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Monday, July 28, 2014

FIGHTS: Preview - Fight Card releases another Knockout Charity Anthology

BATTLING MAHONEY AND OTHER STORIES FEATURES AN ENTRY BY ZBFBOOKS
by
Bowie V. Ibarra


Fight Card books has released yet another charity anthology filled with fight stories in the tradition of the classic pulps.

Here's the report from their OFFICIAL FIGHT CARD WEBSITE:

Fight Card is excited to publish the collection you now hold in your hands – our second Fight Card charity anthology – Fight Card Presents: Battling Mahoney and Other Stories. This time we’ve upped the ante from ten rounds of two-fisted fight fiction to a full fifteen rounds – with 100% of the proceeds going to help the family of western writing legend, the late Jory Sherman – a mentor and friend to so many in the literary community.

Writers helping writers as part of the Fight Card publishing collective.

Battling Mahoney and Other Stories is filled with action delivered by many of Fight Card’s top contributors. Legendary pulp writer Len Levinson provides the title story – featuring characters from his popular The Sergeant series of WWII thrillers. Willis Gordon sets the mood with his extensive essay, On Boxing, andFight Card favorite James Hopwood (Fight Card: King of the Outback and Fight Card: Rumble in the Jungle) gives us aHollywood Hits tale featuring Abbott & Costello along with The Brown Bomber himself, Joe Louis.

Robert E. Howard scholar Mark Finn (Fight Card: The Adventures of Sailor Tom Sharkey) gives us another top notch ‘weird boxing’ tale, featuring Sailor Tom Sharkey & the Electric Gorilla. Bowie V. Ibarra returns to the Fight Card team with his prose singing The Song of the Cornerman, while Michael Zimmerman gives us one of the hardest hitting stories in the collection, The Broken Man.

New writers climbing into the ring with Fight Card include Nik Morton (Cowboy in the Ring), Marc Cameron (Rock, Paper, Scissors), Marcia Ward (Bloodied Leather), Clay More (Heat of Battle), and Chuck Tyrell (Fight Day in Diablo).

We are also thrilled to include stories from Loren D. Estleman and James Reasoner, both writers who are held in the highest regard by their peers and readers.

This new anthology also sports another beautiful cover fromFight Card’s resident artist/illustrator, the brilliant and talented Carl Yonder (Pirate Eye).

It’s all happening in Fight Card Presents: Battling Mahoney and Other Stories

So, keep calm and keep your guard up…

====

As mentioned, ZBFbooks.com kingpin Bowie V. Ibarra has provided yet another short story for the charity anthology.  This one is entitled, 'Song of the Cornerman'.  The story is about a cornerman who is taking his charge, a young, overconfident boxer, into his first title fight.  

Below is a preview of the title.  Check it out.

SONG OF THE CORNERMAN
By
Bowie V. Ibarra
Copyright 2013, 2014 Bowie V. Ibarra, ZBFbooks.com, (Fight Card)


