Brawler, p.4
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       Brawler, p.4

           Scott Hildreth
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  “Sorry, Boss. She was asking for it.”

  The old man glared at me. His face was weathered, his hair was thin, and he had on the same old-school satin jacket he was wearing the first time I had seen him. He looked angry and tired. “Lift your right heel. You’re fightin’ flat footed,” he said dryly.

  I started to thank him for the constructive criticism, and figured I’d let the condescending tone of his voice slide, but he turned around before I could say anything. I arched an eyebrow in his direction as he sauntered away.

  “Don’t worry about him,” Ripp said.

  I didn’t want it to, but it bothered me that Kelsey didn’t seem to like me. I shook it off and fixed my excited eyes on Ripp. “How’d I look?”

  “You looked like a champion,” he said, his voice filled with excitement. He lowered his tone to a more demanding one and motioned with his eyes toward the other corner of the ring. “Now act like one.”

  I shot him a confused stare.

  “Go tell that girl she fought a good fight.”

  I rushed to the far corner, congratulated my opponent, and climbed out of the ring. Ethan and Ripp stood off to the side talking. I felt like I was on top of the world and wanted to share my joy with anyone who cared to listen, but the first thing I needed to do was eat.

  “I haven’t eaten anything but a protein bar since 3:00. I’m starving,” I said. “If you guys want to come over to my apartment, we can celebrate. I’ll make some chicken.”

  “Chicken? Women after my own fuckin’ heart right there,” Ripp said, slapping his hand against Ethan’s shoulder. “How ‘bout we all go out to eat and celebrate? I’m buying.”

  “I can cook,” I assured him.

  “You beat that girl like she stole somethin’ from ya.” Ripp chuckled. “We need to go out and celebrate.”

  If the severity of the beatings I gave my opponents assured me a free meal after each fight, I’d beat the brakes off of every girl who stepped in the ring with me. I remembered what Ripp said about arrogance, however, and dropped my gaze to the floor. “I got in a couple of lucky punches.”

  “Lucky punches my ass.” He tossed his head toward the locker room. “Go wash the stink off your ass so we can go.”

  Ethan had remained quiet since the end of the fight, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he felt somewhat jealous about my win. His amateur record wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t fantastic either. Six wins and seven losses wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, but it wasn’t a record a typical fighter would brag about, either.

  I glanced at Ethan. “Are you going to go?”

  Ripp slapped his hand against Ethan’s shoulder. “Fuck yeah he’s goin’.”

  Ethan nodded and smiled a shallow smile. “You looked great. And yeah, if you want me to, I’ll go.”

  “If I want you to?” I shot him a look. “If you don’t go, maybe I’ll give you some of what I gave her.”

  His eyes went wide and he chuckled, although I could tell he was just being theatrical. “Fighting with you? I might like that.”

  The thought of fighting and fucking at the same time made my pussy tingle. I tried to refrain from being my natural self and making a sexual comment, especially in front of Ripp. I kept my response simple, but somewhat expressive of my thoughts on the subject.

  “Not near as much as I would,” I said with a wink of my eye.

  And I walked away.



  Day seventeen.

  “No, it wasn’t over a piece of fuckin’ ass. And it damned sure wasn’t in the parking lot of the old gym,” Ripp complained. “God damned rumors. I’ll tell you how the deal went down if you’ll just sit still for a fuckin’ minute, you nervous actin’ fucker.”

  Sitting on the other side of the booth, across from Ethan and me, Ripp was telling the story of how he met the heavyweight boxing champion. I pressed my right hand against Ethan’s chest as if to eliminate him from the conversation, and made eye contact with Ripp. “I don’t care if he wants to hear it or not. I do. So tell me.”

  He leaned forward and playfully arched an eyebrow. “We’ll need a refill. This’ll take a minute.”

  I raised my hand and got the attention of our waitress. “Another round, please.”

  She smiled and nodded.

  Ripp drank what was left of his beer and slid the empty bottle to the side. “So, they told me this undefeated boxer was comin’ in from Compton, California. And I’m thinkin’ he’s gonna be some surfer dude. You know, long hair, all tan from playin’ on the beach, and that he’d be wearin’ flip flops and one a them fuckin’ wet suits.”

