The Hustle

Five-three high school senior Sean Duffy considers women and pool his main recreations, pool a close second. Then he meets six-foot Mari Jo Moon, the Amazon of his dreams, and petite Toby Bryant, the best female pool player he’s ever played against. Mari Jo is also the girlfriend of football stud Brock Hurley, with whom Duff shares a secret, violent connection that goes back ten years, and Toby is the daughter of the best female pool hustler in the country. One girl will steal Duff's father's prized cue, the other his heart, and Duff will face losing everything in a final battle for love and self-identity.

I have an eye for women.

They're my main recreation. Pool's second. When I get a chance, I lift weights. I don't know how many girls I've hustled in high school, but since my breakup with Lacy Wells three weeks ago, I've been in a slump. I usually find someone else in a week or two. Things have been slow. But they're about to pick up.

The Hustle


              Jon Ripslinger





"Why don't you give the jerk a lesson?" Web asks me.

We're at Leisure Time Billiards and Bowling Center, sitting at a tall, round table, drinking Pepsi. Irritated at the guy I'm watching play pool, I yank my chair closer to the table. "I will. But I want to see this chick play."

"You know who he is? I just figured it out."

"Brock Hurley," I say. "Might be the University of Iowa's starting quarterback this season. As a freshman."

"Think he'll recognize you?"

"Doubt it. Happened a long time ago."

Brock is swaggering around a seven-foot pool table, hustling kids out of their money, emptying their pockets and billfolds. Ten or twelve of us are standing or sitting. Spectators.

We're all at Leisure Time with our gym classes. It's spring, close to graduation. Seniors are restless this time of year. A few gym teachers at the three public high schools in town got this awesome idea to haul seniors here on school buses. A reward for graduates-to-be, an excellent way to spend a Thursday afternoon away from school.

It's a big complex with thirty bowling lanes in one part and thirty pool tables, all sizes, where we're seated in another part. Besides pool, kids can play air hockey, foosball, shuffleboard, and darts. Games played on machines that munch quarters.

"That's the third guy he's beat," Web says.

I bat my empty Pepsi can from hand to hand on the table. "He's good. And he knows it."

"I didn't realize he's so tall. What, six-five?"


"He talks too much, "Web says. "He needs his tongue nailed to his forehead."

I smile at my redheaded buddy, Webster Dalton. He usually doesn't say much, but Brock's got him ticked. Web's five-eight, maybe two-fifty. I never rag him about being fat, though, because I know how I hate to be called Shorty. Or One-eye.

"He's a banger," Web says. "Shoots way too hard—I know you can take him."

"In a minute," I say, as Brock gets ready to break and polish off his next victim, a blonde chick who's been waiting for a turn at the table. She's the major reason I want to watch this game. She's dressed in a pink polo shirt and white shorts. Nice boobs and good legs. I have an eye for women. They're my main recreation. Pool's second. When I get a chance, I lift weights. I don't know how many girls I've hustled in high school, but since my breakup with Lacy Wells three weeks ago, I've been in a slump. I usually find someone else in a week or two. Things have been slow. But they're about to pick up.

Brock smiles at Blondie and brushes stray black curls from his forehead. "It's a money game," he says. "Ten bucks."

She pats the left-hand front pocket of her shorts. "Right here," she says. "My rack, your break."

At the foot rail, she racks the balls easily enough, which tells me she's played the game before. She's probably good. Otherwise, she wouldn't challenge Brock. I'm rooting for her.

"Eight ball," Brock says. "You know, where one person tries to sink all the solid-colored balls. The other person, all the stripes. You played that before?"

I scowl. "He's trying to intimidate her," I tell Web.

"Jerk," he whispers.

"I know," Blondie says. "The balls one through seven are solids. Nine through fifteen are stripes. You shoot all your balls in, then you shoot the eight, the game ball. It's black. You sink it, you win."

"I'm impressed," Brock says.

"Call your pocket. Ball-in-hand rules. Scratch on the eight, you lose."

Good for Blondie.  Apparently she knows the game.

What wows me is that after she racks, Blondie ambles over to a table against the wall, picks up a leather cue case, unzips it, and produces her own cue. She comes back, screwing the cue together. From the looks of it, maybe a three hundred dollar stick. Cool.

I like the way she's hustled Brock, agreeing to the bet and racking the balls before letting him see her personal cue. Nice touch, which might unnerve him a little. A lot of this game is mental. I lean over our table and whisper to Web, "This could get interesting."

"I hope she stomps him."

Towering over her, Brock eyes Blondie's cue—she's about as tall as I am, which is five-three. On a good day.

"Only house cues allowed," he says.

I hate it when big guys throw their size around, picking on people smaller than they are. Nothing ticks me off more. It's my mission in life to shut these bullies down whenever I can.

"Nothing wrong with this one," Blondie says.

"House cues only," Brock repeats.

"Don't see that rule posted anywhere," I say, butting in. "She could use a broom stick if she wanted to."

Everyone's face spins my way. I feel Brock's dark-eyed stare on me. If he's going to recognize me, it should be now. But maybe not. We haven't seen each other in, like, ten years.

"None of your damn business," he says.

"Fair's fair," I tell him.

"He's right," Blondie says. "No rule anywhere says you can't use the stick of your choice."

