My friend Cat is an interesting guy.

Not much of a talker as a rule but a huge vocabulary when he needs it. On the large size, not muscle bound or anything but not someone I’d casually dismiss. Nice guy if he likes you. Not as subtle as me, but we all have our faults.
He and I were out with another friend of ours not so long ago, having a few beers at a local dive. Done it before, most likely do it again.

Sitting at the bar and Pancho says, “Man, I really like that girl. Sheessh hot.” Pancho drinks faster and so gets drunk quicker than either Cat or I.

Cat, being the loquacious type, looks up in the mirror and nods towards it saying, “I think the guy with his hand on her butt may have dibs,” and goes back to his beer, never really even looking up. He’s being himself.

Pancho falls in love about twice a day, sometimes more. He can’t help it, he’s just that way. If she’s pretty, or ugly; if she’s thin, or fat; if she’s a rocket scientist, or couldn’t pass High School, Pancho will fall for her if she so much as looks at him. Bring him a beer, as most Beer Tendresses do for a living, and he’ll worship the ground you walk on. I have lost count of the Bar Tenders, female of course, that he’s fallen for. Fortunately, he’s harmless and amusing.

So, there we are, watching and drinking and laughing at how serious some guys take the game of pool when Pancho gets up, walks over to his latest object of affection, and starts talking to her.

Cat looks at me, I look back at him, and he says, “My turn or yours?”

“Yours,” I answer. “I had him back at the place with the skinny blonde he liked, remember?”

He sighs and says, “How can you tell them apart? There’ve been so many it’s just a blur.”

As I mentioned, Pancho is prone to instant infatuation. As a rule this poses no problem. He’s not rude or crude, just a little schlurry sometimes. The thing is, and I must admit we do encourage him a bit too much sometimes, some of these girls have boys who don’t particularly like Panchos hitting on their women.

It’s been about a minute or so, not too long, since Pancho started his maneuvering, the butt-fondler has returned and is puffing his chest and breathing heavily, much like a chimp, and his friend, or fellow chimp-mate, has sidled around behind Pancho, where he is hidden but close.

Cat looks at me, I shrug, and without another word or gesture, he gets up, walks across the bar, apparently without any particular goal in mind, watching a guy make a nice bank shot and sink the 2 ball, sits himself on a stool a few feet away from Pancho, close to the guy who had snuck up behind him, and watches.

I watch him watching, knowing in advance what’s going to happen. The chest puffer will either go back to his game, realizing that Pancho is no threat, or he’ll take a swing at Pancho.

There are only a half dozen guys at that end of the room so I just stay where I am and watch it unfold.

No one has noticed that Cat moved over there. They’re all concentrating on the game or the flared nostrils and steaming ears of Mr. TeenyWeeny, who is rather comical in his efforts to intimidate Pancho. Chest out, rocking on his feet, pool cue held across his body, does it get any more classic?

As usual, Pancho has no idea. He is clueless not only that he is irritating the heck out of Mr. TW, but he has no idea that Cat is so close. He rarely does. It’s one of the reasons we like him.

Cat just sits there, a couple hundred pounds of real quiet guy, watching the game, the kids, and the genius behind Pancho who has no clue that he has not only been made, but nullified, should the situation call for it.
It’s a game, but a very serious one. Cat really seems to enjoy it a bit more than he should.

Finally Mr. TeenyWeeny shoots what can only be called a very unfriendly glare at Pancho, surely meant to wound him most visciously, flares his nostrils a time or two, snorts once more for good measure, and retreats back to his game, pointedly not looking back over his shoulder to see what Pancho is doing in reaction to this awesome display of masculinity and machismo.

Pancho, of course, is talking to the girl before Mr. TW has finished his turn. She, of course, turns down his invitation to join him, his offer to buy her a drink and declines to give him her number.

Cat, of course, watched it all with a casual disinterest that is truly amazing. If you didn’t know him, you would have no clue how keenly attuned he was to everyone around him. The sneaking genius has never been a threat, bottle in hand or no. The pair in the corner would not have gotten involved even though the male part of that pair came in with Mr. Teeny; they would have had to disentangle their tonsils to do that, which hadn’t been done in the last hour and everyone else was either too drunk, or just knew better.

He’s funny that way, Cat is. He can read people fast and accurate. And for some reason, he likes Pancho. Something about Pancho’s brother that died being an old old friend or something, I’ve never really gotten the whole story. Cat kinda keeps things to himself. But, he’s a good guy, especially if you like talking to the women of other, well sort of anyway, men.

Once the flames had died down from Panchos epic Crash and Burn, Cat got up, nodded to the genius, walked back to his seat, picked up his beer, downed it, and said, “next one’s yours,” like nothing at all had happened. Totally disregarding the fact that had things gone sour, he may well have had 4 or 5 drunken dipthongs trying to do him great bodily harm.

I know it’s hardly favorable odds, but I’m sure he would have gone easy on them, only breaking bones when absolutely necessary. He really was a gentle soul and really, that few as drunk as they were, wouldn’t have been much of a workout for him anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen him, in all the years I’ve known him, get worked up to the point that he’s lost his cool. Not even when Slim Jimmy sliced the tires on his El Camino for something Cat hadn’t even been involved in.

All 4 of Jimmy’s fingers healed nicely. That 5th one though, they never found it. They call him 4finger Jimmy now.

Cat never did say much about that, just that people who messed with MaryAnne, his beauty of American Made Machinery at its Finest (his exact words on more than on occasion), tended to have terrible things befall them.