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Brad tasted blood in his mouth as he reeled from the punch that had just struck him squarely in the jaw. He fell back against a crowd that had gathered near the pool table in the small smoky bar he had been frequenting for more than a year. Brad never was a brave guy. Tonight, though, he had reached his limit and was making a stand.

“I told you, I don’t care how fucking big you are, you’re not gonna talk to my wife that way!” Brad said defiantly.

The man opposite Brad seemed surprised by his unwillingness to go down. He had punched Brad numerous times and although bleeding from the mouth, Brad seemed otherwise unharmed and more determined than ever.

The big man’s name was Joel and this wasn’t the first time Brad had found Joel checking out his wife. Brad’s wife, Vanessa, was a stunningly beautiful brunette. Any man would find reason to take a look at her curves that seemed to tantalize the eyes as she moved. Brad never minded the stares, but as for hitting on Vanessa, well, that was a different story.

The big man, Joel, had been coming to the bar longer than Brad and was known in the bar as “somebody you didn’t mess with”. Brad had warned him several times, very politely, about hitting on his wife but there comes a time when you have to stand up. For Brad, that night was tonight. When you mess with a man’s wife things have to be done about it.

Brad suddenly swung at the man’s face, which was quite a stretch since the man stood nearly a foot taller than he. This time he hit his target and the large man’s nose exploded in a red tide of crimson. The crowd cheered as the big man now staggered backwards, grabbing for his nose.

“Now, I’m really gonna kick your fucking ass, bitch!” Joel said as he lunged at Brad, picking him up off his feet and slamming him into a rack of pool sticks mounted on the wall. Brad heard the air leave his lungs with a “Whooooshhh”. As the pool sticks fell in every direction Brad crumpled to the floor. The crowd of people booed at Brad’s misfortune. They seemed to be leaning in Brad’s direction. Being the smaller man, Brad was the natural “underdog” and the crowd always loves an underdog.

“Don’t take that shit from him, Brad!” someone yelled from the crowd.

“Kick his fucking ass, Brad!” another woman exclaimed.

Brad could hear his wife Vanessa yelling something somewhere in the background, but couldn‘t make out what she was saying. Neither could he see her, all he could see was this giant of a man climbing on top of him and beginning to choke him. Joel yelled down at Brad through gritted teeth, “Gonna fucking kill you, man.”

Strange the things that will come to your mind when someone is choking you, Brad couldn’t help but think of Jesus as he saw Joel above him, shrouded in white light, coming from the fluorescent lamps covering the pool table. He could smell the stink of many spilled beers as he lie on the floor feeling the consciousness slowly leaving his body as Joel continued to choke him.

Just as the light began to go dim from the lack of oxygen, Brad heard it. His father’s voice from long ago echoing in his head, a childhood conversation perhaps.

“Brad, if you get in a fight with a boy who’s bigger than you, just pick up a stick and even the fight.” His dad being somewhat short in stature himself, had never been a stickler for fair fights.

Nearly passing out, Brad extended his hands, fanning his fingers around frantically searching, then finding what he was after. One of the pool sticks. Brad grabbed it and swung it up towards the light surrounding Joel’s head. With deadly accuracy he hit his mark. The right side of Joel’s head split open like a Jack-O-Lantern three days after Halloween. Blood ran from the wound. As Joel fell off of Brad his grip loosened from around his neck restoring air to Brad’s gasping lungs.

A great roar came from the crowd as they rushed in to pull Brad to his feet. Equally enthusiastic, the crowd turned on Joel, grabbing him and rushing him to the door. They pushed him out in the street, telling him to “go sleep it off” and how “that would teach him to mess with a man’s wife!”

Vanessa ran to Brad’s side and kissed her husband, attending to his wounds. She cuddled up close and planted a big kiss on his lips, being careful to avoid the lower lip that was a little busted up. As she kissed him the crowd cheered again!

“Somebody get Brad a beer!” a man yelled from the crowd. Several others went to get the beer as still others helped Brad back to a stool at the bar. Everyone patted him on the shoulders telling him what a “great guy he was” and “how proud Vanessa must be to have such a brave husband”.

Brad could feel the left side of his face swelling as he drank the cold beer. The sweet beer tasted strange mixed with the iron taste of blood in his mouth. Although Brad’s face did swell, it was not nearly as much as his pride. The whole bar seemed to be reliving their favorite moments of the fight. Beers lined up on the old wooden bar as people brought Brad one after another. It seemed he was the hero of the day and rightly so. He had saved his darling Vanessa from that scurvy bastard Joel.

Vanessa pushed up against Brad, her voluptuous breasts pressing against his arm while she ran her tongue from the base of his neck on up to his ear. She promised that she would take him home later and “make the pain go away”. A shiver ran down his spine as he felt her hand run along the inside of his thigh, he closed his eyes as he thought of her proposition. Just then Vanessa asked him, in a very manly voice, “Brad, you need another beer?” He kept his eyes closed for just a moment longer and then heard it again, this time louder.

“BRAD, YOU NEED ANOTHER BEER?!”

Brad opened his eyes and saw Ricky the bartender standing in front of him. No Vanessa, no crowd of fans, no hand on his thigh, no tongue in his ear, just Ricky the bartender.

“BRAD, YOU NEED ANOTHER BEER? JESUS, YOU DEAF OR JUST ASLEEP?”





------
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.


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Comments

The following comments are for "Brave Minds and Empty Hearts"
by Jeff

Interesting
THis is the second thing I read this morning that had a well disguised surprise ending. I love that stuff. The beginning really sucked you in and you pretty much stayed there until you're hit by that ending. Good job, jeff.

Parteepants

( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: March 6, 2002 )

Got me!
I loved the title too. I have a harder time selecting titles than I do writing!
Fine job!

The Hal

( Posted by: The Hal [Member] On: March 6, 2002 )

nice
Love the title, and the ending was a pretty big surprise. I like =)

( Posted by: direb0y [Member] On: March 6, 2002 )





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