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Stroke of Luck, Fatal English. ~ Tino Talamantes

“Hey man, how did you miss that shot?” asked my slightly perturbed teammate as I stepped away from the eight-foot pool table after taking a shot which seemed to be perfect in every way.

Hence his inquisition of me for missing a game winning shot. A shot that would have given me a break and run, no less.

I battled to find the answer in my own mind, my heart pounding, looking at the ball setup left for my now victory-tasting opponent. A rage was simmering inside me as I took my seat at the team table, staring at what looked like a run out that a blind person could execute. I gritted my teeth as she sank each striped ball, leaving perfect shape on her next shot since all of my solids were out of her way.

The match was hill to hill, and our team going to Vegas for the National Team Championships hinged on this final match, that final missed 8 ball shot. “What went wrong?” kept racing through my head as she meticulously placed one shot after another in its targeted pocket.

The air was filled with my increasingly pathetic guilt as she patched her match-winning pocket for the solitary 8 ball shot that would seal the deal for her inevitable victory. Due to my inexcusable ability to miss my shot on the 8 ball, I was depriving myself of game winning glory and a paid trip to Vegas to compete against national qualifiers.

I ached to yell out, “Stop! Please let me retake my 8 ball shot!” but reality corked my mouth. Only silence perpetuated the fast sinking hope that I would get one more turn at the table. Steam had to be fuming from my ears and nose. My eyes fixated on her alignment of the cue ball with the 8 ball in the corner pocket, sweat now dripping from my forehead. My gut curled up like a boa constrictor knowing how easy of a shot she left for herself.

All eyes pierced into my body like pins and needles, my teammates sensing how close to defeat we were.

The only words locked in my brain were, “How could I have missed that 8 ball shot?” Tension was about to explode like an erupting volcano as she crouched down and laid into that game winning shot. It was a dead stroke, only as perfect as a world class caliber pool player exhibits, when everything around them ceases to exist before sinking a match-winning shot.

“Pttp,” broke the silence as she stroked the cue ball, sending it into a fast, steady roll to collide into the patiently waiting 8 ball with what was obviously a more than firm shot. “Pluck,” was the only sound I heard as my eyes rolled down to the ground in regretful defeat. “Son of a B#%TCH!” wanted to spit from my tongue as I gripped the life out of my cue stick, knowing I gave away the victory that should have been mine!

The pool gods never intended for me to get back on that table for another shot.

My head was still hanging down like it was holding the weight of the Titanic. Her teammates swarmed her like bees on a nest.

But wait…

The cue ball bounced off the short rail, spinning with the force to continue rolling with enough speed heading directly for the side pocket. “Oh my God!” was all I heard from the same teammate who asked me how I missed my 8 ball shot. Hands sunk into my shoulders like vultures snatching up their prey for a feast. The room went from ecstatic pandemonium to utter silence as I lifted my head at just the precise moment the cue ball fell into the side pocket.

“Yes! She scratched!” pummeled through my head like a locomotive on crack.

I leapt into the air, my emotions in a wreck as I went from feeling like a neutered dog to a mixed martial arts fighter crushing his mangled opponent. My body surged with an adrenaline rush so intense I about fainted right there on the spot.

Even though my teammates bum-rushed me like an NFL quarterback getting sacked by a 300 pound lineman, I stumbled back to the seemingly perfect table, clenched the rails to hold myself steady and leaned down to kiss the felt.

The pool gods had nothing to do with it. I had nothing to do with it.

As I often tell my pool friends, it was the luck of the draw; broken English; excessive English; stroke of luck; fatal English.

Fatal English!

Photo: SmSm/Flickr Editor: Marcee Murray King
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