Who knows when the ebb starts, that start to the be-bop king hell king slide down, the question of when the struggle for the top, for being top dog, for being top dog among you and yours, turns from kid (well young man anyway) great blue-pink cloud puff nights to sober star-filled wonders about immorality, your place in the sun, whether it will happen and whether you have enough wherewithal to stand the gaff, the grift, or just the drift toward the infinite. More importantly when the “this and that” of life, the ordinary muck, always present, always damn present from the cradle takes over.
Let’s put it like this, okay. That minute when you call an armed truce (no, a thousand times no don’t say surrender, please, be like Bob Marley, stand up, stand up, stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight), to that thing that in 1960 got you running the streets, got you running into Park Street and massive scorn, or some hard stir time courtesy of Uncle Sam, or crushed beneath the May Day red tide. (Ya, Bob had it right, don’t give up the fight.) When you didn’t retire exactly but just kind of ran out of opponents who were ready to beat you down on their way up and of sparring partners, rubber tube around the middle just like you, who decided to take up gardening or whatever third-rate guys do when they move on, move uptown as you always said. But one last call calls. And this…
White truce flags neatly placed in right pocket. Well placed in that right hand pocket in order, right-handed man, pocket ready to call a, uh, strategic retreat from this day’s errands at the drop of that handkerchief, an orderly retreat but a retreat, one of many, nevertheless. Then folded aging arms showing the first signs of wear-down, unfolded. One more time, one more war-weary dastardly fight against the feckless oil-driven times.
This time a mismatch, a mismatch based a little on that rubber tire around the middle, a little greyness in the hair , a little white in the beard, a little ache here and a pain there, once brushed off , and forward in day but now, weeks ache, and months pains. The bigger opponent, mighty muscled, sleek, stealthy, lots of money backing him, the “smart” money, no question. But he had contracted for this one fight, take whatever comes and then, and then the joys of retreat and taking out those white flags again and normalcy.
The first round begins. He holds his own, a little wobbly, a little rubber tire around the middle wobbly, but moving in and out to avoid the bigger man’s fearsome blows. Hell the guy is not even winded. Damn it’s like a phalanx of something driving him to the ground, or about six corner boys from his youth, his sullen youth when six guys decided that he was, what? Mush? A fag? Stupid? Second round he runs into a series of upper-cuts that drive him to the floor. He stagger on his knees and then up on the eight count. Another barrage. Back up again on nine. Close. Then another. He wobbles, knees akimbo, if that is possible and after this mauling it probably is. Face down, stay down. A distant muted echo hits his brain, his egg- scrambled brain, don’t give up the fight. Nah, tomorrow is another day. Hell, there are always other days. If not me then some young hungry guy, some barrio guy, some ghetto guy, hell, maybe both. His brain says… Out. He ran right out of time, Christ.
Awake later, seven minutes, hours, eons later he takes out the proud white flags now red with his own blood. He clutches them in his weary hands. His handler, his woebegone handler, some ancient guy picked up on the cheap, a guy who looked pretty weather-beaten but what are you going to do when you make a match with no up-front dough, no real dough, and just a few fans who remember you from the old glory days, the days when, no kidding you could have been a contender. This old guy, met, or guys like him, met long ago said going into the damn fight and I quote, he said struggle, struggle. Ya, it’s easy for you to say, buddy. You didn’t have to go two rounds with the guy. Jesus he never worked up a sweat. Give me those damn white flags, jesus. And I want my option rematch just like the contract says. Jesus.