DEDICATIONS

To my father and tio Martin.  Thanks for introducing me to boxing.
To all boxing fans.
To Teddy Atlas.
To Jeremy LC Jones and Paul Bishop.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Bradley Coburn is a good boxer.  In fact, he’s real good.
The problem is he knows it, and is too busy telling everyone how great he is instead of putting in time in the gym honing his skills.
You don’t know how many times this little bastard has stood me up for gym time.  Sure, he comes in during the week when we’re open, during his daily training.  But then he says he wants to come in for some extra gym time on the weekend, when we’re closed.  I say okay, right?  I mean, what kind of trainer doesn’t make an effort to help out a student who doesn’t want to improve his skills, right?  Am I right?
And so there’s little old me, good old Octavio, getting his sleepy ass out of bed and going to open the gym at eight in the morning after a night of cards and bourbon with the old codgers I call my friends at the VFW.  Me.  Getting up in the morning.  Saturday morning.  I could ask Marty to do it for me, but that’s not Marty’s business.  Marty’s business is to keep Bradley’s face from falling apart during a fight.  So it’s me, it’s all me getting up early on a weekend, usually with a hangover, to open up.
And where’s Bradley?  Nowhere to be seen.  Twice he’s showed up over an hour after I’ve been waiting for him as I’m about to lock up.  That’s the kind of undisciplined little bastard I’m dealing with here.  The guy’s good, but so good he thinks he doesn’t need to work for it.
Which makes tonight’s problem even bigger.  It’s Bradley’s first televised title fight, and he’s still got his head so far up his ass that the champ, this big Cuban named Oscar Vincent, is going to have to punch Bradley on his butt cheek and hope it hits his face.
I swear to Christ, if Bradley doesn’t listen to me, he’s going to sleep in that ring in front of the world and lose this shot.  And I don’t want that, you hear me?  I don’t want that for him.  He doesn’t deserve it, but he’s going to earn it if he doesn’t listen to me.
“Would you relax, Octavio.  I’m boxing’s next big thing.  I got this, man.”
“You’ll have this if you stick with what we trained for, Bradley.”
I call him Bradley because he says he hates being called Brad.  See?  See?  That’s the kind of challenge I’m dealing with.
“He’s going to do fine, Octavio.”
“Marty, I know you want to earn your keep, but I don’t want you having to put Bradley’s face back together when that Cuban starts picking him apart out there.”
“I got it, Octavio.  You’ll see.  This Cuban has no chance.”
“You better listen to me out there, Bradley.  This is a title fight, kid.”
“I will, I will.  I always do, Octavio.”
I swear to Christ, over the past thirty-five years I’ve been in this sport, after four years an amateur and around twenty years as a boxer, I’ve never had to deal with such a prima donna.  I’ve also never dealt with somebody with so much talent, so much skill.  The kid is a prodigy, but Jesus Christ is he stuck on himself.
I don’t want to go off on this little bastard.  He’s not ready for that.  Marty’s always holding me back, and I can appreciate that.  But I swear to Christ, if I have to, I will.  This little bastard is like a son to me, and we’ve both come too far to not take home the winner’s purse and the belt.  I’m just not going to put up with his garbage tonight.  He earned his shot.  Now I’m going to make him deserve taking home the big dollars and the title tonight, whether he likes it or not.  Mainly, because I deserve my cut of that purse for putting up with him.  So does Marty.  But Marty’s not past due on his rent and about to be thrown out on the rails.  I am.
You’d think I’d do a better job with money management.  But most of my money goes to the gym for the boys and on the poker tables at the VFW.  I just want them to have the best.  The boys, that is.  Not my buddies at the VFW.  But it’s one of the better gyms in San Antonio.  It might even be better if I was dealt better hands.  It’s a bad habit, I know.
I could hear Bradley’s music start when this guy walked into our dressing room with a headset on.
“We’re ready for you, Mr. Coburn,” he said.
“Let’s go,” I said, waving them on.
Bradley shouted, then said, “Let’s do this!” before he walked out the door.
I leaned over to Marty and told him, “If he doesn’t take this fight seriously, Marty, I swear to Christ.”
“We’re not there yet, Octavio.  Let a few rounds play out first.”
“Sure.  Sure. Wait and see.  Wait and see.”
We stepped out from the curtain only moments after Marty had unfurled the Texas flag, and I could feel the energy in the arena.  All these years, that’s still something that gives me a thrill, a real charge, you know?  That energy.  That fire from the crowd is just so addictive.  Like a drug.  Really, hearing those people cheering, ready to see the fighters slug it out, it’s just so… God, I don’t even have the words for it.
We got to the ring, and I think the ring was to Bradley’s advantage.  It was a few inches smaller than most rings he’s fought in, and the canvas was pristine.  Well, apart from the fights earlier that night.  I could tell when I looked at the canvas before the show that tonight was its first night to be used.
We’re also the blue corner tonight, which I’d requested and we’d got.  I’m kind of superstitious about the corners I work.  Blue has always been good to me.  I’ve only lost seven fights working the blue corner.  I won 46 with my camp.
The red’s a totally different story.  24 wins.  13 losses.  Yeah, I hate that corner.
The good thing, though, is that old Bradley here is 29 of those wins on blue.  No losses here.  He’s also 10 of those wins on red.  But his two losses were on red, so this bodes well for all of us.
I put my stuff down with Marty and called for Bradley, who was already dancing around the ring.
“’Ey.  Get over here, Bradley.  Get your head straight.”
“I’m ready, Octavio.  Don’t sweat it,” he told me as I took off his robe.
“You’ve got this tonight, Bradley.”
“The title’s mine tonight, Octavio.  You’ll see.”
“You better show me tonight,” I told him.  “Show all these people here.”
Marty was checking to make sure he had enough Vasoline on Bradley’s face to help prevent cuts from the punches when the Cuban’s music started and the fans started cheering.  How could I blame them?  This guy, Oscar Vincent, was a real knockout artist.  His hands were phenomenal, and his technique was sweet.  And he had the fans in his corner that was for sure.  I wouldn’t say Bradley was booed by any stretch of the imagination.  Bradley’s arrogance certainly didn’t help endear him to fans. 
