The Unknown: The Red Line.
  Gaddis wanted to play pool against all three of us. He said he already had his team, that they were all lounging around up there in his head.

Gaddis and Dirk lagged for the break. It was midafternoon and we were the only people in the place. Gaddis won, the cue ball coming to rest the width of a cigarette from the bumper. Gaddis pulled a cigarette from a silver cigarette case he withdrew from the inside pocket of his tweed jacket, offering us each one.

Gaddis lit his cigarette and leaned over the table and broke with one solid stroke, a crack and a technicolor explosion of balls. The two ball went in. Scott went away and came back carrying four pint glasses of Bass Ale.

Gaddis picked up his cigarette and used it and set it down and tried to hit the fourteen ball into the three ball knocking the three ball into a side pocket, but his measured stroke, while accurate, was slightly too gentle and the three ball came to rest beside the pocket. The bartender lit a cigarette and stared through the neon out at the afternoon street and the traffic.

Dirk took the cue, cigarette dangling from lip, and tried to hit the fourteen ball into the side pocket by easing it between the pocket and the three ball; he instead knocked the fourteen ball into the three ball and knocked the three ball in. Gaddis took a long drink and half of his beer was gone; Scott and I each had drunk about an inch and Dirk’s was untouched. Gaddis circled the table and told us that the World Wide Web was going to mean the end of literature. That made us feel kind of self-conscious. The bartender collected our empties and replaced our ashtray with a clean one. Gaddis handed him a five as a tip. The bartender said thanks Bill.

Gaddis hit the one ball off two bumpers and into the corner pocket. The cue ball then collided with the eight ball which rolled over to rest within six inches of another corner pocket. The bartender was behind the bar, leaning over and washing glasses.

Gaddis bounced the seven ball off of a side bumper and it came very close to the side pocket opposite. Gaddis put down his cue and finished his beer. I took our cue from Dirk. The bartender turned on the TV It was a rerun of Seinfeld. Gaddis murmured bullshit. The bartender turned the TV back off.

I scratched but we hadn’t struck in a ball yet so there was none to take back out. Gaddis signaled to the bartender, who nodded and set three shot glasses out and went to find some bottle. Gaddis picked up his cigarette and used it and set it back down again, and took his cue, and set the cue ball on the table.

Gaddis knocked the cue ball down along the side bumper, nearly parallel to it, grazing the seven ball, causing it to roll ever so slightly and fall into the side pocket, and the cue ball then met the four ball and sent it into the corner pocket at the opposite end.

Gaddis then knocked the five ball off three bumpers, missing the pocket, perhaps out of pity.

The bartender came over with three shots, each full to the edge of the glass. I looked and on the bar he had set out a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label: Gaddis’s poison. We lifted our glasses and said nothing and drank. Scott coughed and picked up our cue and put chalk on the tip and rubbed talcum powder on his hands.

Scott leaned over the table and accidentally knocked in the eight ball, losing the game.


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The Unknown at Spineless Books.