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Excerpt from

The Leaves
by
Rob Pierce

Rick stood in front of his barstool with a Scotch and a beer, glad to be holding a drink instead of a drill. He hadn’t been in The Sidewinder since he broke up with Donna but it was the end of a long day and this was where the crew went. He turned his head and after all these weeks Donna was exactly where she was supposed to be, at a pool table fifty feet away. Rick set down one glass and drank from the other. Her straight black hair was pulled back so it didn’t get in her face, didn’t distract her from the game. There were eight guys down there with her at the two pool tables. Rick had played all of them, fought half of them, lost to none.

Someone got too close and Rick looked up suddenly. A scrawny guy in a buttoned shirt edged onto the stool to Rick’s left, glancing at Rick like he needed permission. His short sleeves showed arms half the size of Rick’s, just made to be broken. Most of the guys in here were on the same construction crew Rick was, the rest were locals; Rick had seen them all before. God knows where this guy came from.

Rick downed his Scotch and ordered another before his new neighbor caught the bartender’s eye. It was only Wednesday but it was the fifteenth, payday, and the room was drinking like it. Rick wouldn’t spend his on anyone but himself; even when he’d been with Donna he never had to pay for her drinks, they were free as long as she held the table. And she looked so good holding it the fools smiled when they paid her.

The night Rick met her it was a different table in a different bar but it was the same game. Eightball, no mercy from the black-haired beauty or hope for those who opposed her. Rick watched her play, watched other men fall. They saw her greatness so could never touch her. He saw it and couldn’t let her get away.

He beat her at pool that night but he could never hold a table the way she held this one. Men wanted to lose to her. Rick turned away smiling. Donna hated losers. But she didn’t really love winners either.

The little guy had a beer now. “That was a good shot,” he said, looking at the game as Rick returned his attention to the bar. “Is she always this good?”

Rick nodded, looked at the mirror behind the bar and pushed wet stringy hair off his forehead. “Play her, you’ll see.”

The little guy didn’t answer that, talked about his shitty day at work instead. He wasn’t the paperwork pussy Rick suspected—he worked shipping/receiving, so he spent some time just entering numbers on a computer but he also lifted boxes and cut them open to verify their contents, heaving one piece of crap after another onto a conveyor belt when the deliveries came in—but nothing in his eyes said he could shoot with Donna.

Donna could always take care of herself. Her nose was still bent from the night she and Rick got 86ed at The Blue Room after some guy said he wouldn’t pay and Donna flipped her cue and swung the thick end into the guy’s Adam’s apple. The guy’s buddy swung back and caught Donna across the face, then Rick was throwing punches and Donna was swinging her cue and when the sirens got close enough to hear they got out of there fast, rode back to Rick’s apartment her arms wrapped tight around him, the door barely shut before their clothes were coming off.


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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories