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'Twas the Fight Before Christmas
Jack McCallum
December 26, 2005
A high-wire experiment in sports fiction, written in nine chapters, sequentially, by nine SI authors, wherein a fast-fading pugilist suddenly finds himself in the bout of his life. Read on....
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December 26, 2005

'twas The Fight Before Christmas

A high-wire experiment in sports fiction, written in nine chapters, sequentially, by nine SI authors, wherein a fast-fading pugilist suddenly finds himself in the bout of his life. Read on....

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"Paffose?" I repeated, wondering if this was yet another Greek nickname my father'd come up with.

"Yeah. They like you so much that they want to continue the series after the fight. Stick around, see where your life goes. "And," he paused, with a smile, "they'll pay you $75,000."

If I'd been drinking something, I would have spit it out. Instead, I made a strange squawking noise, like a chicken being strangled.

"Yup. Seventy-five large, my boy," Considine said. He pocketed the cigar and stood up to leave, then stopped. "Oh, one more thing. The suits think you only work as an underdog, something about you being more likable when you're down-and-out. The whole Rocky deal. Anyway, point is, you wouldn't be quite so likable if you beat your old man tomorrow night, if you catch my drift."

I was pretty sure I did. "Are you telling me you want me to throw the fight?"

Considine stroked his chin and thought for a second. "No, Tommy, I'm telling you that if you happen to lose, you'll happen to find yourself $75,000 richer. And if you don't, you won't." And with that, he was off, leaving me with one hell of a dilemma.

Should I take a fall? It went against a lifetime of training--Doggy's motto was, Throw a left or a right but never a fight--yet that kind of money would take care of Mom and leave me enough for three days, two nights of matrimonial bliss at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City. Then again, Pop's life insurance was worth more, and it gave me a chance to square things with the old bastard. If, that is, he wasn't setting me up. I'd never been able to trust him up till now, so what made this any different? Then again, why trust Considine? And I'd already seen enough of the TV people to know that they tell you one thing one week, then the next deny they ever said any such thing. Sort of like politicians. But if that second-season money didn't come through, then Mom would be up against the ropes, behind on all three cards.

Before I could sort through all these thoughts, which were as scattered as the pellets of rat poison Lucky tosses around his kitchen floor every night, Cheryl Sue walked in. She was wearing pink heels, a tight pink dress and a troubled expression. She made straight for our booth.

I'd planned to propose first thing, but I was too dazed from Considine's visit. So, before I could get on one knee, before Lucky could come out with the "mood" candles, before I could recite the poem I'd written--entitled Will You Be My Cornerman for Life?--and before I could tell her about Considine's offer, or suggest that the two of us could always run from all this, the cash and the cameras, because what did we need money for anyway, she opened her mouth and changed everything. "Tommy," she blurted, fidgeting with her purse. "I'm pregnant."

[ VIII ]

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