My Christmas story is late again. Well, this is the third attempt and the first one I thought was even close to being good enough to send out. I don't own any part of Daredevil, but I've been reading him for over forty years! God I'm old. Thank you, girlwithoutfear, you are the beta reader of my dreams.
Christmas: Year Two
Jack looked at the list of fights he'd been handed and saw his Las Vegas bout listed him as Hack Murdock. He didn't know if he should complain about the printer being a bad speller or a boxing critic. He knew about typing now because his son, Matt had learned to touch type after he played hero and lost his sight. His boy might not be able to see, but he could damn well spell the word Jack.
Jack got up from the chair at the kitchen table and shuffled over to the old metal desk where his son was doing homework. "Mattie boy; where's the h and the j on that typewriter of yours? The same row?"
"On the third row from the top in the middle beside each other," Matt hands ghosted over the old Remington, "right here, Dad."
Jack leaned down and squinted at the letters. "So I guess it's easy to mix 'em up."
"Yeah, you use the same finger for both, but you have'ta reach for the h." Matt flexed his right index finger, smiling as he showed his father his new skill. "Typing's real easy."
"Maybe for you, kid, but this old head's taken too many punches to learn how to type; besides that'll be your job, ya know, answering all my fan mail."
Matt laughed, "Sure thing, Dad, the minute you get some."
"I got letters, but they're all stuff for the road trip. My manager says I gotta go on the road if I wanna be considered for anything better than small time." Jack headed back to the table to try to figure out how he could afford to go on the road and take care of his boy too. There just never seemed enough money coming in and all the money the Bugle collected when Matt was in the hospital went either on hospital bills or into an education fund.
Jack jumped when he felt Matt massaging his shoulders.
"Dad, I can feel you worrying all the way across the room."
"I'll have to learn to worry quieter," Jack took his son's hand and managed to maneuver Matt to sit with him at the table. "Mattie, I gotta go on this road trip,"
"Yeah, I know Dad."
Jack started to unconsciously rub the top of his son's hand. "I'm gonna be gone for three weeks, fighting almost every night in a different town."
"Yeah, I can't wait to go to Las Vegas to be with you at Christmas."
"Well, that's the problem; I don't think I can afford to fly you out to Vegas."
Matt snatched his hand away. "That's okay, Dad, I can take the bus."
Jack jumped up. "No, no way are you sitting on a bus for days just to get back on again less than a day later."
"But Dad, we've never been apart for Christmas before."
"It just can't be helped," Jack wanted to pull his boy into his arms and cry, but he had to be strong. "By next year I'll be making enough money I can fly you anywhere you want; if you want to be with your old man then. This year, I'm just rebuilding my name and I can't spare the cash for a plane ticket. You understand, don't you kid?"
"Yeah, I guess I do." Matt knew he sounded snotty; he just couldn't help it. He could manage the bus alone. If his Dad only knew just how much he could do he wouldn't think twice about letting him travel alone. If only Stick would let him tell Dad just how much he could do Matt knew his Dad would be really proud.
Jerry Bachman bumped into his friend, Matt Murdock, and grabbed the telephone jarred loose from Matt's shoulder before it hit the desk. "What are you doing, Murdock? Ordering twenty five cheese and sausage pizzas to be delivered to Gracie Mansion for the annual Hanukah party?"
"Back off, Jerry, this is private." Matt wanted to take the receiver back, but it would wreck his helpless blind boy image.
"Ain't nothing private here, Murdock, not when you whisper like that. It makes me all curious like, ya know."
Jerry put the receiver to his ear, "pardon me but my friend was just caught using his father's credit card to buy bourbon and now we catch him calling… Greyhound? So the little sneak thief was buying what… a round trip ticket to Las Vegas. Yes, it is terrible what the youth of this nation is up to today. Thank you very much. Bye bye."
Matt pushed back hard, trying to avoid sending his friend backwards into one of the oldsters that always seemed to be at the Lighthouse. "I'm just checking out the cost of rides to Vegas."
"Oh, goodie, St. Matthew of Manhattan is finally getting off the island. I thought you were going to stay with that aunt of yours this Christmas." Jerry pinched Matt's cheek hard, "she wants her widdle nephoo for crissymissy."
"You are a pain in the ass, Jerry." Matt hung his head, "I was gonna sneak outta town, but if I leave on Monday night I won't get there 'til Wednesday in the middle of the night." He twisted toward where Jerry was standing, "I've always been with my Dad at Christmas. It's a tradition, you know, like getting pens for your Bar Mitzvah."
