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       Tug of War, p.1

           Jeffrey Zweig II
 
Tug of War
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  A short story by Jeffrey Zweig II

  Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Zweig II

  It was a bright cloudless day in the canals of the outdoor river system made of concrete and steel. The water was clean, a mix of white with green swirled about the edges where two young people sat with their handmade fishing poles of flexible steel. Even as they sat relatively close to the large outgoing tunnels that made massive waterfalls, they sounds were quiet and relaxing.

  A young man and woman, with fishing poles in hand, intensely stared at the flowing river before them, their feet danged mere inches from the living surface. The couple who sat together barely touched one another’s thighs. But as hard as he could, the boy couldn't help but graze at his companion’s soft skin as they fished with their rod and twine.

  Brody combed his bed head hair, accented by a high hairline, with his fingers. Karen, whose black shoulder-length hair seemed weighed down from gravity, aside from some curvy split ends, was still focused on her task.

  “No bites,” she said in a cute monotone.

  “Right. We’ve been here for hours. I was sure there’d be some salmon caught in here by now. It is that time of year,” Brody said with defeat in his voice. “Guess they don’t feel like getting caught today. Shall we retire?” he said with a smile.

  She looked at him with the big round eyes of a youthful face, even through her brow detailed a deeper age.

  “What is it?” Brody asked.

  “You’ve changed since the… incident.”

  “Is that good or bad?”

  “Good, so far. Just sometimes that competitiveness like how you were before comes out, and I’m not so sure.” Karen looked away, back to her fishing pole.

  “What do you want from me?”

  Karen dipped the tip of her pole into the water as she laid her head on his shoulder.

  “Just love me,” she said with youthful innocence.

  Then something tugged at both of their lines. Her grip was so loose her pole slipped from her hands and into the water. Brody kept a strong grip on his rod but it bent to the weight of whatever was on the other end.

  “Karen! Grab a hold!”

  “What are you talking about?!” she said as they both took hold of the rod, fighting against whatever beast lurked beneath the surface of the water. Left and right they swayed with the pole until a large salmon with orange and white gills that looked as sharp as razor blades hopped out of the water. It had to be half their size but weighed twice as much, Brody thought as the young lovers stared at the beast.

  It came over the lip of the ledge and slapped onto Karen who squirmed as the fish rattled on top of her. Without thinking, Brody karate kicked it off of her and back to the water, and the twine on the pole snapped with it.

  Slowly, the young girl’s breath returned to normal as she looked over her soaked self.,

  “Well, that was close.” said Brody, looking her over. “Are you alright?”

  “Just fine,” Karen said as she covered herself, realizing her thin shirt and shorts were a bit more revealing than she wanted them to be.

  Brody picked up the pole and looked at the snapped line., “Well, that ends the fishing trip,” he said as Karen got to her feet.

  “Let’s go to my father’s shop. At least we can get something to eat on the way back home. I can dry too on the way,” Karen said.

  It was midday by the time Brody and Karen set out to her father’s shop. The light from the sun was a little low in the areas they chose to travel in the low lying canal networks. From their point of view, even small buildings looked like skyscrapers from below the flatland the city was built upon. Brody and Karen knew these tunnels their entire lives growing up. Mostly workers and the underbelly folk spent their time down here. Dotted along the walls they passed were various places for ports of gas, water, and electricity. Sometimes there were leftover tools from workers who were too tired to clean up and had left it for the next day.

  By the time they made it to the second long platform of concrete, Brody noticed someone on rollerblades. Back in the first under passage he had paid them no mind. But now he was certain, as they moved about, that they were being followed. It's not like they had money, their clothes told that tale. So they may have been looking for some other kind of fun, Karen’s unfortunate circumstance given to her by the salmon led the foul man’s minds to wander.

  Or did they know his other secret? The one he had managed to keep from his young lover. He couldn’t be sure.

  Through two more under tunnels and four more sets of winding ramps Brody knew his suspicions and by now Karen had noticed them too, and with her nails that dug into Brody’s forearm signaled she wanted to get back to the city very quickly. But it was still another tunnel before they made it to the stairwell. He knew they could lose him there since he was on skates, unless he was skilled enough to climb them with the roller-contraptions on. It was a chance they had to take.

  By the next corner of the under tunnel was the staircase. Brody went first and opened the door, ready to sprint up two steps at a time to try to lose their predator when someone grabbed Karen’s hand and pulled her back.

  Another man, whose clothes were of the same color scheme as the roller-blader, was armed with a baseball bat that was outfitted with large two-inch hooks. Both of them looked hungry for action. As Brody came out to take Karen back, the blader swung his own bat he had picked up from a hidden section in the wall. With a grand swing he released the metal tendrils that were attached to the hooks. Brody ducked and rolled and the hooks marred the concrete floor as they returned to their positions on the head of the wooden weapon.

  The blader came in for a swing and missed as Brody ducked and struck the feet of the roller blader so hard his feet were pulled from underneath him and he planted face first into the concrete floor.

  Brody took up the bat as another pair of arms bear hugged him from behind. The strength against his frail frame felt as though his rib cage was being crushed. But a moment of hope rose up as Karen’s swift kick to the man’s nether regions loosened his grip, and allowed Brody enough wiggle room to poke the bat upward into his captor’s nose. They released him and stumbled to the pavement with a leaking nose.

