What Happened “In the Ring”?
From my soon-to-be-released Short Stories for the Soul:
“In the Ring”
I clenched my tired fists. Sweat soaked the leather inside the bulbous gloves, and I couldn’t remember when I’d last taken them off.
High-intensity lights glared down from a broad ceiling. A square of three taut ropes surrounded me, a mat at my feet. Beyond that everything was gray. In front of me stood my opponent.
I swung and struck him. A weak hit, but I forgave myself for that. Hits lose strength as they lose count.
He did not strike back. He was a tricky one. He would never hit directly, never let me see it coming. The punch always came from the side, seemingly out of nowhere. Let my fist down and bam! I’d take a smack across my face.
I hated him for it.
But I was tired. Tired of trying to look happy while I was hitting and being hit. Tired of not knowing why I was fighting or how it would end. Tired of not going anywhere.
I wore three chains around my neck, and they weighed heavy on my shoulders. Anger, frustration, and unforgiveness will do that. I thought to take them off but they defined who I was.
No bell sounded to end the round, and I couldn’t remember when it had started. After it, others would start and drag on until I collapsed and died.
That wasn’t such a bad thought. At least I’d be done.
But anxiety over what would happen to my soul kept me on my feet. Whether based on fact or fiction, I feared whatever might be done to me after I died. I’d probably get stuck even more under my adversary’s control than I was in this ring.
So I kept fighting.
Strange how days turn into weeks, months, years, and wondering what we did all the while. I had not left the ring for years and had forgotten what it was like not to fight. I often collapsed and slept. When I awoke, he was always there.
My hands were raw from endless rubbing inside the gloves. Traces of blood on my wrists told why my hands stung and felt so slimy. And accumulated grime was certainly causing infection.
I had paced the ring until I wore a visible path. And when I didn’t swing at my opponent, I flailed against the ropes. Stupid, wasted effort. But I did it anyway, even as I berated myself.
My steps were slowing and my swings were weakening. I couldn’t go on forever. I stared at my adversary, whom I loved and hated—which left me feeling always alone.
He faced me, eyes wide and fixed on mine.
“I’m sick of what’s going on,” I said.
His gaze seemed kind, even compassionate, but I didn’t believe it.
I raised my fist at him. “You allowed every disaster in my life to happen. You could stop them, but you keep letting them happen. . . .”