Episode 2 – The Ring

My gloves are taped, my hood goes overhead…I know that within an hour it will all be done.

The inspector leads us down a corridor toward the ballroom. At every turn, the roar is louder, the reality harsher. My opponent strides out of his dressing room just ahead. How calm he appears. How confident!

A hotel waiter passes…leafing through checks…looks up…catches my eye: “Good luck.”

In my head a familiar voice comes to life. Every fight it makes a visit…every fight it’s expelled: “Wouldn’t you rather wait tables? No pressure, no danger, no worries…always a few bucks, friends, a welcome drink….days off. A ride in the country. Wouldn’t that be better?”

I slam my eyes shut…command the voice to get out! But ask it to leave it’s card just in case. I chuckle at the thought. Jimmy asks: “What, son?”

“Nothing, Jimmy, nothing.”

Through the doorway and into the ballroom, the arena. The ring’s so bright it seems aflame. The excited masses huddle close…awed, crazed, ravenous. I’m a sacrifice…they’ve come to watch. They explode with cheers as my opponent and I make our way into the eye of the inferno. They know…only one can emerge unscathed…the other will be consumed.

In the crowd, I see familiar faces. They cry out: “Do it, Mark! Get him!” I jab my glove in their direction…nod. Nearing the ring, I feel the searing heat of the lights. The ringside elite grace me with their acknowledgement. It’s time, yet images drift through my head: “a car breaks the speed limit on 95…in a dorm, kegs arrive for tonight’s party…in an office, a man scratches his head in search of an answer that’s eluded him…in a West Coast bar, the waitress changes the channel: ‘Let’s watch the fights.’ ”

To be continued… Read episode 3.