Heavy Bag

written by
Samuel Ligon


























Billy leans into the heavy bag with his shoulder, holding it for me as I punch hell out of the bad guyís ribs, the sting spiderwebbing through the thin gloves out over my knuckles. Billy grunts with each powerful, almighty, mid-section blow I deliver. "Kill him," he says, grunts: "Kill him again." I land one on the outside of my fist, twisting my wrist a little. Billy lets the bag swing free as I take off the gloves and throw them down on the boards of his back porch, the heavy bag creaking on its chain. "Letís get another drink," he says.

In the kitchen Billy pours bourbon and Cokes in big plastic cups. Weíre out of ice. The table top is sticky from earlier spills. We hear Dan halfway down the driveway, his loud, drunken laughter joined by at least two womenís. Billy pulls the curtain aside so we can see them walk up the back steps. Itís Stacey, Danís little nightmare, and two others.

Billy looks at me and raises an eyebrow over his thick glasses. "Goddamn," he says. They canít be more than twenty.

Dan hits the heavy bag once, nearly knocking himself over, then theyíre all in the kitchen.

"Hello, boys," Dan says.

Stacey says, "Hi Billy. Hi Stack. Whereís Lee?"

"Hi Stacey," we say, and I say, "Sheís working," hating her for mentioning my wifeís name, but fixed on the other two. Itís the one in the short skirt I want. Sheís just a little sleazy in her textured tube top and teased-up dirty blond hair, but sheís got a beautiful face, sculpted and tan, hard dark eyes. She smiles at me, and I swear to God, my heart feels likes itís going to explode.

"Oh," Stacey says, "this is Sharon and Kristy."

Billy and I smile. We both want Kristy, of course. Sharon might be a great person, a fucking genius for all I know, but Kristyís something altogether different, animal-sure of her power to attract.

"Whereís the beer?" Dan says, his head stuck in the refrigerator.

"Weíre out," Billy says. "Youíll have to go to the store."

Dan nearly loses his balance as he turns to face the table. "Out?" he says, "I just bought a case."

"Thatís the way it is," Billy says. "Get ice, too."

"Daniel," Stacey says in her shrill crowís voice, "you have mustard all over your shirt."

Dan pulls his tee shirt away from his body trying to find the offensive stain.

"Slob," Stacey says.

"Whereís the fucking beer?" Dan says, and Billy says, "I told you, weíre out."

Sharon, the perfectly acceptable but unsexy friend says, "Stacey, can I use the bathroom?" and Kristy says, "Me too."

"Come on," Stacey says, "itís upstairs."

When we hear their steps on the stairs, Billy says, "Whoís Kristy?"

Danís still looking for the stain on his shirt. "I donít know," he says. "Friend of Staceyís. Work."

Billy looks at me soberly, seriously. "Did you see the ass on her?"

I nod.

"Looks like she wanted Stack," Dan says. "Young enough to be your sister."

"What is he talking about?" Billy asks me.

"Is there no beer in this house?"

Billy rolls his eyes.

"None," I say.

"Where have you guys been, anyway?"

"Palace," Dan says. "Happy hour. Sheís got tits too."

"Will you listen to him?" Billy says.

"Youíve been drinking since happy hour?"

"Happy hour." Danís head floats over his shoulders as he examines the bottle of bourbon at the counter. "This stuff any good?"

"No," Billy says, "itís awful. Besides, we need ice. Come on, youíve only got fifteen minutes."

"All right already." Dan walks back to the staircase and yells up to Stacey that heís going to get beer.

"Daniel," she shrieks down, "I think youíve had quite enough."

Dan seems to study the floor, his head still swimming. "Fuck it," he says. "Who does she think she is, my mother?"

"Yes, Dan," Billy says. "Sheís your mother all over again."

"Fuck it," Dan says, slamming the screen door behind him. We watch him through the window as he bumps into the heavy bag and curses. He turns and hits it once, then recoils, shaking his hand and wincing. We laugh.