But the energy from the fans for the Cuban was much stronger than for Bradley.  It didn’t seem to faze the kid, though.  Didn’t faze me.  I could give a rat’s ass what these fans think about Bradley.  If he listens to me, these fans will be in our corner before it’s all over.  If not, well, life’s best lessons are learned the hard way, you know?  It wouldn’t be the first time I’d be out in the streets, either.  I always have the gym.  Hell, maybe Chris from the VFW would lend me a few bucks, tide over the landlord for a week or two.
Ah, who the hell am I kidding?
It’s this whole flag waving thing I can’t stand for right now.  This Cuban thinks he can walk into the Frank Erwin here in Austin with that Cuban flag.  That makes my blood boil.  That’s why I made sure to tell Marty to wave the Lone Star State flag.  I’m from San Antonio.  Bradley’s from Houston.  Marty is from Shreveport, but that’s okay.  He knows what he’s doing, so I’ll forgive him for being born in Louisiana.  I tell folks he’s from Beaumont.
“Christ, he’s big,” whispered Bradley to me as Vincent stepped into the ring with his team.
I heard Bradley and had to respond.  “Now you relax, Bradley.  You knew this already, and we’ve trained for it.  So get your head straight.  You can beat this big bastard, alright?”
Bradley just nodded at me as we all moved back to our corner as the announcer began his intro. 
I’m not going to lie to you.  I thought the same thing when Vincent entered the ring.  The guy seemed much bigger in person.  I’d studied some tape, but man, in person, the dude was huge.  But the scales don’t lie.  Bradley and Vincent are in the same weight class.
As the announcer finished his spiel, I had one more thing to tell Bradley before the face off.
“Listen to me, Bradley.  You look this big bastard in the eye and you show him who’s going to win this fight, you hear me?  Get your game face on, kid!”
Bradley looked like a little puppy who had just got his ass whipped by a rolled up newspaper.  His bravado had somehow faded since he laid eyes on the big commie.  I thought he was about to start whimpering as we faced off in the middle of the ring.
His trainers weren’t much to me.  A couple of young chumps.  They’re lucky they had this Cuban under their wing.  Real gravy train.  Bradley would show them.
Ref gave the instructions, and they touched gloves.  We got out of the ring, but before I got out, I told Bradley, “Get out there and stick to your training.  You hear me?”
Bradley nodded as I put his mouthpiece in his mouth and stepped out.
“He’s going to be fine, Octavio,” Marty said to me.
“He can beat this big bastard, Marty, if he listens to me.”
The bell rang and Bradley’s test began.  I hadn’t been this nervous in a while.  This kid has a chance to become a big name in boxing with a good showing here.  And he’s doing alright.  Bradley’s working the jab like I needed him to do.  Bradley’s got the reach advantage, and we need to keep Vincent from getting shots off on the inside.
“Good jabs from Bradley.”
“It’s early, Marty. It’s early.”
“I just want you to see this kid is starting right.”
“I can see it, Marty.”
I’m usually not this grouchy.  Marty didn’t deserve me snapping back at him like that.  I’m just a bundle of nerves right now.
Vincent fed Bradley one of his rights, and Bradley stumbled.  “Oh, hell,” I muttered.  Bradley recovered, thank Christ, and returned a combo of his own, getting Vincent off of him.  And when Vincent tried to find another opening, Bradley responded with more combos, making a statement that he was not in any danger.
“You think he slipped?”
“I think he got clocked, Marty.  But he’s recovered.”
Things slowed down a bit with both men taking their time before the round ended.  It was a Vincent round, for sure, though.  Marty and I got in the ring and sat Bradley down.
“Are you alright?” I asked Bradley, pulling out his mouthpiece.
“Yeah.”
“Okay.  You’re doing good right now.  Keep snapping that jab.  You’re not going to one-punch this guy.  You need to keep setting up these combos.”
Bradley’s eyes were scanning the crowd.
“’Ey.  Bradley look at me.  Are you listening?”  I turned his face to me.  This kid was not focused.
“Yeah.”
“Listen.  Keep it up with the combos, but stop throwing the hook from the outside.  He’s an experienced guy, he’s going to respond to it.  Switch it up, and keep snapping that jab.”
I swear, the only other person other than a corner man that knows how fast a minute can be is a boxer.  We stepped out of the ring as the second round began.
“No real swelling to report, boss.”
“Great.  As long as he listened to what I told him to do, he should be fine.”
Bradley opened strong with a set of combos that was answered by Vincent.  Good series of punches from both.  I was hoping he was establishing the combo so he could switch it up.  But the more the match went on, he wasn’t doing what I told him to do.
“He’s throwing the same punches.”
“I know it,” I told Marty.
Same series of combos from Bradley.  He was becoming predictable; what I needed him to avoid.  They were connecting, sure.  But that wasn’t going to last long.
“He’s starting to get cocky.”
“I swear to Christ.”
Bradley was connecting pretty solid, and although Vincent had answers, Bradley was taking control.
“He’s getting too cocky.”
“I swear to Christ.”
There’s a different feeling you get outside the ring when you know someone’s going to get knocked down.  In the ring, a fighter can almost smell it.  Well, I did.  It’s like you connect on some sort of spirit level, like your body flows the way it should and it just happens.  For me, when I’m watching it, you just… I can’t even put it into words, but you know it’s coming.
Too bad it wasn’t the person I needed knocked down.
“Aw, hell,” shouted Marty as Bradley fell to his hands and knees.
“Get up, kid.”
Bradley had dropped his fundamentals, thinking he was hurting Vincent.  One, he’s just standing in front of the guy when he lands some combos.  And two, his hands are down.  Hands up, kid.  Hands up.
“I swear to Christ!  Get up Bradley!”
Thankfully, he didn’t look bad, and got up at 8.
“Keep your hands up, kid,” I shouted.
Vincent went in for the kill, but Bradley was able to keep the big Cuban from getting a good shot in.  After a few flurries, the second round was over and Marty and I climbed in the ring.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.”
“Listen to me, pull yourself together.  The beginning of this match was all you, but you lost your focus and wanted to play around and you paid for it.  You’d get your shots off and you posed after you punched.  It was you.  It was all you in the first part of that match. 
I tried to look into this kids eyes to see if he was listening.  I don’t think he was, but I stayed on him.
“Stop standing in front of this guy.  He’s too good to make this kind of bush league mistake.  And keep your hands up.  You’re better than this.  Now go back in there and fight a full round.”
“Yeah.”
We got out of the ring and the third began.  And more of the same lack of discipline from Bradley.
“What is wrong with him?  He looks like crap.”
“He’s giving up, Marty.  He’s giving up already.  I can’t believe this.”

