Ladies and Gents hit your seats hard . . . and grip 'em ~
|Fighter Photo finesse ~ Jim Lommasson|
BEFORE THEY FALL
By ~ Kevin Michaels
~ 2011 PUSHCART NOMINEE ~
It was a short hook to the body that took the fight out of me. A nothing punch in the fifth round – but once it connected the strength and will to go on drained away.
The problem was that I needed to make it through the fifth round so I could go down in the sixth. That’s the way it was supposed to happen and I couldn’t do anything to change that.
Not if I wanted to get off the hook with Matty “Two Fingers” Howard.
And not if I didn’t want bigger problems than the ones I already had.
Smoke hung in the air and the arena was heavy with the smell of sweat and stale cigarettes. I leaned into the Cuban, grabbed his shoulders, and tried pulling him into a tight embrace before he could dance away. He was tall, hard, and lean - the sweat on his body glistened under the overhead lights. I wrapped my arms around him but he banged a right into my ribs that backed me up a step then shoved me away.
Two more minutes.
Two minutes didn’t mean that much, I thought. Be lucky to last until then.
Especially with the Cuban banging that fucking right into my ribs all night.
Nobody was sure why they called Matty “Two Fingers”, although I thought it had something to do with him chopping off a guy’s fingers and stuffing them into his mouth when he welched on a bet. I was into Two Fingers for a couple of grand and the only way to clean that debt was to take a dive in the sixth against his fighter. There was a lot of money on that. A sure thing and a big payout for everybody, and a clean slate for me. I just didn’t think I could make it that long.
Everything hurt. I could taste blood in my mouth – it’s a thick and acrid taste you never forget; the bitterness hangs in your throat like stale coffee then hits your stomach with a nasty kick. More blood streamed down my face, mixing with sweat that stung my eyes. I couldn’t blink away the pain burning one eye and it was impossible to see out of the other. The skin on my face felt tender and raw, throbbing no matter how often my corner pressed the cold steel bar against it between rounds to control the swelling. But worse, something inside my gut was definitely broken - when I sucked in deep breaths the pain squeezed the air from my lungs like a vice. The noise from the crowd engulfed us but all I could hear was my own labored breathing as I rasped for air and moved around the ring, trying to find safety in the distance between us.
I hoped the ref wouldn’t move in to stop it.
When I shook the sweat from my eyes it sprayed the Cuban with blood. Popped two jabs to create room between us, trying to stay out of reach while fooling the crowd into thinking I was still in this fight. The Cuban easily blocked my jabs and circled, cutting off the ring. He was fast - five rounds into the fight and he hadn’t slowed down or lost a step, and I couldn’t keep up with him. Nobody told him that this fight was in the bag and he kept hammering me like the outcome was still in doubt.
His eyes were focused and determined. Not a hint of fear or doubt in his expression. There was a look in his eyes that I recognized as something that had once belonged to me when I was younger; before time had worn away everything I owned. Before life, carelessness, and my own mistakes caught up with me. Before guys like Two Fingers became part of my world. I offered a left-right combination but the Cuban slipped the punches and worked his way closer with sharp hooks and hard rights. He found that same soft spot in my ribs and dug each punch into my body so hard that at first there was nothing, then my insides imploded as all the air rushed from my lungs. All I could do was hold his arms and shake my head at the ref as he inched closer.
Ninety seconds could feel like an eternity. Especially when my legs were gone and I had nothing left. There were no lucky punches and no miracles waiting to happen – just ninety painful seconds taking forever to fall away from the clock.
He was relentless in his assault and all I had were instincts and memories, and neither offered much help. I waved a jab and moved away, then tried hiding behind my gloves as the Cuban backed me towards the ropes.
Whatever will I had left to fight disappeared, and in each shot I felt every punch I had ever taken. There was no place to run, nowhere to hide, and nothing else I could do. In that instant I saw myself for what I was – a tired, beaten fighter suddenly too many bouts past his prime. Holding on to a dream, and holding on to something from the past, that was no longer mine to own. All that potential of youth was gone - if it had ever really been there the way I had fooled myself into believing it was. I should have realized the truth before I ever got into the ring - I was just a stepping stone on somebody else’s path.
Nothing more than a player in Two Fingers’ game.
Two quick jabs came at me then a right over the top. The Cuban whacked my arms and brought an uppercut between my gloves that slammed into my chin. By then I had lost the ability to connect thoughts with actions, and in a dozen different ways I felt helpless against each punch he threw.
I didn’t want to look foolish. There were too many people watching – too much shame and indignity to go out that way. I had known for a long time that I would never get that title shot, no matter how many hours I spent sweating in the gym, pushing my body past limits I never knew existed, and struggling through meaningless fights under the harsh stares of apathetic crowds. I would never go out on top as champion. I had planned to take a solid shot early in the sixth then drop to one knee, letting the ref count me out. There was dignity and grace in that – no shame in a warrior who couldn’t go on. I didn’t want to be one of those guys grabbing for the ropes in desperation, legs splayed in different directions, trying to find something solid underfoot to remain upright. Lurching and staggering from side to side, arms flailing like windmills. Eyes glazed and watery. Punch-drunk. Sad, beaten, and pathetic.
I didn’t want to be exposed like that. I didn’t want to look like another palooka in Loserville.
Sixty seconds left in the round.
I just wanted to hang on that long.
© Pushcart Nominee ~ KEVIN MICHAELS
Written for NOVEMBER goes NOIR ~ AT THE BIJOU
You can read the story here
Thanks very much.
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Speaking of which, I was enchanted with this photographer while putting together this show:
|Superb fight photos punch out|
photographer Jim Lommasson's book
Authors and Art are genuine knockouts, aren't they?
Watch for fellow showman, the BISH as the next bell rings,
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cold cunning Crime Scenes
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Every other day that's November . . . decking NOIR NOEL into December
Nigel Bird ... Matt Hilton ... Ian Ayris ... Paul Brazill ...
Steven Miscandlon ... Jeanette Cheezum ... BR Stateham ...
Julian Bramwell Slater ... Sal Buttaci... Kevin J Mackey ...
Helen Howell ... Luca Veste ... Christina Vincent ...
Charlie Wade ... Darren Sant ... Aidan Fritz ...
Lily Childs ... Zelda Martin ... Vic Watson ...
a Rex Pickett surprise ...
AT THE BIJOU'S Harry B Sanderford ... Matthew Magda ...
plus return appearances by our masters of the ceremonious ~
Kevin MadDog Michaels and Absolutely*Kate ...
Why ~ Who knows who's getting into the act? . . .
RAYMOND CHANDLER may be channeled!