To the six people who read this site,
I’ve been working on this short story for far longer than its length would have you believe. It’s stalled on me. What a son of a bitch. But I won’t give up on it. I’m going to post it here and see what you people think. I have a direction for it figured out, I think.
So let me know what you think.
Tyler threw a lazy hay-maker, his sailing fist slicing through open air. He felt two body shots rock his torso but, luckily, his stomach was tight, half from expectation, half from instinct. Two steps back, hands up, elbows in. He had to think the words for his body to follow through. His breathing was heavy, his arms were leaden, his hands slow. He tossed out an undisciplined left jab as he retreated, trying to make some space for himself. Marquez bobbed his head and advanced around the attack—two tight uppercuts— then huddled his body into Tyler’s. The kid was fast, Tyler had to concede.
They leaned against each other, trying to rest for a moment. The ropes felt cool on Tyler’s back. Both fighters were almost out of gas. Tyler knew he couldn’t go to round ten, he would be dismantled. He shoved Marquez back. The boy dropped his shoulders for a split second, a perfect window. Two straight armed jabs meant to unbalance him, though the second punch connected solidly. Tyler, working on auto-pilot and with quickness that surprised himself, followed it up with a right cross. He twisted his hips into the punch. Textbook. A loud slap reported. Marquez’s face slackened for a moment and he stumbled into an ungraceful backwards topple. Pride surged in Tyler.
Mid-fall, the round bell sounded.
Marquez managed to get back to his feet, and in the final round, knocked Tyler out soundly.
A liquid din filled Tyler’s ears. He could feel a ship pitch and yaw under him. His mind plumbed the blue-black miles which he now faced. It was found empty. The canvass was smooth on his face. He was now underwater and soothed. Tyler was flooded with a sense of well-being, the dumb elation of a man finding his consciousness again.
Tyler leaned against the bar, running his finger between the two gold stripes on his sleeve. His eyes were no longer bloodshot but were ringed with fading purple bruises. None of his subordinates had mentioned his appearance. Surely, word had spread around the ship about how the fight has gone. They were as bad as a knitting circle at times. Tyler drained his pint glass.
The bartender was the finest example of his trade, Tyler believed. He was a heavyset man in his mid-fifties with a kind, reserved air. His forearms were large with black-gone-to-green tattoos. Perhaps he was the owner. His accent, transplanted and well travelled as it was, could not be placed. He and Tyler chatted about the Royalty for a minute or two, before the both sensed that idle chitchat was unappealing to them.
Tyler asked the bartender for another pint of bitters, and nodded downwards as an empty glass was exchanged for a full one. After a sip, he loosened his tie. It was all refreshing. He leaned back from the bar and looked about.
The Fiddlehead had a healthy tradition of turning a blind eye to the proclivities of sailors on leave, though today Tyler was the only one sitting there. The picture frames were screwed to the wall. The bartenders never took sides and all the furniture was sturdy. Some of the lamps still managed to keep their jade-coloured shades. Like every bar in the city, it smelled of greasy smoke that had been seasoned into the walls in the decades before.
The bar wasn’t far from the war memorial. Tyler made a point to visit it every time the ship was in this port. A few minute’s walk, perhaps, along narrow streets.
The memorial was a tidy and respectful thing. Made in a time when a monument was a solemn endeavour to allow, almost demand, contemplation. On top of a granite pedestal stood a bronze statue of a robed figured, green and streaked with age, holding aloft a torch in its left hand while striding forward. Its other hand held a sword, perhaps for the eventuality that the penetrating light would reveal an adversary. An avenger, seeking out a foe.
Or perhaps a rescuing agent, seeking a fallen friend.
Tyler checked his watch. Just past 2 in the afternoon. He gave the bartender a quick nod and settled up.
She had to be ready now, Tyler thought. He pushed through the heavy wooden door, the sun backlit a lead-coloured sky, an unpleasing grey glow.