This story is by Darci Ward and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Anthony sat on the examination table, swinging his little legs and picking at the new cast on his arm. His mother spoke with the doctor privately outside the door.
“Your son has CIPA ma’am. It’s an autosomal recessive gene that is passed from both parents. When this gene is defective, the sensory nerves do not fully develop, and thus cannot function properly to sense messages of pain. He’ll be able to live a happy life as long as you and your husband teach him how to be aware of any injuries.” The doctor handed Anthony’s mother some pamphlets.
Anthony looked out the small window in the door at his mother, who was speaking to the doctor with a worried look on her face.
As the alarm rang, Anthony rubbed that repetitive dream from his eyes. “Tonight’s the night!” He said jumping out of bed and into his workout clothes.
The sun set as he headed down a dark alley and knocked on a large door. “Password,” a deep voice demanded from behind it.
“Tonight’s the night,” Anthony said.
The door creaked open and he was guided down the stairs. He pushed through the drunk and cheering crowd. Two fighters were well into their fight, when Anthony reached his post at the side of the ring. He could smell the blood and sweat that stained the concrete floor.
This was the night he would make a name for himself. His mother would have a heart attack if she knew her son enjoyed underground bare knuckle boxing. Years as a bookie placing bets, tonight he was finally able to step into the ring. Anthony kept his CIPA a secret, he didn’t want to be disqualified for having what he felt to be an advantage.
A hefty slap on his back broke Anthony from his thoughts. “Anthony! Are you ready for your big night?” Chester said.
“Are you kidding? I’ve trained years for this!”
“Well you’ve earned it kid. You’ve been a great bookie for me and if you do well in the fight you may just earn your spot on the list!”
Anthony smiled, “Well you better place a lot of bets! I’ll make you some serious money.”
Chester chuckled, “You’re not the first kid to tell me that. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you.” Patting his shoulder Chester took his leave. Nerves were the one thing Anthony wasn’t worried about.
The fight ended with a K.O. and Anothy wrapped his hands with excitement. He stepped into the ring and looked around amazed he was finally here. Closing his eyes he remembered.
His mother became a stay at home mom. She always stayed close and tried to keep him in the house as much as she could. He spent most of his time watching movies, his favorite was Fight Club.
“I wanna be the best fighter ever!” He exclaimed, grinning at his mother with a missing front tooth.
Her face was painted with worry as he crouched to his eye-level. “Don’t you want to be something else sweetie? Boxing is too dangerous for anyone with CIPA. You could get hurt and never know.” He remembered the fear in her eyes as she squeezed his shoulders as if pleading with him to change his mind. That memory stayed with him. It was that moment his ten-year-old self realized his parents defined him for what he had. While his parents saw CIPA as something to fear; he saw it as a superpower. He never let the fear of injury stop him. His lack of fear gave him boundless invincibility.
The ref tapped his shoulder and Anthony opened his eyes, shook hands with his opponent, and waited for the bell. The bell rang and the crowd erupted in cheers.
After the fight, Anthony sat on the bench and watched the room clear out. Tonight he finally made his name known.
Two years had passed since that night. Undefeated and top of his tier he was ready for the next step. To emerge from the underground and step into a real ring. He had kept his “superpower” a secret this far and found a way to rig the books in his and Chesters’ favor. He kept his promise and made Chester the most money any fighter had before him. Chester was happy and didn’t care to double check the books.
“I’m ready for a real ring Chester,” Anthony said, wiping the blood from his lip.
“The winnings are good here kid.” Counting a wad of cash, “Why would you want to deal with contracts and regulations of a real ring?”
Anthony’s patience was running thin. “You promised me a shot to try out for the real thing after two years.”
Chester sighed, “You’re fearless kid, through black eyes, split lips, and broken bones you never flinch! But the rules ain’t the same. One low blow and you’re done.”
“I’m not an idiot Chester. I know the rules.” Anthony said as he stepped towards him. “Get me my shot. I’m the invincible body, remember? There’s no opponent I can’t take down.”
Chester swatted a stack of bills against Anthony’s chest. “Here’s your cut kid.”
Snatching the bills Anthony walked past Chester towards the stairs, “Make it happen.”
After Anthony slammed the door, Chester sat in his office staring at the audit of his books. He let out another sigh before picking up his phone.
A week passed since the two men argued, and Anthony was growing impatient. While checking his bruises and cuts his phone rang. Quickly he answered, “Chester?”
“Hi sweetie, it’s mom! Who’s Chester?”
Running his hand through his hair he paced his apartment. “Hi mom, what’s going on?”
“We haven’t seen you in a while, can you please come visit? We’re worried and miss you!”
Guilt churned his stomach, “I’m sorry mom. I’ll come by next weekend okay?”
“Wonderful! We can’t wait to see you sweetie! We love you!”
“I love you too, bye mom.” Anthony hung up and sat on the edge of his bed. “How am I going to tell them about boxing?” His phone rang again, “Did you forget something mom?”
“Ain’t your mom kid.”
“Chester,” Anthony stood up quickly. “Did you book me a real try out?”
“I made a few calls and got you a try out this weekend.”
“Perfect! Send me the details. I gotta go train. Thanks Chester, I won’t let you down!”
The line went dead, “Oh, I know you won’t kid. You wanted a shot in a real ring, so I got you a real fight.”
The day of the try out came and Anthony was washed over by the same excitement he felt that first night he fought underground. When I win this match, I’ll tell mom and dad I’m going pro. He thought, while wrapping his hands.
The judges took their seats and Anthony faced his opponent in the ring. Staring at the man, Anthony realized he was the biggest opponent he’s faced. No emotion on his face, just an unnerving calm. Anthony shook his head and reminded himself of who he was and the ace up his sleeve. Enough pain is enough fear. I don’t feel pain, so I don’t feel fear. They shook hands and waited for the bell.
Chester strolled into the locker room and gave Anthony a glance over. “He really fucked you up kid.”
Anthony was being patched up by the medic, “He had me for a minute but I outlasted him. I won, like I said I would.”
Chester tossed a packet onto his lap. “You did, and you’re in. All you have to do now is pass a drug test and a medical review.”
“Why do I need to pass a medical review?” Anthony said flipping the pages.
“To make sure you’re not hiding any health conditions that could be liable for them.” Chester opened the door, “It’s part of going legit kid,” he said before leaving.
Frustrated, Anthony stopped the medic, grabbed his things, and left.
Knocking on the door Anthony waited. Within seconds the door swung open, “I’m so glad you’re here sweetie,” his mother chirped.
“Me too mom. I’ve got some big news for you guys,” he said in between short breaths.
She closed the door, “You okay sweetie? You’re breathing funny?”
Holding his arms out, “I’m alright mom. Just a little winded.”
Smiling, she wrapped her arms around his chest and hugged her son tight.
Suddenly Anthony collapsed to the floor gasping for air. “Oh my God Anthony!” Dropping next to him, “Jerry! Call 911!”
As Anthony began to lose consciousness he felt fear for the first time. Apparently the invincible man wasn’t so invincible.
It was discovered that one of his ribs had been broken and without treatment, the hug from his mother had pushed the broken rib into his lung puncturing it. His mother wailed into her husband’s chest when the doctor informed them that Anthony had died upon arrival.
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