The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 10

“Berkowitz!”

“Berkowitz!”

Champ groggily drifted back to consciousness.  He was confused, though.  No one had called him by his last name in decades.

“Davy Boy, are you still with us?”

He had not heard that despised nickname since he was a teenager, so now Champ was extremely flummoxed.  When he opened his eyes, however, he found himself completely lost.

The face looking down at him was blurry yet familiar.  It was also not within the realm of possibility since Benny Froman, his first manager and corner man, had died thirty years ago from lung cancer.

“I thought we’d lost you,” Froman said with obvious relief in his voice.

Not only was Benny alive, but he also looked to be about thirty years old and healthy as an ox.

“What’s going on?” Champ asked.

Another man appeared in Champ’s blurred.  This guy was dressed like a boxing referee.

“Look, guys, we’ve got three more bouts tonight,” he explained impatiently.  “We really need the ring if you catch my drift.”

“Just give us a minute,” Benny pleaded nicely, but firmly.

The referee nodded and headed out of Champ’s vision.  His eyes were focusing now, and Champ could make out that he was sprawled out on the canvas of a boxing ring.

It finally occurred to him to look at himself.

He had six pack abs, well defined pecs, and awesome biceps.  He wore the beat up boxing gloves he’d inherited from one of Benny’s previous charges who couldn’t cut it in the ring due to his glass chin and inability to throw a decent punch.

“What am I doing here?” Champ asked in confusion.

He was still too out of it to pick up on the fact that he was no longer speaking in the third person.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Benny sneered and he helped Champ to his feet.  “A knockout forty-five seconds into the first round wasn’t part of the plan, Davy Boy.”

“I hate that nickname,” Champ growled as he stood up and swayed on his feet.

Benny had to grab him to keep from falling.

“Call me Champ,” he insisted as he struggled to steady himself.

Benny laughed.  “No one’s ever going to call you that if you make a habit of kissing the canvas in the first round.  Now let’s clear out of here before the ref has us removed.”

short story, humor, Modern PhilosopherBack in the locker room, Champ stared at his reflection in disbelief.  He was eighteen, maybe nineteen, damn handsome, and his nose was still in mint condition.

“Why do you keep looking in the mirror?” Benny grumbled.  “Did that left hook scramble your brain so badly that you don’t recognize yourself?”

Champ had no idea what the hell was going on, but it was clear that Benny wasn’t going to be of any help in solving that mystery.  So he turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water on the young, attractive face that he missed so much.

Why had he allowed a parade of goons to pound on it until there was no trace of the good looks that had once made him so popular with the ladies?

“What’s the number one rule?” Benny hollered at him from next to the lockers.

Without hesitation, Champ replied, “Never go into a fight unprepared.”

Benny had burned that rule into his brain, so there was no way he would ever forget it, regardless of how many blows he’d taken to the head.

“Did you follow that rule when you accepted this bout two days ago?”

Champ’s muscular shoulders slumped as he trudged over to the lockers to get his lecture.

“No, but in my defense, they were desperate for someone to replace Johnson after he broke his hand sparring,” Champ countered.  “They offered me twice as much as I got for my last fight.”

Benny shook his head and bit down angrily on the half smoked cigar that hung out of his mouth.

“Do you think maybe because you only had two days to prepare, you had no idea Collins was a southpaw?  And that’s why you were grossly unprepared for the left hook that ended your evening so early?” Benny pressed.

Champ nodded and then hung his head.

“I’m sorry, Benny.  You know how much boxing means to me, but money’s really tight and I couldn’t pass up on that kind of payday.”

Benny’s demeanor suddenly softened.  He walked over to where Champ sat, and patted him on the shoulder like a father might console a son.

“I get that, Davy Boy, but if you’re going to make any headway in this business, you’ve got to listen to me and follow my rules,” Benny said softly.  “I’ve been at this a while and I know what I’m doing.  I think you’ve got what it takes, but there are no short cuts.”

Champ nodded his understanding.

“I’m sorry, Benny.  I swear I’ll never step into the ring unprepared again.”

Benny smiled and tousled what little hair Champ had since his brown locks were shorn into something not much longer than a crew cut.

“Hey, the blame doesn’t sit solely with you,” Benny admitted as he raised his arms in surrender.  “What’s my number one rule for me?”

“Never let a friend go into a fight alone,” Champ recited from memory.

“I was so upset at you for taking this fight without consulting me that I did nothing to get you ready for it,” Benny scolded himself.  “Sure, two days wasn’t nearly enough, but I could’ve at least told you he was a lefty and taught you how to counter that.  I let my pride get in the way, so this loss is as much on me as it is on you.”

