The summer after I graduated from high school, I went with the church youth group to a Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona. Our youth group happened to be staying in the same complex with another church group from California. One kid named Joey asked if we had computers in Tennessee. We said, yes, and that we also rode mules to church and walked around barefoot. The groups traded smart-aleck remarks abounded. Who would have thought kids from California would be such morons? Stereotypes proliferated.
Before long, one of their boys named Bart produced two pairs of boxing gloves.
Maybe he wanted to provide some exercise, or maybe he wanted to settle our differences the old-fashioned way. JP fought him first. He fared okay, so, even though I had no idea how to box, I let myself be talked into the next match. I gave myself a crash course in weight distribution. Make the fist as tight as possible. Avoid hooks, extend and hammer straight into the face. Strike with either the pointer and middle knuckles or from the middle to the pinky. Don’t glance off if you can help because that’s how the pinkies get broken. I remembered I would be wearing gloves, and none of the techniques I had picked up from a friend of mine, who had earned a black belt in Judo, would apply. I tried to remember what I had seen in movies. I had a natural advantage as a left-hander. I tried to find something to stir up my bloodlust. I needed some adrenalin, some anger, and some luck.
We both came out swinging, a flurry of arms, gloves, and bodies that must have looked like the cartoon roadrunner’s legs when he escaped Wiley Coyote. I think my eyes were closed the entire time. My cousin Kristen elbowed me in the nose once playing tackle football, and it had never healed properly. After the first round with Bart, I could lick the metallic taste off my upper lip. I ignored it, and we proceeded to Round Two, fighting until my nose began to make a serious mess. I reluctantly called the fight, though I hated to do it. I looked like the loser even though I did not technically lose. I went to the bathroom to clean up, and, in the mirror, I saw a red watery Fu Manchu from nostrils to chin with some sticky rouge on my cheeks.
I’ve been meaning to sign up for karate lessons.