Tim was willing to let the animosity fad away. He even blamed himself for over reacting, though he originally meant no malice towards Rick. The first shove was just impulse; but then getting punched in the face? The normal response is instant rage and retaliation. Tim felt they both made normal spur of the moment gut reactions. That’s the risk with practical jokes.
Rick accepted a cessation of hostilities, but was not ready to let go of his resentment towards Browne. The next few days were a cold atmosphere of business as usual around the shop before Rick began a gradual thaw. He invited Browne to have a few beers after work one evening.
Browne recalled the gossip, that Rick could not hold his drink. Still, it would be good to restore their friendship, and seeing as he drank very little, and others knew it, he would have no problem keeping the meeting to two beers and then leave.
Browne went home to clean up and trade his work jeans, one waist size down, for a better fitting pair of jeans that were probably three sizes down. He made quick work of putting a peanut butter sandwich together and toss a load of laundry into his brand new washer. He inspected himself fore and aft and side to side in front of the mirror, slapped his thighs and headed for the bar.
They laughed over the hearse prank. They traded histories. At some point, Rick told of getting dumped on, but that somethings happen for a reason.
That triggered a memory for Browne. “My cousin Marty says that a lot. Someone treats him wrong and he shrugs it off with ‘somethings happen for a reason,’ instead of straightening the dude out. Not that he needs to always fight back, but not just be a doormat the rest of his life.”
“Know what’cha mean.”
Browne doubted he did, but that didn’t matter. People always say ‘know what you mean’ when they are half listening and totally disinterested.
“I told him the next time I hear that; I’ll punch him in the face, right in the face.”
Rick slowly lowered his beer, but maintained his dispassionate tone of voice, “Hear what?”
“Some things were meant to happen for a reason.”
Rick slid his beer aside. His voice changed, “That’s true. I just said that. How about punching me in the face?”
“Come on,” Brown felt the vibes, “Just saying.”
“Forget saying,” Rick stood up. “Show me. Come on, tough guy, hit me.”
The nearest patrons quieted and turned their attention to the pair.
“I don’t want to hit you.”
“Ya may as well, ’cause I’m going to hit you.”
“Hey,” one bar patron called attention to others, “Looks like these two are going to fight.”
Voices subsided as chairs scooted back and others stood up, bar stools emptied.
“Listen I got to go. I’ve got some laundry to attend too …”
Rick plugged Tim across the mouth laying him across the next table.
“What’s wrong with you!” Rage set on his face. The eyes of both were intently fixed on each other. Patrons recognized the look of two guys about to rip into each other and positioned themselves to accommodate.
Rick swung again. Tim blocked and backed off. Rick moved in. Browne shoved him against the bar, upsetting a barstool. Two or three shoves were traded before Tim was clobbered a second time.
Patrons were elated. The bar tenders and another male employee broke it up. “Outside with that.”
“I’m not looking for trouble,” Tim protested, lips bleeding. “Come on; I just want to go home.”
He was forcibly lead outside while Rick willingly conformed. A number of bar patrons followed.
“Let’s make this a fight to the finish,” Rick increased the challenge once the cool October night air hit them.
Tim shook inside. “Naw, let’s talk about it later, man. This isn’t worth it.”
“Fight to the finish.” Rick demanded. “You no good rotten Jew.”
Tim backed away while others urged a fight, circling to block his escape. The window was jammed with excited onlookers. The shock of hearing the Jewish rumor shot through. He would not have expected that allegation to follow him to Gaylord. Prejudice could solidify an antagonist’s resolve.
“To the finish, man,” one called out to the others. “You hear that? Man this is going to be good.”
This was the bar patron’s chance of a lifetime to see two young men, early twenties, in prime health in an authentic fight to the finish. Slender and lithe, evenly matched, both appeared capable of sustaining a long hard, brutal hand to hand battle.
“Listen,” Browne pleaded, “One of us could get seriously hurt, maybe killed.”
“I know. You.” With that Rick swung.
. . . (results and conclusion is in the book) . . .