“Where’s Short Tony?!?” demands the Chipper Barman.
I sigh. “He has had to drop out,” I explain. “Due to some unpleasantness.”
There is a brief conversation whilst I go over Short Tony’s situation. The atmosphere in the car becomes subdued.
We are on our way to the final snooker fixture of the year. It is a vital game, as it will decide how many points we finish below the second-from-bottom team in the league. We are grimly determined as we park up and enter the club. It is a cold night, but we have warm coats to insulate us from the chill Norfolk air; we lob these in a pile in the corner.
Big A, famous for dropping pints of lager, goes to the bar.
Shaun has not arrived. I am cross. Even though we are not very competent at the actual playing bit, we are well-known for our professionalism as a team. I chide him as he walks in.
“You are late,” I say. “This is not the sort of professional approach that we are known for. Anyway, Short Tony isn’t here, so you will have to play twice; once pretending to be him. They have not met him, so I have told them that you are twin brothers.”
“Just get your cue.”
Shaun gets his cue, ready to play.
“What happened to Short Tony?” he asks as an afterthought.
“There was some unpleasantness.”
Shaun starts playing his frame, pretending to be Short Tony. There is some discussion on the sidelines about Rule 1.1. This is the only rule in the snooker club, and is to do with what our wives are expected to do on our return, should we win our frame. It is not a rule that crops up very often and, to be honest, we have had difficulty enforcing it in the past.
The evening passes without incident, although at one point Shaun has to move his car to allow access for the ambulance. The final result confirms us once more in an honourable last place for the season, although we have bowls to look forward to the following week, which should lift morale a little. I text John Twonil with the match report. Big A drops his pint of lager on the pile of warm coats.