I picked myself up off the floor.
My legs hurt the most which was strange. He was surprised that I hadn’t stayed down and, to be honest, so was I. I didn’t mean to get up, I didn’t want to get up but it’d be worse if I hadn’t. He wasn’t sure if he liked me getting back up all the time so he hit me again. There wasn’t much in his punch though; he was getting tired.
- You’re getting tired, I said. He swung at me again, a lazy haymaker. I brought my arm up to block and I did block it, the first time today. He couldn’t believe it. I mustered what little I’d left in me and pushed him hard in the chest. Lo and behold if he didn’t land on his arse. Now I couldn’t believe it. I took a step back.
- What are you waiting for? he demanded from the floor, - get stuck in with kicks. But I just wobbled on my poor legs.
- Come on, he shouted.
I sat back down on the floor. I just wanted to breathe.
- Yer useless, he said.
I said nothing. He stood up, put his hands on his hips and studied me. I put my head down.
- You pushed me over, he said.
- Why didn’t ya hit me?
- I didn’t want to.
Nothing from either of us for a bit then. Finally he says, - you can’t be pushing men. You’re supposed to punch or kick them or a head butt or get the knee in but not pushing-
- Why not?
- Because… because it’s not manly.
- What about elbows?
- Elbows are fine, he couldn’t help but be impressed, - fine. Look this isn’t boxing, it’s fighting. Anything goes. Fist, knees, feet, head, shoulders and, as you say, elbows.
- So everything then.
- Pretty much.
- But not pushing.
- Not pushing.
- Why again?
- Arah, come on. Stop using your head. You fight with your gut-
- How do you use your gut?
- How do you use your gut?
- How do you mean, how do you use your gut?
- Well, you punch with your fists and you kick with your legs but what do you do with your guts?
He just stared at me like I was nuts.
- Ah, come on, come on, he goes, - that’s not what I mean. I mean, that’s just stupid. I just mean, don’t think about it, get stuck in.
He sat down on the ground and thought for a moment.
- Look, he goes, - you got me on the ground and, ok, it was a push but we’ll give it to you but, come on, you stood back. Don’t ya see? You wanted to be in on me with kicks.
- Yeah, kicks.
- But I pushed you over.
- Yeah, yeah but you didn’t know so we’ll give you that one.
We sat like that for another bit. I obviously didn’t want us to go at it again but I knew it was only a matter of time but if I could keep us talking….
- What about slaps? I asked.
- Can you use slaps?
- Ah no, he started to get annoyed, - no.
- What? I asked.
- You know what. You can’t be going at men with slaps.
- I didn’t know that.
- Sure anyone, come on, anyone knows that.
- Can you go at girls with slaps?
And that shut him up but I shouldn’t have said it. There was a real current in the air now. I could almost smell it, almost taste it.
- No pushes, he said, breathing hard, - no pushes, no slaps.
I started shaking my head. He didn’t like that either.
- Come on, don’t be shaking your head at me. You think I want to be out here at this craic. I’m trying to toughen you up. They’re cutting you to ribbons at school. You did this to yourself.
I started to cry. He blew up.
- Come! On! Knock that on the head now. Come on! He stood up. I was trying to stop crying.
- There’s too much of your mother to you, he said.
I got up again, or tried to but he punched me in the face before I was on my feet. I landed on my back.
Before I knew it, I was up again.
© John Rogers 2007