Click on an image to read an excerpt from that chapter:

Chapter 1:
The Kozy Korner Café
Chapter 9:
Drive-in Movies and Pool Halls
Chapter 17:
My Ole Man Tony
Chapter 2:
The Beaded Indian Belt Heist
Chapter 10:
Elderberry and the Lost '62 Season
Chapter 20:
Everybody be Kung-Fuh Figh-ting
Chapter 4:
The Bigger the Penis, the Bigger the Gun
Chapter 11:
Ain't No Dribblin on Your Donkey
Chapter 22:
Ass Kickin at Yahgene's Poolroom
Chapter 7:
Riff Raffin with High Society
Chapter 13:
Studderin wid Studebaker Brown
Chapter 36:
Haircuts from Hell







- Excerpt from Chapter 1 -
The Kozy Korner Café

Mom and dad took over the restaurant September of 1946. All their worldly possessions, me in a babyblue bassinet, wedged into the back of a twotone Lasalle, we were migratin south from the shuttered shipyards of New Port News. Snakin down two-lane Ocean Highway 17 on our way to the Florida boom when the Greek meatballs and feta cheese ran out and we pit-stopped for gas, lunch and a diaper change in a tiny resort crossroads called Myrtle Beach. We pile out the car and push through the art deco door of the Kozy Korner Café. A Broderick Crawford lookalike in french cuffs and an expensive suit, uglied up with a wide amoeba tie and fake gold tie clasp, gives me a cute-baby poke and escorts us to an aluminum booth. Broderick turns out to be the owner, Charleston-born, cigarchewin geechee-accent Greek who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tom Haley. He introduces hissef to my Cypriot-born ole man who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tony Thompson.
“Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone shoes.
“On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
“Whaddayou plannin on doin down there?”
“Find a business, start a new life.
We heard things were good there.”
Tom waves his hand. “
Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
Tony glances around “I only have fifty two hundred dollars.”
Tom smiles, slaps the table
“Whaddayou talkin? That’s the price.”
“Any other Greeks live here?” asks Tony.
“Yea... there’s Papa Chris, George Anthony, Louie Achilles, John Gravis, Baroutsos, Charlie Kordas and... plentya Greeks...






- Excerpt from Chapter 2 -
The Beaded Indian Belt Heist

“Don’t care whut nobody says... ain’t nothin whut’ll flare yo nostrils’n squoonch up yo butt like stealin. Specially yo first stealin.”

Got myself a fist fulla change, my collar up, my ducktail combed perfect, skinny suede belt buckled on the side, dungaree cuffs rolled up inna tight peg, ID bracelet on my wrist, crucifix round my neck, hawkbill knife in my back pocket. Just finished hammerin four Co-Cola caps into the leather bottoms of my size-3 Apache moc loafers. Headin down to the Pavilion arcade to take a shot at scorin me one of those silver skullrings or maybe a carved coconut head. Soon’s my feet hit the concrete boardwalk, I get to showin off, dartin in and out corndog-eatin tourists, boogie-walkin, draggin my bottle-cap heels, slingin sparks. I scrape past the skeeball machines, flip a crisp salute to some pasty-head soldiers lined up at the rifle booth, sashay through Massre’s beachball shop to try on the red and blue sailor hats just in from Taiwan. “Hey boy you wanna buy somethin?” “Jus lookin.” “Then looka somewhere else.” Flip the clerk a quick fingerwave, scoot tween the aisles back out to the boardwalk, slap the backs of four stools of sunburned lintheads gnawin mustardy footlongs at Ocean Front Grill, wave at Mouse in the change booth thumbin out a dollar worth of quarters, tapdance by the Bat-a-Way, whistle at three giggly girls crammed into the photo booth, make a ratface at a serious lady gettin her silhouette snipped, wave at Noodles dippin candy apples, swipe a fingerful of cotton candy from the display, then boogiewalk over to the jitterbugging area. I run my hand all round the warm Rock-Ola, check the coin return, snatch a quick peek at the scratchy red 45 playin...