==============

Will Octavio coach his charge to the win?  Or will Bradley's lack of confidence prove his undoing?

Check it out in Battling Mahoney and Other Stories.  Pick it up today HERE.


And if you like outstanding fight stories, then ZBFbooks.com has some picks for you.  Pick up your copy of the 'Pit Fighters' series today in paperback or kindle.  Follow the adventures of the fighters in the south Texas fight stable, San Uvalde International, in 'Baptism by Fire' and 'Double Cross'.  Get them HERE.  The stories feature a Scottish boxer trying to make a name for himself again.
 
Check out the trailers and the book covers for both books below.

TRAILER:  PIT FIGHTERS - BAPTISM BY FIRE
 

BOOK TRAILER:  PIT FIGHTERS - DOUBLE CROSS




BOWIE V. IBARRA is the author of the acclaimed 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from Permuted Press.  He earned a BFA in Acting and a MA in Theatre History from Texas State University.  His latest titles explore superhero themes, including 'Codename: La Lechusa', 'Room 26 and the Army of Xulhutdul', and 'Tejano Star and the Vengeance of Chaplain Skull'. 
 
Network with Bowie at his official website, ZBFbooks.com, the leader in Tex-Mexploitation literature.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

FIGHTS: 'Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy' is ridiculous, offensive, fun

MASTER OF BIZARRO SPILLS ABSURDITY ON THE PAGE
BY
Bowie V. Ibarra

'Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy' is filled with bite-size bits of the most ridiculously fun stories you will ever read.

Imagine for a moment you were hopped up on goofballs and totally tripping out.  Then you passed out and started dreaming.  That's pretty much the experience you get when reading the title.

