The Last Fight
It was 3am and in a back alley an old fighter boxed against shadows. He threw lefts and rights and spoke in small, crazy admonitions: "I'll get ya's Manny. I'll get ya' Manny Weinberg. That belt you got is mine!"
They knew the fighter at the One Lucky as a harmless old fool, a braggart whose tall tales were fueled by too much cheap booze. Some laughed at him. Others ridiculed and mocked him, teasing him into off balance turns of bent sadness and desperate anger. This bothered 'Beer Mugs' Moran who pretended to pay him no heed. But he never ended the cruelty, even though inside it hurt his heart. Instead the bartender let the man box off his booze in the back alley, throwing his half-made fists against men he saw as big as windmills.
It was the first night of winter. The old fighter felt as tough as a charging bull with giant clouds of steam rising through his flared nostrils. The steam mixed with the alley light, illuminating him in a passion play; as if God were a fight fan, and was blessing one last round shrouded in an old man's mortality.
As much as the fighter felt special at 3am, he forgot about winter's first ice. He danced and slipped sharply, his head cracking against a tin garbage can.
He hit the pavement hard. Out cold he was with both arms encircling his head and his two open palms laying against the icy ground. There was no more crazy talk. No more steam rising from bullish nostrils.
An awakened old dog walked from behind the garbage cans where he slept at night. He hobbled to the fallen fighter and pressed his warm nose against the cold human skin. The stray dog didn't lick the man's face. Nor did he whimper quietly out of sadness or fear. Instead he moved with his hurting hind legs and lay down protectively along the human's chest. He felt the last, quieting beats of a dying fighter's heart. The dog then licked his own lips gently and watched clouds of steam rise into God's waiting air.