"Carries his plaques back and forth from his apartment to the gym every day," said Roosevelt Ivory, the man who hired Beau Jack a year ago to run the gym. "Lot of times I try to give him his paycheck and he says to give it to the fighters, he doesn't need it."
"Ain't worth a quarter!" Punch. "Ain't worth a dime!" Punch. "Goddammit, look at you!" Punch. "My grandfather got more." Punch. "I know what you done with it." Punch. "You're hidin' it out on the river!" Punch. "You've given it to the girls!" Punch. Beau Jack was wearing flat, padded mitts when I got to the Fifth Street Gym the next day, catching the punches of a young man who was reeling from exhaustion.
"What's wrong with you?" he screamed at the boxer.
"I'd burn up in the fields, 184 degrees, it didn't stop me! Lord have mercy! The old man's got you!"
The young man bent in half with his gloves on his knees, panting, crimson. Beau Jack staggered around him like a drunk man, cackling, triumphant.
I stared and shook my head. How could someone so vulnerable cackle? How does a man who fought so frantically to fill the Garden with love, who surrounded himself with 15 children, end up without....
The phone rang in his cubicle and Beau Jack bounced away. I waited a little while, then went in to find out. I stopped short. Beau Jack turned his eyes toward the window behind his desk. I came a step closer. He corkscrewed in his chair, legs still pointing forward but his torso and head twisted backward. What's out that window? I wondered, moving next to him. And then I could see. He was trying not to cry.
"Something wrong with your dad?"
"No, not that I know of."