Author: RisanF PM
Ricochet McKnight is Chicago's top teen kickboxer and an amateur fiction writer...then he got his butt kicked, his girlfriend left him, and everyone hated his story. But it ain't over 'til it's over; can Ricochet rise for a rematch?Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 8,306 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 01-16-12 - Published: 10-18-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2856829
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Reid M. Haynes
"You're using passive voice again."
That was the first thing to come out of Camille St. Claire after she finished the manuscript her boyfriend had shown her. Her eyes were dull behind her glasses, regarding the words on the page like they were cancerous growths. She tossed her light blond hair behind her neck with a frown. "A lot of adverbs, too."
Richard McKnight, known as Ricochet to his friends, snorted at this. "C'mon, Cammy," he argued, motioning at the document. "It's all for build-up. Hard-hitting action with every word, so who cares about those little rules?"
"We're talking about a hundred years of narrative convention, Ricochet." Camille tapped the side of her frames. "You can't just turn out whatever you feel like and expect to win over your readership."
"Fuh, you're just like all the other online reviewers." Ricochet took back his manuscript, dusting it off like it was the first draft of the Magna Carta. "This is about me making the most kickass sports story on the net. My personal send-up to all the greatest fighters in history, like Sammo Hung, Benny the Jet, and Rocky Balboa."
"Rocky Balboa is a fictitious character," Camille reminded him, frowning at the Rocky V poster on the wall."
"Image, Cammy, and style," he told her, smiling broadly. "That's what we're goin' for here!"
"Whatever." The slim, statuesque beauty pulled an iPod from her jeans pocket. "I guess you're still going to the exhibition bout at the gym today, huh?" she commented, fiddling with her tangled headphones. "Unless you're stuck on this new pop-writer thing."
"Natch." Ricochet grinned toothily at her. Sauntering over to the punching bag, he dug into it with a series of one-two punches, then swatted it down with a pair of precision kicks. He ran his hand through the blue stripe in his blond bangs, and positioned the half-glasses on his nose. "I'll take 'im down in two!"
Camille refrained from comment, continuing to jam to the music blaring out of her headphones. By the methodical pounding, Ricochet could tell it was We Will Rock You by Queen.
"Gotta kick it, Cammy," Ricochet told her, reaching over for her head and kissing her cheek. "Lock up for me, will ya?"
"Yeah, yeah," she mumbled, a ghost of a smile arriving at her lips.
The teen strode to the door leading out of his workshop, plucking up his satchel on the way. He took the pair of red boxing gloves off the peg on the wall, each festooned with a bright yellow star. Whipping open the door, Ricochet started to head out to the garage, then stopped mid-way through the door frame. Turning around quickly, he thrust a thumb towards his chest for Camille's benefit, grinned, then shut the door.
"Drama queen?" she wondered, her glasses falling off her nose.
The Volkswagen New Beetle scooted down the road like a wind-up toy, making a muted humming noise as it swung though traffic. Ricochet let the large annoying Mac truck and the other road bullies wash off his back as he made his way towards school, his good mood invulnerable. He had gotten the iPod hookup working yesterday, and it was sending a steady stream of Survivor hits through the car's cramped interior. 80s pump-up music always kept him frosty, while psyching him up for the bout ahead.
Ricochet was one of the up-and-coming kickboxers in the downtown Chicago area. With his patented "Fleet Foot Flurry," the young fighter had toppled scores of amateur boxers looking for their way to the top. His qualifying match was in one week, and then he would have his chance to compete in the professional circuits. It was high time for him to mix it up with the big names out there, the ones that really got your blood moving.
His teeth rode over his bottom lip in a crooked grin, and he coasted through the dirty streets like he was riding on air. He knew he was ready; he could feel his spirit lifting in every fight. Ricochet could throw his gloves in the bag right now, because it was all in the bag.
