As hard as it might be to believe, Vance Stafford and Boyd Abbott went more than six years without losing a single game of 42 down at Kid’s Domino Parlor. Whenever they’d push through the door, every pair clambered for a piece of them, naturally, because who wouldn’t want to be the ones to finally knock Vance and Boyd from their perch? But it kept not happening. Vance and Boyd always reached 250 first. They were never anything but gentlemanly about it, though. They certainly never slammed their bones down on the table whenever they picked up a trick, unlike some of younger folks. No, they’d do nothing but shake your hand, thank you kindly for the game, quietly return their dominoes to an old Chief Joseph cigar box, and head out, leaving you and your partner beaten and frustrated.

At some point, someone finally realized what needed to be done: Vance and Boyd needed to be sent down to Hallettsville to play in the State Championship tournament. Since Hallettsville sits halfway between San Antonio and Houston a good four-hundred miles southeast, the usual suspects at Kid’s took up a collection for gas, food, beer, and a motel room with separate twin beds. When the group surprised the two of them with a wad of cash (enough to last them the three days) and told them where they were going, Vance damn near burst into tears.

“I feel like a prince,” he said.

“Same here,” said Boyd.

“Just bring us back that big trophy,” Kid said. “Make us proud.”

“We aim to,” Vance said.

Since nobody expected them to return any earlier than Sunday evening, everyone was taken aback by the sight of them slinking into town on Saturday night. Kid asked them what the hell had happened.

“Goddamn Comal County cedar choppers accused us of signaling,” Boyd said. “The tournament director sided with them and tossed us.”

“He was probably a Hill Country cedar chopper, too.” Vance hawked and spit.

“Y’all weren’t, were you?” Kid asked.

“We’ll pretend we didn’t hear that,” Boyd said.

Soon after, with Kid watching closely nearby, the Epps boys ended Vance and Boyd’s hometown streak, and they’ve been nothing but average players ever since, which has made playing 42 much less fun these days. Some folks wish the two of them had never gone to Hallettsville. Others just wish they hadn’t got caught.

# # # 

Kevin Grauke is the author of Shadows of Men (Queen's Ferry Press), which won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best First Work of Fiction. Originally from Dallas, he now teaches at La Salle University and lives in Philadelphia, where he is a lonely Cowboy amidst Eagles.