Each of the short stories are made from the Mad Hatter's teapot.  Each of them gets crazier and absurd as one story ends and bleeds into the next one.  Each new story jarring the reader into yet another nightmarish and funny world.  Sands doesn't just stretch the boundaries of decency and reality with each story, he completely ignores them with joyful delight.

The only thing that works against it is how exhausting each of the stories makes the reader.  Story by story, my brain got fried.  I found the best way to enjoy the story was to take in as many shorts as I could before putting it down to pick it up again later after I was able to shake the absurd buzz and was ready for more.

Completely absurd, sometimes offensive, but always ridiculous and hilarious, 'Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy' is an acid trip in book form.  It's completely ZBFbooks.com approved for all the laughs and the most absurd fights contained within its pages.

You can pick up 'Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy' in paperback or kindle ebook HERE.

If you enjoyed the review, support the blogger by getting a book for yourself at ZBFbooks.com.

BOWIE V. IBARRA is the author of the 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from Permuted Press.
Down the RoadDown the Road: On the Last Day, and Down the Road: The Fall of Austin.  Pick them up in paperback or Kindle today.






BOWIE V. IBARRA earned his BFA in Acting and MA in Theatre History from Texas State University.  Network with Bowie at his official website,ZombieBloodFights.com today.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

ZOMBIES: Repost - This Week in Permuted Press Horror releases

THIS WEEK'S TERRIFYING NEW TITLES!
One of the best ways to escape the brutal summer heat is to curl up inside with a good, scary book! Luckily, we are releasing incredible new titles constantly to indulge your darkest nightmares! This week we are celebrating seven new novels that are guaranteed to take you straight through the apocalypse and to hell and back. Why? Because that’s what we do best at Permuted Press!
AVAILABLE NOW

The Creepers: Born In Winter
by Norman Dixon



Bobby's whole life has been about surviving in the aftermath of the First War. The Folks taught him about the Creepers. Ol' Randy taught him how to kill them, how to hide from them, and how to protect himself from their bite. But Ol' Randy never told Bobby the truth of his existence. After sneaking beyond the Settlement's razor wire fence, both Bobby and his brother Ryan are bitten. Life as they know it should be over, they should be dead. They should be Creepers. But they're not, and before they can find out why, their world comes crashing down around them.

“Dixon weaves a magical world that isn't richly drawn, but rather bleakly realized. There's not a lot of light in this world, but the gritty realism it showcases grabs the reader and shoves them into this new world - instead of gently taking them by the hand and leading them."
— The Macomb Daily



eBook ISBN: 9781618681218
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781618681201


Purchase the eBook Edition.
Purchase the Print Edition.


 

In The End
by Breanna Bright


The house on Drunk Horse road has everything, a good price, Victorian charm, a secret passage, and a rich history.

But it also has a secret.

Something watches from the shadows, and it is more than a ghostly haunting. The young owners, Alice and Thursday, struggle to defeat the creature, but victory comes with sacrifice, especially when Death itself intervenes.
 
 
eBook ISBN: 9781618683076
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781618683069


Purchase the eBook Edition.
Purchase the Print Edition.

 

Hungry Independents

by Ted Hill


Grasshoppers have invaded Independents, and the crops are under attack. Hunter seeks out help from the kids in Cozad, but finds them served up like cold cuts at a deli to the emaciated horseman of the apocalypse known as Famine.

After Hunter meets the eye-appealing Barbara, who prefers to be called Barbie, he has to constantly remind her that he has a girlfriend. Sometimes he reminds himself. The distraction is only temporary as he risks his life to protect the children from Famine’s hunger.

With Barbie fighting at his side to free the Cozad kids, Hunter discovers he is immune to physical harm, even though the pain from his brother’s death remains heavy on his shoulders. He knows everything will be all right if he holds himself together long enough to make it back home to Molly, unless Famine and his swarm of insects arrive there ahead of him.
 

Purchase the eBook Edition.
 

Z Plan: Blood On The Sand
by Mikhail Lerma


Cale, a U.S. Army Soldier, is in the middle of one conflict, just as another more terrifying one has begun. The insurgents are the least of his worries now. Instead, the undead have become the new enemy. Fighting for his life at every turn, and losing friends along the way, he must trek across the globe just in the hopes that he will hold his wife and daughter in his arms again.

"Z Plan is an adventure indeed, and I recommend this book to any zombie apocalypse lover; you won't be disappointed. — Bookie-Monster.com


eBook ISBN: 9781618683250
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781618683243


Purchase the eBook Edition.


SHARK WEEK!!!


Like millions of you around the world, we too are getting very excited about the return of the Discovery Channel's SHARK WEEK in August! In celebration of this terrifying and educational week exploring the world of the oceans' great predators we will be bringing your the latest SHARK WEEK news, as well as videos, facts, and, of course, which books in the Permuted Press library you should have on your nightstand to supplement your underwater terrors obsession such asDavid Salkin's Deep Black SeaBriar Lee Mitchell's Big Ass Shark, andWarren Fielding's Great Bitten: Outbreak

What is your favorite horror movie involving sharks? Tweet to us@PermutedPress with hashtag#SharkWeek.
 

FIGHTS: PREVIEW - The 'Bridgeport Brawler' strikes for Fight Card

LATEST FIGHT CARD TITLE BRINGS THE FUN OF FIGHTS
repost from Fight Card 
by
Bowie V. Ibarra
Our latest Fight Card entry has just hit the virtual bookshelves…Bridgeport Brawler is from Dave White writing as Jack Tunney. The cover is by our man down under, David Foster, and the ad banners are generously provided by Bobby Nash…
FIGHT CARD: BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER
Chicago, 1953…Patrick ‘The Hammer’ White – the Bridgeport Brawler – is on top of the world. He is the current heavyweight champion confidently getting ready to defend his crown. All the training from father Tim at St Vincent’s orphanage has come full circle, and Pat isn’t figuring on being toppled from the championship mountain anytime soon.