“Then how come my head hurts and my ears are ringing, but you’re perfectly fine?” Champ asked with a chuckle.

“Because I’m the one with enough brains to never allow another man to punch me in the face,” Benny answered with a laugh.  “Why don’t you hit the showers, and I’ll buy you a cola?  Then we can plot out how to recover from this unfortunate defeat.”

Champ nodded.  Even though Benny had mentioned that the fight had only lasted forty-five seconds, his entire body ached like he’d been in a horrible car crash.

***

Champ fired the assault rifle out the back window of the speeding car, and then ducked to avoid the return fire of the pursuing vehicle.

The bullets were much too close for Champ’s liking.

“Champ does not like this one bit!” he shouted at Tex.

“No one forced you to tag along,” Tex yelled back as he forced the stolen vehicle into another sharp, high speed turn.   “In fact, I remember telling you I didn’t want you to come.”

“Champ never lets a friend go into a fight alone!” Champ countered as he raised his head to see if it was safe to shoot again.

Several bullets whizzed past Champ’s head.  He swore he could feel one fly through his long, white hair.  He flattened out on the backseat again.

“Champ can’t believe that this was part of your plan.”

“Trust me, it wasn’t,” Aspen assured him from where she sat petrified in the front seat.  “In fact, I’m not really sure we ever had a plan.”

Champ shook his head in disbelief, while Tex wished he could come up with a plan that either made the car bulletproof or capable of flight.

***

Champ tossed his towel into the laundry bin at the end of the row of lockers.  Then he took the yellow satin robe with DAVY BOY BERKOWITZ emblazoned on the back from his locker, gently folded it, and placed it in his gym bag on top of his gloves.

Next, he looked around the room like he was desperate to take in every last detail because he assumed he’d never get to experience this exact moment for a third time.

His moment of Zen was rudely interrupted by a blinding light.  It filled the far end of the locker room and slowly made its way in Champ’s direction.

“Berkowitz…”

“Benny, is that you?”  Champ called out in fear.

“Move towards the light,” the voice instructed softly, but emphatically.    “Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright.”

The light was almost on top of him now.

“What?” Champ yelled as he held up his arm to protect his eyes from the light’s intensity.  “Speak up so I can hear you!”

“Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright…”

fiction, serial, Modern PhilosopherChamp screamed and shot up in the hospital bed.  The nurse was so flustered by the sudden movement from her previously unresponsive patient that she let out a yelp, dropped the tiny flashlight she’d been shining into Champ’s eyes, and stumbled backwards until she bumped into Tex’s bed.

“Champ wants to know where the angels are and what the hell they want with him!”

Champ’s long white hair was wild and unruly, which made him look like a madman.  He quickly felt his face to make sure his nose was as damaged as it was supposed to be.

“Champ better have a busted nose, scrawny arms, and little beer belly, too,” he yelled at the nurse.  “Champ wants a mirror right now before the light comes back!”

“Please calm down, Mr. Berkowitz,” the nurse implored him as he recovered from her tumble and tried to get Champ to lie down again in his bed.

“Champ’s name is Champ!” the wild man in the bed clarified.  “Mr. Berkowitz was Champ’s father, and that bastard’s been dead a long time.  Now where the hell is Champ?”

The nurse turned to Tex for assistance.

Tex sat up in his bed.  He was pale and looked like he hadn’t slept in days, but he was in better condition than Champ, which wasn’t saying much.

He wasn’t sure if he should be amused or frightened by Champ’s behavior, but given the course of the evening’s events, he decided to play it serious.

“Calm down, Champ,” Tex advised.  “We’re in the hospital.  Do you remember the little incident with the car and the…?”

Tex tried to mouth the words because he didn’t want to say “guns” or “carload of illegal weapons” in front of the nurse.

The nurse wasn’t listening, though.  She was far too distracted trying to get Champ fully reclined, but the old guy fought her with the tenacity of a man who was used to going fifteen rounds in the ring with much more intimidating opponents.

“Champ isn’t going to forgot that any time soon,” Champ assured him.  “Champ and Tex are going to have a very long talk once Champ’s sure his brains aren’t completely scrambled.”

The nurse was suddenly concerned.  “Are you having headaches?  Is your vision blurry?  I can call for a neurology consult after you’ve seen the cardiologist.”

“Champ’s not letting anyone near his brain.  There’s nothing left up there to see,” he insisted as he continued to fight her efforts to get him prone on the mattress.  “Champ’s got nothing wrong with his heart, either, so you can cancel the heart doctor.”

