A bit of an underhanded visit.
I had originally planned to not attend Ray's weekly festivities this evening, but a modicum of greed and a particularly stirring Austin-Healey spread in this month's duPont Registry got the best of me. I donned a bit of a downer outfit, a moth-eaten royal blue v-neck over the old college tie and some tired slacks, and legged it for the place.
After the last debacle Ray had made many promises about not being available to play for a few weeks, but I knew this to be a ruse. As soon as he saw me walk into the yard his head jerked a bit and I felt sympathetic pangs in my pockets. We spoke amiably over gimlets and before long he caved and admitted he'd been working on his game, wouldn't I be a sport and put a few dollars on the table, etc.
He had purchased a rather curious new cue, a graphite-shafted number with a rubber grip that seemed to be ergonomically molded. Also, it has been a great number of years since I consulted the rules of the game but I am fairly certain that no provisions are made for cues which have a sliding panel that sits on the bridge hand, mounted on ball bearings, which essentially eliminates the need for hand-chalking. Figuring the new device would be more of a handicap than a help, I ignored its dubious status and let the games begin.
At first I was profoundly struck by his restraint from using the behind-the-back shot, as he mainly opted for slow, almost painful set-ups in the traditional form. It seemed he had sought third-party instruction and had been reined in somewhat.
Naturally, though, like any player changing their basic technique, he was years from competitive ability. A tortured, forty-five second setup would result in the cue ball rolling a good six inches, coming to rest squarely in the middle of a remarkably vacant stretch of felt.
Let no one say that I drag a good name through the mud unnecessarily. To make a rather long, bizarre and uncomfortable story short, Mr. Smuckles and his Space Rod parted this evening with not less than $5,300 and the promise of a challenging rematch. Giddy and flushed with another pocketful of cash, I repaired to Flanagan's for a late-night meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. There is nothing like breakfast and money to make a man feel smart.