MY STOVE’S IN GOOD CONDITION
by Lil Johnson.

I spin off the jukebox, slam on brakes right in front of zoot-suited Whitey Stevens cleanin his fingernails with his pearl-handle stiletto. Give Whitey a quick respectful nod, hop over a sunburned fat lady drip-dryin on a wooden bench in her bathhouse rental bathing suit. Reeks of Noxzema, carved coconut head under her arm. She’s double-wrapped like a mutant corn dog in a big Coppertone towel. I Bojangle some sparks off her dangly feet. Get her jabbin her finger my direction, hollerin I’m bout to set her sandy, flat feet on fire...







- Excerpt from Chapter 4 -
The Bigger the Penis,
the Bigger the Gun

“Ain’t no big secret that sooner or later,
every little boy’s gonna lust after a gun.
Teachers blame the urge on too many
movies and comic books. Moms, like they
do most things, blame it on daddy.
Psychologist people blame it on the penis.”

Me, I subscribe to the penis theory. Seems the bigger my penis got, the bigger gun I wanted. Dad provided me with all sortsa guns. Water guns, rubberband guns, plastic guns, capshooters. He even bought me a gun which shot rubber-tipped darts and a tripod-mounted plastic machine gun which pooped a plastic bullet bout ten feet. Had me two Coble milk crates jam fulla penises. But I didn’t have the alpha penis. Didn’t have me a BB gun. “Daddy... I wanna BB gun.” Maybe a smile or pat on the head. Mostly just look the other way. Maybe blow cigarette smoke in my face. Change the subject to Greek philosophy. “Socrates didn’t have a gun... ” Run to mom. “Hey mommy... I wanna BB gun.” No answer. Turns pale. Looks at her feet. Cringes, bites her lip, crosses herself. Time to turn up the voltage. I perfect a tympanic-membrane-piercin, glass-shatterin, get-the-dogs-barkin, BB gun whine. Similar to the song of the humpback whale in heat. “IIIIIIIIII WANNAAAAAAAAAAA BEEBEE GUNNNNNN.” Combine high-pitched BB gun whine with pogo’n, head-slingin, grand mal tantrums. Mom takes notice. Blames my snit-fits on too many Co-Colas and coffee ice creme. “Why on earth do you want a gun? Can’t you go play hopscotch, play with your yo-yo, your slinky, ride your trike... how about I call Lady Earl and get you some piano lessons?” The threat of piano-stoolin with Lady Earl, her pastin spitty gold stars to my forehead for masterin Chopsticks, makes me let fly with another glass-shatterin whine....







- Excerpt from Chapter 7 -

Riff Raffin with High Society

“Bein invited to Zenelda McAlister’s 10th
birthday party marked my first incursion into
the rarified air of high society.”

Still short of pecker and common sense, I considered the event significant. Zenelda’s birthday party was to be a gala event. A themed, catered patio party. Not just catered, but catered by swanky chefs from Pine Lakes Country Club. Every kid,whose parents registered on the social Richter scale was to be there. My parents, not dues-paying members of anything resemblin a club, weren’t on the official guest list. Bein I sat behind her in 4th grade and tickled the back of her neck when the teacher wadn’t watchin, Zenelda invited me herself. Zenelda lived way up on the north end of town, on a fashionable street in The Ocean Forest Section. I pedal the three miles to her house on my recently refurbished English bike. The bike had suffered serious damage to the siren and spotlight when the city garbage truck backed over it. Just as I round the corner to Zenelda’s house, a sleek burgundy sedan, tad longer than Morrison’s serving line, runs me up the curb. The car, a kind I’d never seen before cept in Fred Astaire movies, pulls right up front. A lean, handsome man, skin bout the color of a Heath bar, dressed in a burgundy uniform and matchin cap, exits on the driver side. He strides around and opens the door for his passenger. Somethin large and exotic begins fillin up the doorway. Holy motha of pearl, he’s got an ostrich in the back seat! Turns out it wutn’t an ostrich. Underneath a tall hat festooned with white and black feathers is a rubbery neck and plump pair of ankles I recognize as the top and bottom parts of a large female body. Woman ain’t only impressively horizontal, she’s seriously vertical. She had to go to her knees to keep from knockin off her hat when she boiled out the door like sewage out of a drain. From the street, I watch her waddle up the terrazzo walk and knock on the door. After a lotta huggy squeals and gushy talk, somebody invites her in. Knowin I ain’t on the official invite list, I avoid the front door rigmarole by skulkin round the side of the house....







