Jimmy De Jesus and Rowdy Bryant were still playing nine-ball on table one as Tizzie worked his way around the poolroom covering up tables, collecting house cues and stooping down here and there to pick up fallen pieces of chalk.
“Make that the last set, guys,” he said as he set the last cover down on the counter beside the two combatants and carried the box back to the storeroom.
“Jeez, Tiz,” complained Rowdy, “I’m in the middle of a come back.”
“We can see the end tomorrow. It’ll be like a cliffhanger.”
“C’mon,” pleaded Rowdy, “Just one more set.”
“No. I gotta get out of here.”
Tizzie didn’t mention that he hadn’t seen Bob Casey and Mary in four days. It wasn’t like the old couple to stay away like this. And tonight they hadn’t been there to watch the 9-ball tournament. He couldn’t remember the last time they had missed a Thursday night. As soon as he locked the doors, he was going to head over to their trailer to see what was up.
Jimmy D cut the eight into the side sending the cue ball four rails around table for a straight-in shot on the nine.
“Lucky bastard,” growled Rowdy as he swept the nine down table with the side of his stick. “Next time, I want the eight, you hustlin’ piece of shit.”
“You must be kiddin’,” laughed Jimmy D. “I’m not givin’ you eight o’ anythin’.”
“Ask Teasdale! He’ll tell ya – you’re sposed to give me the eight. Right, Tiz?”
“You’re supposed to play better,” answered Tizzie as he collected the balls and placed them in their tray.
“See,” said Jimmy D. “I tol’ you – no eight!”
Tizzie rolled out the cloth. “Don’t let the door hit yous in the ass.”
* * * * *
The light was on in the trailer and he could hear the TV, but no one was answering his knock. Again, Tizzie pounded the door with his fist. “Bob. Mary. It’s me, Tizzie. Everything okay in there?”
As he pounded, he noticed that the door almost caved in from the force. Without hesitating, he drove his shoulder thru the door. He was engulfed immediately by the putrid smell of death. “Oh, my freakin’ God.”
Covering his nose with a handkerchief, he entered the living room. Bob sat alone on the sofa. Before him on the coffee table were two empty bottles of vodka and one half full.
“Guess you’re off the wagon, eh, Bob?”
Bob turned his head slowly, squinting as though through a fogged up windshield.
“What’s going on, Bob? Where’s Mary?”
“Oh, Mary,” sobbed Bob. “My beautiful Mary.”
Tizzie made his way through the kitchen and down to the bedroom. He didn’t want to look, but he had to. There on the bed lay Mary. Maggots were swarming on her face. As he turned away, repulsed, his eyes stopped on a photograph that sat atop the dresser. It pictured a young couple laughing, their arms lovingly wrapped around each other as they huddled beneath a beach umbrella. A signature moment, he thought as he made his way back to the living room.
“My beautiful beautiful Mary,” repeated Bob. “How is she?”
“I hate to be the one to tell you this,” said Tizzie as he picked up the phone, “but she’s starting to lose her looks.”