Dual Nature – Chapter One

Fear the Fight


Dust billows out of Jeremy Valker’s rusty old Chevy as if it were a train. The smoke slowly rises, and seems to blend in with the smog that makes up most of Pittsburgh’s night sky. The bags under Valker’s eyes make him look weary, but his face seems very serious and alert, as usual. A big black mini-van in front of Valker cuts him off. It seemed to come out of nowhere, because it blended in with the towering buildings and utter darkness of the night. “How do they let such dumb people drive?” he thinks to himself. Valker cranks the lever on his door and his window slowly moves down. As he honks his horn he yells ,”Nice turn signal, idiot!”

Valker turns into a bumpy parking lot, and arrives at a local pub. His tiny car practically jumps around the lot as he looks for an empty parking space. He comes to a stop and pulls off his Best Buy work vest. He holds the vest in his hands for a few seconds, but just angers himself when he thinks about his depressing job. Today, he had to set up a firewall that his boss would deem “unbreachable.” In Valker’s mind, his boss is a tool. The firewall he set up was weak.

He sees his reflection in his silver name tag. He looks weary and tired, unlike most young men in their twenties. Valker has an untamed beard growing unevenly, covering his face. It makes him look shaggy. Valker actually looks so shaggy that most people would not even go out in public, but he doesn’t care. He just wants to grab a quick drink and go home.

Valker walks in, and the bell on top of the door rings. Valker groggily looks up, annoyed. This particular pub is a simple one, with its name in shining letters behind the bartender, and small wooden tables fill up the floor, leaving enough space for the pool tables, which were new and popular additions to the bar. A gray granite counter top wraps around the bartender. Posters of rock bands and articles about New York sports cover up the light wood walls.

The bartender notices Valker come in, and tries to lighten his mood. “Do you want the regular or a 5 hour energy?” The bartender looks around with a smile as a couple of people laugh. Valker has to strain himself to hear over the noise level of the bar. When the words set in, the brightness in his face—if any—escapes.

“Regular,” Valker replies gruffly. The bartender quickly notices that Valker is in no mood to joke, and starts making Valker’s drink: Scotch on the rocks.

Although the bar is packed with people, he does not have to scream at the top of his lungs to talk to the person next to him. A few other regulars have to stand while they wait for their drinks, and Valker joins them.

“Hey, Jeremy. What is going on?” asks another regular, Big Jeff  Jeff got his nickname when he drank an entire keg of beer. He has a scraggly beard, just like Valker.

“Waiting for a seat to open, just like you,” Jeremy says. Jeff laughs, and others join them.

A group of people get up to go play pool. Now Valker has a seat. As Valker eases into a stool, a slightly drunken man spills his drink on Valker’s white shirt. Valker whirls around to see a bald man who is almost a head taller than him.

He is wearing a tight white shirt that clearly defines his muscles, and has a gang of a college level friends all shorter than him. People turn to see what is going on and the noise level in the room drops as Valker rises from his barstool. His veins pump with nervous energy, and stick out of his arms. His hands clench into fists.

“I am not going to deal with this today, not right now,” Valker looks the man directly in the eyes as he says this. The shadows cast from an overhead lamp makes Valker’s eyes look more sullen, more dreary. “Watch where you’re going, bud,” Valker says coldly.

As a child, his mother enlisted him in a martial arts class. Over the years, his skills developed and strengthened.

The drunken man takes a step forward, looms over Valker, and looks down on him as if warning him to back off. “Are we gonna have a problem?” He slurs his words just a bit. His voice is deep and rich. Valker can smell the stench of alcohol on his breath.

The whole bar is silent, even the drunken men who were just have a riot over practically nothing sit in silence, patiently watching. The man can not stand still as he waits for his answer. Valker notices everyone staring and thinks ,”Am I just going to let this idiot make a fool out of me?”

While Valker thinks there is a long silence. Then Valker replies coldly ,”Not if you stay out of my way.”

“Alright,” the man says, jokingly. He turns around, and even starts talking to one of his friends, then he turns back at Valker with a vicious hook. Valker grabs the man by his under arm as he side-steps the hook, and throws him up onto the countertop. The area where the man lands on the granite is swept clean. Bottles and glasses shatter to the floor. The man quickly gets up, stumbles, and hits Valker in the face. Valker’s vision is blurred and he staggers backwards, towards the pool tables. People near the fight scene back up. Valker is now bleeding under his eye. The two circle each other.

Already the scene is horrific, with broken glass and blood, but people still watch intently as if Valker’s fight was an event in the Olympics. Both men are staring each other directly in the eyes. Valker pretends to lean on a table for support, but instead he picks up a half-empty glass and smashes it on the side of the man’s head. Two-hundred and fifty pounds crashes to the floor in one motion, making a loud thud and a cracking sound. Valker stands in place, panting, but he manages to keep his cool for a couple of seconds. Then he crosses over to his unconscious opponent who is already coughing up blood, and kicks him hard in the ribcage. More cracking sounds, and everyone cringes and steps back. Some even look away.

Valker then walks over to the bartender and hands him a one hundred dollar bill. “Will this cover the damage?” he asks. The bartender, with a terrified look on his face, hesitantly takes the money. Valker then walks out, leaving the bar in silence, except for the ringing bell on top of the door. Valker’s face contorts uncomfortably at the sound. The bloodied and battered man, sprawled across the floor, notices Valker’s hatred of the bell.

Look for next week’s Dual Nature installment: Chapter 2 — Fear the Unknown