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|
The abandoned hallway reverberated with the footfalls of two students trailing behind on the way to science class. Ricochet and Camille were walking slowly towards the lab; Ricochet in no hurry to mess with unwieldy experiments, and Camille just sticking with him on principle. She wasn't saying much, leaving Ricochet to fill the gaps in the conversation. Currently. he was talking her ear off about his latest ideas, distracting himself from his humiliation in Creative Writing class.
"So my next fight's in about four hours," Ricochet informed her, punching in the air. "I figure I'll get a good image in my head of the guy's smashed face, then use it for the cover of the book."
"Charming," she drolled, looking off distractedly.
"I tried drawing a boxing glove, but it ended up looking like some sort of tomato," he went on, miming pencil drawing with his hand. "Maybe I can do a favor for one of the art students and get an extra hand. What do ya say?"
Camille turned to him in a rush of pale hair. "Ricochet, I think we should break-up," she said, staring him straight in the face.
He stopped mid-step, and did a double take, the hairs on his arm prickling up. "...Huh?" Ricochet burbled, his pupils shrinking within his eye sockets. "What are you talkin' about, Cammy?"
"Yeah, it's the whole different directions thing," she continued, now avoiding his gaze. "Straight from the handbook, I guess."
"You can't be serious!" he gasped, whirling to face her head on. "I mean...seriously!"
"I am," she sighed, her posture slouching as if in defeat.
"Cammy, I just got burned in Creative Writing class!" he cried, his voice rising in volume and intensity. "Don't pull this on me! Not now!"
"Oh, bad timing, huh?" Camile frowned unhappily, peeking at him through her bangs.
The girl put her hands on her hips, and started pacing about the hall like an orator preparing for a speech. "Honestly, you've just gotten weird on me this past year," she told him. "You're all hyper and junk, and writing these strange stories. Are you becoming one of those weird forum dwellers, Ricochet?"
"Why are you throwing all this at me now?" he snapped, bearing down on her with his 5'9' frame. "I mean, where the heck did this junk come from anyway?!"
"I tried to talk to you about this, but you didn't seem interested in anything other than your writing and boxing." Camille met his eyes once again after some brief hesitation. "It's drying up between us. You know that."
She smiled sadly. "I liked the old Ricochet McKnight," she said, putting her hands behind her back. "The guy with eyes of steel, who always ran head-first into everything. But now you treat life like a joke, so it's just sideshow time with you. You're never serious anymore, and I'm starting to feel like your big sister."
"Yo, Cammy," he pleaded with her. "I've always been the same. You know me...don't you?"
"Not really," she said, closing her eyes in resignation.
Ricochet just stood there, and stiffened up like a screw that had been tightened too much. Camille reached out for a second to touch his shoulder, but hesitated when his entire body started shaking. Her eyes stole away from his, and then she turned and walked off on her own towards the science lab, a slight droop in her posture. Then, she disappeared behind the door to the lab, her long hair like a closing curtain to the final act of a beloved Broadway show.
Ricochet was left standing alone in the hallway, with only the muffled sounds of ongoing classes to keep him company. Through the welling tears in his stubborn eyes, he looked over the stack of school books in his arms. He got out his manuscript, the master work that took two weeks to compose, two weeks completely wasted. He then crumpled it into a tight ball, as tight as the emotions squeezed within his chest.
The Bloody Queen downtown gym rocked with every punch from its rising stars, as if the building could barely contain their lust for fighting. Mixed martial artists of various ages and weight classes were scattered around the bags and weights, with a few huddled up at the soda machine, seeing if they could shake out a free Pepsi with a well placed punch. The ring was currently occupied by two adult fighters, with the larger one clearly dominating in the match-up. The cries of pain and despair filled the gym to capacity; only the heartiest of souls could participate in the madness without shedding bitter tears.
Ricochet's eyes smoldered through the smokey hot house of the gym like burning embers. His young face was blanketed by a cloak of darkness cast by the flickering light fixtures, giving him an aura that unsettled even a few of the older fighters. The teen sat by himself on a small bench, idly twisting a damp towel in his grip. A couple of people were looking at him strangely, either with abject fear or an animal desire to take him down.
