Brrrrr - Brrrrr - Brrrrr.
Damn alarm clock. I hate that sound. It wakes me up like I’m in a fire station. My heart starts to racing like a dragster burning rubber. It takes ten minutes just to settle down.
Tried to catch a little nap before tonight’s fight. Sometimes I wonder what the hell has happened to my life. I learned long ago that life is lived day by day. Find some pleasure in the small things and find it every day. Doesn’t really pay to look too far ahead. You may never get there.
As I look in the mirror, I see my sorry face. Haven’t shaved in five days. Never shave before a fight. In close that stubble can annoy when scrapped across a face, especially eyes. Always keep the hair short so there is nothing to grab hold of. All my scars are well healed. Doc will fix me up good just before the fight. He’s my best friend, actually my only friend. We’re both ex-USMC and way past our prime. We served together in Desert Storm. He was the best damn medic in the Corps. He’s been my personal physician ever since. Kind of a symbiotic relationship. We need each other to keep from sliding over the edge and off the world.
Need to eat something. Fight is set for 11:00pm. It’s now 6:00pm. I get a little steak to toss in the frying pan with some hash browns. When it’s done I throw it on a plate and pour on the catsup and Tabasco. It’s my little pre fight treat. The best eating I get. Never know when it’ll be my last meal.
The fights seem to be getting tougher. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. If I didn’t need the money, I’d have given this shit up a long time ago.
Tonight I’ll pick up $750 for “showing” and $1500 if I win. Doc always gets $250, win or lose. Sometimes he has very little to do, other times he has to put me back together again like Humpty Dumpty after the fall. It all evens out. I would never even try it if Doc wasn’t with me.
Tonight I’m ready. I’ve trained hard on the mats at the Y where every bad ass that drifts into town passes through looking to test the local talent. I do my own weight workout with dumbbells. I stopped the heavy lifting years ago. Now it’s speed work with perfect form, high reps and very little rest between sets. Stamina and explosion are the secrets. As Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue will make cowards of us all”. I work the hell out
of those fast twitch muscles so I can explode again and again like a human threshing machine. I have seen so many hard muscled, power guys fade completely if they don’t win in the first two minutes. I love the “Big Punchers” with the consecutive knockouts. They have never been really tested but they get so full of themselves that they stop training for stamina and then they’re mine.
I go about 225 lbs. on a 6’ 1” frame. I’m pretty solid but I’m no freak. My neck is my power and I can take a punch. Never been knocked out but I sure staggered something fierce when I caught a spinning back kick to the jaw from that Korean kid with the steel toed boots a couple years back. I was definitely on Queer Street but I hung on for dear life until the cobwebs cleared. He backed away to head kick me again but I knew his game, side stepped his attack and delivered my own “extra point” special right up to his family jewels. He was still puking an hour later. Doc and I beat a hasty retreat as his brothers, cousins and every pie face in town looked to turn us into kim chee any minute.
I’ll go by Doc’s boarding house about 9:00pm where he’ll begin to put me together for tonight’s event. Boarding house? Well, maybe I’m being generous. Perhaps half way
house is more like it. The place is full of alkys and dopers trying to get it together. Doc gets free room and board for being the on-site medic and part time counselor. He’s a guy every body can relate to as he has seen and done it all. They even look the other way when he falls off the wagon every now and again.
“Hey Doc it’s me”.
Doc opens the door and welcomes me in. “Hey Sarge, I guess it’s about that time. You know this shits gonna kill us one of these days.”
“I know, but I need the dough. And anyway, you know I still love it.”
“I know, you’re one crazy dude. Sit down and let’s get you ready.”
I sit in the chair while Doc gets supplies out of his little cabinet. First he gets the liquid tough skin and carefully paints several coats over my eyebrows, covering the scar tissue until a protective layer is built up. I hate it when they split. Trying to see through that red curtain is a real drag.
Before I pull on my pants, I step into a custom hip girdle and rigid jock cup that Doc has constructed for me. The girdle has a hard cushioned plate for my tail bone and a jock cup that will disperse a direct blow but nothing can prevent that pain that makes you want to
roll into a ball. But, it sure helps. The best protection is not to take a straight punch or kick to those defenseless hanging oysters.
Then Doc tapes my hands to provide a little protection. These baseball mitts I have for hands are one of my best weapons. They are half again normal size and equivalent to a pair of rocks. The tape job is just to limit the split knuckles and torn ligaments.
