Life out here by Bret Kofford: A time to intervene?

May 23, 2001

You make the call …

You are coming out of Wal-Mart and as you enter the parking lot you hear an unintelligible but obviously angry scream. A woman turns to return to a car, where a man, his face distorted and purple with anger, gets out of the front passenger side and approaches the woman.

He demands the keys. She drops the keys at his feet. He picks up the keys, doubles up his fist and starts to move toward her.

Do you:

A. Yell at him to stop.

B. Get the drop on him and hit him before he hits her.

C. Wait until he hits her, which would constitute something illegal, then get involved.

D. Keep walking.

For you, option D is out of the question. It is not because you are particularly chivalrous. You are slightly chivalrous, however, and there's nothing you hate more than a wife-beater, and you're not talking about a sleeveless undershirt. Your sister's first husband was a wife-beater and there were times you could have killed him if you could have gotten away with it. The truth is more than anything you are intrigued by the situation in the parking lot because you are a snoop and you like to watch other people's business. So you can't walk away for a few reasons.


If you go for C, the-wait-until-he-hits-her option, he'll have slugged her a second time by the time you get there, and she looks like she might be the type to fight back, which means you'll be wading into a nasty scrap, something you've never much fancied.

Option A, yelling at him to stop, doesn't seem like a really good idea, either. This worked for you once when you saw a tiny guy punch his wife in the face twice, with both punches bringing that sickening, hollow sound of fist on cheek. You crossed the street to put a stop to it. The saddest thing was the woman was holding the hand of her about 3-year-old son while the man was wailing on her. What a lesson the little boy was learning, a lesson passed down through families.

"Hit her again and I will kick the ship out of you," you said, although you actually didn't say use any nautical terms and you weren't being particularly brave because you outweighed the guy by a good 50 pounds.

"She's my wife and I'll do anything I want to her," he screamed in your face as he got on his tiptoes.

"Not as long as I can see it, shiphead," you said, actually not getting nautical again.

He walked away without throwing any more punches, at you or her.

The guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot over the weekend, though, doesn't seem as if he would acquiesce so easily. He is shirtless, sinewy and tattooed, and has that inbred, prison-fed, knuckle-scabbed, working-too-many-years-under-the-family-junker hardness. His jeans are riding low, his red hair is tennis-ball length and the testosterone, and probably the meth, are riding high, like many other Aryan Nation rejects on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Asking him to stop before he hit his wife/girlfriend might turn his ire on you, particularly a soft-looking guy like you. Wouldn't he just relish whuppin' a Joe College-type? And if he wasn't convinced he could whip you with his bare hands, he surely has a weapon in that heap, anything from a revolver as the most dangerous option to a hammer as the least dangerous option. Option A becomes less and less appealing over the few seconds you have to mull your choices before he strikes.

Option B may be your best choice. Pop taught you if a fight is inevitable, be sure to get in the first couple good shots. Hit the guy before he expects it, during the preliminary chest-puffing stage men go through before they throw blows, he instructed you. There's no such thing as dirty fighting, he said, only smart fighting, which is when you walk away with little damage to yourself. So maybe you should go give this guy a good punch or three to the head before he does worse to "his woman."

Then again, what good would your interfering now do? The minute they both get home he'll start knocking her around again. She'll get mad and leave but she'll keep going back to him because she "loves him" and because deep down she thinks she can't do any better. He needs counseling. She needs counseling. And she's about to get walloped.

He takes another step toward the woman, fist drawn back.

You make the call …

You take a step forward. He suddenly takes a quick right around the car and gets in the passenger side, backs out of the handicapped spot and screeches out of the parking lot.

He is no longer your problem.

He is everybody's problem.

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