Jul/Aug 2001  •   Fiction

Poolhall Scene

by Eric Prochaska

"I still don't know why I did it."

"You should have a beer."

"I don't want a beer."

"It's your shot."

"Yeah. I just mean..."

"You gonna call your shot?"

"I never call my shots. You know I never call my shots."

"Just asking. I call my shots."

"Yeah, you call your shots. Shit."

"Needed to be a little more to the left."

"Really? Gee, thanks."

"Put that fuckin' diet cola down and get yourself a beer, man."

"I don't need a fucking beer. I'm trying to think."

"Beer would help."

"No, it wouldn't. You drink your beer; I'll drink my cola."

"Nine ball, off the bank, side pocket... Yes! Now that's a nice shot. That shot was beautiful."

"Of course it was. This is your second home."

"Hey, I make a historic shot, so I'm happy. Least you could do is congratulate me."

"Why? Why congratulate you? You make shots like that all the time. You want me to congratulate you for whipping me, too? You always whip me. Anyway, I didn't come here to play pool, I need some help, remember? You're supposed to be my friend right now, not my opponent."

"So... what? You want me to let you win?"

"Jeeshhhh. No, I don't want you to let me win. We can play, and you can beat me, and you can make your wonderful shots behind your back and around the moon with your eyes shut—I don't care—but just listen to me and help me out."

"All right. So..."

"So, I still don't know what to do."

"Start by having a beer."

"I don't need a fucking beer! Are you listening to me?"

"Hey, man, I'm just trying to help you out. You gonna shoot today?"

"You wanna help me out? Then tell me why I did it. I still don't know why I did it."

"You had to do it."

"Had to do it? No one ever has to break up."

"Look, can we talk and play? It's your shot."


"Gonna call it?"

"Yeah, sure. Thirteen ball, between the cheeks and up your ass."

"Funny. Want me to bend over?"

"What? Isn't that your ass on your shoulders?"

"Really funny, man. Take your shot, miss, and let me in there."

"Oh! Guess you'll have to wait."

"You didn't even call that."

"You know I never call my shots."

"Then how do I know you're not just getting lucky?"

"Would it matter? I've never had less than three balls left on the table when you finished, anyway."

"Look, I like to play pool, all right. If you don't want to play, then maybe you should just go watch TV, or something."

"Playing is fine. It just doesn't need to be war. Besides, I didn't come here to play. I came here to talk."

"So talk. Oh, close, man. Really close. Look out. Seven, corner."

"I don't know if I did the right thing breaking up with Sue. I don't know why I did it."

"Then why'd you do it?"

"That's what I just said. I don't know."

"Well, you had to."

"Had to? How do you know that? I mean, if you don't know why you do something, then why do you do it? Shouldn't you not do it until you have a reason? There wasn't any reason."

"You had to. She wasn't the one."

"Wasn't the one? She was great. I'm standing here just thinking how great she was, and wondering why I broke up with her, and I don't even have a reason, and I remember how great she was, and I think, why the hell did I do that?"

"Great? I don't know. She was cute."

"Cute? And smart."

"Cute and smart."

"She was cute, smart, funny, interesting, sweet,—she is the sweetest person I have ever met—understanding, sexy, kind..."

"Yeah. But she wasn't the one. You can do better."

"Better? What 'better'? What is better than all that?"

"Hey, that's up to you. But apparently she wasn't the one. Three ball, corner."

"Why not?"

"Because you broke up with her."

"Nice shot."

"Thank you."

"Just telling you what you want to hear."

"So why did you break up with her?"

"I keep telling you, I don't know."

"There isn't another girl?"


"No one?"

"There are lots of other girls, but no one in particular."

"Yeah, that's what I mean. No one special. You're just looking for that special one, so you broke up with Sue."

"But maybe Sue was the one."

"Can't be: you broke up with her."

"Then, if it wasn't her, who is it? What kind of woman I am going to find that has everything Sue has, and more?"

"Well, Sue was a little short."

"She's not short."

"A little."

"She still looks good."

"Yeah, sure. She's cute. But you asked what kind of girl you could have that would be better than Sue, and I'm saying, next time, find someone a little taller. Maybe that's all that was missing."

"Just take your shot."

"Yeah, yeah. Damn! Well, you're up, Ace."

"Where did we get this idea that we're going to find perfect people? Where did we even get the idea that there are perfect people, much less that each and every last one of us has a chance of finding one of them? I mean, we grew up, for the most part, with everybody's lies being dragged out in front of us. We all have divorced parents, dysfunctional relationships, whatnot. Why do we think we're gonna beat it?"

"You gonna shoot?"

"Yes, I'm gonna shoot. I'm lining up my shot."

"You hound me if I'm gonna shoot, then you take all day yourself. You gonna call this one?"

"Fuckin' fourteen in the corner."

"Ouch! Don't break the balls, they didn't do anything to you."

"And neither did Sue. And maybe she was never going to. And isn't that the kind of person I should be looking for? What am I looking for? You know why we're so unhappy? Because we're hunting a dream that can't be found. It's a snipe hunt. Eleven, side."

"Oh, almost. Well, anyway, you're right. You aren't gonna find any perfect girl."

"Probably not."

"Besides, it's not like you have to get married."

"Man, I am twenty-six years old. That's not old, but it's old enough. Sometime, I have to make a decision to stop being a child and take responsibility for my life. Sue was always great to me, and I up and dumped her for no reason."


"So... it's not right. She had every right to believe I was going to stay with her, and I left. That's childish. That's irresponsible. It's like taking your friend's toys and leaving them out in the rain. No. It's not like that. It's not like anything. It's just plain mean and hurtful, that's what it is."

"Well, whatever. I guess you'll know that next time."


"Eight ball, side pocket."

"You know Paul Harvey?"

"The old radio guy?"

"Yeah. I like to listen to him in the morning."

"So? Hey, let me make this shot, then talk to me, all right?"

"You can't talk while you shoot, now?"

"See? I missed it because of you."

"Sure. Listen: Paul Harvey always announces people's anniversaries on his program. I mean, people who have been married fifty or seventy years. And I think, none of us is ever going to beat that, unless we live to a hundred and forty, because we don't seem to take the first marriage seriously, and we end up starting over somewhere down the line."

"Well, they had it different in those days."

"Yeah, some, but not everything. People still argued, fought. But they must have been more understanding, or something, because they didn't just divorce every chance they got. And some of them must have had some pretty big reasons, and still made it through. Me? I had a perfectly good girlfriend, and I called her up and broke it off. And I think I know why."

"Fine. You gonna tell me?"

"You wanna hear?"

"Why not?"

"All right. I'm selfish. That's about it. I couldn't give myself to her, no matter how much she did for me. I think that if I would have seen us as being really together then I would have given more because I would have been helping 'us'. But I didn't, because I was too concerned about me."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it. I should have decided that I was going to make it last, and then it would have, but I didn't. I was always looking for something better."

"Man, that's why we all break up."

"No. If someone hurts you, then maybe you can justify it that way: you look for someone more loyal, or trusting, or whatever. And I guess that's fine. But just walking out and doing it for no reason? That's lame. It's like terrorists, or something. You just hurt innocent people."

"Terrorists? Isn't that a little extreme? It's not like you tried to hurt her. It's not like you even have any control over it. It's just the way you've seen relationships played out."

"Maybe. But I have to choose to grow up sometime."

"Well, maybe with the next one. Hey, man, it's your shot. Where you going?"

"I'm gonna go grow up now."

"You gonna go call her? Don't call her. Get back here, man! Finish the game."

"You go ahead. I'm tired of playing. I never win."