Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Legend of Chalky the Painter

McDade Trophy 3rd Place

He was a painter and decorator, Chalky White,
But his mission lay elsewhere.
In his paint-splattered smock and ratting cap
He spent his days in a snooker shack
Potting balls with assiduous care.
Chalky was tall, energetic with a dark mop of hair,
Nothing that shouted ‘good at the game’.
He’d arrive in the morning with a bob or two
To draw the unwary passing through
Into a friendly ‘low-risk’ frame.
He was no professional, no great hustling man,
More a whirl than a whirlwind in fact,
But his aim was good when the chips were down,
He’d sink a long red and make it count
On pay days when tenners were stacked.
He’d lose the first frame, but the next was backed double,
And he’d raise his game a notch.
A fiver became ten, then twenty or more,
The locals would gather round the floor
And Chalky cleared up while they watched.
There were two flies in the ointment that spoilt this script,
The first was Harry the Snout,
A prison warder from Cardiff Bay
He ground down opponents with his safety play,
Picked up points after they’d hit out.
The first time they met, Chalky gave best to the Snout.
A red was loose near the pack,
But the gap was as tight as a mortise lock
When he chalked his tip with his trusty block,
Sighted low with stun for the black.
The red span round the pocket but stayed out the crack,
Chalky knew he’d made a mistake,
Not fatal, he thought, it was early days –
Lots of players had devious ways –
But the Snout made a frame-winning break.
Next time he played Harry, he was more circumspect,
Potted balls with safety in mind,
The result was a rack that lasted an hour,
Equal they were, and equally dour,
Snooker worriers, two of a kind.
The painter won that game, the warder the next two,
But the hours and days passed by.
The length of the frames led to Chalky’s fall,
His bread and butter work went to the wall
And Rose White wanted to know why.
To the hall of green baize stormed Rose, her temper inflamed,
Chalky had missed five jobs or more.
She was a big woman, Rose, with arms like hams,
Legs like young oaks from pushing prams.
What followed went down into lore.
‘Where’s our Chalky! Where’s our Chalky!’ Twice Rose called,
A giant figure framed in the door.
The ball clicking stopped, cues clunked on the baize,
No-one had seen such an angry gaze,
Chalky ducked, lay prone on the floor.
Rose’s nose twitched like a hound as she looked down the hall,
Took three giant steps inside,
She was on the scent, a whiff of emulsion,
Turpentine, primer, his old caulking gun!
There was no place for Chalky to hide!
‘Where’s our Chalky!’ she growled, menace in every word.
Legends are made of flimsy lore,
But the painter’s escape was pure Robin Hood:
Errol Flynn’s exploits weren’t half as good
As Chalky White’s run from that hall.
He saw Rose’s big toe just two tables away,
Then to his great horror, her face.
Words were not spoken, it was an action scene.
He rose up; his wife did the same.
The mind of the quarry raced.
He looked to the left, the right, beyond and behind.
There was no route out but the door.
Rose edged to the side. ‘You lying crook!’
Chalky’s hand reached down for the hook
That supported the extension cue,
Came up with the pole like a Waterloo lancer,
Took ten steps back to the wall
Then charged full tilt, planted the thick butt end,
Vaulted the table end to end,
Landed on the next, among balls.
Running light-footed over the lamp-lit baize
He leapt from table to table.
Like a fire dancer on stepping stones,
Fred Astaire could not have crossed those zones
Faster than Chalky the Painter.
He didn’t pause at the door, went out like an eel,
Rose followed like a fast moving barge,
But her man was already down the stairs.
‘Come back, Chalky!’ It froze the hairs
On bald men’s heads, but he’d charged
Like El Cid into the sunset, on, on, out of sight,
The legendary vaulter, Chalky White.
Martin Domleo

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