The backdoor's chimed by medal slivers,
robed curtains and a promotional poster
for a welcome mat.
Inside, the medically ordered,
retired boxer jabs a hanging plant.
On the windows and front lawn
trophies with the letters scratched off
in an arbitrary slash of punch-drunk fits,
as if the reason had been knocked out
by the champ of Cubism.
I pull up with my delivery
and start to knock
when his deep-cratered forehead
pops into the side window and startles me.
Curious how filling something
that was immediately empty
produces both fear and excitement,
a sort of one-two combination
to the gut and temple.
He opens the door
and his expression changes
from blank, cloudy
to animated, sunny.
His shoelaces as untied
as his thoughts, and I look to him
like his long-dead corner man
who used to do his grocery shopping.
So why am I doing it incorrectly.
The cans go behind the paper
so his knuckles won't bleed
when he spars with the bags.
The glass eye jammed between
the permanently swollen cheek
tracking me all the while
as he leads me toward the refrigerator.
Which he opens with his mouthpiece
glued dentures, and another drop
of the glass eye, with nothing more
than a feign of his shoulder this time.
I begin putting his steaks away
but he makes me stop
so I can place each one on his face
and he thus can sense their quality,
then the story rabbit punches.
Frail, half-Asian, 6 foot tall, 130 pounds,
blunt shaved hammer for a head, anti-muscled,
fists too large and mangled by drinking
to fit into most standard gloves,
brain too small, ambition
a lump of the orphanage's porridge,
and before he got a chance to hear his name
through the ringside speakers,
he was choking on canvass,
and they scooped him up
into one of those kind of buckets
you spit into between rounds.
The promoter rubbed on him
so the pen would steady
while he signed away
his career and legal rights,
and I walk toward the groceries again because,
sad or not, there's dozens of others
whose ice cream I got sitting in my backseat,
waiting for their bags full of
instant and unconditional company.
Still there's something
slowing my movements,
maybe its how he wears his hand-sewn robe
with the glittering letters around the house,
and his fists are taped.
Maybe it's the curiosity of what those red marks
on the tape are from,
or how every shadow makes him flinch
and he takes a swipe.
The stereo is stuck on grainy entrance music,
something teenagers would record in their basement
that relapse him toward the end
when the trumpet hits its high note,
into a salute and bow, which he repeats
in a counter clockwise motion twice over.
And I keep putting away cans and boxes,
cramming them into the shelves
since he's got at least five
of everything he's ordered today.
Then he wants to bet with me,
says if I can go three rounds
in his basement he'll tip me a $20.
I try to ignore his monetary challenge,
turn my face and attention to finishing my task
by overlooking the offer from this guy
whose got wrinkles for bones,
crumpled newspaper for hands.
Yet my feeble spine mimics the intrigue
of someone with pockets full of nothing,
like the coaxing of an arrogant bookie.
In my mind I project the mismatch
in varying scenes of my superior mercy.
From one punch knockout
to peppering jab lasting the full three.
In this I relax slowly,
decision and outcome in hand,
the same way his promoter must of relaxed
with his escort that evening
when he knew the young upstart
would never reach his knees
by the 10 count,
bills tucked firmly in its destination.
I survey his various scars and discolorations
now that I'm intent on going through with this.
At least fifty marks dot his face alone
like the crumpled buildings of a bombed city.
I shake my head firmly in agreement
and flinch when his pat on my shoulder
is stiffer than the drink of tequila
we share before commencing.
He sets a chair for me in the ring
and after helping put on my gloves,
he leaves me there while he goes to change.
I take the seat and casually cross my legs.
The sudden lights turn my head.
He deflects them as if they were curtains
with the sweat armoring his forearms.
Then he slips through the ropes,
spinning around for the crowd cheering
in the pails and buckets,
the garden hose and the latest trophies
he's gotten into defacing.
A sharp left rings the bell in my head
while I'm still in the seat.
It drops me on my side
but only briefly as I'm soon up
to greet a combination to my kidneys.
Then there's another bell,
a myriad of brain cells going out,
and he is breathing and following the blood
I've been letting out like bread crumbs,
blows fixed on their target,
divining a rest or the end of this contest.
The cold canvass glues itself to my body.
The gravity is heavy here.
I can't see what is holding me down,
but the only thing I can lift up are my eyes,
which barely make him out
doing that bow and turn thing again,
running up to the corner post blowing kisses
to all the men and women not present,
grunting with satisfaction
like someone whose just gotten
the justice they expected
but aren't sure they deserve.
I struggle to get up
but he doesn't feel me,
and I pick myself up by the teeth
using the humiliation stinking from my armpits
to prop me against the second rope.
I aim to dart at his smog back,
to turn his head around with a right cross
and collect full measure my money and dignity.
Yet I labor in the corner
stuck between confusion, pity and respect,
so I listen again to the only thing
that has made sense in this entire incident,
the open-armed mat
and my body returns to its padded partner
of deep sleep induction.
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