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November 3, 2018

42. Second Hand, pt. I

Beau Varney closed his eyes so tight they hurt. I’d give anything to be the best boxer in the world, he thought to himself. And that was that. Two days later he won a clean knockout and later that same night he simply stepped into oncoming traffic, witnesses say. The moon was full and he died instantly. His boxing gloves were packed away and three decades passed.

* * *

Bruno Belcher went to a consignment store to pick up a few second hand items. He picked up a pair of Champion gym shorts and a Nebraska community college tennis shirt with a small hole in armpit. He also bought The Collected Works of Heraclitus edited by some German professor with a sharp name. And finally he lumped in a pair of vintage boxing gloves. They were leather and smooth to touch but hard as a rock. He didn’t try them on or inspect them too much. The total for everything was meager and he walked home content.
Later on he watched television on an old tube set and flipped through Heraclitus, feeling regret for buying something he knew he would never read.

Bruno lived in the basement of his parents suburban home. His floor was polished concrete covered in a tattered rug, cold and hard. The moon was full. But Bruno would never know. Lack of windows kept let light out so it was perpetually one time of day: night. Only cheap and dull filament bulbs periodically lit space. A tattered chair was his only furniture and the television sat on the floor, just off the rug. He looked up to the sky but the low ceiling obstructed any beauty. He closed his eyes and wished something positive for himself. He’d been downtrodden and existed on societal fringes as long as he could remember. I’d give anything to be the best boxer in the world, he thought to himself. The thought seemed to come from nowhere. Bruno has never put on gloves before and only that day had ever seen a pair in person, as he placed them on the cashier’s table.

A paper bag rustled. The bag from the second hand shop. By itself it turned over, spilling his new shirt on the cold concrete. The athletic shorts were in there. And the boxing gloves.

“Hey. Hey kid! Hey!” came a muffled and agitated voice from within the bag. Bruno startled and stood up from the ragged chair. Bruno has been the only human in the basement for nearly six years. Not another soul had ventured down into his shadowy basement crevice.

“Get me outta here!”
“What… who’s there?” Bruno muttered to himself. A weak attempt at sounding authoritative.
“The gloves, kid. I’m the gloves. I won’t bite. Just open the bag!”
Bruno hesitated to put his hand in the bag so he lifted from the bottom and dumped its contents onto the concrete.
“Whew. Finally! Howdy, kid. Name’s Beau,” the gloves said. His clenched fist face opened and closed slightly with the right glove when he spoke. The left gloves rolled over a bit and seemed to look around the basement.
“Who? Um, wait. I bought you today. Wait…” Bruno’s voice trailed off in shock. He fell back down into the nearby chair.
“All good, kid. You’re in good hands now. Heh. Get it? Anyway, listen. You bought me. Sure. Then wished to be the best boxer in the world. So I’m here. But wait, you didn’t tell me your name. Or where we are. This place is a dump!” the right glove said while the left glove looked like it nodded in agreement.
“Right,” Bruno paused a moment to regain some composure. “Well, this is my apartment. Sort of. It’s my parent’s house and I rent the basement. Well, I don’t rent. It’s free. But anyway, my name is Bruno.”
“Oh wow. Geez. Okay kid, well this is going to be a rollercoaster,” the gloves mulled Bruno’s bleak life situation.
“But how are you named Beau? I mean, you are a pair of boxing gloves. Are you one person… are you both Beau, I mean? No offense.”
“Yeah, that’s a legitimate question. No offense taken. I am definitely Beau Varney, former best boxer in the world, now presiding and existing as two, paired boxing gloves, as a single entity. Magical, isn’t it? But I’m here for you, kid. Bruno, did you say it was? I’m here for you, Bruno. You wished me here. Let me show you. Take me and put me on. Both hands. Put me on.”
Bruno hesitated. The thought of putting the living gloves on his own hands sounded grotesque and shuddered him with anxiety. Bruno had never put on boxing gloves. Let alone swing a decent punch.
“C’mon, kid. Let me show you some magic,” Beau said.
Bruno exhaled and nodded. He picked up the gloves almost forgetting the life within them. First the left and then the right. He opened each hand as much as the restricted leather would allow and felt the strength and newness in his hands, up his arms, and across his shoulders.
Beau chimed in, “There you go, kid. Feels good, don’t it?”