Reuben R. Fleischbein, 54, a retired engineering consultant, was leaving a Yorktown supermarket last week when five young men accosted him.

"We need bread," one said.

"Well, all I have is some asparagus and Brussels sprouts," Fleischbein replied as he sorted through his bag of groceries, at first unaware that he was being robbed.

Witnesses later reported that two of the men quickly grabbed Fleischbein's arms and a third hit him across the face with a chain, according to Fairfax County police spokesman Warren Carmichael.

The five men apparently came to the shopping center, at Route 50 and Gallows Road, about 7:30 that night, looking for an easy mark. All of them were larger than the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Fleischbein. e

But when the assailant struck Fleischbein across the face a second time, the chain scratched the lenses of his new eyeglasses. That made Fleischbein angry.

"If anyone wants an ad for safety lenses, they ought to come to me," he said later. "If those lenses had broken I would have been blinded."

He kicked the two men who were holding him, striking both in the groin. Witnesses said they fell to the ground, writhing and sobbing in pain, and Fleischbein stepped over them and went after the man with the chain.

"I kicked one of them with my left leg, but I got the second one real good," he recalled.

The man with the chain began backing away, but a fourth mugger with a knife tried to stab Fleiscchbein, cutting him on one hand in the attempt.

The fifth man then punched Fleischbein in the head, but the blow didn't stop him. Fleischbein then gave one of the men he had kicked a second kick -- squarely in the back of the head.

At that, all five assailants gave up. They hobbled to a station wagon with District plates and fled, Carmichael said.

Fleischbein shook his fist at the departing car.

"This was the dumbest thing I've ever seen," he said later, at his home in Fairfax County. "I've just lost 25 pounds and I'm in great shape -- real proud about that."

Fleischbein drove himself home after the incident, and at first thought so little of it that he didnht report it to police immediately. His injuries -- two nicks on his face and the cut on his hand -- were not serious enough to require hospital treatment.

If apprehended, the five assailants will face charges of attempted robbery and felonious assault, Carmichael said.

Fleischbein said he is not worried that the muggers might seek revenge.

"Hell," he said, "I'm looking forward to finding the one with the chain. It was a link chain, about an inch to each link -- but I didn't stop to count them."