“Thanks Doc. I got a bad feeling about tonight. I can’t shake it. Something bad is gonna happen. I’m really gonna need you tonight.”
“Man, you know I’ve got your back. Do you want me to stash my Colt in the gear bag?”
“No, they may search us going in and they have a “no gun” rule.”
“Ok, amigo, we’ll be alright. I’ll strap on Angel just so we won’t be alone.”
Angel is my custom fighting knife in a shoulder harness rig that places her right against the neck between the shoulder blades. She had saved my bacon too many times to count. Her element of surprise leveled many a playing field. Even a gun that isn’t actively firing is no match for her fury. When we connect, I damn well think she takes control.
In my jacket I carry my little “Persuader.” She is my version of a ju-jitsu pain compliance tool. Mine is homemade, a piece of steel rebar 8 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter. When clutched in my fist, she is like holding a roll of quarters with the exception of the one inch piece extending below my hand. A well placed strike with the hard edge focuses all the power I can deliver in one spot. Such a strike can easily break bone and even kill like the compressed air driven steel rod used to kill cattle. Yeah, we are ready for just about anything.
“Well, I guess it’s that time, Doc. Let’s go.”
He grabs his first aid bag. “Okay, where we headed this time?”
“Downtown, a private parking garage on Dearborn. We’ll grab the “El” and get off at Madison. It’s only a short walk. We’ll grab our pre-fight coffees at Mary Ann’s place.
Mary Ann is my current crush only she doesn’t know it, probably never will. She manages my favorite late night diner, “The Last Cup”. She always has a nice smile for me and it really picks me up. We’ve been friends for years. I’m afraid to let her know how I feel about her. Afraid it’ll ruin this perfect romance. She really seems to care. Last year when I lost bad to a Russian mob enforcer, she let Doc sew me up in the kitchen. She hates the fighting business but she respects that I need to survive and it’s my only trade.
I zombie out on the “El” sinking into a trance. Plenty of time left to get my adrenaline jacked. Now I almost sleep while Doc keeps track of the stops.
I feel a nudge at my ribs, “Sarge, we’re here.”
I come to, look around and we jump up and step out of the door. The El’s fairly quiet this time of night. Very little commuter traffic going into the Loop. All the night club action is moving to the River District. For me, I like the Loop, tall buildings and alleys. A man can disappear down here simply by stepping back into the shadows.
Couple of blocks and we’re at “the Cup”.
This place is just a little hole in the wall. Mary Ann keeps it open till 2:00am for all the night owls. It’s one of those places that are a throw back to the thirties. Four booths on either side of the front door and a long counter with a dozen stools. No fancy food here.
Just the basics and plenty of pie and strong coffee. During the day Mary Ann has a short order cook in the kitchen but this time of night she runs it alone. She keeps it real clean but you can smell the scent of frying bacon hanging in the air anytime you enter. Some guys hang around a bar, even have a favorite stool. I learned the hard way that was no way to treat your body. No, a little diner like this is a perfect hangout for me.
“Hey Doll, how are you doing?”
“Sarge, Doc, don’t tell me you have a spot in that action on Dearborn?”
“Yeah, ‘fraid so.”
“Sit down boys and I’ll get the coffees.”
It’s a pre-fight ritual. A couple cups of Mary Ann’s strongest coffee with plenty of sugar to wash down my little pick-me-up. This is Doc’s own special concoction, ephedrine and aspirin washed down by caffeine. It never fails to jack me up. I don’t need much as my own adrenaline always kicks in at these things. Put it all together and I’m 25 again and ready to rip.
10:00pm. Time to check in. Doc and I wave goodbye to Mary Ann and we hit the sidewalk. Six blocks and we’re there. Up the elevator to the sixth parking level and out.
Soon as we step out, we’re met by the security manager. He knows us well. With a nod he waves us in but not without a comment, “Hey Sarge, when you gonna knock this shit off? You’re old enough to be my dad.”
“As long as I win more than I lose and I can still walk. I’m always up for a good rumble. You know that. Besides, I love it when a new guy blows into town and thinks he has a walkover when he sees me.”
“Knock em dead, old man.”
I’m set to go on just before the main event. The card started at 9:00pm with some new comers trying to make a name. These underground fights have been going on for over 100 years. There are always kids coming into town trying to earn some dough and ride the fight circuit. They come from all over. Parole jumpers, bodyguards, bouncers and just plain bad asses who don’t care if they live or die. A few bucks, some drinks, a woman and on to the next gig. For them it’s just a form of slow suicide. Nothing left to lose just like Bobby McGee.
