It’s a familiar story and it starts out with me sitting in my usual spot; the dark corner down at the end of the bar. It was a pretty typical night. The Van Zant brothers being belted out of the jukebox, the mill worker “usuals” posted up at the opposite end of the bar, and a group of big burly gents in leather vests and some of their female companions occupying the pool tables and the tables surrounding them. That’s when things took a turn away from normal.
In walked a fresh face; a fresh face with a square jaw line and a 5 o’clock shadow. Blonde flowing hair. According to the measuring tape on the side of the door, he stood at 6’2”. His confidence was on full display from the moment he walked through the door. He held his head high but didn’t look at anybody but me. He grabbed the stool right next to me and popped a squat. One of the “old ladies” with the motorcycle club strutted over from the pool tables.
“Hey there, wanna buy me a drink?” she asked.
“No, but thanks for asking,” he declined. The bartender looked his way. “Whiskey and cola,” the stranger ordered.
Before his drink arrived, a couple of the local bikers had joined their lady friend’s side. One of them took the lead. “Pretty sure the lady offered to let you buy her a drink.”
“And I’m pretty sure I politely declined.”
“Well that’s no way to treat a lady.” The grizzled biker took the cocktail from the bar top and poured it into the stranger’s lap before slamming the glass back down onto the bar. By now, the rest of the leather clad hooligans had started to gather around.
The stranger reached out and grasped the empty glass, emptying the last drop into his mouth. “I guess we’re going to do this then, huh?” he asked to no one in particular. He bolted upright from his stool, flinging it straight back, creating some space between himself and the growing crowd around him. Simultaneously, he smashed the glass tumbler against the lead biker’s temple, sending a shower of glass shards raining onto the instigating female.
I just sat there, frozen in the moment. Fists flew. The stranger grabbed the nearest biker and rammed him into the edge of the bar, back first. A pool cue flew in from my periphery and cracked across the broad shoulders of the stranger, dropping him to one knee. Kicks were levied in his direction.
I cowered beneath the bar, not moving from my spot. The stranger struggled to get back to his feet. As he attempted to regain his footing, one of the bikers grabbed my leg. I was pulled out from my dark hiding spot under the bar. The next thing I knew, I was being swung through the air, crashing down onto the stranger’s back. I could hear my legs snap and crack. I hit the floor in a heap, the cracking leather on my back padding my landing. Again, I was unable to move. The stranger continued to struggle to make his way out of the bar. As he approached the door, I was gathered up off the floor and once again hurled through the air. This time though, I missed the intended target. Instead, I hit the wall next to the door. The breaking of my legs intensified. My wooden frame splintered, and I landed on the floor again, this time in pieces.
I had a long, useful life here at this tavern, providing a seat for countless passersby. To be completely honest, I probably outlived my life expectancy at this barren oasis on the side of the road. Tonight wasn’t the first fracas I had witnessed. Fortunately, until tonight, I had managed to stay tucked out of sight during these brouhahas, keeping to myself, out of harm’s way at the end of the bar. Unfortunately, tonight was the night the blonde-haired stranger chose the stool right next to me.