Cherry Charles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
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Cherry Charles is a down on his luck boxer, but can one dodgy job land him the chance to have his dream title fight?

Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Cherry landed on the canvas again. He kept his arms and gloves stuck up like he was ready to take the fight to the floor. The bell rang. Cherry shook his head at the referee. He tried to make his lips form words from his mouth: Hey, I was just gettin’ started. But the mouth guard proved a silencer, and he drooled like an injured puppy over the ref’s polished shoe. The ref sighed like he knew what Cherry was trying to say, “For the past five rounds you’ve been swinging like a drunk, an’ flapping around the floor like an upturned cockroach.”

He picked Cherry up and contemplated him as if he realised maybe boxing was actually better off with guys with balls like Cherry. He patted him on the back and said, “Charlie, it’s only one loss.”

Yeah, he thought, I’ve heard that one before.

*

He was back to being Charles once he hit the showers. He didn’t have to wash the sweat off, just the blood. His young skin was getting worn down like polished leather every time he stepped over the ropes. Five fights, four losses. He only won a fight because when Benny Bruges had him against the ropes a year ago - mirroring Jesus Christ spread out on the cross - Benny started playing up to the crowds jeers and cheers by shadow boxing Cherry like an embarrassing Uncle who gave his nephew a fake right jab to the gut. Cherry responded to the showboating with a right hook that slid down Benny’s cheek. It wobbled Benny, probably more the fact that any type of blow to Benny would have wobbled him, considering his brain was more a sponge clogged with whiskey. It took a few gusty swings of the mitts to take Benny down, well, he sort of went down in instalments, “Probably from laughter,” said Coach. Cherry liked how Coach always kept him at ground level, or as Coach started saying, “Hey buddy, from my view behind the ropes, I’ve started to notice you’re a bit of a romantic. You and the ground can’t stop seeing each other!”

But anyway, he was back to ol’ Charles once he waxed his black hair back - careful to take out any dried blood - and put on his brown khaki pants, his white vest and his black leather Oxfords. He then stood in front of the mirror and pouted, saying to himself, “Oh ya! I look like Tex Ritter after a late night showin’!”

One last thing he always did before walking out the fire exit door – careful to avoid some of his remaining fans, who were mostly life insurance schmucks – he tied his boxing gloves around his belt buckle like two cherries hanging from a withered tree. He recalled the time when Coach said. “Hey buddy, did he catch you with a low shot to the globes?”

“How’d you mean, Coach?”

“Your balls a’ come up like a bag-a-grapefruits there, heh-heh-heh . . .”

“No, those are my gloves, Coach.”

“I like you Charlie, fast hands an’ fast brains – you ever thought of show business?”

“I don’t know, it seems like a neat line of work, but I need to focus on becoming world champion first, Coach.”

“Heh-heh-heh.”

Charles smiled at that memory and thought, you know, if I can make people laugh, I should leave the show business door hinged at least. He let the thought linger as he strode out the fire exit door.

*

Eva was waiting at the alley way entrance on Barton Avenue, just down the side of the Wildcat Auditorium. Charles adjusted his belt buckle and ‘cherries’ so they wouldn’t swing against his knees. He brushed his white vest with the back of his hand and drew on his million dollar smile, well, his version of it anyway. His teeth would cost a million bucks to rectify.

Charles always thought he would spot Eva in a crowd. Not because of what she wore, even though she did dress like a Hollywood star in her cream tights, blue dress and blue wide brim hat, but because she had a stern, upright posture and strong facial bone structure. She always had her hands in a tight ball ready to spring upon an unsuspecting throat. She wasn’t like the fragile pettles dat’ wondered past her on the street looking for the spotlight, he thought.

She was a doer. A fashion designer. A women’s activist. She managed to get 230 women into secure and higher paying jobs because of the war. She was a God, to some.

Charles bounced up to her and said, “Did you see the fight?”

“No I was with Dora sorting out the women’s march for the 11th, I heard it on the radio.”

Charles smiled this time, without his million dollar grin and without eye contact. He could feel her gaze trying to penetrate him for more information, a reason, or an apology. Instead, he swung himself into her blue Lincoln Continental convertible like you see in the movies.

“This is not the tin can you drive you big dope. This is real leather; you scuff that you’ll be hunting cattle with a bread knife ‘till morning.”

