Brothers

By RM Schmidt

The night before it started: that sudden sharp realization that the fight was tomorrow. For two months Bax had known about it. He trained in the gym, sweating day in and day out, dieting, and cutting the necessary weight. All in preparation for the fight. He had known it,  thought it and envisioned it, but the night before was different, like a rising dreadful feeling that the time had finally come. It made him anxious, and he found it hard to sleep the night before.

Now in the dressing room, when the porter came in and motioned to his team that the he was up, his brother patted him on the shoulder. It was a funny feeling then, everything grew very distant, his adrenaline seeking to overtake him, his heart racing, palms sweaty. But in all outward appearance, he seemed fine, simply rising and following his brother through the long hallway and into the auditorium, his face like stone. It was his amateur debut.

The crowd was deafening. Metal guard rails were placed on each side of the walkway and Brazilian fans pressed against them en masse, screaming, arms outstretched, holding banners and waving national flags. Bax slowly came down the sloping walkway, his brother and trainer right behind him. The cage that stood in the center of the auditorium, his only focus. His opponent was all ready inside, and he could see him walking back and forth under the bright lights waiting for him, giant arms hung at his sides.

When he arrived next to the cage, he stopped and stepped out of his flip flops and took off his shirt and handed it to his brother. The cut man applied Vaseline to his eyebrows and nose, and then checked his gloves and mouthpiece, before motioning him towards the open door of the cage. Bax turned around and hugged his trainer and his brother, their embrace lasting longer, his brother whispering something in his ear. What he said cannot be repeated because the words could not convey the power they had for the other in that moment. But they eased Bax. And he waved his arm to the crowd and then climbed up the stairs and stepped into the cage.

The ring announcer introduced them, while the Goliath loomed large and confident, with a gut that bulged further than his chest, his eyes like menacing slits. Across the cage, Bax bounced on his toes. The referee called them forward, and the fighters shook their arms loose and walked across the white blood stained mat. In the center of the cage and not an inch apart, they stared intensely in each others eyes, their nostrils flaring and chests rising, while the referee held their hands and barked instructions. They touched gloves and walked back to their corners.

The bikini-clad ring girl lowered the round number, and the rows of audience members yelled and clapped behind the wire cage. The tension in the air was tangible. The ref pointed at them and shouted, “Let’s fight.”

He threw his hand down in a chopping motion and ran back in a stutter step. Everything went quiet. Bax crept forward with his back leg planted wide apart from his front, holding a high guard. Almost immediately, the Goliath rushed forward, his fat stomach bouncing like a loose sack of flour, and Bax slipped to his left and avoided  the right hand that came flailing through.  The Goliath whirled around as if incredulous. Then he smiled and circled back across the mat, nodding and dipping his head.

The Goliath closed the distance, but this time he was methodical. They circled each other. A few jabs were thrown, measuring the distance and feeling each other out. The Goliath threw another overhand right, but he telegraphed it, and Bax easily side stepped and circled off him, and then abruptly shot forward and erupted with a low kick and left- right combination. The Goliath, covering his face with both hands, turned his head downwards and stepped back and tried to reset. Bax jumped forward and threw an inside leg kick; it thumped into the thigh of the Goliath with hardly a sound like a two-by-four. The Goliath nodded his head and smiled as if to say that it did not hurt, but anytime a fighter did this it always did.

He must avoid the right hand and keep his distance so that he would not be taken down. Circle, circle, angle – strike. The Goliath rushed forward as if frustrated and pushed him towards the cage, and they clenched and Bax tried to get an under hook, as the Goliath dropped down and went for his legs. They struggled this way for a full minute, each side nullifying the other, until the referee came between them and broke it up.

Now with only three minutes into the fight, they were sweating and breathing heavy. The Goliath again came forward to take him towards the cage, but Bax ducked and stepped inside and grabbed him behind the neck, his muscles and veins bulging in his biceps, as he tightened his grip. Over the din of the crowd, his brother screamed from his corner, “Let’s go!”

Bax’s pulled the Goliath’s head down and brought his right knee up – it struck the Goliath in the sternum like an explosion – and another came in lightening-quick succession. Bax could tell he hurt him. The Goliath tore away and stumbled backwards, bent over while clutching his side. Bax chased him into the cage. But he did so with a reckless abandon, evidence of his freshman status, and the Goliath, playing possum, dropped his shoulder and threw his right hand. It connected onto Bax’s chin cleanly, his head snapped, sweat flying off in a fine slow-motion mist. He fell onto his back and the Goliath was on top of him like a predator over its prey, swinging wildly with his fists, while Bax tried to pull him into full guard and protect his face, his mind black, swimming, colors swirling …

– And then he was in the back yard, his face pressed into the ground, the rich smell of grass pouring through his nostrils. A great weight was on top of him, and an arm was clenched around his neck, sucking the air from him. Each time he took a breath it closed tighter, so that the next breath was ever shorter. All was black, he started to fade, growing warmer… and then with a last sudden burst of strength, he grabbed the arm and wrenched it free, while locking his leg around the others and he rolled, ending up on top. Now gasping on top, his brother beneath smiled, “Very nice-”

Now back, noise, hanging on, pulling him close. That hot manly smell of sweat and ragged breath, power on power. Distantly, the bell rang like he were underwater, and the referee pulled the two apart.

