My friend John Hayes was intrigued by the “flash fiction” I write and publicly issued me a creative challenge: Write a story based on a visual prompt from a series of pictures he took recently at a Mexican Cantina overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.
The first image establishes a context; subsequent pictures hone in on plot possibilities.
I’ve been coming to the Fiesta Grille ‘n Cantina for years. Too many for me to count and none of your business how many.
It’s a place where I can hang and not be bothered – too much. Most times no one really cares about anybody else’s business. It’s a show up, drink up, eat up, and don’t bother me with your goodtime place.
My senses are immediately assaulted as I walk in this afternoon. I forgot that it’s girls’ day, Saturday. I move to the end of the bar past the commotion caused by the families.
Soccer is a good all-American sport borrowed from the poorer countries where it’s enjoyed in the raw – no refs, no uniforms, no leagues – just a bunch of kids and/or adults on a vacant lot with a somewhat inflated or deflated ball — depending on your perspective. But, here in the good ole U.S. of A. we have waddled down our usual path and made soccer into a family affair, a middle-class extravaganza with official organizations, rules, structure, uniforms – and probably minimal fun.
Leave it to us to ruin a good thing.
There might be one future star in that bunch who will move to the next level, but I’ll bet it’s mostly kids trying to please parents, filling time and avoiding another lackluster Saturday. Welcome to the happy middle classes. The parents need to take a deep breath and step back from their kids’ lives. Let them feel a little freedom. The parents’ fear is transferred to their children. And so it goes from generation to generation.
I look around and think that one of the sweeties must have a birthday. Why else would there be painted faces?
Then I notice the trophies on the tables and decide the little twits have won some kinda championship. More than likely, however, they haven’t won a thing. They’ve all been given trophies for being terribly mediocre and abnormally compliant.
If any of the girls had guts, they’d say “screw you! I’m outta here and wana do my own thing.”
God I’m glad I’m not a kid and don’t have to participate in this shit.
Then that guy comes in again and orders his Dos Equis. He only shows on girls’ soccer day. The parents never pay any attention to him. They’re too busy making sure their little girls are all happy and preoccupied with “being nice.”
But I pay attention to him.
I do because the son-of-a-bitch has all the markings of a pervert and he straps a military issue K-Bar to his leg. The K-Bar’s not a utility knife used for cutting twine. That’s an ending-life knife. And it ticks me off that he brings it in here. I’ve seen what one can do to a human body – and it ain’t pretty.
I’ve also seen his kind before. Meek. Quiet. A loner. That old Lost in Space TV show with the robot’s warning races through my mind, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”
The little twirpy creep wrecks the wa – the energy in the room. At least for me. The girls and parents continue not to notice him.
I continue to sip my Corona with a slice of lime. I know. I know. Only pansy-assed Gringos use lime. I doubt the K-Bar dude drinks Corona with lime. I probably shoulda ordered a Tres Equis and one-upped the punk kid.
I feel a real mad coming on. Not sure I can let this guy go without a bit of well earned intervention on my part. Look at him. Just sitting there staring at the TV. But he’s not thinking about the TV. I bet he doesn’t even know who’s playing.
I study the guy a bit. No muscle tone. Hands and knuckles are smooth … too smooth to be much of a fighter. Probably bought the damn K-Bar at the local military surplus store and actually uses it for twine cutting. This scene just doesn’t fit together. It makes no sense. There’s something about him that makes me uncomfortable. Something not likable.
My gnarly hand wraps around the neck of my Corona. One whack on the edge of the bar will change my beer bottle into a pretty good weapon. Not a K-Bar, but definitely something of an equalizer. I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then feel my pulse slow down as my fingers ease off the neck of the bottle.
The families are leaving the Fiesta. That’s good. When the action starts, I don’t want to be dodging squealing little girls and panicked parents. I need to concentrate on the pervert. He’s my target.
I smile and relax just a bit. God has spoken to me and directed my eyes to the shelf behind the bar. Right there within my reach is the equalizer – a 6-inch stainless steel cutting knife. He’s mine. I know it. I sense it. I feel it. You’re going down. You’ve just met the meanest of the mean right here in the Fiesta Grill ‘n Cantina. Say hello to …
The alarm on my cell phone beeps. I glance at it.
Damn – I’ve got just enough time to make it to my last session. I let out a big sigh, twist my neck a couple of times to release the tension, crack my knuckles, flip a twenty up on the bar and head for my anger management group.
Session number 12 – I think I’m making real progress.