Dear God, Parnell prayed, give me a rematch with Blue Rivers. Make such a fight possible. My body is hard and elemental, Billy Farts says. I have no distracting thoughts. I am focused on my daily program. I work. I sleep. I eat. I train. I often think of this one loss in my career. How do I rectify it, Billy Farts has asked me. How to rectify it. Dear God. If there are women to see, I date them. Sometimes I go to bed with them. Often I say good-night and go home with a peck on the cheek. Once in awhile, I have another professional fight. Then I rest afterward. I rest even when it is not Sunday. This is how fighters live, dear God. We rest after we fight, sometimes for a week or two or even a few months if our bodies are really tired and beat up. When the aches and pains leave my body, I return to the gym. I spar with ranked fighters and even champions. I become their sparring partner. I am not a fancy guy. I don’t put on any airs. Even though I am looking for a ranking, I will spar with champeens and ranked fighters. Dear God, make me strong and energetic. Make me an instrument of goodness and strength. Relieve me of my fears. Take away any thoughts and ideas that distract me from my purpose of fighting. I am a holy warrior. Make me scary and dangerous to my opponents, but a good sparring partner and stablemate. Let me be of service to Billy and Mike and Ralphie, I mean Penny, and the others. Take away any evil thoughts I have. I am yours to shape and do with me as you wish. You are God; I am your servant.
The Commission said that Kid needed a rematch with Blue Rivers in order to become part of the box-off for the lightweight championship. Kid was now twenty-two and one. Blue Rivers was eighteen and seven, yet he took Parnell Coole the distance. He took Parnell to the limit—and won.
—Horses for courses, Billy Farts said. Parnell is infinitely better than this shithead from Albany.—
—Excuse me, Schenectady.—
—But you were saying…—
—I was saying that there were horses for courses. There are fighters for arenas. Blue Rivers is a Troy fighter.—
—Sche-fuckn-nectady. Excuse me again, Mikey. If Kid fought Blue Rivers in Syracuse, if he fought him in Binghamton, if he met him in New York City, Las Vegas, or Atlantic City, Kid Coole would murderize this fuck from Troy.—
—Whatever, whatever. Kid would crematize this motherfuckn bum.—
—But we have to fight Blue Rivers in Schenectady, Billy. Are you saying Kid could lose there?—
—I’m saying that if I had my way, Kid would only fight this guy in any place but Schenectady. When Kid Coole dies, his tombstone’s gonna say: I’d rather be in Schenectady. That’s the only time he would rather be there. He isn’t gonna get knocked out by this fuckn Rivers. But Kid Coole isn’t gonna win on pints neither. He can’t win on pints.—
—Otherwise, Parnell Coole is going to be out of the boxing fraternity.—
—But Kid Coole be so good.—
—Which goes to show, Billy Farts said, that being talented is only one part of being a champeen. Some of it is luck, keeping in mind that luck favors the prepared. Some of it is your corner, your management, guys like you and me, Mike White, and some of it is…—
—Horses for courses.—
Blue Rivers looked a little bit like Sugar Ray Robinson. His hair was conked. He was tall and thin, wiry and very muscular and strong. He had a big, radiant smile, and he swaggered. Easy in his bones. All street. Cock of the walk. If you could become a champion on looks, Blue Rivers was the man. Blue would be the unified lightweight champion of the world. He was handsome and stylish, and he looked like a fighter from another era, like the 1940s, when there were really great fighters. It was his demeanor, Billy Farts said. It was his demeanor that beat Kid Coole that first fight. At the end of the six-round fight, Blue Rivers was the only person in the ring who looked like he had just won a boxing match. Kid Coole looked exhausted and confused, unsure of himself, certainly not a champion fighter, not even a ranked one, not even a real fighter yet.Now they would fight ten rounds. Those four extra rounds made it a very different kind of fight than the first one. Looking good would help Blue Rivers through the first six rounds of their rematch. But looks wouldn’t help Blue from Rounds Seven to Ten. This is where Billy and Mike had been training Kid Coole. If the second fight might appear like the first one through the first six rounds, Parnell Coole planned to introduce a new fight from the seventh round onwards.
—Speed and combinations, Billy Farts said. Angles. Blue can look good. But you are going to give him a lot of looks. You’re gonna double jab for six rounds, then single jab after Round Five. You’re gonna double up on everything else. One right follows another right. One left follows another left, and so on and so forth. You’re gonna give him angles. You’re never gonna be in front of this fucker. You’re gonna confuse him.
