Fighting for life

imageThe red boxing glove fell out of the box as he lifted it down from the top of the wardrobe. It landed with a dull thud like a soft punch on the floor. He looked down at it and wondered; only briefly, there was a whole house to clear. His father was a hoarder.

Gathering the old newspapers, catalogues, obsolete radios and other pointless detritus of his dad’s life, he thought of his fractious relationship with his dad. For that matter his father’s fractious relationship with the whole family. There always seemed to be a bitterness, anger hidden just beneath the surface. What was that all this hoarding all about? Frank thought he had read somewhere that it was the symptom of an emotional trauma.

 

With the skip full Frank went through to the lounge. His dad was sat in his wheelchair staring out the bay window.
“I’ve put all the stuff you might want to keep in the kitchen,” said Frank, “Come on, I’ll push you through,”
“Don’t bloody bother, I’ll get there under my own steam. I’m not a spastic.”
“Okay, okay!” Cantankerous old bastard.

They sat quietly immersed in their habitual enmity, his dad examining the souvenirs of his life, a museum curator appraising the worth of some ancient artefacts. He picked up the boxing glove and, reaching inside pulled out a ribbon of white, stained fabric.
“What’s that?” Frank asked.
“The wrap, it’s the wrap.” His dad said, winding the fabric strip around his hand in demonstration of its purpose.
“I never knew you boxed, dad. You’ve never said.” Like many things Frank thought.
“Yes, well you bloody well know now,” said his dad, with his customary curtness.
“Were you any good?”
His father stared blankly through the window, across the garden, Frank’s question left hanging, unanswered.

In the silent void of the kitchen Frank thought, recalled his childhood, his teenage years. Remembered when he refused to allow him to join the local boxing club. Why? If he had been a boxer, why not?

Frank loaded the boxes into the back seat of his car, loaded his dad into the front seat and the wheelchair into the boot. They were ready to go.

“I want to stop off on the way, see somebody, like.”
“What for dad? Said Frank, surreptitiously checking the time, patience stretched. “We’ve a long way to go.”
“Won’t take a lot of time ,son.”
They pulled into the car park, in the shade of the chestnut tree, near the ornate entrance gate. Frank hefted his father’s wheelchair out of the boot and helped him out of the car.
“What’s all this about dad?” Asked Frank as he pushed the chair along the path.
“You’ll see soon enough son,” said his dad, “you’ll understand when you see.”
Father and son stopped at a pale gravestone.
“Who’s this dad, who’s Kenneth Benson?”
There was no answer. Frank looked down. His father was bent forward in his chair silently crying. Then, in a voice choked with tears he told his son the story, the only story of his life.

………..smells; sweat, cigar smoke, sour beer. Stench of humans. Noise; primeval baying, shouting. He’s dropped his left. There, an opening! Quick! Red leather flashes through the air. Sharp slap. Impact jars the bones of my arm. His head snaps round. Sweat, a crescent arcing out, glittering in the flood lights. Body, gracefully pirouetting, slowly falling to hit the canvas, bouncing. Noise; cheering, shouting. The referee is slapping the canvas, counting, counting. But, he could go on counting forever and ever……..

“Kenny was dead, son, I killed him.”

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