By New Frank
Click here to listen to the audio version https://youtu.be/lZmO6HhNyCY
I am still fighting with him after round one, and my legs are weak. Bloody face, broken nose, fractured ribs, a sea of people cheers for each knock and bump, I can endure. They cheer me on… when my fist clashes against my opponent’s cheek. I bobbed and raised my head too soon and an oversized man hit me with the force of a thousand lightning bolts, right on my chin.
Falling like a bag of money, he stood over me and I lay there looking up, and he smiled. His three front teeth were gone, and in his eyes, he wanted to destroy my existence. The distant sounds cheering and I could hear the twisted numbers countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7, time slowing down in my mind… 3，2… All I have to do is wait until the number reaches one. If I lay here, my physical pain would stop, even though the pain of being a loser would hurt me for eternity.
Welcome to New Frank Shorts Stories, Mr. Fu gui is looking for a way out of his current profession, he finds a loophole that takes him to an unexpected place, but will he finally find peace… or is this his last round?
In January 1989, in Guangzhou, China. Cold winter morning, a drop of sweat fell on concrete. The sound of muscle-pulling, grunts echoing outside the empty parking lot. Mr. Fu gui, doing one-handed push-ups easily, his biceps are curved into a beautiful sculpture “98, 99, 100.” He stood up, smiled at his progress, took off his coat, and tied it around his waist.
He had a boxer figure, wearing a pair of sweatpants. Mr. Fu gui pulled his hoodie over his head, put on his headphones, and started his morning by running, and he traveled through the impoverished areas of China in Panyu to remind others not to give up their lost dreams. He ran thinking about his life if you have not figured it out. Mr. Fu gui is an underground boxer in China, he fights for cash anytime, anywhere.
Last week he lost his third fight, they called it a T-K-O, which in boxer terms meant (Total-Knock-Out.) Mr. Fu gui did not fail because he wasn’t well trained…the truth is… he was paid to lose. Fu gui always played the odds; tough breaks in life turned him into a gambler, eager for fast money. You may not agree, but this was his way of finding a better life in China.
In Guangzhou China, ways to make money are much more difficult than most people think. His family took most of their income and paid for his tuition. Now plagued with nightmares of how he is going to take care of his elderly parents; this was his traditional responsibility by the Chinese culture. Fu gui pushed a damaged wooden cart filled with sweet oranges for his day job.
He covers most of the city, and sometimes, the police ran him away for trying to make a living. He pulls a cart full of oranges for exercise every day to make his arms stronger. He was a bad businessperson who gave most of his oranges to those less fortunate than himself. The young women of China always made their way over to his area, not for the oranges. Fu gui is tall, easy on the eyes, and looked different from the traditional Chinese men.
His parents work in a local factory in Guangzhou and their wages are very low. They did not want him to have the life of a boxer, their plan for him is to school, get a job, and marry a local girl. Some time ago, he also wanted to show his father how good he was as a boxer, but his father was ashamed, and his mother silently supported him in her own way without showing disrespect to her husband.
Most Chinese have rational dreams only based on business ideas that are guarantee moneymakers. His dream was not rational. On Sunday mornings, he walks out to the old dry field with his grandfather, but he didn’t understand why his grandfather likes this field that nothing ever grows there, Grandfather had an old wooden walking stick; he could hardly keep up with his grandson, they walk slow.
He held on to his shoulder for support. Once at the old dry field, he told Fu gui, “I’m not well… my time on this earth will soon come to an end… and my spirit will go dwell among our great people in China.”
“Don’t cry when I’m gone. Listen! Never sit and cry, wipe your tears and walk at the same time, that way you’re always moving forward.” He added, “Having a dream and following your dreams is waiting for lightning to strike on a clear blue day. People will call you crazy for looking up at the blue sky, but one day… lightning will come, you must keep your eyes open to see it.” After a brief pause, he continues, “It’s easy to wait for lightning when the clouds are dark and grey, but it takes great faith to wait for things others have yet to see…, all this field needs is for someone to show it love.” Fu gui attentively listened to the old man’s words of wisdom, not to miss a bit.
His Grandfather died a month later, when life got him down… he would take walks to this field with the old wooden stick in his left hand, imitating his grandfather. Standing at the old dry field he looks up, and knows his grandfather is cheering him on… he says in Chinese “祖父，要是你不是太忙的话，你能给我送一道闪电下来吗?” (Grandfather, if you are not too busy, can you send me some lightning down?” he laughs and cry at the same time.)
He sits down, crosses his legs, and meditates, looking over the horizon and thinking about the possibility of his city, Guangzhou.
Fu gui comes from a solid foundation of a string of farmers from his hometown that made an honest living; who frowned at his life choices. To “save face,” he told his family that he had given up on the idea, but then he found a way to sneak out at night and practice shadow boxing at the old dry field.
