Montage, part two

Posted: May 24, 2013 in Fiction, Test Subject

Leaves crunch underfoot. The occasional motion sensitive light comes on as I pass. Only one barking dog behind the privacy fences tonight. I come to the only open garage in probably the whole city, but I would not mess with Lev. Not for anything. I walk to the yawning maw of the building and look around. A trio of bare lightbulbs lights the unfinished interior of the garage. A heavy bag, wrapped and re-wrapped in duct tape, hangs in one corner. A bench and a stack of dumb-bells sit in the other. An aged and shredded floor mat takes up most of the space in the center. It’s got a few black speckles – old blood. Some of it mine. “Lev,” I call. “You here?” Silence. I don’t cross the threshold. Lev is an old soldier, and surprising him is something of a bad idea. “Lev!” I yell. A bald head with wire frames and two days’ silvery stubble pokes through a side door. I put up fists, imitating a boxer, then I pull out my wallet. His beady eyes light up, and he waves me in. I step into the garage, and Lev disappears for a moment. I drop my stuff by the weight bench and sit down on the mat. I start stretching, despite still being fairly well warmed up.

The old man comes back in a few minutes wearing old tactical fatigues and a tank top. Old habits die hard, they say. He grins and takes off his glasses. We start with the heavy bag. He holds, I punch. He doesn’t speak much American, but demonstration is much more useful in this case anyway. He comes around the bag and corrects my form, but only a couple of times this time. Next, we move to clinches and knee strikes. I clutch the bag, lifting my knees to the height of the average solar plexus. I alternate legs until Lev gestures to stop.

I’m panting by this time. Lev makes a water bottle appear, and I drink. He takes it away when he thinks I’ve had enough. It’s far sooner than I want. He gives a gentle push out onto the center of the mat. I step to the middle, then turn and flex my knees slightly. Hands up and open. Lev comes out to the mat, then very slowly goes through the motion of a right hook. I equally slowly turn his hand away. He shakes his head. We’ve already done this. He settles into a ready stance, gestures for me to come to him. I slowly execute a right hook. He takes my fist, pushes it across his body, then palms my face. The idea is clear. We work like this for several hours.

Finally, Lev gets tired. He signals for a stop, and I pull a wad of cash from my wallet. I hear a clinking of glasses. I turn to find that Lev has produced a bottle of vodka with a wholly Cyrillic label and a pair of shot glasses. “Only one this time, Lev.” The first time, the old soldier had broken out a bottle at the end, and I woke up with my head on my gym bag on his garage floor. That entire day had been hellish. The old man laughed, filling the glasses with the clear liquid. I take one in hand, raise it to meet his.

“Za lyoo-bóf,” Lev says. I grin, and we drink. It burns my tongue, my throat, my stomach. I feel the warmth spread through me. Vile stuff, but I wouldn’t insult my host by refusing. I shoulder my bag. I shake his hand and return the shot glass before heading out into the night. I jog to the nearest bus stop and flop down. There’s no traffic by this time, so I can see the bus from quite a ways. I’m soaked in sweat and the night air has surrendered its warmth, so I’m thoroughly chilled by the time the diesel powered vehicle squeaks to a stop in front of me. I climb aboard and let it take me toward home.

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