Doug and Woody were burr-headed recruits far from home just walking into a noisy smoke-filled beer hall that was saturated with the stench of cheap booze.
They bought a mug of beer each at the bar and looked for a table. They spotted one and hurried to it before somebody else claimed it. They sat and had a couple of sips of beer. They scanned the room.
“I think we’re the only guys in basic training in this place,” Woody said. “We don’t have a stripe or a medal.”
A Marine corporal in a form-fitted khaki shirt and pressed pants walked up to the table Woody and Doug sat. He had enough ribbons to name a building after him. He held a mug of beer with a hand the size of the mug. He had the face of a clean-shaven bulldog.
“You two are going to have t leave,” the marine said. “I got some buddies comin’ and I said I’d have a table for them.”
“We could all sit together,” Doug said.
The Marine smirked, “You got to be kidding me. We ain’t sittin’ with Army recruits. That’s funny.”
“But we were here first,” Doug said. “We’re willing to share the table with you.”
“And we all become buddies,” The Marine said sarcastically.
“What’s fair is fair,” Doug said.
“My god, boy, did you just come off the playground, ‘What’s fair is fair?’” The Marine said. “How ‘bout might makes right? Get up and find some corner to drink your beer in.”
Woody started to stand.
“No, Woody,” Doug said, “we ain’t movin’.”
Woody was caught between a stand and a sit. His last swallow of beer was about to meet the one he held in his mouth.
“Sit,” Doug said.
“Have your way, ya grubs,” the Marine said. “I’m sitting my mug down. I’m going to take a leak. When I return the only thing at this table better be this beer. If not, I’m going to show ya what it’s like to have a real ass kickin’.”
The Marine sat the mug down and walked away.
"There are three ways I can win this fight," Doug said just above a whisper to Woody.
The sat motionless and sipped the beer.
“Let’s just spit in his beer and leave,” Woody said.
“He won’t start anything,” Doug said, “besides I got three ways to win this fight.”
"I don't think so." Woody said. “Did you see him making his way through the crowd as if a bulldozer? Everybody in this place is afraid of him. I don't think we could take him together."
They sipped some more and waited.
Woody’s eyes searched for the nearest exit and nodded toward one. "Let's sneak out." Woody whispered.
"He's got his eyes on every exit," Doug said looking at the Marine standing at the doorway of the latrine. "If we make a move for one of them he'll nail me."
"Go over and say something to the MP," Woody suggested.
"What am I going to say,” Doug said and feigned wiping tears from his cheek. “’That big bad Marine is going to whip my butt?' To which he’ll reply, 'Ya mind if I watch sweetie pie?' No thanks. Let’s just go."
“Nah,” Doug said. “He’s bluffing.”
"Why didn't you just let him have it?" Woody said
"Didn't think he would take it so personal," Doug said.
Woody whispered, "What are the three ways?"
“What three ways?” Doug said.
“You said there were three ways to win this fight,” Woody said.
There was no time to answer. The Marine sat across the table from Doug. "Well let's finish our beers and take it outside. My buddies will be here before long and I want a table for them," he said coldly.
"Look man can't we just forget this," Woody said smiling anxiously trying to be reasonable. "Are you sure we just can't all sit together?"
The Marine motioned with his head toward Woody, smiled, and said to Doug, "Do ya powder his behind before ya lay him down for beddy-bye?" He said it as if reciting a line of poetry. He tilted the mug to his lips and drank without taking his eyes off Doug.
He looked over at Woody and ordered, "Hold the table for me and my buddies while me and this recruit step outside."
While Woody affirmed the command, the final gulp of beer from Doug’s mug passed his throat. He squeezed the handle of the mug as if trying to choke the life out of a snake. With a swing, he drove the bottom of the mug squarely against the jutted jaw of the Marine. There was a loud crack like a bat hitting a baseball. The Marine fell to the floor and his chair squirted across the room. Everyone expectantly rose to their feet.
"He passed out," Doug said helplessly to the beer hall crowd.
Doug looked at Woody whose eyes bulged. "That's the first way."
“Now what?” Woody said.
They left the beer hall faster than they arrived.
A few steps from the beer hall, Woody asked, “What were the other two ways?”
“I don’t know,” Doug said.