Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Alternative


The 1.6 liter engine purred like a cat when he turned it on.  He gently depressed the accelerator.  The pointer on the tachometer swept upwards.  So did his pulse rate.  Wow...  The response was without a trace of hesitation.  That's how he wanted his engine to work.  Like the beat of his own heart and the surge of adrenaline in his own body to match.  Man and machine as one.  He showed his thumb up at his mechanic who was watching from the workshop doorway and grinned.


He belted up, eased into gear, lowered the handbrake lever and the car surged forward towards the main road and into the light, mid morning traffic.  The DJ on the FM station was giving a commentary on some traffic condition elsewhere.  In this part of the city there's no such problem at this time.  He relaxed.  An overloaded two ton lorry in front crawled and spewed blackish diesel smoke.  He twisted the steering towards the right lane.  A long blowing of a horn and screaming of rubber dragging on the tarmac brought him back to alert mode.  Then he realized his mistake.  He hesitated long enough for the other car to move ahead.  The driver glared and waved a middle finger at him.  He returned the greeting before realizing there was an ashen-faced woman in the passenger seat.


The other car then took a zigzag course in front of him, jerked several times and his brake lights glowed each time.  By then they had passed the diesel-smoke machine.  Shit!  This guy's mad...  He slowed down to let him go ahead, hoping he'd stop the insanity streak.  He did not.  Once or twice he nearly hit him.  He kept his cool for the next kilometer looking for a chance to make a run.  He stepped on the accelerator to try to get pass him on the left.  He must have sensed his intention.  He moved quickly to the left to block him off, nearly causing a crash.  He steered to the right.  Same thing happened.  Hmmmph!!  Wish I have a turbo-engine for this trick...  He was getting agitated but he kept in control.  This went on for a few more kilometers.


Finally both vehicles stopped.  He waited.  The car door opened and a medium-sized guy stepped out with a steering lock in his hand, eyes wild, and jaws set spoiling for a showdown.  As soon as the guy closed his door, he shifted to reverse gear and stepped on the accelerator.  The guy hesitated and moved back to reach for his door handle.  He stopped his car about 30 meters away and got out, leaving the engine running.  I can handle him, but this should buy us some time.  'Avoid violence by all means', he remembered his Master's advise.  The guy turned around and came towards him again. 


He's stopped bigger guys before this.  There was one who grabbed a lady's bag and was about to jump on his accomplice's motorbike while the crowd looked on.  He tripped him and he dropped the bag, but came up again with a knife in his hand.  This time he almost killed him with a kick in his crotch.  His face went all white, his eyes rolled up in his sockets and his legs buckled under him and he collapsed groaning.  The accomplice saw what happened, got back on his motorbike and raced off.


Doesn't matter he didn't gain his black belt.  The strenuous training and sparring sessions did a lot of good.  And some of those sparring partners he met weren't friendly at all.  He had his share of bruises, cuts and fractures.  But they managed to heal with the right medication, especially internal injuries.  He remembered almost finishing his father's whole bottle of medicated wine when he fractured his ribs while sparring with a short stocky guy, a 2nd Dan trainer.  He showed no mercy.  He was from a rival training center.  Every time he breathed, the pain was like a knife being twisted in his chest.  A month later, he went back to training.


The next time they met again for the 2nd exam he sent the unlucky bastard out on a stretcher.  But he failed.  The chief examiner disqualified him for kicking below the belt.  He never believed in high kicks.  Those are only for show.  Out there, they have no rules, no style, and no trophies.  If you have to stop someone, make it quick and dirty.


Just then the passenger door opened and the woman rushed out.  She kept yelling, pleading with the man.  There was a baby in her arms crying.  Christ!  What's going on here?  He's out of his mind.  He's got a family.  And he's not thinking.


He had the next few seconds to decide he couldn't do it.  He raised his right hand, palm forward, remembering a passage he read in a western novel where pioneer settlers met with savage Red Indians on the warpath, signaling he wanted to settle it peacefully.  Those old timers knew a thing or two about effective hand signals.


"I'm sorry it was my mistake!  I didn't look before I turned."  His voice, loud and clear was steady.  He kept moving forward one deliberate step after another.  Stay cool, stay calm.


"I didn't know you have a baby in there..."  He kept talking.  The guy showed signs of calming down.  He glanced back at the woman with the crying baby.  He was uncertain now.  The woman was still pleading, "Please don't do it, please..."


By the time they were a few meters apart, both men stopped and eyed each other.  The guy then lowered his gaze and dropped his steering lock.  With his shoulders slumped he turned around and walked back to his car.