The bar went quiet. These were hard Western men, fists like pick axes, hands like granite, and skin like worn leather. They weren’t talkative men. They didn’t hunt trouble, but if trouble found them, well, they weren’t about to back down, back out, or back away. But they weren’t stupid either.
Nobody went up against the Fist. Nobody knew his real name. He never stayed in any one place long enough to make any real friends that would care enough to know his real name. No matter how quiet he was, or how hard he worked to stay unknown, it seemed someone always noticed his hands. Once they did that, well, even a tenderfoot could read that trail back to the Fist.
He looked like a lot of the men out West. Maybe a bit taller, a bit broader across the shoulders, his arms were long rope like things that looked more like barbed wire strung together than the corded muscles on most Western men. At the end of those arms though, were his hands.
Hands that would have still looked big on a man a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier. Hands that could, and did, bend railroad spikes by placing them between his index finger and thumb. Hands that could hide the entire head of a shovel behind them. Hands like that make a fist that is beyond human comprehension. Rocks had more give than the bones in those hands. Even steel had been known to give under the pressure of five quick blows from those fists.
And the man who wore that old steel breast plate under his buckskin shirt only felt the first blow that dented the steel, broke three ribs, and shattered his sternum. Because the second blow made a deeper dent and burst the big man’s heart. Still, three more blows came before it registered that the big man with the plan to hide behind a metal shield was already dead. They buried him, but kept the breast plate in a window at the General Store. People came from six counties to hear the story, marvel at the dents, and walk away with a chill.
The bar stood quiet. The man slowly setting his drink down could only be the Fist. There can’t be two sets of hands like that in God’s Creation. Heck, you couldn’t even see the bottle when he held it in his hand. It looked like whiskey just appeared out of nowhere and gathered in the glass. Six feet away was the young tough who had just asked the Fist if his Mother was still taking customers, or was she giving it away for free, like she used to.
The Fist wasn’t rising to the bait. His mother only lived one Winter after he was born. When he was seven, he returned six years of beatings to his Father. Even then, his fists landed with an authority granted to few men under the age of twenty one. His Father went down with the first punch. The Fist didn’t remember how many punches he threw that night. But he did know his Father never got up again. So he moved on.
Those hands could work as well as fight and most men couldn’t keep up with the Seven year old when he was working. By the time he was twelve…well, no human could lift that much, pull that much, or dig deeper in a mine. But it didn’t matter how many raises he got for doing the work of three, four, and even five men- some blowhard, tenderfoot, or drunk man trying to be brave would challenge him. The result was always the same. A bloody pulp on the floor unable to get up, looking less like a human than a bag of Butchers seconds. And the Fist would have to move on…again.
Still the young man prodded the Fist. When taunts about his mother didn’t work. Or his sister. Or wondering why the cows shied away from him alone out on the trail- out loud (which got only snickers from the tough men in the bar, and an outright laugh from the Fist). When none of that worked, the young tough with a thick skull, so thick that reason couldn’t penetrate it- the young tough pulled his gun and cocked the hammer.
Now the Fist did turn. So did every head in the bar. Nobody pulled a gun on an unarmed man. Nobody. Even if the young tough managed to shoot the Fist, he would have faced so many guns that when the bullets stopped flying, his shirt wouldn’t have been any use even as a rag. The young tough smiled. He knew the Fist had to fight now. Nobody, but nobody could let someone pull a gun on you, and walk away.
“Put the gun away. Leave the bar. Ask around. If’n you do that - then come back tomorrow and I will let you have your fight with me. For I don’t have any fight with you.”
Hard tough men nodded. They knew a chance when they saw it. They knew fair when they saw it too. This was both. The young tough however, didn’t see what he should have. He turned his gun butt out, and smacked the Fist on the cheek. I guess he thought the Fist would drop. He did not. I guess he thought the Fist would blink. He did not. I guess he thought that blow would knock the Fist senseless. It did not.
I will tell you what it did.
It made two hands, that were too large, make two fists, that were too deadly. There was the whispering whip-like noise you get when something moves fast through the air, except it wasn’t a whip. It was the sound of two big fists moving in a one two punch- a sequence that had the power of mule kicks, the precision of a buffalo gun, and the discipline of a hundred battles behind them.
The right fist hit first. Busting six ribs, bursting a spleen, and collapsing one lung while sending a ballistic shower of blood and air shooting out of the nose and mouth of the young tough. The left fist streaked straight and true squarely in the middle of the young toughs face. That fist drove bone, jaw, teeth, and most of the young tough's nose back into what little brain he had. That was it.
A moment ago a strong tough young man wanting to be a legend was standing taunting the Fist. Now the legs of the man supported only an upper body that resembled a watermelon hit by a ten pound sledge. There was no sound except the burbling of the air bubbles and bloody snot escaping from the crushed melon - and a long sigh as the last of life left the crumpled body.
The Fist took a look down, stepped back to the bar and finished his drink.
To no one in particular he said, as he stepped over the fractured melon shaped head of the young tough:
“I guess I’ll be moving on now.”
No one spoke. No one moved. Not until they heard the hooves echo in the night. Tough men. Hard men. Strong men. Usually quiet men started to whisper.