Breathe

The crowd roared. My opponent reels, sweat gleaming in the dim light of kerosene lamps. Dust swirled and crawled through my hair. The screams of paying fans stab me. My head is throbbing, and I would come out of it all bearing two black eyes, a split lip, several cuts, and partly deaf in one ear.
In slow motion it seemed, I swung my heavy glove towards his ugly face. I missed. The people roared; they screamed with pleasure. I stumbled. He swung, and struck true. My aching head snapped around, eyes lolling, blood spraying from my broken face. My body followed. Homespun ropes catch me. They grate at bare flesh. The red dirt floor leers and taunts me. There are stinging slaps to my back, kindly accompanied by shouts to turn and fight. My abused body revolts. I spit up more blood onto their shiny black shoes. They throw me back into the ring without pity. His bare chest gleams, eyes merciless bullets holes. My swollen ears are full of cotton. As I watch with dim fascination, he takes another swing; yellow teeth gritted, muscle strung arm throwing all his weight at me. With an ominous crack, my head snaps around a second time jerking my body with it; but now my blood mixes with the dirt on the floor, a gritty paste against my cheek. Darkness spirals downward. I breathe in the red dust; ribs screaming in protest each time. The referee is far away… they all are… and for a fleeting moment I wondered why all the people were turned sideways. Faintly, “eight…nine….ten!” comes to me, as if through a far away tunnel. Finally, mercifully, I succumb to the soft blackness, and am gone.





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