Truly A Cinderella Man
A/N: I've got a few ideas for this. Maybe I'll figure out an actual storyline. Hopefully it's short, because I have many other things to write for the summer, but I discovered that this chapter was extremely fun to write, so I wrote it! Enjoy! Send Reviews! Keep reading!
"Come on, Jimmy, Come on! Let's go - left - right - right - come on! James, you sonofabitch! KNOCK HIM OUT! NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COME ON! POUND HIS FACE IN! What - WHAT WAS THAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
James wasn't paying attention to Joe. He was watching carefully; concentrating; losing himself in the match. His blood pulsed though his veins like jets of water, though feeling like air. His body was loose and weightless, his head was full of pressure, and his forehead and lips were smothered with blood. He couldn't break his concentration long enough to think about licking it away. He had to keep his feet going; had to keep his breathing constant; had to dodge the unsuccessful half-hearted swipes at him from his opponent; had to stick Red Clampton with every jab, every punch he could offer. Couldn't stop moving; had to keep moving. But he wasn't doing very well. He could tell that he was letting down many members of the audience. Clang!
Joe leaped under the ropes into the ring, and sprinted over to James, throwing him down onto the stool in the corner. "Come on, Jimmy," he said loudly, over the crowd's deafening cheers, "what are you doing out there? You're slipping away from me, Jim, you're slipping away." Joe made his hands into tight fists, and making his elbows point toward the ground, dragged his fists down his chest, indicating James's apparent slipping action. Jimmy had his mouth too full of water to retaliate, and he had to keep his head in the game anyway. He spit it all out into the bucket at his feet and wiped his mouth with his sweaty arm.
"Are you okay? You're alright? You know, if you lose, Jim - "
"I'm fine, I'm alright, I know."
"You know? Good, I'm glad you know! SHOW THEM YOU KNOW, JIM! SHOW THEM YOU KNOW!" Joe shouted the last bit over the bell and the crowd's new vigor. James jumped up, nearly knocking over the stool, and jogged back into the middle of the ring.
"SHOW THEM YOU KNOW, JIM! GO AND GET 'EM! Oh, it was a mistake for him to invite Mae tonight." James looked at Joe out of the corner of his eye, sensing that he was worried about something, but he couldn't afford to think about this. Whatever it was, Joe could take care of it by himself. James's manager saw that he'd noticed the worry, and he brightened up again so as not to ruin his boxer's self esteem. "GO, JIMMY! KNOCK 'EM DEAD!" After the two trainers exited the ring, James and Red were back at it again. Red had only been cleaned up a little. The men with the sponges had been too distracted by Clampton's trainer, and their futile attempts at getting his entire face cleaned up made no amends for Braddock's brutal beating. Blood streamed down the red-head's face and he looked near to losing his mind, his eyes still having that menacing way about them that James had seen only once, and that was within the eyes of Maxy Baer. Clampton's look was only half as intimidating as Baer's, but, still: it was always the look on the fighter's face that showed if he was fighting to win, or if he was fighting for blood.
"Braddock takes a punch from Clampton, but he returns the punch lightning-fast! Clampton is nearly down! It looks like he'll only take a few more hits from Braddock before he sees the bottom of the ring!" The announcer shouted into the microphone, reporting every move each fighter made. Joe was just as loud as he was without the mic, yelling and screaming at ringside.
"SLUG 'IM, JIMMY! COME ON! 3 MORE ROUNDS! YOU'LL TAKE 'IM BEFORE THAT!"
Mae, in the second row of the bleachers, couldn't watch. She knew Jimmy wasn't going to get hurt too badly, but she still felt absolutely terrible, wishing she hadn't agreed to come. She had left the kids with her sister again, and felt that she owed something to them for repeating the act so many times, and this time, for a horrible reason. When she lifted her head for that spit second to see her Jimmy take a hit in the jaw, her eyes filled with tears, thinking of them without a father.
"Braddock is still holding this game in his hands! You can see the determination in the Cinderella Man's eyes! Clampton isn't giving up, though - oh, no. He should be able to win something before the night's over!"
James kept his stance, and listened to the rhythm of his pulse, counting it in his head. He matched it with his footwork and breathing. He had to pause to get his breath back after taking a punch in the stomach.
"He is not doin' so hot tonight," Joe commented to himself silently. "Where are you, Braddock?"
James blinked to clear his vision and placed a sharp, strong jab on his opponent's shoulder, making Clampton's next hit miss completely. When he pulled his arm back, James smacked the side of his head hard with his glove. Joe jumped up and down again, suddenly, pounding on the floor of the ring.
