By Jeremy Rochow
I’m lying on my back in the grass.
It feels cold and damp against my t-shirt; the moisture begins to seep through the fabric and onto my bare skin. The evening is clear, allowing the light from the stars to shower down on me. Any other day and I’d be enjoying what an astronomer would consider to be paradise, but right now I’m ready to explode with anger. The blood pumping through my veins is thick and hot like radiator fluid in a running car engine.
I shake my head and the stars spinning around it fade into the distance. My so-called mate stands over me. ‘Are you okay?’ Tim asks. A look of concern crosses his face, but I’m furious and unleash a barrage of verbal missiles towards him. With each word, the concern is replaced by a baffled, humorous look. After all, he was the one who landed the punch that led to my downfall.
Only a few hours earlier, we were sitting around, cracking jokes and having a few drinks. We were lounging around on the deck of our friend’s place, trying to decide how to spend our Saturday night. It was a cool autumn evening; the smell of barbeque wafted around the backyard. Shaun, a country lad, had made a big batch of his mum’s self-saucing pudding that sat on the table half-eaten next to a tub of melting ice cream.
We were bored; someone suggested a movie. Nah, it was a Saturday night—we had to do something more interesting. A drive? Where would we go? Nope, we couldn’t agree. A couple of us were even too lazy to give any input.
Shaun stood up. He’s tall, and has the typical country look, with defined arm muscles from years of playing footy and helping out around his parents’ property. Disappearing inside for a couple of minutes, he returned with something in his hands. Shaun grinned, showing his one rotten, black front tooth. I couldn’t make out what he was holding. He plonked the item down on the table next to the cold pudding, and only then could I tell what it was.
All of a sudden, the mood changed. The black, leather boxing gloves caused a spell, and everybody was jostling to get to the gloves, wanting to be the first pair to spar on the lawn downstairs from the patio. Shaun and his younger brother, Brett, quickly set up a couple of spotlights so that we could see while facing off against each other.
Tim and I were keen to fight each other first. I should’ve known it might end in catastrophe. We’re both extremely competitive no matter what the sport. We’d play five-set tennis matches during summer until the sun set. During winter, we would fight for the footy until we were exhausted. This was going to be no different.
We weren’t the first two to face off. Two other guys went first, sparring for a few minutes, while the rest of us cheered from the balcony. We’d created our own rumble in the jungle. We pretended we were the greats, Ali and Foreman, fighting fifteen rounds. Of course none of us could’ve boxed for more than two minutes, and our technique was horrendous. There weren’t any head shots to begin with, but slowly they crept in—just a few light taps.
Tim and I waited, growing more restless with each pair who fought. We were going to be last. Instead, we threw verbal jabs, telling each other how we would pulverise each other with our fists. Finally, it was our time. We’d been waiting so long it felt like we were the main event. It was to be the bout of the evening. The other fights were just building the atmosphere and getting the crowd into a frenzy.
Another mate, Adam, slid the gloves onto my hands, giving me a piece of advice I should’ve heeded. ‘Be careful…and don’t do anything stupid,’ he advised. I just nodded and smiled stupidly. The gloves were warm and slightly sweaty from everybody else who’d fought throughout the night.
Tim walked in front of me. As we walked down the stairs and onto the grass, we jumped around as if we were middle-weight pros, shadow boxing and throwing punches at the air. I gave Tim a light jab in the kidneys. He just let out a laugh and turned to face me. ‘Ready?’ he asked.
‘Of course I am,’ I replied. We touched gloves like they do in the professional fights, and it began. At first we took it easy, with most of the punches being defended. The guys on the balcony cheered and clapped whenever one of us laid a punch, although most missed horrendously and did more damage to the air.
It was hard work, and within a couple of minutes both of us were puffing. Neither of us would give up though. We both knew that. Then I landed one directly on Tim’s forehead. He barely flinched; I’m not sure if it said more about his stamina or my strength. All of a sudden, Tim went crazy, with a flurry of punches directed at my head. I backed away towards the dark area on the grass. He had a look in his eyes that made me shudder. With every swing, I moved further towards the dark, and then I saw his right glove. He bent his knees and wound up. It was too late, and I felt the full strength of Tim’s fist as it collided with the right side of my face.
The force of his punch had me here, lying on my back in the garden, a little dazed and shouting abuse at one of my best mates. After what felt like an eternity, I rose to my feet, still screaming that he shouldn’t have taken it so seriously. I stepped towards him and pushed him. Somebody grabbed me. ‘Calm down. It was an accident,’ said the voice. It was Shaun.
‘I want to go again; I’ll beat the crap out of you,’ I yelled furiously, glaring at Tim.
‘No! That’s it for tonight,’ exclaimed Shaun. ‘No more fighting.’
Somebody slid the gloves off my hands, and Tim walked away shaking his head. My brain was throbbing and it felt like it was about to explode.
I can’t remember much else of that night. Tim and I are still friends – we tell the story of that night every time we catch up, and laugh at the differences in our stories. We never saw the boxing gloves again; Shaun wouldn’t let us have the rematch I wanted so badly.