It was a Sunday, high noon, and it was high time for us to get to the gate to receive our allotted “Stan Musial replica statues” that were being given away on this most perfect of days for a ball game. My father purchased the tickets, and with my wife and three young children in tow, we were full from the early lunch we ate before we came downtown, but not too full to stop for the cheaper peanuts on the way in.
Patronizing the local street merchants is well enough, and I'm not judging anyone who chooses to purchase tickets from the numerous, and impossible to miss, roves of gentlemen hell bent on getting rid of a seemingly endless supply of well placed, and well grouped tickets for your convenience. What I did find unsettling was the manner in which we were followed half a city block by one of the three people who offered us tickets we clearly did not need. Obviously agitated at the fact he had misread my father's friendliness, this highly motivated entrepreneur peppered him with purposed deals that seemed to have no end, until he finally hovered far enough away from our group, that he was lost to my peripherals.
At just about that time, a group of four, annoying college age fans, stopped and stammered for the third time on the narrow sidewalk in front of us, and I had no remorse about quickly ushering the fam around this useless blockage. It was no more than seconds later - thirty feet before making the final left onto the street that would lead to the fulfillment of a family fun packed day, promised for weeks to an anxious crew of 4, 7, and 8 year old children - that time stood still. Not to over-dramatize a fist fight that lasted all of half a minute, between two street hustlers who lived well enough to high five their boys on the next corner, only moments afterward...but the reality of it was shocking, nonetheless.
The afore mentioned salesman who couldn't take no for an answer, was suddenly in the middle of the intersection we were so eagerly scampering towards, with my wife and eight year old daughter now in the lead, followed by myself, my father, and the other two kidos. A heretofore unseen assailant decided to finish a previously silent to us business deal, with a spontaneous combustion of cursing and huge hay-makers that were landed as only glancing blows to the face of the smaller and apparently extremely elusive trouble maker/finder. Within an instant the man who had pestered us with tickets we didn't need, was now giving my children experiences they'd never ask for, and as a parent, I'd do anything I could, for them to never have... As his instinctual (and very beneficial to him) defense mechanisms took hold, he back tracked to dodge assured annihilation at the pile of bricks that the fury filled facilitator of this altercation was hurling his way. In doing so, the twenty feet or so that stood between my small bubble of happiness and their settling of pseudo legal and/or illegal activities in the way two animals would; evaporated in an instant.
As the first punch was thrown, I can remember thinking, NO! As the second and third immediately followed, I remember saying NO, THERE ARE KIDS! Funny, now, to think my first reaction was to assume that they would have some human want to avert harming innocent children over whatever their predictable problems were...
As if we were the Earth, with all it's gravitational magnificence in full force, they both stumbled and struggled straight at us... Before any of us could process what was happening enough to even react with either a fight or flight response, the two beasts had used my wife and daughter to cushion their impact with the 8' construction fence butted up to the sidewalk. Pinned for what seemed an eternity, but was surely only seconds; the smaller one was able to land a quick jab to the throat of the larger aggressor. He was able to do this even though his elbow was initially inhibited by my 8 year old daughter's head as he rose to strike. Her head bouncing like a ping pong ball on the concrete after her body slid down the fence was the last thing I remembered when I awoke the next day in a cold hospital room, with that ominous feeling of menacing memories and complete confusion...What I could not recall without my father's help were the following events that could only be dreamt up, and never actually happen – to you – until they do!
He told me as only he could, in the way he tells every story. “You don't remember anything, really?” He'd repeatedly bother. “Well anyway”, he'd quietly start back with; after his purposefully inserted breaks, in probably the twentieth time he's had to tell a story he'd just assumed never have to think about again. “After you jumped on the bigger one; the little one - that had kept on me about buying the tickets - sucker punched me right in my left eye, hahaha.” I supposed I could notice his eye now, as I realized how bad it hurt my head, to squint or focus, or do anything... “Then, like they were waiting for it, two more guys came and started punching and kicking us, until...” “Until what?” “Until your wife shot one of them.” “She did what?” “She killed him.”