On the other hand, I actually train, have a plan, a personal medic and a love of life even a small life like mine.
Geno sees us and comes over. He’s been setting up these cards for the last ten years at least.
“Sarge, Doc, you’re looking good. There’s quite a buzz about your match. This kid from Breaux Bridge has been doing a lot of jawing since he arrived and he sure looks the part. Right now we’re getting more action on your fight than the main event. Seriously, how are you feeling? You’re a big underdog. I’ve been taking 10 -1 on the Cajun. What do you think?”
“Geno, I always tell you, there are no guarantees. On the other hand, this guy could be made to order for me. It’s all about how he takes a punch, cause he’s gonna get hit.”
“OK, OK, sorry I asked. Go on down about 100 feet. I’ve got a screened off area for you to get ready. We’ve got a good crowd, maybe a thousand or so and they have come to spend.”
Geno has taken a section of the sixth level and set up quite a little venue, complete with bleachers and a bar. I can smell the oil and gas fumes clinging to the concrete pillars. The black tire marks reveal years of screeching starts and too fast turns. I love these outlaw setups. In a few hours all this will be gone just as if it never existed.
We walk down a ways and find the screened off ready room. Pretty big but all the fighters are in the same area. Always makes for a lot of whacked out psycho acts as most guys try to spook their opponent. As for me, I totally ignore em, never look at em except a stolen sideways glance. Actually turn my back on em as though they don’t exist. That really gets under their skin and pisses em off.
I’m always billed as “Sarge” and wear surplus cargo pants and an old Marine Corps tee shirt with my steel toed boots.
In the tent an EMT is tending to a fighter with a couple of broken ribs and an ear hanging by a thread. And he was the winner.
I see my guy in the far corner. He’s playing Jolie Blonde on his boom box. Asshole. Acts like he owns the place. He hasn’t seen me yet so I sneak a look. He’s big, thick with a bull neck and cauliflower ears. Word is he was an NCAA finalist on LSU’s wrestling team a few years back. He has a shaved head except for a Mongol topknot. Sure looks fierce enough but that topknot is his first mistake. It’s just the handle I’ll need to ride this bull.
Doc and I find a little corner where I can relax and get stretched out. These days I need to really stretch those muscles and joints. So many guys are ju-jitsu trained and they love those joint locks.
I’m a guy who survives by having a hard head, harder hands and a few tricks these young guys don’t expect. If I can’t finish the match in the first five minutes, I’m in trouble. The stamina just isn’t there any more despite my training. But for five minutes, I go all out and I can give you a hell of a fight which is more than most of these guys can handle.
Once I’m stretched, Doc holds up the padded mitts and I get some punches and kicks in till I feel good and loose and break a sweat.
My opponent tonight goes by the name “Gator”. He supposedly wrestles gators in a little road side attraction just outside Natchitoches.
He finally sees me and hollers, “Hey you, Sarge, you, ready for your lesson?” I pretend not to hear him and keep on pounding the mitts.
Again he yells, “What’s the matter old man, you scared aready?”
Now I turn to him. It’s time to provoke him and get in his head. “You can call me Daddy,
cause I’m gonna whip you just like you was a big mouth, wise ass little boy”.
He erupts, “Fuck you! You’re gonna cry for your momma when I get a hold of you.”
I turn away and ignore him but not before I yawn big like I’m real sleepy.
I’ve got him ready now. He will come out fast and angry. I hate those guys who dance around, feinting and dodging and looking for an opening. Give me a bull’s rush any time.
Geno comes over and says, “You’re on in five minutes. Be careful, this boy is real mean.”
“Ain’t they all?”
I step into the ring, actually a circle surrounded by a six foot high chain link fence around inter-locking rubber gym floor mats. It’s better than most. Anyway, if I go down to the ground I’m going to be hurting.
As we take our corner, I can see a real commotion as the betting on this one gets fast and furious. They delay the match a good fifteen minutes til all the bets are down. I had Geno put my last $200 on myself. At 10-1 odds, I’ll make some pretty good change if I pull it off. If not, I still get the $750 show money.
Here we go. The announcer calls the match and the ref yells, “Fight.”
There are very few rules to these matches; no eye gouges, no biting and no use of striking implements. We all wear boots or work shoes. No hard casts on the hands which can be wrapped. A mouthpiece is always a good idea if you like your smile and want to keep your tongue.
