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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story is about a boy named Leo and how he uses boxing to cope with the struggles of life.

Submitted: May 08, 2016

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Submitted: May 08, 2016

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Leo pulled the last of the wrap between his ring and pinky finger before circling it around his palm and tucking it in.  Methodically, he pulled the wrap around each finger, giving his hand a little wriggle room. Once they had all been loosened to a satisfactory level he reach down to grab the red boxing gloves at his feet. As always, he put the right glove on first, stretching his fingers forward until they reached the end.  He then tucked the other glove beneath his right arm and pushed his left hand all the way in. He used his teeth to pull the Velcro strap across the bottom of the glove. Pulling down on the ropes, he stepped into the ring.

The opponent was a lithe looking man. He had the long, angular muscle that one accustomed to boxing rather than days at the gym. It was explosive strength as opposed to slow strength. The opponent had a pale complexion with blue eyes; a length of blonde hair was exposed from his headgear. An image of World War Two recruitment posters came to mind.

They both walked towards the center and touched gloves. As they did Leo noticed how the man’s arms were angled down slightly, his reach just a tad longer than Leo’s own. Jabs would be an issue this match. If he could step inside the opponent’s range, perhaps push him against a corner and barrage him with uppers then it would be as good as won.

Leo knew he had three things going for him in boxing. First were his uppercuts. Nobody threw uppercuts like Leo did. He had never faced an opponent who could take his uppercut to the chin and stay standing. It just didn’t happen. The second was his attention to detail. It was normal for boxers to read body language. It gave them information on the opponent’s actions and bad habits. But Leo was exceptionally good at it. He could tell the difference between a fake and a real punch before the opponent had decided. His third advantage was anger. The angrier he got the less he cared about the pain. The less he cared about the pain, the more likely you were to meet advantage number one.

The opponent stepped forward left foot first. It’s habit for most boxers, a confirmation of their stance. Left foot forward meant he was right handed with a slight chance of him being ambidextrous. 

The opponent flicked a jab at Leo’s face. It was fast but not heavy. Leo lifted up his gloves to shed the blow. He knew the opponent was just feeling him out. Most boxers use round 1 to test the opponent, trying to find how aggressive they could afford to go.

Leo advanced steadily. Each movement he made was aggressive but controlled. He took a step forward, then to the right, then to the left, then forward again. The opponent did his best to not get cornered while tossing jabs to push Leo back.

They hurt like a bee sting hurts. It’s enough to get your attention, and enough to piss you off, but not enough to stop you. As a matter of fact Leo always hated how bee’s die after they sting you. They never give you a chance to hit them back

Suddenly the man’s left side bumped against the rope, he appeared startled to have reached the edge of the ring. He sidestepped to the right, struggling to escape the corner but Leo was waiting for him arm cocked.

Leo blasted away with a straight aimed at the man’s nose. Quickly, his opponent yanked his up his arms to cover his face. Leo hit him so hard that man’s gloves got knocked against his face leaving a red mark. Leo did not let up and continuously barraged him with a flurry of jabs, straights, and crosses. The opponent was desperate at this point. Trying to hold his gloves firmly in front of his face to prevent getting knocked out.  

His flurry of blows was meant to force the Youth to focus on protecting his face. Sure enough, the man has slowly lifted his gloves higher to better protect himself. But that’s exactly what Leo was waiting for. As soon as the man lifted his arms Leo ducked down low and pounded the opponents liver with a hook causing him to bend over in pain,

Leo then pivoted to the right and cocked his arm back by his waist. He released his punch like a bullet from a rifle. His uppercut slammed against the man’s chin with a satisfying ‘thud’. He could feel the vibrations ripple through the gloves and down his arm. The man’s head snapped back as he fell against the ropes before bouncing off them and on to the ground. Leo didn’t bother to wait for the count and simply walked over to his corner. He used his teeth once more to take off his gloves and then hang them over the ropes.

His coach walked over and made some brief hand gestures. “Good fight,” he signed.

