Chapters:

Parent Drop

The television explodes with noise as the crowd at the world championships goes wild. Seven-year-old Cassius wanders into the living room, rubbing his eyes, and dragging a stuffed animal in the shape of a monkey. His mother jumps up off the couch with a rushed comment to her husband, who stops their evening entertainment and powers down the screen before his son can see. Cassius’ mother turns the boy around and sends him down the hall away from the living room, swaying her hips, and humming as she conveys her son back to the quiet darkness of his room. A few moments later, she returns and kisses her husband on the forehead. She drops into his lap and reaches out for the television remote. There is a moment of frightened scrabbling when she loses her balance, but then she regains her perch and the television is turned back on and their show continues, albeit at a slightly lower volume. The punch that had been frozen midflight connects with a stubbly pale face. The wiry man connected to the stubbly face crumples under the titanic blow. Blood sprays from the pale man’s face as he hits the stained white floor. A giant of a man with the beard of a Cossack and the muscled body of a bear looms over the man and puts his massive foot on the smaller man’s throat. The smaller man grabs the behemoth foot with both hands and rotates it so that the bigger man lands on his back on the mat with a bang that rattles the cage surrounding the ring. The smaller man wraps himself around the large man’s arm like a snake and tries to wrench it from the socket, but the bigger man gets a grip on the little one’s shoulder and starts to slam him into the ground. Again, and again, the smaller man is pounded into the mat until he finally loses his grip on the larger man’s arm. The bigger man takes this opportunity to grab the small man by the throat and hurl him at the chain link fence. The slight dark-haired man hits the mat and curls into a ball; he rolls into the rubber coated chain links of the cage and bounces off, rolling in a new direction. The big man lumbers to his feet and shakes his head, sweat flies from his bald head and his beard swings back and forth, he takes two steps and kicks the curled man as though he where a football. A loud crunching sound is followed by the clang of the cage as the little man hits the fence and falls on the mat. He makes no effort to move or defend himself as the mountain of tanned muscle strides across the ring and kneels next to him. Two fingers the texture of metal pipe touch the small man’s neck. Finding a pulse, the giant stoops and grabs the unconscious man’s ankles, spinning the man like an Olympic hammer toss, the giant lofts the man into the air and over the cage. Half a second later a wet sounding crunch elicits a single scream from the crowd before it erupts in a euphoric roar. The giant stands in the middle of the ring, his arms raised over his head and his hands displaying a signature salute, fingers curled into a tiger’s paw, his thumbs reaching across to touch his pinkies. The cage begins to slide down into the edges of the ring and a walkway extends out from the edge of the stands. A bald black man in a charcoal grey suit walks out into the ring, he reaches out a hand and the giant grasps it in his. The black man taps a pin in his coat lapel and his voice booms out across the stadium, “That was spectacular! What do you think?” the crowd explodes again, just as loud as before. “Once again Greg ‘The Giant’ Ivanov has shown us how a real champion defends his belt. What will you do now that you have defended your world title for the twelfth time?” Greg leans down to speak to both the announcer and the microphone on his shirt. “I continue training; The Giant is champion, The Giant always champion.” “Thank you, Greg, I can’t wait to see what you do to the next poor sap to climb the mountain. This is Charlie White, and this is goodnight folks.” Charlie takes a bow with The Giant and a theme tune starts. The television is shut off in Cassius’ parent’s living room, and the two adults sleepily shuffle down the hall, hand in hand towards bed. On the way, they both stop to peek in on Cassius. Under chain-link pattern sheets, with a poster of Greg ‘The Giant’ watching over him, the little boy is fast asleep. His parents smile and walk to their room, in here the bare corrugated steel walls of their home show the truth of their existence. These steel homes spread out for miles, surrounding the major fighting arenas, entire cities built on the entertainment of millions. Back in the arena, The Giant steps out of the showers with a towel wrapped around his waist, steam rises from the big man’s skin and water drips from his beard. A young girl, no older than ten is standing on a bench with a towel in one hand and a comb in the other. The Giant sits on the bench and regards the man in military garb standing at attention across from him. “You have come again to ask me to train your special forces, no?” “Yes sir, I am here as an ambassador of the English government, my employers would like you to instruct the SAS in London for the next three weeks, as there will not be another championship fight this month. You will be handsomely recompensed for your time.” The soldier stands still while the girl who was standing on the bench towels dry The Giant’s torso, arms, and head. The girl passes the giant his shirt, a tarp of blood red silk, which he slides on and begins to button up. The girl jumps down off the bench and begins to comb The Giant’s beard. When she is finished, she walks back to a black and gold duffle bag and pulls out a pair of briefs and long black dress pants. She hands them to Greg as he addresses the man in the suit again. “There will be no championship fight for at least four months, if you need me to train your little men I will need two months. And my rate will be discussed with the defense commandant.” The Giant stands, and before he can drop his towel to finish getting dressed the ambassador salutes and hurries out of the change room. The Giant reaches out his hand to the little girl and she passes him a thick leather belt with a replica of the