"Don't remind me, I got enough pens that day to choke a whole herd of horses; I even got one of those Mount Blanc fountain pens. I re-gifted it to Harry Morgenstern for his Bar Mitzvah. His big sister Lizzie showed her appreciation very physically."
Matt just shook his head and laughed, "Someday I am going to go find all these girl friends of yours and see just what kind of man's man you are." The laughter died on his lips when Matthew came back to the original problem. "Jerry, even if Aunt Grace would let me go be with Dad at Christmas I can't afford it. I couldn't even walk there because I've only got one pair of running shoes. This, I guess, is what they mean by an exercise in frustration."
"Go ahead and scoff," Jerry sneered, "I have the magic touch with women and with everything I set my mind on. Let's figure a way to get you to Vegas."
Mr. Bachman," the receptionist buzzed through to the lawyer's desk, "you have two young men here to see you."
Entertainment lawyer Sam Bachman opened his packed day planner, but nothing was penciled in, "Vivian, I don't have any appointments scheduled now."
"One of these youngsters says 'we don't need no stinkin' appointments.'"
"Arrgh, send my son in," the man turned off the intercom and waited for his boy to enter. He was proud of his Jerry, but the boy's mouth was going to get him into trouble someday.
"Pop, I've come for some legal advice." Jerry called out as he swung his white cane in exaggerated arcs until he hit one of the client chairs in front of his father's desk and then sat down. His friend, Matt Murdock, followed more sedately behind Jerry and stayed standing.
Bachman leaned back in his chair and examined the boys carefully. If they both hadn't been blind the pair would never have gotten together. "I know you can afford my rates and I expect you to pay your own way. I don't do pro bono for relatives."
"But Pops, I'm not here for me. Matt's the one who needs your brand of mumbo jumbo. He's got a problem."
"Matthew, what kind of a problem could you have?"
Matt felt foolish. When Jerry suggested they head downtown to see his father Matt believed it was simply to get taken out to dinner and allowed to vent his feelings. This was just another of Jerry's tricks to get Matt into some kind of trouble.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bachman, I was just telling Jerry how much I was going to miss having Christmas with my father this year. He's on a road trip, you know, the fights before the main event kind of stuff and I'm staying at home on my own for the first time. We've never been apart during the holidays." Matt twisted his white cane round in his fingers. "I must sound like a real loser, but this time of year has always been important to me."
"No, Matthew, not at all. You're going to be alone?"
"No, sir, I'll be celebrating with my Aunt Grace. She lives down the hall and we'll spend Christmas day together. I'm sixteen and can take care of myself, but… Christmas is for family."
"Dad," Jerry never called Sam dad unless he was speaking from his heart, "Matt here will be really annoying if he doesn't see his father at Christmas and he'll take it out on me. I bet we could find a way to get the Murdock boys together if we try."
It wasn't often Bachman had his son ask him for anything and he wasn't about to let this opportunity pass him by. "If Matt can get his aunt's permission I can get him to Las Vegas in time to watch his father fight."
Battling Jack Murdock walked through the casino alone and decided that feeling sorry for himself was just all right. On this trip he'd won more fights than he'd lost. He'd been able to get a nice check to Grace to buy Mattie some clothes and stuff for Christmas, but it wasn't the same as buying that stuff himself.
"Jackie boy," the drunken drawl of Shawn O'Malley, his corner man, pulled Murdock out of his funk. "You was s'pposed to be ringside an hour ago. We gotta get you warmed up 'n ready to go at Ditko tonight."
"Ditko," Jack paled, "I thought I was fighting Colan tonight!"
O'Malley leaned on Murdock, "the old 'Fixer' done fixed it so's you get off the bottom of the bill. When ya win this one ya step up inna boss's roster. Bigger name, bigger money and you get to buy your kid one of those blind doggies."
Jack pushed past the pathetic old drunk that worked his corner. Damn. Damn. Damn. He had to work harder, train harder, fight harder. He had to win on his own and get away from the Fixer. That'd be the best gift he could get for Mattie.
The bus from Fordham University pulled into the campus of University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a twelve tall, sleep deprived college students stumbled out, followed by their equally sleep deprived coach leaving one sleeping high school senior inside.
Coach Dawson scrubbed his face with the heels of his hands before he turned to the driver. "Charlie, we're supposed to deliver the Murdock kid to the MGM Grand at eight tonight. That means we have nine hours to baby sit him. I can't leave him on the bus."
