there is no exercise better for the heart

 

mundane moments in a mundane life
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"... than reaching down and lifting people up."
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When they came through the door, she tripped over the rain mat and he caught her before she fell. Both were dressed elegantly: she in a beaded cocktail dress and very high heels, he in dress shirt and pants. Around their necks were strands of plastic beads in metallic red, silver, green, and gold. Matching Santa hats in luxurious faux fur and polar fleece perched on their heads, raindrops accenting the blinking pins flashing a steady Ho-Ho, pause, Ho-Ho. They were holiday party casualties. The room was almost empty and they took a table in my row.
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I was shooting railed object balls with high inside and watching the cue ball spin three, four, and five rails around the table. Normally, I would catch the cue ball after it hit the third rail and came within reach in order to save time. I had practiced this shot so many times I knew exactly how many rails it would hit after I struck the cue ball. But, this was the holidays. I allowed myself the luxury of letting the cue ball run its course each time without hurry. After one particularly silky run by the cue ball, I picked it up and found her waiting next to my table, hands behind her back, rocking precariously back and forth on her platform heels.
“Hi!”
“Hello.”
“So, my friend over there,” she waved at her table, “told me he was really good at pool.”
I watched him marching around their table. He had fairly good form. He would take fast warm up strokes and then confidently fire the ball into no pocket at all. He strode around the table with the merest hint of terror.
“Okay.”
“I don’t think he’s very good,” she continued. I said nothing. “Do you think he can beat you in a game?”
He self-consciously continued his futile attempts to pocket balls. I knew what the problem was. He was used to playing in bars. On a smaller table with huge pockets and powered by a beer or two, he would beat most casual players. He and she did not know this, but they were playing on some of the toughest equipment in the nation. He might be really good at pool – as long as he did not play here.
I considered her question.
I imagined playing him a game of eight-ball where I broke, ran out to the eight, pocketed the eight, and then promptly scratched the cue ball.
“Yes,” I said. “He could beat me.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Surprised, I said, “You don’t have to.”
“Why did you have to think before answering?”
“English,” I said slowly, “is not my first language.”
He had stopped shooting and was trying very hard to drink his beer with a careless air.
She narrowed her eyes and appraised me shrewdly.
“Will you come over and play him a game?”
“I’m leaving soon.”
The pin on the fur brim of her hat blinked.
He stole a glance at us.
“Okay, then,” she said finally. She smiled. “Happy holidays.”
She skipped back to her table and I went back to practice. When I looked over a little while later, he was showing her how to make a bridge. They laughed at their shared awkwardness.
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At closing time I went to pay my bill and found someone had paid part of it for me.
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john holmes

6 Replies to “there is no exercise better for the heart”

  1. “The toughest equipment in the nation”? 9′ diamonds with tight rounded narrow pockets would get my vote. Gotta stop playing the bar boxes so much, everyone’s getting too good on the toy tables- but I can whip a lot of ’em on the football- field sized diamonds!

  2. “I watched him marching around their table. He had fairly good form. He would take fast warm up strokes and then confidently fire the ball into no pocket at all. He strode around the table with the merest hint of terror.” That’s the best paragraph I’ve read in a good bit of time.

    I loved this blog post.

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