world championship buckle. “Why did you let that man in here while I showered?” Greg asks the little girl, she passes him a pair of large wraparound sunglasses as she answers. The sunglasses have been designed to conceal the bruising that has already started to rise around the giant’s left eye. “I knew your response coupled with your imposing physique would produce the effect you like to have on such men. I also knew that your unperturbed dressing habits would also keep the conversation timely, which you also prefer.” The girl packs the towels and Greg’s trunks into the duffle, then helps her father wrap his hands to hide the bruises and swelling. She then slings the duffle over her shoulder after slipping into a light blue sundress that covers the tank top and shorts underneath. Greg ‘The Giant’ and his daughter step out of the change room and into the press of bodies outside, each with a microphone, camera, or some other recording device. The Giant parts the sea of bodies effortlessly, standing at least a foot taller than anyone in the room; he walks towards the exit and the car waiting outside. As he reaches the car and opens the door, his daughter turns to the crowd of reporters. “My daddy’s The Giant, the greatest fighter to ever live, no one will ever defeat him.” With that, she turns and hops into the car, slamming the door behind her. When the car is out on the street, father and daughter share a knowing glance, Greg extends a fist and his daughter meets it, her little hand about a fourth the size of her father’s. The next morning at four hours after midnight, Cassius’ house is woken by the sound of his father’s alarm clock. Cassius climbs out of bed and tidies his sheets, takes off his pajamas and stuffs them under a pillow, there is a race at school next week and Cassius intends to take first place or die trying. He has already completed five rounds of his room, each marked by a thump on the steel wall by the door, by the time his mother comes to get his for a breakfast of toast, porridge, milk, and a raw egg. After breakfast Cassius’ father leaves for work, he is a cook in the kitchens at the stadium, there is a local area tournament starting tonight so he will not be home until late. After his father has left, Cassius continues his training, his mother helps him count twenty push-ups, twenty sit-ups and thirty laps up and down the longest hallway they can find. After that Cassius’ mother gives her son a hug, then feeds him a protein bar and gives him a bagged lunch. Cassius arrives at school early; he locks his lunch away in his desk then goes out to the yard to wait for the bell. He sits on a bench and watches the other children play on a play structure; a group of older boys walks up quietly behind Cassius and grabs the back of the bench. They all pull at once and pull over the bench; Cassius falls backwards and rolls off the bench. He rolls into a crouching position and the boys circle around him, as Cassius comes to his feet the bell rings and the older boys disperse. During class Cassius can only think about the looks on the faces of the older boys, he knew they would come back, they always did. But his mother’s warnings ran through his mind as well. “Don’t get into fights at school, Cas.” His mother always said, “Not unless you are sure you can win. You never know who might be watching, you are at that age now, people will be looking at you, sizing you up, looking to turn you into a fighter.” After the first block of classes, the students pour out into the yard, this time Cassius leans against a wall, when the group of six boys materializes out of the crowd Cassius is ready. He takes two steps away from the wall, the boys surround Cassius and the biggest one steps forward. As the area around the boys clears a tenser energy permeates the crowd of children. The biggest of the boys leans over Cassius and growls down at him. “A piece of tin can trash like you has no place here, go die in a gutter.” Then the boy punches Cassius in the face. His head snaps back and he feels blood pooling in his nose. Cassius takes a deep breath to call for a teacher, then he sees the camera mounted on the corner of the school building. At that moment everything goes silent, except for the pounding of his heart, after two near deafening concussive beats, Cassius moves instinctively. Cassius exhales through his nose, spraying blood at the boy who punched him, without looking he lashes a kick out at his assailant’s knee. The boy’s knee snaps backwards and he crumples to his good knee. The boy behind Cassius takes a step forward; Cassius slams his elbow into that boy’s throat and he drops to the ground, scrabbling at his throat. Turning his attention back to the first boy, Cassius unleashes a flurry of punches into the boy’s stomach, ending with a single uppercut, rotating his entire body to knock the boy’s head back. When the biggest boy’s head hits the concrete one of the boys on Cassius’ right swings at him, Cassius grabs the boy’s wrist and neck using the larger boy’s momentum to throw the boy at the three on his left knocking them all to the ground. The two remaining boys run at Cassius, as they swing Cassius ducks and rolls throwing both boys off balance, Cassius jumps up behind the two boys and with a handful of hair in each hand Cassius Slams their heads into the concrete, sickening cracks resound through the silent play yard. Cassius climbs to his feet, looks at the camera mounted on the corner of the school, and crosses his wrists under his chin. Cassius walks into the front office and up to the desk, his shoulders barely clearing the top edge. The secretary looks down at Cassius with a smile. “Hi there Cas –“ she stumbles over her own politeness as she sees the blood streaming down Cas’s face. “What happened? Are you okay honey? I’ll call the nurse!” Cassius looks up to the secretary, “I’ll be fine Ms. Demarco. Could you take me to the principal’s office? And can you please get a copy of the last five minutes’ footage from the camera on the North-West corner by the playground?” The secretaries face goes pale and she ushers me into the principal’s office, the principal looks down his long nose