That was all okay by Ricochet. He hadn't ever really fought in a bad mood before, so he thought it might be good to see what he was capable of it this particular state. And if he happened to make a few wimps fidgety, well then he'd have easy pickings. Fighting was what he was built for, and he'd show them all he was a wrecking machine.
A dumpy, scraggly-haired woman in her late fifties approached him. "McKnight, you're up," she rumbled, thrusting her thumb towards the ring. "Quit with the origami stuff and get out there."
Ricochet looked at the towel in his hands, which he had somehow subconsciously folded into a pattern. But he just shrugged, tossed the towel over to the side, cracked his knuckles twice, and slid his gloves over his bandaged arms.
The woman gave him a quick once-over as the fighter jerked to his feet a little faster than usual. "Kid, you don't look so good," she figured, evaluating him with the look of a wartime nurse. "You wanna think about sitting this one out?"
"It's cool, Boss," he told her, biting down on his mouthpiece like a fortune cookie. "I'm ready for a bloodbath."
She grimaced, putting her hands on her hips. "Real charming, McKnight."
Nora Queens, whom Ricochet always called "Boss", may have looked like an underpaid worker at a laundromat, but there was no one better at mining out a fighter's potential. She had been a champion in the women's kickboxing circuit some thirty years ago, having held onto the title through eleven defenses. A story had been floating about the Bloody Queen regulars that she was even capable of participating in the men's fighting circuit. Regardless of the truth, she had most of the fighters' complete trust, as well as Ricochet's.
"You got a lot of energy today," she assessed, stalking about him. "Don't waste it all on a crummy mood and sloppy blows. Use your head, remember?"
He just looked at her and pumped his fist once.
Ricochet headed for the ring, his eyes wandering about the possible opponents for his match today. "No backing out once you get in the ring, either!" Nora called. "You commit to a fight, and then you see it though like a champion."
"Aren't I always top notch?" he tossed out behind him. "Don't worry about me, Boss."
Climbing into the ring, Ricochet leaned against the post in his corner, resting his arms on the ropes. He shook his shoulders impatiently, feeling his adrenaline rise at the prospect of a rousing fight. Despite his insistence that he could take on stronger opponents, he knew Boss would pair him off with another teenage fighter his own age. Honestly, the last thing he wanted today was to be babied.
This was all before Nora introduced his opponent. Ricochet heard the man approach before he saw him, his footfalls like avalanches on the cold, concrete floor. Lifting the rope with one hand, a living shadow slipped into the ring, his white eyes like a rare Hell snowfall. Ricochet found himself looking upwards at the rival boxer, and felt a pulse of fear in his arteries.
Before Ricochet was a dark-skinned athlete wearing the colors of Kenya, standing at least six feet tall. His chest looked as hard as a breastplate, and his arm muscles seemed to be sculpted from bronze. His chin sported a trim beard, and his eyes were narrow, calculating, and hungry. He was absolutely unbelievable as a young man under eighteen.
Ricochet exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding. He had never seen anyone like this show up in the gym before, and he had been coming here for almost two years. His mind was still a bit hazy when Nora arrived with a small group to watch the match. "Alright, four round amateur bout with Ricochet McKnight vs. Akello Eastender," she announced in a firm voice. "Fighters ready?"
Ricochet gnashed his teeth in a death grin, and felt his fighting spirit rush back. "Eastender, huh?" he growled. pounding his gloves together. "Alright, let's mosey."
Nora kicked a large oil drum to signify a bell ringing. "Keep it clean!"
Ricochet took the initiative with some slippery legwork as he grooved toward his opponent like an extra from Saturday Night Fever. As Eastender put up a defense, Ricochet tested it with some swift jabs designed to smoke out the weak points. Peppering him with a few punches, he moved up to sweeping hooks, his rhythm as exact as a metronome. He then lanced out with a side kick that made the larger fighter back up a bit, inciting Eastender to move onto the attack.
Eastender broke the ice with some strong straight punches, causing Ricochet to bob back and forth in order to avoid them. Ricochet slipped under a few jabs at a hair's breath, countering with a pair of punches that were subsequently blocked. Moving about the ring, Ricochet did his best to keep his opponent on his toes, attacking from all angles. He fell in with a few front kicks, then zipped back on out, trying his upmost to control the flow of combat.
