Close Call. ~ Bert Kinister

Cole Dixon, Fat Greg (the Steer Man,) and the unknown stranger. In comas only the broken gambler might understand, stranded in the shadows beside me, ghosts!

Unable to sleep, I cracked the curtains and was blinded in my right eye by the sun blistering to the South from a ten foot wave frozen in time like a Hokusai Ukioye print—no past, only (maybe) a precarious future. It was 10AM. Duluth, MN, the early 70’s, and the duct tape was still holding the right front bumper of my 1967 four door Volvo legally in place.

The day before, Cole was playing $600 sets of 6-Ball on a 6×12 snooker table in the gloom at the back of the upstairs room downtown, while I was grinding out some $50 9-Ball by the front door. I noticed a little commotion at Cole’s table, and snuck over to investigate.

Cole had pushed out about four feet behind the 5-Ball, three feet in front of that lay the one, and three feet in front of that was the six—still two feet away from the hole. This was the case game for all of the marbles.

I looked around and Greg and Vegas were nowhere to be seen, but there were several guys deep in conference by the front counter. The shot was passed to Cole who, in the days before jump cues, jacked up and sent whitey high into the air—coming down two inches in front of the one, sending it crashing into the six so hard that it almost knocked the pocket off of the table as it disappeared.

Just after Cole got the stake money, the guys came running from the counter holding up the current “Billiard News” with his picture on the front.

They had been hustled and we were running. Tumbling down the stairs we rolled out onto the sidewalk, to find Fat Greg right there with the doors open and the engine running. When they woke up we were headed for Minneapolis.

More later.

Bert Kinister