i was at the corner and to my left was k. chuck was on my right and standing between us was a local thespian. to k's left was a man who looked familier, but only later did i realize it was because i had mistaken him for shrek.
chuck was talking to the thespian about work.
k was talking to me about trombones.
i was divesting k's popcorn bowl of the choice kernals -- the one's thoroughly dusted in a dandruff of neon orange dry cheese -- and pretending it was astronaut food.
shrek had worked himself into rabies over something. by following the trajectory of his froth, it seemed that the "something" was chuck.
"blah, blah trombones," k was saying. "trombones! blah blah blah."
i kept my eyes on shrek, who kept his eyes on chuck.
"blah blah numbers," chuck was saying to the thespian. "mail stamps zip codes."
shrek's friend nudged the ogre and said "hey, man. let's go outside and have a smoke."
shrek kept his eyes on chuck, brushed off his friend and said: "no man. i wanna hear this."
at this point, i noticed chuck notice and pretend not to notice. i touched his leg, using telepathy to tell his kneecap that shrek wanted to kill him. he telepathied back that he had noticed.
here is the thing: it is impossible that chuck's presense could inspire rage in anyone. he has the wide-eyed cheerful face of a 12-year-old that just noticed that betty and veronica have breasts. and overhearing a nonpartisan conversation about zip codes is hardly divisive.
by now shrek had turned his right hand into a fist and was socking his own left palm. loudly. thwap. thwap. thwap. it sounded like he was pitching fast balls to himself and those fast balls were made of jello.
k is a gigantic man. he would put up a good fight in a wrestling match with my civic. he could probably palm a pumpkin. pluck a cow right out of a field, douse it in barbecue sauce and demolish it. although, he is a kind and gentle giant. a very sweet person. while he would certainly make a nice wall between chuck and death, he would probably rather not.
still, he did the obligatory climb off the barstool when he saw the ogre flapping his paws.
the thespian looks like he could throw down. and later told me he recently had. but shrek was glossy-eyed wasted, and sometimes that translates to freakishly strong. i pictured the thespian being tossed like a dirty rag over the railing.
me? my fighting days are over. not to mention that sitting there on that barstool watching this unfold, my legs had gone numb.
chuck is not a fighter. don't get me wrong, if he had seen me get robbed at gunpoint, he would have suddenly gone ninjitsu on the guy's face. but nothing about shrek read rational in this situation. and i imagined the sucker punch would come too quickly for the ninjitsu spirit to really take hold.
i sent a panicked look to the bartender, r, who actually was a comforting presense at the moment. there is something tough about r. he looks like he is the best player in his softball league. the one opponents back up for when he's at bat. the last guy standing by his truck in the parking lot after the game. the one who will help you build a deck. i could be totally wrong.
"what's going on, guy?" the thespian asked shrek.
"yeah, what's up?" chuck said kindly. like he was potty training shrek.
by now r was at our end of the bar, doing a little low-key investigating under the guise of wiping the counter.
so nothing actually happened. shrek's friend came inside and r had a talk with him about mindin' his beeotch. then the thespian talked to the friend and found out shrek is harmless, just a little tipsy.
then shrek went down to the lower level of the bar and immediately tripped over a table and went crashing to the ground.
and chuck told me he'd had a plan all along. if need be, he was going to clock shrek with my beer mug.
ah, that's right, i remembered: chuck's not a fighter. he's a dirty fighter.
and i could feel my legs again.