ONE FOR THE AGES By Howard Casner


And check out my other stories:
I KNOW http://ow.ly/ROFs30kg8v0
EAT S**T AND DIE http://ow.ly/gwEi30jKUyQ A comic horror fantasy
THE STARVING ARTISTS http://ow.ly/iJc430jCrcW  sci-fi
A REFUGE FROM THE STORM http://ow.ly/koKs30jF7yo – horror
     It was one for the ages, they said. They’d never seen a fight like it, they said. And there was never gonna be another one like it, they said. They said a lot like of things like that over the years and to this day, people still talk about it, where they were, whether they were there or saw it on television or heard it on radio or live streamed it.
    But it was one for the ages for another reason, too. After it, fights like this were made illegal and it was all done underground, now. But they still held them, once, on occasion, twice a month. They still held them.
     Lonny drove his car into Chicago early in the morning just as everyone else was waking up and all Lonny wanted to do was get some sleep. But he couldn’t do that quite yet. He had a few things to take care of first.

When he looked in the mirror, which wasn’t very often these days, he could still tell he had something of what he had when he was ten years younger. Construction and roustabout work kept most of the weight off him, though the drinking was starting to win more of the battles. He tried to keep his hair and beard trim, but there was just so much of it and there were mornings when he just couldn’t be bothered, which was more and more of the time lately. He was still tall with dark piercing eyes, everyone always mentioned the eyes these fighters had, but there wasn’t much he could do about that. Oh, yes, and a rugged face. A rugged face and a rugged body that was beginning to be a lot less rugged.

The car had been a gift awarded him eleven years ago after he won the biggest fight of his career and before…well, before his last. It was modelled after Jimmy Addison’s Silver Bullet, as a kind of joke, and Lonny laughed though he wasn’t sure he found it funny.

He should have replaced it long ago, it was old and worn down and on its last legs, but then, so was he and he kept going, so why shouldn’t it? Besides, he couldn’t get much for it and he couldn’t afford a new one anyway.

Lonny took a final drink from a bottle of the cheapest whiskey he could find when he bought it, and then threw it in the back among his dirty clothes and trash and whatever possessions he still possessed.

The car made its way to the west side, but before he got to where he wanted to go, he stopped at a mom and pop liquor store and went inside. The clerk, maybe nineteen or twenty with one of those haircuts kids had today, piled up on top and shaved close on the sides, was behind the counter listening to his iPod, moving slightly to the beat. He didn’t look up from the Wolverine comic book he was reading. Lonny could smell the marijuana all the way from the door, but after giving a quick glance around the place, he couldn’t blame the guy.

From a cooler at the back, Lonny chose a stovepipe size six pack of beer and went to the counter. Lonny paid cash and the young man took the money and made change without looking up.

As the transaction was being transacted, an older man, balding and overweight, wheezing hard from a cigarette he had in his mouth that he should only have been smoking outside, it was the law, made his way in from the back carrying a box of chips.

Lonny made the mistake of looking at him and the old man stopped suddenly and stared, furrowing his brow. Lonny gave him one more look and left.

Once the bell on the door went silent, the old man said to the younger one, “You know who that was?”

When the young man didn’t answer, the elder yelled out, “Hey!”

The young man looked up and annoyingly took one of his ear buds out. “What?”

“You know who that was?”

“No.”

“That was Lonny Chain, one of the greatest fighters ever.”

The young man thought a moment. “Oh, yeah. He, uh, like killed that dude, or something.”

The old man went to the front window and saw Lonny get in his decrepit ride.

“Or something. Lonny Chain. Thanks to him it’s all illegal now.” After a moment, he threw the box of chips on the counter. “Make yourself useful and put these on the shelf.”

And the old man returned to the back while the young man put his ear bud back in and went back to reading his comic book.

In the car Lonny could see the man when he looked out at him. Lonny just stared back, and when the old man walked off, Lonny found a paper bag on the floor, from some fast food place, put one of the beers in it, pulled the tab and took a drink. He then backed the car out and drove away.

 

Lonny finally reached where he was heading, a small bungalow type house surrounded by a block of small bungalow type houses. It was a nice neighborhood, the kind with well tended gardens and green trimmed lawns, occasional tree, houses bright and cleanly painted with gay curtains in the front windows. They all looked more or less alike except the one he had parked across and down a few houses from. It had a for sale sign out front.

