The night was crackling with excitement. Manny "Longlegs" Bribbet was settling to go head to head with Aloysius Croke-McGee in what many thought would be the event of the season.
A line of the expectant formed on the hardened dirt road leading up to the veranda of the only watering hole this side of the Mississippi - that is until you got to Padooka Springs, which was a good one-mile walk away. It's a fact that once the fire-water got into you, a one-mile walk was more like a hundred miles full of gators and such, not to mention the danger of meeting up with one of the rare speeding vehicles that dusted up the fields on it's way to somewhere else. Too many drivers just don't watch where they're going, you know. Take, for example, the tale of when Old Georgie Batrachian was hit - no, it was closer to mashed (so sorry for those with the weak stomach) on his way home from The Swamp in Padooka Springs one moonless night a few years back. His poor lifeless body was found the next morning by a search party when he hadn't returned for his breakfast of soft boiled cajun eggs. The Missus was so worried she rounded up all the males around with the promise of all the soft-boiled cajun eggs they could eat if they found the varmint, but when they came back she got a little emotional, and holed up somewhere for a few days until she took up with that other feller, Sal LeEnchen.
But that's another story.
Anyways, by the time the sun was hitting the water behind the cypress trees, Manny and Aloysius were a glaring at each other like there was no tomorrow and, since one of them was due to lose, tomorrow wouldn't be too high on one of their lists.
The crowd had started to get restless with anticipation by the time Thad Poole came out onto the veranda carrying something.
A ripple of excitement went through the crowd as he brought a worn wooden box over to the table where the combatants were sitting, and gently (nearly reverently if truth be told) placed it in the center of the table.
Aloysius was the first to move and ran his wrinkled finger along the side of the inlaid mahogany chest before he opened it up and took out his first five tiles. Manny, not wanting Aloysius to get all the good ones, grabbed for his tiles a little too greedily for Aloysius' taste and an altercation broke out. There was much fist thumping and hollerin' so loud that many thought those in Padooka Springs could hear, but of course, Padooka Springs, beings its over a mile away, slumbered quietly on.
The two settled down though, when the lightbulb finally went off in Manny's addled head that this here night just might be the most important night of his entire life and fighting was contrary to what was at hand. After some coaching they both sat back down and then quickly commenced to glare over the table at each other again until the signal to start was announced.
It took darn near all night for those two to concede a winner, but as the sun was coming up over the knobby hills to the east, with the score just about even somewhere in the hundreds (that was after the best three-out-of-five went to the best-five-out-of-seven and on up) Aloysius just keeled over and fell into the swamp. And Manny, tickled pink that he was the last one standing, jumped up into the air with all the aplomb of a duck taking off from a blind.
It was what happened after Manny's jubilant leap that had the crowd talking, however. Beings that Manny hadn't had a morsel of food the entire evening, when he saw that grasshopper a scooting down the road behind the old magnolia tree, his leap turned into a ravenous bound towards the escaping insect. Many say that once Manny had that crunchy little thing in his mouth, it was like some great magical net swooped out of the sky and took Manny off.
So's, there wasn't exactly a winner that night when those two stacked them dominoes up against each other, but then again, it sure was fun to watch while it lasted!
Please note that I actually spotted these two fellows in an antique store while shopping with my sister. I was sorely tempted to purchase this unique item but, I suppose for good reason, my sister talked me out of it. Instead, I snapped a photo of it with my cell phone to show my hubby that he had a rational and level-headed sister-in-law and a very whimsical wife!
Sadly, the next time we went into the antique store, the duo was gone...