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I wanted to be a winner and that meant I was willing to cheat and whatever else it took to get there. 

The crazy thing is, you gotta look like you're the last thing from a winner to really win. Like you just picked up that pool cue and you still aren't too sure which end is the pointy one. Wet behind the ears and stinking of pig shit-- or in my case, Peking duck and yak shit. That's what you gotta look like.  Easy pickins for some smart ass who thinks he invented the game. 

You'd think they woulda caught on by now. But, as Confucius said, "A sucker is born every minute*." And thank god for that. 

I make my living off suckers. 

It was at a pool hall called Sal's a few minutes away from the Boardwalk. Nice place. Really nice. Stained glass lamps over the tables, import beer, decent-looking waitresses who did their jobs, and didn't hang around blathering your ear off about dead-beat ex-boyfriends.  Every time the door opened, the smell of salt water and the screech of seagulls came scuttling in. 

Exactly the kind of place I could retire to. 

Most guys breeze into town, do a round or two of dressing the turkey before moving on. I guess if you look like every other guy in the country, it might work. Don't work for me. I'm as American as the rest of these bozos, but I look like I just fell off the rice boat, if you catch my drift. I gotta do something else. I'm too easy to spot.

"Good day, misters! When is the next game, prease?"  I said to a group of three guys clustered at a table in the middle of the joint, sounding just like Mr. Bei, our neighbor in Portland.

Bei really had fallen off the rice boat and insisted on jabbering to my parents in Chinese all the time. That was until he finally clued in that they didn't know a word, despite their Chinese faces.  That didn't stop Bei. He just switched to annoying me in Chinese. 

And look what I did. Stole his accent, his goofy behavior and went out to hustle fat, white guys in baseball caps with it.

And it worked like karate, man! 

"So, you real pool sharks, yes?" I said to the chumps at the table. "I love pool! I rearning how to be a real pool shark! We pray a match!" 

I beamed at them, readjusted my black, square-framed "these-had-to-be-made-in-China" glasses and blinked a few times. 

The total ignorant sucker.  

I had just lost the second game along with 50 dollars and was loudly demanding a rematch from the chumps who thought they had me in the bag, when the door opened and a guy who looked  like Dopey from Snow White came tumbling in with the breeze, pulling my attention away from the game for a few seconds.  

"Okay! Now I'm gonna sink red ball in the pocket. You watch me, baby!" Out of the corner of my eye I could see my chumps smiling conspiratorially at each other.

"Yeah, go on and sink that one, man. You're doin' real good!" Their grins were so big, their faces were about to spasm under the strain. 

Thirty minutes later, they were each out 200 buckeroos and I was doing my 'I can't fucking believe it ' routine, which made sure I didn't get punched. "I'm no so good prayer like my American friends. Is an honor to play with you. Must be good luck day." 

Bow. Bow. Bow and shake head in amazement. 

"Yeah. Whatever, man." 

The chumps moved over to the bar to lick their wounds, and I busied myself with polishing my cue and keeping my eyes peeled for my next victims.  That's when Dopey came over,  ears sticking out like satellite dishes. 

"Been watchin' you. You look about my level. Wanna play?" 

"Oh, I am not good prayer. You beat me for sure." 

"Yeah, maybe. I suck, though. One round?"

I shrugged and he racked up. 

Man, he really was abysmal. I had to miss shots a six-year-old could have pulled off  better just to lose convincingly. I knew I'd probably get only a couple of crumpled bills out of Dopey, but a buck's a buck and I had all day. 

"Very good, mister!" I clapped. "We do rematch? Since we both beginner, want to make it interesting and bet a rittle money?" 

Sure he did.

We racked up again and he broke. 


I was keeping just a few points ahead of him, making it look like I was only doing so-so. When I threw the game at the end, it'd have to look natural. 

Then suddenly, the whole thing changed. Dopey bent over the table and dropped the striped 10 into the upper left pocket with a straight, clean shot. Without a word, he stalked around the table, aiming and dropping each ball with such professional precision that my jaw dropped. 

I knew the shit had just hit the proverbial fan and started to calculate how fast I could make it out the front door before something really bad happened.

Just as he was leaning over to rocket the last one home, Dopey looked up at me and we locked eyes. He shot, and the 8-ball sailed straight into its pocket like a bird into its nest. 

"Nice gimmick" he said, straightening up. "Haven't seen a foreigner act done before. You almost had me fooled there. Almost." Dopey's eyes shot holes through me and I felt every last one of them. "You have a minute and a half to get outta here."

"This hall or this town?" I said in my normal voice. No reason to keep up the ruse. Not when you accidentally find yourself on the mob's turf.  No, that's the time for complete and total honesty. If you want to keep all of your limbs, that is. 

"Sal runs a clean joint. What the competition does," Dopey shrugged, "he don't give a shit."

"Already gone."

I wanted to be a winner, and a winner knows when it's time to tip his hat and make for the door. 

Shame. Such a nice hall. 

Could've retired there, easy. 


A/N *In actual fact, this quote is from P.T. Barnum, the circus millionaire, not Confucius.

This story is from the UrbanPromptFriday prompt: "I wanted to be a winner and that meant I was willing to cheat and whatever else it took to get there."

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