  As the young lovers got their bearings, another man in the same colored as the roller-blader clothing came out from the stairwell. He charged after Karen quickly. One snagged her wrist but she lashed back with a punch to the cheek, but it was not enough as the man in turn head-butted her and sent her to the floor.

  Brody charged with a wild swing but Karen’s assailant brought up and blocked the attack with his own bat. Swing after swing, crack after full wooden crack as wood struck wood, the men clashed their weapons epicly. Their warrior rings echoed throughout the tunnel.

  Brody swung under and widely and narrowly caught a hook to the face as he came across the other side of his opponent’s face and brought them down. Karen watched her lover as he stood upright, proud of his victory just before the roller blader snuck up and cleaved into his shoulder blade with a hook bat. Brody screamed as they ripped through his heavy flesh and brought the young warrior to the floor as the rest of the gang in similar colors arrived from the stairwell.

  As Karen’s burly manhandler rose to his knees, he heard a squeaky valve turn and the low hiss right after. He looked as he was joined by his brothers to Karen who stood at the wall with a hose connected to a port marked ‘gas’, and a lit match in the other hand. With teeth clenched and a bloody nose, she threw the match into the gas stream that shot out from the hose and gave birth to fire and set all of the men aflame. The only one who didn't get caught, at least not fully, was the roller-blader, who ran with his arm caught on fire.

  Karen turned off the gas hose and ran to Brody who was lai
d out far enough from the gang that he was not caught in the blaze. He was alive and very awake but soaked in his own blood, and seemed afraid to move. Gingerly his lover helped him to his feet as he continued to bleed profusely. The bright red blood soaked into his shirt as it crawled down his back from the wound the roller-blader had gouged in his shoulder.

  Karen took up one of the hook bats and proceeded up the stairwell.

  Step by step, drip by drip as Brody's life faded from his legs, the young girl would not give up and fought on with Brody in her arms their steps were in unison as they slowly climbed. They could hear the murmur of other people as they passed close, up until they crashed through the swinging door that let on to the ground level.

  The locals jumped back at the sight of the pair. Brody nearly toppled over as Karen pulled him along, dropping the hook bat so she could use all her strength to support him.

  Together they hobbled down a street as busy as an ant far and into a building marked as Mel's Place. Patrons trying to eat watched with rubber necks as they passed into the back.

  A big round man with wavy black hair and beard was chopping tomatoes when Karen burst into the room with Brody.

  “Hey! Guys! What did I tell you about…” he saw Brody’s back. “What the hell happened to you?” He dropped what he was doing and followed them toward the back door where there was some space for Brody to sit.

  Karen ripped off her lover’s shirt as Mel slipped out a white first aid kit.

  “Look, guys, you have to go to a clinic for this, that thing looks way too raw.”

  “The nearest clinic is miles away, Mel!”

  “Just chill out. Try to stop the bleeding and I’ll come to the back door with my buggy. I just hope it’s done charging.”

  Brody sat on the crate of potatoes with his head down low. His arms were straight as planks to keep him propped up as Karen placed woven medical pads laced with stick tape. Slowly the bloody waterfall was coming to a stop,

  "What was this, Brody? Why did they attack us?" Karen said strongly, though to his ears he knew she was shaken.

  "It was my fault. I'm in a gang, Karen. We're small, but they help me, help us, to survive."

  Karen slapped the wounded spot on Brody’s shoulder; he yelped and growled at the same time in a way not so intimidating, at least not to his lover,

  “That’s what you do when you’re not with me? They‘re the one’s that probably got you messed up in the first place! Am I right?” Karen stepped around and stared him down with arms crossed. “Your damn eye was nearly falling out of your head! We were nearly killed out there just now, and where were they?”

  Brody looked away in shame.

  “Promise me, Brody! I will not let you play some tug of war between us and your life on the streets before. I saw you face today, you like the fighting. I know you like the competition but, damn it, I will not stand by until you kill yourself with this madness.”

  Karen pulled his face up until their eyes met.

  “I was there when you nearly died. I was there growing up, and when you healed. You promise me right now! No more of this gang!”

  “Alright! I promise.” he said somberly.

  “Thank you.” Karen’s anger lightened up as she watched Brody rub his shoulder. She felt bad for slapping it like that, even if she felt he might have deserved it. “Let me get you some ice for that.”

  As Karen left the room, he looked out the window and saw a gang of kids, a few years younger and wild, sprint through the alley, scale a wooden fence, and scampered away like ninjas.

  Brody couldn’t help but smile.

  About the Author:

  Jeffrey Zweig II started writing long before he could drive. After high school He studied screen/creative writing at Indiana University and Indiana State University. After that he lost himself to learn to live, to write, and expand himself and his craft as a novelist.

  He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

  Other short stories by Jeff Zweig:

  My Name is Jerry Richardson II

  Uprooting Demons

  2011 Upcoming Projects:

  The End Begins: The Nine (novel)

  Project Nine: A Road of Fate (short story anthology)

  Connect with Jeff:

  Twitter: https://twitter.com/jzweigii

  His Blog: Stories of the Sleepless Mind

  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/jzweigii

 
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