Brock's gaze swings back to Blondie. I'm sure he's aware that everyone else's eyes are on him now. What's Brock, the football stud, going to say? Is he going to push a girl around in front of everyone? He's smarter than that. A smile ripples across his face. "Just kidding, sweetheart."

Standing erect at the table's head rail, he saws his cue back and forth in his bridge hand, warming up. He looks awkward, like he's all twisted elbows and knees. With his lanky frame, he has to bend low to get a level stroke for a power break. Besides that, he's left-handed, which makes him look even more awkward. But he has a long backstroke and a solid follow through, which can generate tremendous power when breaking, if he stays in control.

But he doesn't.

He does just what I expect.

He slams the cue ball into the rack, splattering the balls, but he blasts the cue ball so hard that it sails off the end of the table, everyone jumping back to avoid getting hit.

Hitting the cue ball off the table is a foul that gives Blondie cue ball in hand. Pissed, Brock rams the butt of his cue on the floor. Someone fetches the ball for Blondie and hands it to her.

"Thanks," she says, then circles the table, looking a little tentative, trying to decide on the better choice, stripes or solids. Picking solids, she places the cue ball behind the five for a straight-in shot into the right rail pocket.

"Stripes look better," Brock tells her.

He might be right, but he has no right rattling her.

She doesn't answer. Doesn't even look at him.

"Just trying to help," he says innocently.

Flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder, Blondie dinks the five into the side pocket and makes two more solids but runs out of easy shots. What she should do now is shoot at another solid, driving it to a rail, but hide the cue ball behind a cluster of balls so Brock doesn't have a shot. It's called playing safe. It's part of a good player's game. Amateurs call it dirty pool.

Instead of playing safe, Blondie makes an aggressive attempt at a bank on the two ball but misses.

My heart sinks a little.

Brock gives her a smug smile. "Told you the stripes were better."

Blondie steps aside, saying nothing.

Brock goes to work, slamming home five stripes, sending the cue ball in every direction with his flashy shot making. He might have run out, but one of his shots leaves the cue ball behind Blondie's three with only enough room for him to clip his eleven, which he does. But he doesn't make it, and he turns the table over to her.

Suddenly I'm feeling better about Blondie's chances.

Brock smiles and says, "Thought I'd give you one more shot, sweetheart, but don't miss." He flicks a curl off his forehead.

"Don't worry," she says.

"Want to bet twenty?"

I can't believe it. He's trying again to intimidate her, upping the bet. Whether she accepts his challenge or declines, he's put more pressure on her.

"All right," she says, and I cringe. She doesn't need the added pressure of a twenty-dollar bet.

"This guy needs a lesson bad," Web says.

"Nervous?" Brock asks, as Blondie surveys the table, chalking her cue.

She doesn't answer.

One thing about it, if she can run these four balls, she'll have a nice shot at the eight, which lies three inches from the right corner pocket at the head rail.

With a smooth stroke, nice follow through, she runs three balls, and I'm thinking, Yes! One more! Then the eight!

But she leaves herself a long shot with a sharp angle on her last solid, the seven.

"Bad leave," Brock says. "Tough shot."

I hope Blondie's in a zone, not hearing him.

I hold my breath.

She eyes the shot. Settles into her stance. Takes two practice strokes. In the middle of her back swing, Brock says softly, "Lots of green."

I want to fire up off my stool and club him.

Blondie jerks her cue in mid-stroke, and the cue ball hits the seven dead-on. The seven bounces off the rail, harmlessly rolling to the center of the table. She blew it. Brock finally got to her.

"That is so unfair!" Web says.

Blondie stands, shakes her head, and closes her eyes a second. But she doesn't say a word to Brock. She had her chance. She knows it. She let the guy rattle her. She turns away from the table, her shoulders hunched a little.

With a flourish, Brock drops his eleven ball into the left rail pocket. Plunk. The cue ball dashes around the table, hitting three rails and halts six inches in front of the eight—pure luck—leaving Brock with a little tap-in for the victory.

He swings up from the table and says to Blondie, "Twenty bucks, sweetheart. Another game?"

"Later." She fishes what must be two tens from the front pocket of her shorts. She hands him the bills.

"C'mon. Let's you and me do it again," he says, grinning.

"Later. Somebody else wants to play." Blondie brushes by him.

Web is right. This guy needs to be taught a lesson. Bad.

This is the perfect opportunity for me to break out of my slump, get to know Blondie, and help her win her money back.

Besides that, I'd love to put a hurt on Brock Hurley.

I owe him. Big time. From a long time ago.




If you enjoyed this first chapter from The Hustle, you can purchase the book from in its Kindle format. Don't have a Kindle for reading The Hustle? You can download the book to your Mac or PC. Go to, Kindle Store, Jon Ripslinger. Click on The Hustle cover art. Click on Available on these devices. Amazon will provide a free application for downloading its Kindle books.



This is what one reader said about the downloading:  It took me less than 4 minutes to download the book. I had to download the free Kindle for PC applications and then I ordered the book. Just like my Nook, with in 30 seconds it showed up on my computer. The pages appear on my computer just like the page on my Nook. I will see if I can transfer it to my Nook. Loved the first page!


bullet The Hustle  Check Prices
bullet ASIN: B0046H9C52 - Kindle Edition
bullet Publisher: Ampichellis Ebooks
bullet Publish Date: 10/07/2010
bullet Read an excerpt from The Hustle


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