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The Pain Engine by Franco Raud

I fought God for nine rounds at St. Nicks Arena in 1979. He didn’t fight under the name God. He used the name Billy Sunday, from the Twin Cities. Which I thought was unusual. But I could tell, from the opening sally, that it was God that I was fighting. And that he was going to kill me.

I don’t mean he was the God of Boxing. He wasn’t. He wasn’t that good. His technique is rudimentary. God is your classic slugger fighter. A brawler. He stakes out one section of the canvas and just stands there like a totem pole. Just holds it. Doesn’t dance. Got no footwork. Just lets you come in and when you’re there he lets go with killer haymakers and hooks. Beats your brains in.

I’m an infighter. A swarmer. I’ll get up in there close. To that place a quarter inch from their chest. Where their elbows don’t bend right. The good place. Lay on the jabs and uppercuts. Right in the breadbasket. Then bob and weave out of the way. Get the hell out of there. I got chin. Can take a lot of unkind treatment. Come back again before it starts to hurt.

This is the main difference between God and me.

They used to call me Old Smoke. Some of them did. For a while. They didn’t know.

This works pretty good on sluggers. They don’t know enough to move back where they can hit me. I’ve toppled lots of sluggers. Mexicans and Irish. They love to make good sluggers. Like Maldonado. Or Duqueray. Or God.

When the bell rang he just stood there. King of Shit Mountain. And when I came in swinging, as I do, he put an inch long depression in my skull.

I don’t remember things so good anymore. I get the shakes. Sometime my arm gets antsy. It jumps around, scratching for things. Two times it broke the lamp. I have to pet it with my other arm until it goes back to sleep. Sometimes I smell funny things. I know that the things aren’t there, not in any real way. It smells like I’m at a fish market and the fish have started to go. Or like I was dipped in the juice that’s inside of batteries and I’m turning to liquid. That’s what God did to me. Screwed me all up. I’m turning into water. I know it’s not true. I get scared of drains in floors.

Billy Sunday wore blue satin trunks with a crescent moon on it. I’d never heard of him before that night at Nicky’s. I don’t think anybody ever had. It was a regular prelim. Regular as anything. God has a face like a stone idol that those Pacific Islanders used to carve out of hot lava rocks. They never found those people. Say they just walked into the sea when they were done. Not even any bodies.

He is fat more than muscle but at weight-in we were both of us welterweights. Not that God could not have tipped the scales.

I went in fast. That’s the trick about being a swarmer. The trick is not caring about getting hit. So long as you don’t care, you can get right in there and eat lunch. It takes a lot not to care. But I was always good at that. He got me right off. I had run face first into a furnace door. He just stood there, unmovable. Right cross, repeating. He just walloped me like a tail gunner.

Boxers are all the time getting warned off of hard liquor and women. Anything that saps the strength. I try to stay out of the sun most of the time. It feels like it’s going through me. I think I’m failing to block all the light. I think I make a shadow like a brown bottle on the sidewalk. I am insufficient material.

I was dazed when God smacked me. Just stood there and took it. An inanimate object. Unsure of what else to do.

God was smirking. A roly-poly baby. I hated him. Hated the squint. All the floods he ever pulled. Walking pneumonia. Perils of the sea. Stinging flies. He was pulping me, hollowing me out so there was nothing but the rind. Shell empty of the peanut.

For a long time I was an angry person. Which is a common condition. It wore off later. Most of the way. But not through anything I did in particular. It just wore itself away and left me.

I reared up on my hind legs and let God have it. Gave him a tooth loosener in the balled up fist of his face. He stopped hitting me. Wove back out of range. I could tell that God was surprised. Hadn’t thought there was any sauce in me. You float when it comes on you. It’s like you’re floating.

I survived nine rounds with God. He knocked me down two times. Laid me out. I got up. Once his laces caught me in the brow. I got a brow like a Cro Magnon. It opened me up, mushed up the meat. The cut man put a powder inside it. Coagulated. God was outlined in blood rockets. All those guys he went and ate.

I don’t know if the crowd liked what they saw. If it was enjoyable to them. I couldn’t hear them. Maybe it was empty in there. Hell with them.

I worked the belly real good and knew him then. Not that I ever once had his number. God, being a wet towel. A running nose. A weepy cut. I wore him down. By then the lights were flashing. There is a throb that comes from all electric things that has never entirely stopped. Although I know that that is not technically true. They tell me I have dementia pugilistica now. And I believe them. Like a lot of the greats have. But I’m no great. I’m little people. It comes with headaches.

I won against God. He fell down. I guess they raised my hand but I couldn’t say for sure. Took me to the hospital in a wagon but I couldn’t say which one. Never saw God again. Don’t think that I killed him. Somebody would have told me.

That guy is a sea monster. That fat sluggo. Ever since, I am very sensitive to temperature. It is only too hot or too cold. I am only alive in about three degrees. I tried to make a chart about it once but I lost the piece of paper. It could be anywhere out there now. Wandering around unprotected. I shy away from rain. Don’t like for it to touch me. I know it comes from him. I have to wait in the mouths of garages until it goes away. They think I’m afraid of water, and I am.

I get tired of having a body.

I won on a knock out. God lay flat. Had carpet burns on his round parts. God had a tattoo over his heart. A rose with little bees or something on it. The name Ellie.

I wonder if she lived.

Franco Raud lives in Plume, Delaware. He has previously had a story, “The Pleasing Shapes,” published in Kasma Magazine.