Tomorrow could be the day. Ole’ Pops knew. Book that flight and head back to a place where he had felt more alive than in any boxing ring. Re-introduce himself, to the family, to the feelings, to the creaking pines, to the burning orange sunset glow of a past that just wouldn’t let go.
But, like his reflexes, he was too slow…his past had already arrived in Brooklyn.
“I heard you got concussion issues…heard your mind is as beat up as your rusty old Chevy. Is that what it feels like to be absent for thirty four years?”
“Hickory?,” his voice cracking and fading like a rusty whisper..
Tears started to well up in his eyes as the realization became more visceral, more complete.
Hickory stood there in the dusty shadows, quiet and placid, waiting for this moment, his eyes burning with a vulnerable rage….
“Well you gonna get that Scotch or we gonna stand here like a couple’a sixth avenue bums?”
Ole’ Pops stood there in the tension. Like two fighters staring each other down while the ring announcer barks out the statistics of each to a restless, waiting crowd. Only this was a new fight, one that was beyond the stick-and-move purview Pops had spent his post-career time teaching in the old Carney Boxing Club.
“I’ve..I’ve been off the sauce for a couple years now so I got nothing in the pantry but ginger ale and cranberry juice…but ah, (swallowing hard)…but…maybe we could go to the One Lucky and I’ll ah, I’ll buy us a round or two,” he said shakily.
The One Lucky was one of those places lodged in the heart of Brooklyn like a salty chunk of Mortadella clogging up an artery amongst the twisted greasy streets of a place that lives in both real history and cinematic fiction.
“I just came from there…it’s the only place around here that knows how to make a proper meat ball sandwich,” Hickory replied.
“Well we can go anywhere..I mean..It’s good to see you…maybe we could just go somewhere and talk for a bit. Y’know… I’m not the man I used to be…I…well let’s go and knock a few back.”
“You…ok with that?” Pops asked.
“You have some explaining to do,” Hickory replied, “alot of it…and I hope you don’t think a few watery draughts are gonna put it all to bed.”
Pops looked down at the floor in a hazy confusion, sadness and frustration. There’s no reason Hickory needed to come back. Pops knew. He had learned how to fight on his own, in a Montreal gym, with Pops’ genes born into his mind, hands and reflexes. He knew of him. He recognized his lover in his son’s eyes. He felt the room shifting and spinning and his heart beating hard, the ringing in his ears got real loud and Pops’ balance started to go. He reached for a chair but it fell and he hit the floor like a ton of lead. There was the music again…the music she used to play…loud now in his mind…like a dream.
Hickory had reached to catch him but was too slow.
“Fuck! You dumb shit Dad…Dad!?” Hickory was as worried as he was angry. He reached for his phone and called an ambulance.