Tugboat doesn't hustle anymore. His eyes are gone. "I'm 65. I haven't played for big stakes in 10 years," he says. "This game isn't like baseball, your legs don't give out, your eyes do. You don't lose your stroke, your eyes go bad, you can't see the edge of the ball."
The right man
Whaley's appearance in Johnston City was not entirely of his own making. "I'm scouting the tournament for Welker Cochran Jr. [son of the late world three-cushion and balk-line champion]. Welker is thinking about staging a one-pocket tournament on the Coast. I'm just looking around to see how this one is run."
"Hey, Fat Man, who you like in the game?" Spaeth wants to know.
"Why, Earl Schriver, of course," Fat Man says with the firm conviction of an elder statesman.
"I got Earl for $400," Spaeth says. "I just wanted to know if I had the right man."
The backers stream out of the back room like factory workers at the 5 o'clock whistle. Everybody's bet is down. The match begins, the best three out of five games.
Weenie Beenie, back in the shadows, talks about pool over a Black Russian, a vodka-based drink that is supposed to make you "do things you've always wanted to do" after the third one.
"I'm not a hustler in the strict sense," Weenie Beenie says. "I own a business, I'm educated, I have a family. I graduated from North Carolina. Charlie (Choo-Choo) Justice and I were fraternity brothers. I have a home, everything I want.
"But I have a split personality. I'm a businessman and I'm a pool player. But I'd rather play pool than be a businessman. I've got a pool table at home but sometimes I like to go to a pool hall. Before I go in I look up and down the street to be sure nobody sees me."