“Well, that’s not exactly true, buddy.  Turns out you had a little cardiac event in the ambulance on the ride over,” Tex explained.  “I passed out before that happened, but I heard the nurses and the doctor talking about it.”

The nurse shook her head in agreement as she continued to push Champ back down on the bed.

“Champ doesn’t remember RSVPing to any cardiac events,” he grumbled and finally gave in to the nurse’s wishes because his body was suddenly very weak.

“Champ looks old and decrepit, right?” he asked the nurse.  “Champ’s nose is flat as a pancake?”

“You look exactly the same as you did when you arrived, sir,” the nurse assured him.

Champ finally smiled.

“Can you give us a few minutes?” Tex asked now that Champ had settled down.

The nurse nodded because she was more than happy to get out of the room.

“I’ll tell your friends that he’s awake,” she promised as she rushed to the door like she couldn’t exit quickly enough.

***

Aspen and Wally were now seated in chairs they had placed between the two beds.  They both looked exhausted, but the overwhelming emotion emanating off the duo was concern.

“That is a wild story,” Aspen said.  “Did you time travel?  Do you think it was some sort of out of body experience?  If you had walked into the light would you have died?”

Tex cringed at her questions, but Champ didn’t seem at all bothered by them.

“Champ doesn’t believe in any of that nonsense,” he told her.  “Champ thinks that the evening’s unsettling events triggered a very vivid memory or a lucid dream about another traumatizing night in his life.”

“Repeat that line that you heard just before you woke up,” Tex requested.

“Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright,” Champ quoted.

“Why does that sound so familiar?” Wally asked.

Tex chuckled.  “It’s lyrics from a Foo Fighter song, Learn to Fly.  Champ must have heard me playing it at some point.  It’s one of my favorites.”

“Or St. Peter was telling younger, better looking Champ that he had clearance to approach the Pearly Gates, while also instructing him to tell the angels to let him enter,” Aspen suggested.

“Well that’s one mystery I’m not going to worry about solving,” Wally interjected.  “Now that Champ’s awake, you’re both out of immediate medical danger, and we’re all together, why don’t you tell me exactly what happened tonight.”

At that very moment, the door to the room flew open and a well-dressed woman entered.

“Do not ask the suspects another question without their lawyer present!” she demanded.

They all looked at the woman in confusion.

“But I’m a police officer and they asked for my assistance,” Wally pointed out.  “Plus, you’re an Assistant District Attorney, which means we’re on the same side.”

Assistant District Attorney Michelle Ambrose shook her head.  “This case is above both our paygrades.  I’ve been ordered to advise you to hold off on any questioning about tonight’s events until another attorney is present so that nothing that’s said can later be thrown out in court.”

“Who’s the hot chick?” Aspen asked Wally since he clearly knew her.

“Aspen Roarke, this is Assistant District Attorney Michelle Ambrose,” Wally explained.  “She is also known as my significant other.”

Aspen nudged Wally in the ribs.  “Nice job, Wally.”

“These three have gotten themselves into something way over their heads, and we’ve been instructed to wait until the Feds get here,” Michelle announced before leaning in to kiss Wally.

Wally’s jaw dropped, but it was in reaction to her statement, not the kiss.

“What the hell have you guys gotten yourselves into?”

No one elected to answer Wally’s question, much to Michelle’s relief.

TO BE CONTINUED…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 10

  1. kristianw84 says:

    I love this so much, and I’m not sure where to begin! I loved the time travel element into Champ’s past and learning more about him. Of course, I immediately recognized the lyric from the Foo Fighters song. I love those little Easter Eggs. This had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. This is phenomenal, Austin!! I can’t wait for Chapter 11!!

  2. beth says:

    woah, the time travel!

  3. markbialczak says:

    Great time travel with Davy Boy Berkowitz, Austin. Nice writing. You sent me to my Wayback Machine, when I was a very young sportswriter covering Sugar Ray Leonard’s home bout in the Cap Centre against an outmatched foe by the name of, yes, Davy Boy Green. They allowed this guy from the small local paper to sit ringside for the preliminary bouts (but up I had to go to the way upstairs for the main bout) and I thrill it would be, I thought. Lo and behold, one fighter caught another flush in the mug with a terrific shot, out flew his mouthpiece, tumbling end to end and landing … right in front of my face on the ringside table. What an introduction to real, life boxing.

  4. WebbBlogs says:

    I agree with Kristian, love the time travel!! Austin your writing is fantastic!!!

    • Austin says:

      Thank you! This chapter was, by far, my favorite to write in all the Brunoverse serials. Couldn’t wait to post it and share. 🙂

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