Gator is wild-eyed and head slapping himself into a frenzy. I do believe that boy has taken a little “speed” for this match. Okay with me, it just means he won’t know how bad he’s hurt until well after the match is over.
Gator comes right for me but with his head up in a semi crouch and under control. I momentarily take a boxing stance. He shoots for a single leg take down just as I had expected. I let him come and then in a flash, I push his head down to meet my right knee coming up hard. I catch him flush right in the face. It stops his forward momentum and he drops to hands and knees. I come down with a full force elbow on the back of his head.
Stunned as he is, he still manages to grab my heel and drive forward into my thigh. I expect him to drive me into the chain link fence but he rises up in a power squat leap that brings his head straight up to strike my chin.
A hell of a blow but I shake it off. He has me in a bear hug and is about to lift me in a suplex throw over his shoulder when I stomp hard on the arch of his foot. I can hear a snap as the bone cracks.
He roars, then smashes a hard right punch into my kidney. He follows immediately with an overhand right that catches me on my right eye and opens an old scar.
He has me reeling as he steps back and delivers a high knee strike to my stomach. Damn. That hurts.
I move in and deliver a right uppercut to his chin with my elbow. I catch him solid and he is rocked. I reach up and grab his top knot and pull it down to meet my right knee coming up hard. I connect good. I deliver the knee again and again pushing his head down with the built in handle. I can hear his jaw break and then I feel his teeth dig into my leg as his mouthpiece falls to the mat. Two more knee strikes to his face and I release my hold and deliver a full force elbow strike to the back of his head as I drop from above.
It’s over. Gator is unconscious and bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose. It will be months before he can fight again.
The crowd yells, then boos. A lot of money changed hands and there are some very sore losers.
Doc rushes in and grabs me. We exit the ring quickly as the EMTs tend to Gator. As we pass Geno on the way to the corner of the dressing area, he says, “God damn Sarge, couldn’t you have drug it out another couple of minutes at least?”
“You know my matches are fast, one way or the other.”
Geno reaches into his jacket and pulls out a wad of cash. He peels off $2000 for my bet and $1500 for the fight. I grab it and give Doc $500 and stuff the rest into my coat.
We grab our gear and glide out passed the security guy who comments, “Sarge, you are still one bad mother fucker.”
We’re on the street in a minute and moving away fast. I learned long ago to never hang around after a fight. Nothing good ever happens. Somewhere, some one is always pissed.
I’m holding a sterile pad to my eyebrow. Pressure stems the flow for now.
Doc inquires, “Mary Ann’s?”
I reply, “Yeah.”
A couple more blocks and we see the neon sign, “The Last Cup.”
I’ve never met a woman who understood me, but Mary Ann accepts me as I am, faults and all and that is as good as I may ever get. I have nothing to offer a woman but we have a special relationship without the romance.
I guess I’m kind of a hovering guardian angel, she just doesn’t know it.
We enter and there she is. A big smile crosses her face. “Hi Sarge, you don’t look too good. Had a tough one?”
“Yeah, but I’m still walking so I got no complaints.”
“That eye needs some attention. You guys come on into the kitchen. I’ll get some hot water.”
She never asks about the fights or whether I have won or lost. She is just there when I need help.
We go into the kitchen and sit at the little table along the wall.
Doc says, “I’m going to need to sew this one, butterfly bandages won’t stop the flow.”
Mary Ann boils some water so Doc can sterilize his needles. In a couple of minutes he begins and sews me up good as new. I’m sore but all in all I feel damn good.
Mary Ann inquires, “Are you guys hungry?”
I reply, “I’m always hungry at this hour.”
We seat ourselves at our favorite place on the two counter stools nearest the cash register. We order our usual, ham and eggs, toast, black coffee and her famous apple pie for dessert. We sit and talk a bit but mostly we just eat and drift into our own private worlds. Good friends don’t need to jaw all the time. We know each other’s moods and thoughts and idle chatter just ain’t our style.
We’d been sitting there a while when I notice three ugly characters talking noisily in the corner booth. They are kinda skinny, wiry, with dirty hair, unshaven faces and tattoos showing on their hands, arms, and necks. They are twitchy and nervous acting. Definitely on something or in need of something. Meth addicts. They are totally unpredictable. Definitely people to stay away from.
I notice Mary Ann come back from their table and roll her eyes at me. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but their voices were getting louder and the profanity was increasing.
Man, I hate it when my internal radar goes off and I know trouble is on the way. I can feel my adrenaline enter my blood stream; my stomach goes a little sour, my pulse
quickens and I feel a little light headed. In a moment I will settle down to an acute state of readiness. With a little luck these fools will pay their bill and disappear into the night.