Sitting on the porch steps, Billy tells the story of the girl upstairs at Spring Street who came down one night for a light and stayed for six hours, teasing. Iíve heard this story many times and never get tired of it. She wanted to dance for them. Honest to God, she started taking off her clothes. They were all drunk and a little bit high and she was down to her underwear and even let them touch her for a few minutes before she freaked and ran out of the place. Billy still has her bra. Iíve seen it.

The womenís laughter bursts out from the living room, Staceyís strident cackle over all.

Weíre quiet for awhile savoring the story, then I say, "Sometimes I go crazy from wanting all these women I see."

Billy pushes the bag.

"And it just gets worse when youíre married."

"Bullshit," he says. "Youíve got everything."

"Hey, you guys," Stacey calls from the kitchen, "why isnít Daniel back?"

"Heíll be back," Billy says.

"Well, can we have a drink, or something?"

"Itís on the counter."

"I donít know how to make it."

Billy rolls his eyes. I follow him into the house. While he makes the drinks I go into the little room between the kitchen and the living room and put on a Sinatra album. It started as a joke a few years back but now we almost always play it at this time of Friday night. I stick my head into the living room and ask Sharon and Kristy if the musicís too loud, and they shake their heads. Kristy smiles, and says, "I love Frank," nothing necessarily sexy about that, but itís the way she says it that gets to me, like sheís really saying something else, something filthy. My hands start shaking. Sheís still smiling at me. "Wanna dance?" I say, and she says, "Sure," and walks toward me.

I am somebody else, Frank, himself, possibly. I have never done anything like this. I donít know how to dance. My arm is around her and her hand is in my hand and weíre shuffling around the floor, Frank singing about flying to the moon, and sheís pressed up against me, the smell of her hair and perfume creating a place I want to be forever. She rubs her face against my neck and settles in closer. Itís a mating dance, Iím thinking, two fit individuals of the species preparing to fulfill their biological destinies.

I am falling deeply in love as Frankís voice demands that I use my mentality, that I wake up to reality.

Donít you know you fool, he exhorts, you never can win, but the thing is it feels like I am winning. As we turn, I see Billy over her shoulder, standing in the doorway with a drink in each hand, watching.

"Just doing a little dancing," I scream over the music.

Kristy twists around to see who Iím screaming at and then the song ends. I smile at her. "Thanks," I say. "I think your drinkís ready." She smiles back. "Thank you," she says. As we disengage, her hand lingers on mine. She gives a little squeeze and I squeeze back, and then sheís walking toward Billy and the drinks. I turn the music down and walk back to the porch.

"Did Stacey see that?" I say.

"I donít think so." We sit on the steps. "But youíd better be careful."

"See what?" Dan says from halfway down the driveway.

We turn and watch him make his way toward us, bent crooked under the weight of the beer and the ice and his drunk. "Nothing," Billy says. "How much booze I put in the drinks."

"Oh." He sets the beer and ice at our feet. "You want one?" he says.

"Get that ice in here, Daniel," Stacey shrieks through the window, "before it melts."

"Yes, dear," Dan says.

"Coming, Mummy," Billy says, and Stacey says, "Shut up, Billy."

Dan walks between us. "Back in a minute," he says, but Billy and I know theyíll go up to his room and start fighting.

"You wanna hit the bag?" I ask Billy.

"Nah," he says, standing. "Letís go in. I kind of like that Sharon, you know?"

He stops by the door and I nearly run into him. "Hey," he says, turning to face me. "Is something going to happen, here?"

I shrug.

"Is something happening here?"

I shake my head.

"Iím just saying," he says, "you know, to think about whatís happening."

"Nothingís happened," I say.

Billy holds up his hand, meaning, Enough already. "Iím just saying, okay?"

"All right," I say, and Billy says, "All right then."

I flip the record over while Billy freshens the drinks. I donít care what he thinks. Kristy and Sharon talk in the living room about a cuteguy and Stacey and Dan scream at each other upstairs, a vague rumbling through the floorboards. There is nothing suave or debonair about me, but somehow I stick my head in the living room and say, "Would you ladies care to hear a little more Frank?" and Kristy says, "Love to." I donít even feel idiotic.

