Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fist

by: Roger A Wilbanks

Stop the camera here for just one second and allow me to explain what it is you see happening now.

This is me, the guy looking at the smiling guy next to me with the quixotic expression. That is the guy, frozen in time, his bare knuckles flying hard at my unsuspecting jaw. Those are the onlookers, all gasping at what was just said and practically wetting their pants in anticipation of flesh and bone to connect.

These are the details, but that's not what you want to know. Am I right? You want to know what was said. You want to know what made that guy so angry that he felt the need to plow my face like a cornfield. The easy answer is fate. I walked into the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fifteen minutes ago, if I pieced this together correctly, this guy was standing at the bar with his friends working on their fifteenth round. Judging from their uniform sportswear, you would probably be correct in assuming they play some kind of team sport. It is also safe to assume they were victorious in tonight's contest based on their celebratory manner.

Then I walked in.

I'm not an asshole on a regular basis. I pull that particular ripcord only when I feel like I'm trapped in a plummeting airplane. For the most part, I am a kind, congenial chap with a sharp wit and a keen sense of humor. All modesty aside, if you take the time to get to know me, odds are you will like me. But sometimes I have a habit of opening my mouth when it's best to just shut the fuck up.

Twenty minutes ago, I pull into the parking lot of this bar. I have had one of those nights where nothing seemed to go right for me. On my way to this bar, I got a speeding ticket. Before that, I broke up with a girl I had been seeing for a few days. That in itself is not a mope-worthy event, but if added to with other influences, it acts as a multiplyer. Earlier today, I had the day at work that leads office workers to have such a high occurance of alcoholism. As I fit my Jeep into one of the available parking spaces, I lit a cigarette. You aren't allowed to smoke inside the bars these days, so I wanted to get this out of the way. Five minutes and 3 inches of niccotine nail later, I walk into the bar.

Immediately, my attention is drawn to the group of fellows celebrating. Their cheering and laughter is impossible to ignore. I am in no mood to join in on this revelry so I walk to the other side of the bar. I have never been to this particular establishment before so I don't know anyone. But the bartender is a cute college girl and this sets my mind at ease. I approach her and order a beer, which she delivers promptly and with a wry smile that makes me instantly want her phone number. She's good. I'll give her that.

Ten minutes ago I finished that beer and ordered another one, but my bartender was busy dealing with a trio of the fellows at the other end of the bar. I managed to get her attention long enough to flex the universal "One More" sign and receive the even more universal "I Understand" nod and settled back into my casual lean against the wooden bar.

I look down and see the debris on the floor....cigarette butts, broken glass and wet. The floor is covered in wet. I have no way of knowing if it's water, beer or booze, but find myself curiously asking it's origin nontheless. The guy leaning next to me tells me that it's beer from a round of bottles dropped by one of the 'fellows' about an hour ago. This makes me laugh for reasons which I have no inkling. The guy looks at me with a curious gaze and turns away. This is my first mistake.

Eight minutes ago, I haven't gotten my beer yet. The 'Fellows' have migrated around to my side of the bar, as it is closer to the beer tub the bartender serves from. They are waiting for their order, the same as me. I feel this makes us brothers in waiting. I feel connected to them by this, and this is my second mistake.

Six minutes ago, the bartender gives the "fellows" their beers. They are no longer laughing from being forced to wait. One of them who knows the bartender is taking her to task for being too slow. This happens a lot here, I gather from the poorly concealed laughter at the bartender's expense. When she finally handed me my beer Three minutes ago, I was just happy to have one.

The "fellows" were still standing next to me giving the bartender a hard time when one of them fumbled his beer, causing it to fall helpless to the floor. I look to the guy leaning beside me and say "I bet that happens all the time, here." in an attempt to get a laugh out of him. He takes this entirely the wrong way.

Two minutes ago the guy says "Hey Wally! This asshole's saying you drop your beer a lot. Guess he thinks you're a retard or something." I look stunned. In no way, shape or form did what I just said imply this. Wally pokes me in the shoulder and asks me if I do indeed think he is retarded.

I'll be completely honest in the few seconds I have left of clear consciousness. I DID think Wally was a retard. You are trained from your first entrance into the world of public houses of drinking that dropping a beer is tantamount to Original Sin. To do so brands you as clumsy at best and irresponsible at worst. So yes. I thought Wally was a clumsy retard that should by all rights not be allowed back in the place until his head was firmly fitted with a bright yellow helmet made of the softest rubber available. That's what I am thinking. But this isn't what I say. The words that manage to come out of my lips are actually pretty stupid in retrospect. I kind of feel silly even making them part of the public record, but what the hell. "Huh? Wha? I didn't....who?"

That's it. That is what I say just over one minute ago in my own defense. "Retard this!" says Wally. I am still looking at the guy that just sold me out as I hear these words.

OK. We're all caught up to speed. You all now know just as much as I do in the milliseconds I have left awake. Wally's fist smashes into the side of my jaw and a bright white light erupts on the opposite side of my face.

I wake later with many people standing over me. My bartender is waving the throngs back and holding smething that smells like shit under my nose. Wally and his friends are still in the bar laughing hysterically. A small bar fight erupted around this event but that settled down before I regained consciousness. Jenny, that's the bartender's name, suggests I get out of there while I still can and asks if I need a cab. I am a little rubber legged but still within my faculties enough to manage the drive home.

The entire drive home, I ask myself what I did in a previous life to deserve such shitty Karma. I'm not bleeding from the sucker punch, but it will take a lot of ice to keep the swelling down. My face is going to look like shit tomorrow. I clean out my pockets onto my dresser with my free hand and stop when I come across a neatly folded bar tab with these words clearly and very neatly written upon them. "Sorry for Wally. Call me sometime, Jenny." Her number was written below.

Just goes to show you that sometimes you have to get your face busted to have something good fall into your lap, I suppose.

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