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Brief Fiction: Toner Lowe in NY

ginnaven washington square

(Photo by Christopher Ginnaven)

Washington Square Park — brief moments of some early mornings and late afternoons — somehow transforms to a Renoir. Sunlight transposes trees, lampposts, landscape and people with a rainbow brilliance stunning the psyche. This was one of those afternoons, and I was ambling the winding walk, mesmerized by it.

Then I heard a loud yelp of pain from behind me, and Renoir suddenly morphed to frames from “Sin City”. Some casually dressed guy was hitting a woman half his size. With his fist. I’m no gentleman, but I seem to have the human’s innate sense of justice. I moved quickly the some 10 yards to them.

I heard a voice, my voice, commanding, “Stop.” Not a yell. A firm order like I used to hear from Ip Man, my Wing Chun teacher in LA. The guy turned toward me. He was a hulk, a la NFL defensive end, actually a handsome Nordic type. And he was angry. I was five feet away from him now, and he stepped forward, telegraphing a punch. He shouldn’t have.

My right hand, open thumb and fingers, cuffed his throat. Not enough to kill him. Limited to my old Special Forces days, it would have. But my later learning Wing Chun had instilled me with a clarity and peace in motion that’s hard to explain to a non-practitioner. I had been able to combine that with my raw, lethal techniques, adjust my strength and impact to the occasion.

This only took a second. The blow’s strength lifted him to his toes, almost off the ground. The impact didn’t crush his windpipe, but shut off his air, making his eyes bulge like a crawdad that just bit into a hook. He made a sound like the first blurp of a commode flushing. Then he collapsed at my feet.

I bent down, studying him, making sure I’d done nothing lethal. He was gasping, limp as jelly.

“You fucking brute! You killed him!”

It was the woman he had been beating. She pushed at me. I stepped away and she bent down, taking the hulk in her arms.

“No, m’am,” I replied. “He’ll recover. Are you alright?”

Her head raised. Her left eye was cut and closing, and her jaw was swelling. Her right eye glared at me.

“You fucking brute!” she repeated.

“Have a peaceful day, m’am,” I said softly. Then I turned and walked away, looking for Renoir.



Roger Armbrust

Roger Armbrust's articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. He formerly served as national news editor of Back Stage in New York City, where he also taught a professional writing course at New York University. His recent book of sonnets -- oh, touch me there: Love Sonnets -- is available from Amazon and other book sites. He is an associate curator of The Clyde Fitch Report. He is also co-founder and co-curator of reality: a world of views.

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