because he was so skinny he looked like a rack of fish bones.
Eddie Fishbones was the best stick (pool player) ever and nobody rattled him. He had nerves of kryptonite. Some of those big shots from downtown brought their dolls with them to distract his game, but Eddie sent them back uptown every time with their billfolds a little thinner.
To give you another example of his ability to concentrate, I'll tell you about the day Kennedy got shot.
Eddie was all set to brake and someone announced to the entire pool hall the president was dead. Eddie remained expressionless. He made the break, ran the table, and went to St. Anthony’s to pray for Mrs. Kennedy and the children.
One day, though, Fishbones met his match. We were all on the corner talking about the guys who came closest to Fishbones with the least spot and some new guy says he was from the north side and there's a guy there named Joey Two Thumbs who can outshoot Fishbones.
Right then and there the match was set and a big crowd assembled at "Louie’s Pool Hall" for the show-down.
Fishbones waited for Joey Two Thumbs. Joey Two Thumbs walked in with some of the boys from the north side and Eddie introduces himself and then he said, "How come they call you Two Thumbs? Everybody's got two thumbs don't they?" Then Eddie chuckled, sort of a nervous laugh he had ever since grade school.
Joey held up his left hand and said, "Not on the same hand." Joey displayed another thumb where his index finger should have been.
The sight of a man steadying a pool stick with two thumbs distracted Eddie and he quickly fell behind.
After a couple of games, Eddie began to put on a real show. He had a run of twenty-two straight. Then some guy from the north side yelled out, "Hey Joey Five Fingers."
Eddie looked up at Joey and said, "I thought your name was Two Thumbs."
"They call me Five Fingers too," Joey said.
"But don't everybody have four?"
Joey held out his right hand and said, "But I got five on the same hand."
Sure enough, where his thumb was supposed to be on his other hand he had an extra finger.
This made Eddie Fishbones' knees buckle and his stomach turn. Again, he gathered his composure and started another impressive run.
Another guy from the north side walked in and yelled out, "Hey Joey Three Eyes!"
Fishbones' eyes rolled back and he collapsed like a sack of soiled laundry.
Joey Two Thumbs, Five Fingers, or Three Eyes won because Eddie could not be revived.
I said to this guy from the north side, "How come they call him Three Eyes? I don't want no demonstration, just tell me straight up."
The guy said, "He's the only Greek guy in the neighborhood and nobody can pronounce his name, but it's got three "I’s" in it."
I said, "This guy got any other nicknames?"
"Sure," he said and called out to Joey. "Hey Joey, take your nose off for these guys."
Sunday, September 24, 2023
The swinging doors of the Lone Star saloon burst open and everyone inside turned—terrified as though they expected stampeding cattle. There he stood in a shaft of light, dressed in a pink sequined vest, tight lavender stretch jeans with silver pinstripes, white cowboy boots with golden speckles, and a mauve ten-gallon hat topped with a peacock feather.
Rattlesnake McClain's puffy eyes and fat cheeks squinted in disbelief. He stood up from the poker table tossing it aside like it was made of match sticks. He pulled a sweat-soaked range hat tight on his head and hiked his soil-stiffened jeans high on his bulging belly. He adjusted his holster parallel with his arm so as to be ready for a fast draw.
"Who or should I say what are you?" Rattlesnake said with a gravel voice and wiping drool from his chin.
"I am Lance Merriweather. I am the new hairdresser in this town."
Rattlesnake heaved a full belly laugh. Everyone joined in. Rattlesnake took a match from his pocket, struck it across his barbed face, and lit a cigar. "I wanna be enjoyin’ a good cigar when I shoot ya."
Lance placed both hands on his hips, cocked his head, sashayed over to Rattlesnake and grabbed his hand. "Not with those fingernails. You're a nibbler. I can tell by how rough and uneven they are and the cuticles are filthy. "Don't you know that most diseases are transmitted by dirty nails?"
"Huh?" Rattlesnake said.
"And your hair—when's the last time it's been washed?" Lance said removing Rattlesnake's hat and fluffing his hair.
"Huh?" Rattlesnake said. "I don't know. Hey Sagebrush," he yelled to an old cowboy at the bar, "When did it rain last?"
