Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Streak - 34

Evan chalked up again. It was important to do so between every shot. Not so much to guard against miscues but to impose a rhythm upon one's play. To establish the boundary between one shot and the next, to reset the mind, to cast past success into oblivion.

He scrutinized the configuration of solids and stripes, absently tapping the floor with the base of his stick. He then took it up and crouched behind the cue ball, which now rested near a corner pocket. He had a clean shot down the rail at the purple ball, what was it?, the purple stripey one's the 12 of course; count forward from eight, nine-ten-eleven-twelve; so one-two-three-four, four, the 4 ball, this was the one ball whose color'd always escape him. The number 4 and the color purple. There could be no mnemonic device for that association, could there? He'd heard about people who associated a given color with a given number, there was a medical term for it, syn-something. Funny to think of it as a sin. God wants numbers to be numbers and colors to be colors, but to them the number 5 is green and the number 2 is red and nothing could be closer to the truth. Be funny if they were reviled, these people, like witches or homosexuals. Mobs of the angry pious howling for the sanctity of hue, the integrity of integers. The number-color sinners: what might playing a game of pool be like for them?

Evan fixed his eye on the 4 and drew back his cue. It was a fairly straight shot, but long. Alotta green. His least favorite type of shot. Deceptively difficult and easily embarrassing. He second-guessed his angle a little but remembered what he'd long suspected: your first, instinctive aim is always true. But was that true? Where did that come from anyway, did someone tell him or had he made it up? Isn't deliberate consideration more effective? Strange that in the thousands of games he'd played, he'd never bothered to test these theories. Here he was no better off than ever, staring at the object ball with no idea whatsoever whether he would hit it in or not. The fact is, it was a matter of faith. You had to believe the ball would sink. There was no way of knowing. You had to play with modesty and awe, respecting failure as you did success. There was a mantra he reserved for the moment his tip was drawn and just about to strike: Don't try to make the shot. Try to make it close.Kyle's phone went off with its ludicrous jangle. Evan, unnerved, shot anyway, knowing he could have stood back up and waited, knowing he should have, but shooting anyway a little out of spite. For petty insurance against a failure. The cue ball struck a little too far left of center and the 4 ball met the side rail just shy of the pocket, hit the corner of the back rail and rattled over the hole a few times before coming to a miserable rest, unsunk and taunting.

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