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
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
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
The coldness of the winter night seeped in through the wrinkles in the old building.
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.
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.
“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.
“Are you alright ma’am?”
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
again, and started home.
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
He glanced heavenward and his blue eyes were smiling again.
I haven't the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out. - David Sedaris