He took a drink of beer and closed his eyes and finally got some sleep.

 

He woke back up, not from a particular noise, but from a general feeling of the people living there starting their day, leaving for work, or school or errands. After a bit, the door of the house he had been watching opened and a teenage boy came out with a backpack and headed to school. He was a slight thing, not much to him, and he didn’t look very happy, more resigned. A woman watched him go. Her name was Maria and she was Lonny’s wife…ex-wife.

She looked down the street at him briefly, he thought, he couldn’t be sure. But when she went back in she left the front door open. Lonny got out of the car and crossed the road, looking around as if checking to see if anyone saw him, though he wasn’t doing anything wrong and it didn’t matter if they did see him or not.

When he got to the door, he hesitated, then walked in. He heard Maria in the kitchen doing the things one does in a kitchen.

“I’m back here,” she called out. Lonny went into the clean and well cared for space. There was nothing special about it, but Maria treated it as if it was.

“The coffee’s over there,” she said without looking at him. “Sit down. I’ll make you some breakfast.”

Lonny poured himself a cup and said down. “You don’t have to. I’m not hungry.”

“Yes, you are. And even if you’re not, you need to eat. You always had a high metabolism.” She put bread in the toaster and started frying some eggs and bacon, a lot of bacon. Lonny watched trying to figure out what to say, but nothing came to him.

When she finished with the food, she put it in front of him along with a glass of orange juice. And then she sat across from him and Lonny had his first good look at her in some time. Maria didn’t look tired or run down or anything that made Lonny look the way he did. Her face was a little older, but still young, and she always knew the best style for her dark hair. She also knew how to dress. She had a spark, an energy that he felt she was muting for his sake.

When she sat down, she smiled and studied Lonny’s face. Lonny didn’t like the idea of what she might see there or what conclusion she might draw, so he started stuffing food in his mouth. If he really wasn’t hungry, he didn’t show it.

Finally she asked, “How have you been, Lonny?”, and she said it sincerely. He could tell she meant it.

“Oh,” Lonny shrugged, “You know. Same old, same old. You look the same as when I last saw you.”

She laughed a little. “If only,” she smiled. “I’m sorry you missed Lonny, Jr. He so much wants to see you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She kept looking at him, really looking at him, until he looked back and said, “I don’t.” He went back to eating. “You getting my checks and everything?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry it’s not more. Work’s been spotty at best.”

“It’s fine. We get by.”

“But you’re selling the house.”

There was a long pause, one of those where both parties realize the small talk is over, but neither one knows how to breach the real reason for their coming together.

Then, suddenly, she came out with it. “Lonny needs an operation. It’s his heart. It’s something genetic. The doctor keeps telling me what it is, but it’s so complicated and unpronounceable, I can never quite get it right. I though you would want to know.”

Lonny paused, then said as if he hadn’t taken one, “How much?”

“More than 200,000 they think.”

“And he’ll be good as new?”

“They think so, yes.”

“How are you going to pay for it?”

“We’re looking into options.”

“Like selling the house?”

And then it was said and there was nothing more to say about it. Everything was clear. Lonny finished eating. Everything came to a full stop and no one was sure how to get it started again. Then Maria spoke up.

“You really should spend some time with Lonny. He’s very smart, might even be valedictorian. But he’s having difficulty at school. Other students bully him. He can’t find a way to fit him. I think it would do him some good talking to you about it.”

“How much does he know about me?”

“Today, with social media, it’s impossible for him not to know everything about you, even the things that aren’t true. You could help him with that, too.”

After letting that sink in, she reached out her hand to him. “C’mon, I want to show you something.”

Lenny followed her like he always did, like a little boy, like when they first met. She led him down a hallway to a room with an open door. “It’s Lonny’s room. Go on in. I have to get ready for work.”

Lenny carefully entered. It was a bit untidy, but the bed was made and there weren’t any clothes lying around on the floor. He didn’t get that from me, Lenny thought. But on the walls, on every single one of them, were posters and photographs of him, of his fights, of his victories. The wall could barely be seen, but Lonny thought it was painted blue, which he also didn’t get from him.