You see, Coach said it would be a good idea if Eva and he hung around a little because she was pals with boxing promoter Silvio Romero. Sure, Charles didn’t mind Eva, she was feisty, a hard hitter with words, a bowling ball bombing straight through the male ego, but after all, she was a ladder to climb. Coach said he needed to try and climb different ladders because so far his boxing career had been spent walking under them.

“So where are we going?” said Charles.

Eva had her eyes fixed on the road, her top half lurched forward, her hands clenched. You could see the veins bulging. She must have been hitting 60 down Hollywood Split.

We? No, you are going to my house Charlie.”

Again, who is it now? Dan, Frankie, Kirk?”

“Reginald. Reginald B. Arthur. A plumber from England, high maintenance, always has to be fixing something. That’s the way I suppose if you’re brought up with a shed to relieve one-self and a wheel barrow to get around town. Yes, he seemed charismatic when he fixed my toilet, but I think romance was only set alight by love for his craft. You see . . .”

Charles zoned out and watched the billboards wiz past him. He caught one of Dwight ‘The Riddler’ Starling who was current middleweight champion. He was standing with his golden title around his waist, arm raised in the air by some referee, the crowd’s faces caught in that moment of pure elation.

Eva’s grating voice edged back in, “- it’s a profitable business, but he’s just lounging on my sofa which I now have to get cleaned twice a -”

“Eva, when am I going to get a big fight. Y-You know, how many more guys do I have to muscle before I get one, huh?”

She turned her nose up at the road like she spotted road kill. “Charlie, an artist’s painting is not finished with a few dandy brush strokes.”

“No, no, I’m watching other fighters and they seem all, all, uh - they can be all showboat-y, they got . . . showmanship, yeah, and I gotta start doing dat’ you know. I want to meet Silvio. I want to sit down. I want to talk about, pros-pects.”

Eva face transformed into a meaty frown, and continued driving in silence until she pulled up behind a long line of tall conifers on Primrose Drive. The top of her white mansion was poking out above the bushes. She turned to Charles who was looking down at his boxing gloves, fingering them like an upset child who rips holes in his cry tissue.

“Listen, go in there and do your job that I pay you for. Just don’t knock him out like Kirk. I had to buy a new rug after he soiled himself.”

Charles flicked his blank gaze into a frown. He said, “You know what, why do I have to beat your boyfriends around anyways? What does it win you - a few slaps to the chops. Coach says you can’t win a fight unless -”

“Charlie, you’ve still got a lot to learn.”

“Huh?”

“Go. I’ll be back at 9.”

Charles tried to talk but she waved him out: “Go. Shoe. Off.”

When she managed to usher him out of the car, he stood on the sidewalk and watched her screech off.

Charles untied his boxing gloves from his belt and put them on.

It’s time to be a showman, he thought. It’s time to be ass-er-ta-tive. I’m gunna show her how Cherry Charles really wins a fight.

With his head lurched forward like a bruiser, and his fists pumping together, he stormed up her drive.

Eva’s reception was all white marble. Two sets of stairs bent from left and right up towards a long corridor of bedrooms used for each man she had housed previously. She needed every last one of those rooms because it cost a lot to refurbish after she threw them out. Charles always thought her house looked like what you’d expect God’s house to look like. You would just need a Cherub to float down with a gee-tar, he thought.

I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle
As I go ridin' merrily along
And they sing, 'Away, too glad, you're single'
. . .

As Charles let Tex Ritter’s song chunter in his head, he saw smoke billowing from the front room. If the big man is up there, he thought, this would be a signal. Charles rubbed his gloves together like a kid who smells Momma’s cooking.

Oh boy, oh boy, is that what I gotta give a make-over? Sitting on the sofa was Reginald B. Arthur. He wore green pants, his top half bare. His skin tightly wrapped around his ribs. He must have been late thirties. He was starring at an instruction manual for radiators. And he could finally see where the smoke originated from: a broken pipe next to the radiator.

Reginald B. Arthur puffed out his cheeks and didn’t even spot Charles steaming towards him.

That was the last thing Charles remembered, well, that and the sharp pain that speared into his groin.

