I met quite the little man last evening. There may be hope for this world yet.
Blasting my way across east Texas in Big Iron, the big Dodge beastie, making time and jamming to tunes, the massive V-10 made its presence known by the rather significant reduction of “increments” on the gas gauge.
A quick stop was called for.
I’d paid at the pump, but after shoving 30-odd gallons of go-juice down the big truck’s gullet, as often is the case, I decided that some caffeine was needed in addition to the fuel. There were very few folks about in this cold and at this late hour so I just locked the truck and hoofed it across the lot to the convenience store.
I grabbed a cold drink (yeah, the ideal thing in freezing, blustery weather), thought twice about it, pondered the distance remaining on this run, and grabbed another to go with it. ‘Cause, yanno…TWO cold drinks in freezing, blustery weather has GOT to be better than one…
A young man had just paid for fuel and was leaving, and a young woman, carrying an infant and holding a young boy’s hand (perhaps 5) was stepping up to the counter for her turn. I was approaching from the drink coolers that were clear at the far side of the store. She let go of the boy’s hand to fish around in her purse.
That’s when…we’ll call him “muscle-dude”…comes from her other side, steps between her and the boy, knocking him down and out of the way, and literally ELBOWS her…the woman holding an INFANT…away from the counter, gruffly telling the clerk to get him some brand or other of cigarettes.
I sighed. The night was…one way or another…about to get interesting.
I quickened my pace, depositing my drinks on a handy shelf and pondering whether I was going to…ur…politely speak to the dude, or just drag his ass out of the store by his hoodie.
I didn’t get the chance.
The 5-year old, no-shit…popped back to his feet and kicked the dude…and hard…a full force toe kick with everything his slight build had to muster, and whether by luck or intent, got muscle-dude directly in the back of the knee. His leg collapsed and muscle-dude went down hard.
“You little shit! What the fuck!?” Muscle-dude yelled as he rolled to his buttocks facing the kid and started to get up.
“Daddy says you don’t treat girls like that!” yelled the kid. He had guts. I’ll give him that for sure. I liked him immediately. He already had two of the principles down pat that will take him far in life.
One, yah, ya don’t treat girls like that.
And two? Well, they tell ya to ‘pick your battles’…and that’s good advice…but sometimes…a man’s gotta pick a battle…even when he knows for damn sure he’s going to lose. Sometimes it’s just the stand…that matters.
At this point, I’m approaching the mom from behind, muscle-dude is on the floor in front of her, and the kid is on the far side.
With adult-like foresight, kid has scrambled for a weapon, grabbing for something off the end-cap. Unfortunately with kid-like experience/judgement what he came up with was a large bag of Doritos. He had it out in front of himself in an almost convincingly threatening manner. His face clearly showed he knew a world of hurt was coming his way.
My brain, of course, churning out, evaluating, and discarding plans, immediately rendered this gem: “Oh man…weaponized Doritos take WAY too long to work.”
Mom…I think…was starting to panic. She’s got an infant in her arms…seriously the most vulnerable person in the building…so there’s not going to be a lot for her to do. The clerk was already dialing a cell phone.
Yeah, I’d already quickened my pace even more. The question now was do I flat out tackle muscle-dude or grab the kid out of the way and hope separating everybody would diffuse the situation. Muscle-dude could flatten that kid with one swipe. Hell…he could possibly flatten ME with one swipe!
“Fuck what your daddy says!” Yep, dude was pissed.
The kid looked flustered, “But,” he stammers, “Momma’s a girl!” His tone managed to get across that he thought that should be obvious, and really should settle the matter.
I happen to agree with him.
This is the point I swept past the mom, over muscle-dude’s legs, and scooped up the kid into the crook of my arm. He was shaking like a leaf.
Three more big steps and I turned around. Muscle-dude was nearly on his feet, and sputtering some profanities or other.
As he regained his feet, I simply raised my free arm and pointed directly and steadily at the door.
I said one, and only one word, “Out.”
I think it was clear…that’d be the end of my ‘negotiations’.
We locked eyes for a moment…or forever…it’s hard to tell at these times. In a few seconds…or weeks…as I said…hard to tell…he decided “living to fight another day” wasn’t going to work out if he started yelling at or physically attacking the 300-pound biker-dude instead of the 5-year old and his mother, and spat out, “Fuck you all!” as he headed for the door. He was limping.
He tried to shove the door open hard, for that ‘super manly’ effect I suppose, but it rebounded back on the dampened closer and clipped his foot as he passed through the doorway. It spun him to the side and he almost went down again, comically stumbling for several feet.
I set the boy down by his mother and stepped to the door to watch him leave the area.
“You don’t treat girls like that!”
“Momma’s a girl!”
There are those that would argue that the proper action would have been to let muscle-dude shove folks around, get his cigarettes, and hopefully, while farting rainbows and singing songs about appeasing unicorns, leave with no further harm done.
Those…would not be men.
I’ll see you on the road.