Chapter Ten

Ralph placed the cue ball on the black dot embedded on the green felt of the pool table and then squared up for a shot. One, two, pumps followed by the distinct slap of the billiard balls connecting. Colors bounced to and fro. One ball entered the middle pocket on my left, Ralph’s right, followed by another right in front of me in the right corner pocket.

Solid was the first to go in which meant that’s what he went for.

Ralph and I played musical chairs around the table as he squared up for another shot. The cue ball hit its target but the ball didn’t go in. My turn.

“Has the bank called about the loan?” He asked. One, two pumps.
“I had a meeting with them yesterday.”
I took my shot and just made it. The cue ball bounced to the right-center of the table; time to play musical chairs again.

“Given my good credit and salary the loan was approved. I added three thousand to the amount by the way.”
“Why? I thought we agreed thirty K was more than enough.”
“It is, but should any of the equipment fail on us,” I slapped the cue ball against its target and missed the intended pocket. “I want to have some extra funds for possible repairs rather than having to buy new stuff.”
“Wasn’t that possibility already factored into the estimation?” Ralph asked as he scanned the table for a possible shot. When he saw one he squared up and took it. The target made an almost round trip of the table only to end up in a different pocket.

“I looked up a few of the equipment items online and one of them is on sale, but its used. According to the retailer its practically brand new.”
“So the extra money is in case its not.” “Exactly. Buying it new would have cost us six K rather than three. To maximize our funds the extra money is for that outcome, and that alone.”

Ralph squared for another shot and made it but missed his third one. “Damn. So what about a crew?”

I squared for a shot and then stopped, standing upright with the pool stick at my side. “Aside from the two of us, we’ve got five people. We need to get the word out somehow. Are you still friends with that girl in the NY Film Academy?”
“Are you asking me if she’s still talking to me even though I haven’t called her since we fucked several months ago? Yes. I have her in my pocket.”
“Well we need a lead actress and at least one other writer besides you. Can you handle it.”
“I’ll call her tomorrow, see if I can set up a lunch date.”
“You’re willingly going to be seen in public with her?”
“I have to suck it up since a third of the picture is being shot outside.”

I bent over the table and lined up my shot. Success. More musical chairs. I lined up my next shot, made it.

“Guess who came into my office the other day?”
“The Queen of England?”
“No, but it was someone older than me.”
“How much older are we talking?”
“Not as old as the Queen but she’s still older than myself. Remember that night at the club on Delancy?”
“You mean the cougar?”
“She’s actually younger than that.”
“Surely not by much, bro.”
“She’s still in her thirties.”
“Did she tell you that?”
“No the lights in my office did.”
“Women are walking contradictions, man. She probably had on some age defying make-up along with six inch heels and a push-up bra to give young studs like us the illusion that she’s younger than she actually is.”

Ralph’s description was correct but not in this case. During my internship I had an encounter with a woman in her late twenties, as told by her, to which I later discovered she had actually been in her early forties. I never spoke of the incident, not even to Ralph or Freddy. I had nothing to be ashamed of since I had performed well enough for a call-back, so to speak. Upon finding out of the white lie I decided to sever ties. Besides the internship had just started and I was not looking to be distracted by any outside force. Fortunately for me this woman was not the clingy type.

I later met several other women similar to her who used products to enhance their appearance for the purposes of attracting men for various reasons. Such deception is unforgiving. Women need not man-made entities to look “better” than they already do. Well, most women at least.

“The woman from the bar, Sofia, she wasn’t wearing make-up when she came into my office. In fact she looked better than she had the night we met.” “Some women just got it like that.”
“She appears to be one of them.”
“So what did she want?”

Three balls rested on the table now; the cue, a solid, and the eight ball.

“Let’s raise the stakes.”
“I’m listening.”
“An extra ten bucks says I get that damn purple ball in with my first shot, along with the eight ball.”

