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Saturday, Jun. 22, 2002
Now, Lee is undoubtedly the very best billiards player in the club.

So it was a bit of a shock when he asked me last night if I wanted to partner with him for a few rounds. We were back at the Watering Hole, diffused from our outrage over the horrid tactics of the previous visit by the simple fact that they have more pool tables than anyone else in the area and better players, too.

Stu was up and shooting with Chief Mo, and despite an intake of beverages which might well have run into measurement by the gallon, they were doing well. They had a pattern going, Stu would break, make nothing, Mo would wait his turn, hit in a couple and pray that the opponent would miss. Once they did, Stu would hop up and run the table. They did this for an hour, with Lee watching amusedly from the bar, nursing a Budweiser.

But once he made up his mind to play, he laid quarters on the table with a nod to me, and asked if I was free to shoot. Somewhat similar to being asked by Leonard Bernstein to play first violin on short notice.

I racked and had first shot following Stu's normal pithy break. I laid in 3 balls before Mo took over on a tough bank shot that just wouldn't fall. I hate bank shots. Give me a cut shot anytime, I like angles and pacing and undercutting the ball, but a bank shot just gives me the willies and I never seem to have much success with them.

One thing lead to another and Lee had his turn, dropping in 3 more and leaving Stu with an impossible shot. Stu whiffed, but returned the favor by leaving me a bank shot of epic proportions that I looked at somewhat mournfully. I had so wanted to do well, to return Lee's confidence in me with a stellar game that would raise my woeful standings in the local pool halls. But, this shot. Jeez.

I looked at it for longer than usual and Stu giggled a bit. "Not a problem, my man. All you gotta do is bank the 3 off the far rail, miss the 13, hit the end rail and cut the 3 into the corner. Nothing but a touch shot."

Hey, there was a cut in there after all. He was right, it was a cut off the rail, even if it was after the bank.

The ball left my stick with authority and banked off the far rail. It somehow dodged around the 13 and headed for the 3 lodged against the rail. It hit the cut point and the 3 began to roll slooooowly toward the corner. It was rolling so slowly that there was time for a cheer to began to build, softly, then raised to a crescendo as I did a back-bending bit of body english to will the ball home.

Plop. Oh, the drama. It went in.

I casually went around to the end of the table and lined up the 8 ball as the cheers and shouts diverted the entire bar's attention my way. I blasted the 8 in the side, laid my stick against the barstool and shook Lee's hand with feigned indifference. Slack jawed, he pummeled my shoulder with his free hand. "My God, that was the best shot I've seen in here ever. Ever!"

By the way, I sucked the rest of the night. Couldn't hit a thing.

But I had my moment. Sometimes that's enough.

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