“The Event is proud to present in the blue corner wearing gold trunks, at 260 pounds, Sergi ‘Killer’ Vyx!”
That’s my opponent being introduced to cheers and jeers, mostly jeers. I, the lovely Betty Caruso, don’t much care. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole to chase rabbits. And if he gets in my way, I’m going to knock his block off. No, I’m going to rip off his head and pee down his…. Well, it’s his fault I’m in this hole. It all started a couple of weeks ago.
“Hmmmm, oh Gina, your fingers are like magic. Certainly, you may massage my glutes. You can even work lower if you want.” I cooed.
I was suddenly jolted by a sharp slap across my rear. “Hey, Betty! Wake up!” Announced Gary Barkley, my trainer.
“Gary! Why are you interrupting my massage?” I demanded.
“Massage? Your massage was over an hour ago. You’ve been just laying there snoring like an old wino.”
“Oh, well then why did you wake me up?”
“The boss wants to see you in his office.” He replied.
I hugged the sheet to me as I sat up. “Ok, I’ll go get dressed and see what he wants.” I wrapped the sheet snugly and hopped off of the table. As I reached the door, Gary exclaimed “God, Betty, you drooled all over the sheets.”
I turned back to him and gave a flippant “Sorry,” then he added “And who’s Gina?” I felt my face flush and he laughed.
The ancient phrase “time out of joint” could only begin to describe the old man’s office. The furniture was a complete mishmash, nothing matched. And the walls, whereas the rest of the gym was painted in that industrial pukey sea foam green, the office was some sort of gray. It wasn’t a charcoal gray, or a slate gray, or battleship gray, it was a gray that eluded definition. The original color may not have even been gray, but over time it faded into whatever grayish color it was. There were people on the walls, so I knew the old man was in a video conference.
“Ah, Betty, come on in.” he said.
I immediately knew something was up, because this was like only the second or third time he’d called me by my name. Usually he called me “girlie” or “lezzie” or some other name that couldn’t be used in polite company, “smart ass” was also a favorite.
“Betty, this is Manny Schumann and his fighter Alicia Manrigues.” he said pointing to the couple on the right wall. I knew that I was training to fight Alicia next month..
“And,” he continued pointing to the adjacent wall, “this is Mr. Rex Nicholson and Mr. Ed Wright, two members of the boxing commission. Ok, gents, you have us all together. What’s on the commission’s mind?”
Mr. Nicholson spoke first. “We have a fighter that we would like to fast track. As you know, a fighter has to win three bouts of three rounds before being able to fight longer fights and fight in larger venues. You two, Schumann and Svenson, each have a fighter ready to go. We want one of you to fight this fighter instead of your scheduled bout.”
“Wait a minute!” said Manny Schumann, “Who is this guy who’s getting the special treatment? Why can’t he get someone else? I’m sure there are many managers who have fighters that are ready or nearly ready for a bout.”
“Vyx,” replied Mr. Nicholson, “Sergi ‘Killer’ Vyx.”
“Vyx!” shouted the old man, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Vyx doesn’t box.” retorted Schumann, “He murders and maims. He’s had two bouts and killed both opponents.”
“That’s not true.” interjected Mr. Wright, “The last one is in a coma, not dead!”
“Big difference!” huffed Schumann. “You can count me out. Manrigues is a rookie. I’m not putting her in the ring on her first outing against Vyx!”
Nicholson became visibly angry. “Look, you don’t fight Vyx and you’ll get a one year suspension.”
“Besides, you could always take a dive if you’re afraid of getting hurt.” added Mr. Wright.
“Dive? This deal smells like a mob deal.” said Mr. Schumann.
“Nah, It ain’t the mob.” said the old man. “It’s a corporation, a god-damned corporation full of hubris as to how great it is.”
“Mr. Vyx’s backers are of no concern here.” said Nicholson. “You either fight or take a one year suspension. You’ll get half of the purse win or lose.”
The old man looked at me and could tell I had questions. “Rex? Ed? Do you mind if I put you on mute while I talk to my fighter?” the old man asked. They assented and the old man flipped the mute switch and the people disappeared from the walls.
