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Painful Lessons, Part 2

I've taken my share of beatings in my life; more, really, given that the average beating occurrence among Americans is probably not much more than zero, beatings being pretty finely distributed among very specific demographics and me being thrashed fairly regularly throughout my life. There are a number of possible reasons for this: living among and keeping company with people unversed in the dipomatic arts and averse to reasoned, thoughtful dialogue; overestimating my size and martial abilities; committing beatable offenses against the above described sort; and probably most significant, not knowing when to shut up/cut my losses/leave well enough alone, and other failures of restraint.

Two of these stampings, both of a punitive nature, occurred in Mendocino County — one I thoroughly recounted in this space, but the other I’ve been less inclined to discuss publicly due to some of the particulars. One specific aspect, really, that being the gender of my assailant, female, and so in the spirit of #Me Too (women can also kick ass, and quite effectively, I assure you), I thought I'd share my story of female empowerment as I was affirmatively acted upon in a groundbreaking display of violent equality.

Nature, fair-minded referee that she is, levels the playing field by outfitting her deadlier species with external indicators. Some are overtly obvious — no one would ever look at a scorpion and think anything good could come of handling it ·— and others more subtle, but still clearly indicative of danger. Subterfuge is the province of prey species; the gifts of predators are mitigated by their clearly murderous appearance and intent. Sharks and tigers are scary; koalas, otters, and puppies are not. However, it is up to potential prey to learn to identify and avoid those who would eat them. Those who don't go extinct. 

So when Ma Nature fashions a female human along the general lines of a refrigerator, dresses her in a hockey jersey, tattoos her face and knuckles, and gives her a sexual orientation which renders her immnune to the diminishing charms of an aging ladies’ man — do not provoke her. Do not tease her, do not make any sudden moves, and for heaven’s sake do not borrow twenty dollars from her inamorata and forget to pay it back. That way lies a world of pain and regret.

Lorena Grace Coelho has been defying gender norms and expectations in Fort Bragg for years by regularly whopping the bejeezus out of whatever boys might care to step up to her, but I as a newcomer to town could not be expected to know that. Clearly she was no hot­house flower, but I'd been charming lesbians for years and saw no reason why this one should be any different. That wasn’t the first time I'd erred in applying the standards of the wider world outside the county to the unique conditions of Mendocino, but it was definitely the most painful. Like Superman under the red sun of Krypton, I had been rendered unexceptional.

It was a week or so after the fateful touch I'd put on Desiree, Lorena's squeeze, and if I'm being honest, I hadn't actually forgotten it — I don’t really forget anything, damn the luck — but I'd back­burnered it pretty effectively, assigning it a lowish priority level among all the various claims on my time, finances, and hide. As a survivor of cockroach-level resourcefulness and ingenuity, that kind of attention to personal triage is what keeps the stove lit. Mistakes get made, natch; that's how we learn, but in this world sometimes the lessons seem disproportionately dear, in terms of their cost/benefit ratio. The seven-year admonition not to commit armed robbery is a good example.

I was walking down Oak Street just west of Colombi's when a 70s boat-phase model Thunderbird pulled up next to me. "Flynn," said a deep, vaguely familiar voice from inside the cabin. I leaned down to the passenger window and a large, capable hand gathered a fistful of my shirt and hauled me in through the open window as easily as I'd accept a bag of burgers at the drive-thru. I acted as if this were perfectly natural and indeed my preferred way of getting into cars. I smoothed my shirt, buckled my seat belt, and said, "Oh, hey, Rena," as we roared off. No response. One more conversational gambit met with stony silence and I began to feel a trifle uneasy. This had all the earmarks of an abduction, and it is not a reflection of my poor self-esteem that I questioned my worth as an abductee. Many people actively agitated against my presence in their homes and cars; risking prosecution for the pleasure of my company seemed a little odd.

We pulled up at Desiree's house shortly and went inside. "Hey, Dee," I said, figuring the mystery was about to get cleared up.

"You got my money?" she demanded. Oh. Right. Twenty bones. I made a show of patting my pockets. "Okay, short answer no, but—"

Before I could get too far into my story, a look passed between the two women and next thing I knew, a fist like a canned ham pistoned out like one of those air hammers they use to begin a cow's journey from quadruped to quarter-pounder and caught me square in the solar plexus. Nice, I remember thinking as I, sucking air, crumpled. Nine guys outta 10 would’ve gone for the face. Leave it to a woman to think outside of the box. Well, at least she didn’t kick me in the balls, which she then of course did.

Women like to talk about the agonies of childbirth and their monopoly on pain, but as a survivor of both kidney stones and 'nad blasts, I'm here to tell you that it is categorically and demonstrably untrue, because if childbearing hurt worse than either of those things the human race would have died out long ago. I'm sure it's very uncomfortable, and I know we all appreciate the sacrifice, but I would rather give birth to a litter of hedgehogs through my urethra than get kicked in the stones any day.

I dropped to the ground, even then admiring of the bloodlessly efficient manner in which I'd been dispatched, and with my last remaining vestige of self-preservation, curled up tighter than a pill-bug, groaning in agony. Lorena commenced to kicking and poking at me, but my physique was mostly bone and I'm afraid I got the better of her in that round. "Ow," she said. "Uncurl, damn you. It's like punching a bagful of Tinkertoys."

I held my position and eventually she got tired, or bored, and pronounced the ordeal concluded. "Alright, get up. We’re done here," she said. Correctly assuming she had no need to resort to trickery, I took her at her word and — very slowly and painfully — straightened and staggered to my feet. "Ow," I said, in the understatement of the millenium.

"You gonna get our money?" Lorena asked.

"Yes ma 'am,” I said. I took off and returned several hours later with not only the $20, but a thoughtful, personality-appropriate gift for each of them.

Lorena and I became fast friends after the incident and she loves to tell the story of how she tamed me and the stoic way I took her assault, which I later learned was the result of tireless research and practice. Realizing that men instinctively protected their privates when anticipating a kick, she quickly figured out a way to immobilize her targets with the breath­stealing solar plexus shot and enable her free access to the tender parts. By the time she got to me the finely honed one-two combo was second nature. I’ve since seen several other unfortunates fall prey to it and it is truly poetic in its terse brutality.

I feel fairly confident in asserting that I'm not likely to suffer any more beatings, as I'll be leaving prison soon and no longer engaging in beat-worthy behavior. Plus, in somewhere between 5 and 10 years anyone who messes with me will be liable to a charge of elder abuse. I'll take my protections where I can get 'em.

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