- Excerpt from Chapter 9 -
Drive-in Movies and Pool Halls

“Yea, 1960 was a scrapbook kinda year. But 1961...
now that en-tire year hardly had a fly on it.
Kodak moments trippin all over itself.
Yea... 1961 was jam up and jelly tight.”

Finished 9th grade, my first year of high school that year. That’s the year my heart skipped a beat listenin to Ellen Gray solo Stormy Weather in assembly. The year everything skipped a beat when I saw Gayle Taft get sweaty on the basketball court. Fell in serious, boulevard-cruisin, lipnumbin love three times that year. First time on the sunbaked hood of my dad’s Willys jeep at State Park. Second time was late at night doin gymnastics in a lifeguard stand. Third time was the most comfortable... Me and my princess listenin to the crashin surf while we bounced on a sandy, canvas rental float. Weren’t too far from the South Wind Motel. This was the night I discovered the magic of a good toehold. Got my night driver’s license that same year. And I got my first car. Used my collection of silver dollars, $2 bills and Indian Head pennies to buy a finely-crafted engineering marvel called a Ford Falcon. Radio, heater, plaid seatcovers, the works. Thing’d shake out your backteeth at a face-flattenin topspeed of 76 MPH. Bought it from Eddie Williams babyblue, spraypainted it navy-blue a month later. Garnished it with a catalog-bought chrome tailpipe, fender skirts and an 8-track tape player. Uncle Diogenes woulda been proud. Hardly anything went wrong that year. Didn’t nunna our huntin dogs get run over that year. Mom and dad didn’t go outta business that year. Mom didn’t crash the Buick into the restaurant that year. No hurricanes hit land. No polio, tuberculosis or hookworm epidemic. America was in between big wars. Communists hadn’t taken over like everybody said they would. Didn’t look like we were gonna need to build a bomb shelter. UFOs were spotted again, but none landed. The drug scene wadn’t yet a scene. Dad’s hemorrhoids didn’t flare up, neither did his fissure. My dandruff was under control. Mom was also havin a good hair year. Kozy Korner Cafe was history...







- Excerpt from Chapter 10 -
Elderberry and the Lost '62 Season

“There are football games...
And then there are football games.
And then... there’s THE BIG GAME.
You know what I’m sayin?”

Every high school, no matter how Podunk, has the big game. The game bigger than the en-tire season. Bigger than droughts, floods, locusts or train derailments. Hive-poppin, boilraisin, career-endin, earth-shakin, lip-bitin, hemorrhoid-droppin, life and death affairs. Games so monumental big people name their first born children after the winnin play... Crossbuck-Calhoun Butt’n-Hook-Gore Tackle-eligible-Todd Blocked-punt-Bellamy Flea-flicker-Stevens Lose the regular ole game and in a few days nobody much cares. But drop the winnin touchdown in THE BIG GAME and if you’re not flat run outta town, you’re apt to get a dead chicken thrown in your yard, your house egged, your dog poisoned, hung in effigy. Very least you can expect is a blivit full of dog poop set on fire in front of your door and your name written with “sucks various parts of anatomy” on every bathroom stall and shitter in town. Shouldn’t be that way but it is. TONIGHT’S OUR BIG GAME. Tonight, don’t nobody care Marilyn Monroe died, there’s a missile crisis in Cuba or that some colored boy is tryin to attend college in Mississippi. Tonight’s the night Myrtle Beach Seahawks are playin the Conway Tigers.

