Behind him the downtown lights cut through the drifting snow sheets, calling in the rear-view mirror, and as his headlights caught road and darkness it felt like driving off the edge of the world. He hummed to the click of the heater. When static stole the music he spoke about home, about fighting, leaving, freeing, about one day returning, like she was a lost love. When the lights faded he named her Lucy.

Lynn was falling asleep on his chest, but looked up to meet his face.

“Maybe we’ll go one day,” she said. “You can see Pittsburgh, and then we’ll compare with Chicago.”

Hobkins wanted to say he didn’t give a damn about Pittsburgh and he couldn’t trust himself to remember Chicago anymore, but he kissed her cheek and said, “One day, yeah.”


The night of his next show, Lynn was working a double shift, six to close. The owner booked three performers, a twenty-something, a raspy-voiced ZZ Top lookalike, and him. Hobkins played during the prime hours, then watched the closing act from the bar.

He talked to Lynn a lot that night, mostly just to fill silence. He was uncomfortable from the other night when she left in a hurry. She handed him a drink every so often and worked the rest of the bar.

Hobkins felt better than the night before, and he bobbed his head to the music and clinking his drink against the tabletop after each song. He ordered two shots and gave her one, even though he knew she hated bourbon.

“There’s another one of those in it for you if you play a game of pool during your break,” he said.

Hobkins broke, and then lined up a shot for the 3 ball to the corner pocket. He missed, hitting the ball so hard it flew off the table and into the crowd on the dance floor. They counted it as a made shot.

“You’d think I’d know my own strength by now,” he said as she eyed the table.

“I think you’re just a shitty shot,” she said.

Lynn pocketed a ball and moved to the other side of the table.

“Look, sorry about the other night,” Hobkins said. “I was really overtired.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just please take care of yourself.”

“And I promise I’m not going to try to get you into bed every time you’re at the apartment,” he said. “That wasn’t me.”

The ball tapped off the edge of the pocket and rolled into the center. Hobkins looked for his next shot.

“But if it makes you feel better, Rowdy’s starting to like you.”

He looked up and smiled at her. The ZZ Top lookalike ended his set and the crowd began to disperse as the manager turned on the best of Johnny Cash. A guy with short curly hair and a gap toothed grin walked over. He looked like he recognized Lynn.

“Lynn, right?” he said, putting his palms on the side of the table. “We met the other night. You remember?”

“Yeah? Yeah, I mean hey,” she said. “This is my friend Ryan.”

They shook hands. Hobkins gripped the cue a bit tighter. The guy took a step closer to Lynn, but kept his eyes on Hobkins.

“Hey Ryan, would you mind if I steal your girl for a second for a drink?”

“I don’t think I—“

“No, go ahead Lynn it’s fine,” Hobkins said, rolling the 8 ball into the center.

“I really don’t need a drink.”

“Come on, just one,” he said, taking her hand and taking a step to the bar.

“Ryan, I—“

Everything after that went fast. The two had walked off towards the bar, and then things were quiet and everyone was looking. Hobkins was next to the wall, holding the splintered half of the cue. He felt lost. He dropped the cue and stepped away, watching Lynn, hands in the air. Then he mouthed sorry. Smiled.

He thought that for a second, with that stake in his hand, he must have looked crazed. Like a flailing animal over something it had cornered.

Hobkins didn’t remember swinging. It felt like a homerun though, and then his cue was in two. Lynn covered her mouth with her fingertips. People were turned towards him and some came up to him. Everyone was asking if he was okay. Lynn moved towards him and wanted him to talk to her. He said nothing and left.

“Say mercy,” he remembered saying as he swung.