Ball Busters - Ch 4 - Meet the Junkies

Soul Coughing - Super Bon Bon

Move aside,
And let the man go through.
Let the man go through.

We started getting real close after that, always hung out together as a team of four. We were just a crew. The girls worked together, Sully and I worked together. We made each other laugh. Nobody was hitting on anyone else, yet there was always a hint of flirt. We just had fun with each other.

Once Lilly started co-managing the team, I saw her competitive nature, another facet of her personality. She had little interest at ever picking up a pool stick, but when needed. She now appreciated the power of a 2. She was a completely different kind of junkie, enjoying the atmosphere and was as much one of us as anyone else, cue stick or not. Her weapon was motivation, people management in knowing what and whose buttons to push, reading the other team. A natural predator, and relentlessly competitive, do anything it takes to win type attitude hidden behind bouncy Irish locks and a stripper body. It was just another reason why she was the coolest chick ever.

She quickly became a member of the real Ball Busters inner circle. While the four of us were able to communicate from across the room with a look in our eyes, the team was the next most inner circle amongst all the junkies. When the four of us were willing to tolerate the other peoples, we would start with our Ball Busters House Team.

We needed seven players of varying skills. You couldn't just have the best players, APA is a handicapped system setup so that a stronger player would need to win more games that his opponent of lessor skills. You had to have both strong and weak players for it to work because each players skill is valued to a number and the team can only play a limited number of rating points in a given week. We started with myself, Sully, and Tish. We were a strong core group not because we were always the best in the room, but in comparison to the numbers we're assigned. We are all getting better, and Sully and I are both strong and set in our numbers for now. We needed to include four others.

We first went to Lewis. He was our next closest friend and better than average player who seemed to be lead by the will of the billiard gods, so he had that going for him. While my strategy was a finely tuned touch lead by physics, logic, and strategy, Lewis felt the force to make his shots. He never seemed to have any strategy at all, you would question if he played worse blindfolded, but still somehow still wind up in the perfect position. Because he was lead by the force, I would rarely be in a position to help him or give him advice. Lewis was 5 foot 10 inches with lifted heels, maybe 130lbs if he is carrying a backpack filled with stones. He generally works the front counter, so he is always distracted by work, but he breaks away for the 30 mins of his game, and I can now cover the counter while he does. This gives our new team four solid players, and one redhead. Boom.

We're having a team huddle the car... smoking... shocker. In the middle of a conversation started long ago, Sully is talking, finishing up his long point as he rolls the joint. Tish, Lilly, and Lewis are in the back seat. Between the three of them, I think they may outweigh me by less than 30 pounds, most of which resides in Lilly's phenomenal curves.

I think this is either the point the noise emiting from Sully's mouth turned from a white noise story to something you find yourself listening to in the same way you want to see a bloody body when driving past a fresh car wreck you had to wait in traffic to pass. You know its wrong, but somehow, you're compelled to be human.

", I'm standing there, naked in the shower... cock glistening in the water, I had no idea that could happen, like biologically, I just sneezed..." He ponders and laughs at his memory of it. "You know those sneezes that you don't really feel coming, so it hits you really hard. But I really just sneezed, that’s it..." He licks the joint to seal it, makes it nice and tight, we're all staring at him like we got hypnotized collectively. He lights it... finally, gets the cherry glowing, blows out a huge cloud, and passes it to me. "So I looked down, and there was a turd looking up at me like, 'hey!'. So, I used my foot to push it down the drain... I heard later they call that a 'wafflestomp'..." Once he is finished with his happy memory, pulls himself out of the haze and looks over to me to notice the look on my face... "What??"

"Dude??" I pass the joint to the back. "We're asking you about who else we should ask to play on Ball Busters House team. I can't even imagine how those two stories are related, and I listened the whole thing. Just, Dude..."

"It was because..."

I stop him quickly. "NO! NO! Please don't tell it again. Who else do you think we could get?"

Right then, the couple walks by, she is fighting with him about something.

We genuinely liked Matthew Silverberg. He was one the 'JewCrew' clan, and his nickname was 'the Berg'. His dad makes great money and bought Matthew a new Jeep Grand Cherokee as well as funds him through an allowance. To my knowledge, Berg never held a job and because Daddy put a table in his house, he was a dead shot and a solid 5, and could be our savior if one of us does go up. Most could do without his girlfriend Lisa. She was around and she was a flavor in the sauce so we tolerated her when we needed to. Nobody actually liked Lisa, we tolerated her. There is a big difference. If all of us wanted to go see a new movie, there was always one who wanted to pull us in a different direction. It's like she wasn't always annoying, but man when she was it was nails on the chalkboard. The Berg was reasonably cool when she wasn't around, but man that could change in a heartbeat. He was a junkie, Lisa wanted his attention too. The Berg was one of us from the start, but she's pulled him away a lot.

