May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Ben felt Dion’s knuckles crash into his chest again, pounding his solar plexus and instantly driving the wind out of his stomach. It was the third such punch in quick succession and his ribs began to flare with pain. ‘For fuck’s sake!’ he cried, stepping back and lowering the sticks he held in each hand.
” Well, you’ve got to focus, man,” Dion said, spreading his arms wide in a ‘what-do-you-expect’ gesture. “You’re guard is all over the place”.
“But why? You’re teaching me how to defend against guys with big sticks aren’t you? Not attack them. So surely you should be carrying these things?”
Ben heard a snigger over to his right, a sound he had heard so often at his expense, that the laugh triggered his blood to boil like some kind of Pavlovian response. “Listen to Miyagi, Daniel son!” Justin was mocking him again, a smirk playing out across his cherubic little face.
“It’s Daniel-san, you fucking moron. You know, like how the Japanese address each other. It wasn’t even funny the first time, but if you’re gonna keep saying it, how about you fucking get it right?”
“Ooooh, time of the month, Ben?” crowed Justin. He lifted up an arm and idly bounced his own stick on his shoulder, licking his lips in glee at the response his piss-taking was getting. There was no love lost between the pair; mutual dislike had swiftly mutated into outright hostility throughout every one of Dion’s coaching sessions. Ordinarily, the abuse would have stopped Ben from turning up at the Karate lessons, but he needed this. He was tired of running away from his fear. He needed to toughen up, to stop being afraid.
“Alright, guys, that’s enough,” barked Dion, turning from Ben to Justin and back again. “You’re both here to learn Karate, not to give each other handbags. If you don’t stop your bullshit bickering, I’m gonna cancel these meet-ups, and to be honest, I really need the cash.”
There was a momentary silence. Ben half-turned away from the situation, gingerly rubbing his chest. He lifted up his hoody, and inspected his ribs. Sure enough, bruises were already beginning to form, spreading like a sickly fungus over his skin. Overhead, he heard a plane slicing through a murky sky. He kicked a rock away, with force, anger still simmering.
“Yes, sensei,” Justin said, finally. He offered a little formal half-bow that concealed yet another smirk. Ben shook his head incredulously that he was still keeping these antics up. “Fucking prick,” he whispered under his breath. Dion heard him.
“Just settle down, Ben,” he said, holding out a hand to indicate his pupil cool off a bit. “Let’s try this again. You need to get into the mindset of the attacker before you can even think about your defence against him. That’s why you’ve still got the sticks. Justin will have to do the same, trust me.” He shot Justin a glare to reinforce that he wasn’t joking about this.
Ben readied the sticks again. This time he set his feet properly, raised his right hand just above his left. He tensed his muscles, allowed a steady rage to percolate under his skin. He imagined himself squaring off against Justin on a darkened night in the town centre, jumping out on the little tosser, ready to smash his teeth into the pavement. With this in mind, he lunged forward with a start, bringing the stick around with all his might. He was expecting the impact of wood against skin, half-fearing that he’d been too aggressive in what was only a lesson, after all. Instead, he felt a dull ache in his wrist as the ridge of Dion’s hand cracked into it. The stick went spiralling away from his weakened grip. A moment passed, and then Dion’s left fist came in once, twice, three times; two slugs to the gut and a third once again smashing into his solar plexus. A cluster of white spots exploded in front of his eyes, and his legs buckled. He slipped on the mud and sat down heavily. Pain lanced up his spine as his coccis struck the ground. Rage descended like a sudden black cloud, even as he doubled over in agony.
“This is bullshit, you fucking coon! Stop fucking hitting me!” The word had slipped out before he could hold it back, and he instantly regretted his mistake. Dion snapped. A switch inside his mind had been flipped. He was all over Ben in a moment, his heavy black trainer careening into Ben’s stomach. Ben felt the air evacuate his lungs. He coughed reflexively, but the trainer came in again, even harder than the first time. Dion stooped over him, his frame momentarily blocking out the light. Ben was dimly aware of him picking up the one of the sticks that had fallen from his grasp. The next thing he knew, a white explosion flared up across his vision as the stick cracked down on his temple. He heard Justin’s cry dimly, as if from a great distance away, and felt a warmth on his face as blood began to pour from his skull. Dion’s face was twisted with an intense hatred now, and a deep terror suddenly filled Ben’s veins with ice. Fuck, he thought. Fucking hell.
The stick came down again, and again. Each blow brought a resounding crack as the weapon bludgeoned against Ben’s skull, a sickening sound that reverberated around the hill. Ben was aware of a buzzing in his head, as his vision began to fade. Sounds started to run into each other like treacle. White stars punctuated a heavy black veil that began to slowly descend from the sky. His breath came in broken staccato gasps. With Justin’s strangled cries coming to him from a whole world away, blackness engulfed him and then, nothingness.
Justin looked down at Ben’s broken body for just a moment more, then turned tail and fled for his life down the hillside.
Photo credit: Amy Massey