Suddenly, Eastender moved in and caught Ricochet in an opening he had inadvertently left around his midsection, knocking him out of the beat. The titan continued to pound away at Ricochet as the other scrambled with his block. But Eastender wasn't done, as Ricochet found himself being assaulted on all sides by a kaleidoscope of punches that left him seeing all the colors of the Kenya flag. A roundhouse kick broke the air in front of him, with Ricochet just managing to back away from it.
The boy battler coughed a bit, and spat out a wad of blood that had congealed inside his mouth. "O-kay," he declared, spittle flying from between his teeth. "Time to bring on the Fleet Foot Flurry!" Stepping forth, he slid from side to side to confuse Eastender, maneuvering just outside of striking distance. With a deft twist of the knee, Ricochet's leg lanced out towards his opponent for a thunder-bolt thrashing.
But lightning never struck, as Eastender caught his leg and threw it aside, leaving Ricochet staggering around like a broken wind-up toy. Next. a lightning fast straight punch turned his head a full ninety-degrees, causing him to spit out his mouthpiece. Ricochet felt his stomach implode with two solid kicks, then fell to his knees as a solid body blow landed right in the breadbasket. Eastender just grunted, and pounded on Ricochet's skull, sending him to the mat in a heap.
The young fighter's gaze was foggy, the crowd beyond Eastender's shoes flickering in and out of existence. They formed into familiar faces; Camille and Mr. Matthews, frowning at his failure. His muscles felt like silly putty, and he had no more strength to mold them. Before he realized it, the ten-count was over, and he was still on the ground.
"Alright, alright, that's the end of it!" Nora broke into the ring from the sidelines. "K-O in one round. Victory goes to Akello Eastender. Come on, out of the ring, you two."
"Crap!" Ricochet swore, slamming his hand on the mat. His bruises were still throbbing, but his temper was as vibrant as ever. He glared up at his opponent, propping himself up on his elbows.
And Eastender just turned away, like he had just graced a bum with Shakespeare.
Ricochet rushed back up, and dove at Eastender with his arm cocked. In a flash, Nora appeared between him. "Dammit, cut that crap out!" Nora snapped, restraining his arm with a surprisingly strong grip.
"I'll get you!" he cursed out at Eastender, spit flecks spraying out like chemical carpet cleaner. "Get back here!"
"'Don't worry about me' he says," Nora mocked, an ugly scowl on her face. "McKnight, hit the showers. You're nuts today."
"What?!" Ricochet yelled, stomping over to her. "Boss, you...!"
"Hey, now!" she barked, the lines in her face deepening like canyons. "Don't make me ban you from the gym, kid."
Ricochet's stared at Nora for one dangerous moment. With his respect for her barely winning out over his rage, he whirled around and stormed out of the ring. A couple of boxers backed away as he headed towards the exit. He tore open the door with his gloved mitts, and took to the streets, woe be to anyone that got in his way.
The roar of rushing automobiles bounced back and forth between the cramped streets of the Chicago neighborhoods. A thick city haze blanketed the brick apartments and cracked sidewalks, causing some of the country tourists to cough a little as they passed on by. It was still more or less a comfortable part of town, if you had a little street smarts and knew some self defense. The teen fighter currently loitering about didn't feel all that sharp or strong at the moment, though.
Ricochet sat on the stoop of a condemned building once owned by a local artist. He licked absently at drops from the mouth of his Powerade, the lukewarm hint of raspberries soggy on his tongue. His gloves dangled onto the steps from the straps in his hand, and his glasses rested crookedly on his nose. The teen's posture resembled a kid that had been picked last for kickball; a portrait of utter defeat.
Around ten minutes later, Keisha Branford skipped past the apartments with some jump rope. She shone when she caught him sitting on the stoop. "Hi, Ricochet!" she greeted, gathering up the jump rope and walking over to him. "What's up?"
Ricochet snarled, crushing the plastic bottle in his grip. Bolting upwards, he hurled the empty sports drink across the street, and kicked some loose rubble onto the sidewalk. Keisha shrieked, grabbing the sides of her head as the bottle sailed past her. The bottle slammed full-out against the stop sign, the metallic clang warbling around the block and into Ricochet's ears.
