Clive Everton, snookerdoom's Rashi, once pronounced on two of the game's stalwarts, Cliff Thorburn and Kirk Stevens, both Canadian born and bred, declaring them long-standing chums. "Stevens was a mere twelve-year-old," wrote the affable Everton in the monthly journal Snooker Scene, "when he painstakingly accrued four dollars with which to challenge Thorburn, a superstar even then, in 1970, in the subculture from which Canadian snooker had not even begun to emerge.
" (Emphasis mine.) A small-time hustler in that "subculture" back in the late forties, I took Everton's observation as an ad hominem snub of my heritage. Games have always played an important role in my life, culminating in my becoming a novelist, a rogue's game wherein I was at last empowered to make my own rules, rewarding and punishing as I ordained. Submitting to book tours enriched by probing TV interviews: "Is this book of yours, Mordy, based on fact, or is it just something you made up in your own head?" To begin with, I was captivated by the simplest of childhood games common to Canadian street kids in the early forties: bolo, yo-yo, flip-the-diddle, and such beginner's card games as fish and casino. And at the age of ten I was already an impassioned fan of Montreal's Club de Hockey Canadiens, nos glorieux, and our Triple "A" baseball Royals, as well as the weekly Gilette-sponsored fight broadcasts out of Madison Square Garden in New York, the big time. I came to snooker at the age of thirteen, in 1944, my first year at Baron Byng High School in Montreal. Montreal has a confessional-school system and BBHS operated under the aegis of the city's Protestant School Board. But squatting as the school did on St. Urbain Street, in the heart of the working-class Jewish quarter, the brown brick building was as charming as a Victorian workhouse, the student body was 99 percent Jewish. We were a rough-and-ready lot. The sons and daughters of pants pressers, sewing-machine operators, scrap metal dealers, taxi drivers, keepers of street-corner newsagent kiosks, plumbers, shoe-repair mavens, and grocery store proprietors. My mother didn't trust Klein, the corner grocer, who would pass off yesterday's kummel bread as today's when it should have been reduced from ten to eight cents a loaf. "He never stops bragging about his son the doctor. Some doctor. He has that stutter, you could die before he gets a word out. He married for money and he does abortions." She took the jolly French Canadian coal-delivery man for a crook as well. "He has to serve Jews it just about kills him. You go round the back and count the bags he dumps in the shed. I paid for twelve. Twelve full bags." The ladies' auxiliary of the Young Israel Synagogue was another problem. "I would be president, if only I was married to a dentist like Gloria Hoffer, big deal, she doesn't know he plays around with his receptionist, would I say a word? But your father is a junk dealer, he comes home he sits down to supper in his Penman's underwear, what if somebody nice rang the doorbell, I ask you?" Before he sat down my exhausted father would wash his hands with Snap, but he never succeeded in getting out all the grit. It was embedded in his fingernails and the cuts in his calloused hands. He would read the New York Daily Mirror or News at the ktichen table with the linoleum cloth, beginning with Walter Winchell, wetting a thumb before turning a page. When he was finished, I was able to catch up on Alley Oop, Dick Tracy, Maggie and Jiggs, Red Ryder, Li'l Abner, and Ella Cinders. Sometimes Macy's famous department store ran brassiere ads, and I would take the newspaper with me into the bathroom. Round the corner from Baron Byng, on St. Laurence Boulevard (The Main, in Montreal parlance), lay the Rachel Pool Hall, my deliverance from classes in geometry and intermedi
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