The Boxer
By Karrah Aretz

Disclaimer: Music and lyrics by Simon and Garfunkel. Matt, Jack and Grace Murdock are all copyrighted to Marvel Comics and no money is being made in this.

This is technically set in the movie verse (although I'd only have to change one word for it to be comic canon) so feel free to set it wherever you please. It is a loose prequel to another upcoming DD fic I am working on, tentatively titled Shades of Gray.

***
I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

"You're a disgrace, boy! A failure!" my father yelled as I slammed the screen door behind me, duffel bag in hand. I've always been a 'disappointment' to my parents and even a 'disgrace' to the community at large, but for some reason this time the words hurt more.

I choked down tears, hoping none of the neighbors would notice the warm, salty tears on my cheeks. As usual, the Murdock family fights were public. I wasn't really sure what I was doing other than leaving. It may as well been the story of my life up until now...and probably in the future too. I never thought about the future.

"Don't you dare come crawling back!" my dad yelled after me. That was fine. I wasn't planning on coming back. Not to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I didn't want to work in the coalmines like every other man over 18 in this god-forsaken town. I didn't want to have to get up every morning wondering if the union negotiations were in my favor or not. I didn't want to have to be on the picket lines while my kids starved. I knew I could do better because at 17 years old I was certain there was nothing worse.

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

I took a Greyhound to New York City, figuring if there was anything for me, it would be there. As I got off I realized I had little money, no job and didn't know anyone. I hitched my duffel onto my shoulder and found directions to the nearest YMCA.

A week later I left the Y penniless. There was little a high school drop out with no skills could do, so I took what I could get. But I vowed to keep looking; I wanted to prove to my dad I wasn't a failure. I could succeed where he hadn't. That I wasn't a disgrace.

McDonald's didn't last long, but it gave me some more money so I could sleep at the Y. I had a job interview with a construction company for the following morning. I had decided to celebrate a little by going to a bar. I'd heard of a few that didn't card. They were easy to find even without the directions I'd been given. I'd been drinking underage since I was 15, finding a bar to let me in was not a problem.

Having enough money to get seriously drunk was. Which probably explained the bar fight I got into after only a few beers. I never really could hold my liquor.

Lucky then I guess, because I won that bar fight. I was bruised, bloody and more sober than I liked, but I had won. And it got me my ticket out of fast food hell and the Y.

Lie la lie...

I said, of course, that I was 18 even though I was still more than six months away from my 18th birthday and became a boxer. I was damn good if I say so myself. I trained hard, fought hard and won more fights in the ring than I lost. Boxing was intelligent, but then neither was I.

And boxing put a roof over my head and it fed me and it even got me a wife. After a fight one night, about a year or so after I'd begun fighting professionally, a little red haired girl was waiting for me, practically tripping over herself in excitement. Her name was Grace Sullivan and she was sixteen. We had coffee.

The next morning when she left my apartment I knew I'd found 'the one'. Three months later we wed, much to the disappointment of her parents. We had eloped at a justice of the peace without telling them. She was cute, she could cook and she didn't try to stop me from fighting. She understood that boxing was my life.

She worked days at a little coffee shop down the way since she had dropped out of high school to get married. I was doing fine without a high school diploma, didn't see any reason to force her to go. It was a nice time. She was a hellcat in bed.

Until two months after we married she announced that she was pregnant. Then the nagging began. I needed to get a real job, make more money. She wasn't going to work after the baby was born and I'd have to make up for that. I loved her, but I could barely take it.

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Lie la lie...
I got a job with a construction company working on building apartments. It doesn't take rocket science to nail some pieces of wood together. It doesn't take rocket science to bet someone up in the ring either.

Things got steadily worse as Grace got closer to her due date. We had no medical insurance, the one room apartment we lived in was a tenement at best and she wanted to go home. She wanted to run back to her daddy. He wouldn't take her back, saying that she had up and gotten married and that marriage was for better or for worse and she'd just have to shut up and do it.

Which made my life hell. I worked ten or more hours a day for barely minimum wage then came home to a wife who blamed me for everything and didn't want to see me. I thought things would get better after the baby was born but of course it didn't. In retrospect, I can't believe I deluded myself into thinking it would. But my life is a series of delusions that strain to keep my life together.

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me
Bleeding me, going home

She thinks she's the only one who wants to go home? What about me? I certainly didn't want to be in New York any longer! I wanted to go back too, admit defeat. But my pride wouldn't let me, my shame. It had only been a couple years, not enough time to 'make it' in the world.

No matter how tempting, I was not going to go back home and prove my father right about me. I would never give him the satisfaction of calling me a failure again. I would make it. I would be married to Grace and make our marriage work. I would be a father to my kid. I simply had no idea how.

So I fought. I knew I could do that. I do it well. And getting the aggression out was useful. I had plenty of aggression to bring into the ring, which helped me to win. And winning got me more money.

Grace had a baby boy she named Matthew. He was a perfect little baby with little tufts of red hair like me, blue eyes like her. He was perfect. He had a chance at a better life. Better than me. At 20, I had no chances left. I still fought, but with injuries I was falling out of favor. I had obviously started training too late. Too little, too late.

Matt's crying woke me up one morning, he was about six months old. Grace was gone, she'd packed and left during the night. As I changed Matt I read the note she'd left on the fridge. There wasn't a lot. Just that she couldn't handle life, that she had been thinking for a while of leaving and she had found a place she could go and she wasn't telling her family where she was going either.

I was heartbroken and vowed that Matt would have a better life. He fought as I tried to change his diaper. I hoped he could sustain that energy through life.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains

Twelve years later our lives had been turned upside down by an accident that left Matt blind and caused me to take fixed fights. I was working for organized crime. I was a has-been in the boxing ring, had been fired from the latest in a series of dead end jobs. I had no other options. And my son paid the price,

But I refused to throw the fight earlier tonight. I wouldn't fail Matt again, especially not with him in the audience. Blind or not, he was my son and he was cheering for me and I wouldn't fail him. He never failed me. Never. And I couldn't fail him again.

I walked out of the locker room after the fight knowing what was about to happen. I knew there would be a punishment for not following orders. I didn't care, Matt was waiting for me.

Lie la lie ...

I lay now on the wet concrete bleeding. I hope Matt doesn't see me. I hope I didn't fail him.