January 18, 2023

The Cornhole Bungle

7

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“And you are sure we ain’t gonna get caught,” Jimmy says.
“Would you shut the fuck up,” I say? “Can’t you see I’m shooting here?”
Jimmy clamps his mouth shut with both hands like a goddamn grade schooler caught swearing by his momma.
I roll my eyes, take a swig of beer, and focus on my next shot. Not that either of us is playing very well. Jimmy can’t hit for shit even when he’s sober, and I can’t shake the feeling that something ain’t right.
The Ellsworth isn’t exactly high society, and the way Jimmy runs his mouth, I’m worried some fucking loafer will get wise to our plan and try and hitch a ride. I don’t need no fucking tag-a-longs. Fucking town is full of assholes looking for an easy life, and I ain’t no goddamn lottery ticket. Bad enough I got to carry fucking Jimmy on my back, never mind the rest of them.
“Fuck,” I say and take another swig of beer.
I turn and yell at Troy behind the bar. “Can you not play something besides this old timey shit? For chrissakes, I can’t hear myself think.”
Troy looks up and gives me the finger. I have half a mind to go over there, but I don’t need the hassle. Night like tonight, I need to focus.
“You’re lucky I’m in the middle of a game,” I yell.
I’m fucking losing, and that pisses me off. I take another swig of beer, pick up my bag, and toss it at the hole thirty feet away. It lands dirty with a thwack.
“Fuck,” I say.
I turn to look for Jimmy, but he’s wandered off to the bar to order another drink. He’s already fucking trolleyed. Here we’ve got a job to do, and he’s loaded more rounds than a double-barreled shotgun. I take another swig. My fucking nerves are shot to shit. I don’t bother to wait for Jimmy to get back for his turn. Instead, I take one of his bags and send it down the line. It flops in the hole. Just my luck.
“Nice,” says Jimmy as he waddles up beside me.
“You better slow your goddamn roll,” I say, grabbing the bottle out of his hand and slapping him gently on the face to sober him some. “We got work to do and I can’t have you sloshing around like a leaky bucket and fucking up the plan.”
His eyes are glassy, and I can see his little hamster brain is dulled to a slow crawl. Not that Jimmy is waiting on his acceptance letter from Harvard. The guy’s dumber than dirt, but that’s part of his charm. In my humble opinion, when a job has too many smart boys thinking for themselves, thinking they got all the answers, thinking they know better than the boss, that job is going right down the shitter faster than you can spit. Jimmy may not be a thinker, but that’s what makes him perfect for this job.
“Don’t worry Bobby,” he says, “I won’t let you down.”
“I know, Jimmy,” I say and slap his face again. “Cause we both know if you do, I’m going to kill you and your whole goddamn family.”
I laugh and take another swig. His glassy eyes sharpen a little, but he knows I’m just kidding.
“Come on,” I say. “Let’s play the hammer and drift.”
I pick up my last bag, grip it like a Frisbee and send it. It hits the board with a thwack, tumbles to the lip of the hole before it bounces out, and lands on the floor, limp as a pastor’s pecker in a room full of women.
“Fuck,” I say.
Jimmy shouts, “rim job, rim job. You got a rim job.”
He’s dancing from foot to foot and laughing so hard there are strings of snot dangling from his nose like half-chewed maggots. Fucking Jimmy. I cuff him on the back of his head.
“Fuck you,” I say. “Would you shoot already. We ain’t got all night.”
“Ow,” he says. “That hurt, Bobby Rae.”
He rubs the back of his head like maybe I injured the hamster inside.
“Quit your whining already,” I say.
He picks up his last bag and moves into place. He’s wobbling on his feet, leaning back and forth, waiting for a high wind to knock him over. He brings his arm up so that it’s level with the floor and drops it again. And does it a second time. And a third. I’m about to crack him upside his head again when he finally winds up and tosses his bag down the line. The way he throws it, I half expect the bag to fall short again, but somehow it strikes the board, pops up against my blocker and back doors into the hole.
