ation, I reminded Manuel Duran, ”You said if I brought a woman…. ” I added. ”She qualifies, don you think? ” He nodded and stepped aside.

Contrasting with the bright lights and noise of the exhibition hall, the small dressing room was dark and quiet. The sounds of training fighters vanished: The clang of heavy free weights, the whoosh of jump-ropes cutting through the air and clicking rhythmically against the concrete floor, the grunts and groans accompanying thrown punches and the smack of gloved hands against human flesh, or heavy leather bags.

Sweat and liniment lingered in the still air. One dim light with a dark green metal shade hung from the ceiling, providing just enough illumination to get around. Stretched out on a seven-foot-long flat table was the thirty-year-old, Billy the Kid. Other than the white, modesty towel draped over his hindquarters, the well-chiseled champion wore nothing. A Chinese gentleman kneaded Billys massive hamstrings, while Bruno Bautista, Billys trainer, rested on a metal chair in the corner, sipping a can of diet soda. Lying on his rock-hard stomach, Billy appeared as lifeless as a stiff in the morgue. His face turned away from the door, his arms lay against his sides. His hands, which reached just beyond the point on his thigh where the white towel stopped, were relaxed and open, rather than tightly clenched into the fists that had earned him millions of pesos.

”Billy, ” Duran spoke softly, ”Champ, you got someone here to see you. ”

Without moving a muscle, Billy replied, ”Billy the Kid, the Champ doesn ever see anybody during his rubdown. Duran, you know that. ”

Manny Duran cast a nervous glance at Myra and said, ”I know you don normally see anybody, Champ, but you want to see this body, trust me. ”

My gaze shifted from Billy the Kid to Myra Montes, whose owl-like eyes were riveted on Billy; her expression was one of shock or embarrassment.

At last, Billy moved. Without rolling over, he raised his head and turned it towards us. He began to undress Myra with his eyes. That had been inevitable, but I felt bad, anyway. Even in the dim light, I could see her face turning red. The more his eyes moved up and down, the length of her body, the redder her face became. Intending to start the interview and stop the torture, I pressed the record on my cassette player. Prepared to ask my first question, I held the Sony Recorder out in front of me, but Billy beat me to the punch.

”Are you a boxing fan? ” The Champ asked me.

If Billy wanted to ask a few questions, no problem, as long as it helped move things along. ”Sure am, Champ, ” I replied. ”Im Marco Fernando, TV News 717. Followed your career since you won the Gold medal in the Olympics…. ”

Billy interrupted, saying, ”I am not talking to you, Sonny. ” An amused snort came from the corner of the room, where Duran stood.

Determined to take control, I said, ”Weve got a hundred TV stations nationwide and a thousand radio stations nationwide too, waiting to hear what youve got to say…. ”

”Then shut up and listen. ”

”But, what about the interview we were supposed to…. ”

”Don make me get up from this table, kid, I said, shut up and listen, ” he sounded serious.

”I, uh, yes sir. I apologize. ” Like an injured fighter, leaning against the ropes, I fought to regain my wits.

”Alright, ” Billy nodded. ”Now then, young lady, I asked a question. Are you a boxing fan? ” Myra glanced at me, seeming unsure as to whether she should answer, or what to say if she did.

”Go ahead, Myra, ” I encouraged her. ”Answer the Champ. ”

”Well… ” she squeaked. If she had been auditioning for the role of a tiny mouse in an animated film shed have won the part, for sure.

”Well? ” Billy asked again, ”Are you? ”

”Not really, ” Myra admitted. ”I don like violence. ”

Hanging my head in dismay, I hit stop on the recorder and thought, ”Thanks, Myra. If youd said you were a fight fan, we could possibly get this interview back, but no. ”

From the metal chair where he still sat, Billys trainer said, ”Bet she never seen a knockout, Champ. ”

”You know what, Bruno, I bet you
e right. Is that true, little lady? ” Billy asked.

I sensed something fishy going on, but didn know what until Billy got up and let the towel fall to the floor.

”Well, now you have, ” Billy leered. ”Isn that a knockout? ” Billy planted his hands on his hips and stretched way over to his left, from the waist. Then he repeated the motion, towards his right. As he stretched from side to side, something began swinging and swaying, back and forth…like a Pendulum.

Billys exhibition could have been a scene for a sleazy film, The Pit, and the Organic Pendulum, based on Edgar Allan Poes classic horror story. The bizarre sight inspired feelings of awe and inadequacy, conjuring memories of being a young boy at the zoo with a peanut in my little hand, reaching through the metal bars towards the extended trunks of the giant elephants. However, in this case, I didn have a peanut to offer, and I didn want to be anywhere near that trunk. My bosss words earlier that morning about decent exposure flashed into my mind, ”Decent Exposure? ”

As Bruno Bautista, Manuel Duran, the Chinese man, and Billy laughed. I cringed. I was a dead man, for sure. The way Myra looked reminded me of a cartoon where the blood rose in a characters face, resembling a thermometer about to burst. Her eyes threatened to pop out of her skull. She made little choking noises for a moment and then cut loose with a blood-curdling scream. While Billy the Kid and his entourage howled with delight, she wrestled with the locked door, fumbled desperately with the latch, got it open, and ran from the dressing room.

Over the chuckles and snorts, I said, ”Oh, thanks. Thanks very much. ” Pointing towards the opened door, I made sure they knew what they had done. ”I have to work with her, you know. ”

”Maybe not anymore, ” Manuel Duran quipped, generating a new outburst of guffaws.

”Guess who has to drive her back to the station? Shes going to kill me! ” I exclaimed.

”Oooooh, ” Billy shook his head. ”You
e in trouble than Flash Robotic. ” Wiping laughter-induced tears from his eyes, he said, ”I guess I owe you a good interview. ”

A quick glance at my watch showed the time to be twenty-thirty-five. Once again thrusting my trusty Sony towards The Champ, I said, ”Lets do it. ”

During our interview, Billy opened up to me in a way he hadn with any other reporter. Calls came in from everywhere, praising me for eliciting such candid responses from such a tough guy. The interview floored my boss. That Friday, Billy did the same to Flash Robotic, KO him in less than two minutes of the second round. I got promoted to a full-time position on the day shift and received a fat bonus, to boot. Myra got a well-deserved bonus too. After all, Billy never would have seen me if she hadn been such a knockout.

I resumed working as a reporter, knew some beautiful women around, and got hooked on drugs. ”God, I am weak, get easily tempted, its like going round-and-round in circles, trying to be free, ” my heart bleeds inside.

Edward was there to remind me always, extending his time in whatever ways he could give to me.

XXX

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