The Berg tries to pull his other friend Shai Bluman, or "Blue", into our circle, but Shai is living up to the stereotype and the expectation of every Jewish mother. He is a low-level stock broker who wears suits he cannot yet afford, just to play the part. He constantly tries to talk me into putting down my brush to passing my Series 7 so I can take my life seriously. He never takes the suit off, only removing the tie and opening the top two buttons to reveal the rug of hair underneath. Blue needs to decide the line he chooses to shave to or he would be a werewolf. There would be no open skin between his head and feet. I think he's given me his business card four times. He and the Berg grew up and went to Hebrew school together... also shocker, somewhere in a Commack Jewish Community Center.

After Lisa storms off and locks herself in her car in a temper tantrum, The Berg just takes the 'what can I do' pose.

Knowing we're all staring at the same show, I start. "I mean... we could..." I say to nobody in particular.

"I mean... could we??" Sully responds. I shrug, contemplating the reality of the question. Staring off in silence...

Silence... Off in the backseat, Tish says, 'ugh.'

I pull down my window and yell out, "JEW BOY!!"

The Berg turns, recognizing my calling him and sees us sitting in my car in the back of the parking lot. He turns back to Lisa who is still ignoring him standing out in the cold. He mimes a message of 'I'll be right over there', then turns to walk to us. On his way over, we start making fun of him before he gets to us.

I start, "Hive brain... go"
Lilly, "I like him, not her. She's... tolerable."
Tish, "Ugh, sure."
Lewis, "Dude can shoot."
Sully farts. A sincerely quality melodic, and drawn out rip.

"Hey guys, that smells awesome..." We all burst out laughing.

"What's up Jewey Jewsteinbergowics?" Says Lewis.

"'Sup guys, Lewis, Sully... 'Sup Tish, Lilly. How you guys doing?"

Laughing at him, Tish passes him the joint from the back, "It seems like you have some issues to deal with over there... everything... ya know... ok???"

"Ha, Lisa?? Fuck that shit, she's in a mood. I want to play..." Takes another huge hit before he hands the joint back. Sully takes it like a giddy school girl. In his best Tony Montana, the Berg says, "Another Quaalude and she'll love me in the morning, isn't that right, Frank??' We all laugh... He straight face looks over his shoulder to see if she's watching. He puts up his index finger to relay the message of 'one minute'. The headlights of Lisa's car illuminate, she pulls out of the parking space. The Berg again relay's his now notorious pose of 'what am I supposed to do' as she drives off. Then to us, he rolls his eyes.

"Fuck that, did me a favor. I'll go to her place later and wake her ass up. She can be annoying, but a great fuck... I'm going in and finding a game... Wanna play, Baba? Race to 4 for $20, even up? I just want to tune in. Could be fun?" He takes the joint a second time.

"Sure, we're just finishing up here, had a question for you. We're starting a new house team, all of us here. You want in?"

"She's going to kill me... she hates sharing my time... You know I want to..."

Lilly finally speaks up from the back seat, "what if she joined too?? Tish and I are on the team, so there will always be other girls around to talk to. And we won't need you guys every week, so if she only plays once or twice, should be good enough."

"I mean, sure, we can try."

Lisa was on our first scoresheet, only. She later pulled out of the league, but still was around. If the Berg was with us, she was sucking the fun out of it. Once, the Berg referred to her as the 'Fun Sponge'. A nickname never stuck faster.


If I stole
Somebody else's wave
To fly up.

There are many sub-groups within this junkie community. We are a family as a whole, but each person is also part of a smaller caucus. Ours is defined and solid. There are a few lone wolves (boys) and unicorns (girls), but they are rare and few of those call one place home. Most of our groups can be defined by the league teams that they play on. The stereotypes flock together, making them both more funny and easier to identify.

"The Lasses" are a group of players that are all in America on work visas. From what I heard, only the two team captains knew each other in UK, even though they're both from Ireland. They are short, they are Irish, if you've ever heard any stereotype about British pubs, or soccer hooligans, or having no idea if that was English spoken, or pints of warm, dark beer... that team is the lasses.