Jimmy jumps and hollers in joy. “I win. I win.”
I’d smack him again, except it wouldn’t do no good. Apparently, the drunker he is, the better he plays. I let him gloat a bit while we grab our bags and start for the door.
“Come on,” I say. “We gotta go. It’s time to start sheering the sheep.”
He laughs. “Ya,” he says. “Time to sheer the sheep.”
I flick his ear with my finger in irritation. He flinches.
“Are you some kinda damn parrot,” I say. “I know what damn time it is.”
We walk out of the Ellsworth and climb into my truck. I crank her over, and we peel out of the lot heading for Mihamburn and tonight’s score.
“So,” I say, fishing around in my pocket for a smoke. “Time to get your head outta yer ass and into the game.”
I light my cigarette, take a deep long drag, and look over at Jimmy who’s staring out the window.
“You hear me,” I say.
Jimmy mumbles something I can’t hear, so I cuff him on the back of the head again. “What’dya just say?”
He turns to me, his eyes shining. “I said I don’t wanna do this.”
“Are you crying,” I ask, taking another drag. “There is no goddamn cause for crying. It’s a simple job. All you gotta do is stand there and hold the light steady. It ain’t hard. Hell my grandma could do it.”
“Well, why don’t she then,” he says, his face a mask of defiance. “I don’t wanna.”
“What do you mean, you don’t wanna?” I say. “The whole job is just you standing there, looking dumb, and holding the light so I can get the bags in the hole.”
“It ain’t right,” he says, wiping the snot and tears off his face. “It just ain’t right.”
“Maybe,” I say, giving a little. “But it ain’t all wrong neither. It ain’t like we’re gonna rob the place. We’re just gonna hustle some assholes is all. Ain’t nothing wrong with hustling assholes.”
“It’s cheating,” Jimmy says.
“Again with this,” I say, taking a long last drag of my cigarette. I flick the butt out the window and watch it in the rearview as it sparks on the dark pavement.
“Well, it is,” he says as though I needed to be reminded.
“Maybe,” I say, “but that don’t mean nothing. People cheat all the time.”
We are halfway to Mihamburn, and I don’t have time for his cold feet. He needs to find his fucking backbone.
“I know you don’t wanna but sometimes you gotta do things you don’t wanna do. That’s just how it is. You know there ain’t no other way to raise the money,” I say. “And it ain’t like we’re gonna get caught. The plan is full proof.”
“You sure,” he says.
“Of course I am sure. You don’t think I’m sure?”
His eyes are wet, but he’s sobered up some. Still, he has a bit of a vacant expression on his face. Or as my momma would say, the barriers are down, the lights are flashing, but the train ain’t coming.
“Quit you’re worrying,” I say. “This is going to be fine.”
“I guess so,” he says. He goes back to staring out the window.
I grab another cigarette and light it. All this talk of failure has me on edge. I’ve gone over the plan from every angle, and as far as I can see, it can’t fail. All we gotta do is get there in time to enter the round, and that will be that. I give her a bit more gas, bury the needle, and watch the lines zip by. We just gotta get there.
“I don’t know why you gotta go and make it so goddamn complicated,” I say. “Cornhole ain’t complicated. And what we’re doing ain’t complicated. “We’re just bettering the odds of winning, is all.”
“By cheating,” he says for the hundredth goddamn time.
“I swear to god if you say that to me one more time, I’m gonna beat you over the head until it fits through the hole on the cornhole board.”
He looks at me, opens his mouth, and closes it again. He goes back to staring out the window. We pass the rest of the short trip in silence. We need this score. I’ve worked too goddamn hard to put this plan together for Jimmy to pull out now. He’s gonna do his part even if I have to kick his ass the whole time.
We pull into the Foxhole. Just as I hoped, there are plenty of sheep for sheering tonight. We are gonna clean house. I smile and slap Jimmy on the shoulder.
“Stick with me, buddy. We are gonna make a fortune tonight.”
