Thread: Chapter One - Turning Point
Board: The Last Portal
Group: Players
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posted... Chapter One - Turning Point 
on Sat 11 Jan 2020 @ 10:25 AM (PBW Time)

There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book. 
  Josh Jameson

Break-Away Billiards 
Clinton, Massachusetts
Saturday, December 29, 2019

Jason Stone stares down the field of green at the eight-ball where it sits, six inches off the  rail at a fifty degree angle from the back right corner pocket. In most situations, this  would be an easy shot -- but this is not ‘most situations’. He is painfully aware that if he  sinks this shot clean, it will dethrone the league’s three-time champions - Team ​Chalk &  Awe​ - earning his own team the five thousand dollar grand prize -- and sending him and  his buddies to the Las Vegas Nationals.

If he blows it, his team is eliminated.   

“Dude, watch that shot-clock.”​ Growls one of his opponents to the referee, failing to keep his  voice low enough to prevent Jason from hearing.   

Jason’s heart leaps at the unintended warning. Time is running out! He’ll have to shoot  quickly or forfeit his turn!   

He resists the urge to rechalk and instead, slides the sleek length of his new ​Predator Cues Blak Series 4​ back and forth smoothly along the groove formed by thumb and  forefinger. The exorbitantly priced cue was a Christmas gift from his wife — and he  still can’t quite get his head around the fact that he actually owns it​!   

He sucks in a breath and holds it and studies the shot. He knows if the cue ball goes too  far on this shot, it will follow the eight-ball in and scratch. If he banks off the back rail,  there is the risk of scratching in the center-left pocket.   

He remembers hearing somewhere that ​‘beauty is a matter of millimeters’​. It occurs to  him that billiards is much the same.

Will his shot be beautiful … or ugly?
An old Bob Seger tune, ​Katmandu​ is pounding on the vintage juke box, mixed with the  dull roar of conversations and laughter. Billiard balls click together from other tables.  The scent of beer and cheap perfume and a faint trace of marijuana hangs in the air.   

Jason stares and stares at the gleaming black eight-ball as it poises there, mocking him…  taunting him…   

I'm tired of lookin' at the tv news 
I'm tired of drivin' hard and payin' dues 
I figure baby I've got nothing to lose
  I'm tired of being blue   

That's why I'm goin to Katmandu 
Up to the mountains where I'm going to
If I ever get out of here 
That's what I'm gonna do   

Kkkkkk, Katmandu 
Take me baby cause I'm goin' with you
If I ever get out of here 
I'm goin to Katmandu

“Jase … you gotta shoot, man.”​ Hisses his partner Scott at his left elbow… 


posted... Chapter One - The Bad Seeds 
on Sat 11 Jan 2020 @ 10:32 AM (PBW Time)

  Somehow Jason and his pool league team the “Bad Seeds” find themselves on the brink of doing  something really special. That of beating three time champion Chalk and Awe, a real powerhouse in  the local world of pool. Not to mention the enormous five grand payout and a trip to Vegas to play in  the National tournament.   

His team is made up mostly of blue collar types that he would not be friends with if it weren’t for  being fortuitously placed on the team when he first joined the league several years ago. They are an  eclectic mix, but they all have become fast friends.

Jason is closest with Scott, likely due to them both college educated and have similar work  backgrounds in the semiconductor field. Scott lost his wife to cancer and she wanted him to play pool  after she passed so she bought him the cue he is currently using. He is a damn good player. Every bit  as good as Jason.   

Jason wants to win most for Scott. Getting to Vegas would be a tribute to his wife, whom from the  sound of it was a great person.   

He stares down the eight ball. It sits in the jaws of the corner pocket, the only complicating factor is  the cue ball is on a dead straight line with the eight ball and said pocket. Good players know this is not  ideal if the shot is a long one. Any side spin on the cue ball can send the object ball offline. But this  isn't a long shot, more of a moderate length that shouldn't be too much trouble.   

Also since the eight ball sits square in front of the corner pocket, rather than on a rail, means he has the  entire width of the pocket to work with making this is an easier shot. Which helps.   

There is a decent sized crowd around the table and all eyes are on him. Most are silent. Even his  teammate Doug, who is known to chatter mindlessly and be a real distraction, is currently quiet. The  jukebox plays a Bob Seger song for the millionth time, a selection he wouldn’t make, but to each their  own.   

Pressure is on, but Jason is the type that usually rises to the occasion and lift his game to meet it. Other  players, especially the before mentioned Doug, tend to play poorly under pressure. Or at least worse  than they usually do.   

With time running short, Jason finds the line the cue ball must travel on to make the shot. He puts the  cue in front of him and along this line. Focusing hard he maintains this line as he gets into his stance.   

This shot requires a “stop” shot where the cue ball sits in place after hitting the object ball. Pulling off  a stop shot requires a good feel for draw and distance. But in this case a perfect stop isn't needed, he  just has to ensure the cue ball doesn't drift forward. So drilling the cue ball low with a firm stroke is all  that is needed so there isn’t much planning required. 
Jason gives the cue a wiggle to the right and left and then leaves it as close to center as possible. He  finds this helps with dead straight shots. He also ensures his back hand wrist is loose. All this happens  fairly quickly, but he pauses a second or two and narrows his eyes as he fine tunes his aim..   

Knowing a shorter backstroke, called a "forward press", helps with this type of shot, Jason takes a  shorter than usual back swing and immediately drives forward with a firm forward punch.

Comfortable and focused he lets the shot fly!   

With excellent accuracy the cue ball is driven firmly into the dead center of the 8 ball and pockets  cleanly into the middle of the pocket without even tickling either side.   

Cheers erupt around him, but Jason doesn't hear them or respond to them much.    

He searches out his opponent and shakes his hand. "Good match." He says genuinely before turning  with a huge grin to his teammates.   

He clasps Scott hand.    

"Hell of a shot man!" he says with enthusiasm.    

Jason looks around his beaming teammates, in contrast to the dejection from Chalk and Awe. Which  gives him a sense of pride. In some sense pool is pretty cutthroat. When you have your opponent on  the ropes, you keep your foot on their throat till the match is over. There's no room for sympathy!

But now it's time to plan their trip to Vegas and inform his wife of his share of the exploits. He pauses  a moment before texting her and wishes she was here to enjoy this moment with him. But she has  never once made it to any of his matches, even now, the one where he won a trip to Vegas she is no  where to be found. But he does not dwell on this long as there are hands to shake and backs to slap  before the night is through.  
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