Friday, March 2, 2012

Not Quite a Short Story: Hitting the Mat

I can taste dust and blood. My eyes won't open and my ears are pounding with my heartbeat. Somewhere it sounds like a crowd is cheering.

I manage to pry one eyelid apart. Everything's out of focus but it's clear enough that I can see the ropes of a boxing ring and a large splotch of red on the canvas. My whole body aches but I do what I can to get to my lead-filled feet. I try opening the other eye. Nothing. It's either swollen shut or I've been blinded.

A ding loud enough to cut through my pulse brings two men to my side and they help me to a small stool in the corner of the ring. A gush of water hits me in the face. The world starts to focus. There's a snap and the cavity behind my nose burns, clearing my eye but I can barely hear the men.

"C'mon, just another round! Just stay conscious for another round!"

"Gotta remember, that when that pug leans back you gotta watch for the feet!"

That doesn't make sense to me until I see that the team in the opposite corner is working on a gray kangaroo.

"Funny, I don't 'member going to Australia." I realize something has come loose in my mouth. I spit into the offered bucket. A couple of teeth clink into the bottom of it. I'm vaguely aware that I'm wearing boxing gloves.

The bell dings again and the other men slide out of the ring. The crowd begins to roar again.

The kangaroo cocks his head. I take a couple of experimental steps; my legs should keep me upright for a little longer. He bounds forward and lashes out with his right foreleg. Only the fact I stumble in surprise saves me. The punch goes wide, exposing his side. I put as much weight as I can bear behind the punch and sink my left hand into his gut. It registers and he's pushed off balance. I throw an uppercut with my right, hoping to hit him in the head. It sails wide and now I'm off balance but the kangaroo has hopped back so there's no follow-up.

We start making wide circles around the ring. The crowd is screaming.

The kangaroo feints right and like a chump I go for. It's a wild swing and he's ready for it. As I try to right myself, he's leaning back.

I see the feet coming but there's so little that I can do to prepare myself that both connect solidly, one to my face, one to my right side. The crack of bone, which is almost a nice staccato to the sound of pumping blood in my ears, sends me reeling. A web of pain stabs up my side.

He seizes the advantage. I can see the blurry punches coming but my arms aren't working. I can't get my hands up to ward off the attack. Can't even move my head.

The last blow starts the world turning and black around the edges. The canvas comes up and hits me in the face.

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