BARRY ORIGINS BY JOEL HOPKINS
Hit the middle red ball, you have a 170° of the face of the ball to hit;( without bouncing and hitting) it needs to hit in the variable of 59° to 78°. I need use the amount of power that would allow the white ball to move (unhindered) across two pool tables. If I shoot the white at that ° and at that power, the red ball will swiftly move in the upper left pocket. While all that is happening, the white ball will move to the middle of the table, leaving a simple shot on the black to finish the frame and the game.
Those BA tickets will be mine.
I moved my arm back; l forced my tongue to the outside of my mouth and squinted. I saw the 19° angle I had to hit, that angle covered no more than 1 and half centimetres on the ball itself. My arm moved forward. My hands that were tightly formed to make the stand for the cue collapsed. The cue or the stick as we called it as kids, hit the white ball and moved a whole 2 inches, before coming to a stop. I was humiliated. My head stayed down as I moved away from the table, I sat down and waited for the cheers. The cheers came; Billy the wiz kid Brown had easily potted his two remaining balls and the black. He had won; the imperial pool championship of 1988 was his.
Billy was the pool king.
I moved to the bathroom; where I began to vomit.
* * *
“Barry !” Brenda shouted for her husband. Barry just rolled over and moved his head to the other side of the pillow. “Barryyy, It’s the Job centre” Brenda waited at the bottom of the stairs, a fag in one hand; she took a drag from the lower branded cigarette. She knew that her good for nothing husband would not answer her. It had been 2 months since Barry had lost to Billy, it had hit him hard.
“Barry is not feeling well today, he won’t be coming in to the centre this week” Brenda said her husband’s excuse like it was her first time.
“Good Bye” she put down the phone, before an answer could be spoken from the other side of the phone.
She charged up the stairs, enough was enough. Brenda moved the door into her husband bedroom, a sea of clothes spewed on the floor moved with opening of the door. Barry laid there on his single bed, his boxers were half down and Brenda could see his crack. Barry dark hair was getting long, he now had a darkened mop with some grey hair coming through, and he had a wild man beard, as he had not shaven since he had lost the game. Brenda thought of her husband laid on this single bed, it had been such a long time since they slept in the same bed together, and even longer since they had made love. He had been such a good lover, Brenda felt week at the knees at the thoughts of their past entanglements. The way his moustache would stroke the sides of her thighs, how he always ask first before entering; a quirk he picked up during the days when the ripper was still hanging around.
“Barry, did you hear me?!” Brenda said this in her usual whining tones common to the area of Halton Moor.
Halton Moor, where both she and Barry had been born and bred. The two had spent their whole life’s here; the furthest out of the Leeds District they had been a couple of trips to the dales, and a couple of the Yorkshire Seaside towns. That was part of the problem she thought as she waited for an answer that she knew she would not get.
That damned Pool tournament.
The prize for winning the annual imperial pool tournament had been, two plane tickets for an all expensive paid (with a £50 limit per day) trip to a two star hotel in Corfu for a week. This was something Barry and Brenda had talked about since they were childhood sweethearts, going on a plane; “living the high life” as Barry always used to say.
“Barry, answer me” she tugged at his stained pyjama top. In a swift motion Barry grabbed the neck of his wife and pressed her down to the bed.
“Do not touch me” he spat the words out.
Brenda was dazed, and scared. Barry had a short temper, but he had only ever hit Brenda when he was drunk, like a real man. However right now he was sober, she was scared but also aroused, and this was what she had fantasised about, Barry taking charge; subjecting her.
It’s what all women want she thought.
Then she looked in to his eyes, he had not taken charge; far from it in fact. Barry was crying, his eyes were red, and his nose dripped mucus.
Barry looked down to see his hand’s wrapped around her neck, he let go and wept some more.
“Do you want a cup a’ soup, dear?” said Brenda
“No the two packets of Super noodles were enough for me” Barry said.
The incident in the bedroom shocked Barry out his bed and broke the cage he had built for himself. That night he shaved his beard, leaving only his moustache, changed his clothes, and spent 4 minutes making love to his wife. Tonight he would break his pattern of self-destruction some more, and take up the job his brother had offered him; a factory worker. It is not as he had envisioned his life, but it looks like this was the way it was going to be. He finished the bowl of super noodles, walked over to the phone, and dialled his brother number.