Jimmy looks at me and smiles weakly. He’s not happy, but I don’t care.
It isn’t until we get closer that I see them. Two pigs are hovering on either side of the door like angels guarding the pearly gates. I recognize one of them straight away. Just fucking great.
“Howdy, Bobby. Jimmy,” says Officer Dylan Wood with a tip of his duster. “Whatchya boys up to tonight.”
It may just be a damn coincidence that these two assholes are here, but I know there ain’t no coincidences in life. Jimmy and I stop. We say nothing.
“Your momma said you’d be here tonight Jimmy,” says Wood. “Says you were all teary about some plan or other. She called me asking if I’d mind looking in on ya.”
“You told your momma?” I say. “Your momma. Fucking moron.”
“She was asking about all the stuff,” says Jimmy. “She was—”
“What stuff ya talking about there Jimmy,” says Wood.
Fucking Jimmy. Running his mouth again. I want to slap him but can’t.
“It ain’t no thing,” says Jimmy.
“Oh,” says Wood. “Well, if it ain’t no thing, you won’t mind showing it to me and Officer Baldwin here.”
He nods at Baldwin, who hasn’t said a word. I haven’t seen him before, but by his stony expression, I’m guessing he got tagged to be Mr. Bad Cop. Fucking pigs.
Jimmy reaches into his pocket and pulls out the light. Hands it to Wood. It’s made to look like a ballpoint pen, and Wood immediately starts clicking it on and off, only he can’t see the light. It’s infrared. The kind the military use to paint targets on terrorists right before dropping bombs on their asses. I paid extra to have the light put in a pen. The pigs pass it back and forth, too stupid to know what it is their looking at.
“And what were you gonna do with this then,” says Wood.
“Nothing’” says Jimmy. “Bobby just said I gotta stand there and point it at the hole.”
“Is that right,” says Wood turning his attention to me.
Wood and I go way back. He’s always hated me. I want to punch Jimmy in his damn face right now for running his mouth.
“Well, that don’t sound like nothing to me, Jimmy. Whatdya say Bobby? Care to shed light on this here mystery?”
“Like Jimmy said. It ain’t nothing,” I say. “Just a pen. I don’t know what he’s on about. I gave it to him to hold onto. You know how he gets.”
Wood looks at me skeptically but ain’t nothing he can do. Jimmy don’t know the whole plan, that’s why I chose him. Course, I hadn’t factored his running his mouth to his momma.
“Yes, I think I do. Still, if it ain’t no thing, you won’t mind if I just hold on to this here pen?”
He isn’t really asking me. He’s already tucked it into this vest. And just like that, my plan is busted. Fucking Jimmy.
“Alright, well,” says Wood. “It was real good seeing you boys. Don’t you worry Jimmy, I’ll let your momma know you’re just fine.”
He reaches out and puts his arm around my shoulder like we’re friends or some shit.
“And as for you Bobby,” he says. “I may not know what all you had planned but if you think Jimmy is the moron, best you have a long look in the mirror. I’m thinking that a guy who spends his days trying to figure out how to cheat at cornhole — a simple game based on four bags, a board, and a hole — that’s a guy whose dock don’t reach the water. Catch my drift?”
He nods to Baldwin, and they both walk away to their patrol car parked on the far side of the lot. As soon as they are out of earshot, I smack Jimmy upside his head.
“Your momma,” I say.
He gives a little embarrassed laugh. “I’m sorry Bobby. She just kept saying cheaters go to hell. I don’t wanna go to hell.”
It’s my own damn fault for partnering with a simpleton. He’s worried about going to hell, and I’m already there.
“Whatever,” I say and start walking back to the truck.
“Ain’t we staying,” he says as he trots along behind me.
“What’s the use,” I say. “Ain’t going to be any score now.”
“We could still play like usual. You never know we might win.”
“We ain’t gonna win, moron. Why you think I went to the trouble of building that laser.”

The Moral of the story: Like Bobby’s daddy always said: no plan survives contact with the enemy.