Blue Rivers had beaten Kid Coole already, so he was not sweating this fight. This was no big deal to him at all. He expected to beat this Parnell Coole easily once again. He would do the same things he did in the first fight. He would jab. Slap him around. Be everywhere but where Kid Coole expected him. He would give this Kid Coole angles. He would smack smack smack, then be out of there. He would tease him with his long reach, holding him off like Kid Coole was a little bratty kid.
Horses for courses, Billy Farts said, and Blue Rivers was a fighter made for Schenectady.
Kid’s hands were taped by Billy Faherty in front of an assistant commissioner who signed the tape. But they were not exactly in Madison Square Garden. He was fighting upstate still. It was a makeshift arena in Schenectady, nowhere nearer the City than his other fights, and yet even people from the City had come upstate to see this fight. The bout would be written about in the New York City papers the next day. ESPN was to video-tape it, possibly to run it the following week if time allowed in one of their other fight-nights.
—Don’t wash your hands, Mike White joked.
But Parnell Coole did not feel like joking. He was irritable with everyone.
Nothing pleased Kid before a big fight. He didn’t even like Gladiola. Didn’t like her kid Kerry. He didn’t like Mr. Kim from the plastics factory where he worked occasionally. Didn’t like Mrs. Kim and her fuckn kimchee. Didn’t like Sticks or Leathe or anything in the river valley where he lived. Kid didn’t like the food in the hotel restaurants. He didn’t like the waiters or waitresses or even the busboys. Didn’t like the bed. The elevators. The patterns on the rugs. The paint on the walls.
—I want you to stick and move, Billy Faherty said.
Mike White kneaded Kid’s shoulders.
—I’m going to fight him, Kid said.
Billy Farts looked from Kid to Mike White and he shrugged his shoulders as if to say,
—What am I going to do?—
Then Billy got down to business. He put his face close to the Kid’s. He stuck his finger out and nearly poked his fighter in the eye as he waved it to make his point.
—It’s good to get worked up before a big fight, Billy Faherty said. I like when you concentrate your energies on the match. I appreciate the enthusiasm. You’re motivated. Okay. Fighter should be motivated before a fight. I feel motivated too. But I don’t have to tell you that I’m your trainer, and if you are gonna win, you listen to what I have to say. Capish?
—What’re you saying? Kid asked.
—Jab, jab, Billy said, dancing on his toes and jabbing the air. Get on your bicycle. Move around. Jab and move. Stick ‘im. Stick him in the face. Wack him in the sides. Hit him hard. Okay. But then move away. Keep moving this fight. I’m tellin’ you. You need to keep moving, sonny-boy. You heard of ba-da-bing from The Sopranos, Billy said. This is ba-da-boom. You stick. You move. You don’t stand around waiting for the gabagoo. This ain’t a picnic. This is a fuckin’ fight. You get cute tonight, and you can forget about everything. You get cute with Blue Rivers, and you’re history. You don’t get to that champeen round one or two fights away.
Kid’s in the ring a good five minutes before Blue Rivers enters it. Blue hasn’t broken a sweat. Kid notices he’s wearing white boxing shoes with tassels. Once again, Blue looks stately—regal.
Penny White Half-Dog, the new spit bucket lady, winks at Kid Coole. He winks back at her. She is a big, pretty woman.
She mouths the word sweat for him before the bell rings. Billy and Mike don’t see her do this. Billy puts the mouthpiece in Kid’s mouth. Mike keeps rubbing his shoulders to loosen them up. Kid winks at Penny again. He turns to face Blue Rivers.
The bell rings.
Kid attempts to touch gloves when they reach the midpoint at center of the ring. But Rivers wings a right at Kid’s head which Kid slips. But then Kid gets hit with a slashing uppercut and, off balance, he wobbles backwards.
Blue Rivers jabs. Jabs. Moves right. Sets. Jabs again. He hooks a left into Kid’s side. Then he follows with a right into the other side of his body. Right away Kid has that feeling like the first fight. This guy Blue is nowhere where Kid’s punches are, and everywhere where Kid does not expect him to be. Blue is everywhere and nowhere at once, jabbing, raising welts on Kid’s cheeks, his eyebrows. But Parnell Coole cannot adjust to him.