Having seen his shares of ups-and-downs, Pat believes the ‘downs’ are behind him.  However, he has forgotten boxing’s dark side. When mob boss Carmen Amello squeezes Pat’s trainer into forcing the champ to take a dive, the ‘downs’ come back with a vengeance.

In the aftermath of disaster, with only bad choices in front of him, the Bridgeport Brawler is going to have to dig deep if he is ever going to hammer his way back to the top…

Bridgeport Brawler is another two-fisted Fight Card tale …



Here's a preview of the title:

FIGHT CARD: BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER
e-Book Edition – First Published July 2014
Copyright © 2014 Dave White
Cover by David Foster © 2014

FIGHT CARD:
BRIDGEPORT BRAWLER
ROUND 1
CHICAGO, AUGUST 26, 1953
The Stadium, or the Madhouse on Madison as it had been dubbed, was sure living up to its nickname. I sat in the locker room getting taped up and ready for another title defense. The door was closed, and the lockers lined a long hall of brick and concrete beneath the stands. The noise and banging of feet from the fans made it seem as if I was standing directly under them, as the place actually shook and vibrated like an earthquake. The sound echoing through the place like a fierce thunder storm.  
Homer Slade, my trainer, manager, and best friend since growing up at St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys was quiet.  He was a lot tenser than I had ever seen him before. It was almost eerie, because for as long as I had known Homer, quiet, was not a word you normally associated with him.
I had been the heavyweight champ for a little over a year, and tonight marked the third title defense I was making. I felt great, on top of the world really, but I knew something had been off with Homer for a while now. I tried to tell myself it was just the daily pressures of the fight game, but I was kidding myself. Homer was using again, heroin, opium, it didn’t really matter. I suspected he had been since I first won the crown.
I was one of the youngest to do so – a feat, I was proud of. Me, Patrick, The Hammer, White. The Hammer of course was not chosen by my mother. Father Tim always told me I was something special. Six foot two and two hundred and thirty pounds of muscle by the time I was eighteen.

I had been gifted with size and strength, and a natural agility you couldn’t teach. Father Tim always shook his head in disbelief. The nickname came from the large paws I sported. At least that was what I thought. Homer always said it was because I hit like a twenty pound sledge. He would know.
Homer came to the orphanage, all 4 foot of him, when I was ten. Truth be told, he hadn’t grown much since then.  He would barely top five-two. It didn’t matter though, Homer had size where it counted…his heart. At least he used to.
When Homer came to the orphanage I was easily the biggest kid there, having been large even at an early age. Homer introduced himself by attempting to cold cock me. I remember the look on his face after he came off the ground and hit me with everything he had, only to see me smile at him. Homer learned about my fist first hand that day.
Homer looked like an alien when he finally came out of it, half his face swollen and purple. It was the beginning of a binding friendship, even though Father Tim made me run till I puked for hitting Homer.
I was only five when I graced Father Tim’s doorstep. The sad part of it was I caused myself to be an orphan. The memories always stayed with me, haunted me at times. My father had left us that year. I guess six kids and a battle with the bottle had been too much for him.
I never minded him leaving. He was an ass, with a capitol A. Mom was the best though, always doing whatever it took in order to give us whatever she could. We got by. Luckily the place on Parnel, in Bridgeport, a vastly integrated neighborhood in Chicago, had two separate apartments to rent to provide us a small amount of income. Mom couldn’t work, having four young kids in the house to take care of, but she took in washing and mending when she could.
I was a twin, as well as my two other sisters, Eleanor and Elaine, who were three years my senior. My twin was my sister Patricia. So mom was stuck with four kids under the age of ten. We also had two older brothers, Ray and Don, also twins, but fifteen years older.
Ray was an alcoholic, and Don had been killed in a motorcycle accident. I still had his old Indian. I had restored it to its showroom appearance. It was the only thing, other than me and Ray, which survived the fire.
I remember it clearly. I was terrorizing my sister Patricia as she lay in the pull out bed where we slept. She yelled for me to go to sleep, but I wanted to read the new comic book I had.
I sat there with a lighter I had managed to swipe from my brother Ray, the low flame barely bright enough to see under the covers, let alone wake my mom. Patricia kept threatening to get up and tell. I told her to stuff it, I was almost done. I called her a brat and that’s when she slapped me, knocking the lighter from my grasp. I threw back the covers, trying desperately to get the flames out, but it was too late.
I was so focused on trying to put it out, I never noticed Patricia hung up in the sheets. The bed went up like an inferno, engulfed Patricia and quickly the curtains and couch. The house being small and cramped, was a trap for my mom and my sisters. I panicked and ran through the kitchen and out the back door before I ever realized my family was trapped.
 The screams brought me to my senses, but by then it was too late. I tried to race back in, but was grabbed firmly in a set of strong arms, which pulled me away from the place, and out into the alley.
I watched in horror as the house quickly became a funeral pyre, never noticing it had been Ray who dragged my away. I had thought he was in bed sleeping, but it turned out he was out getting stoned somewhere.
I guess I should have been happy to have one less death on my conscious, but truth be told, Ray was already dead. He just didn’t know it. Years of drug and alcohol abuse had taken their toll.
I remember Ray dropping me off at the orphanage. I didn’t understand at the time why he couldn’t take care of me? Didn’t he love me?  I was his brother.
I hated him for a long time, but eventually realized it was because he loved me that he gave me the best opportunity to survive. Father Tim and the orphanage did the rest. It was father Tim who eventually convinced me to go see Ray when he was dying from the big ‘C’. I made peace with Ray, and with myself.
Homer brought me out of my thoughts by pressing roughly on a shoulder nerve.
I barked at him. “What are ya’ trying to do, take me out of the fight before it even starts?”
Homer was sweating profusely, almost shaken like the grim reaper was hanging over his shoulder.
“What’s the matter with you Homer? You strung out again?”
Homer’s eyes bulged as he started nervously rubbing his hands together so hard I thought the skin was gonna come off.
“Listen, Pat. I got myself into some trouble. I need your help, you’re the only one who can help me right now.”
It was then the anvil dropped on me. A punch so hard to the gut I wasn’t sure I would breathe again.
I knew Homer was using. What I didn’t know was he was in deep with the mob. A guy by the name of Carmen Amello. They didn’t come any more mean and ruthless…well not that I had ever known.
I managed to coax the rest of the story out of Homer, but wished I hadn’t. Homer had promised Carmen a lay down, a dive! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, even as he was spilling it.
“Please, Pat. Just this once, and then we can start over, get ya right back in contention and take the crown back. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Homer started crying. I felt like joining him, but my tears were tears of anger. I tagged him with a slap to the face sending him over the training table and crashing to the floor. His eyes lit up with fear as I advanced on him, grabbing his collar and yanking him off the grown and staring eye to eye.
“I won’t do it! You hear me? I worked too hard for this, Homer, I earned it. I deserve it!” I flung Homer away with all my might, sending him crashing into the wall, semi-consciousness.
I was fuming as I stood over him, spitting words rather than saying them. It didn’t matter, Homer was oblivious. I sat on the table and tried to think. How could he do this to me? I thought we were the best friends in the world.
I moved to the sink and filled a glass with water. I tossed it on his face bringing him around. I helped him up and sat him on the training table. A couple slaps to the face brought him completely out of it. The fear was still in his eyes as I stared in to them and spoke.
“Homer, this is the last straw, you understand? I will do this to save your miserable life, but afterward, you’re on your own.” Homer’s head sagged, as he meekly nodded. “Now, tape me up, I guess I’m gonna learn how to take a dive!”



