I always had a soft spot for Cracker Jack. Of course, that did not stop me from launching the eight ball off of one of the Houston Grand Prix’s pool tables into his crotch with a slingshot.
This might make me sound like a horrid bully, but truth be told Cracker Jack and I were both quite fine with the arrangement. It was not the first, nor would it be the last time the he would subject himself to some sort of physical torment at the track in exchange for cash.
I met him, obviously, at the Houston Grand Prix not long after I began my post there as assistant manager. Ronnie the Fist had known him from the old days before James, the owner, had been sent to prison for multiple DWIs. He was older than me, closer to forty, and had an addiction to crack cocaine so deeply ingrained in him that it could not be shaken.
On multiple occasions we tried to give Cracker Jack an honest job in the pit at the Go-Kart Track. He was a very hard worker and in really great physical shape. The problem was that you never knew when he was going to disappear on you, score a rock or two and retire under the bridge behind the business. He would be in the land of flying donkey-balled, quad-breasted, she-beasts and you would be standing in the pit, totally fucked, wondering where your help had disappeared to. This is not acceptable behavior in which one gets to keep a job so in the end he never worked for us for very long at a time.
He was always around though. Many times he would catch a ride to our side of town and live for a few days under the bridge. It was in these times that he would wander up from the darkness and hit us up for money for crack.
I have but one prediguice in life. There is one group of people that fill me with homicidal rage just by the sight of them alone. That would be bums. Note that I did not say homeless people… I said bums. I am all for helping people that are down on their luck, these are not bums. Bums are the jerkfucks that refuse to take advantage of the homeless shelters and food services set up to help them get on their feet and find work because they are worthless lazy assholes. I have no tolerance for those that refuse to help themselves.
By the previous statement you would probably assume that every time I saw Cracker Jack I would become consumed by the desire to run him through with a broken pool cue. And though, on occasion, I would feel something similar to that about Jack, for the most part I did not think of him as a bum.
This was because Cracker Jack would always be willing to work for his drug money. If someone wants to inject heroin into his balls and sniff ground camel scrotum in his spare time… that is none of my business, just don’t expect me to pay for it. But, if someone would like to mop the game room floor for five bucks, this is cool with me. What the man spends his money on after I pay him for WORK is his own damn affair.
There were two problems with giving the man busy work, however. The first would be that he would hit you up for an advance and then “go to the store” for a drink or something. I figured out quickly that if he was going to drink anything it was going to be a crack rock and that I would be stuck doing whatever I was paying him to do… and be out the money. This advance business came to an abrupt stop after a couple of episodes of that. The other problem was that, frankly, his work sucked. Helen Keller could have done a better job sweeping and mopping than Cracker Jack.
So in the spirit of wanting to help out our friend when he wanted money, but not wishing to be burdened by his lame work productivity, or turn him into a foul bum, we came up with other ways for Cracker Jack to earn a few bucks.
We offered up five dollars if he would allow Ronnie the Fist to kick him square in the nads. Hard. Real hard.
Despite the lunacy of this offer, Cracker Jack was all over it. And I guess, when I try to view it from the eyes of someone ravished by addiction, I can see the appeal. It only hurts for a bit and then you are on your way, five dollars richer. Mom used to tell me the same things about shots at the doctor’s office (instead of five bucks I got a sugar-free lollypop though, what a rip off). To me, however, there is a big fucking difference between a pin-prick flu vaccine shot and a size 12 boot delivered at high velocity to your penis.
It was not really the things that Jack allowed us to do to him that makes me shake my head in utter bewilderment as much as it was the price. If I was offering $15,000 cold cash to someone to let Ronnie the Fist slam his foot into their crotch… more people than not are going to go for it. How about $100,000 to drink a shot of raccoon piss? As soon as the check clears, pass that bitch right over. But…but…FIVE BUCKS????? Damn, crack is a monster of a drug.
But hey, is it really our fault here? Are we really being mean to Cracker Jack? It was not like we hid outside of the bathroom, waited for him to exit, and slammed his pelvis with a baseball bat. It was pretty cut and dry.
“Hey Cracker Jack,” we would say “How about Ronnie the Fist kicks you in the balls as hard as humanly possible and then we give you five dollars. How does that sound to you?”
“Five bucks,” he would respond “Hell yeah, where do I stand?”
There was no treachery in this.
The Fist is a big man. He resembles a refrigerator resting on top of two large tree trunks. Out of all the possible folks at the track that you might get to deliver a front snap kick to your gonads, he would have doubtlessly been at the very fucking bottom of my list.
Jack slightly dodged the first kick attempt.
“That does not count, man. Sorry about your thigh though, bet that leaves a hell of a bruise. But it’s gotta be in the nards. Don’t twist next time.”
“Ouch…arrrrr…I’ll try guys. You sure that first one did not count, it kinda brushed past my dong. I’m sure I felt something.”
“Look, I’ll count this time so that you will be ready. On three, O.K. One…”
The second attempt earned Cracker Jack a nice, mostly crisp, five dollar bill.
It also lifted him at least two feet off the ground.
It was not always five bucks that he would earn though that was a nice round number. We once convinced him to swim a flooded drainage ditch for three. Thank goodness it was still raining because there is no way that I would have wanted to have that filthy, hobo piss filled and animal corpse infused, water on me any longer than necessary…and showering facilities when you are living under a bridge are practically nonexistent.
Sometimes we would take a pool of all the single dollar bills that everyone had on them at the time of Cracker Jack’s loan application and offer that up for “some work.”
On the day of the slingshot incident, we were able to come up with seven bucks between all of us. One of the toys we had for redemption prizes on the kiddie ticket games in the game room was a water balloon slingshot. I presented Cracker Jack with my plan to launch the eight ball from one of the pool tables into his nuts with it. To nobody’s surprise, Jack found this to be a satisfactory plan.
Speaking of crack, what I had forgot to tell Cracker Jack prior to this is that I was a crack shot with a slingshot. I had discovered this a few years ago on a camping trip when we had brought some bottles, marbles for ammo, and a slingshot from Wal Mart for entertainment. I hit every bottle, every time. I shot a Crayola into a coke can from fifty feet on my first try.
I don’t think Cracker Jack expected me to land the shot, and we had only agreed on one shot (I guess he learned a little something from the kicking escapade). I doubted myself at first because the toy slingshot was plastic and flimsy as shit.
But, when it came down to the wire I came through in fine style. The distance was only about ten feet or so, and the ball launched through the air in a beautiful arc, slamming home into its tender target with such precision that it must have been the will of God.
The best part of the whole story is that Ronnie the Fist captured the whole amazing incident on video.
Though it is hard to watch…(O.K., so I lied, it is very easy and entertaining to watch), the man chose his own fate and path in this world. It was probably better for him to suffer at our hands than break into a house and steal some little kids PlayStation to pawn for the drug money. We had to think of the children.
Too bad Cracker Jack was strung out on crack instead of pain killers, because after he would get done working for his fix that was what he really, really needed.