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Henry Goodridge

FRAME BY FRAME

My mind was still in front of the computer as I headed to the bar.

My mind was still in front of the computer as I headed to the bar. I was getting older and couldn’t take a punch quite as well anymore, sure, but the hit that put me down last Saturday was inhuman. I knew there had to be a spike, under his skin somehow. Knuckles alone can’t cut that deep.

I was lucky; Great Lakes MMA was still big enough to broadcast. Losing my edge a bit meant I wasn’t fighting in HD anymore, but in 2020 even the little guys have a stream you can play back.

The referee checked his gloves. I saw it happen. It’s basically impossible to rig a pair anymore. It had to come out of his hand. I saw the little glint of gray during that last cross.

I tried to get a good look at his gloves again during our post-fight handshake. Of course they were black. Any other color and the hole the spike must have made would be too obvious. Even then, I think I saw a sliver of skin peeking out from the foam and leather.

I pushed open the door and walked to the end of the bar. Elmas noticed that I didn’t sit in my usual spot and skipped the banter.

“Burger?”

“Yeah. And whatever you gave me yesterday to drink. I forget the name.”

Elmas said something back, but I was already going through the fight in my head again. I didn’t think the spike came out until that last cross. No wonder he was looking so confident despite the
fact that I was clearly winning on points.

The image of the spike sliding out from the webbing between his fingers flashed in my head again. At first I had thought it must have come out from either the top or bottom of his hand, sliding through a knuckle or from the end of his wrist. But hiding something like that would be impossible. You would be able to see it underneath the skin.

Elmas put a beer in front of me and I watched his fingerprints in the condensation fade away.

Maybe it came out of the bone. This whole time I’d been imagining it as a separate piece of his skeleton, but maybe it was hidden right inside the bones of his hand. Like a police baton or a
telescope, the spike could just collapse right into a knuckle.

I needed to get my hands on as much footage as possible.

Maybe someone in the audience took videos on their phone. I could search my name and see if anybody got a good view of the knockout from the stands. The quality wouldn’t be as good, but I
knew that all I really needed was the right angle.

Hell, I could even look through his old fights. I knew from watching tape before our match-up that he had a lot of knockout wins. Maybe an old opponent saw the little weapon stick out of his glove too.

“Hey, is that Brantley?”

I looked up to see a younger guy across the room walking towards me.

“Sam Brantley? Me and my dad used to watch you when I was a kid!”

I opened my mouth, but he kept going.

“Are you still fighting? I remember how hard you used to hit. Can you still swing like that?”

He’d just started talking but I already knew where this was going. What he was trying to do.

He leaned in, firing off more questions, and knocked my beer over. I’m sure he thought this was a genius trick, but every professional fighter has seen this move a thousand times. Piss me off, but make it look like an accident. If I knock you out, the asshole fighter assaulted you over a beer. If you get a lucky shot on me, you just whipped a former champion in front of your friends.

Normally I had a lot of patience for these guys. I’d learned that If you don’t take the bait they’ll eventually leave you alone. This time though, the arrogance wasn’t helping my already sour mood. I stood up and pushed him back with one hand. This was his chance to change his mind.

He stuck to it and swung. I saw it coming and put my left arm up. Just a couple jabs are usually enough to end this kind of thing.

I woke up to Elmas dabbing my cheek with a wet rag.

“He already left. Just stay here a minute.”

I was in his office at the back of the bar.

“What happened?”

“He slipped right past your guard and tagged your chin. You just went down.”

“And then what?” As soon as I asked, I realized I really didn’t want to know.

“Don’t worry about it. Just stay here a minute.”

I remembered the punch. It was slow and kind of sloppy. I’m sure the kid had been in a bar fight or two, but I’d taken punches like that a million times and stayed on my feet.

I thought for a moment.

“Elmas, does your bar have security cameras?”