The two captains were both fun to be around. Polly Dougan is a brown haired, blue eyed lass, who is the primary captain and best player on the team. She has beat me before and not just because she is cute as fuck before she pulls her accent out on me, knowing I'm a big fan. "Sure Baba, what 'cn I do yuu fer?" I melt. Her co-captain is a shorter, blondie lass with the deepest blue eyes you've ever seen. Hayley Jones is equally cute, and the idea of getting them both at once has crossed the mind of literally every dude here. It would be magical, trust me, I've seen that movie and it ends 'happy'.

As cute as they are, they are also incredibly, stubbornly Irish. The team they built was formidable, they were in the playoffs regularly. They knew they were good, had zero quit, and always played well. Polly's father, known as 'grandpa', taught her from the time she could see the green felt. Rumor has it that she had an old milk crate she shuffled around the table while she ran out as a young child. He taught her everything he knows, and that made them both a solid core of any team. He was also always there to cock-block any potential suiter, which was annoying. Polly knew the game, and played her part like a cultured debutant would.

After that, there were always three or four dudes that grew up in the pool halls of Manchester, or Liverpool, or Dublin, or wherevers, that were shipped over next and filled her group. They had another solid shot, 'Robert, the Brit'. Robert was fun, and sincerely one of the most sincerely nicest, most polite, well raised people I've ever met. You expected a solid, friendly conversation with him at any given moment, and always, always, a solid and strategic game, which I personally loved. It always brought my game up.

We played a legendary playoff match two years ago. It went hill-hill and I missed because I got nervous on the last rack. I overplayed a simple shot and I drew the cue up far more than the two inches I planned and locked myself up behind one of his balls. I had to kick and I left him a quarter ball. He felt my pain and after the match we were chatting like two warriors. A case where two fighters share a beer after the battle out of respect. He consoled me.

I told him, "I think I just got too nervous and put too much english on it."

Putting his pint down, almost as if insulted. "I'm sorry, mate?"

"I kept telling myself that I had to pull it back a little, so when I hit draw, I just put too much backspin and drew it way further back than I'd planned." I answered.

"No. Not that. You said you put too much.... what?" He asked, slightly less friendly.

"Backspin?" His face didn't change, that was not it... Light bulb... "Wait, English??"

"What the fuck, mate??"

"You mean, using the word 'English'??" I am starting to piece this together. "When you hit a ball with spin, top spin, side spin, backwards draw, the spinning of the ball is referred to as 'using English'..." The look on his face changes from insulted to seeing that I was not messing with him, this time. I call the Berg 'Jewboy' daily with zero remorse because I know he knows I love him like a brother. This is different, he really felt like I was insulting him here, and I felt awful, and a smidge more shocked than anything that this terminology hasn't crossed the pond. "Oh, dude... I'm not insulting you, its a very common phrase."

I call Lewis over who was out of ear shot, "Lewis. Do me a favor. No fucking around..." Wait, explain this better. "And, no fucking around about no fucking around, deal?" Lewis could recognize my serious face. He nods. "What does 'I put too much english on it' mean?"

Lewis responds, "For me, it usually means I follow the object ball into the pocket because I over spun it."

"No shit?" Rob, the Brit asked. He seemed shocked and relieved. "I never heard that one. They're going to love that back home."

Rob, the Brit, was with the lasses often. I don't think he dated either of them, unless he had an outside shot with Haley. But the others on that team, and this could be the most important thing I type, every single one of them were exactly the same. One was the 'british bulldog' chap. He was the shortest of all of them so he carried his grudge like a crown, and overcompensated with elite clothing and brand name everything, as if that made him better than his APA 4 ranking. The other two were straight out of central casting for 'pub soccer hooligans'. Big Hooligan, who was the leader of the two, dumber than a stump. 'Lil Hooligan always a half-step behind him, had such a hard accent you only caught every 3rd word, also stupid in general, but far smarter in comparison. If Mad Max Thunderdome was cast in a British pub, these two would be the actors playing Master-Blaster... only dumber.

They were in the league, and most of this leagues teams all played out of this hall, so we saw them every week, loved them, included them when we could.

"The Bumpkins" (My name for them)
"The Good 'Ol Boys" (actual team name) were one of the lessor liked teams. The players were not Ball Buster Junkies. They were out of a hall about 15 miles away and only showed when they played league or the occasional weekly tournament. They were not the hang out and sing karaoke junkies, they were the 1am, always come in groups of 2, looking for a big cash game junkie.

The leader, team captain, biggest ass of the group, was Kit Bodree. He was a strong 6, sometimes weak 7, so he can play. He is driven by hating his opponent. He finds a grudge when one isn't readily available. He will stand in sights or clear his throat or shake his leg, but at the same time, doesn't need to. His bank game is ridiculous, and I know he can kick to the point where you need to play it so perfect, he can kick out and safe me back. I think I'm better defensive, but he is polished as fuck. I'd love to play him straight, but he's just annoying and when its league, I'd prefer to just put Tish against him to take him out or Lilly against him to maybe annoy/distract him into an cheap win. His far too young and further too in need of a big plate of pasta, was Betty-Jo.

