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An Old Boxer (standard:Psychological fiction, 2816 words)
Author: Joe E.Added: Aug 12 2006Views/Reads: 3414/2504Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An Old Boxer is a story about a high school student who reflects on the life of his grandfather who finds the meaning of life in his career as a professional boxer.

"An Old Boxer" 

When you're as old as I am, a high school senior, some times, you start
asking yourself some strange questions, like, "Dude, what's it all 
about?" You start thinking about what it is that makes you a man. My 
dad tells me, "A big part of what you are is your past, your history."  
'Course, he's a history teacher. What else would he say? Still, there's 
some truth to that. What did we read in Lit. One? "You have to pay for 
the sins of your fathers." But, still, I wonder every now and then what 
is it that makes you a man? What is it that defines a life? Are we just 
a product of history or is there more to a man than that? 

I remember my dad's father telling him, "That was the best part of my
whole life, the fight game. When I was training for a fight, I was in 
tiptop condition. I wasn't afraid of any man alive. I had my whole life 
in front of me, and I knew I could do anything.... I thought it would 
never end. I thought it would never end...." I was only four or five 
years old at the time, but what he said always stuck with me. 

My grandfather was an old boxer. He told me that once. I remember he
talked real loud. He wore a hearing aid, but it never worked right, 
always made this buzzing sound. He went into his fighting stance and a 
big grin came over his stubbled face. He told me, "I'm just an old 
boxer, Jackie.... You know, what the fellow says, 'Old boxers never 
die, we jus' fade away.'" 

My dad told me he didn't want me to remember grandpa the way he was now,
a sick old man. He had stayed in shape right up until the accident. He 
said, "You wouldn't believe how fast his hands were." This was back in 
1985 right after I started kindergarten. He had come to live with us. 

I use to look at his boxing photo even before he came. When I was real
little I use to think it was my dad. But, I learned that my dad is 
right handed. The guy in the picture is a leftie. He's in a boxing 
stance with his right arm thrust forward and his left cocked. He's 
wearing these black leather shoes with long laces, and white sox rolled 
down to the top of his shoe. His feet are wide apart and he's up on his 
left toe with his right foot planted. He's got on these tan shorts, 
kind of baggy, and his gloves are real thin, the ones you work the bag 
with. His hair is slicked back close to his head and you can see his 
ears. As I got older, I tried to stand like a leftie. But, it's hard. 
It doesn't feel right. It made me feel proud to have a professional 
boxer in the family even when I was a little tike. 

My grandfather's story, like so many that shared with him the American
Dream, began on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. His parents 
migrated from the coalfields of Lithuania, to a coal-mining town in 
Scotland, where he was born, and then after they scrimped and saved for 
several years, crossed over the Atlantic and settled in the coal region 
of Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania. 

My great grandfather worked in the mines and quickly saved up enough to
open a small taproom where he earned a good living. Then, the First 
World War broke out. My great grandpa went to Philadelphia with a buddy 
of his to work in the shipyards. In a couple of years he saved up 
enough to open up his own lumber company. He moved the whole family to 
the city for two or three years. Then, they returned to Mt. Carmel 
where he opened up a saloon and restaurant. This was a real moneymaker. 
But, I remember Aunt Marian saying my great grandfather started 
drinking. He always did like a good time. He had an eye for the women, 
too. He began spending more and more of his earnings on wine, woman, 
and song. My great grandma, stayed at home with her seven children, and 
put up with more and more of his abuse. 

By this time, my granddad was twelve years old and in sixth grade. Time
to drop out of school and go to work in the mines, as most boys his age 
did back in Mt. Carmel in the early 1900's. But, Grandpa was determined 
not to give his soul up to the mining company. "When you go down to the 
mines in the morning, you never know whether you'll come out again or 
not," he told my dad. 

He returned to Philadelphia and got a job as Western Union boy, drove a
bike to deliver messages. Cars were just coming out around this time. 
Most city dwellers still drove horse and carriage. 

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