Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Beaten but not beaten!

(…or, ‘The Losers’ Pride!’) 1964

I had fought him in the empty lot, off Cayuga Street. He had
       called—demandingly called—us on, one and all, anyone of us that is,
       saying: “I’ll fight any one of you right here and now!”
He was the new kid on the block.
Thick-boned, taller than I, ten-pounds over my weight, sandy hair,   Anglo-Saxton, type.
He called thickly, to one and all, we the gang had just finished a game of
       softball, perhaps eight or nine of us, circled him.
There he stood in the middle, defiant, “Well!” he shouted.
Jack said, “Is he drunk?” (was the rhetorical question)  and we all laughed, we knew he wasn’t; Jack was
       his age, I was sixteen: lean, and strong as an ox.
“No,” I said “he’s mine.”
“Okay,” Jack replied, “take him!”
By not allowing him full swing at me, I rushed him, threw him to the
       ground, fell on top of him, and pounded on his face until it was near
I had succeeded, I had won the fight, in a matter of minutes, with wallop
       after wallop,  as the gang went crazy.
I knew from the start I had to evaporate his steam quickly, and I had, by not
       allowing him to get into a boxing stance;
Back then I was much more the wrestler, with a strong right blow, when
His head must had been buzzing like a swarm of bees.
Jack had to pull me off him, I wouldn’t let up, lest I make his face
He was so groggy when he left for home, he could hardly stand, but he just
       kept a-going.

I lived next to the empty lot, on the upper part of an embankment, sort of;
And I was bushed also, so I went on home, for lunch.
Two days later, it was Sunday, I heard a knock on the backdoor, opened it,
       it was the new kid, I nearly didn’t recognize him.
His face was a face so swollen, and bruised, so awfully discolored, nearly
       every feature had been beaten out of all semblance of familiarity,
 ‘Did I do that? I thought.’

One eye was half closed, the other of a blood filled narrow rim around the
       whole eye. And one ear had its skin raw! And his lip, puffed and split.
Then I remembered Jack had to pull me off him.
I noticed as he stood on the wooden stairway, near the arch of the door, 
       one side of his jaw was twice its normal size, compared to the other.
“I’d like a rematch,” he told me, “I’m pretty sure I can beat you, I’m good
       at boxing, you just didn’t give me a chance to start.”
As if I would a second time, allow that:
Anyhow, I responded by saying, “I really don’t care for rematch, but it’s up
       to you.”
His speech had been impaired, and I was sicken by his sight, and we both
       sat on the stairway thinking in a long silence, his pride was hurt, and I think his family poured vinegar on it, and egged him on to future
       decimation, should I have had to go a second round with him—of
       course this was my speculation, he was no slough.
My practical judgment bade me otherwise to a rematch, and I said, “Perhaps you’re right, given time to get into your posture, you would have
       beaten me, so let’s leave it at a draw.”
“Well,” he said, in deep thought, looking down towards his house, knowing  
       he had told his parents, whatever he had told them, and my best guess
       was that he was going for a second countdown,
“okay,” he continued, “but you know, we can never be friends, but neither
       do we have to be enemies.”
We shook hands. And that was that.
But as I look back on this, it comes to mind: for most men there is an
       admirable pride in fighting and winning, different from a woman’s way of thinking I suppose; but, win or lose you have to show that the beating
       had not kept you in bed, that’s the part of the loser’s pride, beaten but not beaten.

No: 4560/Written: 9-26-2014

In Malleable Poetic Prose