Sometimes a losing bet leads to a bigger bet, which leads to a very bad idea. The balls are racked. The cues are chalked. And the $100 bills are counted. Usually, an hour of midday billiards costs only six bucks at Doral's favorite strip-mall pool hall, Doral Billiards. But this next game of eight ball is worth ten grand. The other guy's fat wad of crumpled bills has been crammed into the buttoned pocket of an obese middleman. But you're broke. You're out of paper money. And you're borrowing from an acquaintance with a short temper and a remote piece of property on the edge of the Everglades. The collateral for this friendly loan is the key to a 335-horsepower family heirloom sitting in the parking lot — black, waxed, and the only thing you still own in this world. The other guy breaks, sinks six solids, then misses. You toss back the dregs of a $9 pitcher. You inhale. You exhale. You put down four stripes. You scratch. The other guy smiles, taps his last ball into a corner pocket, follows with the eight, and smiles wider. You feel the sickening, sinking feeling of losing everything. You lean against the table with an open hand on the smooth blue felt. You feel for the outline of the extra key hidden in your empty wallet. You contemplate the odds. You assess your surroundings. The ceiling is black. The walls are red. The floor is green. And it's about 20 paces at a full sprint to the front door.
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