The teen froze in place like a modern art statue. Ricochet could feel his mouth muscles straining, stretched into their hideous grimace. Keisha was staring wide-eyed at him, his crazed countenance reflected in her dark eyes. As the girl fought her trembling, he looked down and settled back onto the stoop, straightening his glasses. "...Sorry 'bout that."
"It...it's okay," Keisha attempted, uncurling from her hunch. "You just kinda scared me a little."
Ricochet continued to hang his head, and rubbed his hand across his face as if wiping off imaginary sweat. The girl regarding him for a moment more, than slowly approached the stoop. Smoothing her skirt under her, Keisha sat down beside Ricochet, and rested her hands in her lap. "What's bugging you today?" she asked, scooting a bit closer.
He grinned with irony, propping his chin up on his fist. "Hey Keisha, you ever thought that maybe you weren't as good as you thought you were?" Ricochet ventured, peeking at her through the corner of his eye. "That you spent too much time listening to people say you're all that, and then found out you aren't half that?"
"You're mad at me?" Keisha's face morphed into a frown. "I thought we were cool. I mean, I guess I was cocky about my Language Arts class, but I really don't bother you as much anymore and..."
"No no, you're great." Ricochet cut her off before she got the wrong idea. Relieved at the fresh smile the comment brought to her face, he continued on. "I'm talking about me, as usual. You're lookin' at a Grade A moron, Keisha. All talk and no walk."
He sighed, his eyes loose and unfocused. "Man, today I thought I had it all," Ricochet groused, shaking his head as Keisha looked at him with concern. "I thought if I just had enough guts, I'd be able to clean anyone's clock three ways to Sunday. Turns out that there's some other guys out there with juice too, who can breath in countries that have no freakin' atmosphere. I'm a complete joke compared to them."
"No way, Ricochet!" Keisha protested in shock. "You're not a joke!"
"C'mon." The fighter waved a dismissive hand in her general direction. "I know you have a thing for me, but get real."
"Uh uh, you're totally all that!" she insisted, her forehead furrowing. "Except now, when you're being dumb!"
"What do you call this, then?" he countered, digging through his satchel and coming up with the manuscript.
Ricochet thrust the story at her, and she took it from him with widening eyes. "What is it?" Keisha asked, smoothing over the cracked and wrinkled pages.
"Somethin' that sucks," he bit out, rolling his eyes. "Like the other stuff I can't cut it at."
But Keisha smiled, quickly scanning over the heading. "Whoa, I didn't know you wrote anything, Ricochet," she said, her eyes twinkling. Before Ricochet could say anything else, she was thumbing through the document, mumbling the dialogue to herself and altering her pitch for the various characters. "It's kinda weird," she giggled, putting to her cheek.
"Kinda weird?" he exclaimed, throwing his arms out. "Keisha, this stuff's awful!"
"Oh yeah, it's bad, but it's energetic too," she said, handing it back to him. "Sorta like an episode of Fairly OddParents from Season 7."
"So I'm a cartoon hack." Ricochet snorted, his tongue sticking slightly from his mouth. "Great career ahead of me."
Keisha still smiled nonetheless, and then lifted the straps of her book bag off her shoulders and unzipped it. Rummaging through her books a bit, she grunted slightly as she pulled out a small document from a binder. "Hey, look at this!" she bubbled, handing him the stapled pages.
The wannabe writer took the document from her, the sloppy cursive and childish doodles hitting him with the same syrupy sweetness as a PBS puppet show. "What's this thing?" he asked her.
"It's my first story back when I was a kid," she explained, giving him a wink. "I just keep it around to look at sometimes when I wanna laugh."
With mounting confusion, Ricochet quickly skimmed the story, which was around five pages in total. It was something about a fairy princess that flew around on a rocket ship trying to get to a Boyz to Men concert. There was also a scene where the heroine had to compete in a battle of the bands against a group that had Red Fraggle as the lead singer. All things considered, the teen could not keep the incredulous look from showing on his face.
"Uh...whoa," he started, trying to pick his words carefully, from a vocabulary much more profound than what was on those pages. "This is...er..."
"Yeah, it really stinks!" Keisha finished for him, her cherubic face glowing with mirth. "I did everything I could to hide it from Nathan so he couldn't make fun of me. But I look back on it sometimes, and see a lot of good energy that I can use in my newer works. You just need to keep trying, then you'll get it all together!"
