When One Door Closes...

Tomas listened without interrupting, his eyes focused on the blue padded floor mats about five feet in front of him, his eyes scanning from left to right like he was reading a book. Not that I had ever seen him reading anything; I suspect he would have been too busy watching movies to bother with books.

Tomas was the very proud owner of a movie collection that ought to have been in a museum somewhere, or maybe it should have been a museum itself. His home in Burnaby was filled with bookshelf upon bookshelf of DVDs and VHS, all in alphabetical order by movie title, from About Schmidt to Zatoichi. If Tommy invited you over for the evening the question was not if you’d be watching a movie, but rather which one.

None of the boys were very surprised when Jeannie filed for divorce ten years back, but we never could figure out how Tommy got her to marry him in the first place.

“You make any decisions yet?” The question was asked over his shoulder as Tommy marched toward the stairs leading to the weight room; he never was much for standing still at the gym.

“Only to go check out what the Employment Center has to offer on Monday,” I told him as I followed in his wake. “A man’s got to put food on the table somehow.”

Tommy’s grunt of agreement echoed strangely in the stairwell, the bare cement transforming the sound into something menacing. I never did like that climb.

When we reached the second floor Jason was focusing his frustration on the medicine ball he was hurling against the only padded wall in the room. Seeing the unpleasant scowl carved into his face, I had no doubt that he was doing one of his visualization exercises - this one likely involving the face of his most recent sparring partner - but I kept the thought to myself.

“So who’s the guy that gave Bomber that thrashing?” I asked Tommy, quietly enough that anyone more than five feet away would have only heard Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride blaring through the stereo.

“Oh, the new kid? That’s Alex Denis, he’s visiting from Haiti,” he replied in a casual tone that still conveyed his real message. We’d had quite a few ‘visitors’ over the years, from various countries, that tended to mysteriously disappear not long after their arrival in Canada. Immigration officials would drop by to ask a few questions and that would be the last we heard of it.

“His hands are like lightning bolts,” I said as I watched him slide another forty-five pound plate onto the bench press bar, dark sweat glistening on his bulging biceps. “With a little polishing he’ll do alright for himself.”

“You interested in doing the polishing?”

“Yeah right, he’ll be gone within a week,” I shot back without meeting his gaze.

“Maybe so,” Tommy allowed. “And maybe he’ll be more likely to stick around if he got some extra attention. You know, show him around the city a bit, line up a fight or two, maybe even give him a nickname.”

“Like what, The Haitian Sensation? Tommy that stuff is your job, not mine.”

“Seems to me you don’t have a job right now,” he observed without malice. I finished my hot chocolate, dumped the paper cup in the waste bin by the door and didn’t comment. “It’s an option Natty, and not a bad one.”

“That it is Tommy, that it is. I don’t think I’d make much of a trainer though.” Tommy saw right through me, like he always did.

“Not ready to hang ‘em up quite yet, huh? I understand, but that will pass soon enough. So give it some time, think it over. If the new kid doesn’t disappear into the night by next Friday, maybe you and me will have another chat about it.”

I nodded and made my way to the change room to swap my civilian clothes for sweats, leaving Tommy to the business of harassing Jason and Alex. I wasn’t sure how well I’d handle being in a boxing ring without doing any punching but I suspected that the temptation to fight would wear on me until I did something stupid.

And I had reached an age that was not very forgiving to reckless behavior.

The End

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