Did you ever stop to wonder "What if?" You're walking along the street when you come upon a shiny new dime. You stop, pick it up, look at it in the palm of your hand, and read the date. It's this year. It's brand new. How lucky is that? You reach the street corner, casually looking both ways. You step out into the street just as a motorcycle whips around the corner and flies by you at an incredible speed. Wow! If I had been a second sooner… . People crowd around you, asking if you are all right. Yeah, you did stop for the dime. Man, I'm really lucky! You cross the street, finally, just in time to miss your usual bus, thanks to the dime. Maybe I'm not so lucky. I could keep these steps of "bad luck" up until I get to the part where an ambulance hops the curb and launches you across the street, where you are squashed by a cement truck, as a collapsing building comes down on you and the truck with such force that it causes the street to cave in, just as the subway train runs over you. Whew! Wadda trip! But you get my point. Well, sometimes I wonder what might have been, if… .
I have played a lot of pool in my day. I started out playing at a place called "Toms", in Brooklyn, NY, at 10 cents an hour per stick. The last time I played regularly, it was about $12.00/hr, and that was over 40 years ago. I was 21, full of "piss and vinegar", nothing could stop me, and so this is the story. The "Triple Triangle", a billiard parlor in the west end of Richmond, Va., was a favorite haunt of mine. I made a modest income there, and continued to frequent the establishment, after beginning my latest stint at "Fuqua and Sheffield Florists". How are these places related? Why, through the "Toddle House", of course.
We, some friends and I, closed up the pool hall about 11:00PM one evening, and meandered across the street to the Toddle House, an "all-night" breakfast place, for something to eat. Our food arrived and we ate. As we were sitting there sipping our coffees, a gentleman walked in and asked if anyone had a driver's license. I looked at him like he had 2 heads, and finally, with reservation, said that I did. Now, Mr. Forester was a gentleman in his late 70's if he was a day. He was dressed in a Chesterfield overcoat and fedora, and a gray suit with tie. Since he looked quite respectable, I couldn't imagine what he could want with myself, as I appeared quite the ragamuffin. It was simple, he needed my youthful eyes to drive him in his Cadillac Brougham sedan, to Norlina, NC. So, I figured, anything for a joke, and I said OK. The first stop was at his house in Richmond. Now, I didn't see how anyone could have lived there. The living room and dining room were literally covered with architectural plans of every description. He gathered some things, and we were off to his "ranch" in Norlina. The trip was uneventful. The house we stayed in that night, was apparently better taken care of than his other house. I awoke the next day to walls that could not get any whiter, in a very sunny room. The house, though very old, was in excellent condition. I am certain he had a staff that catered to at least this house. On the way home, feeling more at ease with each other, we started chatting. He told me that the miles of tobacco land that we had just driven through, were only a part of his land, and he was considering sending me to an agricultural college, to learn how to manage his plantation. He was well up in years, and I assume no relatives, at least, those with which he wished to socialize. We parted company amicably, and I waited patiently for him to send for me. A couple of times he stopped by the florist looking for me, in my absence, and the dullards there didn't even bother to get a contact number from him. I felt the pangs of disappointment welling up in me each time. I never saw him again. What if… ?
BIO: Jim Hunkele...