“Paul, its Barry, how are you?”
“Ohhh Barry, I did not expect to hear from you…..i am good though, look I’m kind of busy at the moment, what this about?”
“That job, I would like to take it” Barry said
Barry knew brother they always looked out for each other.
“Barry you should have said sooner, I have given the job to someone else….. look I’m sorry, if anything else comes up, I will tell you straight away”
Barry could hear voices; happy voices, from the other side of the phone, he recognised one of the voices in the background, he couldn’t be sure though.
“Yeah it’s okay, don’t worry about it, I will be fine (he lied)” he put the phone down. Barry got his coat and went outside, without a word to his wife. It was dark out and most of the lights on the street were broke.
He opened the gate and walked to his brother house, which also happened to be the house next door.
“OH Bleeding ‘eck” Barry said as he entered his brother front garden he had stepped on his nephew’s bike and caught his foot in between the chains. He shuffled his foot out of the chains, ripping the chains off the bike.
He spent a couple of minutes trying to get the chain back on the bike, before remembering why he was here; he would apologise to his nephew later.
He knocked on the door; it was a moment before an answer came.
Paul answered, he was laughing as he came to the door and had a fag in laid in his mouth. The fag dropped out of between his yellow stain teeth on to the floor. Paul’s look was basically an older and some said less repulsive version of Barry’s look.
“Barry” Paul let out an anxious chuckle “what are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same questi….” Barry stopped himself when he realized what he was saying.
“What’s happening here then?” Barry spoke it with venom in his voice. He stroked his moustache as he waited for the answer.
“Just got a few friends round for a drink,”
“Oh, a few friends? Then you won’t mind me coming in then will you” Before his brother could answer Barry barged in to the house.
And there he was, Barry suspicions were confirmed.
“Hello Barry” said Billy
“I thought I told you never to come back to this street”
“You can’t blame me Barry old boy, just been showing off my new tan I got in Corfu, haha, your brother liked it”
“Barry I’m sorry” Paul said
“You saw how he gloated after he won the Imperial pool tournament, how can you still be friends with him” Barry spat the words out to his brother.
“Don’t blame him Barry love, he knows a winner when he sees one, plus he is my new boss now after all” Billy said
“You gave him the Job?” Barry looked at his brother, he was hurt
”you’ve got to be kidding me”
“Look you said you did not want the job, you were a mess, I didn’t think you would mind”
Barry felt like all the progress he had made over the last few days, was being smashed back down into nothingness.
“Have a drink matey, I was just telling your brother and my new colleagues here, about how you go on a plane and they give you free peanuts, bloody luxury! Haha. Shame about that miscue or should I say shame that you couldn’t handle the pressure, hoho” Billy turned to his mates wanting their attention.
Barry charged at Billy; he tackled him to the ground where he hit Billy in the face. Billy turned the tables so after though, Billy was now atop of Barry where he was smashing in his face, Barry tried to fight back but he only managed to get glancing blows at Billy. Barry soon stopped trying to fight back; he began to weep as more blows hit his face. Billy the wiz kid Brown got up. Billy kicked the sides of the crying figure which now was in the fetal position. The whiz kid spat in his face, and began to unzip his fly.
Paul stopped Billy before he could urinate on his brother. Barry wondered later if that was more out of concerned for his carpet than his brother.
“You’re a fucking Disgrace Barry”
“Ohhh Barry my poor baby, what did he do to you” Paul had carried his crying brother, back to Barry’s house, where he put him on the sofa, where Brenda now cared for her husband.
“Do you want me to call the hospital?” Paul said Brenda
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! You are not my brother anymore” Barry whistled this through his broken teeth.
Paul started walking out of the house but the stopped and turned towards Barry.
“You want to know something Barry? Billy was right, you are a disgrace”
“Get out” Brenda hissed at Paul
“You had a real talent Barry, and you just let one defeat bring you down. There would be no way you could beat Billy in a fight, you knew that, you’re just too afraid to beat him something that you could actually win; pool. You’re scared I get that. If you get beat twice by him, it means it was not a fluke. You can beat him Barry, you could be Pool King”
The pool king, yes that sounds good
7 Months to the Imperial Pool Tournament
“You can beat him Barry, you could be Pool King”
Those words stuck in Barry’s head. In every moment of doubt, every time he could feel the self-destructive pattern come in and try to retake his body, he would think of his brother’s words.