I studied the table. His ball was close to him on the left side while the eight ball sat between the middle pockets. Given the amount of bounce shots he’s taken to get to this point times his success rate, the added money looked to be going in my favor.

I have, however, seen him make difficult shots before. Then there’s the added possibility that the cue ball will go in on the tail of the eight ball, which has also happened. I shrugged and agreed.

Ralph chalked the tip of his cue stick, lined up his shot, took a breath, and slapped the cue ball. It bounced in the opposite direction still carrying enough force as when it was hit to graze the purple ball, which sent it flying into the pocket. The cue ball then slapped against the side, causing it to make another trip towards Ralph, but just missed the eight ball by a few centimeters.

“Mother of shit storms I almost had it.”
“Almost is not good enough.”
“How about we add another ten to see you win this game on this turn?”
“How about no?”
“Sore loser.”
“Degenerate gambler.”

I lined up my shot and eventually missed.

After a sparring match of misses I took the win along with the sixty dollar prize. I looked at my watch.

“Its almost midnight.”
“Gotta be at the office early?”
“Actually you and I have to scout locations, remember?”
“That was tomorrow?”
I shook my head.
“Fuck. Alright, let’s head home. You never did mention what the cougar wanted, by the way.”

Realizing the lapse in memory I gave him a summary along with Sofia’s obvious body language.

“She wants you man. Just be careful.”
“Why, because she’s older?”
“Because she’s a client now. Should anything happen, do it after the fact.” Ralph and I never cease to be on the same page.

The night air was crisp making the weather desirable for going out on night adventures.

Upon leaving the pool hall we passed a crowd of people smoking cigarettes outside a bar located next door.

“Johnathan?” A voice from the crowd had shouted.

Ralph and I turned around to be greeted by the surprised, shocked, and grinning face of Wendy. “Holy shit.” Ralph muttered before she got to within normal decible talking distance.

“Hi.” My back stiffened in uncomfort. I had no idea what to expect. Was she still mad about the way things…ended? I guess, between us. Surely not. It’s been took long to hold a grudge. Either way, I hate confrontations.

Wendy wrapped her arms around my neck in a warm embrace. I patted her on the back. I didn’t know what else to do.

“How have you been? God its been a while.”
“Yea, almost two years.”
“Has it been that long.”
“Possibly more since he’s been back for a while.” Ralph said. Wendy looked at him and then me in confusion saying,
“Where did you go?”
“You don’t remember?”
Before I could remind her the memory suddenly played in her mind causing a slight frown to appear.

“How’d that turn out for you?”
“I’ve got a good job which will become a great one soon.”
“That’s great.”
“What…have you, been up to?” I said in hesitation that now, by her change in body language, might become hostile. Women have a tendency to cause public scenes by assaulting men or just screaming in their faces. I’m mentally praying I’m not going to become part of this statistic tonight.

“I recently graduated. I’m still celebrating this fact with a few of my friends. It’s sort of a double celebration, actually. A girlfriend of mine just landed a gig on Broadway.”
“So she’s an actress?” Ralph asked.
“Being on Broadway usually requires that, last I checked.”
“Well we’re looking for some actresses for a movie we’re putting together.”

Her gaze fell back on me.

“So you’re really doing it? You’re living your dream?”
“Yea, sorta. Independently. We got a loan so once a team is set up we’ll begin production.” Ralph answered for me.
“Would you like me to see if my friend is interested?”
“Would ya?” Again, Ralph answered for me. Not that I was choosing to stay silent, he seemed to be…protecting me, in a way, from saying something stupid even though he knows I’ve developed this tact thing.

“Is your number still the same?” Wendy asked still addressing me but looked at Ralph and added, “or does your spokesman want to give me a card so that I may reach you?”

I cleared my throat and reached into the right breast pocket of my blazer. “Here’s my office number. Call me in a few days.” She took the card and looked at it expressionless.

Placing it in her purse she said, “funny running into you like this” and turned around and walked back into the crowd. “Yea. Funny.”

Ironically I wasn’t laughing.

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