On a chest of drawers was a scrap book with his name on it. It was fat and overflowing. Lonny sat on the bed and looked inside. It was page after page of newspaper clippings. In the back were sports cards. Lonny, Jr. seemed to have every single one except one in the center with his name on it.

Lonny put down the scrapbook and began crying.

 

When Maria came out of the bathroom, Lonny was no longer there. Maria was disappointed, but not surprised. When she went into the kitchen she saw a note left by Lenny. On it he had written, “I know how to get the money”. She sat down as if the note had taken the wind out of her.

 

Lonny found a parking space outside a building with a sign reading Talbot’s Gym, big enough to let everyone know it was there, but not so big it looked as if it was making more of itself than it was.

Lonny stopped before going inside. Then he stopped once he passed through the doorway. And then stopped once more at the end of a short hallway that led into the gym proper. When he finally went in, he looked around for someone trying not to be noticed.

But he was noticed. Slowly, one by one, all the boxers and all the trainers and anyone else who was in the gym stopped their boxing and their training and whatever else they were doing. They stopped and stared silently at him.

After a moment, an older man with grey hair and crows feet and a tired look, but still in good shape, that’s one thing they couldn’t say against him, he was still in good shape, came out to see what all the silence was about. And when he saw Lonny he did what everybody else did, stopped and stared, incredulous.

Then he cried out, “Lonny. My god, Lonny,” and he rushed to him and grabbed his arm and shook and then just held it in sheer affection.

“John”, Lenny simply replied.

“I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Ten, twelve years, maybe?”

“Something like that, I guess.”

John looked him up and down. “Well, how are you?”

Lonny kind of leaned in and half whispered, “I need to talk to you. I need a favor.”

John paused, searching Lonny’s face. “Sure, sure.” When he noticed the whole gym was still staring at them, he pulled Lonny by his arm. “Let’s go into my office.”

After they went in and John shut his door, the gym went back to doing whatever it was they were doing, as if Lonny had never come through.

 

In his office, John sat behind his desk and Lonny sat down on an overstuffed couch, but didn’t lean back like he would have years earlier. He looked around and could tell, other than a paint job or two, it hadn’t changed much. On a wall John had a framed photo of Lonny taken at his greatest fight.

“Would you like some coffee?” John asked. “Or a soft drink? I have a bottle here. We could have one for old times sake.”

“Sure. Why not? It’s happy hour somewhere in the world.”

John laughed, “That’s my line. I knew I taught you something when you trained here.”

John found the bottle and poured the drinks. He handed one to Lonny and he made sure they clinked glasses. Then they drank it down in one gulp.

After a moment, Lonny spoke. “I won’t beat around the bush, John. Have you heard about my kid?”

John nodded his head. “Yes, yes. I speak to Maria, she has me over for Thanksgiving, Christmas. We were sorry to hear it. I’ve offered some money, took up a collection, we’re thinking of a charity bout.”

“That’s great. I appreciate that. But, you’ll never be able to raise enough.”

“I know. It’s a tough break for the kid.”

Lonny then started moving around as if trying to get comfortable, but couldn’t, until he said, “I need you to do something for me. I need you to set up a fight”.

John looked down at his empty glass. He felt it was going to be something like this, there was just something when Lonny came in. He got up and poured them drinks again. “That’s all illegal, now. You know that.” Was it an accusation? Lonny wasn’t quite sure.

Lonny didn’t look at John. “But they still do it. I know they do. It’s all underground and all that, but they still do it and you have to know someone who knows someone who can set it up. Please, John, it’s the only way I can make a large amount of money at one time.”

John thought a moment, then leaned back in his chair and resigned himself. “How long do we have?”

“Two weeks from Wednesday. I looked it up before I got here.”

“Okay, I’ll make a call, see what I can do.”

Lonny took a pen from John’s desk and wrote his cell phone number down on the daily calendar John used.

“Thanks, John. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Yes, I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have agreed to help.”

“Before I take off, I don’t suppose you have any of the junk I left lying around.”

“Yeah. I cleaned out your locker. Wasn’t much”.

John got out his keys and opened a closet door. He went inside and searched a moment and came out with a cardboard box, the kind stores throw away and people collect when they are moving. He handed it to Lonny. “Here. It should all be there.”

Lonny took it and held it like it was fragile.