The bell rings to end the round.
Kid looks for his corner.
He walks towards Blue’s corner.
He hears Billy Farts screaming at him across the ring.
He turns. He sees Penny Half-Dog waving and smiling to him, and he goes over to say hello to her.
He sits on the stool expecting a compliment from Billy Farts.
Instead, his trainer says
—Now what the fuck were you doing out there?—
Blue Rivers opens a cut over Kid Coole’s right eyebrow in the next round, and Mike White works on it frantically between the rounds.
The blood streams out.
Blue Rivers keeps hitting Kid Coole in those two places in Round Three. Blue wacks him there. Eyebrow / cheek. Cheek / eyebrow. Eyebrow. Cheek. Cheek. Eyebrow. Eyebrow. Eyebrow. Cheek.
If Blue moves left, Kid can’t see him. Blue moves left. He hits Kid hard on the side of his head.
Kid’s not a talker in the ring. But he can’t resist asking,
—You call that a punch?—
A big mistake.
The talking distracts Kid Coole.
Blue Rivers lands the best punch of the fight.
It is a hard straight right to the temple. A knockout kind of punch. But Kid is moving away from it when it strikes.
They say it is the punch you don’t see which knocks you out. Kid staggers around the ring until the bell rings to end the round.
He turns to look for his corner but can’t find it. Where’s Ralph Half-Dog? Where is that humongous Indian? Ralph, big and friendly, would motion him to the corner. But he doesn’t see Ralphie Baby.
Then Kid sees Penny Half-Dog waving.
—You all get your ass over here, she shouts.
He sits down.
—You get cute, Billy Farts says, you pay for it. Why are you lettin’ this bum hang around? Put him away, Kid.
Kid takes water from a sponge. Spits blood. Drinks some more water. Swallows. He stands and waits for the bell. The pounding heart quiets. He’s ready. Heartbeat from 180 to 50 in one minute flat. Now it goes back up again.
—Put him away, Kid, Penny White Half-Dog screams.
He looks at her and he winks. She blows him a kiss. Big Penny. His lucky Penny.
—We love ya, she says.
—What the fuck are you sayin’? her father asks.
—Cut the megillah, Billy says, and fight.
The bell rings.
He trots out.
Kid moves left. He moves left again. Then right. Left again. People boo. They paid to see a fight, not a modern dance concert. Kid looks like a one-eyed monster. A Cyclops. Blue blasts Kid with a left hook. Then he follows with a straight right.
Blue spins and walks crisply to a neutral corner.
The ref counts as Parnell Coole staggers to his feet.
He receives an eight count.
The ref looks carefully into his eyes. Is the fighter still there? Can he continue? Ref decides that the fight will continue. He waves Blue out of the neutral corner, and the fighter trots quickly back to center ring to pound away at Kid Coole.
—You’re down too many rounds to win this by pints, Billy says.
—You need a knockout, the cutman Mike White says.
—You need a miracle! Billy Farts says.
—Kid, I said.
—I said it to myself. I said Kid. Kid you are in big trouble. I moved to the left. He moved to the right. I move to the right. He moves to the left. He’s on me like stink on shit. He’s on me like honey on a bee’s ass. He’s on me night and day. Day in and out. Night after night. He grabs me and pushes me around. Has his way with me. Turns me into his bitch. I’m his sissy little thing. I wake up, he’s in my face. I go to sleep at night, he’s standing next to my pallet. He jumps on my back. He gets my head and twists it around like I was a rag doll.
—Try to run, he runs after me.
—Try to back-pedal, he turns on the forward gears.
—I slip, he slides. I slide, he slips.
—I throw a right; he counters with the left. His left lands right flush on my jawbone. Feels like he broke something. He got the nerve dead-on. I throw a left to counter him. He counters with a right. He lands the right right on the top of my temple. I got a headache like a Mack truck ran me over. I’m seeing double. My vision blurs. I’m trying to clear my eyes, but he keeps peppering the eyes with his jab and then his left hooks and the occasional right cross to finish the job.
—My eyebrows are swollen. They break open with a blood-burst.
—I know that my eyebrow is going to burst again any moment. The guts of my eyeball are going to fly in his face. The guts of my eyes and parts of my front brain are going to spray on the canvas. The brain matter flies onto the tuxedos of the men in the front row and down the cleavage of a woman in an evening dress with spangles on it.
