Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Glorious Descent of Lockjaw Jones

Lockjaw Jones, nobody remembers him anymore, except me. What good has he done me? Here I am pushing a broom around this stinking joint because of him. Everyone else forgot about him and moved on with their lives, they got better jobs, faster cars and bigger houses. Me, I'm stuck here, stuck in this old arena, nobody even comes here for the fights anymore. But it doesn't really matter, I've only got a couple of years left in me. 

The owner of the arena organizes a local boxing circuit here. I get to watch the fights for free, well I have to watch the fights. I clean up the teeth, I mop the blood sweat and piss up from the ring. Yeah that's one thing they don't tell you, sometimes you piss yourself when you get knocked out, sometimes you shit yourself too. The kids who come in here these days, so full of hope. You can see it in their eyes, they aren't here to fight, they're here to put bread on the table. These kids will never make it past this old broken down ring. They're gonna spend their weekends here fighting for scraps until they can't lift a glove anymore and they have trouble remembering whether milk goes in the fridge or the dishwasher. 

Don't get me wrong. You still get into it. You attach yourself to one color of shorts and yell at the guy standing in them to beat the crap out of the other. You yell at him, because you can't do it yourself. It doesn't matter that the kid in the other corner can't pay his medical bills from the last fight, you still yell for your guy to kill him, because you want to be in there taking his punches and hitting back harder, showing the world that you can still do it. 

That's the way Lockjaw was, right up until the end when he fought "Tricky" Ricky Robinson. God, I still remember that fight. I can't go day without thinking about it. I still remember the camera flashes made the fighters look like statues, the way the light froze them in a pose and your eyes wouldn't let anything go until they took everything in. I remember the way the referee danced around the fighters like a marionette. 

Lockjaw tried to go down in the eighth, like he was told to. "Tricky" Ricky wasn't in on it, but Lockjaw thought he was. So when that last blow came, the one after he had started falling, well Lockjaw set his jaw tight. He got back up and spent the next eight minutes giving "Tricky" Ricky a lifetime of lost car keys and half-finished sentences. 

The men in suits who had tried to fix the match watched in horror as Lockjaw Jones let the referee lift his glove over his head. They sent a man with a bat to the locker room. What happened there is something I can't tell you, I wasn't there, but I heard Lockjaw describe how much he screamed before he passed out. Lockjaw's legs were broken, the doctors couldn't set the fractures right. 

A boxer's nothing without his legs. Any damn fool can throw a punch, but a boxer's gotta move out of the way of those punches. He's gotta be able to shift his weight, lean in for the strike and lean back for the counterstrike. He's gotta absorb the blow, or twist away from the punch. Everything comes up through the legs, gains power in the hips and stomach, and finally out through the arms. A good punch comes from the earth. If you can ground a punch right you've got the whole damned world behind your fist, and there ain't nobody who can take a hit from the planet. 

Lockjaw had a limp for the rest of his life. Maybe it was out of pity, or vengeance, but the men who broke his legs got him a job working for them. You can still see Lockjaw somedays hanging around the ring, watching the young kids fight, leaning on his broom. 

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