Betty-Jo had to be half the age of her partner and twice as deserving of better. She is super cute, glass of sweet tea southern belle, perfect in her everything.

The team had two brothers, the Nelson Boys. Jack was the older brother, Dee was the younger by one year. Tish, Sully, and I went to high school with Jack. They moved to New York from some mountain town in Appalachia when we were all high school juniors. For me, I always just picture they were decedents of the banjo kid. We never had a problem with them and we never reached out to bring them in our circle. They understandably played 'new kids' coming from overalls and moonshine and killing critters for a better stew, to the land of late night diners and wearing shoes and delicious bagels.

'Poppy Moonshine' was my personal nickname for the older man in the group. I know his name was Paul Meirks from seeing his name on the scoresheet.  That name never worked for me, so Poppy Moonshine works. I've played him four times and I believe I've heard him say no more than ten words in total. A shorter, stocky man with snow on the mountain top, but dark black hair base. He seems like the type of guy that could still knock some punk on his ass at 73 years old, and I would rather not be the one who finds out.

The team as a whole was solid and like most put up a good fight on us. But we knew the strengths and weaknesses and we enjoy spanking them frequently.

"The Eddie's"
I get to know the Eddies as I begin to paint. Lilly brings me a turkey sandwich from her day job at the bagel shop. My work schedule and my paint schedule seemed to work best in early afternoon. While we weren't supposed to open until 2pm, I often got there by noon and knocked out a couple hours of work on my murals before anyone showed up. Some would know that and drop in on me, knowing my stick and a table of balls were always close by for when I needed to take a short break.

With my being there early, many in the elder community found a new hideout. That junkie vibe never leaves you. At first, it was just Pat. Pat was an old haircutter, likely gay, but a master with a cue. Always in control, never over hits, never miscues, one of the best slow players I've ever seen. I would railbird Pat all the time. He would look over a shot for a minute or two, then lick his thumb, mark the table as his target spot, look over to me and give a knowing wink, then soft hit a three rail position and only miss his mark by a second thumbs width.

Pat's best playing buddie was Bruce. Bruce owned a construction business and would often come in with painters pants. I have spent hours watching Pat and Bruce play straight pool, or one-pocket from open until closing time. They gambled with each other, but always respect and friends. I think they also knew they were by far the best players in the room at any given time. Neither of these players would join in the kids playing league, if they did either would be a solid 7. They were in it for the cash. If that lil punk 'Dust' dropped in here right now, he'd get taken for every dollar in his pocket, and a few hundred others.

So, I opened the table for them in the corner where they could have some privacy. I turned on the outside lights and the music so that there was a vibe, and I went back to my turkey and swiss on everything bagel, whilst literally waiting for paint to dry.

"The Pot Heads"
There is always a bigger fish in the sea. The group of Double-Ray, Eric the Red, and Twitch were of a different class of pot head. Twitch was the leader of this group, as he was the only one with a car. Twitch was an ex-JewCrew, before he found the power of marijuana. He was an anti-establishment Jew, as a metal head adorned in piercings and tattoos. He actually was sincerely religious. He just appreciated that some rules made 2,000 years ago may not be to useful today, and well, tattoos are cool and bacon cheeseburgers are delicious, and if God had a problem with his cheeseburgers, or tattoos, or 15 hoop earrings running down his left ear, so be it. He assumed his God would give him a pass there.

Eric is the gingeriest ginger that has ever been. Sincerely afraid of spontaneous combustion for needing to walk in the sun from the car to the hall. The dude is Powder with red hair, only more pale. Eric was the most skilled negotiator of the group, so he would be the guy to go to if you were out of weed and needed an easy bag. He sold to any and all junkies that needed their medicine.

Eric brought us the 'lighter game'. The lighter game is another of our very simple, very stupid pass times. Only those who play the lighter game can participate, so not everyone was involved here. The one rule, if you can steal someone elses lighter (bics, not zippos), and hold it (validated by neutral 3rd party) for 24 hours, you keep the lighter. If the person outright asks you if you took it, you have to be honest and return it. Neutral 3rd party offers no hints or clues. Eric the Red kept a five-gallon waterjug in his bedroom that was more than half filled with stolen lighters. It was beautiful.

Double-Ray was unique in that he was the real life version of Beavis and Butthead... both. Double-Ray was always wearing a shirt with a Metallica/Megadeath/Gwar logo on it, could be lighter than Lewis. Double-Ray carried a 18" home made smoking pipe from random brass fittings and fixtures found unused on his dad's work bench. Double-Ray was also notorious for one thing, he hadn't cut his hair in seventeen years. Even with it in ponytails, it was down to his ass. It was somewhat cool, while completely disturbing.

By mid to late afternoon, I'd cleaned up my work area for the day and many regulars have already walked in. At least, those without serious jobs. It was tournament night and we should be close to filling a bracket of 32 tonight. The money in the tourney pot will be huge. The Calcutta could double that with a field this strong. It wont end until 3am, so I know I'll be here all night being judge, jury and executioner, holding the cash until we have a winner.


If I rose up
With the avenue
Behind me.

The Berg and Bluman had already paid the entry fee and were warming up one table, Lisa sulking nearby. Dust and Dirt had another. The Pot Heads were playing a spades game against Pete and the Russian. Tish and Lilly were sitting at a table off to the side and Lewis was here and doing all the prep work needed to relieve me of duty.

You could hear Pugley's Harley Davidson from a half-mile out. When he pulled up, he didn't take a parking space, he parked it right next to the front window before revving it so loud the lights shook to announce his arrival. Not that anyone would mess with it, but this helped hammer the point home.

Pugs stands on his own feet and the bike springs must push the seat up three or four inches with the release of his resting body weight. He gets off, unties his stick case from the bitch seat, and slowly makes his way inside.

"'Sup big man. How are you feeling today? Taking this down tonight?" I ask as he comes over for a handshake.

"BooBooo... Get your Tish to go get us food. She's not doing anything.... I assume." The large bear dressed like a biker stated.

Not in a defense, but as fact. "She's over sitting at the tables with Lilly. Why didn't you stop on the way?" Asking as though a logical response was an option.

He rolls his eyes, as if... "Can't carry it on the bike." Ok, color me impressed. Then yells, "TISH, GO GET US FOOD... I BUY YOU FLY!!!"

Tish walks on over and leans into the big man for a hug. He wraps his arm around her shoulders. "You gotta buy for Lilly too, she's flying with me. Meet Lilly. She's hot, has a great ass, and is a lesbian. Lilly, Pugs..."

Pugs never missing an opportunity, literally looks Lilly from tip to tail. He likes what he sees.

"Back down, big man... We like this one. Don't scare her off just yet." I jump in.

Lilly picks up on it and does her Lilly thing. "No, its cool. Hey Pugs, heard a lot about you." Then moves in for a hug of her own with the knowledge it would be welcomed. But, when she gets directly in front of him, she looks deep in his eyes, "like redheads, huh?" He does. She feeds in to his gaze and shows herself off up close. She grabs her large boobs in her tank top and gives them a full on grab and giggle. "They're real." She turns to pick up something never dropped from the floor so he can get a good ass shot. Then she goes in for her hug. Backing back after, pointing her finger. "That's all you get... for free."

Rolling her eyes in her signature style. Tish said, "Ugh... fine, what do you want??"

Puggers is lost in the moment, then snaps himself up realizing he does need food. "Deli... I want a turkey hero with swiss, lettuce, tomato, pepper, I want a pound of potato salad, a pound of macaroni salad, one of those big dill pickles, a bag of Sour Cream and Onion Potato chips, and two two-liters of Diet Coke... Bubbles, turkey hero??" I nod.

Look, I appreciate that the god of free turkey sandwiches has shone his light on me this day. It's four hours after Lilly delivered hers and I'm going to be here for another ten hours today, so eeeeeaaassyyy on the fat boy ogre jokes. I'm a big boy and I love turkey sandwiches.

So, of course, I'm like yeah sure?? "and whatever you want, honey... ohhh, and a box of Entenmanns cookies..." Then he pulls a bankroll out from inside his leather vest that had to be five inches thick folded, wrapped in a thick rubber band… two-thirds of that are hundred dollar bills... Getting down to the 20's, he peels off four... then a fifth to be sure... "here... hurry, I'm hungry."

Tish looks over at Lilly. "Did you get that?"

Lilly responds, "Uhm, Yes, actually. Two turkey hero's with swiss, lettuce, tomato and pepper, one pound of potato, macaroni salad, dill, sour creme and onion chips, entenmanns cookies, and this part makes me curious... Two two-liters of 'Diet' coke???"

"Yes" Says, Pugs.

"Dude, you order enough food to feed eight, like what 10-20,000 calories and two bottles of diet soda... Good for you..." I quip.