After a moment, John put his hand on Lonny’s shoulder. “Well, I’ll leave you to it. Take all the time you need.” And then John was gone and Lonny was alone.

From inside the box he pulled up his boxing gloves with silver circles at the knuckles. He didn’t want to do it, but he did, he put one on, his fingers extended through the openings at the front. He took it off and put it back and kept searching and searching again until he found what he was looking for. He put it in his pocket and stood up. He took the box and left the gym as if he was ashamed at having come back.

 

Lonny was waiting outside the school when his son came out. While other kids broke into small groups, Lonny, Jr. seemed a little lost, standing alone. He certainly was the runt of the litter, Lonny couldn’t help but think. After a moment, the somewhat frail figure started his way home. Lonny got out of his car and looked at him.

The other kids saw him first because Lonny, Jr. only stared at the ground, deep in thought, maybe, what do kids think about these days, Lonny wondered, trying to remember what he thought about back then. But the other kids saw him first and started whispering among themselves and pointing, could it be, no way, dude, I think it is.

Lonny finally called out to his son and Lonny, Jr. looked up and froze. It took a second to register and then he smiled and ran across the street to him. Lonny called out, “Hey, no running. I’m not going anywhere,” but Lonny, Jr. kept running until he made it to his father.

When Lonny, Jr. got there, he didn’t know what to do, whether to hug him or shake his hand. Lonny didn’t know either, so finally he said to his son, “You hungry?” Lonny, Jr. just kind of looked at the ground, not sure what to say, so Lonny spoke. “Get in the car, we’ll go somewhere.”

Lonny, Jr. got inside and so did Lonny. As he drove away, he saw the kids still staring and talking like he was the President or Pope or some movie star, but he didn’t think Lonny, Jr. noticed.

 

The diner was nice, clean, standard, a modern day version of what a 1950’s diner was like, but not with1950’s prices. Lonny sat across from his son, menus in front of them, but Lonny, Jr. couldn’t look at his. He was too nervous, too excited, too inward looking. He couldn’t seem to bring himself to focus on anything except his hands.

“So,” Lonny said, looking at the menu, “What takes your fancy? Cheeseburger? I always wanted a cheeseburger when I was your age.”

“Yeah, sure,” Lonny, Jr. said, but then his father could have said a liverwurst sandwich and he would said, “Yeah, sure.”

Lonny motioned for the waitress, young, working her way through college sort. She smiled when she came over, Lonny noted, more polite than when he was her age. That was one thing he kept noticing about the younger generation. The world might be falling apart, but they all seemed so happy, hardworking and annoyingly optimistic.

As she came over, Lonny could tell a few of the people there knew who he was. It had gotten to the point where he didn’t have to even see it or hear it. He could just tell. The waitress didn’t know who he was, thank God.

“My son’ll have a cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake. What kind of milkshake would you like,” Lonny asked, but all Lonny, Jr. did was sort of shrug. “Make it chocolate. And I’ll have two double bacon cheeseburgers, chili fries and a chocolate shake.”

The waitress hesitated a bit, so Lonny added, “What can I say? I’m a growing boy,” and with that the waitress smiled, took the menus and went away.

There was another one of those silences, an angel passing over or something Lonny thought. He just looked at his son. “So your mother says you’re doing good in school. You sound pretty smart. Didn’t get that from my side of the family. I guarantee.”

“I do okay, I guess.”

“That’s not what your mother said.” Then there was another one of those pauses, until “Look, I’m sorry I haven’t been around. I don’t have an excuse.”

“It’s because you killed that guy, right?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so.”

“Why did you kill him?”

“Why? I…I don’t know if I can answer that. Exactly.”

“That’s all right. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just, it’s not something I can talk about all that easily.”

Lonny, Jr., didn’t say anything.

“Okay, look,” Lonny struggled. “When…when the change comes again, you know, for the final round, well, it’s not all that, that easy to readjust mentally. There’s some part of you, part of your mind that sticks behind and it can take time to totally throw it off. When I first started fighting, my reflexes, at the change, kicked in really quick. But the longer I fought, the more bouts I had, the longer and longer it was taking to get back to normal, and this time, for some reason, mentally it didn’t kick in like it usually does. It wouldn’t go away. And I just kept punching with those silver circles on the gloves. I couldn’t stop, until…well, that’s why. And I couldn’t forgive myself. He wasn’t much older than you are now. It was his first fight and, Jesus, I…I didn’t like myself much after that and it’s a little hard to be around other people when you don’t like yourself much.”