—My arms are like two brick walls.
—Legs feel like lead.
—Head feels like dead.
—Heart is not in it at all.
—Wake up, Kid, I say. Wake up and get the lead out of your pants. Get the lard from your ass. Get into gear, Kid. The time is ticking down. What round is it? What day is it? Who am I?
—Quit fuckn around, Billy says. You’re wastin’ our time. This guy’s got you on a chain like a monkey.
—What I gotta do, Bill?—
—For one thing, shut the fuck up when I’m talkn. Shut the fuck up and let me talk. Two, come underneath his jab. His whole left side is open for a big body shot. T’ree, soon as you body-snatch, you’re still down there, use the uppercut. Your uppercut’s looked good last coupla fights. Use the fuckn thing. Use the fuckn god-given thing, son.—
—I hate this fuckn guy, Bill.—
—You don’t hate nobody. You just go out there and fight. Hate’s gonna drain what energy you got left. You don’t fight this moron angry. He’ll eat you alive. What the fuck round is this? Billy says. What happened to our fight plan? Where are the angles? Where’s the jab? Where’s my fighter? What the fuck is going on here? Where’s Kid Coole? Where’s Parnell Coole?
Billy’s got wild curly white hair that’s bald on top. He’s got a big, beat-up nose that roams his face. His face gets red when he’s upset. His face is very red.
—What have I told you? he asks his fighter as Kid sits on the wooden stool, getting his wind.
—Jesus, Kid, I’m through fuckn around wid ya. Either get on board or get off the fuckn bus. Get off the fuckn pot. Stop waistn my fuckn time, for crissakes. You’re gonna lose this fight if you don’t come outta your trance.—
—Okay, Kid manages to say.
—No, no, Billy answers, jumping up and down, looking like he’s going to have cardiac arrest. It’s not okay. It’s K.O. Either you knock this bumfuck out or it’s all over.
—What do I always say? he asks Mike White.
—What you say, Billy Farts?—
The bell is about to ring. Billy leans into Kid Coole, the scrawny little lightweight, and says
—I never back up unless it’s to my advantage.—
The Kid is about to answer Billy, and the trainer shushes him. Billy Farts takes the mouthpiece from Mike White with his plastic-gloved hand. He places the mouthpiece into his fighter’s mouth.
—Back up, he says, but make it to your advantage.
The bell rings, and it is such a relief for Kid to go back against the other guy. The opponent, Blue Rivers. No matter how much punishment the opponent delivers, Kid’s glad to be in the center of the ring away from Billy Fart’s angry red face and his glaring eyes and his shouting voice and his stinking breath.
—Back up, Kid hears Billy say, but only if it is to your advantage.
Blue Rivers is overly aggressive, and he’s had his way the entire fight. He bulls through Kid’s jab and he whacks his sides with the gloves. His feet are fast enough that Kid is not able to counter.
Kid’s face is red and swollen, and his dark eyes are puffy. His dark eyebrows are filled with clots of blood. His whole mouth is bleeding. His liver hurts. So do his kidneys. There is a pain behind his blurring eyes. His arms weigh a ton each, and it is nearly impossible to hold them up, to protect him from the blows or to throw a punch back at Blue Rivers.
Then it comes to him again, not as a thought in his head, but an idea in his muscles that Billy is right. Billy Faherty is always right. He is just that kind of guy, someone who it is worth listening to, especially as his advice might save Kid’s life.
Blue Rivers steps toward Kid Coole, lunges really, and Kid steps back.
Kid counters with a hard right after planting his feet, and Blue Rivers crumples on the canvas, blood in his nostrils, spittle coming from his mouth, a bubble of blood, eyes rolled up in his head.
The bell rings.
Kid looks for his corner.
He sees Penny Half-Dog waving to him, waving him home.
He walks briskly to the corner.
—STEP TO THE RIGHT! Step. That’s it. Move to the right. THE RIGHT, KID! Plant. Plant your foot.
Get out of there. Get out. Don’t get tagged. Get on your bicycle. Move. Circle. Circle. Jab. Jab.
DOUBLE JAB! YES! YES!
Kid, that is beautiful. Ain’t that a thing a beauty, Mike White? Look at that jab. Now that’s a jab. It ain’t a jelly-donut punch. Look at the fuckn welt on the other guy’s eyebrow. Look at that!