  He gazed beyond me as if he was recalling the night in question, grinned, and shook his head. “Well, that wasn’t the deal at all. This fucker rides his Harley from Compton to Austin, non-stop. 1,380 fuckin’ miles with all of his shit tied on the back. I’m tellin’ ya. And he hops off that bitch at about eight o’clock at night, just about the time ol’ Ripp’s gettin’ ready to go out and knock off a piece of ass. He’s wearing raggedy-assed boots with his socks showin’ through all the holes in ‘em, a hoodie, and a pair of faded Levi’s. Weird fucker sure as fuck didn’t look like a boxer.”

  His eyes went wide and he leaned forward, exchanging glances between Ethan and me. “Now, just so you know, this was back when Lightnin’ Wilson was givin’ me pointers on cage fightin’, and he’d been trainin’ me on that very night. So, Ol’ Lightnin’ comes up and says, ‘Hey, that kid from Compton’s here. You want to go four rounds with him?’ Hell, I thought it was gonna be a walk in the park. But it sure as fuck wasn’t.”

  He leaned back, folded his massive arms in front of his chest, and shook his head.

  “What happened?” I asked excitedly.

  I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to fight Ripp. He was probably 6’-4”, weighed about 240 pounds, and was nothing but solid muscle. His in-your-face personality and general bad boy appearance were equally as intimidating as his size, and should act as a deterrent to anyone dumb enough to consider stepping in the ring with him.

  He picked up his empty beer bottle by the neck and wagged it back and forth like a pendulum. “I can’t talk unless I got a beer in my hand.”

  Luckily, the waitress dropped off our drinks – Michelob Ultra for Ripp and Ethan, and water for me. Ripp drank half the bottle of beer in one gulp, then continued his story.

  “So, I told Ol’ Lightnin’ that I’d fight this California fool, and I figured it’d be over in about five minutes, because it was gonna take me three to lace up my gloves.”

  He twisted his mouth to the side, cocked one eyebrow, and made eye contact with Ethan, and then me. “So, three to lace up my gloves, and I was givin’ this Compton cock sucker two minutes in the ring with me. Back then, they called me The Ripper. You know why?”

  Engrossed in the story, I didn’t respond with anything more than simply shaking my head.

  “I ripped the heads off every fucker that came in the ring. I was undefeated. Never knocked out, and never knocked to the mat. Not even once.”

  I glanced at Ethan. He was as engrossed in the story as I was. I turned back to Ripp and grinned.

  “So,” he said. “Ol’ California steps in the ring, and we touch ‘em up. Now I’m thinking I’m gonna feed this prick a three piece, let him stagger around a minute, and then I’ll finish him off. Now, remember, he probably hadn’t showered in twenty-four hours, and he’d rode that damned Harley halfway across the US of A in a hundred-degree heat. So, this fucker smelled like rotten leather and fucking gasoline and I wasn’t tryin’ to smell him for too damned long. So, the bell rings, and I meet this fucker in the center of the ring. He’s got his left hangin’ a little low, and his right cocked like he’s gonna feed it to me, so I stick him with a quick jab just to let him know how we do it here in Texas.”

  He coughed out a laugh and shook his head. I anxiously waited for him to continue, but he reached for his beer and took a drink instead. After what s
eemed like an eternity, I asked the inevitable.

  “What happened?”

  He took another drink and shrugged. “Don’t know.”

  “What do you mean you don’t know?”

  “I don’t know what happened, all I know is what Kelsey and Joe told me. Well, them and Lightnin’.

  “What’d they tell you?”

  “Told me the kid hit me with a left hook, followed it up with a right cross, and then what I learned was his signature punch.”

  I swallowed hard at the thought of Ripp being beaten. I reduced my voice to a whisper. “What was it?”

  He fixed his eyes on me and arched one eyebrow. “Left uppercut.”

  “And he knocked you out?”

