the first one hundred seconds. But then Ray, understanding his superior
reach advantage, threw sharp jabs.
Roland, Arnold and Ronald were binging while watching the action on the television. Eddie was sitting in the corner on a stool taking a breather...
Poor Eddie was barely out of his stool when the veteran Ray Brown came out swinging. For a sustained amount of time, Eddie had no choice but to rely on his impeccable defense. Ray let his temper get the better of him and pushed "The Bartender" on the ropes causing him to bounce back to the center of the ring, and to where disaster awaited. But, just one second before Ray's glove made contact, Eddie saw black and fell to the canvass. As he tried to stand up, he saw his mother hand him a wrapped Christmas present. She did not move nor speak, but her facial expression favoured something like: I do hope you like this.
He was still dizzy. Faintly, he heard: Snap out of it, snap out of it! emanating from the corner in front of him. He was confused but had regained consciousness...The bout was quickly reengaged, and the wily Ray could smell blood. And, despite his best efforts, Eddie refused to die. Still, though, he was trailing 20-18 on the judges' scorecards. He was losing confidence in his ability. Everything had been so easy to this point. And now, he was tagging air on a constant basis, fearing he was coming off his cloud, and coming back to reality. Ray began to feel arrogant. He taunted his opponent. The tactic proved to effective as Eddie lost his usually pure judgment and threw a couple of floaters. And then, out of desperation, he went for it all with a hay-maker, and thus leaving his guard unprotected. Ray capitalized with two heavy punches to the abdomen and a firm right uppercut... Eddie's vision tunneled as he went down, seeing nothing but black.
While he was on his back on the canvass, a picture conjured itself in his mind. It was his mother again, but this time, his father was there as well. Both of them were simply sitting on a couch with a sedate demeanor about their faces. If it were a postcard , it surely would have been titled: Greetings from home!
"What the hell is going on?" Eddie stammered to himself. "Am I going bananas?" He breathed deeply to gain focus, and was now more determined than ever. He rose from the apron and reeked vengeance on Ray with a wrath so powerful and awesome, it could be matched by no one. Not even the Lord, thought Eddie...
His cuts and gashes had not yet begun to heel when the anticipation for the upcoming clash with Percy French started to reach epic proportions. The news media milked every inch of drama out of it that it could, and had all showed up en masse for the weigh-in.
After both men made the required beef, the champ, still in his underwear snapped with vim, "I am the heavyweight division. I am the standard of this millennium, or any other millennium for that matter. And I have seen the bartending bozo, and there's no way overcome this standard I have created! It's a-plain, it's a-simple, he can't do it, he's not special!"
While the laughter from the bozo remark ebbed, one of the reporters asked,
"Tell me Eddie, why do they call you 'The Bartender'?"
"Because I serve a lot of hurt mister!"
Hollywood's finest were on hand for the big fight. Eddie's parents had made the trip as well, which was surprising since both of them hated boxing, but they were there somehow. And even the Lord was in attendance, and, of course such an event doesn't go unnoticed. When asked by the grey-haired, well-combed sportscaster for the pay-per-view special as to what business he had to take care of in Vegas, the Lord answered, "Well, you know mister announcer guy, I keep hearing through the grapevine that pugilists in these parts thank me once the fighting has ceased, so I just thought it might be a friendly gesture, you know, to accept these kind thanks in person." The announcer shook the Lord's hand, "Thank you very much for your time Lord," he said into his microphone while sporadically making eye contact with the camera, "And, oh
yeah, enjoy the fight." The Saviour, with his signature knowing and appeasing smile, nodded and said, "You're welcomed!" then went back to sit down next to Eddie's parents.
"You laugh....," he confessed to them, "one would think I seen it all, but I always get a mite edgy in front of the camera." And they answered nothing. All the both of them did was look at the two boxers warming up in the ring, and awaiting for the bell to signal the start of the championship fight. The Lord again tried to ease the tension with his ringside companions, "Mmmm, these are pretty decent seats we have here..." And again there was nothing.