THAT’S A JAB!
What? No, no. Don’t stand there. What did I show ya? What did we do? We jab. We jab. We move. We bob and
weave. We stick and move. We move. Do the combination later. Now we stick and move.
STICK AND MOVE. THAT’S RIGHT!
That’s my boy. You got yourself in the right rhythm, Kid. Don’t stop. No goin’ toe to toe. This ain’t no
slugfest. This ain’t no disco. Hey, Mikey. Mike White! This ain’t no fuckn disco, right? We’re gonna beat this guy with our heads. Hey, ref! Wake up!
DID YA SEE THAT LOW BLOW?
Did you see it? What are you, blind, ref? Why don’tcha become a baseball umpire? Jesus H. Christ, he stepped on my man’s toe.
Defend yourself, Kid. These bastards don’t have your best interest. This ref is Bluerivers’ uncle. They’re in fuckn cohoots. That’s what they are—cohoots. Protect yourself at all times. Nice jab. Nice one again. Yes. Hook.
I like it, Kid. I like it. A cross.
Oh, my God, Mike White, did you see that uppercut the Kid threw? It lifted the other guy off his feet. A five-punch combo, Mikey, baby. Didya see the fuckn Kid? Fuck the ref. We’ll K.O. the motherfucker. Mikey, Mikey. Get the stool. Get the spit bucket, Ralphie. No, no, whatshername.
Irene. Mary. Eileen. Deirdre.
You got the Endswell? You got the water? You got the sponge? Get ready. Count down. Sixteen. Fifteen. Move, move, Kid.
Take the round now. Plant. Stay, stay. Slip. Go under the clothesline. Yes! Ten, nine. Get the stool ready, Mikey. Mike White. Ready to go. One minute. No talking. I do all the talk. Let him rest. Give him some water. WATER! Good, good. Three-two-one. Bell. Okay, get the Endswell on his eyebrow. Don’t want it opening up after he’s fightin’ so swell. Kid, kid!
Over here. Jesus.
We’re wastin’ precious time. Sit down! SIT! Listen, Kid!
No, no, LISTEN!
You’re doing okay but you gotta move more. You gotta circle. Snap the jab. Be crisp. Snap it. Mikey, give the Kid some water. Breathe. BREATHE! That’s it. Breathe. Spit into Ralphie’s bucket. Into Penny Half-Dog’s bucket. Spit into the fuckn bucket, Kid. Don’t swallow that bloody shit. Now go out there. Do what I told ya to do. Move. Stick and move. Jab, jab. JAB! Then load up. Set it up with the jab. Then unload. Breathe, Kid, get your breath. Okay, we’re ready to go. Get ready to go. Get ready…—
Kid sits on the stool. It is made of wood. It feels good. It feels good to sit down and rest. He gets one minute. Which is almost up. Get his wind. Locate the stamina button. Push it. Get going, pal. Get some water. Man, is he thirsty. Do his bones ache. Does his chest feel a pain. Like a sucking wound. He can’t suck enough oxygen into his lungs. This fucking guy. This Blue Rivers knows how to fight. But when a fighter is tired, in the middle rounds, the body tenderized by punches, he gets very sensitive. Suddenly the numbness leaves. The body loses its adrenaline rush. A fighter is left tired and sore. That’s how Blue Rivers was starting to be. He had gone from being a very crisp, good fighter to being a tired one. He was no longer in the present. Blue was back in those early rounds that he had been winning. Suddenly Kid Coole was now the dominator. He was there. Kid is there.
Kid is there in the round.
Kid jabs. He jabs. Jabbin’ to the break of dawn. Then Kid Coole goes to the body.
Here’s how it is done.
He jabs. He jabs. He moves. He looks for the right way there. He finds an angle. He sees an opening. He goes for it. He’s looking for the body, but he pretends that he’s head-hunting. After the jabs, Kid throws a left hook to the opponent’s ear. It stings. How does he know? Kid sees Blue Rivers wince. Then Kid throws a right cross with all his weight behind it.
He has the other guy’s attention.
Now it is time to become a body snatcher, time to pulverize the other human being. Take the mind and the body follows. Take the body and the fighter collapses.
Kid throws a right to the side of his opponent’s body. But he’s really looking to use the left. He wants to deliver a ferocious hook to his opponent’s liver.
