Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 26) Secondhand Redemption

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: THEMED WORDLIST – Fist, Jab, Knuckle, Spirit, Fighter, Rhythm
Genre: Any
Word Count: 1500
Thursday, April 14, 2011 about 4:30 pm.

Walter Jamison sat on the trunk of his old Chevrolet Impala watching his nephew Chuck jog off down the road in preparation for his next boxing match, a critical bout that could propel him into the big time. Chuck’s size and his steady increase in pace put images of a massive locomotive leaving a train station in his uncle’s head. Walter enjoyed watching the boy workout; he had an easy rhythm to everything he did in life making it look effortless. As Chuck ran, he jabbed at imaginary fighters in front of him with his tapped fists. His punches were quick and powerful, so much that most of the opponents he faced in the ring left it unconscious.

The kid oozed steel-plated confidence and extreme talent, which was why national promoters would be watching him at his next boxing match. Big money was being placed on him and his opponent, another supposed progeny reported to be as good, if not better that his nephew.

The morning chill seeped through Walter’s jacket and two sweatshirts he was wearing reminding him of the thermos of coffee waiting for him in the passenger seat. With one last glance at the boy as he reached the top of the small hill Walter got back in his car and opened the thermos pouring himself a cup of the hot liquid. Carefully, he willed his hands not to shake as the liquid filled up the small cup that came with the thermos. Proud of that accomplishment, he never the less knew it was a small task that was becoming increasingly difficult. While sitting there sipping the drink, Walter popped two pills into his mouth not prescribed to him but that he desperately needed, he figured it was best to get a handle on the daily reoccurring headache before it overwhelmed him.

With the warmth of the hot coffee running through his body, fighting off the chill and the illegal prescription pills he had taken standing guard against the ice picks in his head Walter leaned back and tried to sleep. He knew his nephew would do at least ten miles on his run leaving ample time to rest and let the pills soak his brain but before sleep could take him away his cell phone buzzed him back to consciousness.

“Hello, you got Walter,” he said after activating the phone. The second the person on the other end started talking he inwardly groaned.

“Walt,” the bookie Thin Pete said, “I just got word that you’ve laid a huge load of money against your nephew in his next fight. I’ve seen plenty of cold blooded things in my life but Walt, but he’s your only family. Has your health problems finally messed up your head?”

Despite the heavy duty pills Walt had taken, this unexpected call from a certified scumbag and snitch had resurrected the ice picks in his head, which were now pushing their way out from behind his eyeballs. Walt pictures the rail thin man wearing his usual leather jacket and pants with his heavily greased hair sitting in his small office. Picturing the cloud of cigarette smoke that always hung in the air around him brought about a wave of nausea that paired up nicely with the migraine. The bookie was in no way concerned about the possible betrayal, like some vulture smelling dead meat he just wanted the information confirmed so he would know where to place his money.

“Pete,” Walter said feeling the rage build up inside him and speaking through the pain, “if I even get a hint Chuck learns anything about this I will kill you. Remember, I’ve killed before and I would actually enjoy seeing your head explode in a find red mist.”

“Easy Walt,” Pete said stumbling over the words, “don’t blame me for the loose lips of the bookie you used across town. If you had come to me this would still be a secret, as for your anger buddy, it’s common knowledge that you threw many a fight for the right price years ago.”

Because of the pain in his head Walter could feel his mind slipping, something that doctors told him would increasingly happen as time went on. “Yeah Pete, but this is not my future or life we are talking about, you find a way to keep this quiet or your days are numbered. I did throw some fights years ago but you should also remember that I was a sniper in Vietnam.” Pete stammered something about taking care of everything before he hung up, all Walter could do was throw back several more pills and hope oblivion took him before the full force of the pain arrived.

Memories of Chuck as a young kid passed through his mind, the son of his youngest sister and a slime that skipped out after he was born Walter started babysitting the boy when he was about five years-old so his mom could work. At the time Walter was dealing with his own demons, two tours in Vietnam had left him mentally scarred. Returning back to the States had only made things worse, his first marriage ended quickly mere months after coming home with his wife not wanting to be the object physical abuse. A second marriage began and ended almost as quickly with Walter this time spending three years in prison for trying to kill his second wife.

While serving his time Walter found boxing, it was the perfect outlet for his rage allowing him to tame the monster he had become. After prison, Walter began a boxing career that at first showed some real promise but fizzled out after an injury. When his injuries healed he tried to return but promoters had found younger kids with more talent forcing him to take second-rate bouts and eventually dives for lesser fighters. A long series of alleyway, knuckle busting brawls for easy cash only resulted in permanent injuries that the years would only make worse.