ARCH-RIVALS SQUARE OFF

...is the headline in our local birdcage liner. Archrivals? Archrivals? Why anyone would call a team who’d beaten us 30 years in a row an archrival, I could never figure. That’s bout like a fat possum callin car tires his archrival...







- Excerpt from Chapter 11 -
Ain't No Dribblin On Your Donkey

“Nummer four’ll stand there til hell freezes over.
Five’s been beat shy. Useta be a highdiver.
Useta jump off a thirty foot tower
into a six-foot burnin pool.”

Pinned to the cork bulletin board right outside the principal’s office is the following notice on lined paper:

ATTENTION:
ALL STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN THE DONKEY BASKETBALL GAME THIS COMING WEDNESDAY SHOULD MEET AT THE WEST END OF THE GYMNASIUM AT LEAST FORTY-FIVE MINUTES BEFORE GAME TIME.

Kinda antsy, I juice to the Myrtle Beach gym an hour early. Six players already there. Within a few minutes all of us there. Me and Darryl Allen are the first to dress out. I change into my gray gym shorts, jock strap, phys-ed T-shirt, slip on two pairs of thick white socks, pop two Tums, lace up my low-cut Chuck Taylor sneaks little tighter than usual. Pretty soon all ten of us are dressed out and waitin. We pass the time shootin hoops and plyin each other with questions...
"Bout how big is a donkey?"
"Do we get saddles?”
"Are they fast? Why don’t their feet tear up the wood floor?"
"Anybody ever actual see a donkey basketball game...?"
Ain’t nobody seen one. “Truck’s pullin up out back,” one of our group barks. We drop our basketballs and cram into the doorway for a looksee. Large truck needin a new orange paint job is pullin an open-top trailer. Several raw bondo spots give it the camouflage look. Nice customized chicken-wire grill. Deer rack wired on for a hood ornament. We watch through the doorway while the driver grinds the gears and negotiates his way backwards between the cafeteria and the gymnasium. Handpainted in fat red script on the truck doors is the followin:

Argyle Bloom
ANIMAL PRODUCTIONS

Truck driver leans out the window and yells over to us:
"This heah Myrtle Beach ha school?"...







- Excerpt from Chapter 13 -
Studderin wid Studebaker Brown

"Thaddeus looked at me one more time.
Worry in his yellowy eyes.
"You go outtere you mind yo mouth, you heah?
Don’t be tryin to be sompin you ain’t.
Don’t be talkin nigga talk or jiveass.
An don’t be talkin uppity white talk.
Jes be what you is. Hear what ahm sayin?
Dey som colored outtere who ain’t got no use fer whitey... specially uppity whitey. You heah wha ahm sayin?"

By the age of sweet 16, mid-1962, not even a full year after my first trip to Gene’s Pool Hall, I was of the opinion, no matter how scroungy, how dangerous, how off the beaten path, every poolhall was nothin short of Disneyland. Stuff a regulation pooltable up a buffalo’s ass and I was apt to squeeze myself up through there, switch on the lights, dry myself off, look all around, grab a cuestick and say...
“Hey... nice place yall got here.” That was me. Pooldog on the scent always sniffin out new action, new poolhalls and new poolplayers to bang heads with. One afternoon I put the question to Thaddeus Harley, our 60-year-old white-haired dishwasher at the Black Angus.
"Hey Thaddeus, who’s the best colored poolplayer around?” Thaddeus purses up his lips, rubs his pimply chin gently and says, "Hmmmm. De best? Som people say Leroy Brunson’s de best. Some say Jazzbo’s de best. Sum say Studebaker Brown.” Those three names had come up in conversation before. "Who you say?” Never one to just yabber for the sake of noise, Thaddeus measures his words.
"Leroy’s still young, ain’t dere yet. Jazzbo’s flashy, dresses som kinda fine. Outdance a monkey. Breaks de balls like nobody’s bidness. He hangs out mostly to The Up-Jump-The Devil Club down to Plantersville."
“Up-Jumped-the-Devil-Club? Thata forreal place?”
“Oh yea. Dat’s DEE PLACE in Plantersville.
Come Fridee or Satadee, place be fulla peoples, dancin, drinkin, gamblin, carryin on...