"Ha ha haaa. I just smoked the wheelchair weed. I'm so fucked up and I got the MUNCHIES!!!" Pugs hands them the money, and off they went.

Now, I'm laughing. "The 'Wheelchair' weed??"

"Yeah, cause once you smoke it, you need a wheelchair to get around..."


Some kind of verb.
Some kind of moving thing.
Something unseen.
Some hand is motioning
To rise, to rise, to rise.

Now, its somewhere around midnight. We're closing in on getting the round of eight completed, and I grab the 2nd half of my sandwich from the fridge to finish. So far, the three that have made it to the final four are Charlie Colorado, Dust, and the Berg, who has been playing far over his head all night. Lisa must've given him some, he's been lights out.

I haven't seen her in about an hour, so maybe she left and he's free and clear. Now that I look around from the felt for a minute I see many of the worker bee's have left for the evening and the room is cleared to mostly the serious junkies. I think Sully and the girls are smoking outside, but haven't seen them in a while either. Many players who get knocked out early make more in the green room than they would in the tournament. This is from the Color of Money, but it is a pool tournament fact. Side table action is always good on league nights. I see four tables off on the side with a viewer or two.

The match is getting close, but both Matty 'La Machine' and Davey A are not giving an inch. Matt 'La Machine' Curry was a young up and comer. We've known him since he started coming in after school. He couldn't have been 15 then. Now, years later, he has professional level potential if he stays on the right path. That could be the hardest part about going pro, staying away from the bad elements. Too much cash, too many temptations. It takes a village. I root for him in this match and in life.

Davey A is a super cool lone-wolf. Dave also originally came from the JewCrew clan, but was more just cool in his lone-wolf way. He knows Tish from years ago, I think they shared a few classes together. When he had his full body Japanese dragon tattoo completed and healed, he nearly stripped down naked to show it off for Tish and Lilly, who both visually appreciated more than the art work, which was off the charts using three colors in each scale. He's always been the lone-wolf. He is a phenomenal player, and while he could be found at Busters, he follows the money game. He is able to win this tournament and seems in the mood to do it tonight.

I pulled over a tournament players chair, rested my sandwich and a cold pepsi on the side table to my left, and had my railbird spot claimed for the evening. The race to 5 was already on its 6th game with Dave up 3-2. But La Machine played a wicked two-rail safety that Dave missed by a hair, allowing Machine to run out and have the break here. The kid broke with a thunderbolt and with the house winding down, the echo made it twice as loud. The one ball properly shoots straight to the side rail as planned, then returns to smack directly into the nine-ball, sending it to bank back to the side pocket. Tied at 3-3.

It is now Dave's alternating break and he barely breaks a sweat in his break and run. He's done that before to most of us. Dave's up 4-3, La Machine's break.

Machine grabs another thunderbolt and smashes the rack. On this one two balls fell and he can see the one, the two and the seven. There is one small problem shot, but if he gets the right angle on the four ball, it could be an easy break and run. He makes the one, sets up for the three with a questionable angle to get on the four. The Machine is still kinda young, but I've seen him work with his instructor for many hours. That position miss may be by less than an inch, but he's not sure he can get the four free.

He steps back, goes back to his table to grab a sip of his soda. He closes his eyes, pulling himself together, says something in his mind. Uses the timeout to grab his towel and dry his hands. He walks back to the table staring at the cue ball, grabs the chalk. Slowly walking around the table he rubs the Masters on his tip like a pro would. He knows this shot, exactly what he needs to do, but believes if he misses this Dave gets the run out and the break and this could be his last shot. Leaning over the table, you can hear his deep breath let out slow. He shoots, and instead of trying to force the breakout of the four as I expected, uses it as a killer safety blocker, leaving the cue kissing up against the four. Dave taps his stick on the floor four times. "Nice shot." Dave again did his best to hit it but missed. I think La Machine wants to win this tonight also, he uses the ball in hand to break out the four, runs out, and ties the match at 4.

Dave gets to break hill-hill. His break is very well practiced, but alas, nothing falls. Machine saunters up to the table, appreciating this match is in his hands, for now. This table is not a run out. There are two sets of locked up balls and a run out wouldn't be easy. He can see the one ball in the side and get on the two, so he does that. Taking it slow, the two is fine, but the three needed to be broken up. He slices the two in the side, and using some draw pulls the angle back off enough off the back rail glancing the three ball enough to free it, but not for a pocket. Machine plays a basic hide safety and hands the table back to Davey A.

