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  • Gary Gruber

Three quarters of a second (a work of fiction)

{While I actually have been attacked by three men simultaneously, this isn’t that}


I could see the punch coming. If the yahoo had telegraphed his intentions any more intensely, I would have had time to send out for a pizza. Good thing for me. Between the three of them I still had maybe 5 years on them -- and those weren’t good years.


They figured I was an easy mark: old guy, hands wrapped up with splints. Glad them splints were steel reinforced.


I had maybe ¾ of a second to decide how to handle it. That’s all anyone has. By the time you commit to the assault, by the time you decide if its going to be a reactive strike or a proactive attack, you’ve used up your slack.


They all start the same way. If it’s a punch coming down the pike, the first thing you notice is the eyebrows raising up like the guy’s just been goosed. That’s the first tell. Usually, one of the shoulders moves vertical, almost like a shrug. One moves for a punch; both shoot up before a kick.


A pro never raises that kind of a flag. But these punks weren’t pros. Just punks. His two home boys were lined up off his right, about 30 degrees left of my center. I figured to pick him up on the inside, use him as a shield in case one of the other shit-for-brains decided to get frisky with me. They both had plans.


I promise you I didn’t spend more than 3/10ths of my ¾ figuring this stuff out. I just don’t have the time to waste any more.


Between the three of them they couldn’t reach moron status with their collective I.Q.’s. so the yahoo cocks his head to the right before the wind up. I rolled my eyes and stepped inside before he had the chance to look back. If his eyeballs had been moving up before the punch, you could have seen his pretty blues light up when he realized I was either going to kiss him or kill him from the distance I had covered in the time it took for him to launch his arm.


I didn’t kiss him. I’m not that kind of guy. On any other day (maybe 30 years earlier) I would have taken the time to play with him and his friends a bit. But given my age, my condition, and their attitude, I didn’t think I had that kind of leeway. I snapped his head back with my elbow moving straight up under his chin and he hit the ground so hard so fast I thought he woulda got a speeding ticket if a cop was nearby


My peripheral vision ain’t what it used to be, but I saw the glint of metal out of the corner of my left eye. Yahoo #2 was briefly hidden by the head of Yahoo #1 until gravity gave me a break – him too.


I swept my right leg through his knee. The sound made my stomach churn. Hearing the crunch as his leg both broke and dislocated at the same instant – well, better him than me I thought. It was like the sound a hammer makes when it hits a rotten 4 X 4.


Two down one to go. The last motherfucker wasn’t going down easy. His knife caught me at the elbow. How rude! You know how hard it is to get blood off of 100% cotton? I locked eyes with the jamoke. Watch the eyes, not the hands. The eyes don’t lie. I was pissed now and I’m a damn good communicator -- and was getting ready to communicate.


He lunged at me again. I lifted my right leg again in a crescent kick, catching his wrist squarely. The knife headed east and I let my body weight carry me around 180 degrees. As I set my right leg down, I picked up my left one and buried it into his gut. I was just warming up. I backhanded this pissant square in the nose. Blood for blood. The song was almost over but I felt like dancing some more. His mouth hung open and his dazed look somehow appeared – normal – for him. Just one more goin’ away present.


If your timing is really good – and you really need to nail this precisely – you can score a dos para uno. You’ve probably seen someone getting clapped on both ears. Yeah, it hurts. But if you manage to hit both exactly at the same time, and if you can seal both ears even for the briefest moment – you can rupture both eardrums. I’ve heard it said it feels something akin to having a red hot ice pick driven through your head.


At least all three of them would have a story to tell tomorrow. Me, I was hungry and only a block from my favorite Chinese pitstop and a plateful of barbequed ribs. Dancing sure works up the appetite…

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