Pulling up to P.S. 114, Ricochet rode past the crumbly campus until he found a parking place between a rusty old van and a Harley belonging to a senior. With his satchel slung over his back, the teen left his gloves behind and climbed out of the car, his eyes roving casually over the punks smoking by the west wall. He always wondered who would be the next to try and steal his beetle; it was his one real extravagance. It was just as well that there hadn't been an incident; they'd find out quickly enough that Ricochet McKnight had a serious affinity for action.
Ricochet walked across the schoolyard, chugging down a Powerade he had procured from his pack. He slipped in and out between the crowd of students with ease, as if participating in a synchronized swimming routine. His eyes darted briefly to the recycling bin for a second, then focused ahead to the front of the school. Without looking, he tossed his empty sports drink to the side, hearing it clatter in the recycling bin a second later.
Pausing by the basketball court, Ricochet found a tall, black teen eating a turkey sandwich, the intoxicating aroma of the special sauce already reaching his nostrils. "Yo, Nathan!" he called out with a wave, strolling over to meet his pal.
"Hey, what kept you up?" the boy responded, glaring at him. "You're supposed to try out my new Strawberry Blitz."
"Sorry, Cammy was bustin' my chops over my new masterpiece," he explained, rubbing the back of his head. "I was trying to get her to do a quick onceover on it, and it ended up being a thriceover."
"That dish needs to be chilled at all times, Ricochet," Nathan pressed on, almost as if he hadn't heard the other boy. "It's probably already messed up in the heat of the car. Three hours work, wasted!"
"Aw heck, it's probably still good." Ricochet shrugged off the complaints with a smile. "Everything you make ends up fine, so don't sweat it so much!"
He meant it. Nathan Branford was shooting for a culinary arts scholarship at the Art Institute in two years, and his dishes were widely regarded as practiced paradise. P.S. 114 had a decent program for home economics, but most of Nathan's real progress came from books and a lot of trial and error. Ricochet thought it was making him a bit particular about things, but he was still cool.
"Hope you're as confident about the stuff you dish out," Nathan chimed cheekily. "You think you can stand the heat of the oven in those preliminary matches?"
"You know the Fleet Foot Flurry can't be beat," the fighter responded, kicking out at the winter air. "With your fruit cake and my fruit punch, we're gonna rock Chicago once we're out of school."
"A real one-two combo from P.S. 114's finest, huh?" A slow-cooked smile smoked Nathan's lips, and he tapped Ricochet's knuckles with his own.
"Hey, wait up, you guys!" a chipper voice broke in from behind.
Nathan's smile vanished, and both he and Ricochet turned to find a black girl with palm tree ponytails approaching them, perhaps a year or so younger than the two. She looked like she had been hoofing it all the way, with her shoes nearly flopping off her feet, and her violin case bouncing on her back. Skidding to a stop, she put her hands on her knees to rest. "Nathan, you totally left me behind again!" she complained, her chipmunk cheeks huffing in the crisp air.
"Man, Keisha, how many times are you gonna show up here embarrassin' me?" Nathan snapped, stalking up to her.
"Mom told me to bring your V8 pronto, and she's not gonna letcha cook dinner tonight if you don't drink it!" the girl piped up, putting her hands on her hips. "She almost got on to me because I keep eating all your sugary stuff! You're making us all fat!" Keisha's eyes widened as she noticed the other boy, and she smiled. "Hey, Ricochet!" she said, giving him a wave.
"Yo, Keisha, what's goin' down?" Ricochet responded in kind, looking her over. "So you got into that ritzy private high school, huh?" he said, noting the school uniform she wore.
She beamed and twirled, causing her pleated skirt to flare out. "I managed to get As in five classes, and they let me in!" Keisha cheered, making a short gesture to present her victory to Ricochet. "I was kinda worried the B I got in Chemistry wasn't gonna be good enough, but they really liked my stuff in Language Arts. I'll be a teenage John Grisham before you know it!" She winked at him.
"Flirting with the best friend again?" Nathan intoned, his voice on the verge of a growl. "Big time crime in brother town over here."
"C'mon, you know he likes me," she insisted, still smiling. "We're all friends here, right?"