  He nodded. “Knocked me out cold. Shit, I was punch drunk for a week. Kid hits like a fuckin’ mule kicks. Imagine lettin’ a barnyard mule haul off and kick you in the skull. Well, that’s what it feels like to have Ol’ Shane Dekkar hit ya.”

  Holy crap.

  “And now you’re friends?”

  He took a drink of beer and coughed out a laugh. “Friends? Hell, we’re more like brothers. Ain’t no secret, but Dekk’s dad got killed in the war, and his mom left when he was a kid. So, my parent’s all but adopted his turkey sandwich eatin’ ass. Now he comes over to their house with his wife and kid every Sunday for dinner.”

  “That’s awesome,” I said.

  He chuckled. “The gettin’ knocked out part, or the adoptin’ Dekk part?”

  “Both,” I said. “Getting knocked out let you guys become friends.”

  “It damned sure did.” He shifted his eyes from me to Ethan. “Now you know the truth. It wasn’t over a piece of ass. And it wasn’t a drunken parking lot brawl, either. Can’t have rumors like that floatin’ around.”

  “That’s just what I heard,” Ethan said with a shrug. “Thanks for clearing it up.”

  Ripp glanced at his watch. “Shit, I got to get out of here, or my wife’s gonna have my ass.” He reached for his wallet, pulled out two $100 bills, and tossed them on the table. “Pay the tab with that, and leave whatever’s left for a tip.”

  He slapped his hand against the edge of the table as he stood up. “Good show tonight, Jaz.” He glanced at Ethan. “Get your heart in the game, kid.”

  Ethan waved his hand toward Ripp as if dismissing his comment. “Go home.”

  As Ripp walked away, I turned to Ethan. “What did he mean by that? Get your heart in the game?”

  Ethan rolled his eyes. “He always tells me my heart isn’t in it. That’s what we were talking about the day we met you at Starbucks.”

  “Is your heart in it?”

  He shrugged. “Yeah, it is. But he gives me shit about my record. Too many losses. To him, it’s all about winning. But I’m not in it for those reasons.”

  I returned a blank stare. If you’re not in it to win, why be in it at all?

  “Why do you do it?”

  “For me, boxing is kind of like an anger management thing, I guess. Sometimes I need to lose.”

  It didn’t make sense to me, but I nodded nonetheless. “And losing satisfies you?”

  “Sometimes I think it’s exactly what I need. And sometimes I need to win. So, I go into the ring with different goals. Sometimes I go in with the understanding that I’m going to lose. Other times I go in with a desire to win.”

  It was an odd theory as far as I was concerned, but I found it interesting. A self-imposed punishment of sorts, I guessed. I needed to know more, so I pried a little further. “When you go in with the goal of winning, how many times have you lost?”


  “And when you go in with the goal of losing?”

  He grinned. “Lost them all.”

  “So, you’re kind of undefeated.” I laughed. “At least when you want to be.”

  “I guess that’s one way to look at it.”

  “Have you told Ripp that you don’t always want to win?”

  “No.” He shook his head. “I didn’t want to get into it with him, so I just kept it to myself. I doubt he’d understand.”

  “I don’t understand, but it’s interesting.”

  “I don’t really understand it,” he said. “But I’ve got my theories.”

  “What are they?”

  “There are times when I don’t want to win, but I want to fight. I want to go in, fight, and lose. That’s my plan, to lose. I think it’s kind of like the kids in school who self-harmed themselves. It’s a coping mechanism, or whatever. When I was a kid, I was expected to be perfect. It was pounded into my head, over and over. But, no one’s perfect. I know that now, but I didn’t know it then. Now, something inside of me tells me I need to be, but I’m smart enough to know I can’t be. I think losing the fights help convince me that I’m in control. I know I could win, but I choose not to. Does that make sense?”

  It was apparent Ethan’s childhood wasn’t much better than mine. I dealt with mine by leaving, physically separating myself from my father. He was attempting to deal with his by trying to be in control of something as uncontrollable as a fight.

  “It does,” I said.

  The more I learned about him, the more I realized just how similar we were. I’d never spent a moment feeling sorry for myself, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

  “Anything else?” the waitress asked.

  I looked at Ethan. He shook his head.

  “No, thank you.”

