Eli Finley Cranor "The Pard Within"

Atlantic Beach, NC

“Hey boy, I saw you checkin out my Lorraine,” said the big man standing next to the girl with the big chest, towering over the juke-box.

The accused, Steve “The Pard” McDaniel, could already feel it coming. He could always feel it coming, so he said it anyway, “Hold your horses there biggin, you can’t blame me when a sweet little thing puts those out on display like that.”

The big man covered the ground between him and Steve in about two-hundredths of a second, and the two men were face to face. The Pard was standing all of five-foot-nine and weighed about a buck-fifty. While his competition looked more like Jerry Lawler. Even so, The Pard stood his ground.

“You think you’re funny, short-shit?” said the big man.

“Naw, not at all. Mostly it’s other people that think I’m funny, but I can tell you ain’t one of’em.”

“You damn right, boy.”

With that said, something changed in Steve’s eyes. He almost looked sorry. Then he muttered something and began to turn away. The big man grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. Lorraine screamed something incoherent over the noise of the juke-box, and The Pard knew what was coming. He was just a little too late.

The blow caught him on the right side of his face. He staggered as his nose spouted. His right eye and both lips began to swell. It was a hell of a punch. He never saw the next haymaker coming. But it came all the same.

Darkness. But just for a second. Steve thought about playing possum, but something in the depths of his being said otherwise. Then, all at once, The Pard rose up off the floor, slowly but surely.

“Hell of a sucker-punch there biggin,” said The Pard, as a little blood gurgled behind his words. “That all you got?”

After beating on Steve for more than five minutes, the big man began to wear down, and it looked as if The Pard would get a punch in. If he was gonna get him, then by God, The Pard was gonna get him good. So he went for the empty Coors bottle on the bar. The big man immediately saw The Pard’s deadly plan unfold before him. Then with one deft flick of his wrist, the big man knocked the bottle out of Steve’s hand and it shattered on wall. It was over. The big man knew it. He called Lorraine and went home.

Steve lay in a lump of blood and sweat and teeth on floor, presumably beaten. But that lively spirit within once again forced him to get back up. He straightened his huge belt buckle and ran a mangled hand through his hair.

With one tooth missing, The Pard smiled and blood dribbled down his chin. At that moment, nothing would have soothed his pain like a pinch of tobacco. It would be real easy for the nicotine to get into his bloodstream. He reached into his back pocket. When he did, he realized his can had been busted open due to the force of his ass hitting the bar’s floor. It was obvious this dilemma was affecting him more than the beating.

With a slight smirk he said, “By God, that sum-a-bitch busted open my snuff can. I should whup his ass.” Then, The Pard collected himself and ambled towards the door.