Ricochet smirked lightly. He wasn't entirely comfortable with brushing off Keisha's crush in the face of that dimpled smile, even though he had to tell her "no" two years ago when she pushed just a bit too hard. It didn't help that she was as sharp as a tack, with good cheer and a genuinely infectious personality. Being Nathan's younger sister, she was a constant fixture anyway, so he usually treated her affections with a light touch.
"I wish I could wear something other than mary-janes, though," Keisha commented, peering behind her and tapping her toes on the blacktop. "They really hurt my heels."
"Try and see if you can get away with loafers," Ricochet advised her. "These kind of thinktanks don't mind you skimping on the dress code if you're a good student."
"Thanks, Ricochet," she said, grinning at him. "How d'ja figure that?"
"Heh, this mind was sought after for a prep school once," he boasted, tapping the temple with his pointer. "Gotta keep the brain on boxing, though."
"It's bogus, girl," Nathan warned her, waving off his friend. "His parents are just rich."
"He's still real cool," Keisha insisted, cocking her head to the side and causing her hair to shake a bit.
Ricochet turned to her with a grin, but ended up staring past her ponytailed head to catch a commotion in front of the school. Under the awning, just a little left of the double doors leading to the main hall, he could pick out a large football player looming over one of the puny RPG club members. Star receiver Jarrod was currently giving Game Master Stanton the business, corralling the poor freshman with arms perched to either side of the brick wall. The jock's face was close enough to his prey to either chew off his nose, or possibly seduce him.
"That bozo pullin' this junk again?" Nathan groused, absently drinking from the V8 Keisha had given him. "Didn't he already get told off for picking on the mascot?"
"What a jerk!" Keisha cried, a tiny growl in her voice.
A devil-may-care grin wove its way across Ricochet's face. "It's just one more thing to pump me up," he cooed, licking his lips.
"Hey, are you gonna kick his butt?" Keisha smiled hopefully, making a few punching motions.
"Foo, I've worked Jarrod over before without these guys," he replied, knocking his knuckles together. "I'll just give him the eye of the tiger."
"Wow, cool Ricochet!" she burst out.
"It ain't that cool," Nathan disagreed, rolling his eyes and muttering something about a Sly Stallone fanatic.
Ricochet was already cruising over to the action at a steady pace, whistling his favorite Survivor song. He rotated his shoulder blades, and cracked his neck joints in various places. Catching a bit of the drama unfolding between the two, he waited outside their sphere of chaos for a few moments to get the gist of the situation. "And if you didn't keep talking about your +1 magic missile, I wouldn't have to kick your ass!" Jarrod was winding down his tough guy speech, snatching away Stanton's board game.
"You're crushing the box!" the boy whined, struggling to grab it back. "That's a collector's edition, only available through preorder!"
"Just be lucky I'm not crushing your preordered pencil neck," Jarrod mocked menacingly, grabbing the side of the boy's head with his free hand.
Ricochet chose this part to make his entrance. "Hey Jarrod!" he crowed, walking right into the firezone. "Making the rounds on the small and meek again? They'll inherit the earth, you hear?"
Jarrod looked at Ricochet like he was an idiot, his lip twisting to show some gum. Stanton was also staring at him strangely, but had enough good sense to take back his board game as Jarrod's grip loosened. "So what's it to you, McKnight?" Jarrod threw out as his opening retort, whirling around and pushing the fighter.
Ricochet quickly snared Jarrod's arms, twisted them behind his back and causing the jock to grunt in surprise. "But if you're planning on roughing up some freshman, I think you'd better step it up a bit," he whispered in his ear, as Jarod struggled beyond his power.
Ricochet pushed him away like a sack of yesterday's garbage. Jarrod reared like an angry tomcat, but the young fighter was already juking and jiving, putting up his dukes like he was in the heavyweight title bout. "C'mon!" Ricochet's legs carried him around the front of the school; a manic gleam was in his eye. "Show me whatcha got! I got the stuff to give you a good fight!"
