The Unlikely Pugilist, Hep Portgoose | Parte Uno
I. H/P Goes Walking Down the Road
Do you see him, leaning on buildings, sneaking through alleys, walking slump-shouldered, eyes gray but fired, past the ten thousand sleepwalkers of the sidewalks, following their breadcrumbs to their cubicles and from their cubicles at regimented hours marked off by Pavlovian work-whistles that no longer blow but nevertheless continue to exert their strange tyranny on the vagaries on what was once a human existence, our hero/protagonist, let us name him, here, in this instance, Hep Portgoose, Hep does not hear the whistle blowing, he leans with his stomach, empty, catching the air like a caravel’s sail, pointing onward and upward across vast oceans of monkeyflesh.
He loves the monkeyflesh he does, even when he avoids the grosser specimens reaching out with sooty hands, crying-wailing for help, relief, love — loving the monkeys is the principle requirement of being a hero/protagonist, and Hep, after many long years of bouncing up and down Yggdrassil, has chosen love to be his torchlight.
Still, the things he’s seen — which pale in comparison to the whispered doings that he’s heard of — whole dark underbellies, full of crawling insects and morlocks, or hardened hearts in gray uniforms ripping babies from pianos and dashing their still soft skulls bloody-open against that same sidewalk he now walks — these stories he has heard, all true, he has taken into himself, like the Holy Redeemer of the Nazarenes takes up the Sins of Man, and cries out the bloody tears while he still hangs, pinned against the Hanging Tree — —- —-
He was not born in those days; rather he is a child to their history; nevertheless, he is as monkeyflesh as the rest of them, and having sat in mathematics courses when just a bairnbabe, has balanced the equations and seen that I equals I, the common identities absolute, the domain is the range, divide by zero, do not pass go.
When was he born and why and to who? None still living know the answers to these questions; Hep Portgoose long since being robbed of both hearth and memory by the inopportune falling of a bindleblow across the forebrain. He woke on the mat of a great boxing ring, stared at by hundreds, a man in a suit glaringly apparently angry, not knowing who he was, learning his name from the stitchings on his shorts.
Truth comes in blows, he thought. When Bodhidharma came from the West …
His eye swollen shut as he limped from the stage, his Manager, Bollo Grimacio, took him aside and began to berate him. Hep, not knowing what else to do, listened attentively.
“If you can’t punch, if you can’t hit,” says Old Bollo, “we’ll put you out to pasture, send you to stud or the glue factory. Put yourself back together again.”
Newly named Hep nodded, and looked up, into the bright lights of the arena, and the slobbering fat faces watching hungrily, their eyes on the sweat-stained floor, their fingers clutching at the thighs of their dates in lemur-fur dresses. He looked across to his opponent, three heads taller than himself, arms the size of oak trees, his pale face soaked in sweat, eyes unfocused. Hep heard the other one moaning softly.
“Go out there,” says Bollo. And Hep walks out, lights from cameras flashing, the other rising too, closing in, Hep moves to the left, the other follows, feints back, comes in, swings — silence for a second —- pain, terrible pain, and a load crash, and the floor is flying up at Hep to add some insult —- Hep is down, he stays down, blood drips from his lip, a tooth falls out of his mouth, his right is swelling shut but he looks down again at the stitching on his shorts, Hep Portgoose it says, Hep Portgoose.
Afterwards, Bollo walks up, looks at the broken sack of man, Hep is newly born maybe, but Bollo had known him for awhile, wasting years of investment, money, time.
“Sad man,” says Bollo, “what good are you now?”