Friday, February 08, 2008

A Tiny, Easy Mystery

A Tiny, Easy Mystery

He’d swear it never stops raining. Every night just before he locks up it gets cloudy. Every night just as he locks the door it starts raining. Every night he turns around and there’s a man with his collar pulled up, running by. Always. The streets hiss at him. Every night.

James sweeps up at the gym. It’s a place for boxers. It’s hidden, there’s no sign, the trainers are crooks and the boxers too. He’s been told that it’s famous, that famous fighters have trained here, went on to fight celebrities, and won big money just for losing. He’s been working there long enough to know that’s not true. He doesn’t get paid much. It’s a filthy job full of sweaty, dirty things.

Two weeks ago someone shot Morris McCarthy out front, then drug the poor kid into the ring and let him die there. Nobody knows who did it, but nobody really cares. The gym is carefully stowed in a back alley, everyone at the gym is from a smaller alley, small enough to think this is the big time. Whoever shot Morris was from an alley even smaller. Somewhere like where James lives, where all the fire escapes are rust red and shaky, where the windows have bars all the way to the roof and all the way down into the basement where all the rain runs down into the windows and finds the cracks in the door and warps James’ floor and runs into the crate where he keeps his long-ruined records.

Morris lived in the building next door. Giant and rotting. He was an out of shape loudmouth, a born talent gone lousy with drugs. But strong, always strong. He put the wallop on Sly Tate pretty good. Just got a good one in and Sly almost went through the ropes. Everyone thought Morris was going to the show real quick after that. Everyone.

But strong, always strong. Pulled all the wrong people to him, into the club and filled the place with terrible people. James saw Morris hit a lady one time, at the diner by the docks, late at night. Morris didn’t know James was there, he was with his entourage, hangers on. This was after he bought the gym but before he lost the rematch to Tate. A local celebrity goon. A story that got shorter and shorter, third round, second round, first round, knock out. He reached up and slapped a lady waitress, right as she was bringing him the check. Said he didn’t pay in this town. Told her he was Morris McCarthy.

James shot Morris McCarthy. And his old arms pulled him out of the rain and into the gym, across the tile and pushed him into the ring and then he shot him again. It took two hours and nobody cares enough to figure it out. The bullet was fired from the old revolver of an old man at a known nuisance. He found the revolver behind his house in some tall grass, back when there was tall grass. Back when James was fighting, back when he almost took down the champ. Duster. Duster Figg. Everyone called him Duster. A German kid. Was it German? Big as a house. It was in all the papers for weeks. Broke his goddamned nose right at the end. A quick snap and his nose opened like a goddamned faucet, sure as I’m sitting here.

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