By now, a small crowd was starting to form around the three of them, a few students even coming back from inside just for the action. Jarrod watched the gathering students with a nervous eye, as if suddenly realizing he'd have to win a fight with Ricochet to save face. "The hell with this, pal!" he blustered instead, straightening his letter jacket. "I don't need this!"
"No 'ding ding'?" Ricochet quipped, still bouncing from side to side. But his fists were down, signaling that he wasn't going to push the issue.
With an irritated snort, Jarrod made as if to enter the school. Before he left, the jock turned to him one more time. "You think you're top dog, McKnight." Jarrod jabbed a finger out as if he wanted to make a Ricochet kabob. "But one day, somebody's gonna come and knock that smart-ass grin off your face with one punch."
Ricochet just shrugged his shoulders, continuing to smile.
Jarrod huffed one more time, then stormed into the building, stroking over his close-cropped hair with a comb. Ricochet just whistled in the wind, then walked over to talk to Stanton. "Gotta take better care of yourself, freshie," he advised, patting the game box a few times.
"Yeah, thanks Ricochet," Stanton breathed out, straightening his glasses. "This has all the data I wrote up for my monsters and traps."
Out of curiosity, Ricochet took a closer look at the board game. "Hero Quest, huh?" he said. "You should just create a 99-level Wizard with a gatling gun and be done with it."
"I can't." Stanton shook his head. "It'd make him into a Gary Stu."
"Ah, fanfic writers." The older teen nodded in understanding. "I hear ya, I hear ya."
As Stanton went back inside, both Nathan and Keisha approached from the blacktop for the victory party. "That was radical, Ricochet!" Keisha jumped two feet in the air. "You're the best!"
"Thirty seconds, a lazy-eyed stare, and these guys take off like that." Ricochet snapped his fingers. "Remember that when you need to trounce some badass Catholic schoolgirl."
She giggled, and they slapped five.
"Uh, Ricochet, second bell's ringin'." Nathan jerked his thumb towards the intercom. "Go talk to your fangirl later."
Ricochet smiled easily, and tossed a quick look at Keisha. "My literary debut awaits," he told her, raising his eyebrows up and down. Leaving Keisha to ponder this statement, he and Nathan strode into the school as Ricochet pulled out his manuscript and a pen for some last minute corrections.
The Creative Writing elective class was filled mainly with B and A students who spent a lot of time in online writing forums. Nathan had shown up too, though mainly just to smuggle his cookbook under a dust jacket for The Grapes of Wrath and brush up on some recipes. Then, there was Ricochet, who had signed on for the class as soon as his boxing story had come into fruition. Out of all the wannabe Dickens, Rowlings, and Ludlums. Ricochet's writing spirit was the strongest.
After all, he was the guy that was going to bring the boxing ring onto the page. Ricochet would introduce a whole new crowd to his favorite sport. Who'd know how to make a fighting drama better than a real fighter?
"And then, the theme from Rocky starts playing right when the main character walks into the room," he was saying to Nathan, pounding his palm for emphasis. "The Gonna Fly Now theme, not Eye of the Tiger, get it?"
"Uh, theme from Rocky, Ricochet?" Nathan chuckled a bit and smiled nervously. "Don't you need to get rights for that?"
"Remember to add correct comma placement," Keisha reminded Ricochet. "It's really bad when the flow of your dialogue isn't natural."
"What are you still doing here!?" Nathan shouted at the girl peeking in through the window.
"Oh, I just forgot my violin in the parking lot," she laughed. "Why d'ja bring your cookbook into Lit class?"
Nathan glared burning death at his sister, making a slashing motion at his throat. Keisha eeped, and zipped back under the window in a whoosh of ponytails. Ricochet palmed his face and grit his teeth to keep from laughing.
"I'm gonna poison her bundt cake next time I bake one," Nathan decided, trying to bury his nose in the book.
"Just give her one of those spicy Japanese pizzas of yours," Ricochet suggested, his voice light with humor. "Those things knock me right out."
