Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 26) Secondhand Redemption
Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: THEMED WORDLIST – Fist, Jab, Knuckle, Spirit, Fighter, Rhythm
Word Count: 1500
Deadline: 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.)