When he finally could not fight anymore one of his buddies, an owner of a small gym, hired him as an assistant trainer, which was the time Chuckie entered his life. Walter found the boy smart, agile, and possessing a strong spirit all of which worked to the advantage of a boxer.  For Walter the boy became his last outpost of sanity and the two became inseparable with him being the closest thing Chuckie had to a father. Walter had hoped he could see the boy go all the way to the top but his health had taken a turn for the worse with the doctor's giving him about a year left to live. That was why Chuck's upcoming match was so important, that was Walter's last chance to finally get everything right for once.

The weeks flashed by quickly and the night of the match Walter found himself sitting outside the ring watching his nephew squaring off against his opponent. He and Chuck were about equal in all matters but Walter could see his nephew had the slight edge in simple desire. Chuck had taken several blows to the face with his blood spotting the gray surface of the ring but he still fought on seemingly unaffected.

The match was in its sixth round when Walter slipped his nephew the specially prepared water bottle. The kid drank the whole thing, his usual habit, and at the sound of the bell rushed back out ready for the attack. The sixth round ended with Chuck staggering from several blows to the head that physically hurt his uncle just as much.

"Uncle Walt, something is wrong," Chuck hissed over the roar of the crowd, "I can't think straight and my timing is off."

Walter quickly made a show of flashing a small penlight in both eyes to check his pupils. "Kid, I don't know," he said, "your eyes aren't reacting fast enough. You may have a concussion, it happens sometimes. I want to throw in the towel, we can always work our way back again."

Chuck froze in place, his bruised and battered face showing an expression of utter shock. "You know this is my one chance Uncle Walt, if I fail here I have no future in boxing."

The ring of the bell signaling the start of the seventh round prevented Walter from saying anything else. Chuck jumped up and again rushed back out to meet the other fighter. Less than a minute later a blow to Chuck's head brought him down for the full ten count and the ending of his boxing career.

Days later Walt approached the defeated boy about his future. Chuck was in his small apartment propped up on the couch watching television, while his face was still heavily bruised the doctor had confirmed he never had a concussion and would be fine.

"Listen Chuckie," Walter began, "yeah you went down and this makes its almost impossible for you to ever make the big time but I want you to think for a moment. You can do far more with your life than you think. I want you to be the first in our family to graduate college, any fool can fight but Chuckie here is the big thing you're no fool.

"But we never had the money for that and before mom passed away she made me promise not to join the military." Chuck said in despair.

For Walter hearing his nephew speak with a wishful but sad tone of voice caused a feeling of redemption to take hold of him. "Son about that, I've been making a backup plan and I have good news."

Hours later Walter walked back out to the street a happy man, Chuck was a smart kid and would ultimately learn the truth about how the match was fixed, by that time he would be long gone and Chuck would be safely on his way with a real life.

(Author's note: I was very rushed, so this story is botched and is ten levels under "hack" status. Will do better next time.)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hack? Are you kidding, this is a great story, very engrossing. I particularly like the way you're captured the morning in the first few paragraphs.

Doc said...

I'm with Barb. This is by no means a botched story. You've got good description, nice flow, and the language is solid. There really isn't that much room for improvement. I think you did a fine job.


Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

You know, you always provide me with that little break from 'it all' that I need. Kind of cosmic timing, too. I enjoyed . Like Oso... when you gonna be a new author... ??? Great stuff Beach.

Flannery Alden said...

Very good story. There was a lot of detail and history. I liked the ending very much.

And Barb's right, the first few paragraphs are lovely.

Liberality said...

you are just fishing for compliments dude and you got them--very nice work :)

Windsmoke. said...

Fantastic story and i must say very close to the truth about what happens in the sport boxing. I'm not a fan i prefer wrestling more action/comedy/drama in it :-).

Ingrid Hardy said...

Oh shush, you... "better next time" indeed. This is such a touching tale, and the beginning is so engaging. Loved it!

Akelamalu said...

Botched???? You're joking m'dear, it's great!

At first I thought Walt was a scumbag but his heart was in the right place after all - he just wanted Chuck to make something of himself. Great tale Beach.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

People are always so quick to impugn another person's motivation. This story is a perfect example of just how dangerous a thing that is.

Lowandslow said...

