We follow the highway out to the Belcher creek turnoff and cross the train tracks. A full moon hangs high in the cloudless Missouri sky as we approach the bridge and stop right in the middle of the gravel road. The only people that use the bridge anymore are a few farmers and there’s no way in hell they’re going to be out at 11 O’clock at night.
A line of cars pull in behind us and everyone cuts their engines. But the music from a dozen radios still drifts through the air. I step out of the car and gaze at the stars. I’m thinking that it would sure be a great night to go hunting instead of pounding somebody’s head into the gravel. Besides, I really don’t dislike Marvin. Hell, we had spent many summer days fishing down at the ‘Pits’ or hunting rabbits together on old man Bailey’s land. Besides, me and Beth were pretty much done with each other anyway. But still, you can’t just go around asking another man’s girl out and not expect some consequences.
Leroy and Jimmie walk up and down the road telling everybody to shut off their radios and headlights. Every now and again I can see them lean into a window and take a drink of whisky or a toke from somebody’s joint. At about five till, everybody starts making their way toward the bridge. It’s starting to look like homecoming on a Friday night with the headlights from Jimmie’s car spotlighting the arena. Some of the guys are cutting up, pretending to be boxing. Most of the girls have pushed their way to the front and are leaning against the cars, making sure they get a good look at the gladiators of the night. The crowd has pushed in close and I’m drawing a lot of confidence from there murmurs. I peel off my shirt and throw it on the hood. I can’t keep from smiling a little as some of the girls start whispering about how big my shoulders are.
I can feel the crowd starting to get a little antsy and I’m beginning to think that Marvin isn’t going to show when a set of headlights turns the corner on the other side of the creek and heads toward us. The red corvette stops just short of the bridge and the door opens. The dash light reveals Marvin, with Beth practically sitting on his lap like some bitch dog in heat. I start walking toward the center of the bridge while Jimmie and Leroy hold back the crowd.
Beth follows along a few steps behind Marvin. She’s wearing a tight black blouse and leather skirt and puffing on a Virginia Slim. It gives me a little pang of longing as she looks at me with those blue eyes.
Marvin takes off his shirt and hands it to Beth and she goes on past us to join the crowd. I chuckled a little at the sight of his pasty white torso. A quick thought comes to my mind that he must have some Albino blood in him or something to be that white. Why haven’t I ever noticed it before? Maybe it’s the way the car headlights bounce off him. He looks a lot smaller than I remember from gym class too and I start to feel a little sorry for him. I must admit the desire to break his nose is beginning to fade.
But he walks right up to me and spits into the dust at my feet and some of the anger comes back. But I still can’t get as worked up as I was with the crowd egging me on earlier.
“So I hear you said city boys like to suck cow tits and have sex with sheep.” He said.
“Well, I say a lot of things but I don’t remember saying that.” Marvin looks puzzled, like I just took away his reason for being here in the first place.
He’s just standing there not knowing for sure what to do next. So I point my finger at his chest and say, “It was bull cocks and sheep dogs…City Boy.”
Marvin’s face is getting red and I can see him double up his fist looking for the right time to throw a punch. But he still isn’t sure if he wants to be the one to start it.
Someone yells from the crowd, “You already took his girl Marvin…now take his teeth.” I swear it’s Leroy’s voice.
“You know city boy, you probably should go on back home and take your tramp with you before you end up getting hurt.” I tell him.
Marvin replies with another spatter of spit, only this time aimed right at my chest. I give him a little shove, surprised at how easy it was to knock him back a step. Marvin steps forward and takes a swing at me. I side step it fairly easily and we walk circles around each other a few times…sizing each other up. Jimmie and some of the other guys are yelling at me to knock his head off. So I take a swing at him, not really wanting to hurt him but just letting him know I mean business.
Marvin is a hell of a lot faster than I realize and ducks it easily then pops me one in my right eye. It hurts like hell and I know the swelling is going to come soon. I really misread him. The next few blows don’t really make much contact but then I see his left drop a little and I plant one on his ear. That makes him step back a little and I can see that it’s blood red. I charge him and land a couple of good hits. One bloodies his nose and another busts his upper lip. I start feeling pretty proud of myself and I give him a couple more jabs thinking he’ll back down. That’s when I see his right hand coming.
It’s headed straight for my jaw. Everything is moving in slow motion. I watch it coming at me, my mind is telling my body to get the hell out of the way but my body is saying…screw you. I feel my head snap back and my legs are having trouble keeping me upright. I can feel the blood running down my face and taste it in my mouth. A few seconds seem eternal before my vision starts to clear. I think he’s in shock that he hit me so hard because he’s not pressing me, so I take advantage of it. I go after him again and I can feel a few of my jabs have some effect. Then my right hand connects to his chin and I have him down on his knees, staring up at me through two swelling eyes. I step back a little and spit blood off the side of the bridge into the water below. I’m thinking how nice it would be to jump in and let the water cover me with its coolness.
Marvin regains his footing and we circle each other again. I throw a few more punches but they have nothing to them. Suddenly, Marvin drops his guard and I prime my arm for the kill shot. But I don’t want to deliver it and I think he knows it so he drops both hands to his sides and he’s just standing there. I’m listening to the jeers coming from the crowd. I see a little quiver run through his entire body and he shakes his head slightly. He lifts his hand toward me. I realize that I want nothing to do with the whole damn thing anymore either so I take it.
I stare at him, as he walks back to his car and gets in on the passenger side. Beth closes the door and runs around to get in on the driver’s side. Her ass swinging in her tight skirt and tits heaving in her blouse. I can tell, she’s about to cry and I can’ help but wonder if anybody really won. Maybe it makes no difference but I think I’m going to miss her.