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drivin' he done today, and I decided to play the game he ain't goin' to. Is that all right, mister?"

The white-haired, wiry guy looked at Emmett for a moment before walking away and back to the other end of the bar where he came from. A young guy picked up where the older man left off, however, by approaching Emmett and asking him if he cared to shoot a game with him. There was no animosity visible in the younger fellow's face, just a bit of curiosity maybe. So Emmett said, "Sure, but we'll have to make it a quick game of nine ball, 'cause my food'll be comin' up soon. That okay with you?" The cat said that it was, and Emmett racked the nine balls, using only his forearms and hands to shape them together, and everyone in the bar saw by the way he packed the balls into the difficult diamond formation without a wooden frame that Emmett knew what to do with a pool table.

They flipped a coin and Emmett won the toss. He shot the cue ball hard into the right side of the diamond pack, sinking the number three ball on the break and scattering the rest all over the table. He sank four more balls into the pockets with his next four consecutive shots before missing an easy bank into the corner, leaving the other guy to run off the last four neatly positioned balls on the table, including the nine ball which meant the game. Emmett paid off the dude with what they agreed to play for, a drink, and also thanked him for letting him shoot a quick game, shook his hand with a "much obliged," and then sat down on the stool at the bar where his hot beef stew had just arrived from the kitchen.

It was dark by the time the four of them left the bar with their bellies warm and full and their minds toying with the refreshing idea of a little sleep. Denton wasn't far, and Emmett said he'd drive the rest of the way to the campground. He had no idea how tired he was nor how juiced he'd gotten in the bar, and therefore had no reason to slow down from the ninety-mile-per-hour pace they maintained across more than half the country. There were very few cars on the road, and after he was at the wheel for about forty minutes he began to get the feeling they were lost.

The others were all sound asleep, so Emmett picked up the piece of paper from the dashboard that was the hand-drawn map the owner of the bar had given them to find their way to the camp in Denton, Michigan, and held it up in front of him, resting it on the steering wheel without slowing down, and shifting his eyes from the road to the paper and back. [end page 389]


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