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Or So I Thought

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I

Bouncing on my toes, with my gloves at the ready, I stared at the quick black boy across from me. Sweat ran down his tense face. Hot, red blood dripped from his large lips. It was a minute into round three of the fight of my life, but to most observing it was just another Tuesday night in Villa Park. On such nights, I used to drive to the old Methodist Church of Villa Park. In the tiny, musty basement, a makeshift ring was constructed to teach boys how to box and defend themselves. Practice was every night, but on Tuesdays, we fought.
My opponent on this occasion was a swift, successful amateur named Marcus. His left hook was killer, but his trick was his stamina. Marcus danced around and around his opponents wearing them down for several rounds. After his challenger was sufficiently exhausted, he cracked his notorious left hook at their ribs and temples, looking for a knock out. But I had the ego of every thirteen year old. I couldn’t be beaten. Not by anyone. I wouldn’t lose, it was just unfeasible.
So I danced with the juggernaut, and he evaded my blows for two rounds, not letting me near him. He wore me down. My arms felt like giant dumbbells and my mind slipped into a complete haze.
I knew round three was my last shot, it was now or never. I had to finish him or my weak mind and body would throw in the towel. I realized that when I followed his eyes, I could anticipate all his blows to my ribs. If I followed this giveaway, I would finish the champ and go home. Or so I thought.
I capitalized. As soon as his hazel eyes dropped to my torso, I slung a haymaker towards Marcus’ ear. No, Marcus wasn’t fooled. My right arm swung, but his nasty left hook was redirected from my ribs to my perfect, straight, flawless nose. The hook connected. The adrenaline in my veins softened the blow but not the unmistakable pop of a busted nose. My blood was everywhere and the spectators were laughing. Frustrated and confused as ever, I charged the boy throwing punches and cursing swears I didn’t know the meaning to. Marcus defeated me and my nose was shattered.

II

“Mom, get down here!” We were on the raft at our lake house. My brother and I were going to perform a well rehearsed fake punch for my mother, who was easily entertained by our unoriginal skits. The plan was simple. Tommy would wind up and send a powerful jab towards my face, stopping six inches shy of the mouth. Then at the precise moment of impact, Tommy would beat his chest to replicate the sound of the staunch blow, and I would fall backwards into the water. The joke was going to be hilarious and we would certainly fool my unsuspecting mother.
“Ok, ready? Just like we practiced, Jack.” Tommy was standing just a few inches closer to me than rehearsed, but no matter. He’s got it all planned out, his accuracy and coordination are beyond compare. Or so I thought.
“I was born ready, Tom-bomb.” And so Tommy wound up, swung, and struck my imperfect, crooked, flawed nose. Those few more inches he gave himself were just enough. My final image was that of a gaunt, pale- faced boy with his hands over his mouth gaping at his little brother. I heard the pop on my journey to the water. When I rose to the surface, the clear, Wisconsin waters were now red, and I was in dire need of plastic surgery.





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