The bell finally echoed and the fight was under way. Quickly, everything was turning to controlled savagery. Eddie landed a heavy right hand early, thus setting the tone. It stunned Percy and had him retreating to his defense mode.But the challenger flailed without repose. One blow again snuck its way in, making the champ fall abruptly on his behind with his back against the ropes.The referee quickly moved in and ordered Eddie to a neutral corner, and began counting. At the count of three, Eddie started to hear, "SNAP OUT OF IT! SNAP OUT OF IT...WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU???" Panic-stricken, he looked at everything and everyone around him grow in a daze. He yelled to himself, "Why
is this happening? I didn't get knocked...Jesus what is going on?..." Finally, after a few seconds, he pulled himself back together by concentrating with more vim at the task at hand. He glanced over to the Lord for approval and guidance. And looking confident, the Lord responded with a stately nod which was of great comfort to him...
The action resumed, and the three old men were once again glued to the television. The Saviour was enjoying every minute of the fight with a tasty cup of hot chocolate when he said to his ringside companions, "By the by, I really love your son, he knows what he's doing in there. You know, I don't know if I should tell you this but, I was even tempted to bet a few sheep, but hey, I got a reputation...Aah, it ain't always easy...that's for sure."
Both fighters grew tired at the onset of the tenth round. Their mouths were hanging open, and in a likewise state for the spectators. Everyone seemed to be searching for a breather...Eddie saw Percy's glove gunning straight for him as if he had seen it come from fifty feet away, and yet could not move from it. It froze to a complete stop one inch from his face. Then, Eddie saw black.
The Lord hurriedly rose to his feet, "GET UP EDDIE! YOU CAN DO IT SON!" Percy stood at his corner with arms akimbo. He was in total disbelief and waited for instructions from his corner, which never came. How could the Almighty display such favouritism , he gesticulated to the speechless referee.. In the twelfth, Percy still felt siphoned from the injustice, began to ridicule the whole affair by refusing to engage. He avoided Eddie by clutching and grabbing him, simply as a ploy to kill the remaining time. But, it couldn't last, the champ eventually went numb from the direct punishment. The hundreds in the attendance hissed his lack of will. He clung to the ropes, instinctively fending off the dizziness. He, in turn, heard the Lord's voice, "GET UP PERCY! COME ON MY GOOD MAN!"
As the round drew to a close, he had rejuvenated. With his faith intact, he could feel the air beneath his feet.. The belt and the bragging rights were on the line. The battle was fulfilling its dramatic expectations. It was worthy of a cinematic achievement, well, if you asked Eddie. Both of them touched gloves. No one in the crowd knew who was ahead. It had been fairly balanced to this point, and it could very well go either way. The champion had his raw toughness and experience speaking for him, and the challenger had nothing to lose.
Percy seemed to shun taking chances so near his objective. He jabbed and waited, patiently calculating his opportunities. But Eddie was the antithesis, doing everything against the will of his corner, throwing away their prudent advice...The two traded rights to the chin, causing them to stumble hard on the mat and bouncing one-time simultaneously...Mere seconds remained on the timekeeper's clock. "SNAP OUT OF IT! SNAP OUT OF IT! THIS IS THE LAST TIME, BOY!!!" Eddie moved his head toward the noise. Then, the fans, the Lord, and Percy had disappeared. Eddie awoke from his reverie at his stool behind the counter with his chin in hand, and staring at the Christmas photographs between his elbows that mama Graves had sent him.
"Listen," his boss said. "I know this ain't the busiest place in the world, but please, show a little respect!"
"Sorry," said Eddie, who then quickly convinced himself back into daydream...
The speedy announcer guy yelled, "THE WINNER by a split majority...and NEEEEWWW HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WOOOOORRLD...Eddie 'THE BARTENDER' GRRRAAAAVVVES..."
"It's okay, wipe the counter, pick the glasses and we'll call it a day," his boss spoke in a soft tone as though he had counted to ten in order to calm his temper. Roland, Arnold and Donald donned on their jackets and motioned for the door. Roland uttered his usual, "Who loves you bartender?" Eddie was tossing his rag in the air while saying goodbye and said, "The Lord, I think loves me mister."
Once the pub emptied, Eddie shut off the big screen television and mumbled underneath his breath, "Thank you Jesus." But there was no reply.