himself appeared at the door of my cubicle. He was in his street clothes,
carrying a kit bag and a pair of boxing gloves; the long white laces hung down
loose. There was a crowd of people behind him, peering in over his shoulders. I
was staring up at Moore from my stool. He looked down and said, "Hmm."
There were no greetings. He began undressing. He stepped out of pants and
shorts; over his hips he began drawing up a large, harnesslike foul-protector.
I stared at it in awe. I had not thought to buy one myself; the notion of the
champion's throwing a low blow had not occurred to me. Indeed, I was upset to
realize he thought I was capable of doing such a thing. "I don't have one
of those," I murmured. I don't think he heard me. A man I thought might be
Doc Kearns, the legendary manager, was saying, "Arch, let's get on out of
here. It's a freak show." Beyond the cubicle we could hear the rising
murmur of a crowd.
no," I said. "It's all very serious."
Moore looked at
me speculatively. "Go out there and do your best," he said.
He settled the
cup around his hips and flicked its surface with a fingernail; it gave off a
dull sound. He drew on his trunks. He began taping his hands. I recall the
shriek of the adhesive drawn in bursts off its spool, the flurry of his fists
as he spun the tape around them.
While this was
going on, he offered a curious monologue about a series of victories back in
his early fight days. "I put that guy in the hospital, didn't I? Yeah,
banged him around the eyes so it was a question about could he ever see
again." He looked at me. "You do your best, hear?" I nodded
vaguely. He went back to his litany. "Hey, you remember the guy who
couldn't remember his name after we finished with him?—just plumb banged that
guy's name right out of his skull." He smoothed the tape over his hands and
slid on the boxing gloves. Then he turned and swung a punch at the wall of the
cubicle with a force that bounced a wooden medicine cabinet off its peg; it
fell to the floor and exploded in a shower of rickety slats. "These gloves
are tight," he said as he walked out with the man who might have been
Kearns. A roll of elastic bandage fell out of the ruin of the cabinet and
unraveled across the floor. Beyond the cubicle wall I heard a voice cut through
the babble: "Whatever he was, Arch, he was not an elephant."
Could that have
been Kearns? An assessment of the opposition? Of course at the time I had no
idea that Maas had built me up into a demonic contender whom Moore and his
friends would have good reason to check.
hell was that?" I said. I looked at Brown beseechingly. He shrugged.
"Don't let it bother you. Just remember what we've been doing all this
time," he said, smoothing the tape on my hands. "Move, and peck at
"At least he
didn't find out about the sympathetic response," I said.
that?" Brown asked.
that weeping you've noticed when I get cuffed around."