I thought it was great. And with a feel-good (?) ending, too.


Parrot Island Bry said...

good stuff... keep it up! Bry

Beach Bum said...

Barbara: Thanks, I started this one last Saturday but got a headache and had to stop. After that anytime I restarted all sorts of hassles popped up.

Doc: Thanks, lost a few ideas that I wanted to incorporate into the story. Then again I always have about two hours worth of typo correction after I publish, it was especially bad on this one with all the interruptions. Very much like now, my wife is screaming and I have to run and go pick up my son.

***Will return to responses when I get free again.***

Beach Bum said...

Gwen: You know I really need to start sending out stories again but right now its tough even to find time to write. It can be completely quiet at the house but the minute I pull out the laptop things start to happen and people start screaming my name.

Hell, my typos are enough to depress me, I found four more just lightly scanning this story a few minutes ago.

Flannery: Thanks! Enough time has passed I'd do it different if I rewrote it.

Liberality: No seriously, I botched this story, so much that had the unexpected free time Tuesday afternoon not appeared I would have probably given up for this week.

Windsmoke: Yeah, I use to be into wrestling myself, it was a riot and lots of fun.

Ingrid: I did make Walter a flawed person enough to make his motives suspect at first. I'm a firm believer in redemption, although most tend to ignore it.

Akelamalu: Thank you, had I done this right I would have textured Walter a little more explaining why he was determined to save Chuck.

Will: Now I believe I did hit the mark on that subplot.

LowandSlow: Yeah, in my mind Chuck went on to college. Of course I have a habit of leaving the happy endings up in the air somewhat.

Parrot Island Bry: Thanks, maybe all my typos are corrected now. But they seem to reproduce like rabbits.

Randal Graves said...

Boo, not even a guest shot for Mickey?

Seriously, underground economy altruism makes a cool angle.

Ranch Chimp said...

Buenos Dias Bum! ... Intense story indeed Guy ... even though I hate thinking about fixed fight's. Havent kept up with boxing these dayz as I did year's back ... but brought back old memories when several guy's would come by the house cause I alway's ordered the pay per view big matches, and they would bring by a few cases of brew and I would roll up about 30 joint's(pot) and toss them in a salad bowl for folk's to pick and enjoy!

BTW Bum ... I just done a posting dedicated to you, when you get to stop by ....

Pixel Peeper said...

Well, Beach, obviously you need to be rushed and hassled more often, because of all your stories I've read, I like this one the best.

Typos? Heck, that's what editors and proof readers are for!

Cloudia said...


Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral




TRUTH 101 said...

This was the worst story I've ever read Beach Bum. You should be ashamed of yourself. Your keyboard should be shot, set on fire, and then the ashes blown up. The only good thing about this story was it helped me throw up my lousy dinner. If I ever read anything this awful again I may gouge my eyes out. Those who don't read English are fortunate that they never may accidentally read this hackery. If bad writing was a crime you'd get the death penalty. This makes the writing of Ayn Rand bearable.

Just kidding Bro. Loved it.

RegCPA5963 said...

Hack job? I liked uncle Walt, you brought him to life for me, and as a person that once suffered from migraines, I winced as the inevitable headache was taking hold! Very nice story.

Beach Bum said...

Randal: Thanks my friend!

Ranch: One of my uncles was big into boxing and I remember sitting with him and my grandfather watching fights on regular broadcast television. Its all gone crazy with the pay-per-view stuff and even if I still enjoyed it I could not afford the price.

Pixel: My typos drive me crazy, I can reread a story one minute correcting everything and come back a day later and find more.

Cloudia: Thanks!

Truth: Thanks my friend!

Reg: I could have done better, but time just would not allow.

Angie said...

Will I get creamed if I'm honest??


Yes: it has room for improvement. But it's not botched. It is a really solid start that will become great with simple revisions once time allows. The important part--the story itself--is all there (and compelling). It just needs some, I don't know--sandpapering, you know? To smooth the rough edges. I'd love to read the finished, polished version!

I hope you don't kill me :) I really like to read what you write each week!

Joyce said...

What are you talking about? Botched? You must have sipped out of the same bottle that Chuck did. This was a magnificent character study and gave me a chill at the end. A kind of happy, hopeful, yet desparately sad kind of chill. The best kind. Brava!

Beach Bum said...

Angie and Joyce: Thank you!

Oso said...

Not botched at all, I had to know how it turned out - and anything with a happy ending where you like the characters is never bad.