"And what am I supposed to do with him."
Tim, the wrestling team captain stepped up, "Coach, I'll watch Matt today if you can get him where's he's supposed to be."
The coach nodded to the young wrestler; the boy didn't know the surprise Sam Bachman had planned for the team tonight. Tim turned around and climbed back into the bus to find Matt Murdock curled up under the back seats of the bus, dead to the world. Tim grabbed Matt's backpack, levered him up and half walked/half carried the boy into the dorm the team had been assigned. The team really got to like Matt in the past two days they had traveled together. Tim wasn't about to let their unofficial mascot get lost in Sin City. It would be too much like dropping a bag full of kittens in a river.
"Hey, Matt, it's nap time, I found a bed for you, kid."
Matt raised his head and zoned straight in on Tim's face, "Oh boy, Timmy, there ain't gonna be no coal in your stocking this year."
"I can see you aren't a journalist or an English major."
Jack Murdock scanned his reflection in the dressing room mirror. His muscles were harder now; his abs flat and firm but Jack could almost see the show girls and strippers that usually primped here. "I guess I'm just another road show here."
"Hey, Jackie boy," O'Malley, closer to sober now, called for his fighter, "the seats are fillin' up. Time to show'em your stuff."
Murdock was startled, "I thought I wasn't up first no more."
"Ya, ain't," O'Malley grinned, "ya gonna parade round to let all the paying customers to look at the merchandise. Now all those people gonna check out the meat, and youse lookin' better than ya used to."
Jack looked down at himself and took in the yellow and black trunks. They now hung on newly narrowed hips and his high boots laced tight to newly toned calves. Murdock finally saw how hard he had worked to get into shape; the best shape he'd ever been in and he did it all for his Mattie boy. He'd make sure his son was proud of him or die trying.
"Git your robe on, Jack, time fer de parade."
Battling Jack Murdock draped his satin robe over his shoulders, feinted one punch, two punches, three before he slipped into line and marched into the arena.
The crowd roared!
Cameras flashed and spotlights swung back over the audience and bathed the square ring with unnatural sun.
"Ladies and Gentlemen: tonight we bring you modern gladiators, warriors of the ring, welter weights, light weights, light heavy weights and heavy weight boxers all working their way to the title shot."
Jack marched round the elevated canvas stage. He raised his arms and saluted the faceless mass around him.
"Dad, you can do it Dad."
Jack whipped his head around. That was Matt. It sure sounded like Matt.
"BATTLIN' JACK! BATTLIN' JACK!" chanted a group high in the stands.
"BATTLIN' JACK! BATTLIN' JACK!" Murdock could hear voices high over his head but couldn't see these fans. Fans; he didn't know he had fans. He'd barely gotten to the dressing room door when O'Malley pulled him stumbling inside.
"Jesus H. Christ, Murdock, who do you know who goes to Fordham?"
"I don't know nobody who goes to Fordham," he spit back.
"Well, there's a whole buncha kids in Fordham sweat shirts screaming for ya."
Jack put the mystery out of his mind. He had a fight to get ready for and he couldn't let a weird audience psyche him out. He went through pre-fight ritual, running in place, saying a prayer, everything except rubbing the top of Matt's head.
"Murdock, you're up," ripped into his head as O'Malley suddenly was there massaging his shoulders and babbling 'atta boy' and 'lead with your right' and 'murder da bum'. He and O'Malley just made it to the entryway of the arena when a batch of Fordham students stopped their progress and pushed his Mattie forward.
"What are you doin' here, son?"
"Just making sure you win your fight," Matt laughed as he bent his head toward his father.
That was all it took. He gave Matt a quick head rub, marched triumphantly to the ring and he delivered a TKO to Ditko before the first round was done. The Fordham students pushed Matt up onto the ring and Jack pulled his son into a bone crushing hug.
Waves of sound washed over Matt; the roar of the crowd, the whistling of the wrestling team and the deep thump, thump, thump of his father's heart.
Jack whispered in his ear, "What are you doing here, Mattie."
"Merry Christmas, Dad," he smiled back.
"That ain't no answer, kid."
"And a happy new year too."
Jack swung his son out of the ring. "What am I gonna do with you, Matthew?"
"I guess you'll just have to put up with me for another fifty years or until we get back to New York. Oh, and the wrestling team stays here."
Jack just laughed as he led his son to the dressing room. It was a really good Christmas after all.