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Title: Rough Boy
Author: jsblume
Style/Genre Prose / Fiction / - Not Classified
Description: "Story Behind the Song" contest entry for Fanstory.com, based on Rough Boy by ZZ Top

Gray Pearson tucked his beard neatly into his shirt, cracked his knuckles, and picked up his pool cue.

"Watch this!" Peter Malloy said, brushing his blond bangs out of his eyes. "The master at work."

A sardonic smile touched Gray’s lips as his six-and-half foot frame bent to line up the shot. He pulled back on the cue, glancing up just as Mallory Tieger paused to assess the game. Their eyes locked for a moment before her gaze moved on, dismissing him. In that moment, Gray felt his world fall out from under him.

The cue plunged forward, digging under the cue ball. The ball took flight over the edge of the table and landed with a loud crack on the floor. It rolled a several yards and came to a stop against someone’s boot.

"Good job, maestro!" Sam Finney said around the cigarette dangling from his lips.

Gray straightened, his eyes tracking Mallory as she sat down at the bar. She was dressed plainly in blue jeans and a white blouse. Her dark red hair fell in curls to her shoulders. She would have been mousy except for an air of quiet yet subtly sultry confidence that she carried with her.

Peter scurried around the table, picked up the ball, took a moment to find a strategic spot for it, and then chalked his cue in eager anticipation.

"Who is that?" Gray asked, pulling Sam’s cigarette from his lips and taking a drag.

Sam didn’t even glance. "Don’t know, don’t care."

"You ain’t got a chance of one in three with that one," Peter said.

"Why not?" Gray asked.

Peter hunched down for his shot. "Word is she don’t like guys."

The cue ball bounced off of two striped balls, and they both landed neatly in separate pockets. Peter lined up the next shot.

"Looks like I got this game," he said in a smug tone. The cue ball hopped, rolled, and tapped another striped ball. Not enough to send it into a pocket.

A snort escaped from Sam. "She don’t like guys in bars. Too good for the likes of us."

"Why she here, then?" Peter asked.

"Her brother is the barkeep."

"What’s her name?" Gray asked.

"Man, what in the world has come all over you?" Peter asked. "You ain’t taken your eye off her since she walked by. You gonna play or what? It’s your shot."

"Give me just a minute," Gray said, running his tongue over dry lips. He set his cue in the rack and walked up to the bar. "The usual, John."

While the barkeep filled a beer mug, Gray turned slightly toward Mallory, nodded, and said, "Hey."

Mallory raised an eyebrow and said "Hello." She turned her attention back to the bottles on the wall.

"The name’s Gray."

Mallory continued to study the bottles on the wall.

"Be nice, Mal," John said, glancing sidelong at Mallory as he placed the mug in front of Gray. Turning to Gray and giving him a quizzical look, he said, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Gray said, and took a long pull from his drink. "Give me just a minute."

Gray cleared his throat and took another swig of beer.

"Look," Gray said, "I know I’m probably not the kind of guy you normally go for, but I am decent and respectable. I’d like to take you to dinner – I may just surprise you."

"Give him a chance, Mal," John said. "He’s really not as rough as he comes off."

Mallory sighed. "Fine, but not here. We can meet here tomorrow at seven, but--"

"But you want to eat somewhere with more class. I know the perfect place."

Gray practically skipped on his way back to the pool table.

"Is your shift almost over?" Mallory asked. "This is the last time I offer you a ride home."

Copyright @2015 by jsblume. All rights reserved.
jsblume has granted JS Blume Publishing™ non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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