The door to my house was practically obliterated when I arrived home. The window to the left of the door was completely smashed in, and I felt my pulse quicken as I saw that my dad's car was in the driveway. I sighed a heavy sigh and went in through the door, preparing for the worst.
"JOE!!! WHERE ARE YOU, JOE?!?!"
The angry voice combined with the bittersweet scent of alcohol told me that my dad was drunk, probably laying on the couch in the living room. I swallowed deeply and replied, "Right here."
The sudden sound of footsteps made me lift my head, and my eyes widened as my dad came around the corner, the front of his shirt soaked in a maroon colored liquid.
"What happened?!" I yelled, running towards him.
"Stay away from me!!" my dad roared, swinging a handgun out from behind his back. He pointed the barrel at me threateningly, but I didn't even flinch. The handgun was never loaded, I saw to that, and the front of it was still busted up in a way that would prevent it from firing. I stepped forward, my hands outward, trying to calm him.
"Calm down, take it easy, it's me, Joe," I said as soothingly as I could manage, trying to not show my exhaustion.
His expression changed slightly, but not pleasantly. He suddenly cringed, leaned over, and vomited all over the carpet. I felt sick to my stomach so I turned and took a deep breath. The beer bottle I had in my hand dropped to the carpet and shattered.
I didn't drink again for two whole months.
"Joe!" a familiar voice called.
I turned, scratching the back of my head awkwardly. "Yeah."
It was Lane Marcus, an old friend of mine from an old gym I used to go to. He was wearing sweat pants and a sleeveless black shirt. He was a little guy, but a fit one. I smiled at him and he smiled back.
"What you been up to?" Lane asked, patting me on the back as we entered through the front doors.
The place was packed full of tough guys, all banging on bags, some sparring in the arena. I took a deep breath and wondered if this was such a good idea, but then remembered why I was doing this in the first place. I looked at Lane and said, "Nothing much, man. It's been awhile. How's your girl, Lacey?"
"Lacey?" Lane looked repulsed. "Dude, I broke up with her like two months ago. Has it really been that long?"
"It's been more than a year, man. Remember? I switched schools."
It looked like everything was suddenly coming back to him. Lane nodded slowly. "Oh yeah. Right, right. You got kicked out because of some drug dealing or something?"
I swallowed and redirected my gaze. "Nah, man. It was, uhh . . . it was nothing. Stuff of the past." I forced a smile, but he didn't look like he was buying it.
He changed the subject anyway. "So, what're you doing here?"
"Nothing," I said with a shrug, rubbing my hands together. "Just getting in shape. Might try some mixed martial arts training, don't know yet."
"Mixed martial arts, huh?" Lane looked amused. "I'm actually in the new training program for that stuff."
"Oh?" I tried to act interested, but my focus was entirely on the cash register as we approached it. I looked at the guy at the desk and said, "I want to sign up for a membership."
Lane kept talking. "Yeah, dude. It's going to be sick! I'm already like in the top three fighters. I've buffed up since you last saw me, huh?"
"Yeah," I said absent-mindedly as the guy at the desk handed me a sign-up form. I leaned over and started writing down basic information. When it asked my age, I frowned and was about to put 21, but changed my mind when I realized that this wasn't like the bar where I could slip by without having to show ID. So I put down 19 and signed the bottom of the page. I slid the form forward to the guy, and he took it immediately.
"Dude, you gotta try out for mixed martial arts. It'll be tight! You and I could train together!"
I wasn't nearly as thrilled about the idea as Lane was, but I still nodded. The guy at the desk handed me a waiver, which I skimmed through before signing at the bottom. I handed him the waiver. He smiled and shook my hand. "Welcome aboard," he said.
I smiled and nodded. "Thanks."
"Hey, so where do you go to school now?"
I turned and looked at Lane, a little bit annoyed now, but I tried not to show it. "A town by the beach, actually."
"By the beach?!" Lane exclaimed. "What are you doing here?! We're like a 100 miles away from any beach! And you want a membership?! What are you --"
"Lane," I said, faking a smile, "I came here because this place has what I need. Good trainers, good program, the works. I just like it."
He didn't seem satisfied. "Yeah, but you don't plan to drive 100 miles each way between training periods, do ya?"
Lane frowned, but then shrugged. "Your life, man."
We then entered the actual gym and strolled across passed a bunch of guys sitting against the wall. One of them made a mocking face at me as I passed but I gave him no notice. The last thing I wanted to do was start a fight.
"Oh, man!" Lane exclaimed. He spun around and looked me in the eye. "Dude, it's been bugging me like crazy ever since I saw you! I kept thinking, 'Who does this guy remind me of? Who? Hmm, hmm...' but I got it now! You totally remind me of one of my friends. Come on, I'll introduce ya."
I sighed and followed him across the gym to a more secluded part where a trainer was training one on one with a fighter. Below there were a few guys hitting some bags, and one guy lifting some weights. Funnily enough, the one guy who was lifting weights also was this friend of Lane's.
"Hey," Lane said, patting the guy on the back. "I want you to meet someone. This is my friend, Joe. Joe, this is Joey. Dude, even your names sound the same, that's just creepy."
The guy stood and shook my hand. "Hey, nice to meet you."
"Pleasure," I said, my patience beginning to dwindle. I turned and looked over at the trainer. I looked at Lane. "Hey, do you think the trainer would train me just out of the blue?"
"Possibly. I think we have an opening now, right?" Lane said, now shifting his attention to Joey.
Joey shrugged. "Well, I quit, so maybe. He may have found someone else already, though."
I frowned and nodded. "He'll train me."
Lane laughed. "What makes you so sure?"
I smirked. "I've gotta good feeling."