Insecticide

I drove home from work and lay down on the bed. Then I got up and opened a window. So humid. Thought I heard a stomp of thunder. Or maybe it was the neighbours. I set my alarm for 7:30. And put a video on. Gennady Golovkin vs Grzegorz Proksa. What a puncher Golovkin is. Like a crack of lightening, heavy as a boulder. The commentators made oohs and ahhs as the shots hit Proksa, sending him into the ropes. It was as though two men were hitting him. I realised that Golovkin was younger than me. I felt old. And I felt like a child in comparison to him. Weak. Slow. Uncoordinated. Lazy.
A fly landed on my bare leg. It shuffled about. Bzzzt. I tried to swat it with a heavy paw. It flew away effortlessly. As though it hadn’t even seen that I was trying to kill it.
I decided it was just a stupid insect. It became trapped between the venetian blinds and the window. It kept tapping against the glass, unable to fathom why this transparent area was solid. Why it couldn’t fly right through. To other legs. To more vital parts. I wondered if it carried eggs. Whether it was looking for a good nest for them.
Insecticide.
Half asleep, I crossed my fingers for rain. The air needed a good clean. And so did I.

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He drew himself back on his wobbly spine, fizzing brain; if not with intelligence, then beer, and threw the punch. His eyes did not follow the swing, though he felt the slight tap as the knuckles, his knuckles, lightly brushed the outer, leathery edge of the bag. It creaked backwards and clacked back into its mechanised housing…almost tiresomely. He recovered his balance and, with his brain spinning in confusion, humiliation, then a building, white hot self-hatred, he watched the clock add up his score.

215. A child would have hit more powerfully.

Within a few laps of the clock, the ‘pugilist’ drank away his sorrows surrounded by gaudy, dusty photos; drying his tears on memories he might as well have invented from scratch. From deep within this musty grave lined with bunting and fairy lights, worms reached out for a single swing at his jaw, confident they might be able to floor him. Perhaps they’d heard the news. Perhaps they just wanted to kiss him, then bore into his soft, dainty flesh and remove him from the gene pool for to provide valuable fertilizer.
Perhaps. But the grave, the worms and the photographs waving in the layers of muck in a whirlwind, were phenomena that existed in the mind, and the mind only, of the failed pugilist. The grey destroyer. The punk with the clip-on nose ring. The man of the world, as seen through the comfort of the first class cabin window.
He took his precious moleskin note-book from his blazer and wrote the following instruction:
“To do – Monday: Buy shovel”.

Finder of the New Day Without Himself Gone

This old man pranced around the heavy bag and tried to look like a boxer. He was breathing for three lungs. The coaches were stood around imploring him on, “Last minute Russ; come on mate, last minute!” Then one of the coaches said, “You’ve got a right hand too Russ!” and that did it. Though his arms were ready to fall off, his legs begged to die and his lungs burned like fire, it was the heart that bit down, saw red and bludgeoned that heavy bag with everything he had. That he was old didn’t bother him. In truth, he would have been happy to die with his gloves on. So he mixed it up with slick combinations; putting sting on his shots; moving in and out, side to side. He lunged in, threw an overhand right and the bag made a sound like a humpback hitting the water. And the old man skipped back like a ballet dancer, catching the bag with a sweet left hook as it swung back at him. He heard the beeps for the last ten seconds and felt it rise again in him. He refused to be beaten by his old body. And his old body was a wimp and he told it so. It just wanted to lie down. So the old man gave it an ultimatum: he said it could either help him fight these next ten seconds and leave a part of itself in the gym, or it could pack up and die and he was happy with either outcome. The body, his body, wasn’t even given time to answer. Russ, the old man, popped and thumped the bag with rapid combinations; jabs, backhands, hooks, uppercuts; darting around the bag, letting it swing by him…a centimetre from his nose; snapping jabs out, bouncing on his feet as though he weighed nothing. The body was so overheated that steam rose off it, like a racehorse. “You can die if you need to.” The old man said to his weak body, “I can’t give up.”

“Time!” said the coach.

Russ answered his arms call to hang by his sides, his legs to keep still and straight…his lungs gulped down more air than they could manage.

This was the thing…

For Russ, he faced Death. It had been grinning at him all day. In the darkness of his studio, when he was supposed to work, Death showed him pictures of all the people he loved dead or dying. It broke him down, tried to make him vulnerable; drunk on its blackness. Death wanted Russ to lay down and cry, to call for him, to desire him. Death was a lonely individual. And although Russ was lonely, he wasn’t going to start entertaining this dark hooded fucker. But he decided, as Death had been showing him so much attention, to invite him along to the gym. Death followed him, like a stray dog on the promise of a feed. And so Death, tails wagging, takes Russ to the heavy bag and goads him. And Death thrives on the fact that people fear him; he finds it very attractive in a prospective corpse. So Russ is training. And the old man needs to go all the way to the end, if that’s the way it’s going to be. Only thing is, Death doesn’t believe that Russ has the gonads for it. So he teases Russ. Sings his body a lullaby of fear; it responds, demanding that Russ slow down or, preferably, stop. But Russ has gone beyond the point of packing it in willingly. He is in a groove and, at the coaches comments, decides that a physical death would be much preferable to the one he’d certainly suffer from stopping. And, as the ten second beeps count down, Death’s cock shrinks smaller and smaller. Though he manages to steal six months from Russ, he does not take his life. And Russ knows that Death has disappeared, for now. There is no longer that smell in the air; the smell of the river, the storm, the fresh morning the day after you die. It has disappeared.

“Good last round,” the coach says.

And Russ tells himself, ‘Boy, you’re still here.’