Life Begins at Ten
By Bill Russo
He is lying flat on his back staring upward but he does not see or hear anything. How could he? It’s only one! And yet, in that flitting, fleeting split second between one and two, there is brightness. A bright dancing, dazzling illumination of some sort seems to be just above his head. The sun?
He’s fairly sure that he moved a finger, perhaps two or even three. It’s hard to tell because he still cannot see or feel.
His eyes are open and he might be able to see except for that blinding light that is shining in them. His ears reach out and capture the sounds of… he’s not sure what. He thinks that perhaps it is the rush of the breakers at Sea Street Beach in Dennis Port on Cape Cod. They bash the rocks with ferocity and then surrender their wildness, morphing into gentle foam that massages the sand.
The beach. He’s sure now that he is at the beach for a warm liquid is washing over his face. Able to prod his throbbing head a few degrees to the side he sees the whiteness of the sand.
Only it’s not sand now. He’s lying down on it. To his tender back it seems not like sand but more like sandpaper. His twisted ears are grabbing for a new sound now. He hears garbled shouts….
”Gaarrrrp, mon chp, garp gaaaarrrp! Cmon kid garrrrrp! ukin doot garrrp!”
He can’t make out the words. His heavy lids crash down and shutter his blurry eyes.
His eyes flutter and slowly pry themselves. The blazing white light comes into focus. The thudding of his heart in his head taps out a clear message.
Knocked out again! It’s the seventh straight time he has fallen to progressively less skilled fighters. With just 5 victories in 40 fights he was no more than a stalking horse trotted out every three weeks to make some new pug look good. But now after being kayoed seven straight times they won’t let him fight any more. It’s the damned computers. They keep track of everything; how many wins you have had; how many losses; how many knockouts; and how much of a show you put on for the crowd.
The blood on his face is being swept away by salty liquid coming from his eyes. Tears as strong as the breakers at Sea Street Beach are washing his face clean and making him strong. The energy is rushing back into his battered body like a jet plane on takeoff. Seven straight knockouts be damned! He could spring up from the canvas, beat the count, and finish the fight! He could! He knows he could do it!
Ten! You’re Out!
The referee counted out Juan Gilesteban Rivera Mendez for the seventh time in seven fights. Sitting up now, the young battler looked fresh and relaxed. He quickly showered, collected his loser purse of $250.00 and walked to the Greyhound bus station in Hyannis.
Just 23 hours and 141 dollars later he was walking down the sun drenched main street of a town near Agua Prieta, Mexico, heading for the office of Duro Boxing Promotions of the state of Sonora.
Inside, he spoke with a clerk and was directed to a seat in the chief promoter’s office.
“From what my clerk tells me amigo, I can get you lots of good fights here in my territory. What was your record again?”
“I had seven straight knockouts in the 7,000 seat Cape Cod Colosseum. You could look it up,” replied Juan Gilesteban Rivera Mendez.
“Oh no amigo, I cannot do that. The fight game here is not computerized.”
“Oh is that so? I did not realize this. Please get me some bouts,” smiled Juan.
It was the first day of his second chance to be on the winning end of a one to ten count. It had come to him in that last second. A fresh start somewhere else. This time would be different. While lying on the dirty canvas and listening to the referee tick off the count of nine, Juan knew he could do it. He could just start over and this time he would win.
For Juan Gelesteban Rivera Mendez, life would begin at ten.
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