Author: Rocky Rutherford
Hey, young fella, how you doing? What ya doing up so early? Set down, take a
load off. Just got off the bus, huh? Don't believe I know you, you just passing
through? Well, I can see you ain't like me. I talk too much.
Gonna be another hot one. Well, I tell you what. If I get on your nerves with
all my mouthing you just tell me to shut up, okay?
Boy, you sure remind me of someone I aught to know. You sure you didn't grow
up here? No? Okay. Who do you remind me of? Well, let's see, let me , think. Yep
now it's coming back. Yep. You remind me of a towheaded kid that growed up here.
A strange one he was. Yeah, that is funny, ain't it? At least you can laugh,
more than I can say for a lot of folks. My name's Zote. Zote Hanner. Born here,
raised here, spent all my life here except for the time I spent in the Big War.
Overseas. Putting old Hitler in his place.
You see all these factories or what used to be factories? Betcha at one time
I worked in everyone of them. Nothing but gutted hulks now. Everything's gone
overseas. Oh, yeah, sorry. Who do you remind me of? The strange kid? By strange
I don't mean nothing bad. What'd you say your name was? Yep, that's right you
didn't say did you?
Let me see, son. Yeah, let me look into your face, your eyes. Yep, it's the
eyes. You remind me of a kid growed up here had eyes like yours, not hazel, not
blue and green, not touched with this color or that. But green.
Bright green. Funny? I like the way you laugh. Say you want to hear about
him, huh? Well, it might help pass the time while you wait for the next bus.
Back after WW Two this was a booming little town, the Furniture City of the
South they called it. Made all kinds of living room, dining room and bedroom
furniture. Shipped it all over the world. We had twenty factories going night
Everybody had a job, times was good. I can remember getting fired from
Plant A, living room furniture one day and getting hired the next day at Plant
B, Bed room. I was kind of rambunctious back in my day.
Well, I was working at Plant A and after work on Friday which was payday we'd
all head down to the VFW which was above Sink's Grocery and shoot pool, drink
beer and piss away our money. Just having a good time. About 8 or 9 the smokers
started and the gambling was heavy. Oh, smokers was boxing matches. Mostly local
boys but sometimes a boy came from High Point or Charlotte because the pot was
pretty good. But mostly it was the best entertainment we had. Something ain't
it? Nothing to do but watch men beat the shit out of each other.
And it didn't matter how old you was or how much you weighed. You made your
challenge and crawled into a roped off area we called a ring.
Everybody had to crowd around close because it was so smoky you couldn't
We had a real good local fighter, a colored boy named Donnie Jay Skeen who
took on all comers and won. He made me a lot of spending money. I always put my
money on him. He wasn't a big man, middleweight I'd say, but he could hit as
hard as a man twice his size. And he could throw a single punch that would
flatten most men. He worked with us at Plant A knocking up furniture. So he had
good arms and was always in shape.
You couldn't tell his age but he'd served in the Navy during the Big War.
Sorry, I guess I'd better get back to who you remind me of.
We's all getting pissy assed drunk one payday night waiting for the smoker to
start. Donnie Jay was having a beer with us, not worrying about anybody they'd
put up against him.
"I'll knock his ase out real quick and we can git back to what
counts...dranking," Donny Jay says. And that's exactly what he did to the first
five that went up against him. Knocked they asses flat out cold. Along about
midnight, seeing there was nobody else left to whup, me and Duggan Daniel and
Donnie Jay decided we head on down to the river to drink all night and fish, if
we found the time. Tucker, the barkeep, was sacking us up a bunch of longnecks,
when the joint went silent as Sunday school.
A lone figure stood in the middle of the room and you could see him
silhouetted against the juke box lights. When he turned to look at us, even in
the dimness, you could you could see his eyes, like I said but need to add: a
penetrating bright green. He was stripped to the waist, boxing gloves hanging on
his hands like balloons. You could tell he wasn't a man, he was a boy.
Tucker yelled at him to get out there wasn't nobody under twenty one
"I come to fight," said the boy laconically (the only college educated word I
"Boy, get the hell out of here," yelled Tucker.
"I come to fight," said the boy again. And the first thing I noticed is
nobody laughed. Bud Crowley's coughing was all I heard. Tucker started around
the end of the bar but stopped when the boy said "Here's my five dollar entry
fee." He had it rolled up in his right hand glove. He stepped over and dumped it
on the bar. Tucker looked away. Everybody looked away. They couldn't take what
those bright green eyes had to give. Hell, that kid couldn't have been thirteen
or fourteen. But he stopped everybody in their tracks and they listened. Donnie
Ray, standing beside me, swallowed and stared back at the kid. God, I thought to
myself, Donnie Ray will kill him.