These two lowlifes did indeed, steam roll us in the midst of their chase and beat battle of anger and fear; momentarily pinning my scared to death daughter and my rightfully enraged wife up against said fence. They almost immediately concluded back up the street the way we had come, after my father's reaction was to forearm shiver the stinking refuse away from us - as if he had chosen to stand on the edge of a moshpit - and I struggled to force myself between my pile of body and theirs. It was over as fast as it had started. My daughter was crying, and visibly shaken; holding her shin that had been stepped on with the wrist that hurt due to some unknown blow. My wife and I inspected her body and reassured her mind that it was over and she was fine. As I attempted to relocate the malevolent forces that had intruded on my child's innocence, I could only find the smaller of the two losers, getting dap from his group of three partners on the corner we had just passed, sitting and standing directly in front of a very popular bar/restaurant of one prominent ex-player turned announcer - as if they owned the corner - well didn't they?!
My daughters immediately ask to hold my hand, as I'm not sure how much of the hurricane of human hate my 4 year old son actually saw, and we proceed quickly around the corner after the full minute of stun and hugs are finished. They say “why, dad?” I ask them if that was the first fight they had ever seen. They say yes. I tell them quickly, that those were people who either have no parents, or didn't listen to what their parents told them, or have horrible parents. As this is not uncommon banter between us, they quickly nod and were it not for the sadness so suddenly thrust our way, they would have fought to call jinx after simultaneously saying the name of the second grader up the street who brought a knife to school and bullies everyone she meets. She is also the girl with the parents who don't have the ability to settle any dispute without the neighborhood wishing they couldn't hear what they really thought, every day and every drunken night. What should I have told them? Oh, those are bad people, and some people are just bad? I'll digress no more....
I mumble and stutter out some more half cooked, and obviously distracted contrive about using words to settle things, and being a nice person to everyone, until I attempt to refocus our realities to the mountain of brick and bats, in which dreams are made. We get our keepsakes, and make memories of our middle child convincing the other two that their parents should somehow take the outfield grass home, because she likes it, and trying to get our son to stop eating the shell along with the peanut; or at least to stop spitting said casings onto those patient strangers in front of us.
The game was capped with a win saving, final out being made as the left fielder leaped to catch the ball heading over the wall, and falling in dramatic fashion as Allen Craig did his best Jim Edmonds, but hit the deck like Matt Holliday would have, God bless them all.... The night ended as my daughter shed her last tears, so far, about the incident, and asked if she could have a sleep over with her siblings; so she wouldn't have any new nightmares. We obliged...
Back to the very plausible possibility that I laid out first... What if my wife, in the mere seconds following her daughter's sudden injury, and her husband's and father in law's subsequent jumping, was able to gather her wits and pull from her purse the legally owned and carried firearm we bring for just such an unimaginable situation?
What if she was able to keep her eyes open long enough, to ensure her barrel stayed pointed directly at the ass only inches away from it's tip, while she squeezes the trigger true; just a few feet away from our three children, being forever changed? What if that bullet went into one of their hind sides, and pierced enough vital organs to let this drag on society die from internal bleeding in the gutter from whence he came? With her oldest, lying unconscious with injuries not yet fully realized, and her only adult family and help, being presently pummeled to the point of peril; was she not within her rights to exact self defense in the form of legal lead? Would my father and I both, have had to of been knocked unconscious and left for dead, with the blows being inflicted on my wife's 115 lb. frame, before she would have been within her “rights” to take another human's life in lieu of losing her own?
I have purposely done my best to not allot any time towards following or delving in any way, into the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman case; as impossible as that has been. There are so many angles that so many people have been able to bring into that act of sadness, that I haven't even gone there in my head. Of course, it took something happening to me and my family, for me to begin to ponder about the dilemma of any juror sitting in an uncomfortable box, trying to decide what the hell “beyond any reasonable doubt” is supposed to mean; faces when struggling with the question of what constitutes “self-defense”.
Who can say, that any of these instances that happen within a blink of an eye, and can cause such a perceived level of fear and instant anxiety to anyone not trained in the art of self-defense; can be judged as black and white? As someone who has never advocated for guns to be prevalent in the lives of normal citizens, (and I can't say I want to run out and buy one now) I have to question: If things had gone just a little differently, how would I of best protected my wife and children in an intersection full of cops after the game, ensuring traffic flowed smoothly; in a moment when no one watching would of been helping....?
When is your life threatened to the point of being justified in stealing another soul's last breath on Earth? Would you be prepared to make that final judgment?
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