Ups And Downs

There was a lengthy delay in the communications between my eyes and my brain, so I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights for the first few seconds. Both of the cops turned to see what had captured my attention, the movement triggering something in my head so that I was finally able to process the scene unfolding before me.

“What the hell is going on?” Gregor hissed at us but my eyes and ears did not belong to him at that moment. They were the possession of the person standing to his right.

“Nate! Are you okay?”

Despite the police officers threatening to arrest me on one side and Alex battling Kofi on the other, I couldn’t stop the smile that spread slowly across my face.

“Dawn! What are you doing here?”

“Enough with the questions!” the bigger cop roared but nobody paid him any attention. Dawn, stepping around Gregor as he arrived to confront the cops, came to stand between me and Doc. I resisted the urge to put an arm around her shoulders as I glanced back toward the ring. The fight continued on as though nothing unusual was happening less than ten feet away. I saw Alex land a stiff jab that snapped Kofi’s head backward before turning to face the cops again.

“… I don’t care if the bloody pope signed your little scrap of paper,” Gregor was saying, doing his best to remain calm, “this can wait until after the damned fight is over. Are you trying to ruin me or something? Arresting someone in the middle of my main event? With all this press here!”

“What did you do?” Dawn whispered in my ear. I could tell she was trying to ask without accusing me of anything but there was definitely doubt in her voice. I could hardly blame her though; we hadn’t known each other nearly long enough for true trust to have developed.

“Remember the messenger boy Kofi sent to my gym that I told you about?” A caught a delayed nod out of the corner of my eye before continuing. “Yeah… I might have accidentally sucker punched him.”

“That looks like quite the accident,” she said as she gently took my right hand and held it up for inspection. She shook her head in disapproval while I silently rejoiced in the contact. “This is definitely going to set you back in your piano lessons. Maybe I can teach you the drums instead – you seem quite adept at beating on things.”

“You know how to play the… no, of course you don’t. You’re just being a smartass.”

“Possibly,” she replied with a wisp of a laugh. “But I’d rather be a smartass than a du—“

She was cut off by the bell signalling the end of the round and the accompanying cheers of the crowd. After checking to make sure that Gregor still had the full attention of the cops, I looked at Doc and nodded toward the ring. He shrugged, scooped up the stool, and back in to work we went.

“Hey Alex, good round?” I asked after spotting Kofi’s trainers applying ice to a spot of swelling around his fighter’s left eye.

“Yes, I think… wait, why are you asking me?” He looked so puzzled I almost laughed. I was riding the crest of a strange energy buzz that was making me feel reckless and a little crazy. “What is happening?”

“Nothing much,” I replied as I let him have a sip of water. Wisely, I waited for him to swallow before adding, “Kofi is just trying to have me arrested in the middle of the fight for assaulting Tony on Wednesday.”

“You are joking with me again,” he said with a scowl but then he turned his head and spotted the situation on the floor below us and his eyes went wide. “This is ridiculous! They are not actually going to put you in prison, are they?”

“That remains to be seen,” I replied as the referee gave the signal to prepare for the start of the next round. “I really do want to see the end of this fight, though. I don’t suppose you could do me a big favour and finish Kofi off this round?”

“I will do my best,” Alex said in a solemn tone that caught me by surprise. “For friends and family.”

“For friends and family,” I replied with a nod before rejoining the fray outside the ring. I moved to Dawn’s side and asked, “Any updates?”

“Shh, I think that guy is in the middle of bribing the cops with free tickets or something,” she replied with a poorly suppressed grin. I glanced over and I had to admit that was exactly how it looked. Gregor had gathered the police officers in a close huddle and was pointing, less subtly than he probably thought, at a pair of seats in the front row which were currently occupied by the ring girls.

“I wish you’d take this more seriously,” I admonished with a soft nudge of her shoulder with mine. “I could be spending the night in jail!”

“Yeah, right. Listen, go do your job with Alex and I’ll make sure they’re kept busy until he wins.” I raised my eyebrows and smiled. “And then we’ll run out the back door and party until the sun comes up. Now shoo.”

It’s hard to argue with a dismissal like that.

Doc had already decided to ignore the cops and was intently watching the fight when I arrived at his side. We stood in silence as Alex fired off another successful combination and then circled away behind another crisp jab. Kofi was breathing hard as he gave chase once again and the crowd was beginning to sense that the end was near. In response, supporters for both men cheered them on even louder.

“I should have brought earplugs,” Doc muttered, his words barely discernible over the frenzied fans surrounding us.

I was about to tell him to get Alex to finish things up quickly so that we might all escape with our hearing intact when Kofi made his final push. He came forward, ignoring a hard shot to his body, and bulled Alex into the corner. As Alex tried to tie him up Kofi took a short step back and then fired a hook to the ribs with what looked like all of his remaining energy. Alex’s face contorted in pain as he stumbled away but Kofi trapped him against the ropes again.

“Tie him up!” I screamed but my voice was lost in the chaos of shouts and clapping and stomping that filled the arena.

Kofi worked the body with several short punches, giving Alex no room to escape, and my heart tumbled to my stomach. Everything had been going so smoothly, Alex winning had seemed inevitable. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I just wanted it to stop.

But then Kofi connected with a massive right to the temple and Alex stumbled to the side, his legs threatening to buckle beneath him. He ended up in a partial crouch, his right knee almost touching the canvas, and Kofi moved in for the finish. With his mouth forming a shout I couldn’t hear he brought his right fist as far back as it would go and put all of his body behind the punch.

I wanted to scream at Alex to take a knee, to give himself time to recover. He wouldn’t have heard me but at least I would have felt like I was doing something.

Instead I just squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for forgiveness.

The End

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