So Winter blew into town a week or so ago.
I’d heard rumors he was coming.
Heard it through the grapevine.
Not much longer would it be sublime.
I went out one morning to run my hill sprints, and there he was.
Hanging out on the corner.
Had his crew with him, too:
Cold. And Snow. And Wind.
“Hey, Jack,” he said spreading a crocodile grin. “Long time, no see.”
“Not long enough, “ I said.
“Owwww. Now that’s cold, dog,” he gaped with feigned shock. “Ain’t that cold?” he asked Cold.
“That’s cold,” Cold said.
“And he knows cold, Jack,” Winter assured me.
“I got things to do,” I told him. “ Get out of my way.”
He came closer. Whispered quietly toward my ear. His breath stung my cheek.
“You think you’re a real bad man, dontcha, Jack?”
“How about you ditch your girlfriends and you and I can find out?”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Yeah. I thought so.”
“It is what it is, Jack.”
“Yeah. Just get out of my way.”
Winter smiled and bowed, stepped aside, waved an arm with a flourish.
“You run along, Jack. I’ll see ya around.”
“Not if I see you first,” I replied.
This wasn’t exactly my first run-in with these punks.
We’ve danced a bunch of times.
But climbing out of the shower, I had a moment of self-assessment in the mirror.
The guy I saw still looked pretty hard.
But you could read a long story in the weathered face, the eyes, the scars. Been through a war or three, this guy. There’s a little grey in the muzzle. A little thinner on top, a little thicker around the middle...
I started to wonder.
Maybe I’m not as fast as I used to be.
“Knock it off, “ I said out loud.
Easier said than done.
It wasn’t fear exactly.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
But why go after a confrontation you can avoid?
That would be foolish, wouldn’t it?
So avoid it, I did.
Not intentionally. Just very, very coincidentally, see?
I didn’t have to go out and run hills. I did some ropework, hit the bag, this and that. All good stuff. All perfectly reasonable. All inside.
Kept saying maybe I’ll run hills tomorrow.
You know what they say about tomorrow, don’t you?
The truth is, Winter had taken the starch out of my testicles.
I was hiding.
And that really pissed me off.
So this morning I went out to run my hills again.
Winter was still there, waiting for me.
And yes, Cold and Snow and Wind were all there, too.
“Well, Jack,” Winter hailed me. “Where you been, dog? I thought maybe you left town.”
That drew some snickers from the boys.
“Nah,” I said peering casually into his dead, ice-blue eyes. “Just been busy. I like it here. This is my town. And that’s my hill. And you’re in my way. So move it or lose it.”
Winter sauntered over, real close to me, spoke in a conspiratorial hush, eyes darting around, up and down the street as if he were expecting to see the cops coming after him. But the cops don’t even come into this neighborhood.
“Now, Jack,” Winter said putting an arm lightly around my shoulders, “You know I got to keep respect. How am I gonna do that if I let you get all up in my face like that, you feel me?
“Not my fucking problem,” I told him.
“I could make it your problem," he offered.
That actually had some perverse appeal.
Go down in flames with my arms wrapped around him, taking him with me.
Good a way to go as any.
“Do it,” I hissed.
“I said, do it. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“I said make your goddam move, and let’s just see what happens.”
“If you lookin’ for a hard way to die, Jack….?”
“Yeah, yeah yeah. Fuck your canoe,” I said. “Either go for it or shut the fuck up and get out of my way.”
We stared into each other’s eyes.
The eyes are the window to the soul, they say.
I could see he didn’t have one.
Not sure I do, either.
After a while, he blinked a couple of times and diverted his gaze, as if something of great import had suddenly happened up the block.
And I knew he was done.
“Shit, Jack….don’t be like that.” He stuck his hands in his coat pockets and casually cleared a path for me, and his boys followed suit, parting like an arctic Red Sea. “ Now, you don’t gotta go and get all Pulp Fiction on my ass, dog? What’s next? Get outa town by sundown, you fuckin’ clown?”
“Nah. Stay as long as you like,” I told him. “Just stay out of my way.”
He didn’t say anything.
“See you around,” I said and took off at an easy trot.
“Not if I see you first, dog,” He called after me and I could hear him and his boys mumbling and whining, talking shit about me amongst themselves.
But that’s cool.
See, like all victories, I know this one’s only temporary.
What almost all fighters – the good ones and the bad ones – have in common is that they think they still have one more good fight left in them. But they’re wrong. They step into the ring one time too many.
You do that, you go down.
Sooner or later, you go down.
And I happen to know that global warming is a scam.
The smart money is on a new ice age.
By K.O., in the fifth round.