“What’s going through your mind, Betty?” he asked.
“This Vyx guy, can I beat him? What are my chances?”
“Slim chance, girlie, a slim chance. If this had come eight months from now, you could mop the floor with a palooka like Vyx.”
“Is there eight months of experience in your bag of tricks? I really don’t want to be suspended for a year.”
“You willing to go down the rabbit hole, kiddo? What if you don’t come back? There’s not enough money in the purse to make that risk worthwhile.”
“You know, if they are willing to give half the purse for a dive, maybe they would pay more for a stand up fight. If they paid more would that balance the risk?”
“You’re crazy, girl.” he replied.
“But if I went down the rabbit hole, I could beat this bully, right?”
“Why don’t you take the suspension and whip his ass next year?”
“Why don’t I take a shit load of money and whip his ass now?”
He looked at me for what seemed like an eternity and then he shook his head. “Ok,” he said, “but I don’t want you turning into a junkie.” He hit the mute switch and the people instantly reappeared on the walls.
“Ok, Rex and Ed. We’ll take on your fighter, but with the following conditions. First, no one is suspended, and second, we take three times the purse.” the old man calmly stated.
“That’s outrageous!” cried Mr. Wright. “No dive is worth that much!”
“Who said anything about a dive? Caruso is going to mop the mat with your pet project.”
The rest of the conversation was over the fight details: venue, financial arrangements, date, time. When it was over the old man kicked me out of his office to take a closer look at “Killer” Vyx.
The next day after my morning workout, it was time for sparring and preparing a fight strategy. As Gary laced up my gloves, the old man stepped into the ring. “I know you haven’t read anything about the history of the noble sport of boxing,” he started, “but a long time ago one of the greatest fighters, perhaps the greatest, once laid out his strategy for fighting a tough opponent. He said:
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. A man’s hands can’t hit, what his eyes can’t see.’
That, girlie, is how we are going to beat ‘Killer’ Vyx.”
“Huh?” I so brilliantly asked.
“You’re going to dance around this big guy waiting for openings where you can quickly sting him with quick jabs. The openings will get larger as the fight goes on and then you can step in and deliver the big punches. But the key is to keep out of the way early in the fight.”
“But that’s different from my last fight.” I said.
“Yeah, while your last opponent was bigger than you, she was also agile. You had to stay close inside to keep her from connecting with the big punches. This guy hits harder, but he’s slow. We make him dance and choose when to throw the payoff punch.”
For the next two weeks leading up to the fight, I concentrated on footwork and darting in and out delivering jabs and short combinations. The hardest part was learning to read when to dart out of the way rather than standing and parrying a blow.
What little time I had to prepare quickly evaporated. From the sounds above the locker room, the preliminary fight was nearly over. The old man announced that it was time and reached into his bag for a couple of syringes and two small vials. “Chief, why do they call it ‘going down the rabbit hole?'” I asked.
“A long time ago, some wise guy wrote a book about a girl going down a rabbit hole chasing a rabbit seeking adventure. The adventures were so fantastic that some said the author was on drugs when he wrote the book and the whole book was actually about being on drugs.” he answered.
“Is that true?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, girlie, but it seems a good enough metaphor for what this stuff does. This cocktail is a little different from what you had last time. There’s no stim patch and it’s a bit more potent. You’re getting a dose of ‘Nails’ and a dose of ‘Spike’. ‘Nails’ will boost your stamina and ‘Spike’ is going to make you vicious.”
“Vicious?” I asked.
“You’re too nice.” he said. “You have to be the meanest bitch in town to take control of this fight and keep it. One last thing, the hard part of these drugs is to keep focus. Don’t ‘chase the rabbits’, don’t get distracted. All right, let’s go and win this fight!”
“Remember, Betty,” said Gary, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”
So here I am standing in a ring full of rabbits and bunnies waiting for the bell to ring to get this show on the road. I look up at the private box. It’s filled with corporate types, with perfect bodies, perfect suits, perfect golden hair and probably perfect teeth, I start my bouncing that earned me the nickname “Bouncing Betty”. Only I start singing in my head, “hop, hop, hop, do the bunny hop.” The bell rings. Crap! It’s time to go!