Then Lonny, Jr., looked up. He looked at his father. Their eyes met and he said, “That’s all right, Dad, I still like you.”

And Lonny lost his breath. He had nothing to say to that and even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to say it.

Lonny, Jr., glanced out the window, then looked quickly down at his hands. Then Lonny looked out and saw the three boys talking, the ones that saw him at the school. They were staring at them from the other side of the parking lot. After looking at his son, Lonny hesitated, then waved at the three kids for them to come inside.

Lonny, Jr., kept looking back and forth between his father and his class mates. He couldn’t believe what was going on, what his father had done. Was he serious didn’t he know who they were?

The three boys argued a bit more, then slowly came inside the diner and huddled around Lonny and his son’s table.

“Sit down. You guys hungry?” and Lonny motioned to the waitress. “Cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate shakes all around.”

And the kids’ faces lit up and they squeezed into the booth all talking at once. Lonny leaned back, spreading his arms across the back of the the seat and said, “So what do you want to know? Ask me anything.”

Then the tallest one finally found his nerve and spoke up. “What was it like fighting…”

And Lonny smiled and looked at his son and Lonny, Jr., smiled and looked at his father.

“Well,” Lonny started. “It was like this…”

 

Thirty minutes or so later, all the food had been devoured and the boys could not stop from staring at Lonny, wondering whether all the stories he told were true and if they cared whether they were or not. But no one’s eyes shined as much as Lonny, Jr. His father had become, if not a god, then a demi-god, like Hercules.

Then Lonny clapped his hands together and said, “Okay, I think that’s all she wrote. Can I give you kids a ride home?”

“No,” one of them spoke up. “We’re on our bikes.”

None of them wanted to leave, but they knew they had to. But they still tried to spread out the seconds as long as possible. Then another took out his phone. “Can we get a picture?”

Lonny looked at his son who was looking back at him mentally saying, “Yes, yes, please, yes.”

“Sure, why not?” and he got the waitress to come over and they all squeezed in together and smiled until the flash went off. The other two told the phone’s owner he had better send them a copy or else and they got up gathering their things together.

The phone’s owner turned to Lonny, Jr., and said, “See you at school tomorrow, Lonny.”

As the kids left, Lonny gave his son a what about that shrug and Lonny, Jr. just said, “Yeah.”

“Let’s get out of here, champ,” Lonny said as he picked up the check.

Outside, the night was slowly taking over. Lonny stopped and looked at the moon which was waning. He then turned to Lonny, Jr., and said, “You up for a movie?”

Lonny, Jr. hesitated. “It’s a school night. Mom probably wants me home.”

Lonny put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “No, it’s okay. I cleared it with her. It’s all stag tonight.”

“She did? Wow. So…so, yeah, great. I’d love to see a movie.”

“Then let’s move out.”

Then Lonny’s cell phone rang. He swiped the screen and put it his ear. “Yeah?”

“It’s John.”

Lonny froze, then motioned to his son to wait and he walked off a bit. He turned away and spoke into the phone again. “Hey.”

“I got the fight for you.”

“How much?”

“The purse is $250,000.”

“I need at least $300,000.”

“I don’t know.”

“I do. This is gonna be big. He can afford fifty thou more.”

John went silent a moment and then said, “Okay. I’m sure I can make it happen.”

“Thanks, John. This means a lot to me.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

Lonny ended the call and went back to the car. He unlocked the doors and he and his son got in. Lonny, Jr., went silent until Lonny asked him, “What is it, Champ?”

“I…I’d have given anything to see you fight.”

Lonny studied his son, remembering him as just a baby in crib, before everything that happened happened. He then reached into his pocket and took out what he had salvaged from his box at the gym. He glanced at it and handed it to Lonny, Jr. “I found this today. I kinda thought you might like it.”

Lonny, Jr., took the card as if he was taking communion. He couldn’t comprehend it at first. Was it what he thought it was? But after a moment he knew it was. And he just sat there staring at it, making sure it was real.