But somehow, I don’t think so. I get that feeling I had earlier in the day. Something bad is gonna happen. They just better not harass Mary Ann. I won’t take kindly to that bullshit.
I feel Doc nudge my leg. He has picked up on their action and knows from my pulsing jugular vein that I am already in attack mode. I nod. No words are spoken. We are on the same wave length.
If this blows, it’ll be three against two and they don’t stand a chance unless they are packing heat. Damn, I wish Doc had his Colt.
I know he has Angel strapped in her rig so either of us can reach down his neck and set her free. I reach into the pocket of my fatigue jacket and grip my little persuader. I squeeze her in my pocket. I am ready.
I stare blindly into my coffee and wait for the punks to leave or show their hand.
It don’t take long, they rise together and approach the cash register. They hand Mary Ann their bill and she rings it up. The tallest one hands her a $20 bill. She hits the register to make change and when it opens, they play their card.
The tall one reaches into his waist and whips out a Glock and places it inches from Mary Ann’s forehead.
“Step back from the register, bitch! If you play this right, you may live to see tomorrow.”
Mary Ann makes eye contact with me. I can see her anger. I only nod. She knows I’m in.
She steps back and says, “Take it all. Just don’t hurt anyone.”
Bad play on her part. Don’t engage punks like this in conversation. Just do what they tell you to do. You don’t want them even thinking about you.
The short weird looking one grabs her wrist and coos, “We wouldn’t think of hurting you, now would we Rings?”
Rings, the tall one, replies, “Well we could take her into the kitchen for a little one on one, get-to-know-you session. Would you like that sweetheart?”
Mary Ann’s face shows defiance but I can see the fear creep in. She answers, “Quit while you’re ahead. Take the money and go.”
Two customers in a front booth dash out the door. Only Doc and I are left, sitting just inches from the punks.
I look up and say, “Leave the lady alone. Those customers will have the cops here any second.”
The weird one pulls out a switchblade and pops the blade for effect as he points it at Mary Ann.
The tall one turns his head to me while leaving the gun pointed straight ahead.
“Maybe you should just shut your mouth old man before I split your other eye”.
Mary Ann leans just a few inches to her right so the Glock is pointing off her left shoulder. I lift my right hand holding the persuader out of my pocket and hold it at my side. I rotate my stool to face him and say in as meek a voice as I can muster, “Hey man, I didn’t mean nothing”.
Just as he smiles, I strike. I direct a full force right cross to the side of his head. All of my energy and weight come to bare as I launch myself from the stool. I make contact with the hard edge of the rebar directly on his temple. I can feel the bar break bone and penetrate his skull.
The gun fires into the wall. He drops as if shot by a high powered rifle. His gun falls under the counter away from the two punks. I know instantly that he is dead.
Doc has stood up during the commotion and released Angel from her womb. He stands directly behind me, obscured by my loose oversized jacket.
The switchblade punk squares off on me. “You’re dead, mother fucker.”
I open my hand and allow the rebar to drop onto my boot where it rolls off. Doc slips Angel into my now open hand just like a baton handoff in a 400 meter relay race. I never turn but lock on switchblade’s eyes keeping myself facing him. Doc and I have practiced this hand off from many positions. The secret is to never look down or back and give away the action.
I feel the parachute cord covered handle slip firmly into my palm. I feel Angels heat. She comes alive the instant we touch and now she wants to be fed.
Switchblade never sees the handoff. He is focused on my eyes. Eyes will never hurt you but what the hands are doing will. That mistake will cost him his life.
He jabs at my stomach like a fool. Don’t ever get into a knife fight if you don’t know what you’re doing.
With my left hand I slap his arm wide to my right. In an instant I sweep Angel on an arc into his exposed neck just above the collar bone and into the carotid artery. In less than a second I deliver two or three short jabs like the strokes of a jackhammer. His artery is shredded beyond repair and gushes like an Oklahoma oil well. He is unconscious as he hits the floor and bleeds out in just over a minute.
Doc is holding the Glock as the third punk crashes out the door and disappears into the shadows.
I look at Mary Ann and see the “thank you” in her eyes.
“Have you got any more apple pie?”
BIO: David Price is an ex college jock and retired probation officer residing in California. Writing crime fiction has been a recent hobby in his retirement. His work can be found on Thuglit, A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive at UP From The Gutter and Darkest Before The Dawn.