From the title, “Three in the Side Pocket,” you might expect a story about a game of pool. Similarly, the story’s lead character expects to find a pool table when he walks into a bar called The Side Pocket. But I hope you won't be disappointed to discover that it’s people who carom off the rails and drop out of sight in this nasty little story. I wrote it in 1999 for one of Jeff Gelb’s Hot Blood anthologies, and included it in Enough Rope, my omnibus collection of short fiction.
In 1961 I lived on Central Park West and 104th Street, and one afternoon I stopped for a beer at a neighborhood joint two or three blocks south of my apartment. A very large guy—broad shoulders, athletic build—walked in and took a stool at the bar. “Beautiful day,” he announced, in a voice that brooked no argument. “Yeah, it’s a nice day,” the bartender agreed. “Oh?” the big guy said. “What’s so nice about it?”
I don’t know what happened next, because I left the rest of my beer on the bar and went home. That sonofabitch was looking for a fight, and I didn’t want to be around when he found it.
He came to mind almost forty years later when I wrote “Three in the Side Pocket.” I pictured him vividly as he walked into that bar, sized up the players, made his moves.