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Sample of “Knuckles or Not”


On Sept. 22, 1927, Jack Dempsey fought Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship of the world in front of 105,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldiers Field. Dempsey appeared to have the fight won when he sent Tunney to the mat in the seventh round, but the referee’s infamous long count allowed the defending heavyweight champ to regain his composure and defeat Dempsey in the eighth. In the nights leading up to the bout, parties barked across the Windy City until dawn. One certain party was particularly extravagant and lasted for days. The host was Al Capone, ‘Snorky’ to his friends, whose right-hand man was ‘The Camel’ – Murray Humphreys. Fortunes were won and lost, careers begun and ended because of the infamous ‘long count’ boxing match.

Four years later…

The punch landed fully on the nose, a supernova of blood, spittle and sweat exploding in sanguine fireworks under the smoky lights …

Rory snapped erect in bed, his slick hands grappling each other, feeling for wounds. Sweat flicked from his fingertips as he pawed in a panic for the bedside lamp. Kicking the sheets to the floor, he searched futilely for blood, for cuts, for something. He couldn’t breathe.

A scream erupted from the second bedroom. Technically, it was a walk-in closet with a small bed squeezed inside. But to Rory's son, whose mind carried him from his home with every waking dream, the coat closet felt like a master suite. It was all the room someone could ask for if one never knew possessions. At times the closet felt too big, too far away from his father, like when the recurring dream snuck into their sleep.

Rory leapt from his bed, running.

“Da!” The voice called from the closet. “Oo OK? Da!”

“Aye here,” Rory said, air finally returning to his lungs. “Everyt’ing’ll be OK.”

Rory sat on his son's bed, hugging him, trying to soothe the fear. He saw in his son’s face the frozen look of fear that he knew he, too, felt but had to hide. Rory needed to be strong for his son. But the dream's feeling of reality was terrying. It's recurrence unnerving. And the fact that both he and his son had the same dream at the same time, again, had Rory's hands shaking, fearing something he couldn't name.

“Blood! I saw all da blood, da! Don' hurt men na mah. Please, dah, ya cahnt hurt no mah men.”

“C’mere,” Rory pulled Seamus into his arms. “Tings gone be foine.”

“Blood everywhah,” Seamus cried, his hands shaking like his father’s. “It not roit. Cahnt do it no more! Please! No more, da!”

“Aye know,” Rory said, his hands rubbing up and down, up and down his son’s quivering back. “No mah foits. Aye sweah.”

Nobody was going to call him ‘The Bloody Butcher’ anymore, Rory Flanagan promised himself as he opened his shop. He had promised Seamus, too - "no mah foits" and he had never lied to his son. … MORE>>>