There’s that hideous crack, like shooting a pistol into lightning, right before that last ball sinks along with my spirit. Bret and I have a little game of one pocket going and I’m at the crucial decision of trying to win my way back to even or spending my last coin on another round of Dickel. That’s when the boy comes in, his old letterman jacket hanging loose off his junkie frame. I take him to be on dope by the way his eyes glass over every time he shifts his weight and his slurred, cottony words though I don’t see him take a single drink for the whole two hours he’s here.

He sits at the bar for awhile by the radio, hollering at the Orioles through the little mesh speaker as if it were a megaphone that stretched all the way up to Baltimore. Old Pete finally has to ask the boy to a game of nine ball just to shut the kid up for awhile.

Pete looked to play him but didn’t expect the kid could actually shoot. Man, could he shoot. By the end of the hour Pete’s down nine games when the boy sends the nine ball home on the break and Pete covers his eyes while the kid laughs until his knees give out.

“So how about it, old man? That’s one dollar.”

Pete just looks at him. “What you talking about, son?”

“Ten cent a game. That’s one dollar.”

“We didn’t put no money on no game. I think it’s better if we both call it quits here and walk out.”

The kid stands taller at this, squares his chest and throws his voice harder. “Now I beat you fair and square, old man. You give me that dollar or I tell you what.”

“And what? Quit your talking, you little punk.”

The boy steps up to Pete, arm about cocked when I step between them.

“You heard the guy, there wasn’t no money on the game,” I tell him. “Now you just walk out of here.”

“What the fuck does this have to do with you, punk?” The kid puts all his weight into that fuck and knocks me cold in the jaw until my ears whistle.

Pete’s at it before I can say boo and punches his full bottle of beer into the kid’s icicle teeth, blood shoots forth and the boy falls back at roughly the same speed. All this over a lousy buck.

We don’t see the kid has a gun, not until that noise and there’s a stink of burnt cinnamon. Pete doesn’t scream, nobody does, they just look toward me and my ears must still be whistling. I look down at that peculiar pool forming around my gut and I’m thinking now maybe this kid can’t shoot that well, all said and done.