THE KAYLEE PRINCIPLE
By Fred Haley
It was another hot, oppressive Corpus Christi Summer afternoon. I ducked into this dive, a small hole-in-the wall diner on the outskirts of downtown, to escape the burning sun for a little while.
The daylight glared off the large pane windows, pasting the letters C I T Y C A F E along the dingy, ashen back wall. I thought the sunshine would bring a friendly atmosphere to the joint. But, as I sauntered to the counter to order my iced tea, I could feel the tension, the anxiety gripping the slim crowd.
It didnŐt take long for me to discover te reason. Everyone in the place was trying not to listen to the argument by a young couple in a booth near the entrance.
The loud male voice was muffled, with occasionally clear words, as, ". . .I SAID. . ." , and, ". . . YOU WILL NOT. . ." Each sentence was punctuated by a "thunk..clinkle" sound of his fist rapping the table, jostling the old, tarnished silverware. The young woman across the stall cowered in the corner, her head lowered.
A collective relief seem to spread around the room when they heard him say, "We're leaving!"
The man, in his early twenties, stood to reveal a tall, lean body. It was muscular, but not bulky. He was clean-shaven, with hair cropped close to lighten his dark tanned complexion.
The woman struggled to exit the bench seat. Gasps rang out around the crowd as she stood. This short pixie of a girl, barely older than a child, was very pregnant.
The man took a step towards the exit. She stood still, glancing back at her plate, still full of food.
"But I'm not finished yet," she whined timidly.
SLAP! Tension in the restaurant intensified when the bully cuffed his opened palm across the maiden's face. Angry murmurs went through the crowd. Some of us shuffled. No one got up. The woman whimpered quietly.
"NOW!Ó he yelled, and moved to grab his companion's arm. She instinctively backed away.
The man began to fume. I could hear a thundering growl echoing inside his throat. With his right hand, he grabbed a steak knife lying on his empty plate. He moved back toward her, his arm swinging upward
As he thrust forward, another male figure came from the side. It was a young lad, not old enough to drive. He was slightly taller than the woman, and hardly reached the shoulders of the assailant.
The boy grabbed the mother-to-be by the shoulders, positioned himself between her and the attacker, and pressed her backwards. The knife-wielding thug slashed at the retreating pair, staggering as he dragged the sharp blade across the youthful savior's shoulder.
He guided the girl to the booth across from her original seat, next to another lady. Middle-aged, with shoulder-length brown hair, the older woman's hazel eyes and gentle smile calmed the expectant lass. They put their arms around each other for comfort and support.
The defender turned back to face the attacker, who had regained his composure and focus. Another hungry growl of rage rumbled from the goon, and he lunged again.
This time the boy moved to his foe's left, shifting out of the weapon's reach. As they passed, their knees connected. I heard a howl of pain from the younger combatant. The boy grabbed the table for balance. The aggressor continued forward, stumbled, and fell hard to the floor, face first. As he collapsed, he let go of the knife. It slid ahead out of reach.
The prostrate male turned. The teenager looked down and said, in a strained but calm voice, "You should leave. The police are coming."
The man did not seem to understand. He looked around for the knife.
"Do you hear the sirens? You will go to jail if you don't leave right now."
The assailant stopped, apparently responding to the word, "jail." Hearing the wailing sounds, he jumped up to his feet.
He looked over at the girl, expecting her to go with him.
"NO!" commanded the young victor, his pubescent voice crackling.
The man looked back, turned and ran out the door.
The dining audience burst into applause. Some of us started over to congratulate the boy - no, the young man.
The new champion didnŐt seem to notice us. He sat down next to the maiden, still being comforted by the older woman. He was not bothered by his own injuries.
"Are you all right?"
She nodded meekly. "Why did you help me?"
"I was just following the Kaylee Principle my mother taught me. 'DonŐt be afraid to the right thing. '"
"Right, Mom?" he said, glancing at the other lady, now sporting a proud smile, and a tear.
I slid off the stool to join the rest of the crowd in congratulating the young champion. I started to move, but my feet became tangled in my bedsheets. I promptly fell to the floor, and woke up.
The whole story had been a dream, complete fiction. I was left with a haunting question that would keep me awake the rest of the night. If it really did happen, which role would I have played? The young hero? Maybe, the bully? Or would I have again been one of the spectators who just watched?