Paul Malone turned into the
parking lot of his favorite restaurant
in Fairfax, Virginia. He was starving,
having just left from a tough workout at
the gym. The last several nights of
broken sleep had taken their toll and he
hadn’t eaten since before noon. I need a
good meal tonight, he thought.
It was about 8:30 on this dark Sunday evening and Paul easily found
a parking spot, the crowd inside
probably small on the slow weekend
night. Getting out of his car, he was
greeted by a cool evening breeze –
unusual for mid-August. The air was
clean and crisp, a welcome respite from
the heat and humidity of summer in the
Washington D.C. area.
While walking to the front door of the restaurant, he noticed a
white Ford, which had pulled up several
spaces away from his grey Lincoln Mark
VIII. Two burly men occupied the front
seat of the ordinary white sedan. He
didn’t think much about it at the time.
After entering the restaurant, the shapely hostess greeted him with
a smile. “Hi Paul, we haven’t seen much
of you lately.” She then added coyly,
“Didn’t you promise me a dinner?”
“Hey Sally, you’re looking nice tonight.” Paul spoke in tones
intended to avoid her flirtations,
though unable to suppress a different
thought. She sure isn’t hard to look
at. He had met Sally at a party he
hosted a couple of years ago. She was
new in town at the time, and one of his
friends had brought her along.
Paul and Sally had become friends – she was a real sweetheart. But
Paul sensed trouble in those eyes, and
he was a man who paid close attention to
all six of his senses.
Sally took his mild rebuff in stride. She had been attracted to
Paul for sometime. Recently, she had
heard through the grapevine that he and
Brenda had split up. She was just
clearing the path for him a little,
letting him know of her interest.
With Sally provocatively leading him to his table, the subtle
fragrance of an alluring perfume hanging
in the air behind her, Paul couldn’t
help but give himself a mental kick in
the rear. He and Brenda had split up six
weeks ago and once again, he was a man
who paid attention to all six of his
Sally seated Paul at a table. Then, walking away with an inviting
smile, she said, “Keep up your
strength.” Besides perhaps a playful
implication, Sally felt that Paul looked
a bit run down.
Paul ordered a filet, baked potato, and a salad. The menu was
broad, but his choices were almost
automatic. He was a man of simple
tastes. The restaurant made its own pale
ale and he added a draft to his order.
He wanted to relax.
Paul relished his meal, soon feeling his strength returning. After
dinner, he decided to have another draft
ale. The bar was in an elevated alcove
near the entrance to the restaurant, so
he walked over, up the few steps, and
pulled up a barstool. There, seated at
the adjacent corner of the bar, barely
six seats away, was his ex-girlfriend
Brenda. Their eyes met briefly and he
She smiled warmly in return, slowly returning to her conversation.
Her date, a well-dressed man, eagerly
received her briefly broken attention.
Merciless fate, thought Paul. Other more base emotions
flooded his senses. She looks
gorgeous tonight. Flashes of some of
their more intimate moments assaulted
him, but only briefly.
Brenda and Paul had been together for a year until their falling
out a few months ago. There were so many
good things about their relationship, a
mutual respect, a sincere caring. Paul
sometimes wondered what had happened; it
was difficult to express. With a touch
of sadness, a dash of hope and other
such conflicted emotions, he knew the
answer. Paul was comfortable with an
uncertain future stemming from an
unshakable faith in his own destiny.
Brenda was not. She needed a structure
for the future that he was unable, or
perhaps unwilling, to provide.
Paul snapped back from his brief nostalgia and ordered an ale.
There was a handsome middle-aged woman
tending to the bar. Scott, a big
friendly guy, who was the head
bartender, apparently had the night off.
After receiving his ale and while taking a drink, Paul’s gaze took
in the scene unfolding to his left.
Entering the bar was a casually dressed
man who had to weigh at least two
hundred and forty pounds. He stood an
easy six foot four inches tall. The man
was showing a little age and a bit of a
tire around the middle. In his prime,
the big guy could have been a
professional football linebacker,
The linebacker had obviously been drinking. His clothing was a bit
disheveled and there was a perceptible
sway in his walk. His expression was
that of someone looking for trouble. It
was an expression Paul had seen before.
I don’t need this tonight, he
thought, receiving a twang from his
As fate would have it, the linebacker, not quite the drunk yet,
took up a barstool a few seats to Paul’s
right. He sat midway between Paul and
Paul audibly groaned.
The linebacker loudly interrupted the bartender who was serving
someone else across the bar and
requested, more like demanded, a gin and
I guess we know what he’s been drinking tonight. If alcohol can
make a man mean, gin can make a man
downright nasty, thought Paul with
chagrin. He was willing to give the
linebacker some latitude. Who knows?
The guy could have just been jilted,
lost his job, anything. Everyone was
entitled to blow off a little steam once
in awhile, he thought, not really
believing it himself.