Then Lonny turned the key and the car roared to life. “So. Your mom tells me you got a bad ticker. What’s that all about?”

His son started laughing. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. And they pealed out of the parking lot.

 

The two weeks went by far slower and far more faster than Lonny wished. He trained and trained. He stopped drinking, at least much less than before. He spent more time with Lonny, Jr., though not enough. Maria wanted him to move back into the house, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. He didn’t know why, it just didn’t feel right. Maybe later, maybe after the fight. But the night before, he did stay at home, for the first time in ten years

 

The day of the match, Lonny was back at the diner, eating lunch, when someone quietly and casually sat across from him. Lonny looked up and saw a man in a suit, a very expensive suit, Armani maybe, probably. A booth down, a large man, not fat, but quite…large, sat and kept looking around, as if nothing going on was his business, though Lonny could tell that in reality, everything indeed was very much his business.

The waitress made her way up with a menu, but the man in the probably Armani suit held up his hand. “No, thanks, darling. I won’t be long.” For whatever reason, the man’s declaration of a time limit didn’t make Lonny any less ill at ease. But then the man called after the waitress, “Actually, I’ll have a coffee after all. You want something?” he said, turning part way to his companion. The large man just shook his head and kept looking around.

Lonny studied the man now leisurely ensconced at his table. He hadn’t changed much in ten years, he thought. The only thing different was the large man at the booth down from them. He was new, though just as large as the last one. But as for the man across from him, the first impression was the same as when they parted ways. He was well and expensively manicured. His hands were well manicured. His hair was well manicured. His shaven face was well manicured. Everything about him was well manicured.

After a studied moment, Lonny spoke. “What can I do for you, Barry?”

The waitress brought his coffee and Barry waited until she left to fix it, no cream, but lots of sugar, lots and lots of sugar. He stirred and stirred and stirred the cup as he said, “I have a proposition for you.” Even his speech was well manicured.

Lonny went back to eating. “Yeah. I know your kind of propositions.”

“And you wouldn’t be far wrong,” he said as he tasted his coffee and made a face. “But there are details that might interest you, and as they say, the devil is in the details.” Barry leaned closer into him. “I don’t know if you heard, but this, this return, is really taking off.”

Lonny again went back to eating. “I haven’t been paying much attention.”

“So you shouldn’t,” Barry said relaxing back against his seat. “But I have. The thing is, the way the betting is going, everyone thinks you’re going to prevail. They think you, ten years older, not in prime shape, against a seasoned nineteen year old, a nineteen year old, Lonny. Call it nostalgia getting the best of them, but they all think you are going to win.” Barry took a sip of his coffee and made another face. “But me? At first I thought, no, it’s simply not possible. Surely he has to lose. But then I think, what if they’re right?”

Lonny knew exactly where this was going, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Where are you going with this, Barry?”

And Barry knew Lonny knew and said, “You know where I’m going with this.”

“The answer’s ‘no’.”

“Yes, I thought you might say that. But what the hell, let’s play it out a bit and see where it goes. If you win, you get $300,000. If you lose, $150,000. But if you lose, I’ll give you the three hundred, which means you’ll get 450. Look, I know about your son.”

At that, Lonny reached over and grabbed Barry by his Armani lapels. The large man behind Barry stood up, but Barry signaled that everything was okay. The large man sat back down and so did Lonny.

Barry straightened himself up and pulled his suit sleeves down. “No, you’re quite right, Lonny. I shouldn’t have brought Lonny, Jr., up. I wasn’t going to if I didn’t have to, but best laid plans,” and Barry slid a business card across the table. “Think about it. 450 is a lot more than 300. But I need to hear from you pretty quick, the fight being tonight and all.”

Barry rose from the booth. So did the large man. Barry went to the cash register and paid, indicating for the waitress to include Lonny’s meal. Then he gave her a bill for herself. Her eyes opened wide and she deeply smiled as she looked at it.

The large man went back to Lonny. “I saw that fight. You know, the one they call one for the ages? That was dope, man. You were dope. I’ll never forget that fight.” And he and Barry left the diner.

As Lonny watched them walk to their car, his phone pinged. There he saw a text from Lonny, Jr. “Good luck, dad. I wish I could be there.” Lonny looked out the window again and saw Barry’s car pulling out of its spot. Lonny shot up and ran out the door, stepping in front of the car as it reached the exit. The large man had to stop with a screech.