ROUND 2

The noise was deafening as we walked down the hall toward the ring. I was a hometown boy made good, and the fans loved it. The previous fights had all been brawls, which had also whipped them into a frenzy. Amazing how the sight of two guys beating each other bloody could stir people up.
The bombshell of what Homer had laid on me had almost made me forget about my opponent. I wasn’t surprised the mob wanted this guy to take me down.  He was a fellow Dago named Rocko.  Not very original, but the mob was never known for originality, just brutality.
I made my way down the aisle as the announcer finished introducing Rocko to a loud chorus of boos. I was just climbing into the ring when he announced me. “In this corner, wearing green shorts…Patrick The Hammer White!”
He drew out my name loudly and the crowd, which was already raising the roof, erupted in an ear shattering roar – stomping their feet and whooping it up at the top of their lungs. I half expected pieces of the stadium to come raining down from all the thunderous foot stamps.
I raised my hands and moved around in my corner stirring the crowd up even further. I looked across the ring at my opponent. He was as tall as me, but a little thicker around the waist. Too much pasta. I chuckled to myself.
His hair was dark and greasy looking, and the unibrow he sported threatened to overtake the protruding cro-magnum forehead. He looked like he needed a shave, but maybe his five o’clock shadow was just thicker than most. I noticed the slight curl of his lips as I looked into the black like orbs, which somehow pierced the shadows of his eye sockets. His nose was thick and bent to the right a bit, obviously pushed in a few times.
I smiled as the ref called us to the center of the ring. I was smiling at my opponent the whole time, I barely heard the ref’s words. In truth they weren’t much different than all the other refs I had listened to in countless other fights.
It was strange, I was almost giddy…slap-happy maybe. I should have been angry at the world, but somehow something inside just pushed forward and I was okay with everything.
Maybe it was my way of coping with the fact that in order to save Homer, I needed to take a dive to this mook across from me. I couldn’t let it bother me. Homer and I were more like brothers than friends. If taking a dive meant getting him out of trouble, and hopefully off the drugs…well I guessed I was okay with it.
The bell sounded and Rocko and I moved to the center of the ring. Rocko charged ahead throwing some wild arcing jabs I swatted away as I danced around him. He continued the assault, as I avoided all the blows without so much as a glancing shot. I decided to give the crowd a bit of their money’s worth. I was gonna dive, but Rocko was gonna get some pain inflicted upon him before that happened.
I started hammering his forearms and shoulders every time he threw a jab. I watched the shock on his face as the pain registered, the numbing effect was always fun to watch when you pounded an opponent’s arms and shoulders into submission.
Rocko backed off a little, his arms sagging to his sides as he danced around and tried to shake the feeling back into them. I spent the rest of the first round just dancing around him and throwing some meaningless jabs until the bell rang and we headed to our corners.
Homer jumped in the ring with the stool, some water, and a bucket. I took a quick swig and swirled it around my mouth, before purposely missing the bucket and spitting it on Homer’s shirt. I smiled at him, but he didn’t return the favor. I could tell by the sweat on his forehead and the nervous twitching of the mustache that bounced on his upper lip as he spoke.
“Pat, are you sure you’re gonna throw the fight. I mean if not, I will get out of Dodge now.”
I stood and jokingly jabbed him in the gut.
“Don’t worry, Homer. I’ll take the dive, but not until I’ve have a bit of fun, and my Neanderthal friend over there has taken a little punishment.”
Homer shook his head.
“Hey! I’m doing this because of your screw-up, Homer, not mine. Doing it my way, the crowd gets their money’s worth, and I don’t look like so much of a chump!”
I shoved him away as the bell rang for round two and headed out to the middle.
Rocko was a bit more cautious this time around, he tried to dance around and shoot jabs at me, but he was moving in slow motion. I danced around him like he was standing still, tossing a few half-hearted jabs at him then dancing away like I was avoiding him. He had little foot work and stumbled about like a Mack truck moving down an alley.
It was then that something caught my eye in the audience. It was the mobster Carmen Amello and a few of his goon squad. I caught his eye and he shot me a smile, tipping what looked like a brand spanking new fedora at me. He accomplished all this without ever removing what looked like a fine Cuban from his mouth. I felt a sudden bit of rage forming in me…right up till I saw the large fist hurdling my way.
It was too late to move completely out of the way, but I did manage to deflect a little of the blow, which still nearly took my head off. It was a funny feeling for me. I had never been knocked out before. I’d been sent to the mat once or twice, but this shot had nearly taken me out.
It was a strange feeling, almost numbing in a way. Time seemed to stand still and a ringing bounced around in my head. The mat approached me in a sea of blurred vision, then I kissed it.
I could hear the crowd oohing and gasping, but it was like an echo, a strange and distant echo.
I heard the ref counting, “One…two…three…” He reached eight before I managed to get up.  I shook my head, holding my hands out.
The ref grabbed my head and looked into my eyes. “Son, you okay?”
I nodded and he waved for the fight to continue. I spent the rest of the round dancing around trying to clear my head and keep it attached to my neck. I managed to escape any further damage as the round ended and I moved to my corner.
Homer used the sponge to wipe water on my head, allowing it to roll down my body. It felt good, most of my senses had returned, but my head still throbbed. Homer stood in front of me and held up a few fingers as he spoke.
“How many fingers you see, Pat?”
I swatted them away. “Two you idiot, now get out of my way so I can get back in there.”
Homer grabbed the stool, ducked under the ropes, and out of the ring.
I stared across at Rocko who wore a huge grin on his face. I felt a twinge of anger welling up inside of me. I quickly suppressed it, deciding me and Rocko were going to have lots of fun before I took my swan dive. He was gonna beat the champ, but he was gonna feel it for months afterward – months. I pounded my gloves together and headed out to the center of the ring.
Rocko almost ran at me, the bloodlust in his eyes as he sought to put me away. He threw jabs and hooks, I blocked, ducked, and danced around him. He grimaced and chased me around the ring, trying combinations and finally seeking to bull me in to the corner.
I timed it perfectly, planting my foot while pivoting my hips and using his own momentum to toss him into the corner where he had sought to pin me. I stepped in and shot a few left handed jabs toward his face.
He naturally brought his hands up to deflect, so I planted a firm right handed shot into his rib cage, causing his breath and his mouthpiece to fly from his mouth.
I threw a few jabs into his face then stepped back allowing him come off the ropes. He wobbled toward me, his eyes almost rolling about in their sockets. I caught the look on Carmen’s face, the smile no longer glaring at me. The cigar had been removed, an animalistic snarl replacing it.
I winked at him and shot him my flashiest smile. I then turned my attention to Rocko. He had shaken the cobwebs out of his head, but I could see he was holding an elbow against his ribs. I allowed him to come at me again, absorbed a few of his jabs, even allowed him to land a few glancing blows, which I made out to be far harder than they were.
I danced around a bit again, moving away from Rocko like I was trying to clear my head. Truth was I was feeling sick to my stomach. Needing to take a dive to a piece of scum like Rocko was goading. He was worthless and had no business winning the title. I tried to push the thought from my head.
We danced a little more, threw a few more meaningless jabs, and then the bell rang.
I plopped on the stool as if exhausted, letting Homer worked on me while he vented.
“What are you doing, Pat? I understand you not wanting to do this, but I don’t think my heart can take much more.”
I turned toward Homer. I knew I must have looked scary. I always did when I felt the kind of rage coming over me like I felt at that moment. Homer knew as well and wisely backed away from me.
“I get it Homer,” I said in a low growl. “I understand perfectly. You couldn’t keep your nose clean, and now I have to clean your mess up again. But it will be on my terms. You got it? My terms.”
Round four was slow and methodical, we moved around the ring feeling each other out. Rocko thought I was gonna be a pussycat and lay down nicely for him, but that was proving to be a painful mistake. He had become uncertain as to how much I was willing to hurt him.