  She placed the bill on the table. “Whenever you’re ready, no rush.”

  I looked at the bill. It was only $102. I placed the two $100 bills in the check holder and folded it closed, feeling confident the waitress would be pleased with Ripp’s $98 tip.

  “Are you ready to go?”


  I climbed out of the booth and extended my hand. He reached for it and smiled as I pulled against his weight, helping him slide from the booth. After he stood up, I continued to hold his hand in mine.

  I walked toward the door with him at my side, completely expecting him to eventually release my hand or object in some way.

  But it never came.

  We walked to the truck hand-in-hand, and he opened the door for me, just like he did the night we went to the coffee shop. His manners, calm demeanor, and handsome good looks were proving to be just too much for me. It was at that moment, as I climbed inside the truck while he held the door, that I decided I wanted our friendship to go one step further.

  One very sexual step.



  Day twenty-four.

  She looked at me like I was nothing shy of insane. “How old are you, again?”

  “Twenty-four,” I responded. “Why?”

  “Because you’re acting like you’re fifteen.”

  “I am not,” I huffed.

  Our shifts had ended, and the diner was closed. We sat at a table in the center of the dining area talking about relationships and men. Not having had many close girlfriends over the years, I found value in Rachel, often asking her opinions about all things related to being a girl. We were roughly the same age, and she was really close to her mother, which made her advice seem almost motherly. This was, however, my first attempt to get advice from her about a man.

  “You want to fuck him, right?”

  It wasn’t all I wanted, but it was part of it. I nodded, but felt the need to explain further. “I mean. Yeah. But not just fuck him. I want to--”

  She waved her hands in the air jokingly. “Just stop. I don’t want to hear it. You’re talking to me because your head’s in one place, and his is in another, right?”

  “I suppose.”

  “You want him, and you’re afraid he doesn’t want you. Or he doesn’t want you the same as you want him. Or whatever. Right?”

  So far, on limited information, she sure seemed to understand the intricacies regarding my dilemma. Convinced I had made the right decision in confiding my relationship woes to her, I proceeded. “Rig
ht,” I said. “It seems like he’s moving along at one pace, and I’m at another.”

  “But. Your goal is to fuck him. You’re each moving at a different pace, but the prize at the end of the race is sex, right?”

  It sounded bad, but it was true. Kind of. I nodded in agreement. “I guess.”

  “This is so tenth grade. I swear,” she said. “Tell him you want his dick.”

  As bold and as brash as I was, telling Ethan I wanted his cock seemed a bit overboard. I shot her a confused stare. “Just say it? ‘Hey, Ethan, I want your cock?’ I’m just supposed to tell him that? That’s your best advice?”

  She shrugged. “That’s what I’d do.”

  In my experience, guys had always made the first move. I had never met anyone who was as uninterested in fucking me as Ethan, though. “Really?”

  She chewed on her bottom lip and narrowed her eyes slightly. After a moment’s thought, she released her lip and shook her head. “No, I’d probably suck his cock. No guy is going to deny you a blowjob. And what does a good blowjob lead to?”

  I shrugged. “Sex?”

  “Sex.” She nodded and raised her index finger in the air. “As long as you don’t let him finish. Don’t forget that. You can’t make him come. If you do, you’ll just become that girl who sucks his dick, and you don’t want that. Been there, done that. Not doing it again.”

  It sounded like utter nonsense. “Don’t make him come?”

  “God no. Just suck it long enough to drive him crazy. Then stop. He’ll try and convince you to continue, but don’t do it. Eventually, he’ll give in. He’ll fuck you. And, if for some reason, you do make him come? Like by some accident? Whatever you do, don’t swallow.”

  I scrunched my nose. “What else am I going to do with it?”

  “Act like that shit is acid. Avoid it at all costs. Like you’re afraid of it. Say shit like yuck and gross.”

  I laughed out loud. “Why?”

  “Same reason,” she said. “If you swallow, he’ll want it all the time. And, that’ll be all he wants. He’ll just want you to suck his dick. You’ll become the blowjob girl. Believe me, you don’t want to be that girl. I’ve been her. It’s no fun.”

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