Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Out of the Blue Corner. Please enjoy.
His arms ached. His legs wobbled. His bloated body gasped in exhaustion. Both fists felt like blistered hams underneath his gloves. The lights were so bright that his skin became dry and flaked. The canvas was like concrete underneath his feet. The smell of burnt cigarettes and cheap bourbon wafted in the air.
He did not know how he got there. Not that the setting was unfamiliar to him but it had been years since he set foot in a ring. It had also been years since he fought to such an anemic crowd, probably as far back as when he was a lily-faced boxer fighting at a relatively small local casino in the Evergreen
It had been equally long since he was able to fill Madison Square Gardens with tens of thousands of screaming fans with millions watching via Pay-Per-View worldwide. His career had long derailed a couple of decades ago. What had been a highly successful and decorated career had slipped through his fingers like cheap liquor through an alcoholic’s digestive tract.
The multitude of championships he earned had long been lost. The stacks of cash he accrued had long been spent or lost. The plethora of victories he achieved were long forgotten. His lifetime of accomplishment had slipped through his fingers like cheap liquor through an alcoholic’s digestive tract.
A lifetime of choices brought him into the ring that night. He was not fighting for any kind of championship, those days were long behind him. He was not fighting for money though it was badly needed. He was not even fighting for pride, what he used to fight for when these fights still mattered to him, when his appetite for excess matched his appetite for success, not surpassed it.
Tonight’s stakes exceeded all of that. He was in a bout for his life.
He wondered who he was fighting. His trainer, his manager, his staff had all alienated him years ago, not unjustly. They had patience that was only rivaled by the most heralded patron saints or perhaps, more apropos, the man’s wife.
It was not the consecutive losses that mounted or even the lack of preparation which caused them to occur that forced them to abandon him, it was his poor attitude, his temper, his unwillingness to listen combined with his overall lack of respect and hostility toward the only people who truly cared.
So none of them would have scheduled this event and he had no recollection of doing such a thing. Arguably, he was incapable in the current mental state that he was in as he battled demons that vexed him so.
Through squinted eyes, he made out the features of his opponent. The hazy lights in the smoke-filled room was so thick that it made the crowd seem like nothing more than amorphous luminous blobs that moved oddly to and fro like a wave made it difficult for him to initially tell. Yet as he studied his opponent further, his features were recognizable, familiar, strangely comforting while at the same time harrowing.
It was his greatest rival, the one who had ruined his life. This was but one bout in a series that the two of them had engaged ever since he was a teenager, when he took a fake ID to purchase his first bottle of booze for his friends making him the coolest ninth-grader in Evergreen High School.
His opponent’s fists were like steel. Every punch felt as if he were being struck by a sledgehammer to the ribs, stomach, and face. Deep purple bruises formed with every powerful blow. How he managed to withstand those wallops was a testament to a lifetime building tolerance, the consequences of which finally taking its toll.
Every punch he absorbed with his jaundiced skin added another wrinkle and resulted in a bit more loss of hair. His rancid breath filled the room as he desperately gasped for air.
Apparitions passed him as he staggered around the ring in a daze. They were fragments of past hopes, dreams, and desires. Seeing his old friends, his career, his well-wishers, his sycophants, and his fans move past him with the passing fancy of a gentle breeze upset him.
Then he saw his wife, the tall blonde who had endured his overindulgence which led to a plethora of poor decision including his philandering and his lies and his irascible nature. What had made him cool and a hit when he was younger, what had made him the life of the party, what had made him considered fun to be around, wound up destroying his life.
His thick gloved hands covered his ears. He did not wish to hear the words again that had escaped her rosy lips that fateful day. In spite of his efforts, they reverberated in his skull, internally, as if a speaker had been set in his brain.
She finally had enough. She could tolerate a lot but when his poor habits started to affecting their kids, that is when she must draw the line and say that’s enough. She was a fool to believe children was the answer to their marital problems.
Hearing those words again destroyed him.
He called out to her and reached out to the phantasmagoria of his wife, begging her to forgive him and that he was willing to change and break his habits if only she’d take him back.
The man fell through. There was nothing tangible to hold. He instead fell into the arms of his opponent.
It was oddly comforting, soothing even, to be in those arms. Sure, the two had fought several times throughout the years but they were also companions more often than not.
His opponent never judged. His opponent never criticized. No matter how grievous his mistakes were, no matter how much he was able to mangle the relationships in his life, he would be there for him to provide him relief, no matter how ephemeral and temporary it might have been.
The man forgot momentarily that his opponent was not one to be trusted. He pushed him aside and slammed his with two swift punches across the temple and the back of the head. It was an illegal punch to be sure but in this bout, there was no referee.
His head split open when it collided with the canvas. He vomited as he lay there. The ring suddenly dissipated and the man found himself in the middle an alleyway all by himself. Several empty bottles of Jack Daniels surrounded him.
Desperately, he reached out for help but the world just passed him by. People want little to do with self-inflicted losers such as himself.
He felt dizzy. The world began to spin. His body grew cold. He gasped desperately for breath. Soon, his breathing slowed to a halt and the world faded to black.
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