by Verkaro

By whatever stretch of imagination, I was not acting heroic or selfless. Under similar circumstances, any stranger would have done the same. Apparently, at the time, I was the only stranger in the crowd... if nothing else clever. Now, that I can be.

WhyWalmart was allowed to build in Espanola; I don't know. It's a terribly violent store, and their prices are not always that good. And, what is it about the place that inspires the Espanola shopping woman to deck out in platform shoes and bulging shorts, push-up bra — and those shaved and penciled-in eyebrows — what is it? What is it?

This particular Saturday morning I was standing in the beer aisle, pricing judiciously. There was a fellow at my elbow doing the same. The two of us were about to get thrown into a scene.

From beyond our aisle sounded what seemed to be a great collapse of store shelving. It was the drawn-out crash of glass and canned goods hitting the floor. The two of us pricing beer looked at each other with round eyes. We were slow to respond but when a lady screamed for help, we both jumped to it. A few aisles toward the back of the store was the deli area. It was a complete mess, and two men were going at each other hammer and tongs.

Clenched in a knot their bulk swung into another display-stand knocking it loose with complete disregard for the store plan. Bags of potato chips and cans of bean dip spread over the floor as from a disemboweled pinata.

This muscle-bound pair plainly entered the state of exclusive tunnel vision, a white fury, where nothing else in the world matters so much as beating the other guy to a pulp.

The crowd moved back giving the center a wider berth wherever needed, and more people joined around. Someone nearby said, "Ouch!" Another replied to the affirmative. Wild punches flew between the fighters as they slipped over debris and blood.

"Baiya! Give him his tomas!" a man yelled.

More store patrons lent their verbal support. "Hit him back! Hit him back." It was generously impartial support, but I didn't have to like it.

One mother, hardly more than a girl herself, wore house-pants with the word PINK emblazoned across her rear. She cheered as if at a world wrestling match. It was a very hard kind of pink she represented with a baby boy bouncing on her hip.

Among the swelling crowd, there were muted cries for help and a plea to call the police, but their voices rang of role-play and no one broke from staying to watch.

Before most of us arrived the shorter of the two fighters received a blow on the head lifting a section of his scalp. It hung, a bloody flap, drenching his face and dying his shirt red. He raged on yet to rally, making a series of quick connections' fist to face. The crowd cheered.

I turned to the fellow I'd stood next to in the beer aisle. "This is madness," I said.

"I know," he said, keeping his eyes on the fight. "You're right. That other guy is a gorilla."

If there were any present feelings contrary to the sudden change of the morning's itinerary, I didn't see an objection go up. Maybe all this was on the itinerary. The thing seemed to be to find out who was the best man of the two and only then could they all resume their morning shopping. It made me angrier all the time, and if it wasn't for that anger building, pushing aside any true smarts, I would never have broken with the ring of spectators to step inside.

Locked together again, their groaning mass shifted over the floor like heavy machinery broken loose on a rolling ship. They were entering a phase of exhaustion. I was able to get close enough to whisper to them that any minute the cops were about to arrive. It was probably true.

Surprising how quickly they came to their senses. They broke their embrace that instant to blink in all directions for signs of the police. Seeing none, the biggest guy strode off with a little hurry to the nearest exit — looking inconspicuous as he could but for all the smeared blood. The ring opened up and let him pass.

The shorter of the two stood dazed, the flap of scalp hanging over his forehead and dripping steadily.

"You better get yourself to the hospital soon," I told him.

He didn't seem to hear me. Watching the other guy leave he spat out something in thick Espanolese. It didn't sound very sporting. The other heard this and stopped in his tracks turning slowly around. He seemed to think it was sporting enough.

"You think so? You really think so?" he said. "Alright here we go again." He rose in height and swung his shoulders side to side as he came back.

Now the crowd decided enough was enough. Men and women stood barring the way and laying hands on the big one. "No, no, no you don't," they said. "Go away fast."

He pushed through them effectively as a bull until finally frustrated he threw up his arms and stopped. "It's okay, it's okay. This cavrone is my cousin," he said.

There were nods here and there. Well, that was okay. Everyone seemed to relax. And, that was the end.

During all this at no point did I see a single Walmart employee. I wanted to find an intercom and announce cleanup needed in the deli department. Instead, with the crowd dispersing, I went back to my cart. Selecting a random six pack I felt done with pricing for the day and headed for the checkout.

Standing in line I finally found the time to get nervous and jittery. It was surreal falling into the pace of the checker, as I watched, scanning items one by one. A lady behind me flipped idly through a tabloid she would never buy. Baggers moved from one counter to another.

It was my turn and the checker immediately had trouble getting a barcode to scan in. She did not want to enter the SKU by hand and passed the item back and forth, time and again, in vain.

I am sure I only wanted to get a comment from someone who seemed so oblivious to anything beyond her job. I leaned close to the cashier and said softly, "Do you realize there was a tremendous fight at the back of the store?"

"When?" she said.

"Just a minute ago."

She stopped swiping the difficult item. "Are you for reelz?" An eyebrow lifted as she considered the possibilities. She sucked a big breath. "Oh! Was it the employees?"