"THAT'S IT, JIM! COME ON! THERE YOU GO!" He let out a long whoop after Jimmy punched Red's nose, and the bell sounded again. Round 14.
"Whoo, baby! I don't know what's been wrong with you for the rest of this game, but you sure were goin' great in those last ten seconds." James laughed, adjusting his mouth guard, while a man squeezed a yellow sponge on his head. "What's up with you, huh? You're a little on the edge." James stood up suddenly, sopping wet, and waved his glove at the crowd, who cheered psychotically. Mae waved back, screaming something that was swallowed up by the crowd. Joe put a hand on James's shoulder and shoved him back down. "Whoa, hey! What are you doing? I'm talkin' to you. Sit down. Save your energy. We know the audience goes crazy for you even if you're having a bad streak. Come on, we don't have much time left for this." He paused, looking at his friend. "What are you laughing at?"
"I don't know. I'm just having a good time tonight, that's all. I feel good!"
"Yeah? Well, stop "just having a good time" and win! Keep your concentration, whatever happens. Now, listen to me, Braddock, go for his head more; you're not getting enough punches into his head, and that's not like you, I don't like that. The eleventh round, you were gold! Pure gold! But you're not getting enough punches to his head now. Remember to get his head, Jimmy! Now, wait a minute, wait a minute, sit down. I'm not finished. I've seen Clampton fight before, and he's completely merciless. And you have him, Jimmy, you have him, I can feel it! But you're not being tough enough - you gotta get in there and pound him until he can't move an inch! You hear me?"
"I hear ya."
"An inch, Jimmy. The announcer, he keeps saying "he has it! Braddock has the game in his hands!" Now, you may have it in your hands, but as long as you have it, for the love of God, you have to HOLD it! SQUEEEZE it! And whatever you do, don't let go! " Clang! "Let's go, Jimmy!"
Once, when Clampton lost his concentration, and his eyes wandered into the stands, James whacked him hard on the head, pulled back, and repeated the punch. Once Red had felt this, he promptly kicked James's legs out from under him, sending him flying to the ground. Joe went insane. "HEY!" he screamed, crawling into the ring. People booed and shouted out their protests.
"BAD FORM!" someone yelled. The referee came over and started counting down Jimmy.
"Come on, Jim - you gotta get up. You alright? Anything broken? Oh, I'm going to kill that sonofabitch. Unless, you do it for me. Come on, get up."
"My ankle - "
"What, your ankle hurts?"
"I think it's sprained - "
"Well, you're going to have to fight him on a bad ankle, then - "
"What, Joe, you think I'd quit?" James grunted. He forced himself to his feet, and the ref ushered Joe back under the ropes. Everything hurt when Jimmy stood, but he smiled when the audience began to scream and cheer again.
"The crowd goes wild over Braddock! Joe Gould has just reported that Clampton may have sprained Braddock's left ankle. But, nevertheless, our hero has once again made that fast recovery and is now back on his feet in the middle of the ring!"
"Come on, baby, come on," Joe said to himself, throwing punches into the air in front of him. "STAY OFF YOUR LEFT FOOT, JIMMY! KEEP YOUR RIGHT FORWARD!" Red was smirking; he had his hands up to his chest, and was watching James's every step. Like a panther, he reached out and aimed for James's temple, but he blocked it, and sent one sailing into Clampton's face. The blow nearly knocked him off of his feet, and it took him a few seconds to recover and remember where he was.
"GO FOR HIM, JIM!" Joe yelled, "DON'T HOLD BACK!"And he did go for him. While Clampton was at a weak point, James got him up against the ropes and gave him a full fledged beating; a prize worthy fight. Soon Clampton's nose, lips, and cheeks were bleeding profusely, and finally, just before the bell, he fell to the ground. The ref walked over to the two, and Jimmy, putting all of his weight on his right foot, watched as he counted up to ten.
Mae burst into the locker room while James and Joe were engaged in a conversation about the fight. She jumped into her husband's arms, grabbed his face, and began to kiss him. Joe rolled his eyes and bit his tongue angrily. He had been doing that lately to keep himself from saying anything he knew he'd get in trouble for. It had worked most of the time.
"Call me when you want me to untape your hands," he said instead, leaving the room. James waved a hand and pulled away.
"You won, Jimmy!"
"I won, but my ankle - "
"Oh, your ankle - how's your ankle?"