"It's 'okonomiyaki', Ricochet," Nathan corrected, giving him a dull look.
At the sound of the door swinging upon, the two teens turned their heads to find the Language Arts teacher Mr. Matthews easing into the room a few minutes late. The term "mister" was always a bit of a misnomer for many of the students; he had just turned twenty-four, and still had the look of a college graduate, even with his crisp goatee.
"All right kids, we're gonna do a little show-and-tell," he started, tapping his finger briskly on a composition book. "That's means you show us where you are in creative writing, and the rest of us rip into you like a bag of sea-salt bagel chips. Kidding. Maybe." His dry expression did not change at any point during the introduction.
Ricochet just folded his arms behind his head, snickering in spite of himself. He imagined his story wowing the group, who never knew he was as fast with his words as he was with his fists.
Matthews cocked his eyebrow. "You." He pointed toward the desks, picking out Ricochet's smug form from the fifteen students seated in the classroom. "New guy. You look like you wanna throw something at us."
Ricochet's grin widened like a circus clown, and he threw out the 'victory' sign.
Matthews sighed. "Alright," he relented, motioned toward the front of the room. "McKnight, is it? Get up here and toss your cookies."
Ricochet gathered his manuscript, slipped out of his seat, and proceeded to the front of the class as if climbing into the ring. Pulling the paper up to bear, he coughed into his fist for a little buildup, and quickly got down to reading.
What followed was around three minutes of story exposition. It took them to the heart of the Bronx down to the fighting city of Philadelphia, chronicling a young man's quest to become the best. Ricochet even managed to get to the part inspired by the street fight in Rocky V, complete with the sleazy, screaming fight promoter who gets punched in the jaw ("Sue me for what?"). When he was done, he was flush with excitement, ready to receive his just reward.
"It freakin' stinks!" a loud voice broke out among the students, with all the enthusiasm of a angry political activist.
"Huh?" Ricochet's jaw went slack, his posture weakening. He looked between his manuscript and his heckler, wondering how this could have happened.
"Yeah, not very good," a redhead named Karen agreed. "Kinda like some B-movie Rocky ripoff, with a lot of stolen material, especially from the bad Rocky movies."
"The protagonist's personality changes in nearly every scene," a lanky young man spoke up, making a circular motion with his hand. "One minute, he's this towering inferno of rage, the next, he's telling all these bad puns that all the characters laugh at for some reason.
"There's too many run-on sentences," a squirrely-looking girl pointed out. "I lose track of what's happening and where the characters are in the scenes."
"And there ain't enough chicks in it, either!" a blond boy with hair over one eye complained, peering up from his own work, The Slick Limestone Nookie Necromicon. "You could've at least put in a totally hot magical girl with all the weirdness."
The class ceased their criticism to stare at the boy. "Oh c'mon!" Slick protested. "I know you're all anime nerds here! You Sailor Moon weenies!"
"What a loada junk!" Ricochet cried, shaking his fist. "This has action, romance, and a scene where a kickboxer fights the entire Russian army! You're looking at a Grade A novelist here!"
"McKnight, you're a sixteen-year-old teen writer showing off his first work," Matthews droned, unaffected by the teenager's passion. "You need to evaluate your stuff if you don't want your publisher sweeping you under the rug with the dust bunnies."
"I'm just showing it online," the aspiring young artist argued, waving his manuscript at him. "There's a huge audience for action/sports/sci-fi fiction out there!"
"Well, then just ignore someone with a college degree and four published stories," Matthews countered sarcastically. "What the hell do I know? I'm just your teacher."
"Man, harsh," Nathan mumbled under his breath, hiding behind his book.
Some of the class chuckled under their breath. Ricochet bore the teacher's scrutiny for a moment more, then withered away back to his desk. As Matthews continued on with his lecture, the teen slumped down in a heap. "At least I wasn't the guy who brought the freakin' cookbook," he grumbled, a thin streamer of drool oozing out of his mouth and onto the desk.
Next Up- Part 2