- Excerpt from Chapter 17 -
My Ole Man Tony

"My ole man was just my ole man...
Never think of your ole man as a for-real person.
Never think your ole man’s got feelins, dreams, needs.
He’s just the ole guy you live with, tells you what to do, buys you stuff, reels you back in when you veer off on a tangent.
He’s a lotta things but he ain’t a for-real person.
Leastways that’s what I useta think
before that day on the fishin pier."

Last Friday had been a big day. Had me a helluva game against the Winyah Gators. Scored two touchdowns, ran in an extra point, played some good defense, got myself an interception. Got my picture stiffarmin somebody in the Sun News. Bunch of us went to John’s Barbecue afterward. One a those nights when you feel like the brightest star in the universe. Like your ass is glowin, planets revolvin around you. Mister Kara, a bear of a man with a megaphone - voice who never missed any of our games, saw me standin at Mister Prather’s Texaco station.
"Di-no my boy... You finally figured out it’s better to run straight ahead then sideways... keep it up my boy." Coupla other boiled-peanut eaters chuckled. They were well aware of my ability to scurry sideways for two minutes and gain three yards. Mister Prather chimed in. "Yea little Dino had hissef a right good game last night. Scored two touchdowns." My dad just stood there rollin his Player tween his fingers, little grin on his face. He pats me on the back, blows smoke my direction. "I’m proud of you son for makin a homerun last night." Homerun? Mister Prather lowers his eyes, keeps eatin boiled peanuts, spittin shells in an oil can. Even 10th grade dropout Leland Royce, who’s spittin on an inner-tube tryin to find a leak, is grinnin. I felt like crawlin in the grease sump. Andonios Costan-dinos Theocharides was his Cypriot given name. Mouthful, most local Baptists called him Tony the Greek...







- Excerpt from Chapter 20 -
Everybody be Kung-Fu Figh-ting

"Cover up his red and blue scorpion tattoo,
his butch-waxed crewcut, take away his calypso pants,
striped pullover shirts, leather sandals and sunglasses,
and he coulda been anybody..."

Beatnik lawyer, herbologist, leadin man in a porno film. Tarlton’s ruddy face was a familiar face round the beach. Far as most of us knew, he’d been born and raised here. But that’s bout as far as most of us knew. Most everything else bout Tarlton’s life was muddled mystery. The stuff of whispers. Couldn’t anybody tell you where he stayed at night, what he did for a livin, if he had a wife or family, if he could fastdance. We didn’t even know for sure whether he was a Democrat. The one common thread which sewed through all the hush hush speculation bout Tarlton was this...
"Tarlton," people in the know whispered, "...is one of the most dangerous unarmed men on the face of this here earth."
Didn’t matter a bit not one of these so called people in the know had ever actual seen Tarlton raise his hand in anger, or for that matter, heard him loud up his voice. Sizewise, Tarlton T. Dickle didn’t impress. Built solid, low to the ground. The boy warn’t no Paul Bunyon. Stumpy was what he was. So what was it bout Tarlton that made him so dangerous?
"It’s jest a combination of things," Tripp Lampley explained.
"He jest is,” Barber Wilkie said.
"Don’t tell him I told ya, but what he is, is one of them soldiers of fortune," is what the meat cutter at Piggly Wiggly revealed. Saw Colonel Spratt sittin on the end of Ocean Plaza Pier. The colonel, retired Army, a man of adventure himself, a man who now spent most every day either fishin or talkin bout it, was sippin a grape Nehi. He offered up this most interestin of explanations bout Tarlton.
"Tarlton T. Dickle... has acquired a highly evolved knowledge of a mysterious form of oriental hand to hand combat.”
He moved his mouth closer to my earholes.
"Tarlton T. Dickle... is a kung-fu master..."