But knowing what a kind soul Donnie Ray was, I figured he'd just lay a love
tap on the boy just enough to shut those glaring green eyes and it'd be
I mean by now there ain't a sound. Even Old Hank on the jukebox quit moaning
the blues. The boy watched Tucker swipe the five bucks off the bar then strode
right over and crawled through the ropes. When he turned and look back at us all
gaggled around the bar, all we made out was his eyes.
Tucker looked at Donnie Ray who looked at me and I shrugged. Nothing says a
boy couldn't fight in the smokers. I whispered in Donnie Ray's ear and he just
kind of smiled, not making fun, meaning he'd not hurt the boy.
Yeah, it's kinda funny ain't it? But I wouldn't laugh too hard yet.
Our smokers lasted three rounds. Anymore than that and the law would get
after us for being professionals and making money. As long as we kept it amateur
and nobody got killed they'd leave us alone. Tucker, the bar keep acted as the
ref because he'd had fighting experience as a Marine on Iwo Jima. Also, for the
fact the was the biggest and meanest son of bitch around. He liked to make a big
deal out of introducing the fighters.
After he introduced Donnie Ray, who always got a big applause, he turned to
the kid and said "And in this corner...What's your name, kid?"
"Alvie Tennyson," replied the kid, and I swear his green eyes shone like
headlights through the fog.
"Alvie Tennyson," bellowed Tucker. Nobody applauded.
"Where you from, kid?"
"Around," said the kid which pissed Tucker who probably thought smart ass you
gonna get your comupance now. Then Tucker went over and said something in Donnie
Ray's ear and I'm guessing he's telling him not to hurt the boy. Anyway, Donnie
nodded yes. Tucker had appointed Scoop Toston as time keeper and bell man who
then whacked a big glass beer mug and the fight started.
Now, mister, what did you say your name was? That's right you didn't and you
got that right. Damn sure ain't my style to poke where I ain't wanted.
Well, son, whatever your name is, you sure remind me of that boy. Can't no
two people in the world have such bright green eyes. Yeah, that's funny ain't
From the way Donnie Ray danced right up in the kid's face you could tell he
wanted to end it real quick. He fired off his haymaker right hand but in low
throttle, just enough, he figured to put the kid down for the count. But the kid
wasn't there and Donnie Ray went flying into the ropes with the kid behind him
shuffling in a slow circle in the middle of the ring, his right fist cocked by
his right ear, his left straight out. Donnie came straight at him again but this
time trying to jab his way in. The kid moved like a ghost, never got hit, his
left pecking away on Donnie's face. When the beer mug sounded to end the first
round, the kid shuffled to his corner and stood his back to the mob. I was
acting as Donnie's corner man and when he sat down on the stool his lower lip
was split and bleeding. The second round went the same way and when my man sat
down his eyes were bleeding too.
By the middle of the third round Donnie had bounced a couple of weak shots
off the kid's head which did nothing to stop the ghost in his face. In the last
minute the kid suddenly planted himself, set his large feet and was throwing
straight rights that whistled between Donnie's gloves, squashing his nose flat
against his face. Three straight shots and Donnie's knees buckled; he looked at
me for help which I couldn't give then sank to his knees. Tucker counted him out
as he slumped there, eyes closed, nose busted, lips split. Tucker made a big
show by raising the kid's hand who snatched it away and went helped Donnie Ray
back to his corner. The kid takes off his gloves and goes and stands by the cash
register on the bar waiting for Tucker to pay him off. Now, if I know Old
Tucker, he's going to try to cheat the kid. Yep, sure enough he tries. He puts
two fives, one ten and five ones on the bar and turns away.
"You owe me five more," says the kid with the bright green eyes. Tucker turns
on him as he usually did as like a bull, all full of bluster and fuming, but he
stops dead and stares at the kid's eyes, turns sharply bangs the register and
counts out the kid five ones.
And you know, the thing I remember most about the fight? There was no racket,
no yelling and hollering and snorting like drunks usually do. That kid had 'em
all eating out of his hand. He scoops up his money, walks to the door with every
eye on him, pauses, and says: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Out the door. Gone. The VFW ain't never been that quiet even when it wasn't open
Now, son, that's who you remind me off. I guess it's the way you moved when I
saw you get off the bus, how you drifted through the station, how you move
without sound or flourish. And like I said, ain't now two people in this world
can have the same kind of green eyes.
Yeah, it's nice meeting you. Yessir, you just walk on up that street and
you'll be in town in few blocks. You got to go right past Plant A on your left.
Maybe you'll have time to visit the old VFW where they had the fight.
What'd you say your name was?