The punch took Charlie by surprise. It came out of nowhere and slammed straight into his left cheek. He flailed his arms as he fell back out of his chair and hit the ground hard, banging his shoulder on the beer-splattered floor. Charlie moaned and cradled his jaw. He had felt teeth crack, and knew that he was spitting out more than just blood as he looked up at his aggressor.
He was a smaller man than he should have been for starting off a fight like that; a full head shorter than Charlie, and younger too. But he was wiry and lean, and there was a hidden strength under those whipcord limbs. Charlie rubbed his jaw again, knowing that if he hadn’t clenched his teeth in surprise he could have saved himself what was sure to be a pricey dental visit. He put one hand to his knee as he raised himself to his feet. He hated the dentist.
“What do you want, kid?”
The young man hesitated, as if surprised Charlie was even still conscious, and his face went blank a moment.
“Well,” he said, scratching the sparse line of stubble on his chin, “I guess I hadn’t really thought of that. Sorry to trouble you.” And just like that, he walked straight out of the bar without another word.
Charlie watched him leave, speechless. He stood there in the middle of the bar, faces staring, and wondered whether or not he had imagined the whole thing. He touched his jaw again, wincing at the pain. It felt almost like someone had lightly tapped him on the face with a sledgehammer. No, it had happened alright.
Charlie sat back down in a state of shock and sipped his beer. Fortunately none had spilled during the brief brawl. He was too confused, and frankly embarrassed to track down his hit-and-run attacker. He knew that those feelings should be replaced by a white-hot anger from being so mistreated, but he just wasn’t. Maybe it was that the kid had said he was sorry. He shrugged and took another sip.
Sometimes people just did crazy, stupid things, he supposed.