The Brawler

by Joseph Grant

“Alright fellas, hey, I said break!” the balding referee in the bow tie, blue shirt and pressed black slacks bellowed and pushed Archie “Boom Boom” Mannis and Jimmy Jay Tanner apart as they wound up in yet another crowd-groaning clinch, but not before Tanner threw a few rabbit punches, a thumb, a headbutt and an elbow or two. It had been the second warning by the blood speckled thirty-year veteran and he was clearly becoming agitated, Mannis knew, as he welcomed the breather in between getting pummeled by a palooka like Tanner, but he knew if there was one more hold, they could each be docked a point by the judges down below at ringside and he needed those points. Mannis took a step back from his opponent, a young bleeder, an outside fighter who possessed the exasperating technique and footwork style of stepping back after each combination, sometimes even feinting bolos, making it nearly impossible to weave and let Mannis deliver his signature hook and jab, leading to his legendary power punches. The peal of the round bell sent both combatants tiredly stumbling to neutral corners while Mannis’ Chief Second took out the bloody rubber mouthpiece, gave him water to wash the metallic, bloody taste from his mouth, handed him another mouthpiece, dabbed at the cut above his swollen eye with q-tips dipped in coagulant and Vaseline, with his cut man and corner man both reminding him as he stood to work his uppercut and to remember to keep his guard up. Mannis watched the blurry and slightly chubby round girl as she paraded around the ring in her ridiculously small bikini holding her card too low, not that the fans cared and recalled the card girls were better-looking and had less cottage cheese on the thighs for the bigger purse fights, but this one looked familiar, although he couldn’t remember or not if he had slept with her. Slight nausea washed over Mannis, cold sweat stinging his puffy eyes as the clang sent both he and Turner between the ropes for the last round and as Mannis swung, landed, missed and was tagged repeatedly, hearing the crowd roar in vacuous slow motion, he did not hit the canvas once and although he lost the fight on a split decision, the morning newspapers would write of how the aging boxer was beaten but never is he defeated, go the distance and could leave the ring and his boxing career on his own terms, still standing.


Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst. Joe is also a 6SC3 Prize Winner.


Adam J. Whitlatch said...

As riveting as the final fight of a Rocky movie. You almost expect Burgess Meredith to scream, "Get in there and knock his block off!!"

Excellent Six, Joe.

Anonymous said...

Joseph - you never dissapoint. Your 6Ss are consistently execellent, and I always look forward to reading them. Unfortunately, your previous one was placed just above mine - and that was depressing!
I read, write, read, write, read one of your pieces and find I can't write for days. Then I always wind up saying: There are different kind of writers, some are excellent, some are good and some stink. We're just on different lists.
Let's just say, I am enviable of your remarkable talent and love reading whatever you write.
A Big Fan

Adam J. Whitlatch said...

I, on the other hand, think you're a no-talent hack! LMAO Just kidding, buddy. I wish I could be half as prolific as you are.

You pump out story after story like a factory... and the quality NEVER suffers.

Mary said...

Joe, as always, I really enjoyed your story. I am always amazed how you can bring your characters to life. Thanks for another good one.

kevin michaels said...

Another excellent 6S. Totally captures not only the feel of what it's like to be in the ring and the pain that comes with it, but the pain of time (and a fighter being past his prime). I thought Mannis' distraction with the round girl added a nice touch to the narrative - in a couple of words you get a better sense of where Mannis has been and who he is.

G & G said...

Great story! Reminds me of a few brawls I was in back in the south! =) As always, it's a pleasure to read your stories!

Madam Z said...

Yes, Joe...I echo what all the others said and will add some more. This Six is a KNOCKOUT!

Your sentences, though long by necessity, never feel labored. No matter what the venue of your story, it always sounds as if you have "been there and done that." In "The Brawler," if I didn't know better, I'd think you had gone a few rounds in the ring yourself! And you always make me care about the characters.

I don't have to say, "Keep up the great work," because I KNOW you will!