Davey A has been kicking out this entire match. By now, he may be too well practiced and not only sees a free kick, can rail kick it into the three with a natural angle into the side pocket. Dave is a far more hurried player. He grabs the chalk and circles the table to take the angle behind the kick. Using his finger as a spot finder, he picks his spot. Returning to the shot, he leans over and without hesitation, hits it and the three goes in the center of the side pocket, and Dave leaves himself a shot on the four. Dave sinks that, breaks out the second cluster and runs the table. Once the nine ball falls, the crowd claps and Dave and Machine shake hands.

Machine walks over to me as though he just boxed ten rounds. Shaking his head from side to side as he approaches me, almost laughing, "good luck beating that tonight."

I try to console him. "Dude, you would've beaten anyone else tonight. That boy is on fire, and you didn't lose, you got beat. Your safety's were incredible, but you game him too many and made him practice in the early games. By the time you were in the hill game, he was tuned in." I handed him his envelope of cash for finishing 5-8th place. "Don't spend this all in one place."

"I can't believe I'm not getting that Calcutta tonight, it was huge. Pugs is gonna give me shit, he bought half of me." La Machine says as he breaks and packs his sticks into the fitted case. He seems like he is still itching to play, now with a stack of cash and a revenge type attitude. After watching his level of current play, he is far out of my league tonight.


Too fat, fat you must cut lean.
You got to take the elevator to the mezzanine,
Chump, change, and it's on, super bon bon
Super bon bon, Super bon bon.

Now, down to four players, Charlie Colorado and the Berg could get their match started. They both watched the final match close, even though both knew they would have to get through the other first. Dust was ready to go, but respected that Davey needed a few mins to gather himself before another lag. Dave moved his sticks to the new table, gave a good stretch, ordered a fresh beer and hit the head. He walked out using a paper towel to dry his hands and face and heads to his table.

Charlie Colorado was a large man, was a sniper, semi-pro player. He was an older lone-wolf, and with that was happy to tell you something about anything he thought made him look smart. His billiard skills were other-worldly, along with his ability to annoy people. If you had an incredibly high tolerance to hear someone talk incessantly about nothing whatsoever, you may actually learn a cool factoid or two. There is no person with that high a tolerance. And it was widely assumed that Charlie used his gab in a deliberate head game of sorts. Sadly, he didn't need this to be a phenomenal player either.

The Berg got off to an early start and was up 2-0 fast, and he setup his side table right next to my sandwich, so he could have me in his ear while not at the table. This gets Charlie talking to himself, about himself and his game and how he can let this guy get ahead and yaddas and yaddas. Charlie is out of his game and trying to talk himself back into it, does his best John McEnroe impression. In the third game he breaks, runs a few balls, and has to safe his play over to his opponent. Once he plays his move, which was done well, he walks back to my opposite side.

Talking to himself, he rants on. "... because the way this kid is playing, he's over his head. What is this kid ranked?"

I answer. "He's a 5. And, he is my friend so please be nice and respectful. Keep it down when others are at the table. Not nice..." I notice that Berg waits for me to quiet the noise, taking an extra few seconds chalking his cue. Charlie sits.

At the table, my boy is in the zone. Before the other match had racked its third game, the Berg was sinking his 9 ball for a 5-1 victory. Charlie was not happy and offered the worst dead-fish handshake at the conclusion. From me, Berg gets a handshake and a hug. His face is lit up and you can see his pride overflowing.

Charlie, on the other hand was still in full rant. It was late and my friend who beat him, so my tolerance is lower than usual. As he walks toward his case, leaning on the table to my side, his words come into view, " lucky roll after another. A fucking 5, no way he is a fucking 5..."

I won't allow him this one. "No, sorry, sir. You just got whooped." He looks at me not caring to hear my truth. "It's true and you know it. Don't blame me, don't blame him. He is on fire and whooped you clean." This sets him off more than anything.

"He got lucky." Charlie grabs his break cue and unscrews it. Puts each end in its fitted home to be weilded another day. He unclips his chalk from his belt, packs it away with his glove. "Fucking 5..."

"Dude, why are you packing. You still have to play the loser of Dave and Dust for third place." Laughing at him openly.

Showing the stubborn self-hating embarrassment of a 5 year old holding his breath... "No, fuck that"

"Fuck what?"

"I'm out, I concede. Give me my fucking money." He reaches his hand out to me. I look at his hand.

