Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Princess and the Pool Room

I was delighted to find me and The Division Street Princess as a sort of centerfold in the May 1, “Calendar, Girls” section of the Chicago Sun-Times. Of course, this calendar was nothing like the calendars of my childhood, especially the ones hanging on the walls of my dad’s favorite hangout, the neighborhood pool room. Here’s a few passages about that pool room that I’ve excerpted from my memoir:

"I never willingly entered the place, but occasionally Mom would ask me to go there and bring Dad home for supper. It wasn't the other men who hung out at the place that I was shy about, guys who rumpled my head like my young uncles who joined Dad for pool or cards before they were drafted, or the other men whom I knew from the neighborhood.

The disturbing part about the pool room were the Varga Girl calendars tacked on every wall. These pictures of blonde-haired beauties, with torsos that stretched from the top of the calendar to the page of the month, pulled my eyes towards them the moment I entered the smoke-filled room. Although Miss February might dangle a sheer scarf from a manicured hand, or Miss July would use a wide-brimmed hat to mask her anatomy, my youthful eyes would be dragged to the perfect breasts of these painted ladies.

'It’s my princess. One minute, one minute, sweetheart. Let me finish the hand.' the sound of Dad’s voice had broken the calendars’ hold and I took a seat at an empty card table, pushed away a butt-filled ashtray, and waited. My dad was wearing a short sleeve white shirt, his bloodied butcher’s apron abandoned in the store. His left arm was oddly tanned, fingers to elbow, a weird stain from hanging his arm out the window on Sunday drives.

Like he did at home; here at his spot in the pool room, Dad had unclasped his belt buckle, released his pants’ zipper and pushed his card chair a few inches from the table’s edge. The pool room smelled stale, damp, and smoky; and it was loud. A radio dial was turned to the baseball scores and met by occasional shouts of, 'Those momsers [bastards]!' I could hear calls of 'Gin!' -- and the slap of playing cards against the metal tables, and the pings of billiard balls as they batted into each other. Someone whose Poker hand had just been bested, let out 'Son-of-a-bitch!' then halted in mid-air as he glanced in my direction. 'Oh, sorry, honey, forgive my big mouth,' he had said.

Finally, Dad had zipped up his trousers, buckled the belt, scooped a handful of coins from the middle of the card table into his pocket and rose from his seat. 'Okay, Princess, let’s go home,' he had said, lifting my hand to his lips for a kiss, then sealing the same hand into his moist palm."

No comments: