Billiard 4Title: Slow Gin Fizz
Author: Thomas Mundt
Category: Fiction

He is a fielder of questions.  The first is always the same, a request for confirmation.

“You mean, like the drink, right?” 

He will then adjust the strings of his bolo tie, ensuring that the left is just a touch longer than the right, per the dictates of fashion.  Then he will slam another stripe into the side pocket before imbibing of his signature drink, the Virgin Long Island.

“So, it’s just an iced tea, right?”

That is always question Number Two.


He tells the local pool hall owners that they will never see him again.  He employs context clues to do so.  Lots of imagery, trains and wheat fields.  He trusts they will piece everything together, and in the ten minutes it takes to clear the tables and hang the triangle racks at closing time.  He expects much of his fellow man in this regard.

He is always back.  His appointments are near-standing, but he at least has the courtesy to change his suit.  He remembers who saw him in the navy blue one, the camel pin-striped.  Management plays along because they need his buck-fifty-a-game.

He takes his time walking to the door when he leaves.  He waits for it, the inevitable comparison to Bridge and Tunnel.  Widely considered the best amateur billiards player in the rich history of McHenry County, a victim of lupus.  His responses are casual and dismissive of Bridge and Tunnel’s talent level.  There is nothing to suggest he workshopped them with his Super earlier that morning, as is his preference.


He ran for a School Board seat, on a pro-fundamentals platform.  He hated watching the youth waste their days on trick shots, jumping cue balls and botching routine three-ball combos.  He had never considered himself fit for public service but felt he had little choice.  Sometimes the job chose you.

He experienced difficulty getting on the ballot.  He needed signatures from his constituents, peers who could not even pick Steve “The Miz” Mizerak out of a photo array.  He found their foci to be elsewhere.

“Babies are having babies in the shitter,” they would tell him.  “Teachers have to use other teachers for desks.”

He went to the debates anyway.  Once, he got close enough to the stage to challenge the other candidates on their positions on Talcum powder, whether or not it should be considered a performance enhancer.  The other times he just sat in the bleachers with his notecards, revised his bullet points.


He interviews.  He sits across the table from men and women in slacks and is careful not to set his coffee down on their At-A-Glance calendars.  When asked about his job history, he tells them he thinks it would be a good idea.  Then he explains that his response is an homage to Ghandi, offers to walk them through it.

He has a lot of time to mull over what-ifs on the bus ride home.  He decides that, next time, he will stick to pop culture references.  They must not predate Operation Desert Storm, however, so as not to create a Persian Gulf between him and a potential employer.  This is the mnemonic device that will keep him on-point.

He also considers introducing himself as Josh.


He continues to tell prospective lovers about Chantal.  In his story, she still makes him choose, her or the game.  He still rides out of Las Cruces on the back of a burro, gnats everywhere.

The truth has not elbowed its way in over time.  He does not tell the women about the finished basement, the regulation table she bought him as a thirty-eighth birthday surprise.  He fails to mention the Fantasy Camps she subsidized, the lower-back rubs administered after hours of leaning over felt.  He will not let on about the pyramid scheme, the plundered Roth IRA.

He considers it fair warning, his version.  It is a roadside flare, alerting his would-be paramour to his propensity to ramble.  It also derives from unsolicited advice he received from the maĆ®tre d of the La Quinta Inn out by the airport, concerning female attraction to Bad Boys.


He works on his game.  He incorporates blindfolds, ankle weights.  He picks songs he loathes on the jukebox, ditties composed by gentlemen with complicated bangs, in sadistic attempts to break his concentration.  He eats anything described as multigrain on his off days.

He thinks about Bridge and Tunnel, lights votives and lavender sticks in his memory.

People still ask about the name.  Opponents, mainly, and after being thoroughly dismantled for modest sums of cash.  They get the part about the beverage.  They want the why.

He used to sing of Incan ceremonies, chance encounters with stowaway bluesmen on Mississippi cargo barges.  There were lies being told but there was the effort to consider.

Now, he wants to tell them that it is a process.  It describes the effect of years on the ability of a man to want something different.

Thomas Mundt is the author of the short story collection You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011).  He lives in Chicago, as do others.  Outreach and team-building opportunities abound at