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The Jack and Jill Cue Club in Arlington, Va. is a model—that is to say, modern—poolroom. A soft golden carpet covers the floor and Muzak is piped in continuously. There are 30 tables, with plenty of room in between and lots of stools to sit on. There is a long display case with pool cues for sale that range in price from just under $20 to more than $150. There is a grill, where you can order anything from a Pepsi and Oreos to a platter of ham and eggs. Since the doors opened at Jack and Jill's three years ago they have never closed. There is no hard poolroom talk here. Nice girls—government secretaries and others—get attached to the place and turn up at 2 or 3 in the morning to practice their rotation and eight ball. They know that no one is going to bother them at Jack and Jill's.
The other day a former pool hustler named T-Shirt Steve was standing around the counter, and you could tell by his outfit that something was brewing even if you couldn't tell by the couple of hundred characters also hanging around. Instead of his usual attire—a T shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one sleeve—T-Shirt was duded up in a blue coat with gold buttons and a soft pink sweater underneath.
"See these?" T-Shirt opened his mouth and displayed two rows of teeth. "I just got these last week and they sure do feel strange. I want to tell you, when you haven't had any teeth for nine months and then all of a sudden you've got a bunch of them it really doesn't feel natural."
"How's that?" someone asked.
"Well, it's kind of like trying to eat with an ice cube in your mouth."
T-Shirt, like most of the people who crowded into the suburban poolroom, was there because some other country boys who were big stuff in the closed world of competition pool were getting together for the U.S. Invitational One-Pocket and Nine-Ball Tournament, and the finals were tonight.
Bill Staton, whom everyone calls Weenie Beanie, looked the slickest of all at Jack and Jill's. In fact his buckle-over shoes, his ring with nine diamonds in the shape of a nine-ball rack and his custom-tailored sport coat gave him a slick, city-pool-hustler look. Even the way he shook hands—with his left because he'd hurt his shooting hand—was not exactly a down-home greeting. Yet Weenie Beanie was from the country.
"I grew up in North Carolina," he said, "and I never believed that anyone would ever come up to me and tell me a lie to my face. Of course, after I lost money to every hustler who dragged through town I learned different."
The only person around who was possibly slicker and as sharply dressed was Charlie DeValliere. He wore the new fashion rage, a blue blazer suit with a silk polka-dot handkerchief in the front pocket. He had been a top executive with a big insurance company, but after doing well in the World's All-Around Tournament in Johnston City, Ill. one year he gave it all up, and now he owned half of Jack and Jill's. Surely this ex-insurance executive was a city boy. Not quite. West Virginia. Coal country.
Luther Lassiter, seven times world champion of pocket billiards, was here, of course, lounging against one of the shiny glass display cases. He was waiting for the finals to get under way, for the not-surprising reason that he was in them. Wimpy Lassiter, who has been in the finals of almost every pool tournament worth mentioning in the last 10 years, was dressed just as he always dresses: loosened black necktie with silver crescents, a dark suit with slightly baggy pants with cuffs. His arms were folded around his cue, while he talked slowly and tilted his head from side to side and smiled every now and then. Just now a spectator was talking to him but Wimpy was watching something else. He was watching U.S. Keds.