Sunday, July 18, 2004

Dirty Pool

It is to my rather great regret that I did not see this coming. Ray, addictive personality that he is, phoned me up in a desperate frame of mind this afternoon, barely disguised as a pleasant social call to see what I planned to do with all of last night's winnings. I could tell he wanted to put more money on the bumpers, so when he invited me over for some mail-order filets mignon he had "forgotten" he ordered, I cut to the quick and asked if I might bring my cue. As soon as I offered I felt the cringe of guilt that parents who shoot heroin into their addicted babies must experience. Well, something like that. Not exactly. But still, rather foul and soul-wringing. Ray took the bait like a crocodile snapping up a chicken.

Dinner was delicious, but markedly curt. There was not even a vegetable, and no drinks were offered. Soon, it was time for the game.

Well, I thought I had seen the end of it as far as bizarre new cue technologies were concerned, but his apparatus for this evening was truly the limit. Instead of a cue stick at all, he wore a thick, futuristic glove on each hand, and onto his head he strapped a heavy set of goggles, just the sort you might see soldiers wear in night combat. There was a small touch-pad of buttons on one side of it, with which he fumbled awkwardly while sizing up his break. Then he took his position at the head of the table, pantomimed a breaking shot, and to my eye-widening consternation the balls scattered about as though they had been struck. Goggles on, he looked at me and explained that the balls were a special set which responded in kind to the actions defined by his gloves. "Kind of like a video game," he offered helpfully. Apparently the set came from Japan, and could thankfully also be struck with a normal, wooden cue.

I noted that the break had not been a particularly good one, having left the entire rack barely scattered at the bottom third of the table, so I was not too daunted to play. I made short work of the first game, letting him sink a shot when he could, as the tension in the room grew. He removed the fancy gear, insisted on making us drinks, and left for the bar. I sprang into action: donning the goggles, I made a quick study of the touch-pad. After selecting a modality entitled "Krazy-Pool!" I set the sweaty headgear down and picked up some overly-lacquered men's magazine.

He had mixed me a particularly stiff drink, so I partook in good sporting (it was Saturday night, after all, and my opponent was about to show me the finer points of "Krazy-Pool!" so I thought a stinging snoot might enhance the experience).

As we play Loser's break, he was at the head again. After re-donning his gear he went to the table and, to my undisplayed surprise, set up to shoot the cue ball into the right side pocket. Then, he shot the cue ball very strongly into the right side pocket. Great accuracy was used, in fact, with enviable topspin.

He took off his goggles to see what had just happened. The table stood silent, the rack pristine and untouched. My mirth could have filled a stadium, but I managed to keep it behind the teeth.

I may faithfully summarize the rest of the evening by stating that after a few more turns wherein the dictates of Krazy-Pool! sent cue ball after cue ball resoundingly into the right side pocket, he abandoned the technology entirely and returned to an actual stick. As is the case with one in a tight spot, he fell back upon the old familiar, the behind-the-back shot. I cut him off at $905 this evening, the last five dollars won on a particularly pathetic parting game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, in his doorway, as I was trying to leave.