CAVEAT: You need to do two things before you continue reading this post;
1. Ian Sketch Arunga’s blog . This was a guest post in his blog, [Dear Doris].
2. How to play pool [Google]
We have not made each other’s acquaintance, so it would be polite to manage the pleasantries between strangers. My name is Magunga, at least that is how creative my mother can get. But I go by several references. When my school mates need a crater drilled into someone’s face, they call me Goon. When they need a favour from the administration, they call me Jakom. But the most prominent pseudonym is the one old man gave me; he simply called me G. I am one foot shy of a standard Lothario (5”11); my mass clocks at 80 kgs when am hungry and people say God spilled milkless coffee on me on creation. But the truth, Doris, is that I was born on a stretcher (a testament to my impatience) and in 1991 Aga Khan Hospital ambulances engines must have been over-revved and under-serviced. I had a run in with its smoke in 1991, and I have been black ever since. I am a sucker for Coke, Ginger Ale and gorgeous smiles.
Now that we have that out of the way, I have only two questions.
One; why don’t you ever write back? For a year (or something in that neighbourhood) I have read Ian empty his heart to you, so desperately sometimes that it seems as if he is chasing a figment of his hallucinations. Either you exist, or Mathare inmates are on long holiday.
Second question; can you shoot pool, Doris? No? Do you know billiards? No? Well, it’s a game of balls. Seventeen coloured balls, a long rod that thins its way to the tip, a special white ball and a (mostly green/blue) table. The essence of the game is simple. Each player competes at who would stick his balls first into any of the six available holes on the green table. I really do not know much pool history, but my guess is it a man’s invention. A man who was inspired by a blonde or a cocotte. Google says it was a Frenchman, and I wouldn’t agree more. Here is why; the only way to ‘open the game’ is by inserting money,usually 20 bob, into a slot and the balls come rolling out. Basically the same concept of paying for love; you part with some money and the trollop racks your balls. However he lost me with the notion of balls being stuck in, and the stick remaining out, but then again, my dear Doris, you can never understand these French people and their eccentricities.
At this point I would like to remind you that it is not my intention to talk to you about balls, but about the game.
I love playing pool, Doris. It’s a slow game, but its sluggishness is somewhat exhilarating. Especially when you’re shooting pool for money. I am a campus student, and when the brunt of economic drought coughs its breathe of destitution upon us, we have to do whatever it takes to keep us going until HELB rears its sexy head.
Historically pool was a noble man’s game. They even called it “The Noble Game of Billiards”- can you smell the pomp in that name? When you call it like that, it sounds like a game played by wealthy smug friends on a warm Sunday afternoon over Havana cigars and smooth whiskey; with their wives in the living room shepherding the midday sun into the evening, occasionally sipping on tea and giggling at the hilarity of their own gossip.
Well, where I come from, UoN Parklands Campus, it’s a game of hustlers. This is where broke peeps earn their daily bread. Personally, I do not play pool for money. True, I have been known to place a bet on the pool table, just the same way I have been known to lose and win some. But I play pool for pride. Basically the same reason kamwana plays politics. I play for pride because I am a greenhorn in this game, and I refuse to play in my own league. I play so that when I beat you, I rub it on your face until you turn green. And when I lose (which is most of the time) I coil my humble tail.
There is this guy called Ayub who coils my tail all the time. He is a sharp shooter, and when he strikes a shot, he does it so hard that I find myself holding my crotch in fear for my own balls. It is an intimidating tactic that is meant to scare you away. It works like a witch’s broomstick; because when he hands me the cue stick later, I sweat like a virgin on a third date. That is how he wins, through intimidation, and then there is this name he calls me; Kurutu. It means I suck at pool. But you know our God is good and gracious, for in the same measure he blessed him with a talent of sinking balls into a hole, he also took away his eloquence in speech. He is a kuyu you see, so occasionally when playing he goes something like:
“Kulutu fungua game, reo (leo) nakutoa frat (flat)!”
When Ayub plays pool, I am his sidekick. But it has not always been thus. AT first when I met him, I thought he was too full of himself, he has an ego the size of a pool table; and when he beats you, he makes yours reduce to the size of the white ball. But lately we have been an indomitable duo of badassery. Together we have felled reigning pool champs at that table. Considering the rate at which I have been kicking ass at that table and making money while at it, I am tempted to think of it as a viable lifestyle choice. Doris, if this writing thing of mine doesn’t work out, I might consider shooting billiards for a living.
The other day, I grew too big for my breeches, and figured I would dare him to a game. I told you, I play for pride, and beating my mentor was the only huddle remaining to satisfy my ego. I had grown pubes, my voice was breaking, and I was as tall as my ‘father’. I could take him on. Iko nini!
So this one time we skipped class to shoot pool (this game is like a drug), and on this day, he had vowed that he was going kunitoa frat arafu twende crass. Cognisant of my conceited esteem, he made that promise in the presence of a lady. Ladies love watching ball games.
When he said that, I took it as an affront to my manhood. You see Doris, women inspire vanity. So I took him up on his challenge. In fact, I placed money (Ksh. 500) in just to show the fair lady that I meant business, that I had balls too.
So we began. Focus. He strikes the spotted balls, I sink the ringed ones (ask Ian how to play pool). We went head to head until we were left with the final ball. The black ball. It is also the number 8 ball. It is my turn. As a principle, this is the ball that is not to be sunk until all others are sunk. If I put it in, I win, if I miss hitting it, I lose. If it sinks into a hole separate from the one I indicate, I lose. I have a lot to lose, because I am also the one with something to prove. The black ball stands stoically against the side of the table.
Ayub taunts me as I take aim. He talks shrubs a lot of trash, but I believe it is because he is squeezing his ass cheeks so hard that shit comes out of his mouth. I look up at the lady. Her T-shirt asks me; “Who needs Brains when you have these?”
“Professor Situma,” I reply in my head.
This is a defining moment of this game, I do not have second chances.
“Middle hole” I say.
I have calculated the possible vectors, and the chances of my gamble, and my six months experiences tells me that if I hit the ball against the wall, it would roll back into the middle hole on the left. I stand in aim patiently, like a sniper scouting a kill. I measure the wind direction, the wind velocity, the room temperature, the amount of energy required to hit it. Heck I measure my own heart rate!
And then I strike.
Just as predicted, the ball comes rolling towards the middle hole. “Kurutu ni wewe!” I jeer at Ayub as the ball lethargically rolls towards its designated lair.
But then half way through its course, as if it changed its mind, the ball drifts to the left, and hits the tip corner of the middle hole. The impact deflects it towards the corner hole, and it dips in with such enthusiasm.
I sigh. I blame the gods for the humiliation. Ayub jumps around hysterically “Kulutu! Kulutu! Reta pesa!” I hear the lady giggle at my dejection as I reach for my wallet to pay up. I have the option of refusing to pay, but then I have already showed her that I’m all show and no substance. At least let me show her that I can at least pay my debts.
I reach for my wallet, only to realize that I don’t have it. “Kujia doh kwa room” I beg.
“Hakuna! Room kitu gani!!? Sema huna pesa. Maringo ndio mingi” he cajoles. Ayub is having a field day. “Huyu, he says to the girl, huyu hana kitu. Ni KULUTU!”
She snickers to give credence to Ayub’s outbursts. She seems pretty convinced that my arrogance goes for a song. I wish she noticed the watch though. I watch her get up and leave, and then her ass follows to catch up. Ayub’s remarks have come home to roost.
My ego shrinks.