Leo signed back with a smile, “Your strategy worked well.”

Henry appeared confused as he stared at Leo’s hands.

Leo let out a laugh and waved his hands in a ‘never mind’ sort of gesture. Quickly he signed, “bad fighter.”

Henry could only let out a wry smile in response. “He was ranked 13th in your weigh class.” Henry said aloud. Accentuating the point by signing the number thirteen.

Leo looked carefully at Henry’s lips to decipher what he said. “Unlucky thirteen,” Leo uttered in his discordant voice. Leo was one of the few people Leo felt comfortable talking around. Normally his voice embarrassed him.

He once asked out a girl back in freshman year. He thought it would seem more heartfelt if he said it instead of wrote it. Unfortunately for him, she recoiled at the sound of his voice and rejected him without missing a beat. He later learned that she told her friends he sounded like a goose giving birth. Not really the romantic feelings he intended to transmit.

You want to eat?” signed Henry.

No, I’m going home with Michael.” Leo replied.

Henry gave a snort and lifted up his hands to respond. After struggling for a moment he just made the gesture for annoying and chose to speak. “Your family is throwing another party?” asked Henry.

“No,” Leo garbled out, “my dad is.”

Henry just shook his head in response with a look of contempt undisguised in his eyes. “You next opponent is ranked 5th in your weight class,” he said. Once again he used his hands to sign the number of the fighter, five. If you can beat him like you beat this guy today you will have no problem at the Olympics. Leo was carefully reading Henry’s lips at this time.

I’ll win,” he signed.

It only took about ten minutes for Leo to take quick shower and change. The gym soap was not the best smelling but at least it was clean. He looked in the mirror for a second at his reflection. He was taller than his brother Michael, stronger too, but Michael was smarter. Michael had been taking advanced level courses since middle school while Leo was taking the class of hard knocks.

It wasn’t that Michael had no interest in helping his brother when he got bullied; it was just that he lacked the strength to do anything. Leo didn’t mind. It was during this period of time that he started coming to the gym and learned how to box from Henry.

Henry was an old school English boxer. He had won the Olympics a decade back and chose to open up a gym instead of entering the rigged ring of professional boxing.

When Leo first came to the gym he never spoke to anyone. He just wrote out everything he needed for Henry and pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket. Henry just glanced over the bruises on Leo and laughed, refusing to take the money. Instead he immediately brought him to a punching bag and had him start swinging. It was a ‘confidence thing’ he would say. Ironically, it wasn’t until Henry started learning to sign that Leo began talking to him. It was a ‘confidence thing’ Leo would joke back.

The gym mirror was cloudy but Leo could still see his tan complexion and dirty blonde hair. He was always a bit surprised to see the trademark heaviness in his eyes that experienced fighters seemed to have. It made him appear to be in his twenties rather than his actual age of seventeen.

Leo had taken to boxing like a dog to a ball. Any chance he got he would run to the gym and met up to train with Henry. It did not take long before the two were spending four to five hours everyday together. The bullying stopped within a month of him learning boxing. Which was good because even if he could drop most guys in one or two punches there wasn’t much he could do if someone snuck up on him with a brick. Being deaf made watching your back quite a bit more difficult. That was one of the reasons Leo liked the ring so much. Nobody could sneak up behind him.

Leo walked outside in his navy sweats and white t-shirt. His boxing bag was casually swung over his left should and his hair was still slightly damp. His brother always told him he should spike it like the Europeans so more girls liked him but Leo didn’t care. If all it took for a girl to like him was some spiked hair than he didn’t want that girl.

Michael was standing outside the gym in his tight-fitting, light blue, blue jeans. He had a brown belt on and a white collared shirt was tucked into his pants. Brown shoes that rode the line between fancy and casual decorated his feet. His brother was slightly less tan than him and had more clearly blonde hair. Leo sometimes wondered if he bleached it to look that way but he never bothered to ask.