The linebacker received his drink and scanned the action at the bar
much as a lion might survey his domain.
Taking a swig, he immediately started in
on Brenda’s date who was sitting to his
right. “What the hell are you looking
at?” he bellowed.
Brenda’s date did his best to ignore him and made no reply,
managing only a sheepish grin.
Paul felt bad for the smaller man – he could sense his fear.
Where is Scott when you need him? It’s
his job after all, he thought, with
growing resignation. The new bartender
wasn’t likely to be much help.
The linebacker returned to his drink and Paul had a moment of hope
that maybe the big guy might calm down.
Paul couldn’t remember having had a
fight outside of the ring since his
college days, and he was not anxious to
break that record. But before his
thoughts were even complete, the
linebacker started back in, this time on
Having intimidated her date, he threw a crude pass her way. “What
are you doing with that squirrel? How
about trying a real man?”
Brenda, though obviously disconcerted, made it plain she was not
interested. “Why don’t you go bother
The exchange went on for a short time with Brenda growing
increasingly anxious, the linebacker
growing more insistent and angry, and
Paul reaching the limits of his
Finally, when Paul heard the linebacker start to say, “Why you
stupid bitch, who the hell do you think
you’re talking—,” all the while standing
and moving slowly in her direction, Paul
had reached his limit. So much for my
quiet Sunday night thought Paul,
sensing that the linebacker intended to
slap Brenda around.
Catching the linebacker in mid-sentence, Paul tapped him on the
shoulder and said, “Maybe we need to
calm down here a little.” Paul
approached the possibility of a fight
with a calm born from years of training.
The linebacker smiled maliciously as he now had an object for his
rage. He swirled around
counterclockwise; his bulky form trailed
behind a powerful fist aimed squarely
into the face of his smaller opponent.
Paul knew what was coming so he made a quick move to his right and
dodged the punch – a punch that would
have done some serious damage. Using his
momentum, he brought his left knee hard
into the linebacker’s mid-thigh
purposefully missing the groin area. He
didn’t want to cripple the guy, just
The linebacker reacted expectedly. He bent slightly, which brought
his head forward and down a few inches,
now easily within Paul’s reach.
The big guy’s left guard was down. He is obviously not a
fighter, thought Paul.
With hand held in and elbow out, Paul snapped his whole body into a
counterclockwise pivot. He brought
nearly one hundred and ninety pounds of
his own weight to the point of contact.
His right forearm squarely struck the
linebackers left cheek. Paul was careful
to pull his punch a little to avoid
breaking any facial bones.
The brief conflict had the desired effect; the blow was enough to
daze the big guy. In the same smooth
motion, Paul guided the linebacker to
the nearest barstool. He slid the gin
and tonic over to him and said, “Maybe
you should just finish your drink and
Paul had spoken quietly, as he knew that to avoid any further
trouble, the linebacker needed to save
face. But there was more to it than just
that. For a yet unknown reason, Paul’s
words seemed to do more to change the
linebacker’s attitude than the fight
The linebacker, still dazed, mumbled a less boisterous reply. The
entire fight took only a few seconds.
Even customers on the other side of the
bar could have missed it, had they not
been looking in the proper direction.
The fact that the fight went largely
unnoticed was not lost on the
linebacker. It helped to stem his
embarrassment. Suddenly and almost
mystically, he just felt like leaving.
Paul returned to his seat at the bar. He hoped the linebacker would
finish his drink and move on. Almost as
if directly influenced by Paul’s hopes,
the linebacker soon paid for his drink
Paul was grateful the big guy didn’t try to start things up again.
Maybe he was just having a bad day
after all. That still doesn’t excuse his
remarks to Brenda, he thought, with
a touch of suppressed anger.
During the fight, while surveying his surroundings, Paul had
noticed two burly men sitting at a table
just outside the bar area. They started
to make a move during the fight. As it
ended so quickly, they were able to
disguise their actions.
Paul sensed good intentions from them at the time. Maybe they
were just wanting to help, he
thought. However, Paul felt something
more. I bet I’ll be seeing them again.
Casually looking around now, he noticed
they too had left.
Brenda and her date soon settled their bill and headed for the
door. When Brenda’s date was walking by,
Paul said, “That guy was nothing but
trouble. You did the right thing by
Brenda’s date made no reply.
To Brenda, Paul said softly, “Are you all right?”
She responded with a gentle whisper in Paul’s ear, “Yes, and thanks
for helping. Really. Take care of
yourself.” With a sincere and warm
smile, she added, “Let me know how you
are doing from time to time. I miss
Paul let Brenda’s parting words, I miss you, play through
his mind. A lost love, yes, he
thought with a hint of sadness. Lost
forever? Maybe not, he reflected,
content to let his destiny unfold. He
finished his ale, paid his bill, and
went home to bed.