Smackdown On Mauradus-Four
By Jeff Baker
We were a few days short and more than a few dollars short. The ship we’d booked (and paid a lot!) passage on was supposed to go to Mauradus-Three. Instead, we’d been dropped off on Mauradus-Four. This was a vacation so we were partying during the trip and got really bombed at the hotel bar after we arrived and so we didn’t notice our big mistake until we wandered outside the next morning and realized we were on the wrong planet.
Mauradus-Three has a casino on every corner and would offer anybody credit, even for a ticket on a shuttle back to a space station on the main shipping lines. Mauradus-Four reminded me of all the stories I’d read of American mining camps of 300 years ago. They had electricity. They had plumbing. That was about it. No credit, no loans, don’t bother asking.
We were just about broke and definitely stuck.
Then Hank saw something interesting behind a wooden building that was asking outrageous prices for blankets.
“Look at that,” he said, pointing.
The big sign read:
“Earn Big Money!
Stay Three Minutes In The Ring
With The Mauradus Mauler!”
So help me, at the bottom of the sign was an image of a gloved hand pointing.
“What do you think, Paco?” Hank asked. “You boxed in the service.”
“I almost got put in a box in the service!” I said.
“All you gotta do is keep away from the guy for three minutes and we’d have enough money to get out of here!”
There was no other way. We followed the pointing hand and found the fight promoter wearing, so help me, a top hat and a green tuxedo.
“So, ya wanna fight Gustaff?” he said, grinning like a cat who’d just found a wallet full of mice.
“My boy will be ready for your boy,” Hank said. Me, I bit my lower lip and tried not to groan. I signed the papers and the release forms and I didn’t see the Mauradus Mauler.
That evening the ring was surrounded by a paying crowd and I was being given a last minute pep talk in my corner by Hank. I still didn’t see the Mauler. The man I assumed was his trainer was talking to an empty stool in the opposite corner. Was there somebody ant sized on the stool? I squinted and for an instant I could see a blurry, full-sized figure sitting on the stool. Then I blinked and he was gone.
“Hey! He’s invisible!” I shouted. “There’s nobody there but there’s somebody there!”
Hank jumped up and confronted the promoter, telling him what was going on.
“You can’t have an invisible fighter!” Hank yelled. “That’s against every rule in the book.”
“Only if he’s fully invisible,” the promoter said calmly. “You said you could see him.”
“Yeah, but just for a second!”
“So, he’s not fully invisible!” the promoter said. “What Gustaff is, the technical term is Focally Unstable. He’s partly visible in the right kind of light or sometimes if you squint.”
“Hear that?” Hank said. “Keep your eyes shut and you’ll do fine!”
Hank’s smile wasn’t reassuring. I stared at the empty corner.
The bell rang. I was squinting, trying to see the Mauler when I tripped and about fell. I got my balance and was looking around when something slammed into my head. My ears rang, I saw stars and for an instant I saw the Mauler; tall, muscular and aiming another punch at me. I ducked and ran around him, or where I’d last seen him. And when I thought I heard his heavy breathing I ducked and ran again.
Keeping moving was a good strategy until I ran across the ring and collided with the invisible Mauler with a crash. He fell down on top of me. I glanced over at Hank who was squinting, trying to see the Mauler. But I knew where he was; I didn’t need to squint, I could feel him. So, I figured if invisible wasn’t against the rules a knee between his legs wouldn’t be either. I heard a holler of pain and felt him roll off of me.
I stood up and was looking around for any hint of the Mauler when I was suddenly picked up and spun around over the Mauler’s head! I could hear him grunting and hollering and I was screaming as he dropped me out of the ring and I landed on the laps of three people in the front row. Looking up I was nose-to-nose with two elderly, identically dressed twin sisters who were just to the side of my landing area.
About two hours later I found Hank, spending the last of his money in the hotel bar.
“Hank!” I said, rushing in. “Lookit this!”
“Wha? Where’d you get that much money?” Hank said.
“You mean where’d I get more money in a night than we make in a month?” I said. “My new job! Working with the Mauler! The audience loved it! I get tossed out of the ring a few more times and we can buy our own spaceship! Barkeep! Two more rounds and two of the biggest sandwiches you’ve got! Oh, and a salad for me! I’m in training!”
Supposed to be about 500 words or less, but it ballooned to almost 900! The story was too much fun to write!