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Fat Harry’s

September 20, 2008 by · No comments

Julie Farkas

Photo: le_don

Fenner sat on a bar stool and watched Wenz stroke the cue stick through his fingers several times, then become very still. With a flick of his wrist, the cue ball raced for the eleven. When it collided at an angle, the eleven coasted towards the side pocket. But the cue ball kept going, ricocheting off and speeding towards the eight ball.

C’mon Wenz, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon. . . Yes!

Wenz stood, accepted his winnings with his upturned hand under the table, then shoved the money deep in his pocket.

Fenner sighed with relief, turned to the bar and held up his empty mug to the harried bartender. “Hey, Bubba. Another beer.”

The bartender stopped in midstride, turned around, and walked back to Fenner. He planted his fat hands on the bar, then surprised Fenner when his doughy, pimply, face came within inches of his.

“My name is not ‘Bubba’.” He picked up the empty mug. “Pay your tab tonight, or you and your friend in there can find someplace else to drink.”

Fenner leaned away from the angry young man, and tried to size him up. Large, round, baby fat cheeks, and soft around the jaw. Probably a college student. He almost gave him a surly reply, but decided he wanted the beer more than a confrontation. “Sure, kid. No problem.”

He spun around, then had to catch himself when he almost fell off the barstool. When the room stopped spinning, he looked to see if Wenz had started another game.

No local would be fool enough to play Wenz for money, so they had to depend on out-of-towners whenever they needed serious cash. This should be a good night. The Dawgs weren’t too tired from the game this afternoon, and like all rugby players, they wanted to party. These Georgia boys should keep the money flowing into Wenz’s pockets.

And they needed money.

Wenz said that at the beginning, you needed advertising to build a business, so they gave away weed and coke. To Fenner it looked an awful lot like a party. And after sales, they always owed Cortez money. And Fenner did not like owing Cortez money.

The kid put the beer on the bar and Fenner turned to reach for it, but the kid’s fat fingers gripped the handle.


Fenner smiled, almost laughed. With that round pimply face, he didn’t look like a bartender, he looked stupid. If he didn’t owe money . . . “He’s doing great. Tonight.” Fenner held the mug up. “Cheers.” The kid didn’t even crack a smile. Fenner shook his head.

Kids today. No sense of humor.

He took a deep gulp of beer. With the winnings, they would pay the bar tab, then after they sold everything in the trunk, they could pay off Cortez.

Cortez. Just the thought of him gave Fenner the willies. And this camera business really bothered him. He didn’t mind dealing a little weed and coke to fraternities, but selling stolen cameras? Especially for Cortez. . .

Fenner looked over his shoulder into the poolroom. The crowd had thinned while Wenz set up the table and waited for another game. Fenner could see some of the photographs the owner had hung of Tulane athletes playing football, basketball and baseball. The largest, of course, was the photograph of Wenz the night of the win over LSU.

Sports had always come easy to Wenz. Put a ball or stick in his hand, explain the object of the game, and he not only mastered the moves, but turned the play into an art form. All his life, Fenner had envied Wenz for that.

He turned away from the poolroom and stared at the almost empty mug. People used to look up to him just because he hung around with Wenz. Now. . .

And his father had been so proud of him when Tulane kids started coming in to get auto policies from the agency. Fenner felt awful filling out the applications knowing Wenz had planned fake wrecks for money.

Why couldn’t they just have a beer at home, or go watch Maravich play, or even a Saints game from time to time. But Wenz go to a pro game? No way.

No, he wasn’t letting those kids file fake claims for car wrecks that didn’t happen. He wasn’t leaving the agency. And he wasn’t dealing weed, or coke, or stolen cameras for Cortez anymore-—or for anyone. But how could he tell Wenz that?

Fenner turned to check the game, but couldn’t see the room now with the crowd around the door. He knew he needed to remind Wenz to lose this game and keep the Dawgs interested instead of angry.

Or maybe he would take the streetcar home. Wenz didn’t need him here anymore, and he had to get up early for work.

Fenner took the last swallow of his beer, then tried to stand. He wobbled, caught the bar, then got his bearings. He made his way through the kids crowding the doorway and walked towards Wenz, then stumbled and fell against the pool table.

“Hey,” Wenz said as he caught him under the arm. “You okay?”
Fenner looked up Wenz. Gray cigarette smoke curled around his head, his face a shadow under the lights over the pool table.

“Fenner, you okay?”

“Just need some air.” He struggled to get vertical, then fixed his eyes on the red exit sign above the side door. “I’m fine. I guess that last beer . . .” He started towards the door. “I’m fine now. Don’t forget the tab.”

He weaved his way through the packed room to the door, the red exit light his guide. When pushed the door open, he stepped out into a steady rain. The gush of fresh air on his face felt good as he splashed down the steps, but his feet didn’t feel right. When he got to the sidewalk, he looked down at the dirty water swirling above his ankles.


Shit! It’s flooding!

He ran back up the steps and opened the door, and yelled inside, “Hey guys, it’s flooding.” He ran back down the steps and waded to the parked car. “Shit!”

Wenz had backed into a low spot, and the floodwaters reached halfway up the trunk. A car drove past, it’s wake lapping water towards the sidewalk.

Jesus Christ! The cameras!

Fenner waded around to the driver’s side, and tried to open the door, then looked over the top of the car, searching for Wenz in the crowd of people spilling out of the bar.

Fenner saw Wenz step out of the bar, see the flooding, then start running to the car, his eyes open wide, wild looking. When he got to the trunk, he fumbled for the key. “Fuck! Fuck! The cameras!”

Fenner waded to the back of the car just as Wenz got the trunk open. Black and gold Pentax boxes floated around the flooded trunk, the shiny colored wrap splitting away from the soaked white cardboard.

Wenz slammed the trunk down. “Fuck. Get in the car.”

Fenner opened the passenger side, then sat with his feet in six inches of water. Wenz gripped the steering wheel and leaned all the way forward to see over the hood, then started the motor and slowly pressed the gas to drive away from the low curb without creating a wake that might flood the engine. He inched out of the space, then headed for St. Charles Avenue, and higher ground.

“Shit Wenz, what do we do now?” Fenner looked out the window at the crazy quilt of cars parked on the streetcar tracks to keep them high and dry.

“We’ll drive to my parent’s house. It won’t be flooded there. We can dump everything out of the trunk into the carriage house and dry it out.” Wenz turned onto St. Charles, joining a long line of cars creeping along, searching for higher ground. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” Wenz hit the steering wheel with each ‘shit.’

“Jesus, Wenz. Cortez is going to want his money.”

“Think I don’t know that!”

They drove in silence, the only noise the sound of waves against car as they drove on the flooded street.

Then hit the steering wheel again. “Wait a minute. This is perfect. We’ll file the claims for flooded cars!” He slapped Fenner on the knee. “And you thought we were fourth down without a play.”

“Yeah, flooded cars. And we won’t have to pay the cop for the fake accident reports.”

“Now you’re thinking. See, I told you we would need those cars as back-up.”

Fenner looked at Wenz, now leaning way back in the car seat, his face flushed in triumph. “You were right Wenz. You were right.”

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