"It'll be fine." He brightened immediately, desperate for his wife not to worry about him. "I won!" Mae smiled and threw her arms around him again. James lifted his head long enough to smile at Joe, who was poking his head into the locker room and shaking his head.
"When will you be home, Jimmy?"
"Around eleven. Don't wait up."
"Alright." James planted a kiss on Mae's cheek, and walked quickly over to an excited Joe, who was standing outside of his car. Once they got in and began driving, Joe did a double take at his friend. A smile spread across his face.
"Nothin'," Joe said. "How's your ankle?"
"It's fine, it's fine, it's fine." James thought he'd said this about fifty times in one night, and that if he said it three more times in a row, he'd have three less to say later. "It doesn't hurt one bit."
"Good, 'cause you've got that fight against Barty Wilson on Thursday." James scratched his head and looked out the window.
The restaurant was dark and cold. It was very much different from Madison Square Garden, which was scorching hot inside. The pair found a table near the window, so that they could look out at the almost complete darkness, and immediately, the waiter came with a pitcher of water. Joe still had that excited smile on his face. Once the waiter left, the silence was broken.
"Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy." James smiled.
"Kinda screwy tonight."
"I won," Jim said for the millionth time.
"Yeah, you won, but that's not the point. Yeah, you fought well...er...most of the time. But it was kinda screwy. What happened?"
"I don't know," James said, watching a man walk down the street carrying a potato sack. No doubt everything he owned was inside it. "I got excited." He grinned, and looked back at his friend. "So did you."
"Yeah, well, I was more worried about you than anything. You got hit pretty hard a few times, and some times I just wasn't sure what you were going to do next. Once, you tried to get into his arms, and you couldn't, so you sort of skipped around him a few times and I started to wonder what exactly you had been doing before you came to the fight." James chuckled. "What about Mae?"
"What about Mae, Joey?"
"Well, she was pretty worried about you too."
"Yeah." James paused. "Maybe that was it. Mae."
"Mae ruined your game?"
"Well, yea - actually, no. You know what, I'm not sure. Maybe." Joe raised an eyebrow and lifted his glass of water to his lips. He tried to be patient, as he knew his fighter was exhausted.
"Make up your mind, Bulldog."
Jim let out a breath and began again. "She just got me excited, ya know? I mean, she's never come to a fight before - "
"She did once, didn't she?"
"She did once, and she left before it ended, in tears, and I lost that night if you remember correctly. I just - I don't know." James slumped in his seat, and began to play with the napkin on the table in front of him.
"What - "Nothin'"?"
"I'm glad she came. I'm just really glad she came. That's all. But it was distracting. I mean, what was she going to see up in the ring, huh? Me getting my face flattened? I was too worried. I didn't want her to see that."
"Wouldn't you agree that's kinda what happened, though?"
"Joe, you're not making this easy."
"Sorry, it's just - you won, but in a way, you lost." James stared across the table at his manager.
"I screwed up, I'm sorry."
"What, you screwed up? We got the dough, didn't we? A little Do-Re-Mi for the Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do? You were a little screwy, but you didn't screw up." The waiter came, then, and asked them what they wanted to drink.
"Bring over a bottle of whatever's strongest." He glanced at Jim. "On me." James sighed. He wasn't comfortable with his partner paying for him all the time. One day, he'd pay him back.
"You don't have to keep paying, Joey," James said once the waiter left.
"Yeah, but I like to. What do you have to complain about?"
"I just want to pay sometime, that's all!"
"Jim, we sound like an old married couple. Keep your voice down."
"Old married couple - we just got back from a fight."
"Which you lost."
"What! I won!"
"And you sprained your ankle!" he nearly yelled it.
"I won, Joey!" James spat back.
"Alright! Jesus Christ, don't get your balls in a knot!" Somehow, this made Jim smile."Come on, drink. You had a long night - drink."
"I'm fine. Hey, Joey?" Joe looked up. "The Wilson fight next Thursday - well, my ankle..."
"Cancel it?" Joe looked thoroughly confused. "I don't think so. James J. Braddock does not cancel a fight. And neither does Joe Gould for that matter," he added haughtily, but then let go of the attitude. "Ah, you're just tired," he said, waving the matter away as it if it were merely a pestering fly. "You'll be more excited about it when the time comes." He looked up at James, who was giving him a tired look. "God damnit, Jimmy." Joe bit his tongue.
A/N: I know it's not much yet, and there's not much of a storyline yet, but be patient. I hope you liked it. Review! I wanna know how I'm doing!