*

Charles reckoned he was lying on the floor. His whole body felt numb apart from the searing pain across his stomach, and he could just make out Eva’s red curtains as he squinted. His vision was like frosted glass. He kept blinking as if it was just sand in his eye, and that his vision would return to normal. But it stayed just as blurred. He raised his head and could just make out two brown shoes pointing up. Dat’s strange, he thought, I were wearing my black Oxfords when I left. He tried to look around the rest of the room. All looked familiar. Steam was still billowing from the right hand corner of the room. There were still hammers and spanners along the carpet, and the radiator manual. But hang on. He didn’t remember hearing music. It sounded like Mozart’s Requiem In D Minor, K. 626: 1. Introitus Requiem, he heard that song all the time on Eva’s car radio.

As Charles’ vision sharpened he saw a television to his left. It was playing moving images of soldiers running into battle with explosions smashing the ground next to them. Gee, I wonder how dat big shoot ‘em ups gettin’ on, he thought. Suddenly to Charles’ right he heard a huff. It was Reginald B. Arthur. He had changed into a uniform made of dark green Khaki wool and was sporting a dark navy service cap. Charles knew an officers uniform when he saw one. Charles also knew his two cherries when he saw them, and Reginald B. Arthur was holding them. Fingering them. Charles gazed at his groin area, which, incidentally, was still covered in red. But the new red was not top grained tanned leather. He fingered the red patch. It felt wet. He could also feel a draft between his legs. Fortunately, he could still feel his pecker, but he figured that his two globes beneath his johnson must have bounced into his stomach as he smacked the ground, because he couldn’t feel or see them.

“You need more than those, dear boy,” said Reginald B. Arthur as he gave a sympathetic smile to Charles’ groin. Reginald B. Arthur then corrected his smile to one of a smug boxing referee and said, “So you’re the famous sandbag on legs, aye.”

Charles couldn’t think of a response. His words bounced around in his brain refusing to be caught. He just continued to pat his nut sack like a baby who had discovered a new toy.

Reginald B. Arthur continued, “Call me haughty Jerry, but it appears you have a block that you keep tripping on.”

Charles looked around frantically. Reginald B. Arthur giggled, producing the sound: ‘hunk-hunk-hunk’, “No, dear boy, it’s a metaphor. You have a problem in your boxing don’t you.”

Charles wanted to get up and wrap his hands around his roman candle of a neck and squeeze until his eyes popped and rolled across the carpet, Charles said, “Coach says I just gotsta hit back some more. Once I do dat’ and, uh, be a showman. My problems’ll -”

Jerry,” Reginald B. Arthur had his sympathetic smile drawn back on, “your problem is that you only do your fighting with these . . .” he waved Charles’ gloves in front of him like they were somebody else’s dirty underwear.

“Jerry, I think you’ve missed the art of the battle dear boy. You must not simply swing like a broken crane in the wind. You must create an enemy within,” Reginald B. Arthur nodded at this grand truth, “an enemy with-in your opponent.”

Charles frowned, “Is dat’ a metaphor?”

Reginald B. Arthur pouted like a teacher ignoring his misbehaving student. He rose up and pointed at the television. “Look at these men Jerry. Look at them. They charge into battle with guns loaded, balls swinging like rubber dingys in rough seas. Brave, brave men. But educated in the art of battle? Well, we shall let the coroner decide.”

Charles nodded at Reginald B. Arthur like he did to Coach when he didn’t understand him. “Now look at me dear boy. I’m more equipped for a germ to infect me than to storm the beaches. So what do I do Jerry?”

“Hide in the corner like a patsy.”

“Hunk-hunk-hunk.” Reginald B. Arthur beat his chest with his fist.

“No, you see, I have the privilege of being a high ranking officer, Jerry. I am off to stop the krauts. And how am I going to beat our sausage loving friends, Jerry . . . I am going to diminish their supplies. I am going to bomb their food crates, their hospitals. I’m going to fashion hunger, erode them into weaklings, Jerry. I am going to spawn an enemy within.” Reginald B. Arthur tapped his forehead, “The game is all up here, dear boy . . . How did I beat you in our little skirmish? I created a false sense of security in you, showing you my withered figure, making you believe you could break me in two. All I had to do was wait for you to lunge, I let my lead pipe do the rest - hunk-hunk-hunk.”

Charles felt the room wobble a little. He cheeks begun to burn. His head dropped back. He could just make out Reginald B. Arthur mutter something about fixing the radiator before his heavy boots clunked across the living room, and faded into the distance. The only sounds left were the hissing smoke, and Mozart. And the only thing he was left to look out was his balls splattered across the white ceiling. 


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