Lonny went to the back seat window as Barry was rolling it down. He took a deep breath and said, “I’ll do it.” Barry simply smiled and rolled the window back up. The car left the parking lot leaving Lonny alone, not sure which way to turn or where to go.

 

The arena for the fight was out of town and far away. Someplace the authorities were easiest to pay off might be the quickest way to describe it. The building itself was actually very familiar to Lonny. He had fought there a few times when he was still in the game. Some wealthy man or woman who owned a hundred acres of land had built it. And kept it going after the laws changed.

Lonny stopped in the fight cage and looked around. He didn’t touch the bars. He knew they were partially silver plated. Then another man came out of one of the entrances. Lonny could tell who he was just by looking at him. Young, muscular, trim, black hair in a Mohawk. He was covered with tattoos, up and down his arms, tattoos of wolves, snarling, long vicious shouts, teeth bared. The animals’ eyes had the same quality of the young man’s, of Lonny’s. Dark and piercing. They all had them. There wasn’t anything they could do about it.

The young man nodded at Lonny. Just nodded, nothing else. Lonny nodded back and now that they had said everything there was to say, the young man went back down his entrance and Lonny went back down his.

He met John in the locker room. “I just saw who I was fighting. They look younger every year,” Lonny said to him.

“Especially the older I get,” John replied and they both laughed. “How you feeling, Lonny?”

Lonny didn’t feel like talking, so he didn’t. He just shrugged his shoulders and started changing. John sensed Lonny was angry, upset about something, but he couldn’t tell if that was good or bad.

When Lonny finished changing, he put his gloves on, his old ones, the ones he always wore. They looked their age, though the silver had been touched up. His fingers came out the other end and John tied them up. Lonny then went to his cage where two attendants locked him in. Lonny looked at John, then sat down and just waited.

Barry came by and they exchanged understanding looks. The large man was with him and when he left with Barry he gave Lonny a thumbs up.

And Lonny went back to waiting. It shouldn’t be long until the change came. Lonny could always feel it coming. But there was nothing yet. So he sat and waited. And then there it was. It had began. And when Lonny saw that, he knew it was now only a matter of time.

 

The fight never started as soon as the change came. It couldn’t be halted once it began since the fighters couldn’t react to buzzers indicating the end of a round. They were more like dogs in a dogfight that way. And though the fighters could do some damage to each other, only on rare occasions could they inflict enough of it to actually halt what was transpiring. They couldn’t be killed, never really defeated, until the change happened again and the fighters returned to normal. It was only then that one could finally overpower the other, like a regular boxing match

But that could take hours, all night from moonrise to moonset. No one was going to watch a fight for twelve hours. So the evening started with boxing matches, mixed martial arts, and even bands and comedians entertained until early morning. In fact, often no one was even in a seat when the festivities started.

This worked in the fight’s advantage in a way. As the excitement grew outside, as the seats filled up, the tension would find its way into the cages. This would agitate the fighters, rile them up, make them pace their cages, snarling and howling. They would hit themselves against the bars, but they were silver plated and only caused them pain, riling them up even more.

Over the years, the promoters had thought of everything.

But tonight was big. People were arriving earlier. Bets were being taken, more bets than ever before. The liquor overflowed. There had never been this much tension. And the crowd was so large, closed circuit TV was set up so people could watch outside. No one had seen anything like it.

 

It was almost four in the morning when the big bout began. John was outside Lonny’s cage and the doors swung open to connect with the arena entrance so the fighters had only one way to go. As he saw Lonny go by, John’s phone rang. He looked at the name on the call and answered it. “Maria?”

 

The fight was fierce. It was glorious. It was magnificent. There were no words to describe it, though people talked about it for years to come. But it was unlike any fight they had seen before. That was one of the things everyone agreed on.

The two fighters kept after each other, circling and circling the arena, then pounding and clawing and pounding and biting away. Every time the silver on a glove connected with its opponent, there were howls of pain, roars that could be heard for miles away the people said. And every time there was a howl of pain, the crowd grew more and more excited. They yelled and screamed, feeding the rage of the fighters. And this rage grew and fed upon itself, doubling, tripling, increasing tenfold by the second. And when one of the fighters hit against one of the silver bars, the rage increased tenfold more.

