Friday, April 25, 2008

True Story

It was the smell of oranges that first alerted me to something being amiss.

I'd had a long day, and finding a seat at the front of a crowded rush-hour train had been one of its highlights. I was near the door in one of those seats that faces neither the front nor the back of the train, but is rather pointed inward toward the aisle. I never choose those seats, but I was cold and tired and sat down in the first empty spot I encountered, in between a heavyset gentleman and a soccer mom, both of whom would have rather seen me move on and leave the elbow room between them empty.

News had broken earlier in the day of divorce papers filed by longtime whipping boy and one-time Boston Celtic nemesis Jason Kidd and his wife, Joumana. He is a wife-beater and she is a fool, and so when the story came out that he had filed for divorce on charges of mental and physical abuse, I found the irony quite amusing. As did my buddy Reese, and at the moment when it all began I was answering his latest text message on the topic. It isn't everyday that a professional athlete, one with a history of domestic violence, claims that his wife beat him up. This was a story to be discussed.

The conductor appeared looking for tickets. He was new. You get to know your conductors. Not always their names, but their faces, and your chances of looking inconspicuous enough that they walk by without punching your ticket. (A penny saved is a penny earned, and it costs 475 of those pennies to go one way between Boston and Newton these days.) I knew right away that new guy wasn't going to let anyone get off easy. He planted himself directly in front of me, looked me in the eye, and bellowed, "All tickets please."

There was the trace of an accent I couldn't quite place, and he stunk of oranges. It wasn't cologne. It was like he had bathed in orange peels and not gotten them all off. It seemed to me he took a little too long to punch my ticket, but chalked it up to my just being tired and irritable.

The soccer mom got off in Newtonville and I slid over into her seat. My heavyset neighbor spread out as well. The conductor reappeared just as we started to move and, despite the train now being far from full, he again chose to stand directly in front of me. He was too close, and the smell wasn't natural. My phone went off again and I looked down, but I never looked at the message because it was then that I realized what was so wrong about him.

He was a ninja.

I knew they had been watching me. One tails me up Auburn Street every morning, and another lurks behind the counter at Café Rebecca in Back Bay. I would see others out of the corner of me eye wherever I went. At first I walked on eggshells, but it had been going on so long that I almost didn't notice anymore. But they hadn't forgotten. They had watched and waited, and now they had chosen to strike. It was payback for the woman, the one from Tangiers. She had loved oranges.

The sword was in his hand in an instant, a Hanzo sword straight out of Kill Bill. His first strike sliced open the seat next to me. I was on my feet and moving faster than he could bring his blade up again, but he shot out his right leg and clipped my knee. I grabbed his leg and spun as I went down, sending him hard into the door of the car. The latch gave and the door slid open. He tried to turn towards me but I lurched forward from my knees and put my shoulder into the small of his back. The sword fell and clattered back up the aisle, and my force carried us out into the outer passage between cars. I hit the latch with my foot and the door slid shut. No one was going to help me, and prying eyes have always pissed me off. The last thing I saw was the fat guy picking up the sword wearing a look that told me it would be on eBay in a matter of hours.

The ninja had recovered and lashed out with a flurry of kicks and chops, the majority of which I managed to deflect with my trusty backpack. I thought about going for my umbrella but knew there was no time. Instead I curled my fingers into a claw and went after his throat, just like Patrick Swayze in Road House. Unfortunately, I am no Swayze, and he brushed me aside and sent me tumbling towards the edge of the train.

My hand shot out on instinct and caught hold of a fire extinguisher hanging against the rear outer wall of the car we had just left. I broke my fall and yanked hard on its handle, pulling it free and into my hands. I could sense, rather than see, him behind me, and I swung that fire extinguisher around like I was Mark McGwire on the juice back in 1998. It hit him square on the side of the head and made a sound like a champagne cork, only squishier. He crumbled to his knees, and fell forward. This time there was no instinctual grab of anything, and he fell out the door and into the night. He was dead before he hit the ground.

I braced myself for another assault, expecting ninjas to come from all directions at once. None did. He had been alone, and this had only been a warning. They knew where I was, and they could come after me at anytime. They had made their point. I knew their next attack, whenever and wherever it came, wouldn't be then and there.

I stood up, took a deep breath, and moved on into the next car. This one was almost empty. I flopped down into an empty seat a picked up a sports page from that day's Globe that had been left behind. There was a picture of Jason Kidd and the headline, "SHE HIT ME!" I smiled. My night was finally looking up.

(Original Post Date: 1/10/2007)

1 comment:

The Dave said...

mmmmm kickin pork chops...

this place smells like oxy clean with the acidic foaming power of citrus fruit