Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fighter, Part II

Dallas "Blackjack" Price, my great uncle, was a boxer in the early days of the sport.  He and his brother left Mississippi to work in the mines in Utah.  This picture was taken circa 1917.  He was a welterweight during this time period.  The photo in the previous post was taken later in his life.  His wife eventually talked him out of the ring.  The short short story that follows is fiction.  I used Dallas as inspiration, and I used his name because I liked it.


     Dallas “Blackjack” Bond, former world light heavyweight champ, returned to New York City. Here he once thrilled boxing fans in Madison Square Garden, and here he met and married Angela Minoni, a petite dark haired beauty he called Angie.

     Born in poverty, he learned to make his way in life early.  In the sweltering heat of the Mississippi lumber camps, he swung an axe and pulled on a cross-cut saw until he was lean and strong.  When his parents died, he went to New Orleans and took a job as a longshoreman working on the docks.  There were always rough men around looking for a fight.  They soon learned the tall slender kid from Mississippi had a crushing left hook.

     “It felt like someone hit me with a blackjack”, an opponent once commented after regaining his senses.

     Angie was supportive, but the years took a physical toll, and she convinced him to leave the ring.  They moved to Las Vegas, where he opened a gym and became a trainer.  They had no children, but lived well and enjoyed each other.

      Last September he lost her after a hard fought bout with cancer.  Her death hit Dallas like a liver shot in the twelfth round of a fifteen rounder.  He was sixty eight years old, conscious, but on the canvas and unable to get up.  He sold the gym and moved back to New York in December, hoping he could find something of Angie.  It was the old neighborhood, but everything had changed. 

     The coldness of the winter night seeped in through the wrinkles in the old building.  Dallas stirred under the covers in his small bed.  His six foot two inch frame took up the greater portion of its length.  He slept in his gray sweats for added warmth.  Throwing back the blankets, he arose and shuffled the short distance to his bathroom.  The door frame barely accommodated the width of his shoulders.

     Standing at the sink, he splashed icy tap water onto his face.  He ran his wet fingers through his wavy graying hair, and then dried his face with a tattered green towel. He stared into the mirror and wondered what Angie ever saw in that mug.  The reflection of his slate blue eyes looked back at him.  The thick scar tissue drooped at the corner of each eyebrow and made him look sad.  His nose was flat and slightly crooked.  With age, his cauliflower ears had lengthened and now looked like unfinished candle wax sculptures.  The line of his jaw didn’t exactly line up either.

          He turned away and moved to the living room.  A framed photograph of a youthful Angie stood beneath the lamp on the end table.  Dallas glanced her way and forced a smile as he lowered himself to the hard floor for some push-ups and sit-ups, but his heart wasn’t in it.  He held his huge calloused hands at arms length while working his fingers to loosen the stiffness in his knuckles.  Even though his once-chiseled body had smoothed with age, it was still impressive.  He stood and moved to the window.  The sun shone brightly.  It was time for a walk down memory lane.

     He slipped out of his warm-ups and put on some heavy woolen trousers and a nice plaid dress shirt.  He drank the last of his coffee, put on his coat and hat, and left the building.  For a moment he stood on the sidewalk, basking in the contrast of warm sunshine and crisp air. Before him an ever-changing pallet of skin colors moved over the gray concrete, accompanied by a symphony of dialects. The city had its own atmosphere.  He could smell smog, refuse, and people, mixed with the more pleasing and pungent odors of garlic and onion cooking. 

     “Let go of my purse!”  A woman was screaming.

     Dallas turned and saw a gang of young punks surrounding an elderly woman who was hanging on to the strap of her purse with amazing tenacity.  He felt a surge of adrenaline as he ran toward her.
     “Let go of her now!”  he yelled as he waded into the group, shielding the lady who had now fallen to the sidewalk.  “It’s not worth it guys, back off.”

     A large young man sneered as he sauntered toward Dallas.  The others watched and grinned.
     “Looks like you need a lesson in respect old man.”  The bully threw a looping right as he spoke.

     Dallas ducked to the left and the punch found nothing but air over his right shoulder.  Instinct brought his left fist in a short arc to the young man’s jaw.  His assailant fell hard to the sidewalk.  The others scattered.

     “Are you alright ma’am?”  Dallas asked, as he helped the frightened woman from the ground.

     “Yes, I think so.  Thank you so much.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

     “Do you want me to call the police?”

     She looked down at the young man now lying at her feet.  “No, I don’t think he’ll be bothering anyone for quite some time.”  She brushed herself off, thanked Dallas again, and started home.

     Dallas thought of Angie.  She fought so hard, but he couldn’t help her.  He knew she would be pleased with him today.

     You know Angie, I’m thinking about making a comeback.  The legs are gone, the reflexes aren’t so good, but I still have my left hook.  The adrenaline was wearing off and the cold air chilled him.  I think I may do it in Biloxi though.

     He glanced heavenward and his blue eyes were smiling again.

1 comment:

  1. That was beautiful. It reminded me of my father who was a boxer in the 20's. When he was in his 60's, someone tried to mug him. He lifted his arm, swung at the guy and sent him flying.


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