There were times when the crowd thought the fighters might knock the arena bars down. But they didn’t care, no one left. When the bars shook, they just yelled all the more. And the fighters kept on fighting nearly oblivious to anything going on around them. They fought like the wild animals they were, vicious, brutal, snarling and snapping and biting.

And they fought on and on as if time would never end, as if they would never stop.

But they had to stop at some point. And when the moon slipped down beyond the mountains, they began changing again, changing until they returned to what they were, an aging champ and a young tor. As the two slowly returned to their senses, then the final battle began, fought with all the ferocity left over from the change.

After a short time, Lonny had returned to his senses enough to know this was the time to make his move. So he let his opponent reign more and more blows down on him until he was on the ground. But as he laid there, he looked into the stands and was stunned. Lonny, Jr., was there. He was there with the three other boys. Maria was nowhere in sight.

Lonny was confused, groggy, he couldn’t think straight, he couldn’t think at all. And then it came over him. Suddenly he had a new energy. He fought back. The crowd erupted. The fight wasn’t over. Lonny was fighting back and the match continued. His opponent stood up to him, gave back as good as he got. But Lonny slowly started landing two, three blows for every one he got. And after what seemed an eternity, Lonny connected with the chin of the young man with the wolf tattoos, and he fell and didn’t get up.

The crowd rose and cheared until they all began whooping in unison. Lonny just stood there staring at his son, his son smiling and staring back, not joining in with his friends, just looking at his father. And then a referee came in and held up Lonny’s hand and it was over.

 

Lonny was back in his dressing room where John was attending to his bruises. Outside, Lonny could hear the excitement as security guards kept the crowd away. After a moment Barry walked in followed by the large man. He stood there not saying anything. No one said anything.

Then Lonny, Jr., ran in followed by his friends. “Dad, I saw it. You were great.”

The three other boys said the same thing. Lonny just smiled weakly. Then his son ran to him and hugged him.

John spoke up. “Maria called. He snuck out without her knowing it.”

Lonny, Jr., looked up at him. “I’m sorry, dad. I just had to see you fight.”

Lonny ruffled his son’s hair and looked at Barry. “It’s okay, son,” he said. “It’s fine.”

Then Maria walked in. “Mom,” Lonny, Jr. cried out. “You should have seen it. Dad really got the other guy.”

“It’s all right,” she told him. “We’ll talk at home.”

But Lonny, Jr., wouldn’t let go of his father. “Can’t I stay a little while?”

Lonny looked him in the eyes. “You go with your mother. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay,” he said as he let go. He and his friends went ahead of Maria. Before she left, she turned and looked at Lonny, just looked, then left. The silence returned.

Then Barry said, “That was a stupid thing to do.”

“I,” Lonny started, then stopped, then started, “When I came out of it, I wasn’t thinking, I, I wasn’t…” and he trailed off.

Barry looked at John and Lonny looked too and indicated he should leave. John didn’t want to, but he did. Finally.

“I can’t give you the money, Barry. I need it. I have to have it.”

“Who says you’re still going to get it?”

Lonny looked at him in a panic. “But I won it. It’s mine.”

“What are you going to do? Sue me? It’s illegal. There’s nothing you can do if I don’t pay up.”

“But my son? He needs it. He might die, Barry.”

“You should’ve thought of that in the ring.”

“But…but there’s gotta be something I can do.”

Barry just looked at him until Lonny knew. Lonny drooped, fallen, a shell. This was it. After all this time, it was over.

“All right,” he said, resigned. “I’ll…I’ll do it…if Maria gets the money.”

Barry nodded at the large man who pulled a gun from inside his coat. He placed it on the bench by Lonny along with a silver bullet. Barry gave Lonny one more look, then he and the large man left and went into the hall. After a moment, they heard the shot and it was over.

As they reached the exit, Barry turned to the large man. “Go ahead and give him a hundred Gs of my own money. No reason the son should pay for the sins of the father.”

“Will do,” the large man said.

When they got outside, the sun was coming up.

“I tell you, though, boss. He may have double-crossed you, but that was one hell of a fight.”

Barry kept on walking. “That it was. It was one for the ages.”

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