I begin stalking this guy. He’s big. It’s like stalking a mountain. We’re dancing around and he feint’s a punch. Though it’s so awkward that he drops his left. Bam! I sting the left side of his face. He shakes it off and counters, but I’m so far away from him that he barely brushes my gloves as I parry. He throws another and while he’s extended, I step in for a quick combo to the body. He stops circling and as I “sting” him, he backs up. He’s backed into the ropes. Hell, I’m in control. He tries a combination his right aims high. I’m far enough out that I parry his blow striking his wrist to push the punch wide. At the same he launches his left low, but the parry has spun him where the this punch will also go wide. The low punch has opened his whole left side. I connect with a right cross and he goes down. The crowd goes crazy and the bunnies do a cheer.
He scrambles back up before the referee can start the count. She sends us to our corners and then commands us to start fighting. I race to the center hoping to not trip over a rabbit. We begin stalking one another again. I’m beginning to like this game when I get careless and I’m not far enough out of the way and I take one in the kisser. Luckily, I was far enough away that the punch didn’t take me down. But it shook a few things around. The bunny looked concerned. We parried, dodged, and weaved. We each threw a few jabs and then we started stalking again. He got lucky again and connected with another jab. Things were getting fuzzy.
For the fourth time I began stalking him, circling and circling, darting in and out. Suddenly, he was on the ropes again. He didn’t like it and I could tell he never anticipated being pushed into the ropes by someone as small as I am. He seemed to panic and threw a few wild punches trying to force me back. But I was in control and with a right hook I belted the left eye so hard that he crashed to the mat with a thud. One of the bunnies exclaimed an “ooh” as he hit the canvas. The referee began counting as Vyx struggled to his knees. The bell rang ending the first round. He managed to get to his feet, but that eye was beginning to swell shut.
I flopped down on the stool as Gary and the old man worked on me. “Damn, Betty, you knocked him down twice! You’re way ahead on the scoring.” said Gary.
“Have you noticed that some of the big bunnies are blonde?” I mumbled.
“Keep your head in the game, girlie. Stop chasing rabbits!” growled the old man.
“Right, Betty, ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.'” Gary added.
“Yeah,” I slurred, “Float like a bunny fly, sting like a carrot.”
The old man shrugged his shoulders and shoved in my mouth piece as the bell rang to start the second round. As I bounded to the center of the ring, rabbits scattered out of my way.
We began the cat and mouse stalking again waiting to see who would pounce first. The left eye wasn’t completely swollen shut, but I could tell he was having trouble seeing out of it. He tried to plant his feet like roots, but a couple of quick combinations got him to start backing up again. He landed a few jabs, but I dodged most of them. This time, I backed him into a corner. The shock of being in the corner must have done something to him. As I darted in to deliver a body combo, he grabbed me and hung on. The referee separated us and sent us to our corners.
When I reached my corner, I turned in time to see bunnies dancing in the center of the ring. The referee shouted fight and I charged to the center. The stalk seemed different, he seemed cautious. I aggressively stepped in and out backing him up with jabs and combinations. He was on the ropes again. He seemed to have given up. The bunnies were excited. I was in control.
Now, I had to be patient and find the right opening. Easier said than done. I began losing focus. Suddenly, all of the rabbits and bunnies were gone. Where did they go? You know, there is a year of the rabbit, but I was born in the year of the dragon. I wonder if Mr. Vyx knows I’m left handed? Float like a bunny, sting like a big assed dragon. There was my opening. I threw the hardest left hook I’ve ever thrown and popped him in the right eye. Down he went.
Stunned as he was, I didn’t knock him out. The referee bent down and looked at him. The right eye was rapidly swelling shut. She stopped the fight. I had won with a TKO, a technical knock out. She lifted my hand into the air and the crowd went crazy. The bunnies had formed a chorus line center ring. I looked up to the private box, it was empty. I looked down at “Killer” Vyx, chuckled, and said “Silly rabbit.”
I turned to walk to my corner while the bunnies cheered, little ones, big ones, sensual ones. Sensual ones who waved and blew kisses from ruby lips.