He saw the punch coming, but it didn’t seem real to him — until it hit. It caught him above the left eye and for a moment his vision was impaired by an explosion of light. His teeth rattled. He hadn’t been hit that hard since…
He was five. He knew that, if he got caught stealing the gum from the store, his father would punish him. Bad. But, he stole it. He got caught. And his father exploded. The right hand to the head knocked him to the kitchen floor. His ears rang.
A more melodramatic person would say that is childhood innocence died that day. But, that isn’t true. It was killed. As he sat on the kitchen floor, blood trickling down the side of his face, he looked up at his father. The man was no longer the big protector in his life. And that hurt almost as much as his head.
But, this punch didn’t pack any emotional wallop. He didn’t know this asshole outside the bar. And asshole wasn’t that much bigger than him. Though he did hit like a ton of bricks. A second punch was coming, and he dodged it — mostly. It grazed his forehead. It was a big punch. He knew that it would have taken him down.
When he was six, his father caught him smoking. He was sure that his father was at work. He and three buddies were splitting two cigarettes that one of the boys stole from his older sister. When his father walked into the shed, he knew that he was in for it. But, his father looked calm. He actually thought that the man was going to let it slide. That was until the backhand struck him flush on the cheek and sent him sprawling over a woodpile. His friends recoiled. They were in complete shock. He managed to get to his feet, but his father slapped him again with a huge open hand. He went sprawling again, landing at the feet of his friends. Seeing the pity in their eyes crushed him.
A third punch was coming, but he reacted quickly. He deflected it with his left forearm and threw a vicious straight right hand of his own. It hit asshole square in the nose — breaking it. Blood sprayed a little out of both nostrils. He had never punched anyone before. He expected it to hurt his hand more.
Asshole threw a left hook that shocked him. It caught him on the chin and staggered him a bit.
His fathered was two hours late arriving home on his tenth birthday. The old man was drunk. He missed the party. He was trying on his new clothes and showing them to his mother and sister as his father grabbed another beer from the fridge. His father told him that he looked like “a queer.” And then kicked him in the ass because the old man didn’t like “the look on his face.” He bounced off the kitchen table and fell on the floor. His father went to watch the hockey game. His mother and sister said nothing.
Asshole was moving in to finish him off. But, he grabbed asshole by the shirt to hold him off. They were both throwing punches wildly. He pulled on asshole’s shirt with his left hand, knocking the guy just a little off-balance, and started landing right hands. Asshole’s punches were missing the mark. His weren’t. Above the eye. Cheek. Chin. Asshole was throwing fewer and fewer punches in return.
When he was nineteen years old, he brought his girlfriend home to meet his parents. Well, his mother anyway. His father had been on good behaviour for a few weeks leading up to the weekend, so he was hopeful. And he had been dating the girl for nine months, so he was running out of excuses. He should have come up with more.
His father got drunk the first night before supper was even served. The old man commented that his girlfriend “dressed like a slut.” He got up from his chair and stood up to his father for the first time. He begged the old man to stop behaving like that. He asked the old man to respect his girlfriend. He told the old man that his behaviour was tearing the family apart.
The old man punched him in the mouth.
He and his girlfriend left after hastily packing their bags.
He hasn’t been home since.
Asshole stopped punching all together. But, he kept hammering his opponent. Right hand after right hand. Asshole fell to the ground. He was still holding him by the shirt. Blood was streaming from asshole’s nose. Asshole was completely defenseless. Visions of his father were flashing through his mind. The fear… the ridicule… the rage… He wanted to get it all out.
He lined asshole up for one more solid punch. Asshole was already out cold.
He pulled his fist back…