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Dear Ask Boz,
How does the Cue Ball end up at the other end of the pool table? The balls seem to be the same, but the Cue ball gets singled out and herded away. My dirty hippie brother thinks the balls are different sizes but I think that's just the weed talking. Is it Black Magic? - Jeff

Black Magic is not a bad guess, but that's the answer to why the bowling ball returns from the other end of the lane. No, Jeff, the answer to your question is Sado-masochism - That's right. The cue ball loves to hit and it loves to be hit. But why, if it loves contact with other balls that much, does it spend so much of its time alone? You have to look at it from the cue ball's perspective to find out.

The cue gives a little shiver of anticipation when it hears you sliding quarters into the slots. It trembles at the slam of the quarter tray being pushed in and released. It loves the moments as it waits for you to pick it up and put it on the soft green felt. It nearly faints from the rush when you lift the rack and reveal the tightly packed rows of its victims/loves. To understand the pleasure the cue ball feels on the break, you have to know the secret language of pool balls. The scream as you strike it, and the moans of twisted pleasure as it rolls around in an orgy of painful contact.

The game begins, shots are made, shots missed, and sometimes there's a scratch. Inside the table, out of sight, the ball only craves more hitting and pain. It doesn't want to join the other balls. It wants to pop back out and strike again. But how does it get back to its tray? By deploying its seven tiny little feet, and it paddles its way toward the light at the end of the tube.

Placed back on the table, it starts to covet every last hit. Each time a ball sinks, its little cue ball heart sinks a little, too. Soon there will be no balls left to strike and it will be alone again with its awful craving for violence. That's why it's so hard to get the eight ball in; the cue does not want to stop. Desperate, it risks discovery and again sticks out its fragile little legs. Though capable of only the smallest movements, they are strong enough to shift just as it slams into the eight-ball, causing you pain as you just miss the shot, so it can feel the ecstasy and agony one more time.

Perhaps the saddest moment is after it is all over. You casually drop the cue ball in a hole, but it does not go right back to its metal home. All weak and trembling from another wonderful, hurtful game, it lingers in the tube, listening to the other balls talk about how mean it is. They all huddle together in the long window in the side of the table, quietly talking, even laughing, as they nurse their hurt sides and hurt feelings. After a while, as the balls conversation turns low, and little by little their talk is replaced by the shallow breathing of sleep, the cue tiredly pushes off, back to a restless time in its lonely little tray. There it tries to deal with the anger, the sadness, and the violent joy that it takes from being the ball that is struck, and the ball that strikes.

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