Final Preparations

“Oh jeez, I didn’t know you still had that sweater,” Cara announced as she shuffled into the kitchen for breakfast. “I thought I threw that out in the spring.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” I said as I patted my faded black Gold’s Gym keepsake protectively.
“You mean besides the holes in the armpits and the pasta sauce stain on the front? Please tell me you’re not going out like that.”
“It’s plenty warm enough,” I said, keeping my injured hand out of her line of sight. I needed to change the subject in a hurry – I had no intention of letting her know that was the only clean shirt I could find that had sleeves wide enough for my hand to fit through. I just hoped I could squeeze my jacket on without crying like a baby. “Are you sure you’re up to basketball practice today? I’d think going back to class would be enough stress, especially with all the work you’ll have to catch up on.”
“The game’s on Saturday, if I want to be in the starting line-up I can’t miss any practices. Besides, I need to try out those ‘sporty’ pads you picked up for me.”
I mumbled some form of agreement with this uncomfortably valid point and deposited our dishes in the sink. Cara headed to the bathroom for a shower and whatever else she did in there for more than half an hour every morning and I seized the chance to put my jacket on without a witness. No tears were shed but I had my doubts about ever getting it off again. Once she was all set to go, she grabbed her lunch from the fridge and we made our way down to street level, my hands stuffed firmly in my jacket pockets.
“How come you didn’t do the dishes this morning?” Cara asked in the elevator, still half asleep.
“Oh, Alex and I have a short training day today so I’ll be home early. I’ll take care of them then.” I did a quick comparison in my head between the costs of throwing the dirty dishes out and replacing them, and hiring a cleaner to come in for an hour to take care of them. Scrapping both options, I wondered if I could convince Alex to do them instead.
Thankfully Cara didn’t press the issue further and we made it to school without her seeing my swollen mitt. I arrived at the gym at the same time as Alex and Bomber, who were chatting pretty amicably for two guys that had been beating the tar out of each other in sparring all week. We took our time heading upstairs for the change room and along the way Bomber offered to drop us off at the ferry the next day so that we wouldn’t have to pay for a cab. I couldn’t say no to that but I wasn’t about to let him do it for free.
“Just make sure Alex comes home with a big tick in the win column,” he said with a smile and I promised we’d do our best.
After a workout that involved far more talking than weight lifting I told Alex to get cleaned up and ready to go. I found Tommy in his usual ringside position downstairs to let him know we were heading out and to request an hour of his time the next morning to go over the finer points of being the corner man instead of the boxer. I had a decent idea of what was required after being yelled at for nearly forty fights but I thought it couldn’t hurt to get some advice from a guy who’s been doing the yelling for thirty or forty years.
Alex and I made the twenty minute walk to see Doc in heatless sunshine with a chilling wind for company. We ducked into the burger joint on the bottom floor of Doc’s building for a bite to eat and to kill some time until the appointment, then took the stairs up to the seventh floor. Seeing the empty waiting room twisted my stomach into knots as I remembered what happened during my last visit and the feeling only intensified once we were ushered into the examining room. Thankfully we didn’t have to crowd the tiny room by ourselves for too long before Doc joined the party.
“Nate I’m not bloody clearing you to fight, how many times do I have to tell you that?” he asked as he came through the door with his eyes on the chart in his hands.
“Actually, this isn’t for me,” I replied, causing his head to come up like a whip. “Doc, I’d like you to meet Alex Denis. I’ll be in his corner on Saturday night for his first professional fight and I need you to give him your medical blessing.”
“Oh. Well then, that’s another matter entirely. Go educate yourself on the key issues of 1985 with the magazines in the waiting room please; there’s not enough room in here for both of you lumbering giants.”
I decided to pass on the magazines and instead closed my eyes and tried to think of nothing at all. It must have worked because the next thing I knew Doc was waking me up by hitting the back of my head with that damn clipboard of his. I automatically rubbed my head with my right hand and it wasn’t until I heard Alex’s sudden intake of breath that I realized what I was doing.
“Nate…” Doc said in a warning growl.
“I could probably use some painkillers for that,” I told him with innocent eyes.
“What you probably could use is an x-ray, you dolt – but you’ll need an anti-inflammatory to get the swelling down before that can happen,” he said with a shake of his head and scribbled on his prescription pad. “In better news, Alex is clear. I’m concerned by the bruising on his left ribs but he should be alright for one fight. Make sure he has plenty of rest before the next one, especially if he takes any serious blows to it during this one. Nobody wants to deal with cracked ribs.”
“Well you could always come along and keep an eye on his ribs and this old dolt at the same time,” I said and his eyes narrowed. “We could really use you as our cut man on Saturday night.”
“Wow, two whole days of warning? You’ve grown much more considerate in your retirement years Nate.” He grumbled and moaned while filling out his paperwork but I knew from the look in his eyes that he would be joining us long before he finally asked, “Which arena and what time?”

The End

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