No doubt, Arness had a pump primed to stick it to The Kid but good.
He had been practicing like Hell for the better part of two months, every since the advert had appeared in his copy of the local paper:
Champion of the World!
Takes On All Comers! $500 Prize!
14.1 Continuous Straight Pool - Race To 150 - Lag For Opening Break
Blah-Blah-Blah, The Fine Print
Arness could care less for the $500, even if it worked out to $3.33 per ball, that being a steak dinner with potato and a drink for a dozen of your best friends per stroke. He could care less that the whole town was coming to watch the match. He could even care less that his photo would appear in the local paper.
IT was all about Arness BEATING, no STOMPING ON, no, UTTERLY CRUSHING the "champion of the world". What was the world championship crown, anyway? A trophy on a shelf, collecting dust, like the old railbirds who sat and sweated every match every night in the hall where Arness was now slicing in cut shots so fine he was taking the paint off the clay balls?
A Pool Tale No One Could KnowArness was in stroke, and that's saying a lot, since anyone watching him the last five years would always say he was always in stroke. Arness was nearly in dead stroke, the land of pool mastery where the shots go in of their own will, and the player achieves a near mystical union with the balls, table and cue, besides his own body.
While any player could get to dead stroke and even rank beginners have those lovely nights where everything clicks in harmony, a fine or expert player in dead stroke might have his ego vanish from the table altogether, disappearing from conscious thought for an hour or more, the way the experienced driver's mind wanders on the road when taken by the muse to think of poetry or a shopping list or problems at work or with a new love interest, and whoa! where have the last 40 miles of highway gone to?
Arness felt stress enough over the coming match, he was playing hot but would a stray chalk mark or a hang nail on his shooting hand (or a gunshot from an interested gambling party) end his battle prematurely with The Kid?
His senses were at a fever pitch these last days before the big match, and so without disappearing entirely as a wraith into the zone, he hung at a happy place just beneath that rapture, and could feel his muscles twang on each stroke until he could sort stroke forces by guaging whichever musical notes they performed.Set, plant, practice, practice, shoot. Choose, set, plant, practice, practice, shoot. Nothing to it, really. So easy a child could do it. So easy Arness could do it--beat the living snot out of the current world "champion".
See the three ball there, watch it fall into the hole over there. See the 15 ball grinning at you, the stripe near its base now forming a wicked grin that to another lover would mean, "Screw you. I'm running out with the Johnny next door to a nude beach in Mexico," but to Arness cooed, "I'd be happy to fly into the far corner pocket for you now, darling," and away it rolled and guaranteed, found the bottom of the tight pocket in the corner.
No way Arness would have wasted the last 15 years of his life playing pool, he was marching on to his goal of world domination, one pool ball at a time. 1-2-3-4-one million. Two million. 1,000 pocketed balls nightly for almost 15 years will do that for a fellow. The real number was a lot closer to five million than two million, actually.
Arness put up his stick for a minute and grinned. There was no pain in his arm, there hadn't been since he was a youth and learned to cradle the stick gently to make it do his wonders rather than clench it like an errant vagrant a cop was holding back from leaping onto a hoboes' train.
"Gentle, my son, gentle," cooed his old pool master. We want to roll the balls in ten feet away, not smash them over center field for a home run," he would direct. "Mr. Newton guaranteed us with a little ditty called 'conservation of angular momentum' young Mr. Arness," he would go on.The Killer And The Mosc, Part I: 13-Rack Ride
The Killer And The Mosc Part II: Roll Two Million Balls
Part III: Pickle Juice Paul
Part IV: Arness Gets A Taste
Part V: Ralph Greenleaf Kicks Willie Mosconi's Tail
Part VI: Mosconi's Madness, The Fire Down Below
Part VII: The Old Man's Three Rules Of Great Pool
Part VIII: The Men In Town To Clash
Part IX: Stand And Fight
Part X: Showdown On Cloth
Part XI: Cue Ball Killing It
Part XII: Willie's Best Bank Shot
Part XIII: Crushed, Snookered, Busted
Part XIV: Rolling Loose
Part XV: Swing And A Miss