That night when the fight happened, before he had passed out from the pain and the morphine Brenda had given him, he made a promise.
“I’m going to get us that plane ticket Brenda, just like we talked about, “living the high life”. I’m going to win Brenda, I’m going to destroy Billy” Barry had said.
Now Barry was in the spare room, where 5 months ago he had been asleep alone.
Now there was a pool table on which Barry practised on. He had transformed the room completely.
It was his pool cave.
He moved the bed into his yard to make room for the table, he had painted the room, one half was red while the other half yellow, with the celling being black and of course the carpet was green. Posters were sprawled over the room of inspirational pictures. The “hang in there kitty” poster was featured quite a lot in the room. There was one feature of the room that Barry was most proud of though; the false wall.
When Barry was beaten to an inch of his life, he was unable to work and so he claimed benefits form the system.
He saw an opportunity when he was fully healed; he found a loop hole in the system. If he never said he was “able to work” he could carry on claiming the benefits, and so he was free to play pool all day; an advantage that his archival did not have. It seems however the benefits office were sometimes in the mood for a surprise inspection of Barry and of his house. Finding a room dedicated to pool when he was claiming for a bad back, could look a little off.
It was tested one night, a couple of weeks ago while Barry was practising trick shots in the cave the doorbell rang.
“Brenda get tha will ya love” Barry shouted from his cave
Brenda looked through the door, and saw two suited men (with stab jackets on) holding clipboards in their arms.
Bloody Jehovah witness again she thought
“Look we’re not interested in any of your mumbo jumbo. I’m a good honest Christian”
“No Mrs Balls, we are from the benefits office, we just here to check everything with your husband” The elder of the two men said.
She felt like her heart was moving up to throat, she struggled to get her next words out.
“Just a second”
She nervously played for time, she looked from the outside to be searching a key, however what she was actually doing was pressing a button by the door, the button itself was used to call Barry down for his meals, but she pressed the button 5 times.
The filth is here was the message.
Barry looked at the blinking light in the cave and counted, 1, 2, 3, 4…….5!
“The pigs are here”
Barry rushed out of the room, as he left he banged the wall. The action of his fist on the wall had caused the fake wall to lower into place, Barry’s ingenious plan had gone off without a hitch.
But my measurements had been perfect the wall had fallen slightly to the side and was on angle, it must had been cut too small.
Barry heard his wife letting the men in to the house.
“He is upstairs in our room” he heard her say.
He had no choice, time was running out, he kicked the wall in desperation and somehow it fell from the angle going into place; however there was still a gap, it would have to do.
The men were walking up the stairs.
Barry quickly tiptoed to his room, and placed himself in the bed.
Soon after, the men entered the room oblivious to the room/cave. From the vantage point of his bed he could see the fake wall; he had made a second mistake regarding the wall.
Bloody heck, it’s the wrong wallpaper
Barry could see his well laid plan falling apart.
“Mr Balls, we here from the benefits office, just checking everything okay”
Barry made sure the men could see his “pain” as he turn to face the men.
This is time that should be spent practising.
But the guise was necessary if he was to beat Billy; he needed all the practise he could get and working would not give him that. This was a War and the most well trained man would win. A rookie mistake like a miscue would, could not happen again.
“Well you’ve seen me gentlemen, you have seen the zoo exhibit that is Barry Balls, anything else?” said Barry
“Do you mind if we take a look around?” the younger looking man said as a question but was really a statement.
“Fine I’m going to take a look down stairs, you check up here” the elder one said.
The younger man stayed in the room as the other one left.
“So what’s your name?” asked Barry.
“Ohh sorry, we didn’t say our name did we? My names Jack Earnshaw and as you know I work for the benefits office, my partner is Jason Thornton.”
“Jack, how old are you lad?” he played with his moustache, he had a deviant plan.
“Ohhh god, you would have been perfect……” He stopped, and pretending to hold back the tears.
“Excuses me?” said the confused man.
