I’ve spent so many nights sitting on this barstool in the only dive bar in the one horse town where I grew up that it’s hard to remember a time I wasn’t here. Same people here every night. Damned near all of them grew up here, and I’ve known them all of our lives. That being said, I wouldn’t lose six seconds of sleep if the place was nuked from orbit and blown off the map.
I was sitting on the same damned stool, drinking the same cheap shit bourbon, and suffering through the third or fourth cycle of the same goddamn country song when I heard a commotion off to my left. I turned on my stool to see two hands from the local ranch accosting a young woman I didn’t recognize. They had her hemmed in and boy were the lewd comments flying. Those boys obviously weren’t listening when their momma tried to teach them how to treat a lady.
Normally I wouldn’t have given two shits about it, but that’s when I heard a small cry of fear from her. It was like getting hit by lightning. I found myself overcome with the urge to step in an protect her from the danger she was obviously facing. Those boys were drunk and they were getting insistent. I tried to turn my back and ignore it, but that little whimper just dug right into me and found a conscience I thought was dead.
“Sonofabitch,” I said as I finished my drink. “Something tells me I’m gonna regret this.”
I set my glass down on the bar and walk over to where they’re carrying on. Now I know both of these boys from back in high school and they’re both right at six feet tall, maybe a little more, and they have the muscle of men who work for a living. I’m only about five seven or so, and I MIGHT weigh 175 fully dressed and wearing boots. This is not going to be an even weight class fight. I’m mean as hell though and kinda drunk, so I figure what the hell.
“Hey fellas why don’t we dial the asshole level back down a few notches and let the lady be?”
Jerry, who’s the bigger of the pair, turns to look at me and says, “Tole, why don’t you go sit down and shut yer hole before we have to remind you of the ass whippins you took in school.”
Right, figured it was gonna go this way, but I had to try to settle it peacefully. I like this bar and really don’t want to bust it up, but sometimes people only learn through pain. Once the decision for violence is made, I’m committed.
I turn my back on them like I’m taking his advice while I run the scenario in my mind. Jerry has a bad left knee from football. Mike, the one holding the young lady by the shoulders has had multiple jaw fractures from fights just like this one and shoulder surgery more than once on his shoulder from football and baseball back in the day. Ok, that’s my initial attack points. I’d never last in a stand up toe-to-toe pissing contest. Like my grandfather once told me, “Hell with fighting fair. Always fight to win. If it’s not an even match, equalizers are always close at hand.”
All this is decided before my foot hits the floor with my first step away. When it does hit the ground it becomes a pivot point, and I spin planting a stomping snap kick to the kneecap on Jerry’s bad leg. It gives under the pressure and hyperextends with a very loud pop. He falls back into the booth with a cry of pain. Pretty sure he’ll get up in a minute, but he’s out of the way for now.
Mike shoves the woman to one side and advances toward me with murder in his eyes. He throws a haymaker at me. Oh please, like I didn’t see that coming a mile away. I duck inside his punch catching his wrist and extending the arm locking the shoulder joint forward. As part of the same motion I throw a punch of my own to the front of his shoulder making sure the point of my knuckles buries itself in the joint where the ball and socket meet. Releasing his wrist, I spin into him, landing an elbow to his jaw which I feel break under the impact. He goes down in a pile, and I finish our transaction with a heel kick to his temple. Pretty sure that leaves me with only one conscious opponent remaining.
I come back around just in time to take a punch in the face from Jerry. Apparently I overestimated how much my kick was gonna hurt, or I underestimated his tolerance for pain. I file that away for later as my ass hits the floor. Break the damned thing next time idiot! Mercy’s only gonna get you killed!
I feel him grab my shirt and haul me to my feet. He puts his face right next to mine and says something that doesn’t register; however, what does register is that he’s close enough I can smell what he’s been drinking. Getting that close to me is a bad move. Should’ve stabbed me or shot me or hit me with a table, maybe then he’d have gone home with his nose. I latch onto that goddamn thing with my teeth and bite it right off of his ugly face. Then I draw my head back and land a Liverpool kiss right where it used to be shattering whatever was left.
My feet hit the floor as he lets go of my shirt, and I plant a second kick on that knee making sure I break the fucking thing this time. Once he’s down at a level I can work with, I put three rapid punches to the base of his skull, and that’s all for him. I realize I still have a hunk of his nose in my teeth, so I spit it onto his shirt. Maybe Doc can sew it back on. Don’t really care though.
I stand up and look around as the last of the water clears from my eyes. He still hits like a mule. I’m just better at taking a punch now than I was the last time he hit me. Once I can see, I grab what’s left of his beer and wash the blood out of my mouth.
“Thank you,” said a voice so soft and gentle I’m actually surprised I heard it over the noise of the bar.
At those words I turn and really look at her for the first time since this all began. I must’ve gotten hit harder than I thought; because, it was like those old movies my dad watched when I was a kid. The outline of her face was softened and the lighting made every aspect of her beauty stand out and demand to be noticed.
She was tall and lithe. Had to be close to six feet herself, but I’d be shocked if she weighed more than a buck thirty. She was wearing this blue diaphanous thing over a white blouse that was closed with a crisscrossed draw string in the front. Her pants were these form fitting leather things and her feet were wrapped in soft leather shoes. She looked like something out of a fashion magazine…not that I read a lot of those. She was just flat out supermodel beautiful, and she was smiling at me…ME.
“This is gonna sound trite, but what’s a girl like you doing in a dive like this? Hell, you don’t even fit this stinking town, much less this shithole of a bar.” I can’t take my eyes off of her though and then I realize I’m hanging there waiting for her to speak like my life can’t continue until she does.
“Strangely enough, I think I am here looking for you.”
And that was all it took. I was totally hers. I always called bullshit when I heard anyone talk about love at first sight. I didn’t really even think love of any kind existed and the concept of instantly falling in love seemed like a weak justification for acting out of fear of being alone. Now I am learning better.
She stepped in a little closer to me and my head swam. She smelled like lilacs and sunshine. The aroma was intoxicating…even more than the bourbon I’d been slamming down all night.
“Maybe it would be best if we went somewhere a little less…hostile so that we can talk.”
In all honesty I would have followed her anywhere, but the thought of one of these jack-holes waking up and possibly hurting her made me think they’d be best off if I put them the rest of the way down. When she touched my hand though, all thoughts of that fled. I just wanted to get her somewhere safe.
We spent the rest of the night sitting in a booth in a diner in the next town over. It was, I can honestly say, the first time in my life I can remember being at peace.