Billiards:(n) a game usually for two people, played on a billiard table
I grew up in a small village that was close enough to a nearby larger town to make all of the young folks feel out-of-step and inadequate.
We had to go to the bigger city to be entertained or to absorb any available culture that might accidentally trip through mid-state.
So when we drove our cars in the direction of the nearby metropolis, we felt a combination of empowerment mingled with humiliation. We certainly were convinced that everyone in the larger burg was aware that we came from smaller digs and therefore lacked the social graces to be able to hold our own with the natives.
But we went anyway. It was the nearest bowling alley.
Bowling was very important. It gave you a safe, cheap way to go on a date, where conversation could be channeled into laughter over the lack of ability to roll a ball down an alley.
Now, in the back of this bowling alley was a small pool hall. It was a new addition, and some of the young folk from our town were a little bit afraid of going to play this game of billiards because it was associated with lower-class or “hoodlum elements.”
So I had great trepidation the first time I went into the billiard section of the bowling alley, picked up a stick and tried to hit the cue ball.
Yet I quickly became addicted.
Matter of fact, almost every weekend I went to play billiards, which we called pool, with my friends, until we thought we had become so good that we believed we could actually compete with other “stickers.” (That’s what we called them, even though I’m sure no one else did.)
One night five guys from the big town came in, saw us playing, and challenged us to a tournament, the winner to take ten dollars.
We were gambling. We felt so grown-up. And ten dollars was all any of us would have for the next two weeks.
But we were confident. After all, we had already played two months worth of Saturday nights.
Miserably, horribly and ferociously, as balls banged into each other, going in all directions, causing our heads to spin, eventually exposing our choke factor.
We were ten dollars poorer and more certain than ever before that “small-town Johnnies” need to be careful when playing with big-town bullies.