Bax struggled up his feet mightly, swaying, and returned to his corner. His trainer wiped the sweat from his body and arms, and began to work on the cut that had formed over his right eyebrow, trickling blood down into his eyes. His brother rubbed his legs and shouted, “You were good, good round there, you just got to avoid his right hand! Keep the distance, and then in and out and circle to your right! Okay?”

“Yeah.”

“You okay?”

“Circle to my right”

The trainer gave him a swallow of water and his brother clapped him on the back, “Go get him!”

Bax stood back up and the bell rang. He had recovered, and he came forward with a sense of desperation, forgetting all that his brother had just told him. He parried the Goliath’s shots, and again pulled him inside close, and grabbed him in a clinch and threw his knees into the chest, dragging him around the ring. The Goliath tore free and hammered him with a left hook, that clipped the top of his head. Bax covered and threw a leg kick and danced away. The Goliath was grinning big now, and he waved his arms as if to goad him into a pure fist fight. And Bax obliged. He rushed in, again grabbing the clench, but this time, he immediately let go. The Goliath, surprised was frozen for just a moment. A moment long enough for Bax to throw his hips and fling his back leg with all of his weight behind it. It was a deadly and fluid motion, his leg shooting around like a sling unleashed. His shin struck the Goliath’s skull with a dull thunk. The Goliath stood stunned, his eyes rolling about, and then as if in a delayed reaction, stumbled backwards against the cage and fell to the ground.

The crowd erupted into a maniacal cheer and waved their arms delightedly, an announcers ear phones snapped free as he jumped upward. His brother was shouting and his trainer was jumping, both screaming. “Get on him now, get on him!”

Bax followed him to the ground and rained punches down upon him, the Goliath curled against the cage, with both hands covering his face. Bax hit him in a brutal fashion; once, twice, thrice… and then the referee flung himself between them.

Instantly, the cage door opened and his brother and trainer rushed in and hoisted him into the air. Lights flashed as he spun with his arms raised. There was much shouting and congratulation, a sense of ultimate jubilation.

“What do you say boy, way to finish it quick!”

“Come on now let him down.”

“Give him his shirt!”

The trainer backed away, and his brother pulled a shirt over his head. The bright lights had faded, a gentle blue light now illuminating the spectacle. The doctors and trainers were  attending to the Goliath, who lay sprawled out and unconscious on the mat. The ring announcer began to orchestrate, and the referee came over and took his hand and hoisted it in the air. The crowd roared.

When the Goliath began to stir, Bax walked over to him and shook his corners hands, and then bent down upon his knee and pressed his forehead to his. Each looking at the other in a sign of mutual respect. A respect earned in a way that few men would ever know in a lifetime. Thanking him, Bax stepped out of the cage and clapped hands and smiled, as new fans encircled him, his brother and trainer plowing ahead, yelling at the fans to clear the way.

Bax sat on the training table, with his hands held out before him. The room was bare, the brick walls painted white, exposed pipes running along the ceiling. His brother was unwrapping the tape from his hands. “Man o’ man what a way to win huh? First you get the knock out, but with a head kick-”

He looked up at Bax with a crazy smile. “-that you might get just once in your career. Jesus did he go down. You set that up well with the dummy.”

“Yeah when he straightened up with hands held low like that, I just thought I could land it.”

“You didn’t listen to a damn thing I said though. See how quick it can change in there? You might not be so lucky next time all right?”

“I know.”

“How you feeling otherwise?”

“I’m good.”

“Any pain?

“I could fight again tomorrow.”

“That’s what I like to hear, but wait till tomorrow.”

His brother finished with the tape. Bax leaned back, his back pressing against the cool hardness of the wall, and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“I’m just glad it’s over. I was so nervous.”

“You didn’t look it.”

“Shoot, I felt like jumping out my skin back here earlier. It was like I went into a trance.”

“That’s normal and you played it just right by not getting crazy out there at first. You took it nice, cool and calm. You see how you got a little too excited after that first knee right?”

“Yeah, I should have still been cautious.”

“Man, I can’t believe he didn’t knock you out. That right hand could a killed a person.”

“I blacked out for a minute, I don’t remember-”

His brother stood up and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Come on go hop in the shower, we’ll talk later after we re-watch the fight. We got an after party to get to big man!”

“Is Denise coming?”

“Yeah.”

“Damn.”

His brother gave him a knowing grin, and Bax stood and picked up a towel from the table. Throwing it over his shoulder, he walked towards the showers, smiling and shaking his head. As he disappeared behind the wall, his brother shouted. “Hey!”

Bax stuck his head back around. “Yeah?”

“I’m proud of you. You sure looked a lot better than I did in my debut.”

Bax nodded, “Thanks.”

After he left, his brother remained seated, waiting for him. His elbows folded on his knees and head bent low, the subtle spray of the shower in the background.

 

——————–

RM Schmidt was born in Columbia, SC. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles where he continues to write and is planning on returning to the East coast this summer. A trained lawyer, he is now pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy. His short stories have appeared recently in the Blue Lake Review and Stone Path Review.


Comments are closed.