ZEKEBy: Kelly Gendron
“Dad, I wanna fight Jax,” I say as Slate sways to the right just before Jax’s glove makes contact with his jaw. Slate may have missed that shot, but when Jax follows up with a quick right hook, he grazes Slate’s left cheek. I love watching my brothers fight in the ring. My dad’s friend, Benny, owns the joint, and after he closes up for the night, sometimes he lets us use it. Mom says the gym smells yucky, but I like it. Smells like Dad’s leather jacket, sweat, and a little like my oldest brother, Jax’s room. Mom says that smell is puberty. I’m not sure what puberty is, but ever since Jax got it, he got some muscles and he shot up a few inches too. I want some puberty. Mom says I’ll have to wait a few more years before I get it. I hate being the youngest. I’m always the last to get anything.
“Dad, let me in the ring. Give me a try.” I bounce on my feet, pumping my fists, restless to prove to him that I’m ready. “Come on, Dad!”
His dark blue eyes shift over to me for a split second. “Jax is too strong,” he says in that deep, unwavering dad tone.
“But it’s not fair.” I stomp my foot. “You let Slate fight him, and he’s only a year older than me,” I say, talking to my dad’s stern side profile. Jax is the spittin’ image of Dad. People say that I favor Mama’s side of the family. I know it’s my eyes. They’re the same color as Mama’s.
“Slate’s got his technique down.” Dad points at the ring. “See.” He glances at me then back to my brothers. “He knows when and where Jax is going to strike next,” he says with a huge closed-mouth smile; the same one he had when I peed outside the car on the side of the road while on our way to Grams’ house instead of in my pants. It was a few years back, but I’ll never forget how proud he was of me ‘cause I didn’t pee in my pants. And, after that day, I never did it again.
“Yeah, that’s it, Slate. You got it, boy.” Dad stands up, grabs the ropes, and leans toward the ring. “Now, Jax, you need to mix it up. Slate’s on to you, son. Toss something new his way.”
“Dad.” I look up, watching my father as he coaches my brothers. “Jax is strong, and Slate’s got technique, but what about me?” I raise my squeaky voice, wanting my dad to look at me like that in the ring, wanting him to be proud of me too. “I’m never gonna be a good fighter, am I?” My shoulders drop. “I know that I ain’t big. I ain’t got no technique, but-”
Dad’s eyes snap to me. His eyebrows lower, and I can’t tell if he’s mad or confused. When it comes to those two things, Dad wears the same expression. He crouches down to my level, grips his big, strong hands around my twig-like arms, and gently pulls me closer to him. “No, you’re not strong like Jax yet, and you still need to find your own technique,” his dark blue eyes hold me, “but, Zeke, you’re gonna be just as good a fighter as your brothers are.”
“I am?” I stand up tall, believing him. How can I not? He’s my dad.
“Yeah, son.” He nods. “You’re quick on your feet, fast with your hands, and you move like lightning.”
“Really, like lightning?”
“Yes, just like lightning, son.” He smiles.
I felt so proud that day, but one week later, when I walked into my parents’ bedroom, I couldn’t find the lightning my dad had talked about that day. With the color red splashed across the walls, all over the bed, and all over my parents, not a single muscle in my body would move, frozen solid by the monster standing before me ... the monster holding a gun ...
Bayou Vista, Texas is beautiful. It’s nothing like California. Where Cali has wild flashing lights, the Bayou has a certain kind of calming charm. I can’t believe Rayna came from this place. She’s more like someone who’d hail from the wild streets of Los Angeles. But I can see why Emmie loves it. Only spending half her childhood here, Emmie does seem to fit right in. I’m glad my two closest friends dragged me to their hometown for the summer. And the reason as to why we’re here, yeah, now, that reigns from Rayna’s inner craziness. Still, this evening, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than sitting on this bench watching the sun slowly set over Galveston Bay.
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