Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Ferdie Taruc & Elino Benjamin Villegas | Michael Ilkiw
“How long did you think I would wait?”
The oldtimer’s eyes were fixated at the middle-aged man who came rushing in the entrance. The man stood six foot high with a beaten-down duffel bag stretched across his chest and with a sweater that bore the name of the gym: Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Inside the dimly lit center resembled an old basement filled with punching bags, sweaty fighters, and the musky odor of unwashed laundry.
“Sorry Joe, had my foot out the door but the boss had me stay another shift,” Gustavo explained as he gasped for breath.
“Yeah, well I had my foot out the door and then your ugly ass showed up.” Joe scoffed. “This is the fuckin’ fifth time. Can you please get your shit together?”
Gus took a seat on a stool and took out his ragged boxing shoes from his bag. In a distance, his eyes sparked at an enclosed case once filled with his previous belts. Thirty-three consecutive wins, he told himself. Only to be stopped by the year 2008.
“Hello? Gus?” Joe questioned. Yeah? Yeah, sorry.” Gus answered. “I didn’t even get paid for the extra shift today.”
“ And you barely pay me at all.” Joe sneered. “How’ve Marsha and the kids been?”
“Barely holding , I guess. We had to move up north with my brother since we couldn’t afford rent anymore. Times sure been hard.”
“Nothing we can do. Here, grab a rope”
“If only these fights paid better.” Gus complained as the rope began to pick up speed.
“They’d probably pay better if you actually won some.”
“Give me a break, things haven’t been the same since we lost our home.”
“How the shit does that affect how you box, Gus?”
The rope snapped as it dropped toward the ground.
“I don’t know Joe? I’ve been in between jobs, the kids miss home, and I still can’t afford medicine for Marsha.” He stormed across the room. “It’s not like a person like you, who’s single and manageable, would know jack shit about that.”
“So just because your kids have been bitching means that you can get lazy with your footwork? Lose your right hook? When was the last time you saw one of these punks in the ICU? Listen here kid, you’re not losing because your life’s a mess. All this shit happens to you because you’re losing.”
“Oh really? So Marsha’s sick just cause I’ve been losing?”
“Why else do you think she’s depressed?”
Gustavo shoved his trainer toward the wall. He clenched his fist, ready to strike. “Ah so the One Punch Wonder is finally riled up, huh?” Joe jeered. “I haven’t seen that spunk since you left Tony Rodriguez almost dead in ‘06. Hey Bill!” Within the proximity stood a 5”8 caucasian boxer shadow boxing.
“Why don’t you put this cocky son of a gun in his place” Joe called to him.
“Who, Bill? Please.”
Gus swooped under the ropes and met Bill in the center of the gym. He swung first, and his rugged gloves met air, while Bill’s met the cheek of Gus’s face. “Can’t even land a single punch? One Punch Gus my ass!”
“Look at his feet. Calculated, precise, balanced. And you, are you boxing or learning how to walk? You’ve got lazy Gus!”
A right hook sent Gus staggering off to the ropes. After regaining his balance, he focused now on his footing. He looked down when a full throttle punch caught his left cheek, and blood dripped onto the mat.
“Now look at you! That tiny-ass brain of yours is too focused on your footing, you can’t look up to throw a punch! You’re pathetic Gus.”
Given an opening, Gus shot a powerful right hook. Bill, however, ducked under and countered it with a left blow that landed Gus in between the eyes.
“I guess that’s all you had in you. One punch. What a waste.”
“Maybe I just lost the need to throw one.”
Gus tore off his gloves and slammed them down on the ring. He grabbed his duffel and stormed out the ring on the verge of tears.
“Ladies and gentleman, the One Punch Wonder.”