Oshian knew every inch of the gym by the time it happened. He had spilled, sprayed, and sweat his blood from corner to corner of the building. He had ground the concrete beneath the rhythm of his jump rope.
“We got you a fight,” Silas stated ominously.
Oshian’s heart sped. He felt his blood rise.
“You been in this gym long enough, and you knocked out enough of these young boys, it is time for a challenge. Dunk scouted a boy from the Eastside who’s got dynamite in his hands, and he is a few years older than you. Should be a fine test,” the old man spoke while rubbing his palms together as if preparing for a meal.
The past brute looked at the current pugilist and knew just what he was seeing: the sharpened vision of the looming conflict. A man can train for a lifetime and never know his potential, but a true challenge provides focus, and in Oshian’s case, a refined rage. The feeling is simultaneously primal and intellectual.
Before the sting of leather and the stain of canvas, he was a boy. A small, kinky-haired boy. His muscles taut and his energy high. School came hard. The violence came easy.
Ms. Nillas prowled the classroom with meaningful strides. Her floral dress tugged around her hips, and her glasses perched on the tip of her nose. The math worksheet lay blank on Oshian’s desk, his mind unable to push the numbers toward logic. Two students whispered to his right, their necks postured in gossip. They spoke loud enough for him to hear.
“Oshian’s mommy smells like liquor.”
“My mom says she shouldn’t drive.”
The sense of arithmetic seemed far but the anger was near. He felt the blood rush into his fists, watched his knuckles whiten in tension. His nostrils flared in anticipation. Soon, anticipation flowed into reality: the school day was over. Bells had rung, backpacks zipped, and the rubber soles of young children screeched in the hallways. Oshian found the voice who spoke of his mother’s scent. He was surrounded by his friends in a semicircle, all waiting for the approaching boy.
“Didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday?”
“Why your shoes so dirty?”
“They should’ve named you sour.”
They laughed a contagious laugh. A laugh that seemed to engulf each classroom, the hallway, and eventually the whole school. A grating cackle that infested every aspect of his young life.
Oshian didn’t speak. He never found much need for it. Instead he grabbed his foe with his left hand and violently brought him into his right hand, the velocity doubled by the pushing and pulling of inertia. The world slowed. Each blow coursed through Oshian’s body. He took pleasure in the pain that surrounded his wrist. The blunt force rattled his small, growing bones. With his eyes wide he watched the changes in the boy’s face every time he pushed: the redness around his eyebrow, the slight cut, the second cut, the blood flowing from one wound to the other, the thick red liquid making abstract art along the left side of his face. [End Page 439]
His distant admiration was halted by a weighted hand on his shoulder. The Earth’s rotation returned to its normal spin. Suddenly it was Oshian, blood staining the length of his lower right arm. The boy crumpled at Oshian’s feet, and Mr. Dunk, his pale face flushed, his mustache bristling in a pitched anger, “Oshian, what have you done?”
Dunk’s firm grip never relented. Oshian was guided shoulder-first into a boxing gym.
The rhythms were infectious. The jump rope slapped on the concrete. The padded gloves slammed into the leather bags. The ominous doom of the silence, a silence vanished only by explosions of sound and fury.
“This is your school now, your church too. This is ya damn God calling.”
Oshian watched Dunk approach a tall black man. His gestures wildly excited as he slapped his left hand against the knuckles of his right hand. In that hallway he was a monster. Here he was a...