No one involved in the building argument noticed Alice standing up and walking over to them until she was nearly on top of them and she said, “Is there a problem here?”
The tall one, the one Alice was thinking of as Stretch, looked over at her and said, “what’s it to you if there is?”
Alice didn’t like where this was going. She didn’t like the idea of having to explain to Travis how she got arrested breaking up a bar fight. He would bail her out, but he probably wouldn’t believe her. Travis already through she was nuts. She didn’t need him thinking she was starting fights with college drunks. She really didn’t want to get in a fight.
On the other hand, she was still angry from having her own argument with Travis, and she knew knocking some sense into these kids would help her blow off some steam. And the only thing she knew about them was that they were acting like assholes. So she kind of did want to get into a fight. `
Alice shook her head and said “It’s not too late to just walk away.”
The patron at the bar who had seemed relieved to see Alice intervene decided that now was a good time to speak up, and said, “Look, there’s no reason for this.”
Alice felt that laughter from earlier coming back to her. Of course this guy would think that reason mattered. There doesn’t need to be a reason. Shit just happens. All. The. Time. And Stinky evidently agreed with her, because he turned and raised his arm to pop the guy in the mouth, saying “Shut the fuck up.”
The human body is a complicated machine. When it’s working well, all of the parts work together smoothly for even the smallest movements. Taking a step requires the advancing leg to bend at the knee and ankle, to lift and move forward. The core muscles engage, the hips turn, shifting weight off one foot and onto the other. All of this happens in synchrony, the orchestra of the human body.
But when even a small piece of the orchestra is off, it ruins the entire movement.
When Stinky started swinging, all Alice needed to do to stop his punch from connecting was to disrupt any one of the many instruments that were involved. She saw it coming from way off, with plenty of time to decide how to act. The head turned, the hips beginning to twist, the elbow rising, the weight shifting from one foot to the other. There, that was it.
Alice stepped in past Stretch and nudged her foot up against Stinky’s, just as the weight of his body was coming down on it as he turned to throw his punch. And just like that, his support was gone, but his weight was still coming down. Stinky’s foot slipped out from under him and he fell to the floor hard. Anyone more than a few feet away would have thought he had just slipped or tripped over his own feet, but Stretch saw what happened and he reached out to grab Alice.
She was ready for him when he came for her. His hand didn’t quite reach her as Alice shifted directions, fading back from him, just out of his grasp. As she did, she reached up and tugged on the sleeve of his coat, pulling him toward her. He wasn’t prepared for the extra distance on his lunge, and was forced to step forward, off balance, legs spread wide. Alice quickly reversed directions, stepping right in close to Stretch, and putting their faces right near each other.
He grabbed onto her shoulders, half in the effort to accomplish what he had set out to do, and half just to keep himself from falling over. Alice leaned in and slammed her knee up into his groin, hard. Sometimes the oldies are the best. Stretch’s face turned sour and he limply let go of Alice and clutched at his gut. Alice watched him crumple and said, “Don’t touch me, Stretch.”
Alice looked around at the bar, taking in everything that was going on. The redhead and the guy who started this mess were both staring wide-eyed at her. Stinky was getting to his knees and he had murder in his eyes. Mike, the bartender, was still back in the kitchen, none the wiser. Her half-eaten burger was still sitting at her table. She looked back over at the guy she just saved and said, “It’s time to go.”
He nodded, and fumbled for his wallet. Alice crossed the room to grab her coat and take a last bite of her burger. When she looked up, Stinky was crossing the room toward her. She shook her head and said, “You don’t want to do this.” He sneered in response and raised his hands in fists. Alice sighed and waited for him to come.
He tried a jab at her face, a feint. Alice stayed where she was, leaning back slightly, just out of reach of his punch, without otherwise reacting. Stinky stepped in, trying a combination. This guy had training as a boxer. Alice could see why Stretch was egging him on. Boxing is a great fighting style. Boxers have good stamina, keep moving, and they protect themselves. They tend to rely on patterns of punches, which is incredibly effective against anyone unprepared for it. If you get a lock on their patterns, you can take them down fast and hard. Alice didn’t have time to spend figuring out whether he always followed his jabs with a hook like he did this time.
She relied on the other big weakness to boxing. They don’t kick anyone, and they don’t expect to get kicked. So when Stink advanced with his combination of punches, instead of getting out of the way, Alice raised her hands, trying to put her elbows in the way of his fists so he would think twice about throwing punches her way again. When he broke action for a moment to reassess where she was, she planted her right leg and swung a kick into his thigh, slamming her shin right into his sciatic nerve.
It hurt like hell getting kicked there, Alice knew. But the worst part was after the pain when the leg goes numb. When Alice had been in elementary school, they called it giving someone a “dead leg.” Stinky had evidently never had the pleasure, and as tried to advance on Alice, he fell hard to the floor for the second time that night. Alice stepped around him and headed to the door, not looking back to see if what’s-his-name was coming.