“Dae ye work in a circus, or dae ye always dress like a clown?” Connor asked a middle-aged man whose dress wasn’t all that different from that of the rest of the punters – scuffed black leather boots, dingy grey woollen trousers and sleeveless Fair Isle patterned pullover over a grubby grey woollen shirt. The man’s face reddened, but he remained silent.
“The only wan o’ yous that’s dressed right is that wee boy in the corner wearing the blue and gold tie,” the guy who positively owned the place added. He swept one arm out with his forefinger extended and pointed to me. I blushed and blushed some more in appropriate Little Me manner. By now I felt there was a spotlight picking me out of the crowd like a star. So I blew a smoke ring with some semblance of nonchalance.
“Whit’s the matter, Agnes?”, Connor demanded of a lanky teenager. “Dae ye fancy me? Is that it?” he fired at the youth. He turned towards his tall, thick-bodied minder. “Andy,” he commanded, “gi’e this buckled shot a skelp oan the mooth and pap him outside.”
Big Andy made a half turn and backhanded the ‘buckled shot’ with his massive clenched fist. As the victim sank to the floor his attacker threw him over his shoulder and stomped out of the salon. Everyone heard the dull thump of a body hitting the flagstones of the sunken garden outside.
‘The Hat’ was particularly cruel to a decidedly eastern looking young man who had attempted to congratulate him after he had executed a not particularly difficult cannon. “Nice one, Jackie,” the spectator piped up.
“Whit wud you know about a nice shot, ya bam?” Jackie snapped.
“Ah wis jist trying tae tell ye that you done good,” the youth answered meekly.
“Ah know Ah done good. Ah don’t need a blin’ kid like you tae tell me,” Jackie shot the line quickdraw, like a bullet from the hip.
“Ah’m no blin’ ,” the victim protested weakly.
Jackie ‘The Hat’ stopped pacing round the table and looked at his victim with a steady gaze. “Ah’m tellin’ ye yer eyes urrnae right,” he declared slowly. “Ye’re skelly, pal. Ye see, ye’re a victim of Intoxication Disorder .”
Everyone went “Ooooooooo!” in dismay.
Intoxication Disorder? I couldn’t believe it. This working class dandy who probably hadn’t attended school after leaving Rutland Crescent Primary was standing there in the Cecil Salon spouting ‘Intoxication Disorder’ like a professor in Glasgow University Medical School.
“It’s no’ your fault, son,” our lecturer continued. “Yer maw’s a wine mopper. She’s been bevvied in every wine shop beween Govan Cross and Paisley Road Toll. If she’d stayed aff the ‘Mammy’ (a Glaswegian corruption of the Italian Mamma Mia, meaning ‘wine.) when she was pregnant, you wudnae hiv ended up wi’ slanty eyes and a flat nose.”
To be classified as a drinker of fortified British wine rather than a regular ‘half-and-a- half-pint’ toper was the most bruising insult you could deliver to anyone. Speechless, the young man just stood there for a moment with a desolate look on his face. He shook his head slowly and headed for the door.
It was clear that ‘The Hat’ had established linguistic dominance over the population of Plantation for a long time, perhaps from the age of twelve. He gave the impression that the result of the game didn’t really matter to him. The Five Pin Pool Contest was merely a forum for his strong suit, which were cruel sarcasm, insouciance and cool proclamations.