Boxing Shoes Needed
Again and again I told the kid: the gear don't make the warrior. Yet he still wouldn't shut it about them shoes. Boxing shoes. Said that he slipped thirty seconds into the final round against Thompson 'cause of a lack of 'traction.' Just like how his old hand wrap caused his wrist to pull while punching the bag.
And when he bashed poor Dennison onto the mat, bloody with tears and all, and not a single cheer flew from the audience to kiss his ego, well it must've been his shorts. They weren't flashy. Neither were his boxing shoes. The ref raised the kid's arm to announce him victor but the crowd showered him in boos and curses, each one bouncing right off his thick skull. While walking out of the arena his eyes kept poking at his boxing shoes. 'At least they were cooler than Dennison’s, had probably crossed his mind. When a pretty girl in glasses walked up and called him a macabre of a man, he winked back in reply.
Dennison came back a year later, all ripped and ready to deal damage. First time I saw him I choked, my face turning white as my hair. He looked like a Greek Olympian; a Steve Rogers turned Captain America. But it wasn't the body that off put me, it was his energy, his aura. Sure, his chest rose high and his chin kept up, but those eyes—Man, those eyes. They were vengeance. And when he set his sight on me, I lost balance; had to hold onto my cane. He was focused. Not on me, and certainly not on some goddamn boxing shoes.
I left Dennison's press release and drove back to the gym hoping to find my boy Johnny at work. I guess I hoped too much. The kid wasn't there. Feeling pissed, I started home, but as I passed the gear shop I saw him, his eyes fixed on those boxing shoes on the upper rack of the front window.
So I strolled in there.
Once he saw me he put on the kinda smile that makes you wanna sock someone.
I said, "You’re not at the gym."
"Yeah no shit old man.”
"You should be—have you seen Dennison? The NEW Dennison"
"Who? Oh yeah, I’ve seen him."
"You need to get back to work, Johnny."
"Lemme get my shoes first--speakin' of which, you got any cash on ya? I’m fifty bucks short."
I dropped my cane, gripped his collar, and shoved him into the wall. I cast a glance to the clerk. She was playing on her phone. Johnny tried to break my grip but I shoved him back into the wall.
"Now you listen to me ya dumb prick. You get into that ring as you are and Dennison'll kill you--he'll KILL YOU! Now get your ass to the gym!"
"Get offa me, old man! I've got a date tonight and don't wanna mess up my hair!"
"Screw your date!"
"That's the plan," he said, smiling.
I let go of the kid and stepped back, breathing hard. "Fine," I said to him, "get your stupid boxing shoes, then go screw your girl. Ya know what? Screw yourself while your at it!"
"Where you goin', pops? I haven't got the shoes yet!"—
I gave him the finger on my way out.
The fight happened two days later. Johnny got his brains knocked out on national television. Only the truly good-natured showed any sympathy, the ones who knew what it meant to lose everything in a sudden throw.
I showed up after the fight to find him unwashed. There was blood stained on his on his gloves, face, shorts, even the damned boxing shoes. His hair masked his face, and he was shaking a little. Didn't even have the guts to look at me, so I sighed, sat down and put my arm around him and handed him a towel.
"Don't worry, kid," I said to him, "You ain't done yet."
We sat in the locker room for a good twenty minutes before leaving. Tonight a drink, tomorrow back to the gym.