In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grand Slam.”

When I was in my twenties I played a lot of pool. I was never very good, but I wasn’t horrible either. I had my good nights and my bad nights, depending on my mood and how much beer or wine I had consumed.

One night in the late 80s I was with Fred, a co-worker of mine, at a bar in Wayne, NJ. The name of the joint totally escapes me, but it was large, and had a few pool tables. I wanted to play, so I put my quarters down on the table, next to two other stacks, and waited my turn.

When my turn came I went to grab my quarters when this dude scooped them up and proceeded to dump them into the table. I said, “Excuse me, but those are mine – I’ve been waiting. What are you doing?”

He argued with me that the quarters were his, and that he’d been waiting too. I argued back, but not being big on confrontation, I put two new quarters down, claiming the next game. Fred was pissed though. He knew I was right and if the guy missed a shot, would say to me – kind of loud enough for him to hear, but not directly to him – “Gee, I guess that’s what you get when you steal quarters from a lady.”

These jabs were not lost on our Billiards Bully, but he was good, and our comments did not phase him. He wound up winning the game, thus gaining control of the table. And I had to play him next.

I paid for the game and racked up the balls. The details of the game are a thing totally forgotten…except for the last shot. We had been taunting each other throughout the game; mocking missed shots, and bragging when you left your opponent with shit to shoot a. But I was having a good night, and before I knew it I was down to sinking the eight ball.

The shot I had to make in order to win was a tough one…at least for me.

Pool shot with linesMy turd opponent was sniggering with a shit-eating grin on his face. He knew he had left me with a tough shot, and was already celebrating with congratulatory high-fives to his douchey friends.

I theory I knew what I had to do to make the shot…I just wasn’t sure I could do it. I bent over and lined the shot up, ignoring the turd, who was dancing and waving behind the 8 ball. I hit the cue ball, and within seconds the 8 ball landed squarely in the corner pocket.

I had nailed the shot. I was an Amazon Warrior at that point. I was larger than life and the Queen of the world.

Okay, I’m sure some of you out there are like, “That shot’s easy.”

But there was all that pressure. I choke under pressure, fold like a house of cards. It’s why I was a crappy athelete. My brain and my body rarely coordinate to create greatness. But for all this guy knew, I was a pool shark who had suckered him in.

I chalked my cue, and said something snarky like, “Can I please get a real challenger?”

Now I had the shit-eating grin on my face as I watched the turd pick his jaw off the floor and turn beet red. He was pissed. He had been a bully and a big mouth and had been shut down, quite soundly, by a girl.

I played a few more games until I lost, and then Fred and I had a few beers and reveled in our victory. I could see the turd and his crew glaring at us from a distance, but they left us alone…until we decided to leave.

Fred and I were in the parking lot zipping our coats and saying our good-byes when the turd and his toadies came out and started to give us a hard time. After some back and forth trash talk, along with me asking them to just leave us alone, the pushing started.

Fred was severely outnumbered – it was at least 5 to 1. But he wanted to fight. However, I insisted the fight be one on one – the turd against Fred, and they agreed. I was so scared – I didn’t want my friend to get hurt, and when it really boiled down to it, he was kind of defending my honor. This was all happening because I sunk that 8-ball and left the turd looking like a tool.

After some circling, Fred threw his first punch and hit the turd square in the face. He also managed to dodge every punch the turd threw at him, but landed quite a few additional blows. In short, the turd was getting his ass kicked.

I believe they had all underestimated my pal Fred. He was tall and thin, with a haystack head of hair (Kevin Bacon ala Footloose style) with a very angular, acne dotted face. But his hands were as big as backhoe shovels. And he was not afraid to stand up for himself.

At this point his friends decided to join in and gang up on Fred, and that’s when things got crazy. I began screaming “STOP!” and jumped on some dudes back. I might have bit him on the shoulder. It was a melee of grunts and shoves and blows that seemed to last forever, but within seconds people were out in the parking lot breaking it all up.

Fred had a scratch on his face and some bloody knuckles. I also remember his coat was split straight up the back. He walked me to my car, down feathers wafting behind him, where I hugged him and asked him if he was okay. He was visibly shaken up but prideful as well, knowing that he had not only stood up to these assholes, but had shown them who the better man was.

The next day at work I told the story of Fred sticking up for me numerous times. He was my hero for a few days, and I let him know it. I let everyone know it how I sank the 8 ball, and how he saved the day.