When you get into fist fights at a bar, everyone involved tends to get thrown out, and usually someone gets sliced with a knife or broken bottle. Owners don't have time for explanations — they throw your ass out to the curb. That's why I quit that scene...well, that's one of the reasons. Now, I only go to late-night restaurants and diners. The clientele is either teenagers out after an evening drinking binge, or elderly, slightly crippled insomniacs. People with canes don't usually have problems with anyone unless their eggs aren't cooked just the right way or you forget to put the mayonnaise on the side. Despite this, I still manage to attract bad apples no matter where I go. Perhaps it has something to do with the nighttime, or something to do with this damned town — another scene I'd like to quit.

Tonight it was the jackoff biker type, the kind that puts on the costume for the weekend, touting the long-dead, post Vietnam "fuck society" attitude that resulted in a new flavor of domestic terrorists who thought they could write poetry like Allen Ginsberg. This idiot didn't even fit the classic stereotype very well, owing his 23,000 dollar Harley Davidson to his dental practice in Orange County. He just happened to be drunk as fuck tonight. The main problem is that these kinds of guys never know what they're dealing with. The most crucial information isn't usually visible, therefore is an ineffective deterrent.

I've spent fifteen years of my life in a boxing ring, and to the unenlightened, that might not mean a damn thing, but the truth is, fights are won far away from where the real confrontation takes place. The decision is made everyday before the fists start swinging, when you are jogging out on the street, when you are on the mat, or on the 600th jump of the rope. Most of all, it's a mental game. When someone who barely knows the game picks a fight with a chessmaster, the outcome is already determined. I've practiced every possible counter to any swing that could be thrown, and every follow up combination to knock out anyone short of an experienced heavyweight.

The asshole in question had an issue with his waitress, one I know fairly well because I frequent this place, mainly to avoid assholes like him. After a particularly abusive tirade, nearly bringing poor Jackie to tears, the situation needed addressing. I'm hardly a white knight, but there are a few problems I have with society, and one of them is bullying the powerless. Jackie is lucky to clear 15k a year working the late shift at this place, and the last thing she needs to make her life any more miserable is a 40-something, self-entitled dickhead to make her feel like a failed human being. These cowards always beat up on the ones who can't fight back. Jackie's a strong enough woman, but this is the only job she can get...at least that's legal. I'd been watching this situation brew since that guy walked in, and the least I could do now was deflect some of his anger away from her.

"Are you kidding me? How can you mess up the order? You have one fucking job to do around here, and you can't even do that."

"I'm sorry. The order usually comes out —"

I turned towards him and threw my hat into the ring. "You sound like you know a lot about this place. I imagine you work at a place like this? You know how the orders are processed, all that stuff?"

"Nobody was talking to you, asshole."

"That's right, because cowards like you only talk like that to people who can't give it back out of fear of losing the only job they have. When you don't get what you want, you cry like someone took baby's rattle, but if they lick the chrome on your tailpipe, you are placid as peach."

"Fuck this place." He turned over the food that was on the table, sending half his order all over Jackie's apron and onto the floor. He got up and began to walk toward the door.

My grin was almost as big as the guy's ego. "I'll be sure to call your mother, the pig breeder, to clean your fucking trough the next time you go out in public, you self-entitled piece of shit." Just as he heard me, something must have snapped, because in one motion, he turned and took a swing at my face, and I let it connect.

The smell of leather always takes me back to Hammer's Gym, to the first day when Tracy Brown showed me how to lace up. Though it wasn't just the expensive motorcycle jacket that jogged my memory; it was the alcohol. The guy reeked of whiskey, coming out of every pore on his skin, and it threw me back into my middle school years, when dad would come home with a short fuse and not a dollar left in his pocket. Dad was a boxer too, but only when his wife was in the ring — our ring, a broken carcass of a rowhouse on Shaldon Street.

If he had kept his paws to himself, he might have made it to the door. The problem with the average guy is that they aren't capable of taking a punch. Getting hit does something to your ego, and it takes over every action that follows, leading you happily to your own defeat. When you spend time in gloves, you learn that listening to your ego is the best way to lose a fight. You learn how to shut it down, and doing so tempers your soul. You learn to take hard hits, and it makes you remember that you are more than just your body, or the fucking designer boots you bought last week, because your body tells you to run from pain, and shiny boots don't look as good on a corpse. That's probably the biggest thing that kept me interested in fighting all those years. You don't need your sense of pride to motivate you in a real fight, because your survival is motivation enough. To survive, you need a clear head.

Unphased, I got up from my chair.

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