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In the Ring

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                “I really can’t do that, kid,” said Jim, the owner of Fogwell’s gym.

                Matt hears the regret in his voice, but it’s not much of a consolation. “I’ll be fine in there.” He gives a nod towards the fight he can hear going on in the ring. Ever since Stick left, he’s been itching to get more fight practice.

                “Maybe you would be. Maybe you wouldn’t. All I know is I don’t want the trouble that will come from me letting someone beat up a blind kid.”

                “I’ll sign a form saying that all injuries are on my own recognizance.”

                Jim laughed. “Look at you, using fancy words. Your old man was always talking about how smart you were. You still in high school?”

                “Yes. I graduate next year.” Matt decided to change tactics. “Please, Jim, I know how to avoid getting hit.”

                “Kid, maybe you inherited your dad’s talent, but even Jack Murdock took a lot of hits.” Jim sighed. Matt could hear the rustle of his hand running over the stubble on his face. “There’s no way I can let you in that ring, but if you make sure you always have a spotter and want to throw a few rounds at a bag for old time’s sake, I’m game. Same goes for any of the other equipment.”

                “I don’t need a spotter,” protests Matt. What he needs is to fight living opponents, but if someone who knows him won’t go for it, then the chances of a stranger letting him fight in the ring at some other gym are virtually nil.

                Jim snorted. “Yeah, that’s exactly what you’re going to say until you over extend and the bag hits you back.”

                “I’ll- I’ll think about it.” There’s something comforting about coming back to this gym after so many years. It smells stale. Like dust and old sweat, but it’s also alive with grunts, scuffs and the steady pounding of fists into punching bags and flesh.

                “It’s a dollar per visit to use the towels and showers. You know when we close.” Matt controls his flinch when Jim gives him an unexpected pat on the back. “Good to see you again, kid.” His heart beat picks up. “Carlos, keep your fucking fists up!” He storms away towards the ring.

                Matt turns towards the door.

                “Hey Matty!” It’s Howie’s voice. He used to be a boxer, but he retired after getting his fist crushed. Now he acted as Jim’s manager. Matt follows the voice to the side of the room, carefully going around a boxer going at one of the bags. “Take a load off for a sec.” There was a thump thump as he patted the bench beside him. Once Matt was settled, Howie leant in close enough that Matt could feel his breath. “I know what it’s like to have all these idiots staring at you when you’re trying to train after you’ve been hurt. Now maybe that doesn’t bother you, and it’s certainly not something that’s going to occur to old Jimmy there, but if you show up after closing, I can guarantee you the bags will be free.”

                “No towel fees?” asked Matt with a grin. He liked this idea. It wasn’t as good as a real opponent, but if he didn’t have witnesses, then he could go all out.

                “Don’t push your luck.”

                “Thanks, Howie.”

                “Just don’t let Jim know. That old softie thinks you’re delicate or something.” They both laughed.

                “See you at 10 then,” said Matt, while standing up. “No need to leave the lights on.” He grinned in Howie’s general direction then headed for the door.

                “Murdocks,” he heard Howie mutter behind him.