When I walk in, Kristy fixes her eyes on mine. We remain locked like that as I walk over to her couch and sit right next to her. "How you doing," I say, and she smiles: "How you doing."

"Good," I say. "Great." What the hell, itís not a lie.

Billy walks in with four drinks and passes them around.

"Are you a boxer?" Sharon asks him.

Billy laughs. "No," he says. "Thatís an old roommateís bag. We just like to hit it."

Frankís telling us about when he was seventeen and how very good that year was.

Billy sits on the other couch with Sharon and they whisper a little under the music. They laugh. His hand brushes her knee. Hers brushes his arm. Itís as if theyíve known each other for years. Only better.

Kristy and I sip our drinks. "So, are you a student?" I say.

"Part-time," Kristy says. "I work with Stacey at the Hammer."

Frankís bragging about all the blue-blooded babes he fucked when he was thirty-five.

"That must be interesting."

"Not really," she says. "Wanna dance?"

"Sure." I offer her my hand and lead her into the little room where the stereo is. I have no idea who I am, but Iím giddy as hell. She leans into me and we dance. Frank thinks of his life as vintage wine from fine old kegs. The skin of her back over the tube top is warm and flawless. I run my hand over the glacial smoothness.

She breathes against my neck, hair teased up but soft brushing my cheek. I feel like Iím thirteen again, copping my first feel, a heart attack poised to overwhelm me at any minute. The song ends and we continue swaying, leaning against each other, my left hand clasped in her right and my other hand massaging her perfect, tan shoulders.

Frank refers to Chicago as his kind of town. Kristyís hand moves up and down my spine. I rub her lower back, then slide my hand over the flimsy material of the skirt covering her ass, down to the hem, pulling it up a little, as if I do this all the time. I massage her ass between the skirt and her underwear, and she starts pushing herself against my leg.

Frank mentions the Union Stockyards, and we start kissing, just like that, a movie kiss, her eyes a little blurry as she looks up at me looking down at her and then our mouths coming together as they were meant to do and weíre kissing, brushing our lips together, hard and soft, small bites and her Coke-sweetened breath.

In another town fifteen miles away my wife is serving dinner, clearing tables, asking if everythingís all right. Sheíll make over a hundred bucks tonight and Iíll spend most of it. But Iím not thinking much about what a pig I am, what a bastard, how I could never find another woman as good as her, as loving and kind and compassionate, because Iím exploring the inside of Kristyís mouth, her lips, and now working my hand under the elastic waistband of her underwear so I can feel the real live skin of her ass, and sheís rubbing up against me, her hand on my ass as well, pulling, coaxing, demanding more pressure from me.

I am fully outside of time, immortal at this moment when the light suddenly goes on and we both jump a little, shocked, caught, separating, practically pushing each other away. Frankís prattling on about the summer wind. I pull myself farther away from her and Billy screams, "We need fresh drinks, you want one?"

"Sure," I say, but as I walk back to the living room to get our cups Iím thinking, What a bastard, What a fucking bastard, Who does he think he is? My father? My conscience?

The album ends as Iím walking back to the kitchen. Loud and clear, maybe half way up the stairway Stacey screeches something about how sheís not going to be cleaning up Danís puke tonight. "Do you hear me, Daniel? Do you hear me?"

"Fuuuuck you," Dan mutters farther up the stairs, and now sheís pounding back toward him. "What did you say? What did you say to me? Daniel, donít you speak to me like that."

I hand Billy the two cups, and he hands me two full ones. Sharon and Kristy are out on the porch. I walk out and hand them the drinks, look into Kristyís face which says she trusts me and that she wants to fuck. This stuff never happened when I was single.

Back in the kitchen, Billy says, "Itís your own fucking life," and I say, "Exactly."

He wipes down the counter with an old gray rag. "Thereís rubbers in my top drawer."

He wonít look at me.

"Iím not encouraging anything," he says. "Iím just saying - donít be doubly stupid."

I follow him out to the porch. Sharonís wearing the heavy bag gloves and rapping the bag. "Here," Billy says, "Iíll hold it for you."

