Eye of the Beholder
The fight started like many others, with innocent mistake. In this case, Marko backed into a table while playing pool. One of two seated women squealed when a drink splashed her. The man next to her exploded out of his chair.
“What are you, an idiot?”
Marko threw up his hands, pool stick and all, and backed away in a clear gesture of apology. In a case of rotten luck, he didn’t notice another man coming up behind him to head toward the disrupted table. He stepped on the man’s foot, eliciting a grunt of pain.
“That’s it,” snarled the first man.
“Shawn, don’t,” implored the woman with the stained blouse. “Carl, don’t you go encouraging him, either. He didn’t mean to step on your toe.”
Shawn didn’t appear to even hear her. His red face and balled fists caused Marko to cringe before the punch connected dead center on the nose. Blood squirted like ketchup from a burst condiment packet. Shawn’s pal locked his arms around Marko’s, trapping him.
Marko’s brother Pablo stepped up, then, determination wrinkling his forehead. Dropping his pool stick to the table, he put his hand on Carl’s shoulder in an effort to dislodge him from Marko. Carl shoved the stunned Marko toward Shawn and spun about.
Pablo took on a defensive boxer’s pose, pure reflex saving him from a black eye or worse as a strong maneuver deflected Carl’s swing. Pablo dodged the next one with some fancy footwork. Meanwhile, Shawn turned poor Marko into a punching bag. A mist of red sprayed the floor.
That must have been the final straw for a hulking figure seated at the bar. A regular, he launched himself into the path of Shawn’s attack upon Marko without a sound. He grabbed Shawn’s wrist and twisted. Shawn screamed.
Then the girlfriends shrieked. Or one of them did, anyway. The increasing din made it difficult to tell for certain and all eyes were on the struggling group.
Another person joined the fray. I didn’t recognize him. He grabbed the abandoned pool stick from where Marko had dropped it and turned the weapon on a surprised Pablo. He failed to fend off the next strike from Carl in favor of keeping the stick from connecting with the back of his head.
The kidney hit dropped Pablo to his knees and the next swing of the pool stick struck his lower jaw. Spittle and blood flew out in what seemed to be slow motion. The onlookers sucked in a collective gasp. A long moment made me wonder if the entire place would erupt in violence. I tried to make myself as small as possible.
As if fortune smiled upon the wounded, that’s when the police showed up. Blue uniforms swarmed over the fray and zip ties quickly tied the perpetrators’ wrists. Names were taken down alongside statements of witnesses as the five fighters were hauled out. To my surprise, Marko managed to walk with minimal help. The worst abused of the bunch, he looked like hamburger about the eyes and mouth.
Wondering if the dropped peanuts and broken tortilla chips were really worth the drama, I trundled to my hidey hole as fast as my four feet could carry me. I twitched my whiskers and began to plan my move.