I sense a trap and don't care to be disrespected by this tool. I look at his hand again, and call Lewis over. "Lewis, Colorado concedes this 3rd/4th place match..." Lewis cannot believe these words. The difference between 3rd and 4th includes the Calcutta cash that pays top 4. Lewis looks at me, then at Colorado who give his best 'I'm waiting' face, then back at me, shrugs. I sift through the eight envelopes I had left and grab the two assigned for fourth place and hand it to him. About this time, Berg is returning to the area and catches the end of the story, gives me a raised brow as Charlie finished packing his stuff, and heads to the door.

"He conceded, and took 4th place. I paid him. Not your problem right now, you good or need a small trip to the car?" I ask.

"No, I'm good," he says laughing before walking over to the other match to watch.

I move my chair to a better spot. Dave is still shooting lights out. He had won the lag, and was up 2-0 and at the table by the time my chair landed in the spot. Dust sat watching, looking like he could jump out of his skin, if he ever got to the table. Dave gives him nothing to look at. Even when Dust gets up, he is kicking out or trying to make a hit, then going back to his still warm chair. The match ends 5-1, with the only game Dust won was a rack that he broke and was left a cheap one-nine combo that was extremely impressive.

The two shook hands like proper warriors. Made me feel a little better. They walk over to us, already huddled.

"Ok, Dust, here you go," as I hand him two envelopes. He takes them, looks for Charlie... "nope, he conceded, you win third."

"Nice. I'll take it, old idiot. Pugs is going to be so pissed, he wanted to buy half of me but I kept bidding him up. Dust plays for money, Charlie plays for pride, water is wet, and the sky is blue. So be it. Dust takes his envelopes with glee and moves to a quiet place for him to count his bounty. I see Pugsley follow him. Bad move big man, I think to myself.

"That leaves the two of you and four envelopes. The difference between 1st and 2nd is noteable, trust me, I don't like carrying this much cash. Race to 5, lag for break then alternating, my best, gentlemen." And off they went.

There is no beating Davey A tonight. I can't call it an easy win, so I'll call it a deserved in. The finals ended in 5-3 score and both did play well. Dave just played that much better in little time or energy. He had every shot on this day and Dave had a natural ability to float. No effort, you never saw him think for more than 2 seconds, every shot center pocket, every cue positioned in line. There are some nights I feel that confidence for a rack or two. Dave was just bad-ass good and equally likeable.

Each took their winnings. Dave put his in his pocket as if he expected it, shook my hand, and went to pack his gear. You never knew if you'd see him again next week or for another 6 months. But still, one of us.

The Berg was disappointed. I tried to console him as we got ready to go for the night. Ball Busters would be open for another hour or so, but I'm tired after a long day and I know he is looking to find Lisa. But I wanted to walk out with him so I ask him to hold while I just catch up with Sully before we walk out.

"Hey, I'm out if anyone needs a ride." I say to him.

"Nah, we're good bro. The girls left a while ago. Work. I'm got my car here, so you're good."

I grab my case, and walk with the Berg out the door. Once we get outside, I say, "I know how much is in there. Did you count it yet?"

He turns with a devilish smile, "Yes, just did. Thats a month of work for me in cash." His eyes still show a sad emotion.

"First, you don't work, remember, you live off the Law Firm of Daddy and Associates. Second, no way, brother, not this time. Davey A hadn't missed a shot in three rounds. You did better than Dust did. He only won one game. Nothing to be sad about. Consider you just went toe to toe with one of the best local players around. Where was Lisa, by the way, you even telling her?"

Walking in the direction of his car, in no rush at all. "Not sure. I mean, she's going to hear from the peanut gallery, so I can't hide it. But that Calcutta is big, and she doesn't have to know 'everything'," laughing it off. "While warming up, I was feeling good. I asked her to leave me alone tonight to let me play this one tournament to see how I stack up. She said she needed a night with her mother, so they can discuss how much she hates me."

Being both shocked and unable to hide it, I pursue. "Wait, what?? You asked her to leave you alone tonight? Shenanigans, no fucking way. I call Shenanigans."

Laughing, "Dude. Its the first night of Rosh Hashanah. She thinks I went home at sunset when she left. Blue did, I just drove around the block and came back with a big fat bacon cheeseburger. Mom and Dad are in Belize for another week."

Off in the distance, a loud Harley is started, and circles back to us.

I walk to him, Berg follows. "I heard you got killed in the Calcutta."

Laughing, he knows I do the math. "I lost a lot tonight. Dust just took me for another $200." He then reaches into his saddle bag for something. He hands me a ziplock bag filled with marijuana. "Smell it!" I crack the zip seal and it instantly burns my nosehairs. "Its the wheelchair, take 5 buds, let me know." I did, and it was fantastic.


And by
The phone
I live
In fear
Sheer Chance
Will draw
You in
To here.
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