Months passed and Fu gui felt this was the plan for his life, sell oranges, and become a farmer. One day outside the local seven eleven’s market, he told his English Teacher from the United States his worries. The teacher taught him the Bible and one day gave Fu gui traveling money and a ticket to New York, USA.
The Teacher offered him a business visa sponsored by the Boxing Federation. “Never give up on your dreams,” the teacher said. Fu gui smiled and spoke in Chinese, “我知道你是谁……你是闪电，我祖父告诉我，你会来的” (“I know who you are… you’re lightning, my grandfather told me it would come!”)
The teacher did not understand the meaning but agreed with his happiness. Fu gui flew to America. Over the course of a year, his name as a boxer spread throughout New York as a trained balance fighter.
The newspaper called him “Preaching boy,” and the name stuck because he uses Chinese Bible quotes on his opponent before each fight. His popularity has grown, but cash flow remained the same. Mismanagement has robbed him of most of his bonuses. Fu gui trusted the wrong people with his money.
New York is an expensive place to live; small exhibition fights do not pay much. The soft-eyed brown American woman saw one of his battles and gave him a place to stay and save money. She knows very little about the boxing sport, but she gives him stability and support. She became his girlfriend, biggest fan, and took over as his money manager.
Fu gui could now see a profit from his labor. He sent money home and cut newspapers articles about every fight he won. Although his father never said thank you, but deep down he felt that his father was proud of his success. That same year, his girlfriend lost her job and all the pressure was on him, and adding salt to his financial trauma, she is pregnant.
Fu gui, as an Asian America in New York, calculates the odds, has no job, no money, and a new baby’s responsibility. He could not go home with his tail between his legs. His family would laugh, and he would be humiliated or in the Chinese culture “Lose Face.” There was a glimmer of hope on the radio about a boxing contest if anyone can last 12 rounds with Bad Bones Lewis.
A boxer can get $25,000 if they win the purse worth $50,000. The boxer, Bad Bones Lewis, was heavyweight class, stronger and faster, no way Fu gui could win, but he didn’t come this far to lose. He added his name, trained hard, and soon, it was fight night.
Back to the present: a sea of people now cheers for the courage of this mid-size Asian man enduring each knock and bump. His goal was to stay away from him for 12 rounds easier said than done, it was round three, so far so good, Fu gui danced around the ring and it was working.
Bad Bones couldn’t touch him with his hands. The crowd cheered Fu gui, who got cocky and closed his eyes, took a swing, and landed a lucky punch and clashes against his opponent’s face. Fu gui bobbed and raised his head too soon and an oversized fist caught his chin and another hit the side of his body with the force of thousand lightning bolts.
Bloodied face, broken nose, and fractured ribs, Fu gui fell like a bag of money. Bad Bones stood over him and he lay there looking up, and Bad Bones smiled. His front teeth were gone, and he wanted to destroy Fu gui existence. The distant sounds cheered, and Fu gui could hear the twisted numbers countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7, time slowing down in my mind… 3，2…
When Fu gui saw something white on the floor, at that moment, his grandfather’s voice echoed into his mind, “All this field needs is for someone to show it love.” He picked up the white object. He grabbed the ring rope and pulled himself up before the referee could say one. Fighter, Bad Bones, pulled back his arms for the final knockout; Fu gui stretched out his gloves and opened his hand.
Bad Bones stopped in mid-air and saw a small white tooth, and he checked his mouth with his tongue, now he had four teeth missing. Bad Bones looks over at a woman sitting on the front row; she smiles, Bad Bones drops his head and arms and smiles back.
He bowed his head and took the right arm of Fu gui, held it up high, and walked out of the ring. That night, Fu gui won the boxing match by default and collected the $50,000. The papers read later that old Bad Bones Lewis promise his wife that the next time a man knock out a tooth from him, he would retire from boxing, which was the last anyone ever heard of Bad Bones Lewis.
For Fu gui, it was his last round; he was not going to gamble with his family. He took the prize money, his wife, and baby girl. He returned to Guangzhou China, years later in the fall on that old dry field, he stood there holding his daughter’s hand, “lightning strikes across the blue sky.” “What was that?” she asked. Fu gui said, “that’s just your grandpa.” He smiles, slams the old wooden stick into the ground, and walks into the distance to their newly built home.
Message from New Frank…
We are all going 12 rounds with different circumstances but throughout our journey, there is one certainty in life. We all have been punched, kicked, and knocked down with the force of thousand lightning bolts. Your adversary wants to keep you in this position. The good news is you do not have to stay down.
Do not let the clock run out, pull yourself up, and don’t be shy about using the ring ropes to help you stand. Remember, the goal is to stand again after each knockdown.
Find the strength to take back your life from those who won’t value you as a person. Know that you are fighting for a reason that makes sense in your mind; no one else needs to verify that reason. Find your dreams, find yourself, and fight for your life. Thank you for reading or listening to (The Last Round- A Chinese Tale)
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