"Is this a piece of metal in here?" she says rubbing one mitt over the palm of the other.

He nods and puts his shoulder to the bag, explaining correct stance.

Kristy stands down the steps on the other side of the bag drinking her drink and swaying a little, watching and waiting. Sharon hits like a girl. I put my hand on her shoulder, moving her aside, as I walk past. Billy still wonít look.

Fuck him.

"Wanna walk?" I ask Kristy.

She nods. Halfway down the dirt driveway, sheís got her hand in my back pocket. My arm reaches around her and I draw her close. We donít talk. "Hang on a second," I say when we reach the street, "Iíll be right back."

And I walk right past Billy again as he holds the bag for Sharon, offering encouragement. They even have to stop as I walk by - I donít care - up to his room and the top drawer of his dresser, Stacey in the next room saying, "You fucking creep, you fucking drunk." I pull out two rubbers and walk back down, around the heavy bag again, making them stop again, Billy not looking at me again, and Kristy still waiting at the end of the dirt driveway.

We lock arms and walk.

Iím half drunk walking down the small town street with a beautiful young woman, six or seven years younger than me. We have identified each other as fit for reproduction, filled with the desire that ensures the continuation of our hopeless species.

"That Daniel really gets drunk," Kristy says, and I say, "Dan."

"Are they always like that? Screaming and fighting?"

I nod.

"And you too?"

"No, not me," I say. She feels like a mannequin against me now. "Itís not like that for me."

The night sounds seem to creep louder, peepers and crickets and whatever else accounts for the buzz.

I pick up the pace, lead her through the gate toward the back of the park where the trees begin. We kiss standing in the warm night air. My hunger starts to return. Hers as well, it seems. I reach a hand under her top to feel her breast. Itís just the newness of it, just that itís different, that I can create a response in her and she in me. Itís difficult to breathe.

She unbuttons my shorts and slides her hand down.

We undress each other and finally fuck in the grass of the park, grunting and sweating and sighing and pushing and rubbing and moaning ourselves into each other - into something else.

When itís over my heart still beats in my ears. Then the crickets come back.

"Will you hand me my drink," she says.

I reach for it and hand it to her.

Lee is vacuuming now, and men come in from the bar side of the joint to hit on her. She smiles and flirts, plays nice with them, but continues moving the chairs so she can vacuum up the crumbs under the tables. She cashes out with the bartender, counts her money, our money, then counts it again.

Kristy and I dress.

I put my arm around her as we walk back toward Billyís place.

She leans against me. Leeís in the car now, driving home with stories of the nightís customers.

I know Iíve killed something for good, but already Iím sliding my hand over Kristyís back, down to her ass again under the skirt. "Iíll give you my number," she says, "huh?"


She pinches my ass.

Billy and Sharon are still on the porch, only now they sit on the steps kissing. They look at us with the same sex-blurred eyes we must be wearing. "We went for a walk," I say.

"Beautiful night," Kristy says, and Sharon says, "Beautiful."

Leeís opening the front door, talking baby talk to the dog. She lets him out and checks the machine for messages. Wired from work, she pours a drink and plans to wait up for me.

I push at the heavy bag and it creaks on its chain nearly hitting Billy and Sharon. "Knock it off," Billy says.

"Did you like hitting it?" I say to Sharon.

"It seems kind of stupid," she says.

I look over at Kristy and want her again. "I gotta go."

"See ya," Billy says.

Kristy walks me to the car. "You got any paper?"

I rifle through the glove compartment and pull out a scrap of paper and a pen. She writes her number down. Then I feel a different kind of crazy when I tell her that I love my wife. "Iím not kidding," I say. "We have a good thing."

She nods a little. "Thatís okay," she says. "Whatever."

"Yeah," I say. "I know."

We kiss again, but itís different now, controlled, polite, domestic. "Call me," she says. I pull out of the driveway away from her and head for home. Lee pours another drink, waiting.

~ Samuel Ligon

~ for more about Sam Ligon, please see his feature page here on ArtSavant ~

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