"You think?" He looked back at Keisha's story, trying to reconcile it with the teenage prodigy before him.
"Yeah." She beamed her dimpled smile into his soul like wireless internet data. "You can't really listen to people sayin' you're no good, anyway. Once you write a few stinkers, you'll start to get a lot better. You gotta go for it, Ricochet!"
"Wow, that's really something." Ricochet put his hand to his chin, contemplating this new line of thinking. "Man, Keisha, you know more than Mr. Matthews."
"Told ya!" she teased, playfully bumping him with her elbow. "And you can use that stuff for your boxing too! It works for me when I practice my violin."
Ricochet laughed heartily, clutching his stomach. "You're some super girl, you know that?" he told her, grabbing her by the shoulder. "Thanks a lot, Keisha!" With a broad smile, he leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
Keisha let out a short gasp, and jerked a bit in her seat. Ricochet felt a sudden stab in his gut, and backed away a bit to look at her face, wondering if he had scared her again. Her soft brown cheeks were deepening, her eyelashes fluttering up and down. Keisha's expression seemed to fluctuate between nervousness, curiosity, and sheer delight, all those emotions flashing in her round, onyx eyes.
Ricochet stared transfixed at Keisha, finding her intimidatingly close even though she had not moved an inch. Her bangs and ponytails were dancing with the rushing February wind; she had gotten surprisingly pretty since he had first known her. Ricochet thought deeper about Keisha, the quintessential little sister of his best friend that had been a part of his life for a long time. It seemed Keisha and he had something of their very own now, and as she leaned closer, she didn't seem quite so little anymore.
So with the girl's face a mere three inches from his own, Ricochet leaned in and kissed Keisha on the mouth. With one part hesitance and another part expectance, she relaxed and settled into the kiss. Keisha clumsily kissed back, her hand pressing against his white tank top. They remained still a moment more, and Ricochet could feel her increasing pulse through her shoulder.
When at last they separated, Keisha was dumbfounded, struggling to catch her breath as if she were at the top of Mount Olympus, or at least a small hill in Kenya. "Hee, Ricochet, what..." She halted in her speech, eventually resorting to babbling. "I...umm...ummmm..."
"Nothin' doin'," he said, giving her a self-effacing smile. "You just got it goin' on, that's all."
"You really liked that?" she pressed him, leaning closer as if questioning a witness. "You're not kiddin' with me, Ricochet?"
"Ain't any kid to kid around with," he told her, sincerity lacing his words with a bright red bow. "You're the gal that's there for me, Keisha, so...thanks again."
The girl looked down for a moment with a smile and a deepening of the cheeks that complimented each other perfectly. "Can I see you tomorrow?" Keisha implored, gazing up at him.
"How about we grab a burger at the malt shop?" Ricochet suggested, a loopy smile rolling on his lip as he continued riding this loopy, roller-coaster of events.
Keisha finally broke out her trademarked smile. "Be there!"
With a coy manner about her, she bent forward and hugged him around the neck. Ricochet let his arms wrap around her slowly; once again, he could feel her pumping pulse though her clothes. When they separated, Keisha skipped on over to the sidewalk, tossing him another grin. "See ya later, Ricochet!" she cried, and ran off down the street, her shoes kicking up a trail of dirt behind her.
Ricochet watched her go, his glasses wobbling again on the bridge of his nose. He felt like he had just tied a tractor trailer to his back. Ricochet had just gone from losing just about everything, to dating his best friend's sister, all in the space of a few hours.
You just need to keep trying. Keisha's voice came back to him, along with her electric smile. This one thought sent a jolt through his system, and suddenly his eyes were clear again.
So he was going out with his best friend's sister, losing his fights, and getting dumped on by his ex-girlfriend and his writing class; so what? He may have lost a few rounds,but he was already rarrin' for a rematch with life. Maybe even the best friend sister part would help a little. He had someone in his corner now, someone who'd support him even when things got a little rough.
Ricochet smirked to himself, and straightened the half-glasses on his nose. "Alright, Keisha, we'll take it one step at a time," he told the memory, and jabbed at the air. "This new fight's gettin' some Fleet Foot Flurries!"
The teen kickboxer and future novelist thrust out with a kick, feeling strong enough to climb the Philadelphia Art Museum steps one hundred times in a row.