I glanced at my son as he drew his pool stick across the table to line up a shot. His eyes darted back and forth. All he had to do was knock in the 8 ball to win the game.

But the game didn’t matter.

What mattered was the ten bucks I had promised to the first kid who could beat me. I’m not a skilled player, but I’ve played enough over the years to not embarrass myself.

Watching Lincoln made me think of the afternoons I spent in our driveway hoisting up shot after shot on our unforgiving basketball standard. The thought of besting my dad at most sports was unthinkable, but I figured a few lucky bounces would give me the best chance to beat him at HORSE. Most games followed a familiar pattern: I’d be a letter away from winning until my nerves would get the best of me, and I’d choke the game away.

I had two solids on the table. All Lincoln had to do was knock in the 8 ball.

“Remember the $10 you promised?”


He was thinking about the money instead of the shot.

“You’ll need to put a stop on the ball,” I told him.

“I know. I know.”

I stood back from the table to give him room and thought about how peaceful I have felt lately.  I’ve made a number of small decisions and one large one that could have rocked my life in ways I couldn’t anticipate, and I was expecting fallout after making my intentions public.

Yet all I felt in that moment was peace. Where it comes from I don’t know.


The 8 ball fell into the corner pocket. Followed by the cue ball and the sign of disappointment across my son’s face.

“Maybe next time.”

My ten dollars are safe.

At least for another day.