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Carlo's Table


 We are born.  We live.  We die.  And in between, if we are lucky, we play a helluva lotta pool.  Yeah, yeah.  Work, family, friends, education, health and spirituality all sneak in there somewhere, at least for most pool players. 

We focus intently on our inability to draw with precision and our inconsistent breaks.  Maybe a better cue will fix that?  Or a different stance?  A well timed wrist snap?

Then death appears as a long rolling runaway cue ball looking to use its last half-roll to find a side pocket and avoid the little defending tit.  Or maybe it arrives with a quarter-second warning as a break shot screaming off of the 2nd or 3rd ball into the corner pocket.  Gone from sight in a flash with nary a trace.  "Whitey sure gotta outa here quick, didn't it?"

Over the years I have seen numerous pool players depart mortal life.  Some went in car wrecks, others by illness and disease, and others by age, that insidious beast.

Most of us will hang it up, retreat to our bed-nests and slowly fade away hoping that our heirs won’t sell our beloved custom cues for $15 at a garage sale. 

So the Grim Reaper is after us all.  The Turd.  We all have taken a mental trip down to the question of “How is it going to happen to me?”  Recent events have added a whole new assortment of scenarios for departure. 

I remember one time when I was clipping a drunken Marine out of his shore leave money.  He couldn’t run three balls and I had the eye of a 21-year old eagle.  I was not all that sure where the cue ball would end up but the colored balls always went in a pocket. 

After a series of double-the-bet-so-I-can-get-even moves from the marine it became apparent to the Marine that the powers of two got to be rather formidable rather quickly and that it would be easier just to fold me in half and keep whatever money popped out of my pockets. 

I thought that might have been my turn at the Reaper. 

I wound up face down, nose stuck in the crack at the base of the bar (evil things live there, trust me) and yelling Uncle or Aunt or Please or Give or whatever came to mind as a possible Marine appeasement phrase.

Thankfully, he left both of my arms attached.  I can’t imagine anybody so stupid as to piss off ALL of the Marines much less the Army, Navy, Air Force and 275 million civilians at the same time.  I cried Uncle for one Marine!

I figured that a car crash, or a cue to the back of the head were the top two on my list of exit strategies.  When I stopped betting-it-up I moved “falling from roof” into number two.  Now that I hire young bucks to fix roofs, I figured that a criminal act might take the number two slot.  You know, something like being in a bank or 7-11 when it gets robbed.  Or a pool-hall. 

The proprietor of JOB Billiards (I think that was the one) got shot for the till.  He survived, but it was close.  I support Capital Punishment for robbers and car thieves, not that you ask.

Teammates depart from the team under numerous circumstances.  They have just hung it up, moved away, ran away, got put away, took a different job, burned out, took up golf, darts, foosball or got married and had a 6-pack of kids.  One even figured out that their game sucked and would always suck.  They all left the team.

Or they died.

Twilight Zone Episode

Well, I remember a fellow college student who thought that he was above the laws of physics and attempted to defy existing parameters of velocity and mass and ended his story against a tree. 

Or another student who thought that chemistry did not affect anyone so big and strong as he and exited with a blood alcohol of over .50.  I had played pool with both.  The big one had the habit of lifting one end of a coin-op and shaking it if the balls stuck.  One-handed.

But nothing hits close like having someone depart in a nasty, random manner.  Dusty, a teammate, had an odd stroke.  A jerky, pull-up, jump-up, twitchy stroke.  His stroke made me gag.  He knew it made me gag because I told him it made me gag.  I was his Stroke-gag-nag. 

Someone forgot to tell the damn pool balls about Dusty's terrible jerky stroke because the stupid balls kept going in the holes.  Dusty's game would not garner him a national championship but do not let your guard down for it would cost you.  And he would gamble.  Whatever he had.

 He was in his 40s, trim, good looking (but the years of living a little on the hard side were showing some wear/tear) and a professional free-lance geologist during non-pool hours, an occupation that translates to “Feast or Famine.”  He liked ladies, they liked him.  He may have bred somewhere along the line but has not officially reproduced according to everyone. 

No doubt he chased a few women that he should not have chased and caught a few women that he should not have caught.

 Dusty drank.  Some days less, some days more.  At one national tournament Dusty had finished that day’s play thereby releasing him to pursue a waitress from a nearby casino. 

When play resumed the next day, Dusty was found already at the tables, stretched out on several chairs, clutching his cue and smelling of beverages and perfume and wearing yesterday’s clothes.  With bloodshot eyes he shot great pool and fortunately ran out of tournament before the inevitable Dusty crash had scheduled itself to occur.

Four hours of sleep and he was back looking for a re-run.  Dusty liked to party.  The frailties of mankind precluded it being an everyday thing but there is a time and a place for everything and Dusty threw himself into partying with wild abandon.  When he rested, he did so privately.

 Dusty had a sharp tongue, a sharp wit, and an sweet-but-evil smile.  Maybe that is what could turn some respectable ladies into wanton lasses, and turned the wanton lasses into action.  I liked Dusty.  Not that way, though.

 So Dusty played pool late one evening and departed for home.  Somewhere at or in his home he was attacked and wounded.  He called 911 knowing that he was in deep trouble but rescue was not in time.  I heard he was stabbed twice, once in back and once in front by one or more attackers.  May they fry the bastards that did it.  I’ll flip the switch or swing the axe.  Gasoline and a match.

 Dusty definitely had time to reflect a little as he died as blood left and he grew cold and fell into coma.  They say you relive your life as you die so Dusty may have relived scenes of passion, laughter, or even pool.  Maybe he worried about the disposition of his cue.  Maybe he replayed some of his more memorable sets.  Maybe he replayed some of the times when laughter with friends overshadowed our beloved game.

 I hope that Dusty relived a few Dusty-Carlo matches for when my time comes it will be an easier passage to make if he is on my list of players waiting with cash-in-hand and new joke to tell.  Dusty always heard them first and knew your punch line.  He'd still laugh, though. 

 Dusty was always a top-of-the-1st-page player in league. 

It looks like the League Director, uhh, doctored the scores so Dusty will finish the season 100-0.  Bull doo-doo, I would have won at least ONE game.  Did you hear that, Dusty?  No, I don't accept checks.

Adios Dusty.  We miss you.  Teammate.


Nobody paid me any money to put these links here, I just thought they deserved it.  Tell them Carlo sent you, maybe they'll buy me a beer.

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