The Guru and The Kid

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The Guru is standing with his arms crossed, watching the sparring. The gym is dingy, lit by artificial light. Outside it´s autumn, upstate New York. Downstairs is the town police station. In comes The Kid, led by a huge Irish man with a broken nose held together by a thin white plaster.

The Kid is a bundle of darkness. He´s small and thick with a lisp, thirteen years old, a petty thief, sociopath, damaged goods. He´s got pigeons and hasn´t been to school, except to eat, in years. Last few months he´s been boxing with the Irishman. It was he who broke the big man´s nose. He´s come here to spar.

The Guru can´t believe The Kid is thirteen. He has a weird tingling somewhere in his soul. Could this be the one? He´s been waiting too long. He gets a momentary taste of what it must be like to lose the bitterness he´s been feeling for the last thousand years. He watches his trainer lace up The Kid´s gloves. The Kid´s short but stocky. Hole eyes.

Over the sound of ropes whipping the boards and heavy bags clanking, the bell rings and The Kid and Irishman go at it. They´ve been working together in The Kid´s last-chance correctional facility for a while. The Irishman was cynical at first but he´s never been hit by such power. The Kid is full of rage and evil heart. They exchange blows and The Kid´s face gets cut up and The Guru calls time but The Kid begs to finish the three rounds. They do.

At the end of it, the room stinking with rising, visible sweat, The Guru says to the Irishman: “This is the next heavyweight champion of the world”.

 

The Kid moves to upstate New York to live in a house with The Guru and his wife, an old Ukrainian woman who cooks well and calms The Guru down when he shouts at the TV. The Guru gets straight to work on The Kid, telling him, “I hope you know your mind is not your friend”. The Guru´s from the streets, too. He´s taken punches. He has enemies, internal and external.

The Kid continues to rob, drink and smoke, sometimes from his new friends, but he also gets addicted to the fight game. He trains hard. He studies the greats. He starts to build a persona for himself, stand outside himself and see himself, see how he wants to be when he´s remembered, when his name will echo down through time.

He wants to be immortal. He wants to be feared and loathed. He wants to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents.

Every time he steps into the ring he´s the little kid with the lisp who got bullied and humiliated. That anger, born of total humiliation, will never go away and he clasps it to his soul like fire and makes his fists burn with it. Like a Pitbull he comes out of the corner at the bell flying, swarming, blasting punches into the body and face of his opponent. After his first fight he stands on the prone body of the fallen boxer and salutes the crowd.

The Guru is always watching. He wants no show of emotion. Destroying other fighters is what should happen. The Kid should not be surprised when his supreme skills and ferocious force fell the weaklings put in his path to global renown. This is what should and must happen. This is not to be celebrated, this is simply to be achieved. This is what we know happens. What is going to happen. What has to happen.

“You´re keeping me alive,” The Guru tells The Kid one day. “I never thought I´d get second chance like this. I´d be dead now if it wasn´t for you. Watching you do this is keeping me alive. You´re what I´m living for.”

One day, The Guru tells The Kid, he´d been in a mean fight and had come close to getting destroyed. First few rounds he´d been down and out but his trainer had lifted him off the stool and pushed him out onto the canvas. Something had happened in the third round. Suddenly he´d been up above the ring, looking down, watching the fight. He´d sensed the punches, watching them as if in slow motion. He´d separated his mind from his body; become a machine.

“That is what I want from you,” he told The Kid. “Keep working on it. Automatic. Keep talking to yourself. Telling yourself the things we´ve been saying. You´re gonna have crowds cheering your name. Royalty is gonna want to meet with you. People will fight with each other to carry your mother´s shopping bags. Your name will be known across the globe. You will go down as the greatest fighter who ever lived!”

The Guru, only human, dies with the finish line in sight. His lungs throw in the towel.

The Kid is a fierce mix of grief, determination, momentum and rage. There is no way he will be stopped. He becomes the youngest heavyweight champion of the world but his Guru is not there.

The Kid stands on the top of the world but it´s cold. The view is great but it´s lonely. There´s no-one up there with him. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do.

He stays for a bit, shadow boxes a while, hopes his Guru can see him – although now the clouds are below him, not above – and starts down.

tyson-autumn

 

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