Fiction Saturday – “Boxer” – Part One
by John Kraft
“Our words and deeds, Good or Evil, are the dishes we put before the Lord.”
— Pope Severinus – 640 AD
The light shining in Doc’s kitchen was the only light on in the neighborhood. It would do. It always has before. In a couple of hours things on the street will begin to percolate, but now? Nothing good happens at three in the morning.
“I think your hand is broken, Terry.”
“No, it’s not, Doc. It’s just scraped up a little. I’ve broken it before. I know what that feels like.”
Every knuckle on Terry’s right hand looked like he’d tried to knock down a brick wall.
“I just need you to clean it up, Doc, and tape it to keep the swelling down.” He held out his hand like it was a sledgehammer that needed repair.
“Uh huh. What was it this time, a bar fight or what?”
“Business. Just business, Doc.”
“I swear, Terry, you get busted up more now than you ever did in The Ring.”
“Yeah, well, I gotta earn a living, right? In The Ring there were rules. Now, not so much. Different rules. I tell you, it gets hard for me sometimes to understand what the rules are.”
The peroxide washed over the scraped and bloody knuckles, stinging like hell. Nobody winced.
“What you need is a tetanus shot. You should go to the clinic for that.”
“They ask too many questions. This’ll do, Doc. This’ll do fine.”
He wiggled his fingers, testing for flexibility, and could he make a fist?
“You know, Terry, that I’m not a real doctor.”
“Yeah, I know. You went to medical school for a year or two. I heard you tell it all to Dutch, my old corner man. I remember.”
“Two years. I had two years of medical school, Terry. That’s all.”
Doc was a tall and sickly looking thin man. Skinny was more like it. His kitchen was his office and, on occasion, his surgery. This morning it was a little of both. He didn’t have a license to practice medicine. That dream died after two years and a weakness for gin. He drained away until all that was left was enough knowledge to pretend. Knowing enough to earn the nickname “Doc” that stung every time he heard it.
The gin introduced him to a different level of the culture and he got himself hired on as a “cut man’ for prize fighters. His job was to stop the bleeding and make things look not so bad when the referee came to their corner to assess the damage.
Doc knows only to blame himself. One night when he can’t hide in a haze he will open a vein and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.
“I can patch you up, Terry, but Jesus, I can’t keep putting you back together forever.”
“I don’t need forever, Doc. I just need tonight. Now tape me up and I’ll go.”
“Boxing is real easy, Life is much harder.” — Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Terry Jarosz, 36 years old and at one time a boxer. Middle-Weight Champion for about five minutes, a punching bag the rest of the time. A guy who struggled with the world of rules and laws.
After too many fights the damage to his body didn’t want to heal up fast enough and he couldn’t get any more matches. Permits were denied and that was that.
A guy who played by the rules in The Ring was thrown out of work by the rules from outside The Ring. He had to make a living.
Terry had to work, but it’s hard for an ex-fighter to find any work that doesn’t call on his only skills – hitting and hurting other people. At that he proved to be better than most.
He took work where he could find it. “Lift this.” “Carry that,” and more and more frequently, “Hit him. Break that.”
When he was in The Ring it was nothing personal. It was two men beating each other for the purse, or a part of the purse, after “expenses” were taken out by half a dozen men who called the shots.
Whatever else he was, Terry Jarosz was known as a hard guy who never took a dive when maybe he should have to save himself. He learned too late that in his world being an honest man paid a lot less than the other kind.
People who knew his name assumed, that because he had been a “Champ,” that he was set financially. But people who knew Boxing knew that money had a way of walking out of the door faster than a Ten Count from a crooked Referee. When Terry “retired” he had less than eight hundred dollars to his name. At least he had his name.
That got him some free meals and a few jobs, but after a year or two he became “Terry who?” Fans moved on and real friends, like always, were few and far between.
Now, working as muscle, collecting debts, it always ended up being personal. Sometimes he knew the men that he was leaning on – again for just a cut of the money. He got 5% of whatever he brought in.
It didn’t take long for word to get around that Terry Jarosz would get rough if you tried to snow him. When he first started working as a collector he was easy to fool. A good sob story and he’d end up buying you a drink or slipping you a few bucks. A couple of weeks having to sleep on a sidewalk heating vent fixed that. He learned that in his new world there was no “Loser’s Purse.” He changed. He didn’t listen to the sob stories any more. He didn’t care if your mother was in the hospital. It was either pay up or tell Momma to move over.
“A man’s gotta eat.” That became his motto.