I was doing club fights in Fort Worth 
in a joint called the Leprechaun 
4-rounders mostly 
for $50 and meals and drink chips 
and a room when I needed one 
I won more than I lost 
stayed down when I needed to 
moved from light-heavy to heavyweight 
because the food wasn't bad 
spent most of my days in the weight room 
those were good months 

the best night 
and the one guy I still remember 
big and ugly with a wiry beard 
the kind that comes up almost to the eyeballs 
named Blutarski or something 
they called him Bluto 
and he snarled and played the part 
it seemed to come natural to him 
to piss people off 
the crowd hated him it was a lot like 
professional wrestling 
but our crowd was more sophisticated 
and needed real blood 

it was an 8-rounder and 
Bluto dogged me from the introductions 
talking his line of shit 
glaring at me and spitting 
I had a tequila hangover and a fight 
with some dancer the night before 
I forget her name now 
but Christ she had a mouth 
so I'd been called enough names already 
and one glob of spit landed on my shoe 
and Bluto looked at me like he'd 
scored a knockout and called me 
a little chickenshit and I decided 
to stand him up for a while 

 I was light for a heavy 
he must've had me by 40 pounds 
but he walked through his rounds like 
my grandma and didn't know shit about boxing 
I think he was a bar bouncer 
maybe used to play football 
used to outweighing and outmuscling 
but I'd had 87 amateur fights 
and learned from my mistakes 
and you could tell most of his fights 
had been with some poor drunk 

I let him chase me around for a while 
muttering and cursing and trying 
to give me the finger with his glove on 
trying to tie me up and thumb me in the eye 
hitting on the break going low 
the usual no-talent bullshit 
and I got on my horse and rode 
and in the 4th he spit out his mouthpiece 
so he could cuss me better 
but they made him put it back in 

I waited till he got sloppy 
then after one break feinted left 
he bought the fake and I jumped right 
and landed a wide hook to his ear 
rang his bell and the look in his eyes changed 
just like I knew it would 
he started protecting his face after that 
and I worked his body like a heavy bag 
bent over and pounding 
skipping back when I could feel him 
tense to come after me and 
the heart drained out of him 
like blood from a hung deer 

I kept gutpunching him until I 
I bruised the hell out of the ribs on his 
left side probably cracked one 
and he bent his left arm down and held it in 
which was what I'd wanted all along 
and I switched to southpaw 
and started jabbing him with my right 
hooking him with the left 
he'd never seen that before 
didn't know what to do about it 
swatted at me like a flyswarm wincing 
and grew a mouse under his eye 
and by the time his eye contact went out 
and he started watching the ref 
and the cursing and spitting stopped 
it was way too late for him 
I'd hated him that long 
I couldn't let him down 

one of the cornermen hated him too 
he saw what I was doing 
and buffed my gloves with sandpaper 
he'd hid in a towel 
I hooked old Bluto to the ribs just often enough 
to keep his left down 
and threw that nasty right jab 
straight on with a clockwise twist at the end 
that pulls the skin to ribbons 
and the crowd loved it 
the ref's white shirt turned pink 
and Bluto looked like a steak with a beard 
I stayed away from his eyebrows 
blood in the eyes and they'll stop it 

he hit me one good one in the balls 
but that's what cups are for 
the crowd booed and threw shit at him 
and he didn't try it again 
I knocked his mouthpiece back out 
and this time nobody handed it to him 
he went down in the 8th but his manager 
was disgusted and wouldn't throw the towel in 
and he waited out the count on his knees 
and I walked up to him bent down 
spit my mouthpiece on him and said 
"I'm strong to the finich" 
they should've stopped it on cuts 
but that almost never happened cuts 
were the point 

they gave me extra chips for a good win 
and I sat in the lounge with a rare steak 
cleaned up and hair greased back 
tired but my whole body one big smile 
and this one dancer from the club 
a blonde with the lungs of a pearldiver 
kept looking at the bandaid on my chin 
cut yourself shaving? 
she asked I laughed 
you shoulda seen the other guy 
and she said 
I like a clean shaven man 
and sat with me and I used some chips 
on gin martinis 
not something I'd drink myself 

I went to the head 
and worked the old penny jimmy 
on the rubber machine 
rattled the handle back and forth until 
the little boxes sprayed everywhere 
I filled my pockets left behind a couple 
that fell in the urinal 
next time I came in they were gone 
I got a laugh out of that 

she ran the little plastic wrapped boxes 
through her hands like diamonds 
smiled up at me like any princess 
and we tore into them 
blew them up and sailed them around the room 
till the whole joint was laughing 
I said I'm Mike what's your name 
she said her name was Olive 
and we laughed some more 
you've filled out some I said 
she said I'm pumped up 

they threw us out at closing 
and I felt my pockets and not 
thinking too fast said shit 
we blew up all the rubbers 
I never had much subtlety 
and she laughed and reached in her bra 
and pulled out 2 little packages and said 
I gotta couple 

her room was a lot nicer than mine 
gold walls with green curtains 
flocked wallpaper and a decent stereo 
and she put on Scott Joplin records 
which are just as good as Bolero 
just as good as blues 
better than Mozart 
for the occasion 

I woke early 
feeling better than I'd expected 
hey you lowered my blood pressure 
I told her 
like you lowered Bluto's she said 
and we started the day 
laughing some more 
your name isn't really Olive is it? 
I asked her and she answered 
it was last night 
and we got back in the bed 
under the forest canopy 
of Texas morning light 
blasting through green curtains 
and laughed and laughed 
some more


© 1995 by Michael McNeilley
To be published in 1998 by Atom Mind
From the chapbook Punch Lines, © 1998, AAR Press, Seattle, WA.

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