Punch Drunk

“Get up, they’re coming!”

His brain, which a moment ago had commenced shutdown right there in the street, instantly fired on its emergency cylinders. He sprang to his feet, unsteady as they were. He sprang back to life—or at least some half-mad, half-instinctive version of it.

“Let’s go, come on!”

He didn’t budge; he wouldn’t back down in such a state. An appetite for pain compensated for what small doubt remained of his own invincibility. This curious, self-loathing urge reared its head, along with the guarantee of regret, whenever he hit the bottle.

“Please, I don’t want to do this tonight!”

By some miraculous blessing he had made it through dozens of nights like this relatively unscathed, and by some blinding curse he always thought he could make it through one more.

“Damn it, this is the last time!”

Once more his friend stayed at his side when others had fled, to help him fight his way out of trouble he had talked himself into. A group of angry young men approached. He cut out the middlemen of threats and shoves, and went straight to throwing punches. In under a minute it was done. He rolled over in the gutter, grinning, as the young men ran away. Gingerly he sat up, spitting blood onto the bitumen in front of him as a small crowd gathered round. He ran his tongue over the gap where a tooth was missing. A numb throbbing marked the site on his cheek where a left hook had knocked him to the ground. It hadn’t knocked him out though—he was proud of that. His wrist started to ache; he must have fallen on it awkwardly. It might be broken. The crowd murmured; he laughed. He had given more punches than he had taken. “Cowards,” he slurred with a bloody smile. “I told you they were cowards, didn’t I? Seven of them against two of us, and that’s the best they could do? Look at ’em run.” He turned to his friend, expecting him to be upset, as he always was after being dragged into a fight. His friend didn’t answer. He just lay still on the road; one eye swollen shut and the other rolled back, blood streaming from his nose, his head resting where it had struck the kerb.

 

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