On the other hand, I had come into this thinking I was still young and had plenty left in the tank to capture back the title and wreak some havoc along the way. If it meant saving Homer and hopefully straightening him out, it was a small price to pay
I decided this was the round. I would make it look good, but I would take the dive. I was tired of the charade. I just wanted to get it over and then drown my sorrows in a bottle of scotch and a few buxom brunettes – maybe a blond as well.
I was almost cheerful as I waded in and threw a few half-hearted jabs at Rocko, which he easily ducked. This seemed to light a fire under him. He started throwing his own jabs as well as a few roundhouses and uppercuts. I allowed him to land a few. They actually stung a bit, but I still grinned at him, egging him on to finish the job.
Rocko attacked me like a man possessed. He felt he had the momentum, and he did. I was gonna lay down and relinquish my title. I telegraphed a right hook, which Rocko easily blocked. He pounded a couple quick jabs into my face. I faked anger and launched a wild right. He deflected the blow and countered with a combo to my midsection. I wobbled and acted winded.
 Rocko stepped in, faked a left, and then unloaded a right-handed, straight-armed, shot that I allowed to find its mark. It hurt more than I expected, shooting jolts of electricity across my jaw and sending me to the canvas.
I gathered my wits, rolled about a bit like I was dead to the world. I let the count go to seven this time, raised up a little and got on my feet. The ref was trying to make sure I was okay, when Rocko stepped in and gave me a sucker rabbit punch to the back of my head. It knocked me for a loop and caused me to hit the mat and bounce off it.
Little glitters of light floated around my head like a thousand stars and the world whirled around me. I shook the cobwebs out as best I could and got to my feet.
I was enraged by the sucker punch and all sense of the reality left me. I saw nothing but red like a charging bull. I pushed the ref out of the way and advanced on Rocko.
He started jabbing at me, even trying to throw another straight-arm, but I was in a void. I deflected his jabs and the straight-arm with ease, then stepped in and landing an over-hand shot to his temple, which buckled his knees.
I moved in and hammered a few jabs through his gloves as he sought to protect himself. I bent my knees and powered through my hips with a left-handed hook, which landed in his floating rib section.
I felt Rocko’s rib give way and I quickly followed up with a straight right to his sternum. I backed away and began to pound on his forearms. When he could no longer hold them up, I moved in and pounded first his right and then his left shoulder, pretty much crippling him
I smelt blood and stepped in with a left hook, snapping his head to the side. I followed it with an uppercut, with every bit of the two hundred and thirty pounds of my frame behind it.
The blow connected solid, sounding like the big thump you hear when the punter kicks off in a football game. Rocko came off his feet a good six inches, before finally crumbling to the mat.
I knew in that instance I had probably forfeited Homer’s life and possibly my own. It was a sick sensation as the world around me seemed to move into a vacuum, the sounds distant. I looked out into the audience and saw Carmen and his goons hurrying down the aisle away from the ring.
The ref stood over Rocko giving him the ten count, even though we both knew he wasn’t getting up anytime soon. I turned toward my corner and saw Homer just hanging on the ropes, a dazed look on his face.
Homer knew we were done for, and there was no fight left in him.
The ref finished the count and the ring was swarmed by reporters as well as Rocko’s trainer and a medic. I didn’t even turn to see if they revived him with the smelling salts. I just waded through the reporters who jammed their pencils and pads of paper into my face. Each one trying to get a few words out of me. I brushed a few of them off and climbed down from the ring.
Homer was already being escorted to the locker room, and two of the meat pies hired as bodyguards and bouncers helped hurry me through the crowd as well.
I half expected to see Carmen and his goons in the hall as I was guided toward the locker room. Camera bulbs were flashing still, and loud questions were hurled my way until the entrance door to the back hallway closed and drowned them out.
The hall was empty except for several maintenance people and a few reporters lucky enough to have backstage passes. They knew better than to ask me any questions until after I had been untaped, showered, and dressed. Then they would get first dibs at the conference Homer gave after every fight. I wasn’t sure they were gonna be happy with this conference, because I wasn’t sure if Homer would even give one.
I pushed open the door of the locker room and Homer was just sitting on a bench staring at the floor. I found myself speechless for the first time since me and Homer became friends.
Part of the reason we were such good friends was we never kept secrets from one another, no subject was taboo. Homer never hid the drug use from me. And as much as I hated the fact he did drugs, I didn’t condemn him for it.
However, he had goofed up this time. Being the friend I was, I should have saved him, even though it meant taking a dive and losing the title. But that didn’t matter. The title wasn’t why I knocked out Rocko. My simple inability to control my temper caused it. Father Tim always warned me a fighter who couldn’t control his temper, could never stay on top, no matter how talented he was.
I had controlled it though – at least up until tonight. I let it loose outside the ring once in a while, but once I stepped into the ring it was buried away in some deep recess of my mind.  Father Tim’s words had stuck with me. I was always in control in the ring. So why, of all nights, was this the night I chose to let the temper out? I guess the fact that I needed to throw a fight cost me the strength I had always used to suppress it.
It didn’t matter now. Now I needed to figure out a way to save my friend and get us the out of Chicago, maybe even the country. Homer looked up at and shot me a half-hearted smile.
“Pat, I don’t blame you a bit. I did this to myself, I never should have expected you to take a dive, never should have asked.”
“No, but you did.” I found myself at a loss for words. Nothing I could think of sounded right or would help the matter. “I just lost it.” I shook my head. “I should have been a better friend and controlled myself, taken the dive. I’m sorry, Homer. I truly am.”
I stared at him for a minute and noticed for the first time how much he had aged over the last few years. Homer was five-foot-five on a good day, but was always built like a fireplug. I had watched him take out many guys who thought his shortness meant he was easy prey. They had learned the truth the hard way.
Now, he was different – the dark curly hair showing some spots of grey, the bags under his eyes as well as the dark rings, and the paunch that now hung where once a washboard had existed. The drugs had really taken their toll on him, making him look ten years older than he was.
I felt a deep sense of sorrow in my gut. Not just that I hadn’t taken the dive, because as his friend I hadn’t found a way to stop him from the drugs. If I had, maybe things would have worked out differently.
I found myself thinking back to the days at the orphanage, but Father Tim always said to never dwell on the past. “What’s done is done,” he would say. “You can’t change it, only learn from it.”
Homer broke me out of my thoughts.
“Take a shower, Pat, and get changed. Let’s get the post-fight conference with the reporters out of the way. Afterward, I think we should go out and paint the town. There are a few bottles of scotch with our names on them somewhere.”
“Homer, we need to get you out of here. Carmen will be looking for you – and it won’t be to pour you a few fingers of scotch, trust me.”
“Forget it, Pat. It’s time I started taking care of my own problems. I’ll get things squared with Carmen. It might take a while, but I’ll figure out a way to pay him back.”
I shook my head. “Not so sure that’s the best idea. Carmen isn’t known for his generosity.”
“Don’t worry about it, champ. Tonight is about you keeping the title. Tonight we paint the town red.”
He never knew how true those words would turn out to be.

================

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BOWIE V. IBARRA is the author of the acclaimed 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from Permuted Press.  He earned a BFA in Acting and a MA in Theatre History from Texas State University.  His latest titles explore superhero themes, including 'Codename: La Lechusa', 'Room 26 and the Army of Xulhutdul', and 'Tejano Star and the Vengeance of Chaplain Skull'. 
 
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