“Are we cool?” I asked him, his friend writhing on the ground between us. He was actually the bigger of the two and I didn’t know if they were friends-they had just come in together.
I had given the writhing one-a head taller and forty pounds heavier than me-the first shot and it had almost been my undoing. One of these days that stunt was going to get me killed; but not tonight. Stunned, I gave him the second too, measuring his long, slow, loping punches that seemed to come from across the street.
I should have been out of there an hour ago. There wasn’t anyone worth talking to, the jukebox was broken and the only woman in the place was the bartender who had missed a belt loop and spent most of the evening watching an Elvis movie with her back to me. The one with Ann Margret. Not bad but not worth staying for. But then, had I left when the thought first struck me, who would have been there when he started in on her? Asshole deterrent-that was me. Shitty fucking hobby.
The third shot was mine as I slipped inside his overhand left and busted his liver twice with hooks then a right cross that crushed his nose as he fell past. Oldest combination in fighting-cave men knocked each other out with that shit. Fact that he didn’t see it coming just showed he didn’t know what he was doing. Used to getting his way with size and general aggressiveness.
“We’re cool”, he answered. “Just met the asshole an hour ago-didn’t think I liked him.”
“You coming back in?” I moved toward the door.
“Not my kind of crowd.”
“I got that.”
“Why don’t you come with me then?”
“…..’Daniel’s’ probably. Maybe ‘Glows’, late….”
“Really not my kind of crowd.”
The big guy smiled, a strange flicker around the corners of his eyes, and shrugged. “That’s where I’ll be.” He turned and walked off without another word.
Inside, the bartender ministered to the knuckles I had split on the asshole’s face. She used cotton and peroxide from a first aid kit and caught the runoff with a beery bar rag. Her own knuckles were slightly swollen from arthritis but her nails were done it a deep pine green that caught her eyes and the tail of a reptilian tattoo that slithered below her rolled up cuffs. Why hadn’t I noticed those before?
“I’m glad you came back in”, she said without managing a smile.
“Me too”, I answered, pretty sure I was lying.