Sunday, November 11, 2007
The dart arced through the smoky air of the billiard hall. I was one 16 away from taking the darts series from Mike Sokol. One chalky circle from winning the cricket game. Then Mike would owe me a beer. The dart’s trajectory angled high, then quickly dropped off, like a knuckle ball. A tensile thwack signaled that it had collided with one of the metal dividers between the point wedges on the board. Although neither of us could tell where the dart had specifically landed (16 or 7?), it was definitely close.
Mike and I had been trading off wins in our five-game cricket series. It seemed as though I could gain a healthy lead, but Mike would surge back with several triples in a row. He was the epitome of luck when it came to that. I would keep plugging away, playing defensively, picking up my 20s, 19s, 18s, 17s, 16s, 15s and bullseyes in sequential order. I was rather obsessive-compulsive about that sort of thing. Mike refused to go away and by the fifth game, I had to alter my strategy and take my numbers out of order, instead riding the hot hand, as it were. It came down to a Game 5 clincher. One more 16. Loser buys beer. High Life, no less.
Now, Mike and I had drained about a dozen brewskies by this point in the night -- beer and darts, as I like to say, they go together -- and my vision was as crooked as the last knuckle-dart I had fired.
My dart, as it appeared to me, had landed inside the swatch of off-white that I had intended it to. I grabbed a piece of chalk and circled the 16 on the scoreboard and drew a smiley face near the margin. I had won. Under any normal circumstance, I would have removed the darts and my opponent would buy another round and we would play another game. But because this was the end of a rather grueling five-game series, I let sleeping darts lie, and turned to let Mike bask in my glory.
At about that moment, events began to blur. In meeting eyes with Mike Sokol, I became so stricken by his rage as to begin seeing white spots flash before my eyes. It was as if his eyes were about to send lazers across the room and burn me alive right there in the pool hall. He did not speak. He did not yell. He only moved deliberately toward the board. It was as if Mike’s intense gaze drained me of any rational thought. I began to move toward the door. When Mike gets that look in his eyes, it’s best to find an exit.
I recall mumbling something about having to use the bathroom. Still no words from Mike. I approached the corridor leading to the bathrooms. While passing Mike, I noticed a curious bulge at the small of his back; a malignant, angled protrusion that I immediately realized was his Glock. He talked a lot about his Glock. I just never assumed he actually had one. Turns out he did.
As I stepped below the neon EXIT sign that designated the bathroom hallway as a safe way out, I heard Mike yell something about my final dart actually being lodged on the 7 side of the board. He emitted a bestial scream and tore the dartboard from the wall. I did not turn around to see him pull the pistol from his waistband. Instead I bolted for the door, hoping my cyclists’ legs could power me without the locomotion of crankshaft and chain. Some women leaving the ladies room entered my path. I threw them to the ground and kept on like hell. At about 30 paces into the parking lot, the door blew off its hinges and Mike Sokol came barreling after me like an ornery bull with a bazooka. Several reports came from the pistol, thwacking into the building directly in front of me. I dove behind a dumpster. The bum that was living inside stuck his head out to see what the commotion was. He was promptly greeted with the full brunt of Mike Sokol rage. This came in the form of 4 slugs to the chest. Back down he went.
While crouched between the dumpster and a wooden fence, I began to wish that I possessed the skills of diplomacy or a hand grenade. But all I had were my wits and a fence to jump. With calf and shoulder muscles burning, I vaulted over the wooden fence in front of me, bullets sending splinters like confetti through the air as I slid over the top.
I heard more of Mike’s frustration: ‘FUCK, dB! I love you man!’ and the jingle of car keys. Then came the familiar rumble of his truck firing up and then an engine roar and tire squeal and then horns and more yelling that slowly faded into the distance. I stood up and dusted myself off, smiling at yet another victory over my best friend, Mike Sokol. Sirens approached from the distance as I walked the half block home.