- Excerpt from Chapter 22 -
Ass Kickin at Yahgene's Pool Room

"We all gave him the benefit of the doubt as to his
pool playin abilities. Now whether he had shit for sense
was still open to question."

Lanky, greasy-haired stranger, totin his own leather cue case, kicks open the flimsy front door and whines out the followin announcement...
"Ah jes drove hunnerd and fity miles to git here. Ah came to play. Ah’ll play any-bahdy, for any amount he can count... from heah to Rocky Mount..." He just stands there smilin, cuttin his hard eyes around. “So... any y’all nits intrested?”
Nother loudmouth shithouse poet, I'm thinkin. Trailin a minute behind the loudmouth is his moneyman. Tall and thick. Neat crewcut on a bucket-size head. Flounder-size feet, long slow steps. Amblin. Bout as concerned as a lion on the African plains.
Didn’t take but a coupla seconds, just long enough for all of us to turn around and put a face to the whiny obnoxious voice, that the poolplayer had everybody’s undivided attention.
Covey of us regulars bunched up near the front counter, noddin at each other, mumblin. "You know'm? I don’t know’m. You know’m?. I damn sure don’t wanna know'm."
Drexel Matson, operator of the Red Dot store across the street, is standin near me. In for this weeks parlay card and his 3-o’clock penrose sausage, boiled egg and Pepsi, he whispers a bad breath version of what all of us are thinkin. "This heah boy’s got bout as much class as a dried booger on a bedpost."
Everybody in the poolroom, even those playin on the back tables, react bad to the stranger’s nails-on-blackboard voice. Most everyone hip to the comins and goins of pocket billiard players was aware only two types of people carried a cue case into a strange pool hall. The kind who couldn’t shoot a lick, thought a combination was some kind of seafood platter. Or, a bonifide pool hustler, a road man, a maestro of the green felt....







- Excerpt from Chapter 36 -
Haircuts from Hell

"Everbody’s gotta hate somethin.
It’s just natural to hate somethin.
Dentist’s, barbers, and the index finger of any urologist.
Hatin barbers came first..."

Still hate the barbershop experience. Still consider it demeanin and castratin. I no longer kick barbers, but... I sure as hell want to. Most of the ole-time sheetpoppers, Wilkie, Luke West, Mister Lamb and Mister Fitzhugh are retired or gone to haircuttin heaven. There’s a few barbers still around hidin behind hifilutin titles. Callin themselves hair stylists, designers, architects. They do that so they can charge $15 for a dollar haircut. My very first haircut was inflicted on me by a barber named Wilkie. Wilkie’s Barbershop, largest in town, located right across the street from our apartment. That palace of a hair-cuttin place boasted the followin appointments...
Five chrome and leather barberchairs. One child’s airplane seat. Wall-mount barberpole. Black and white tile floors. Golden-oak shoeshine stand and a snappy shoeshiner by the name of Jo Jo White who could pop out a tune with his shoeshine rag. Wilkie’s had a 12-seat waitin area, a porcelain towelsteamer, about 50 different bottles of hair tonic and a dog-eared issue of every Life and Mechanic’s Illustrated ever printed. Born bald as a sugarbeet, took me til 1949 before my softball-size head required the services of a for-real barber. For-real meant he owned a pair of long scissors, a razor, bottle of stinky hair tonic, a candy stripe pole, a barber chair, and knew two haircuts... One for grownups, one for kids.
World-wide blueprint for a kid’s haircut went somethin like this...
A. shave sides completely bald.
B. cut everything off the top, cept one sprig.
C. make his head like a Volkswagen with the doors open.
D. make every kid look like a midget marine....