When you land a well-placed punch on the liver, it feels good. At least, it feels good to the fighter who delivers it. Him? The other guy? Blue Rivers? Dude’s hurting. Shmuck’s in pain. No, no, other guy’s in shock. The body goes into shock when it gets hit like that. The other guy’s face looks like he’s been electrocuted. His whole system has gone haywire. His body is being arrested. Blue Rivers winces badly.
It is at this point that Kid throws an uppercut. But first he needs to lower his center of gravity. He hunkers down. He throws the punch upward, letting his own body rise from the knees as the punch ascends skyward. The best place to land the uppercut is right under the jawline. But you want to hit the jawbone squarely.
Kid Coole lands an uppercut. You hear the jawbone dislocate, shatter and break.
The pain between the liver and the jawbone is excruciating.
Bell rings. End of round.
They go to their corners.
Blue Rivers comes forward, lurching towards Kid Coole. Kid sets. He fuckn sets. He do what Billy Farts told him to do. Kid let dufus Blue throw the jab, slightly off balance, and Kid, he come underneath it. Kid come under Blue Rivers. Cometh the fire. Kid hits Blue the best shot of the night. The side of the body. Blue quivers. Blue shake like he got cerebral palsy. Like he Ali with the Parkinson’s shake. Blue Rivers look like he got a bad case of shits. Kid follows up with an uppercut. He uppercut him. He cuts up the motherfucker. He cuts him. Slices him up the center with that punch. Kid truly uppercut the motherfucker good. He cut upward into the opponent’s jaw. Blue Rivers seem cockeyed from it. The motherfucker be rocking on his feet, tipsy like an Irish wino in the alleyways of Sticks. Motherfucker be nearly out on his feet.
Blue Rivers try to wrap up Kid Coole.
Blue embrace the dude known as Kid Coole. He embrace him good.
But Kid Coole, smaller and stronger, rocks and bucks and fights his way out of this embrace.
If Blue Rivers holds on, he got himself a victory. He got himself a title shot somewhere down the line. Kid Coole got nothing but a lifetime of sparring sessions with ranked fighters.
Kid Coole fights and bucks and manages to throw a loopy left-hand punch, hooking it into his opponent.
The loopy-doopy left lands to cockeye the motherfucker Blue further.
Blue wobbles. He warbles. He waffles around.
Kid hit him a right.
Kid goes downstairs.
Kid hits the motherfucker with two vicious body shots. But this fucking Blue Rivers just don’t want to cooperate. Blue Rivers don’t want to go down to the canvas and be counted out. It is like Blue Rivers got more will, more determination than Kid Coole do. Blue is going to last the round, win the fight by points.
But then Blue Rivers finally accepts the consequences of the two vicious body shots, and he collapses on the canvas. Like a pile of wood. Like a ton of bricks. Like a bag of shit.
Blue is center ring with his mouthpiece hanging out on his bloody lip.
This ain’t what Billy Farts told Kid to do. But it was kosher. It was the only thing that Kid Coole could do given his situation. Kid could not put Blue Rivers away with an uppercut or a head shot. He put the motherfucker away with those two vicious body shots.
Kid stands in a neutral corner as the referee counts.
Blue’s eyes are open but unfocused. His legs are spread apart. Like he was doing yoga stretches. The gloves rest on either side of him, like he was a tripod.
Blue ain’t moving. So the ref counts him out.
Kid Coole stalks around the ring, letting everyone know how tough he is. The crowd had not liked Kid’s opponent, even though Blue Rivers was the local fighter. They had cheered Kid Coole. But now they boo Kid Coole, too. They boo him.
Billy Faherty, the trainer and manager, grabs his fighter and tells him to knock it off.
—A champeen never gloats, Billy Faherty says.
—Fuck you, Kid Coole answers.
Kid was going to gloat, to glower, to storm and strut and stalk around the ring until he was good and ready to leave. He would walk the walk, and talk the talk.
—There are other fighters besides you who have to use the ring, the referee says.
—Fuck you, Kid Coole tells him.
Kid would leave the ring when he was good and ready to leave the ring.
He was not ready to leave. He is not ready yet.
—You’re being an asshole, Mike White says.
—Fuck you, Kid says again.
—Fuck me, Mike White says. You’re the one being the asshole, Kid.