“My daughter, she would have been 23 this year, cancer you see, she could have been getting married to a good man like you……………. If that bloody cancer hadn’t, well ya know” he started to cry.
The man felt awkward, Barry’s plan had worked.
“I’m sorry, I should leave” He walked out past the dodgy wall with the wrong wall paper and went down to meet his partner.
The two benefits officer sat in the car outside Barry’s house, they drove away.
“He started to cry, said I would have been perfect for his daughter, it was strange” Jack told his story.
“Wait you said he said he had a daughter?”
“That’s what he said…. why?”
“Get his file out” The young man did as his partner commanded.
“What is it I’m meant to be looking at?”
“Look under medical conditions”
“Yeah okay……….” the man began to read from the file.
Barry Balls back was badly injured during an assault, he is unable to pick up heavy object or walk properly”
“Keep on reading” the other man said
“Mr Balls has no testicle, they were chopped off by his father who latter committed suicide.”
“Oh my god, that son of a bitch, should we go back?”
“No we have filled in the paper work already, probably just little off in the head, wouldn’t you be after that”
Barry went back in to his pool cave, and watched the men get in to the car and drive off. As he saw them get into the car leave the street, he smiled and gave a quick wink. He then went back to practising his trick shots.
2 Months to the Imperial Pool Tournament
As it got closer to the tournament Barry became more and more obsessive with pool. He lived and breathed it before, now it was something more though. Barry took a quick break from pool to eat his tea; he and Brenda were much more distant now even more distant than when Barry was a broken man after he lost to Billy.
He had demanded to Brenda that any food that he was served must be either all yellow, or all red; he would not pot “another colour at any time” he would say. He always had a black pudding to end with.
This was just one part of his obsessions, over the month many new quirks came into his daily life.
When he was not playing pool, he was watching tapes from china of underground tournaments, watching, studying how these players would play. He said to Brenda one night when she had questioned the watching of the grainy tapes.
“You see Brenda these chinks can’t do much right but the thing they can do is bread and more importantly play pool. They are not inhabited by the moral code of the game that we have over here. They have these underground tournaments, these bring out moves that you could not even dream about”
He watched the grainy figure play a shot, the angle of the figure was unnatural.
Barry sat silent eating his sweat corn, chips and smoked haddock dinner. While silent he his mind was not, he had multiple mental games of pool going on in his mind at one time. Right now he knew how the great chess masters felt, every angle every possible shot that could be made, he work out the probabilities of each shot, which shot would most likely give him the best outcome. Sure he had been a good pool player before but now he was something else; a pool master. He played in pubs across the country; he was unbeaten for the last 4 months. That did not matter to his peers, when he still went in to the imperial public house, he could see the men smirk.
The journey he was on now let Barry do something’s he never dreamed of before now; to read a book.
It had been a gift from Paul an apology for what Billy did to him in his house. The gift had been a book written by Sakya Trizin Tibetan monk but more than that; a pool player. Sakya had some wild ideas about pool, becoming one with the cue, the cue itself, it should be no more than an extension of your arm; “A long finger” Sakya says.
Sakya goes on to speak about the religious aspect to pool. Sakya said in the introduction to the book that he never felt closer to his internal self than when playing a game of pool, something Barry also felt. Barry did not see the book as a guide to playing pool, (something Paul said it was when he gave it to him) no what he saw was a way hone his mind, sharpen it, his mind would be what would what wins this war.
Barry was ready, so he slept and waited for the tournament to come.
The Imperial public house, the Imperial pool tournament 1989
This is it
Barry walked in to the place that had caused him so much pain, he wore an all black suit with a vest, he managed to get a sponsor from the local fish shop that paid for 20% of the suit, and so he had “Betty’s dirty fish” stapled to back of his vest. He played to the petshop on his Walkman, as he entered alone, he told Brenda to stay at home “this will get dirty” he said to her.
It’s a sin was playing loudly threw his earphones.
These gay guys can really play Barry thought
First came the early knock out rounds, that sorted the men from the boys, Barry as last year finalist was seeded at number two so there was no chance of meeting Billy until the final.
He breezed through his first two opponents, he was on top form. During the third game, he had only the black to pot to win the game and the frame; he had won all the previous frames. He turned to look at Billy who was sat at the bar; he did not look worried at all, just gave Barry a slight nod and a half smile. It angered Barry. Barry potted the black and turned away without shaking the hand of his opponent; he sat down and became one with the cue once again.
