THERE ARE TIMES IN EVERY man’s life when he has to back his partner’s play. It may be at some fancy dinner when your brother-in-law is getting drunk and obnoxious, or it may be in some dark alley in Marseilles, France when a couple of Moroccans want to spill your guts with some ridiculously large knife that looks as if it was designed to cut camels in half.
Well, you kind of get my point: There are times when you just have to do something, and regardless of the circumstances and possible outcome . . . it’s go time. When I saw my friend, Shane, tear across the small, dim-lit club, I knew that it was time for something violent.
Shane is an ex-football player, turned business owner. He goes about 260 pounds, five-eleven, dark hair, pinkish-white skin that burns in three seconds of sunlight. He’s got brown eyes that seem to do back flips when he drinks—and he can drink like a fish—and an IQ that is dangerously high. This, if you haven’t imagined, can make for a volatile, yet extremely interesting, personality. He and I get along just fine. He boxed when he was younger, wrestled when he was older, and can run the forty in about a 4. 5 seconds. Believe me when I say that, you make a hole when he comes a running!
When you’ve known somebody for a while you learn each other’s body language and gesturing. It gives you a kind of silent communication. He gave me the classic ‘cover-my-ass-because-we-are-about-to-get-into-a-fight’ glance. It would normally have been sweet music to my eyes, but at that exact moment I was working this beautiful, little Brazilian girl with the kind of body most girls would sacrifice their first born for. She was a hottie. So he nods and I nod back, and then I look down at the bright, brown eyes of the one that will probably get away. She looks up at me and smiles this kind of ‘boys-are-so-lame’ smile and I acknowledge by smirking stupidly and shrugging my shoulders.
She gave me a quick hug, her body pressed against mine in the kind of way that you always hope an attractive girl will—firm, body to body, you can feel her breath on your neck. Shane makes it to the front doors of the club and I see two guys shoot out of the bathroom where Shane had just been. Hmmm? He’s been known to rub people the wrong way.
Time to get on the clock. I curse myself for letting go of the girl. I grudgingly make my way into the crowd and fall in behind the two, curiously tunnel-visioned patrons. Other people who know me, or know of Shane and I, notice my casual mood change to that of a kind of focused observer. Mr. Happy-go-lucky is out; please leave a message.
There is a mindset that all predators seem to understand and utilize. It kind of looks like a bad attitude to the untrained eye; head lowered, eyes wide and frantically searching the periphery, arms hanging loosely by the side, hands open with the palms facing back. It kind of resembles a cat stalking some unsuspecting bird. Trust me when I say that just because a person sees a predator coming their way, doesn’t necessarily mean that they recognize how much danger they might be in.
So, now I’m hunting.
I follow these two guys out the front door and nod at the Door Guy, a buddy named Jason who trained with us at a fighting gym. Jason nods back, letting me know that he will try and keep the fight relatively even. It’s good to know the staff at your local stomping grounds.
Shane is outside, in the middle of a bunch of scurrying valet guys. They know enough about Shane to give him some space. One of them yelled to us, “Please, no trouble for the cars, no for the cars!” Yeah, yeah. We know that all these expensive cars are your responsibility, and we will respect that.
Immediately Shane launches like a rocket ship, across the parking lot, and slams into the first guy. He lifts him up and, of course, slams him into the side of a red Dodge Viper. Needless to say, the valet guys are running, in mass, to pull the pair of drunks away from the car. The valet guys were so panic stricken that their eyebrows were practically on the top of their heads—like circus clowns . . . or meth junkies.
I keep an eye on blue-shirt, that’s my label for the first guy’s buddy. He was wearing a blue polo shirt, so I figured that would be his name—old School, door guy tactics. Blue shirt is staying just out of harms way. He seemed to recognize the futility in mixing it up with Shane, but you just never know with club drunks—kind of like a family pet with rabies, can’t ever be quite sure when Spot is going to take a bite out of grandma.
But Blue-shirt hadn’t broken the code. Yet.
What Code, you ask?
One-on-one is fair. Two-on-two is fair. But, two-on-one, and it’s open season on their ass! But I digress. The valets wrestle apart Shane and Black-shirt. They separate, and I notice that Shane is so bloody hammered that he is probably seeing three or four guys wearing black shirts. To him it probably seemed like he was fighting a synchronized basketball team.
I need to mention that Shane and I almost always wear sandals. It sure is comfy wearing open-toed shoes, but then it’s miserable when you slide your bare feet across the concrete after your sandals have been kicked to the side. Shane didn’t even notice that the top of his left foot had been scraped raw by the pavement. Heck, it matched his red shirt, and to us it is ultimately more important to coordinate your colors, then to avoid bloodshed.
Some unseen force seemed to push Black-shirt towards Shane. Good luck, dude. Shane dropped into his classic linebacker stance and rushed his opponent again. This time he would not be denied the audible landing. As the two of them crashed down to the hard ground, a horrible thud seemed to reverberate outward, making every other person in the now-gathering crowd of spectators cringe. It sounded like a watermelon being dropped off of a ten-story building.
