Posted on: July 18th, 2010 Grudge Match
The champ was sleeping off his victory in the crushed lazy boy throne, his robe rising and falling with his medicine ball gut, while the Palooka recovered in his corner, the champ’s words beating a path through two black eyes and a soft skull.
“No pain, no gain, son.”
The Palooka shuffled from his seat, pain etched in every nerve. Dead soldiers named Bud and Miller clanked at his feet. The Champ stirred, then settled.
The TV silently blared a movie from the only channel they had: a Sunday afternoon black belt theatre extravaganza. Thank god the Champ was asleep. He called those chop suey types fag-fu fairies, but the Palooka thought they were Shaolin super heroes.
On screen was a rage-faced warrior, hands covered in metal spurs, punching with piston strength as the tacks flew off, fighting against killer odds.
A comeback hatched in the Palooka’s head.
With an old beer crate, he ignored the pain and collected bottles, one by one, ninja quiet. Each time he laid the bottles down with a soft clank, the Champ snored a little louder, until there was one dead soldier left . . . in the Champ’s closed, meaty fist.
Brave as a samurai, the Palooka grabbed a Coke bottle from the table, gripped the longneck sprouting from the Champ’s fist, and did an ol’ switchero-
The Champ grunted like a gagging walrus . . . then settled down.
The Palooka exhaled slow, gripped the crate, and tip-toed out of the room. He stopped in the kitchen, looking for anything sticky, but all he found was molasses older than God. He grabbed it, slipped on his third-hand combat boots, and took his bounty to the garage, pulling down the door and snapping the lock. In a metal trash bin, he dumped the bottles. Then he stepped inside, jumping and crushing them under his boots.
Bellows and screams erupted from house. The Champ was up. The Palooka crushed and crushed. Hammer fists gonged the garage door. “Quit that racket, you sneaky shit!”
The Palooka climbed out. The bottom of the can was rife with brown and green shards, a million tiny spurs, each a painful snowflake. “Make me,” said the Palooka.
There was a jingle of keys. The Palooka covered his hands in molasses, took a deep breath, and dove his hands in the bin. The door rolled up as he screamed.
The Champ’s robe flapped in the wind. He pushed his combover back in place, then saw the Palooka. “Jesus,” said the Champ. “What kind of freak are you?”
Blood ran down the Palooka’s arms as thick as the red robes of a Shaolin warrior. The fresh pain was slick and bright, clearing the old bruises from his head. “What is it you say, Champ? No pain, no gain.”
The Palooka charged, throwing fists instead of putting up his guard, driving punches and kicks and watching the Champ’s blood fly for a change. No more waltzing backward to the beat of another man’s knuckles. He was gunning forward, a savage dance that turned the concrete red and slippery. The Champ did a hangover shuffle and fell on his back, dodging like a fairy-fag-fu-master.
But the Palooka picked him up, fists meaty red and brown and sparkling with shards. “Who’s smiling now, champ? Who’s smiling now!”
He cracked him with a combo he’d seen a thousand times in reverse and the bone and glass tore the Champ to shreds. All that was left was an ugly mug, torn and frayed, lying at his feet.
Dripping with victory, the Palooka stumbled outside and slammed the garage door shut. Inside, he fell into the victory throne and jammed the remote with his mashed hand. Sound crackled from the TV. The Black Belt movie flooded in as blood flowed out. He sank deep in the chair, a bright river stretching out to meet the TV. Before him, a shirtless master of the arts appeared in black and white and spoke to the Palooka.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. . . .” Already there, boss, the Palooka thought. “Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
The Palooka nodded as the chair waved in the brown and red sea of victory, and he drifted off to parts unknown.