SHORT STORY SAMPLE
Punchless Jimmy Collins
by Timothy Gager
"Punchless" Jimmy Collins has a scar over his right eye, a crooked nose and an ear that bobs when he walks. In his prime, his punchlessness beat opponents but never knocked them out. Often he left the ring a warrior, teetering like a wounded dog, the crowd cheering. Everyone loves a winner.
He is fifty-five, his robe is ragged and he needs a shave. The nurses have stopped paying attention to the sound of his left palm banging the side of his head, slapping away the ringing. Ironically, he is completely deaf in his right ear.
Every month when the bell rings Jimmy refuses to evacuate and returns to the ring once more, a 10 by 15 foot room with windows that won’t open. He lashes out, fists against air.
"Mr. Collins! It’s a fire drill," the attendant shouts.
"I’m fine, I’m fine," he counters, popping his dentures in and out of place.
"FI...AH drill," Hugo replies.
"Hold onto your towel," Collins snaps.
Hugo has a towel tucked into his belt, not to concede a fight, but rather to clean up messes at SunRich.
"Sonny, leave that towel alone!" Collins threatens.
"Champ. My name is Hugo. Remember? Hugo." Sonny was his cut man. The best in the business. "Champ, the fight’s over," Hugo says.
"You won again Jimmy! Now step down, the limo is waiting downstairs."
They turn and leave, Hugo, behind him, holding his shoulders as they both bounce down the hall. Outside, Collins brushes past the gathering crowd, strangely quiet after a big fight.
Jimmy Collins Jr. visits twice every month. He is the only one and he comes here because he can’t take care of him out there. "Pop, remember this one?" he asks while pointing to an old newspaper clipping in a tattered scrapbook.
"Oscar Bonavena," he said.
"No, Pop, that’s Bugner. How about him?"
"Um, that one is Mike Quarry. Jerry’s brother. He waits, turns the page. Here’s one you know."
"Oscar Bonavena." It was Bonavena on the last page of the book. "Where’s Mary?" Punchless Jimmy Collins asks.
"Mom’s gone, Pop. Been gone a while." The fighter glazes over as if he was badly hurt, a slow dance during a final round. He winces as jabs and uppercuts connect in his brain.
"She left you, Pop. You smacked her pretty good. You don’t remember."
Collins never responds, barely hanging on to an angry blur of Mary leaving each day, until the day she is no longer there.
He will wake up soon, a referee or trainer looking down on him. Sometimes it is a nurse or sometimes it’s Sonny.
"Mary’s dead?" punchless Jimmy Collins asks and then the bell rings again.