I have to admit that I was enjoying the show, so much so that I didn’t react quick enough to stop Blue-shirt from charging into the one-sided beating that was taking place. Shane was on top of Black-shirt, straddling his chest, both of Shane’s knees resting on the concrete beside the victim.
He took turns pounding the guy with open-handed slaps. Like if you were to get slapped by a golf club—it was just like some freakin’ nightmare. Not at all a good time. Shane’s hands are as big as soft-balls, but feel like bowling balls when they are smashed into the area known as the . . . body! There were a staccato of oooh’s and ugh’s. And Blue-shirt slipped by and went in for a cheap shot. I sprang forward, a bit slower than I should have reacted.
It’s so fun to be a spectator sometimes that you often forget you’re a participant. Shit! I closed the gap just before the cheating cunt launched a lame kick for Shane’s head. It’s a good thing that the guy was a chump, otherwise he might have hit what he aimed at. I think that the only reason he tried to hit Shane was so later his friend wouldn’t be able to say, ‘You let me get my ass kicked!’
He, too, had to back his partner’s play.
The kick bounced off of Shane’s upper back and didn’t seem to have any affect other than to enrage him and up the ante a bit. Blue-shirt must have expected somebody to pull him away because he turned and watched as I launched my right leg towards his left thigh. He watched as my shin cut through the air in a low, half-arc. And he continued to watch as my shin buried deep into his left thigh, just above the knee.
I felt the soft, sinking, squishy resistance that you feel when you smash a Thai-leg-kick into somebody’s peroneal nerve. His knee buckled and he fell to the ground, both of his hands reaching out for his new found pain.
The Thai-leg-kick is a tool used in Muay-Thai kickboxing. It could best be described as a shin kick that is focused in a fast sweeping motion. It feels like getting hit with a goddamn baseball bat. Shins are bony and hard, and they hurt like hell when you get hit with one . . . or several.
The next kick came from my left. Again, a Thai-leg-kick. Again, he didn’t react. And again, it smashed into him like a drunken driver crashing his Buick into a school bus full of nuns. Nothing but carnage! Not trying to show off in a fight is like trying not to enjoy sex with a supermodel. It just isn’t possible.
Sure, people say all these cliché things like; nobody wins a fight; you should always try to avoid a fight at all costs; or my favorite, there’s nothing so important that you have to fight over it. That is all just stuff guys say to seem virtuous. Trust me when I tell you that people need to fight sometimes, and that people do win fights. You do want to show-off when you are pounding some guy that really had it coming to him. Chuck Norris never barely kicked anyone’s ass. No, he laid the smack down every time. If you have to fight, then win. And you only back down in a respectable way. If even for a split second you feel that there will be no ‘respectable’ way to back out of the fight . . . you smash the motherfucker to pieces—end of story, period, full stop! So, I dropped my shin across the cunt’s right side, just above his stomach, kind of landing across his right arm and chest.
He doubled over. Well, I guess you’d have to call it quartering over, since he was already doubled from the first Thai-kick. Blue-shirt was done for the night.
Then, as I turned to bask in the envy and awe of the crowd, I heard such a strange scream that I thought somebody must have seen an alien pop out of somebody’s stomach.
Were the walls bleeding?
Were there signs of the Stigmata?
No, locusts hadn’t descended from the skies. It was Black-shirt making all the noise. And then I noticed that Shane had spit something into his hand. Like a good showman he had graciously walked along the outer edge of the well-dressed crowd and displayed the trophy. I walked over to him and caught a glimpse of the lower half of the ear, most of it lobe.
I have a fairly strong stomach, but I have to admit, by all measures, that was gross. Now this was turning into some surreal dream. I half expected to find myself running around in my underwear trying to dodge my high-school principal, only to awaken to a half finished 3-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. It was that weird.
“Hey, Shane,” I said loud enough to pierce the invisible vale of his quasi-psychotic thoughts, and, in fact, the first words we had shared all night. “Lets bolt, bro. The cops are gonna be here any second!”
I paused for a second, squinting at the piece of flesh. “What is that?”
“I bit his ear off! Look,” he said for the benefit of our live audience. Always the showman, Shane.
Some people were gagging.
I guess that’s an appropriate response.
Shane had this kind of grim smile on his face, “He never expected that when he started talking trash, did he?”
He was so very proud of his exploit that I almost hated to awaken him from his elation.
“We’ve got to evac, bro. Now!” I pressed, and he turned, nodding. I looked over and noticed our friend, Jason—the door-guy—jogging up to us. He handed me the keys to Shane’s red Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“Roll, dude. I’ll cover for you when the cops come!”
“We’re out, Jason. Nice one,” I said as I grabbed the keys and motioned for Shane to hit the bowels of the parking lot. It was time to engineer a quick ex filtration from the hostile environment. Both targets had been neutralized. Mission: Successful.