"The night you shot Josh Dalton or was it Wagonwheel Clangston?" Sagebrush said pawing at his whiskers.
Rattlesnake scratched his head and said, "Well, either way, it's been at least three and a half months."
"What!" exclaimed Lance. "Don't you know the damage that can be done to your roots? And that odor—smells like you slept with a canine."
"I slept with my dog," Rattlesnake said. "Are they anything alike?"
"You are such a hoot," Lance said slapping Rattlesnake on the back.
"I've had enough of this sissy talk," Rattlesnake said reaching for his gun. "I'm going to plug you."
"You just wait un momento mon ami," Lance said. "See that picture of General Custer hanging on the wall. He has terrific hair don't you agree."
"Well if I say yes, does that mean anything?" Rattlesnake said."
"The point is, how would you like to have hair like that?" Rattlesnake chortled and continued, "Why sure who wouldn't? I always wanted blonde hair."
"Tisk, tisk silly boy," Lance said. "Blonde hair would not coordinate with those eyes. Just give me two hours and all the ladies over in Dodge City will be forgetting about Bat Masterson and waiting in line for you. I will make you a legend." Lance snapped his finger at Sagebrush. "Get my bags off my horse and let me go to work."
Sagebrush brought two carpet bags full of hair-styling paraphernalia into the saloon. Lance removed his hat and his long wavy blond hair cascaded down to his shoulders like a waterfall. Lance unpacked the carpet bags, spread the contents on a table, and went to work on Rattlesnake. The entire saloon watched with amazement as Lance clipped, curled, washed, rinsed, combed, and brushed.
After two hours Lance handed a mirror to Rattlesnake and proudly asked, "Well, what do you think?"
"It looks terrific!" Rattlesnake said as he fondled his locks of glistening black hair hanging like clusters of grapes.
"Now let's do something about that terrible stubble." Lance pulled a shining straight razor from his hip pocket.
"That had better be sharp," Rattlesnake said.
"It's sharp alright," said Lance. He picked up a card from the table - an ace of diamonds. He ran the razor over the face of the card and the diamond came off the card and floated onto the table. "Sharp enough for you?"
"Be careful," Rattlesnake grumbled. "I got very sensitive skin."
Lance lathered Rattlesnake's face and asked, "What do you do for a living?"
"Oh a little this and little that," Rattlesnake said. "Bank robbing, cattle rustlin‘, blackmail, train robbing, stagecoach holdups, state representative, sheriff, undertaker, and ah, ah, oh that's right preach every other Sunday."
Lance held Rattlesnake's chin back, stretching the skin tight. He slid the razor up his neck stopping at the Adam’s apple. "Don't swallow hard Rattlesnake," Lance said. "I'm liable to slit your throat. Now what were you saying about bank robbing? Two weeks ago you robbed all the savings in the bank at Dry Gulch and that was all the people there had. I'm going to return it. Where is it?"
"It's in my, my saddle bags," Rattlesnake said cautiously. "Sagebrush, go get this guy my saddle bags."
Sagebrush retrieved the saddle bags and tossed them to Lance. Lance gathered his styling equipment and sashayed to the door with Rattlesnake's saddle bags.
"Grab him!" bellowed Rattlesnake, "and let me fill him full of lead."
Several of Rattlesnake's men grabbed hold of Lance.
"Remove those sullied hands from me you vermin," Lance said slapping them away. "You won't shoot."
"How can you be so sure?" Rattlesnake said.
"Next Thursday I have a 10:30 and if you want that curl to hold you'll let me go."
"Let him go," ordered Rattlesnake reluctantly.
Lance flicked his hand at a picture hanging over the bar. "When I return, I want that disgusting picture of that beer-bellied barroom Betsy removed and a Monet in its place."
Lance walked out of the saloon, leaped on his horse, and raced out of town with a billowing cloud of dust behind them.
Everyone in the bar stood out on the sidewalk gaping at the spectacle.
"Who was that guy?" one man said.
A stranger leaning against a hitching post said, "Why that was the Lance Merriweather, The Frontier Coiffeur."
Lance and his horse stopped at the edge of town and he called back to Rattlesnake, "Use a high protein conditioner between visits—away!"