Monday, May 02, 2011

LeRoy Tucker's Short Story "Barbershop"

Steam Tractor in Climax, Arkansas
Used by Permission

I'm still chuckling over humorous scenes from LeRoy "Tuck" Tucker's stories in his recent book, Climax 1: Cotton on the Rocks, so I'll post another passage, this one from the short story "Barbershop," a tale of a practical joke played on the none-too-bright village braggart, Bunk Lumm, by one of the local Climax basketball players, Sidney Tice, when he and the other players are congregated in the pool hall run by the town barber, Abner Scrunt, but the joke goes a bit too far:
"Bunk, I was in the pool hall Mammoth Spring the other night. They was a red headed feller there that could put a cue ball in his mouth. Damn'dest thing I ever saw an' he could do'er too, didn't seem like it was a bit of trouble neither. Jest pop it in there an' back like it was a peach seed. Helluva thang."

"Ah, hay'll," said Bunk. "That don't sound like no trick to me."

"Mebbe it ain't but I dead shore ain't gonna try it," replied Sidney, with feigned sincerity. "Hit looked dangerse to me."

"Dangerse? What is it dangerse about? I don't know who all could do it but I know that I dang shore can," Bunk bragged.

Those in earshot took notice. The conversation switched back to regular, everyday topics but muted. Some attention was switched to Bunk, who stood and walked away. He took a seat near the idle table, and for a while he sat and stared at a cue ball lying near a readied rack of spots and stripes. The players stopped. Conversation hushed. All eyes were on Bunk. Feigning confidence he took up the cue ball and held it close to his face in a studied attitude. And then, exercising a good deal of force he pushed the ball past his teeth. He turned, facing the entire group with that white cue ball exposed he said, "Hee?"

"Shore we see," answered Sidney. "You shorn hell fooled me. Yore mouth ain't nothing like as big as that feller's that dun'er up at Mammoth. You get the credit fer that."

"Urks," said Bunk.

"Wha'd joo say Bunk?" asked Sidney. "We cain't understand you."

"Urks, urks," said Bunk, tapping the exposed part of the cue ball with his index finger.

Gerald "Tall Tree" Farmer was alarmed. There could, after all, be something serious here. "Cain’t you get it back out Bunk?"

Bunk, shaking his head, "O, o, eh urks."

"Shore, shore it hurts," said Caddo Gusse. "I never noticed ole Bunk bein' bothered by a little hurtin' before. How you reckon a feller could go about gittin it back out if he cain't do it by his self?" (Tucker, Climax 1, page 108)
That becomes a job for all present to horn in on and try to get the ball out . . . or at least threaten to:
"Might have to knock out a few teeth or break his jaw I guess," said Jap Franklin, making sure that Bunk heard his offering. (Tucker, Climax 1, page 109)
And so, it goes. Notice Tuck's facility with language and dialect. The story continues on in this vein, humorously told, but with a serious undertone, for Bunk could be in dire straits if that cue ball won't come back out. You could say that Bunk faces a close shave, one close enough to crop hair off a cue ball, as befits a place like Scrunt's barbershop . . .

If any reader is intrigued by this passage or one of the previously posted passages, the book can be ordered from Tuck's book site.

Or just email Tuck directly:

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