Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Two
Boxer — Part Two
by John Kraft
“You’re either at the table or on the menu.” — Al Capone
And that was where Mike Walker came in. He was a fan of The Sweet Science. He’d liked watching Terry fight because he knew it wasn’t just “entertainment.” He respected Terry’s work as a boxer and rewarded him by throwing some jobs his way. Mike Walker had a “Private Security” business. He was an ex-cop, a bad one, who did background checks, provided an extra pair of eyes for shopkeepers when inventories grew legs, and he collected overdue debts. Terry Jarosz entered the picture when payments got slippery.
With ninety-five out of a hundred people who missed a payment or two it was just one look at Terry and wallets opened up. With the other five per cent – they got stupid before their money finally came across the desk. Stupid is what sent Terry to see Doc. Doc never charged Terry for helping him. He knew that The Rules were never fair for either of them.
This morning he was at Doc’s at 3 AM because he had to do his damndest on two guys. He got the money but he also got cut up pretty bad. When it’s two against one you pull out all the tricks that The Ring didn’t allow.
As the months passed Terry didn’t think much more about what he was doing for a living. It all became a lot like his time as a boxer – nothing personal. The punches hit harder, the beatings got longer and did more damage. The boundary of what he would and wouldn’t do to get the money got farther away. Walker told him where the line was. “Dead men don’t pay up.”
“A man’s gotta eat.” — Terry Jarosz
“Was tonight another job for Mike Walker?”
“Yeah, Doc. One of the guys tried to… he pulled a knife on me. For three grand he pulls a knife. It was just business up until then. There was no call for that. He had the money. He wasn’t hurting.”
“Is he hurting now, Terry?”
“Nah. Once he wakes up he will though. There was no need for that tonight. Are we almost done here?”
Yeah, Terry, we’re done here, but your hand is going to swell some. I can’t do anything about that.”
“I know. So, for a few days I’ll be a Leftie. I’ll take it easy. I’ll let my girl hover over me for a while. She likes that. OK, Doc, what do I owe you?”
“Same as last time – your promise that’ll you’ll go to the clinic if your hand gets infected. I can’t treat that with just peroxide, OK?”
“OK, Doc. I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“I keep coming back. I can’t help it.” — Gloria Dumbaugh
Gloria Dumbaugh, a woman who had been a fan of boxers, but not Boxing. She was there when the winners drank from crystal and, for reasons of her own, she was still there when the crystal turned into jelly jars.
In the early days it was for the thrill of seeing the men sweat and struggle. They were evenings of a safe danger for her. It all changed when one night she saw the drops of blood on her collar. The men bled for her and she fell in love with them all. The boxers came and went and so did she.
Now, after too much time and too many nights cradling men in pain she was in a slow motion life with Terry Jarosz.
It was almost 5 AM when Terry knocked on Gloria Dumbaugh’s door. She knew his knock – “Shave and a haircut, two bits.”
When she opened the door and saw him, she gasped. His hands were bandaged, but his face wasn’t.
“Oh, Baby, what happened?” She reached out and softly touched his face. He instinctively pulled away.
“It’s not as bad as it looks. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
“Oh, Baby, What…” He cut off her question. There would be no answer. “Not much. A couple of punks tried to roll me,” he lied. “All they got from me was a free lesson.”
She led him into her Living Room. She held his arm, guiding him like he was blind. He let her. When he dropped onto her sofa Gloria stood looking down at him. “Your hands.”
“Just a few scrapes. I missed one of them and hit a brick wall. Doc fixed me up. No problem.”
She knew that was as much an answer as she would get from him.
“Can I get you anything – a drink?” Gloria always had something to drink.
“Maybe some coffee, Hon?’
“Sure, sure. I’ll get the pot going.”
Seeing Terry busted up always tore into her. It made her “jittery” she said. The thrill she felt at ringside was history. He always behaved like it didn’t hurt and that upset her even more because she knew that it did.
Terry, his face being swollen and bruised made her remember what she looked like when her ex-husband, a Welter-Weight who didn’t have the goods, would come home out of sorts. She touched a scar on her forehead just above her hairline. He used to hit her when he was afraid to hit who or whatever it was that he was really mad at. He eventually got shot trying to knock over a gas station. She skipped his funeral.
She made coffee for Terry and opened a fresh bottle of gin for herself.
“I gotta go into the office first thing in the morning,” Terry called from the other room.
“Ok, Terry, but hush up. You’ll wake the neighbors.” She poured the coffee, put in two sugars for him, another shot for herself.
When she went back into the other room with a mug of black coffee Terry was out cold, asleep. Sleep was always the best pain killer.