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"The bitch is mine.”

As the ride captain I was all ready regretting planning this trip and as I heard those words I thought, great now I will have to get my ass whipped trying to stop a fight.

Six men and five women on nine bikes had come down to spend the night and watch the motorcycle drag races at the speedway. We had just completed the first half of the motorcycle ride, and stopped in the Outlook Bar for a few drinks. I had previously ridden with all these people, but never as a group. The temperature had been hovering at 99 degrees with the blazing Texas sun reflecting off the blacktop and concrete roads. Tempers were as hot as the bubbling tar on the roadway.

The Outlook was a seedy, rundown-looking place built on pilings driven into the sand and elevated above the beach. Only the bartender and a solitary weathered, longhaired old man were in the bar. Even at midday, was pretty dark inside with only a few lights, the typical neon signs and the musty smell of stale beer. The only people present were the bartender watching a small television and an old guy at a table staring at a drink. The bartender perked up at our entry but the old guy just moved his eyes, looked at us and went back to contemplating his amber liquid filled glass.

We ordered beers all around. The two couples from the University of Texas started feeding the jukebox. Soon, Queen and Foreigner were blaring from the speakers and the couples started dancing. The two brothers were both trying to chat up Karen, a recently divorced secretary, while trying to see who could out drink the other. The other unattached lady, Susan, was sitting with me and complaining to me about her ex-husband, her mother, her job, and her life. I pretended to listen. The third couple took their beers and walked outside arm-in-arm to watch the sea-foam green waves from the Gulf lapping at the sand.

I had just started my fourth beer and was feeling a warm buzz when I heard one of the brothers yell at the other, “The bitch is mine.” Each brother had a hold of one of Karen’s arms and they were pulling on her like she was a wishbone. One brother let loose of her, just long enough to hit the other with a vicious uppercut. The punch moved him back six feet and up against the wall. The girl tried to move away but the one brother just grabbed her again. Then I heard and saw a glass break between the brothers and the old man standing up. He had thrown his drink on the floor between the two combatants. The old man was standing there supported by an aluminum cane. In a loud monotone that caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up he said, “Shut the hell up and apologize to the lady.”

I took a closer look at the old man. He appeared to be in his 50’s, tall, and heavy set, dark hair streaked with gray half way down his back, and a white goatee. What struck me the most were his eyes. I had seen them briefly when he glanced up as we came in and they had appeared pale; but now they seemed to be black. His jaw was set and determined. A chill went down my spine, and the foreboding of danger immediately sobered me. It was like someone had lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite and we were all waiting on it to explode. Even the jukebox had fallen silent and the only noises were the slapping of the waves and the whir of the air conditioner.

The siblings looked at each other and smiled. These boys weren’t small they both stood about 6’3” and weighed about 215 solid pounds each. I knew they were fixing to go after the old man. While I was trying to decide just what I should do, the old man seemed to move the six feet from the table to between the two brothers in one stride. He did something with the cane that had one brother on the floor with his arm behind his back and the other brother was also on the floor holding his left knee and in obvious pain. I never did see exactly how he did it. The old man didn’t seem to be moving fast but he moved in one smooth motion like quicksilver across the floor.

He grabbed the hair of the brother in the arm lock and pulled his head up off the floor and the broken glass from earlier. Drops of blood and cuts on his face were clearly visible. I heard the old man say very calmly, “The lady is waiting on an apology.” I looked at Karen and she was speechless. It seemed she was as much in shock at the events as the rest of us. I watched as both brothers mouthed an apology in voices that seemed higher pitched than normal. The old man looked at the lady and asked, “Do you accept these boys apologies, Ma’am?” She just shook her head yes. The old man turned back to the brothers and said, “I think you boys have had enough to drink. Why don’t you just pay your bills and mosey along now? “ I watched as both brothers shook their heads up and down and said meekly, “Yes Sir!” The old man let up the one brother and told him to assist his brother. He did. They paid their tab and started out the door the one leaning heavily on the other for support, telling me they would be outside with their scooters.

As I turned back, I saw the old man trying to pay the bartender for the broken glassware. The bartender was refusing any money arguing that the old man had saved him more damage to the bar. I approached them and noticed the old man shift his weight and eye me warily. I smiled and held my hands up saying, “I am not looking for any trouble, just want to know if I can buy you a fresh drink.”

The old man looked me square in the eyes, I noticed his were now a greenish color. “No thank you,” he said, “I don’t drink anymore”. He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face as I looked at the drink on the floor and then back up at him. He chuckled, “Its something I do from time to time to bring back memories.” His explanation left a lot to be desired. He continued, “I am a recovering alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in over 20 years.” That was a bit better, but the old man had piqued my curiosity. I offered to buy him a soft drink and he told the bartender a diet soda.

I looked around and the rest of the group had moved in behind me. We moved back to the table and the others pulled up chairs. Karen took up a position next to the old man. We introduced ourselves and the old man said just to call him Tex. Well Tex was soon inundated with questions. His answers were always short and seemed complete, but vague. He said the moves we had seen were just something he had picked up and that he wasn’t into martial arts. I could tell he was uncomfortable talking about himself. He kept diverting questions and getting the others to talk about themselves. When people talked to him he always looked them square in the eye. I had never seen anyone deflect questions with such artistry and tact, but the others in the group never seemed to notice his artful dodging.

Karen was the only one not talking much; it was like she was studying the old man. She had earlier asked a few questions about his personal life - whether he was married (no), and had children (no)- and I, in turn, asked what he did for a living. His response was once again vague, as he responded "Retired government employee."

He was quite conversant on a variety of subjects. He intelligently discussed music, literature, motorcycles and computers. He had a way of encouraging people to talk more. I learned more about these people than I had since I had been riding with them. I guess they learned about me also. I found myself explaining about my work as a graphics artist and as a reserve police officer in Austin, a fact very few people ever knew.

I looked up at the clock and wondered where the time had gone. It was time for us to get going to the races; the purpose for this ride. I regretted leaving. I wanted to stay, but as ride captain I was responsible for keeping to the schedule. I told the group it was time to move on so everyone hurried to finish up their drinks and say good bye to Tex. Karen turned to him and gave him a big hug and said, “Thank you for before! No man has ever tried to protect me before except for my Dad.” Tex said, “No problems ma’am, a pretty lady shouldn’t need to be protected. Some men should learn to be gentlemen.”

Karen walked slowly from the bar and down the ramp. The rest of us were already down-stairs and had rearranged riders. The two brothers had to saddle up tandem since the one with the injured knee still couldn’t use his leg and no one wanted to ride with him. I took one last look up at the bar and saw Tex looking down at us smiling. I saw him give a small wave and noticed Karen blowing him a kiss. She seemed reluctant to start her bike. As we all pulled back on to the road I was thinking that this was the last time I was going to organize a ride. This could have gone so bad.

We hadn’t traveled far when I saw Karen fall back and pull to the side of the road. We all pulled over and I rode back to find out what was wrong. I found her sitting there crying. She told me she had to go back and look for Tex. She said she couldn’t explain it; she didn’t even want to try. She only knew in her heart that she must go back. I watched her do a U-turn across the highway and head back towards the Outlook.

I guess Karen read something between the wrinkles in Tex’s face and found something special in those changing eyes; something that spoke to her soul. By turning around and going back, she showed me that the quest for love and happiness is an opportunity not to be passed up and that has altered my entire outlook on life.

The End



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