at Cas, “What is it now Ms. Demarco? Why are you disrupting my noon time tea with this bloodied child?” “Headmaster sir, there are six boys from the upper classes unconscious or in excessive pain out in the yard.” Cassius says calmly as he takes a seat in front of the headmaster’s desk, he pinches the bridge of his nose and the bleeding stops. The headmaster drops his tea, the cup shatters on the desk and the secretary turns to rush from the room, but she collides with a big man with salt and pepper hair as he walks into the headmaster’s office. “Mister McAlister, how good to see you, I’m glad to see you have everything under control.” he walks in and extends a meaty hand to Cassius “You must be Cassius, I saw your work on my way in, you have skill, great skill and promise. I am Igor Sovolar.” “You were the National Champion until three years ago you retired after dispatching Muhammad Avila.” Cassius shakes Igor’s hand vigorously. “I tried not to kill any of the boys out there, but the second one and last two might be in trouble.” McAlister’s jaw drops “How are you two so okay with this? This boy just beat down four boys, unsolicited no doubt.” At that moment, the secretary rushes back in with a disk in her hand, Igor takes the disk and, producing a mobile disk reader from an inside jacket pocket, slips the small disk into the receptacle on the side. As Igor slides into the second chair in the small office a small screen flickers to life and the footage starts just in time to see the circle start to form around Cassius. With each hit Igor becomes increasingly engrossed in the footage. When Cassius drops the largest of the boys, a slight smirk flashes across Igor’s face; and when Cassius salutes the camera, he almost smiles. “Where did you learn to fight, boy?” Igor rises from his chair and tosses the disk to headmaster McAlister. “You will find he never struck unprovoked. Send the boy home and I will be in touch with his family.” Igor walks out of the office and the headmaster pointed at the door “Out!” he screams “Out, you little monster!” Cassius leaves the office and retrieves his things from his desk. He strides out through the yard and the students part around him. When Cassius arrives home his mother rushes to the door “why are you home so early baby?” she cups her son’s face in her hands, she instantly sees the flecks of blood under his nose and the slight swelling of his hands. “What happened to you? Did you get in a fight? Did anyone see you fight?” Cassius’s mother hustles him into the kitchen and grabs ice packs out of the freezer; she puts one on the back of each of his hands and a damp towel full of ice on his face. Cassius knocks the ice pack off his face and looks at his mother, “The fight was caught on tape, and a man said he would be coming by later today.” Cassius’ mother spins around her jaw drops and so does the cup of water she is holding. Cas looks up with a smile, “I won.” Cas’s mother kisses him so hard on the nose it starts leaking blood again and he cries out, then she rushes for the phone. She dials the arena and asks her husband to come home. An hour later Cassius’ father comes home with a big man with salt and pepper hair. Cassius’ father hugs his wife and introduces her to Igor, and then they go and sit on the couch in the living room. Cassius walks into the living room and his mother immediately scoops him up into her lap. Igor introduces himself and asks to use the family’s television, Cas’s parents agree and Igor plugs in his mobile disk reader, the television comes to life with the footage from the schoolyard camera. “Your son got in a fight at school today; this is footage from a camera in the school yard.” Igor plays the footage, pointing out how every time Cassius so much as touches any of the other boys, they had swung at him first. Igor stops the video after the boy who hit Cassius goes down “Did you see that? That was the move used by The Giant in his second most recent championship defense.” Igor resumes the video, and then stops it again just as Cassius stands up after knocking out the final two boys, “that is a variation on the winning move of last week’s National championship fight. Your son is showing real talent and great promise, but he will need more than just talent and ferocity if he’s going to become a world champion. I would like to train him to be that world champion.” Cassius’ parents look at one another in shock, as Igor continues, “Of course you would be given credit and compensation.” Cassius’s father stands up and takes his wife’s hand “Can we have a few moments to think about this?” he asks, Igor tells them he will be back in the morning for their answer. After Igor has left the home, Cassius’ parents retreat to their room and close the door. While his parents are talking in their room, Cassius is in his room packing, by the time his parents emerge from their room Cassius has all his treasures packed into a backpack under his bed. The rest of the night goes by in a tense silence until the end of the evening meal when Cassius’ father makes an announcement, “Cassius, your mother and I have decided to let you go with Igor and train to fight, you will be leaving with him tomorrow morning after breakfast. I have to go back to work for the match tonight, but we will see each other tomorrow morning, your mother and I are so proud of you.” As his father finishes his statement, Cassius jumps to his feet and hugs both his parents, shouts a thank you and runs for his room. Climbing onto his headboard Cassius carefully pulls down his poster of Greg ‘The Giant’ and rolls it up. The next morning Igor and a man in a suit arrive at Cassius’ home, the man in the suit passes Cassius’ parents a heavy envelope then picks up the backpack Cassius had packed the night before. When the man in the suit has left Cassius’ parents open the envelope and sign the papers within, then they pass them to Igor, who gives them a second envelope, then he extends his hand to Cassius, who hugs his parents one last time, before walking out the door with Igor. Once Cassius has left, his parents open the envelope Igor gave them, inside is a banker’s note for one million dollars.