How was your sparring match?” Michael signed.

I won,” said Leo.

Uppercut to the chin?”
“Am I that predictable?”

Michael smiled.  “Only to the people that know you.”

They began walking back to their house. Originally they would drive but ever since Michael crashed his Mercedes into a telephone pole their dad confiscated it. Since then they had made a habit of walking back home, it was only 20 minutes away anyways.

~~~

Soon the pair came upon a large Victorian style mansion. It had one of those long driveways that preached privacy but only really served to prove the wealth of its inhabitants. Michael had once tried to do a lemonade stand by the street once but people would drive away after seeing the driveway behind him. 

“Hey Dad,” Michael shouted. “We’re home.”

Leo felt the familiar vibrations of the floor and looked up to see his father huffing and puffing down the winding staircase. He was wearing his usual black suit, crimson tie, and black dress boots that, while worn, were polished to perfection. His blonde hair had started graying recently but he always tried to cover it up by twisting the blonde stands in front of it.

“Michael! Welcome back my boy,” the man shouted gleefully as he patted Michael’s shoulder. “Ah, and you as well L-e-o,” he continued with a slower voice, attempting to accentuate each letter of Leo’s name.

Leo met this greeting with a half-hearted smile. His dad had never bothered to learn sign language and instead spoke slower as if that would help.

“Alright I need both of you to help prepare the party,” began Oliver. “You know the drill, Leo bring out all the tables from downstairs and Michael go organize all the silverware. We are bringing out the good wine tonight so try not to drop anything.” Olive gave this whole sermon while staring at the two of them seriously.  

Oliver looked over at Leo and breathed in as if he was about to say it all again but seemed to think better of it. He gave a smile to Leo then turned to Michael. “Can you explain it to him, Michael?” he asked. “I want to go check on your mother.”

Michael looked unsettled and was about to say something but Leo just turned and walked downstairs. He knew the drill.

“Ah, good. Now Michael, don’t forget to mingle with the guests. They are all anxious to meet you. Leo should do some handshakes as well but he does not need to stay since talking makes him uncomfortable.

Michael gave his father a somewhat doubtful look before nodding his head.

“Yes, father.”

~~~

Leo withstood the party atmosphere for a grand total of five minutes before sneaking outside. He caught his mother’s eye as he was leaving and she gave him a sympathetic look.

When Leo was younger his mother always pushed him to stay with the guests as much as Michael but over time she had eased up. Leo knew his mother only wanted him to feel as loved as Michael by their father, but to Leo the parties were unbearable. A bunch of self absorbed old men and their trophy wives asking him to speak up before cringing at his voice.

Leo sat outside the backyard porch, leaning against the wall. The vibrations from the music inside went through the wall causing his chest to shake slightly. He tapped his knuckles against the ground in imitation of the beat from the music.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his boxing wrap. Methodically, almost religiously, he began to wrap his hands. Around, through, around, through, around through – bite the edge and tuck it in. He clenched and unclenched his fists, reveling in the power he felt. The dry leaves cracked beneath his feet and he stood and started walking. He went past the yard, over the driveway, down the train tracks, into the woods. Finally he came upon a bridge made to hold the abandoned railway. It was 10 meters off the ground and hung over the local river. Each plank was roughly arms length apart from one another.

He placed his right foot on the closest plank and his left on the one past it. Jab, straight, jab, duck, advance two planks, uppercut, hook, and another uppercut – he vigorously practiced his forms. Not once did his feet touch the same two planks, not once did he lose his balance. He began moving faster: jab, cross, hook, advance, cross, uppercut again. He moved more and more rapidly. His shadow danced on the moonlit water. Beads of sweat rolled down his neck and soaked his white dress shirt. His brown loafers scraped against the planks of wood, their color rubbing off with each new step. A leaf fell from a nearby tree, he ducked under it and threw a quick jab. His fist hit the leaf with a slapping sound. Nothing could touch him; he was the master of his body. He was the king of his ring. 



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