The dark public bar of the Eight Kings is daubed, this afternoon, with three broad strokes of sunlight pouring through the windows suffusing everything touched with honeyed shafts, crowning shadows. Reflected in the mirror behind the teak jump, among the faces gathered, the smoke, the bottles, the glasses, a caged and colourful fruit machine trills as we step across the threshold and suddenly there is the sound of felt kissing resin, low chat, glass question marks, coughing commas, exclamation marks. Hacking laughter. But Kenny’s stool is empty.
Ffooks studies a black ball, studies it from many angles, nods a corner pocket. Was here, he says. He rubs his whiskers, his chin within, folds his filthy and overalled shape over the varnished lip and, with an efficient, brutal kindness known only, I suppose, to someone who had experience with disappearing chickens, rabbits, kittens, sick things, dispatches the black sphere into the appointed hole, hissing, yes. Imagine him likely to pull a blue cube of chalk from nowhere and launch it toward the ceiling. He does this right now: the chalk rising, turning through gold, through shadowy spaces, returning, as if on command, into his palm. Ffooks’ smudges his hair away from his face with the side of his hand and his spectacles (silly, sellotaped things at the end of his nose), twitch as he repeats himself. Was here. We heard, dear, says Tin Ribs.
We sit in one of the snugs, a bench each, backs to the panelling, drinks and tobacco on the table And, while we wait we watch Ffooks set up another frame. He surveys the green baize, stalks it, the blue cube appearing again. He mumbles somethings to an opponent unseen, listens intently to nothings. She takes the tin, inverts the lid and constructs a cigarette. Her bangles jangling on the table. She places her head into the crook of her tabled elbow like some suddenly anointed Ann Boleyn. The balls are sent across the table in all directions with a great fire crack. She exhales as the room settles. He steps into the light. Begins.