Three weeks ago, Dr. Cue Billiards in Seattle, announced that Corey Deuel would be coming on Monday, 22 January to “give private lessons to a customer.” The announcement continued, “Corey will have time to give a few other private lessons.” A few of us began getting in the queue although times and cost remained unknown. Excitement began to mount, especially during the weekend before the big arrival. More players than usual were at the Doctor’s when it opened at eleven Monday morning. “When’s he coming?” everyone asked. “His plane gets in around ten tonight,” we were told. By late afternoon, the house was full; it seemed like every “player” in the Puget Sound was in the front room running tables with effortless enthusiasm.
Ten came and went. Around eleven somebody said His plane had just gotten in. A few of us hung around till midnight and then went home to anticipatory sleep. For the next four days Corey and his student were huddled in the back room deep in their Master Class. The rest of us would glance over now and then, trying to be inconspicuous, hoping to pick up even the tiniest pearl from this young phenom. My ears pricked up when I saw Him hold up a ball and say to His student, “My aiming system is…” Meanwhile, the one-pocket action in the front room was first-rate among the likes of Danny, Tommy, JD, Harry and others. A few lucky Dr. Cue regulars got an hour of billiard pedagogy from Corey before he took on the crème when class was over.
Dumb as it sounds, a lot of us went to the Tuesday night tournament hoping that Corey Deuel would play. Yeah, and George Bush is going to learn to say “nuclear!” Anyway, the air was thick with excitement as balls clicked with brisk authority in anticipation of the action soon to come on “table one.” No such luck as Corey remained in the back room in close conference with his student and somehow escaped unnoticed around ten. Waiting was worth it though as Danny and Tommy treated us to another of their inimitably elegant contests.
Wednesday night it was JD who had the honors, taking home a handsome reward for his efforts, helped perhaps, by the fact that I was taking pictures of Corey without realizing that my (digital) camera throws out a conspicuously bright red focusing beam…the poor guy was probably stunned but too courteous to come over and shove my camera down my throat. I don’t know who won what on Thursday night but when I arrived at ten on Friday night Harry Platis and Corey were in a close one-pocket match with an impressive collection of railbirds and sharks in the shadows glued to every stroke. By eleven the first match was over with Mr. Platis taking home the bacon. Shadowy negotiations were whispered, money counted and JD was appointed to hold the dough and Harry broke to begin another game.
As the game progressed it was obvious that Corey was not in his best form, which is not to say that he did not make some beautiful shots. But Harry Platis is not a millionaire lawyer for no reason; he was emboldened by Corey’s indifferent play and at one point, seemingly left with nothing, pulled out a spectacular Z bank to run out his four balls. Apparently, Harry had agreed to play at ten-five but, for some inscrutable reason Corey gave him an extra point and offered eleven-five plus the break! Notwithstanding Harry’s hubris, why would anyone say to a shark, “Well, tell you what, I’ll give you both legs and bet I can escape!”
Harry did play one of the best matches of his life and even kept his mouth shut. And this was not the Corey Deuel who had recently beaten “The Magician.” Once, Harry missed a ball completely and left the cue ball down at the far-end rail; ball-in-hand for Mr. Deuel. A whisper went through the crowd, “He’s got ball-in-hand!” Corey just shot it off the rail with eight feet of green between and missed what should have been a duck. A while later, Corey came over to where I was sitting and lamented to Dan Louie who was standing next to me, that whenever he played on that particular table he missed rail shots and Dan suggested changing chalk. Somebody else called Jeff, one of the owners, who is a master technician, to come down and put a new tip on Corey’s cue. We all wondered why a guy like Corey Deuel didn’t have an extra shaft. But Corey went back to the table and continued making mystery misses until Harry sank his five balls and a very thick wad of Franklins was tossed out of the dark onto the shimmering Simonis.
Harry drifted off to the side with uncharacteristic modesty while Corey stood furiously beside the table digging his thumbnail into his tip trying desperately to rip it off. He broke his nail and the tip remained steadfast. I offered my Leatherman but he stalked back to his chair and shoved everything in his case and his big eyes darted around looking for solace like a wet cat. He might have been willing to stay longer but Harry announced that he had been up since six that morning defending people’s Constitutional rights and he would be back tomorrow to prove that he wasn’t afraid of anybody. Two of the habitués began a new game of one-pocket and I stepped out into the rainy night and drove home, poignantly.