He turned at the shout and eyed the new arrival, who stood in the dusty street brandishing a weapon.
Onlookers scattered for cover as he assessed the scene, no discernible expression on his face. He sighed.
“Violence is a last resort,” he said evenly to the newcomer. “I have no interest in hurting you. Now, that said, you don’t want to push me to the last resort.”
Undeterred, the newcomer attempted violence. He parried. The newcomer tried from the other flank. He deflected. The newcomer hit him straight on; he shielded.
Now the newcomer had him by the throat with one hand and brought the killing weapon toward his chest. And so, he resorted to violence.
With the newcomer on the ground on hands and knees, he said, “You shouldn’t have forced me to take violent action. I advise you, don’t repeat that mistake.”
“I won’t rest until you’re dead,” the newcomer spat blood.
“That’s just a figure of speech, I hope,” he said. “I expect it’ll be some years before I die, and you’re going to need plenty of rest in the meantime.”
“You’re going to have to kill me,” said the newcomer. “I’m never going to stop.”
“I’m a patient man, young one,” he said. “I happen to believe you will stop, either later today or eventually, and I’m not going to have to kill you.”
“You’re a fool and an idealist – a fatal combination,” the newcomer said. “You can’t convert me; you can only kill me.”
“I don’t need to convert you,” he said. “I just have to make sure you let us be, me and my kin and our folk.”
“Don’t you understand?” the newcomer said. “You and your kin and your folk – They won’t be safe as long as I live. I’ll make it my mission in life.”
“Yeah, well, you’re angry because I made you look stupid trying to kill me. There’s your life lesson right there: It’s stupid to try to kill someone, especially one who has the ability to stop you. Because here’s the thing: I’m not going to kill you. OK, I’ll allow, maybe you’re not as intelligent as you seem and it’ll come to that. But I’ve found you don’t have to kill someone to stop them from killing you. I’m ashamed to say I’ve maimed me a few – not many, just enough. Most people get the message then, although some, it just gets them madder.”
“There’s no difference between killing someone and injuring them to within an inch of their life,” the newcomer said.
“Oh, there I do disagree,” he said. “There’s a lot to be said about that inch.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“It’s not easy at all. I let you live, and yes, you can figure another way to come at me. But I won’t have stolen years from you, years you might use to change the world for the better – even if I can’t see a dime’s worth of value in you right this moment.”
The newcomer tried to strike from his knees and an instant later was face down in the sand.
“I do wish you’d stop trying to do that,” he said, tying the hands behind the newcomer’s back and starting on the ankles. “Face it, friend, you’re not able to kill me, and I’m not going to kill you, so you’d best accept the fact that we have to work out a peaceful way to co-exist.”
“Oh, if this was about left and right, we’d have killed each other a long time ago,” he chuckled. “No, this is an older way of living than the political yammerers believe in.”
He and the newcomer did not see eye to eye on many things as the years went by. But years did go by, and that was all he needed to have won the argument.
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Photo © Kim Ho Yim | dreamstime.com