It was now the quarter final draw and local celebrity Chance Peterson made the draw Barry before going in to a rendition of Hound Dog, Chance got rapturous applause.
Again Barry came through the quarter final relatively unscathed, but so did wiz kid.
Chance drew the semi-final draw, and went to a rendition of jail house rock, chance was clearly drunk and his music suffered.
“Get of the stage you’re shit” shouted Billy.
“You shut up, you ignorant dick” drawled Chance, before going into a barrage of racial slurs aimed at the one black couple sat at the back. Chance fell ofd the stage trying to get his dick out, he was passed out and broke his nose with the fall. The bald manager was not happy that his star act was passed out, he carried him out on to the street before the semi-final.
This match was a little more difficult, he lost a couple of frames early but Barry stayed calm and though of the words of Sakya Trizin “When you at your most vulnerable, when anger is in your spirit, don’t think of potting the black, think of your opponent potting it and let it drive you”
Barry won the next 4 frames without breaking a sweat.
Billy won his semi-final as well.
And so it was that he would be facing Billy again in the final, one year after to his humiliating defeat.
There were murmurings from the locals that remembered last year tie, they talked about Barry’s miscue and Billy’s tan.
Billy walked up to Barry and extended his arm.
Barry ignored it.
“Barry have to say I’m surprised to see you here, I have to apologise for last year, when I was in Corfu, I never sent you a postcard” Billy said cheaply.
“And there I was thinking you were going to apologise for beating me to an inch of my life. I should have known better, your scum Billy, you’re going down tonight.”
“Same old same old Barry, you’ve been a failure all your life, king of nothing” Billy said before walking away.
Barry centred himself like an actor would, this was his stage.
“This is it people the final of the Imperial Pool championship. We have a repeat of last year final. Last year’s runner up Barry Braveheart Balls verse Billy the wiz kid Brown. I want a clean match hoho. Remember it’s first to 5 frames. Billy as last year winner you get to choose to break or to let Barry break” said the large bald manager who acted as umpire for the final.
“Let him do it” Billy spat the words out.
Barry won the first frame.
He won the second frame.
The third too.
The forth was easy for Barry.
The audience were in awe of how easily Barry potted the balls, he looked good in early rounds but now he was like he was possessed by the spirit of DannyYoung Boy Oldroyd. Oldroyd had famously won the tournament 5 years in a row, it could have been more too, but he was imprisoned for child molesting and later killed by inmate that year after a famous court case.
The fifth frame was only a matter of time and after a lack lustred fight back Billy was defeated.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our new champion”
Barry placed we are the champions on the juke box, but sadly it was queued up against other selections so it did not play until after he left.
“Barry the Braveheart BAAALLLLLS”
A couple of people clapped most we’re at the bar buying another pint
* * *
They chanted my name; they lifted me up on to shoulders. I was pool king, I am Barry and I AM POOL KING. The manager came up to me and I took the 6 inch tall plastic trophy and lifted it above my head, i saw Billy so I just gave him a wink.
I stayed for a few drinks, I never saw Billy leave I just know that I never saw him after the presentation.
The women swooned over me.
“I’m taken lady’s” I would say.
The men shook my hands; Paul even gave me a hug.
I left the bar, i saw Brenda there she looked beautiful. I let her take my arm.
“Well done Barry” She said
“Couldn’t have done it without you” I gave her a peck on the cheek, i’d give her more than that tonight.
I walked home, i was fulfilled.
2 Months later
So here I am in Corfu, the plane was everything me and Brenda had envisioned. You could even buy cheap fags, Brenda was in her element.
The only downside to the trip was that BA airlines had messed up with our suitcases. I did not make a fuss though, I could see myself using BA a lot in the future and I’m sure they do just fine. My brother had rang me last night, told me that Billy had taken his own life, and his job what up for grabs; i smiled at the thought of working.
I’m pool king now
Right now I’m sat beside the swimming pool sipping a pina colada and I couldn’t be happier.
“Barry” Brenda called me.
“Yes love?” I answered
I moved to feel my back, I felt a lump.
OH god it’s back.