I late-apexed the corner like I was at the Monaco Grand Prix cutting across several, empty lanes of traffic. We were back at his apartment in just under ten minutes. We made as little noise as possible, jogging up the long outdoor stairwell to his second-floor apartment. It was a nice gated community, and we assumed that no police had followed us at any point in the extraction. We rushed into his artificially cold, dark apartment and waited with the lights off to be sure that we hadn’t been followed.
The place was clean and sober, not like Shane. And it was scented like Pine sol, also not like Shane. But the apartment screamed Shane. It was just the kind of downplayed extravagance that a 28-year old with a half-million in the bank can pass off. He never flaunted his money, but you knew that he had it. He knew he had it. And you knew that he knew that you knew he had it. Give it a moment.
We walked across the soft gray carpet into his kitchen, and posted on either side of an island counter-top. It was one of those fancy jobs that had cabinets built into the sides and an open-range grill set into the counter. The kitchen surrounded the island, decked out with a Sub-zero style, stainless steel refrigerator. High-tech toaster oven, and all kinds of modern, expensive knives on a magnetic fixture where they all seemed to stick in mid-air. The place reminded me of some space lab, or maybe one of those sealed-air labs that we all know are hidden inside the Nellis military facility, otherwise known as ‘Area-51 ’ (by the way: Shane and I have been to Area-51. Well, as close as you can get without being shot. It really exists, and they get really pissed when you trespass).
Shane flicked on the fluorescent, overhead light. The strangely cold white light turned the kitchen almost into a morgue. He reached into his pocked and pulled out something and then tossed it onto the counter-top. We both stared in silence at the red and pink chunk of cartilage. It wasn’t much bigger than a quarter, but it was big enough to understand where it came from. I looked at the torn piece of flesh and then up at Shane. He had this sinister smirk on his face, and it reminded me of that movie where all those clowns are eating people.
“You know what we have to do, don’t you?” he said to me.
Normally, as a sane human being there would be only one of a few choices in a situation like this. We could pack the ear in ice and try to get it back to the police, or medical staff, so that it could be re-attached. We could offer to help the guy pay for the medical attention. We could have had one of our friends find the earpiece anonymously and deliver it to him. I knew that we had to do what was decent.
“You get a small cooking pan, and I’ll prepare a butter and garlic sauce to cook it in,” I said, knowing that this was the right thing to do.
We went to the task of preparing a delicious sauce with which we would hopefully drown out the taste of human flesh and replace it with a spicy, garlic and oregano flavor, in a base of melted butter.
I’m getting hungry just writing this.
Now, there was a strange threshold that we were balancing on, like a limp tightrope just begging for you to fall. It is a line in the sand that you can never uncross. Once you eat human flesh, your . . . well, you become something quite different. A new breed.
We hadn’t yet crossed that line. We had done horrible things to people who, in my humble opinion, deserved it.
We had broken arms and knees.
Choked out countless angry drunks.
Bedded many, many women out of wedlock.
Sped, cursed, pushed and pulled, and all around cause a lot of trouble.
But we hadn’t crossed this line.
I had rationalized it like this: The ear of a person is not unlike an ear of an animal. It’s not like it’s the heart, or some exposed muscle . . . that’s something that sick-o’s do. Not us. No, sir. We’s respectable types. Besides all of the societal taboos, when were we going to have another chance to eat part of a human?
It was strange how the aroma of garlic seemed to de-monsterize, what we were about to do.
“You understand that this is a horrible, horrible thing that we are doing,” I said flatly as the butter started to sizzle in the pan. My eyes were staring through the bubbling sauce, to somewhere far off.
“Well, we are horrible, horrible people, aren’t we,” Shane responded in an equally matter-of-fact tone. And there was a kind of haunting iciness to his words.
“Does it bother you that people like us are lurking in the flocks of civilian sheep?” I said.
He considered my question. “A little bit,” he answered without emotion.
“Do you think we’re fucked up in the head?” I posed to him as I added a few more pinches of garlic salt to the yellowish-brown, bubbling sauce.
He looked up into the blank space just beyond the scope of our sight and kind of chewed on his thoughts. “There is that possibility,” he said skeptically.
I bit my bottom lip, a nervous habit, and said, “You never know if you’ll like something until you try it.”
“That’s right,” he said softly as he used a shiny, chrome spatula to place the ear in the pan. It whined and spurted as the boiling sauce overwhelmed the cartilage and skin choking out the last traces of humanity.
“This is pretty cool,” I said as he moved the ear around the dish like a hockey puck.
We all have monsters that are buried deep within us. Some of us keep the monsters at bay, hiding them from the world in which we live, and the people we associate with. Rarely, and only for fleeting moments, do we get a glimpse of such ugliness. The rules for a civilized society won’t allow it.
But what happens when the rules don’t matter anymore? What do we do when the monsters leave their cages; escape their darkness? What happens when the monsters outnumber the rest of us; become the majority?
Where do we hide then?