Friday, October 21, 2005


My previous post has reminded me of how I lost a friend to liver failure earlier this year. Not that I needed a lot of reminding. Terry was someone I went to high school with, but someone I'd lost touch with over the years. I had heard that he was ill and I emailed him, but I'm not sure he ever got the message.

My brother and I were in Budapest when I got an email telling me that Terry had died. I told my brother and he said "Terry thought a lot of you. Every time I saw him he asked about you." For the whole time that we were in Hungary, I kept thinking maybe my mom got it wrong. Maybe it was a different Terry who died.

It's hard to explain what was so cool about Terry. He was one of those guys that excel at sports played in the back of a bar, namely pool and cards. I don't know how he was at darts but it wouldn't surprise me if he was good at that.

One of my favorite memories is the time I beat Terry at pool. It was in the rec room of some University of New Orleans dormitory (we were down there for the national high scholl quiz bowl tournament, and we didn't do well). I am generally a very bad pool player and he was great, but somehow I had a great moment and beat him. He was mad and blamed an uneven pool table and warped cues, but I didn't care. I knew it was a fluke, but I didn't care. I beat Terry.

I have lots of other memories of Terry, warm evenings playing cards, school trips. But perhaps the most vivid memory is the one where I tried to kill him.

It was during the Law-Co-Hi Rook tournament. (Rook is a partnership bidding card game for 4, less complicated than Bridge, more complicated than Spades and how I happily passed many hours of my teenage life). Terry, an excellent card player, was partnered with St Caffeine, also excellent at cards and with a more stable temperament and demeanor which kept his hand well concealed. I was partnered with another quiz bowl friend, John.

John was a good player, solid and dependable, he understands the distribution. But he didn't take the risks. (He's a doctor now in Knoxville, the kind of guy you'd want for a doctor). Anyway, maybe this sounds conceited, but the only competition I was worried about in that tournament was St Caffeine and Terry.

Well, we met in the tournament before the finals as it happens. As I remember, John and I weren't winning, I could see how the game was going, but we were still a threat. Terry began taunting me, trying to get me to throw my game. It worked.

I snapped. I lunged across the great octagonal library table - and it was only its great width that kept me from reaching him and wrapping my hands around his throat in a single great movement. He just laughed as the teachers rushed over to break up the "fight".

I was ejected from the tournament for "bad sportsmanship" - and of course that meant my partner had to go, too. I explained that to John that we were losing anyway, but he didn't buy it (I don't blame him!)

Anyway, I realise that those stories are maybe a little unflattering on Terry (and maybe on me, too), but that was ok - that was what was cool about him. He was funny and clever and he knew how to punch your buttons, but in the end you knew that was just how he played the game. And it was fun. And I feel sick that I lost touch with him.

He died young, barely in his 30s, and left a wife and two kids behind.


St. Caffeine said...

Hey, Vol, I too have fond memories of "little Terry" as he was known to many in my crowd. I enjoyed the Rook story, but you may not remember this and I think it'll make you feel better -- we got put out of the tournament later by some total amateurs. Luck of the draw, you know? Hey, did you write the story on him in The Wildcat's Roar or was that me?

Oh, one more confession. Terry and I would sometimes cheat in Rook games. I remember one memorable game in Knoxville, though I'm not proud of the way I had to send a signal to him. Honestly, though, we almost always played straight up.

Hey, do they play Rook in the UK? Maybe you can be a trendsetter?

St. Caffeine said...

BTW, I didn't mean to be flippant in the preceding comment. I also had many of the same feelings on hearing of Terry's death -- sadness, guilt about losing touch, etc. Similar to your story about VolBro, my brother used to tell me that Terry would ask about me whenever he'd run into him. You just did such an eloquent job, I took the humor route.