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Tulsa Pool Player
by James Navé

He played pool, that boy from Tulsa; his name was Jack
and he could scatter those pool balls like rainbows
across a green sky. He was dusty; his hands were quick;
and his deep eyes won hearts. “Never more than one
lightbulb above my table,” Jack would say, “I hate to squint
while I win.” Fifty dollars and enough stamina
to play all night would get you into one of Jack’s games.
All the boys smoked and leaned forward as they watched
the balls orbit straight into the hungry corners. Jack’s mouth
was always open just a little bit, and when he laughed you could
hear the money rustling in his pockets. Even the rack boys
stood still on the afternoon Jack’s cue ball nicked
a yellow nine and spun the black eight into the corner.
When the ball dropped, Jack stood quiet for a second,
then shook his head and said, “Beers are on me.”
The day after Jack left town, the boys started swearing
their cue balls were running just a little straighter
and everybody’s luck had improved. On Christmas Eve,
word came back that a black-haired West Texas girl
from the Apache Mountains had spun past Jack on the break
and left him a thousand down by dawn. They said it didn’t
bother Jack one bit, he just leaned his cue stick against
the counter, kicked his boots back, and bought her
a cup of coffee. When this story ricocheted around town
all the boys down at the pool hall tipped their glasses back,
laughed out loud, and left every cue stick in the house
standing at attention.


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