Preparing For War

Either the Good Lord was busy listening to more important, sincere prayers at that moment, or His answer was ‘no’. Either way, the first three fights all went to decisions.

“I could forgive them for taking so long to decide a winner,” Alex said as he paced back and forth in front of the TV while the fighters in the fourth fight entered the ring, “if they were doing so in a more exciting manner.”

“Well, that’s why they’re not in the main event,” I pointed out, my eyes tracking his progress like a spectator following the ball at a tennis match. “We should start getting you ready for your turn in the spotlight.”

Alex nodded sharply and moved to his bag, which had been resting peacefully on the floor next to his vacated stool. He fumbled the zipper twice as he tugged it open with low mutterings that sounded suspiciously like swear words.

“Now might be a good time to say a few calming words,” Doc told me out of the corner of his mouth.

“Thank you for putting me on the spot,” I replied with a soft sigh and pushed myself up off the couch. On the TV the referee was going over his instructions to the boxers in the middle of the ring. “Let me give you a hand with that stuff.”

“Thank you,” he mumbled, letting me lift the bag onto the stool. I dropped his black shoes on the floor before handing him his foul protector. “I have a feeling I will be needing this tonight.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” I said with a smile. “Just remember: even though that thing will keep your boys safe, take a knee if you need a moment to collect yourself no matter what. Whether it’s just to think things over or to catch your breath, you got three men judging you and one man reffing the fight – they will all be sympathetic.”

“I will keep that in mind.” Alex turned his back to me before letting his jogging pants slip to the floor and stepping out of them. He wriggled into the foul protector while I watched the action on the TV.

“How are you feeling?” I asked as I passed him the red boxing trunks with Doug and Gary on them that the boys had given him. I glanced at Doc for support but his eyes were firmly on the fight. “There’s no shame in being nervous – I damn near pissed my trunks before my first professional fight!”

“I am not scared.” Alex came very close to glaring at me but I let it go. He crouched down to put on his boots and I watched silently as he laced them up. “I am simply ready to fight and I am tired of waiting.”

“Of course,” I said but a knock on the door stopped me from finishing the thought. When Doc gave no indication that he planned on separating his butt from the couch I sighed and moved to answer it and said hello as I pulled it open.

“Hey dude, how’s it going?” The young man in the hallway looked like he had started lifting weights in the womb. He was only as tall as my chest but he probably weighed twice as much as I did and it was all muscle. His plain black t-shirt was doing a terrible job of concealing both his bulk and his numerous tattoos.

“Can’t complain. What can I do for you?”

“The name’s Ashton,” he replied with a quicksilver grin, “but you can call me DJ Spike. I’m in charge of the music tonight and I just realized I had forgot to get your dude’s entrance song.”

“Oh, right. No worries, I’ve got the CD in my bag –”

“No need for that, man – I’ve got the internet on my computer. Just tell me the tune and I’ll take care of the rest.”

Feeling my age once again, I passed on the name of Cara’s chosen song and he nodded his thanks before rushing back to his station. I turned around just in time to catch the ball of blue hand wrap that Alex had tossed my way.

“Who was that?” he asked as I secured the initial loop over his thumb and began to wrap his wrist.

“Just the music man,” I replied without looking up. “Spread your fingers a bit more.”

“What song is being played for my entrance?”

“You’ll see. I’m sure you’ll like it - Cara picked it out for us.” I moved the wrap back up to his knuckles and went around three times before doing a loop between his thumb and wrists. “In fact, you pretty much have to like it. I don’t think she’ll ever speak to you again if you don’t.”

“Well then, if I do not like it I will simply tell her that I did,” Alex countered, some of the tension easing out of his body.

“Trust me when I say this: she will know if you’re lying. It’s pretty creepy, actually. The kid has a heck of a lie detect—“

“Woah!” Doc shouted from the couch, yanking our heads toward the TV screen. One of the fighters was flat on his back and not moving. “That was one helluva punch!”

I finished wrapping Alex’s right hand while we waited for the replay. When it came it was difficult to watch; the uppercut had landed cleanly and with devastating force. I turned away and began the work on his left hand.

Once both hands were secured it was time to get his black gloves on. With only one fight left to go, Doc took care of the right while I laced up the left. After a couple of minor issues Alex was ready to go before the next fight began.

“Alright, let’s get you warmed up,” I said as I grabbed a pad out of his bag and placed it on my left hand. I brought it up to shoulder level and said with a smile, “Bring it on.”

Alex bounced in place for a few moments, shaking out his arms and rolling his neck, before settling to stillness. With a deep breath he raised his gloves and locked his eyes on his target. Then, without a word of warning, he snapped three jabs in quick succession.

“Nice, very nice. Doc, you want to grab the other one?”

“Fat chance,” he muttered as he returned to the couch. “I’m not crazy enough to let that man punch me, pads or no pads.”

Alex and I laughed and went back to work. As he continued to work jabs and hooks, no sweat appeared on his body and his breathing didn’t seem to change. If anything, it seemed to grow calmer.

“And that’s that,” Doc suddenly announced after Alex had taken a break from pounding my left hand in order to strafe around me. “It’s time to go to work.”

Alex and I turned to the TV one last time to see one of the fighters playing to the crowd while his opponent was attended to by his corner men. A heavy, nervous feeling manifested in my belly and Alex took three long breaths.

“Alright then,” I said quietly, slipping into my crimson jacket. “Let’s go take care of business.”

The End

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