The Waiting Room

By the time we returned to the lobby after collecting our jackets from the room, most of the reporters had wandered off to find something to do until the opening bout. It looked like a couple were waiting to do lengthier, one on one type interviews with Kofi, but otherwise the calm before the storm was settling in.

We piled into Doc’s car, the silence that began in the conference room still accompanying us. Doc turned the key in the ignition and waited for the engine to warm up before backing out of his parking spot and bringing us back to the road.

“Does Cara know?” he asked as he waited for a break in traffic.

“What?” I had been expecting him to ask where we should go for dinner.

“About the reporter,” Alex helpfully chipped in from the backseat.

“Oh.” Doc eased us out into traffic while I contemplated denying the whole thing. Two blocks later I realized that I had delayed too long and thus had made any such claims completely implausible. “No, she doesn’t, and there’s no need for her to. It was just a one night thing and I haven’t spoken with Samantha since.”

“It looked to me like she was interested in making it a two night thing,” Doc observed, his hidden smile revealing itself in his tone.

“Well I’m not.” I was surprised by the conviction behind my words.

“Why not? It’s not like you’re married – and she’s a damn fine looking woman, if you ask me.” Doc was really enjoying himself.

“I didn’t ask you and I don’t really want to talk about this anymore, alright?” I was coming dangerously close to whining and I didn’t much like it. “Where are we going?”

“I thought Alex might enjoy eating at Aunt Mary’s – what do you think?”

“I think that is an excellent idea.”

Mary was no relation to any of us but everyone who had enjoyed her hospitality over the years ended up calling her ‘aunt’. I supposed she was only a few years away from morphing into ‘Grandma Mary’ and I think she was looking forward to it – she was just that kind of woman.

Situated a stone’s throw from the beach, there was no menu at Mary’s cafe. If you stepped through those doors you wanted fish for dinner and whatever Mary’s husband Edgar caught that morning was what you were getting.

That day we were lucky to get there early enough to get one of the two orders of prawns that were available. We shared them as an appetizer while we waited for our orders of halibut and salmon to arrive. I was grateful when the tide of conversation ebbed back to the fight.

“So now that you’ve stood face to face with him,” Doc said as he folded his pale and wrinkled hands together, “what do you think of this so-called killer?”

“I think that he is the sort of man I will enjoy defeating,” Alex replied after giving it a moment’s thought. Doc and I exchanged quick smiles before grabbing another prawn each. “I also think that motivation will decide this fight. I am pushed forward by family while he thinks only of fame and glory. Which do you think is stronger?”

There was really no need to answer that one.

Dinner was devoured in a companionable silence and we sat around afterward, letting it digest on its own schedule, keeping one eye on the waves and the other on the clock.

Once the sun had settled into its watery bed and the clouds began to lose some of the color they had stolen from it, we abandoned our table and returned to the car. Doc brought us back to the arena through a sea of bright headlights and dark pavement, while an Ella Fitzgerald CD in the stereo soothed our souls.

The parking lot was already three-quarters full when we got back to Olson’s. This time we entered through the main doors, behind a group of four men who looked like they had been in the middle of painting a house when they realized it was time to head out to the fights. The boys working the door recognized us and let us through with a nod and a few words of good luck.

The seats near the top of the arena were mostly full as we went up the stairs to the dressing rooms. The ringside chairs stood empty, which was pretty standard for most events I’d been to; often they wouldn’t be fully occupied until moments before the main event started. The rich pricks didn’t care about the boys killing each other on the undercard, they just wanted to witness the newsworthy marquee fighters.

I let us back into room number ten and closed the door after us. We took up our previous positions, Doc and I on the couch, Alex on the stool, and settled in for the long wait.

“Let us say a prayer,” Doc said, bowing his head and closing his eyes. I exchanged a startled glance with Alex before we both followed suit. I had never pegged the old man as the religious type, but maybe old age was putting things in a different light for him. “Lord, may you bless the fists of this young man with thunder and lightning. May you bless his chin with granite. And may you bless all of the fights before his with first round knockouts so that we don’t have to wait any longer than necessary to watch him beat the utter living crap out of his opponent.”

Our three voices joined as one in response.


The End

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