Mike White rarely said such things to Kid or anyone else. It was not Mike’s style or manner to speak to another human being that way. But he’s upset with his fighter, and he lets Kid Coole know how upset he is.
—Fuck everyone, Kid Coole says.
—It takes one to know one, Mike White tells him.
Then the adrenaline leaves Kid’s body. He stands there exhausted, looking out at all the faces in the auditorium looking back at him. The faces have a malignant cast to them, edgy and fed up with his shenanigans.
The woman in the skimpy bikini bathing suit who walked around the ring holding a big card that listed what round was coming up walks over to Kid Coole and hooks her arm in his, and waltzes him out of there, doing in a few seconds what the ref, the trainer, the cutman, and the crowd could not accomplish for ten minutes.
People boo him.
Kid tries to walk away from the round-card girl in the bikini suit, but she pivots on her high heel and spins him around. He’s impressed by her scientific mind, using a fulcrum to diminish his own power and strength. Kid asks her for a date.
—You got to be kidding, she says.
Once she has him out of the ring—and Mike White steps over and throws Kid’s robe at him—she walks away. So Mike White says
—You’ll catch your death of a cold if you don’t put that robe on.—
He rubs Kid’s shoulders as Billy Faherty leads his fighter from the ring area to the dressing room.
In the dressing room, Kid sat on the rub-down table.
—You never want to make a spectacle of yourself, Billy said. That’s how come those bozos out there were booing you. You never want to make a spectacle of yourself, Kid.
—Fuck you, Kid said.
—I’m beginning to think he’s had too many fights, Billy said to his cutman, Mike White.
—He’s all right, Mike White called back. The Kid’s fine.
—I don’t like a spectacle, Billy said. I train my fighters to be respectful of other people. That includes the referee, the judges, the round-card girl, the press, the paid admissions, the old fight crowd, and the opponent. Blue Rivers. He beat you once. He’s the only guy in this whole fuckn universe who beat you fair and square once upon a time. Just remember that, sonny. Remember that I train people to carry themselves with dignity. Anyone can strut like that.
—Fuck you, Kid Coole sang.
—Fuck you, fuck me, fuck everybody. Pretty soon you can say fuck you to boxing. If you want to get a title shot, I would advise you to change your stinkn thinkn and your fuckn asshole tune, sonny.—
Billy Farts had his fighter’s attention. Billy Farts said:
—Anger is not an emotion. It is an attitude hiding an emotion. Once the anger slips away, the cockiness goes with it. I taught you that. I have taught this young fighter, Mike, and I’ve taught him a lot of things that have nothing to do with fisticuffs. It’s about human psychology. Anger only exhausts a fighter.—
Kid sat on the end of the rub-down table, hands at rest, legs dangling, and he felt helpless and bereft of his anger now. He felt alone and scared. He was exhausted, just like Billy Faherty said he would be from his anger. Kid cried.
—It’s okay, Mike White said, patting his shoulder.
—We’re fight people, Mike, we are in the warrior business, the violence business. We ain’t pacifists.—
—Ali was pacifist.—
—But we’re talking about Parnell Coole, Billy Farts said to Mike White. It’s Parnell Coole who needs the attitude adjustment.
—Amen, Mike White said.
(One-Minute in the Corner)
No one would mistake our times for back then, but the same rules still applied when they fought each other in the ring, only now there were the press, the paparazzi, and the other media, not to mention these colorful promoters, more entertaining than dancing bears or rattle snakes, dwarfs or bearded ladies holding cards to tell the crowd what round they were about to see. The spirit of romance had been replaced by a spirit of greed and avarice, champions with the dignity of sharks. But who am I kidding, certainly not you, who know me like a worn-out old shoe.
The Rail is running Kid Coole as a serial from May 2015 through August 2016.
ContributorM. G. Stephens
M. G. STEPHENS is the author of nineteen books, most recently Occam’s Razor (2015), a collection of short poems. His other works include the novels The Brooklyn Book of the Dead and Season at Coole; the essay collections Green Dreams and The Dramaturgy of Style; and the memoirs Lost in Seoul and Where the Sky Ends. He recently completed a nonfiction work about downtown New York in the 1960s, with particular attention on the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery. Recent writings have appeared in the current issues of Missouri Review, Notre Dame Review, The London Magazine, and The Hollins Critic.