The club was dark and smoky. There was no action in the ring – it was between rounds. The low hum of conversation at the small tables clustered around the ring was strangely muted.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a slight movement in the far corner of the room. A subtle shifting in his bulk and I noticed him for the first time. Jabba The MAB.
I looked down at the playbill again. Special Surprise Contender. It couldn’t be him. My heart thumped faster, harder as I motioned to the waiter. He strolled over.
“I see Jabba over there. Why is he here? He’s not on the program. He’s not going in tonight, is he? The other opponents were knocked out.” I spoke quickly.
The waiter just shrugged, boredom etched in every movement, every line of his face.
“The thing is, he’s not on the playbill. He’s not supposed to be here.” My voice was rising, I knew, but I couldn’t help it. “I want to see the manager.”
The waiter motioned subtly and two, burly bouncers started for our table.
“No, no, I just need to talk to the manager. You see, I know him. That’s an alias; Jabba the MAB, the Mysterious Abnormal Blob. But I know him. I’ve seen him before.” I was anxious, pleading. If I could just explain.
The bouncer bent low, murmured something in my ear about not having any trouble.
I got angry then. “Who’s in charge here? I want to speak to the manager.” I thumped the table with my fist.
They each put a hand on my shoulder then, starting to raise me from my seat.
“He’s not on the program. He’s not supposed to be here. We’ve seen him before; that’s not his real name.” I was shouting now. “WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?”
I just needed to explain. If I could make them understand that he had already won, he’d already beaten an opponent. He wasn’t supposed to get another chance in the ring. He already took our brother. If they knew who he really was…
It can’t be him goddammitgoddammitGODDAMMIT!
They picked me up bodily, carrying me toward the door. I bucked and twisted, trying to get free, howling like an animal “Noooooooooooo!”
They reached the door and started to push me through. Over one bouncer’s shoulder I caught my sister’s eye for a split second. She smiled sweetly to me from her corner in the ring, her face calm, her eyes full of love and faith.
Then I was outside, the asphalt of the alley rough under my cheek. A single, dim bulb over the club door did nothing to compete with the surprising brilliance of a night sky filled with stars.
I wasn’t screaming now. I looked at the stars and whispered a single prayer; so faint it was not really sound.
“Dear Lord, please no.”