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 his skin became dry and flaked. The canvas felt like concrete underneath his feet. The smell of burnt cigarettes and cheap bourbon wafted in the air. The hazy lights in the smoke-filled room that was so thick that the crowd seemed like an amorphous luminous blob that moved oddly to and fro like a wave.
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 small casino in the town of 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 worldwide via Pay-Per-View. His career had been derailed a couple of decades prior when he let his highly successful and decorated career slip through his fingers like cheap liquor through an alcoholic’s digestive tract.
A lifetime of choices brought him into the ring that night. It was not for a title, those days were long behind him. He was not fighting for money though he badly needed it despite once being one of the richest men on the planet. He was not even fighting for pride, what he used to fight for when these matches still mattered to him when his appetite for excess matched his appetite for success. 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 were patient to the point that it would only be rivaled by the most heralded patron saints or perhaps, more apropos, the man’s wife. It was not the lack of preparation or the consecutive losses that mounted because of it that compelled them to leave. No, it was his poor attitude, his temper, and his unwillingness to listen combined with his overall lack of respect and hostility toward the only people who truly cared that forced them out the door. He knew that none of them were responsible for scheduling this event.
Through squinted eyes, he made out the features of his opponent. It was difficult for him to initially tell due to the poor illumination and the blurry vision he normally experienced, but as he studied his opponent, his features became more recognizable, familiar, and 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. The first fight was shortly after he had acquired a fake ID to purchase his first case of beer for his friends and made himself the coolest ninth-grader in Evergreen High School.
His opponent’s fists were sledgehammers. Every punch bludgeoned his ribs, stomach, and face adding another wrinkle to his jaundiced skin and caused a little more hair to fall out, not to mention deep purple oblong welts. His rancid breath filled the room as he desperately gasped for air. How he managed to withstand those wallops without immediately falling was a testament to a lifetime building tolerance, the consequences of which were finally taking its toll, as even for him it was nearing the end.
Apparitions floated by his eyes as he staggered around the ring in a daze. Fragments of past hopes, dreams, and desires. He saw his old friends cheering him on, title belts raised above his head, thousands if not millions of people screaming his name. All of them move past him with the passing fancy of a gentle breeze.
Then he saw his wife, the tall blonde angel who had endured his overindulgence which led to his philandering, his lies, and his general irascible nature. What had made him cool when he was younger, what had made him the life of the party in college, what had made him considered fun to be around especially after championship victories as an adult, wound up destroying his life.
His thick gloved hands covered his ears though he knew this would completely open himself up to physical abuse. That did not matter to him as much as not hearing the words escape her rosy lips once again as it did that fateful day. Despite his efforts, they reverberated in his skull 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 affect his son and daughter. That was when drew the line and said that’s enough. She told him she was a fool to believe children were the answer to their marital problems. Hearing those words again destroyed him.
He begged his wife to forgive him. He told her that he was willing to change and break the habit if only she’d take him back. He reached for the specter and opened his arms for an embrace. He fell through. There was nothing tangible to hold. His opponent caught him before he could hit the canvas.
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 managed to mangle the relationships in his life, he would always be there for him no matter how ephemeral and temporary the relief he provided might have been. He momentarily forgot his opponent was not one to be trusted.
He was pushed callously aside and slammed by two swift punches across the temple and the back of the head. The second was an illegal punch but in this bout, there was no referee. The man’s head split open when it collided with the canvas. He vomited as he lay there. The ring suddenly dissipated and the man found himself alone in the middle an alley surrounded by several bottles of Jack Daniels. The world began to spin and he started to grow cold as he gasped desperately for breath. Desperately, he reached out for help as his vision slowly faded to black. But the world passed him by. People want little to do with self-inflicted losers such as himself.
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