Saturday, December 23, 2006

"ROCKY OF KAGNEW STATION" by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"


REFEREE: Rich "OC" O'Conner, BOXERS: Gardiner vs. Hill


HOW WE HATED THEM; HOW THEY HATED US!

Kagnew Station, Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa, of the 1950's was clearly divided between two opposing camps: The Guards and Operations. We hated one another! Why? We didn't know; it's just the way things always were. There was fierce competition in all things: softball, basketball, seating arrangements at the Oasis; even standing in line outside Cathy's.

In time, this competitive spirit, on both sides, began reducing itself to its lowest common denominator - Two Men - champions of the respective combative spirits of the Guards and "The Girls of Operations," as we guards would derisively call them. Each side would have to choose a champion from among their ranks to represent them in a boxing match, to be held at the Oasis, to settle, once and for all, who would become the dominant faction of Kagnew Station - the "Alpha Male Guards" or "The Girls of Operations."

A boxing match had never been held before at Kagnew Station. It just wasn't the way things were done in an elitist branch of the military, such as the Army Security Agency. But, Necessity cannot be denied! A Championship Match had to be staged; there was nothing on heaven or earth that could prevent its inevitable occurrence.

In a process of distillation, both sides began eliminating potential contenders until, at last, each had discovered their Champion in their midst. Ultimately chosen to be Champion for the Guards was John Hill, a Guard who hailed from Mineola, New York. John was an unusually well-physiqued, powerfully built, handsome in a John Derek sort of way, young man of about 19 or 20 years of age. He was affectionately sobriqueted "Jack Palance" and/or "Punchy" by his friends.

"The Girls of Operations" also found their Champion from among their ranks. Little was known about who he was, where he came from, what his fighting abilities were. He was a mystery to everyone. However, it was becoming more and more clear that he was a Ringer as the arrogance and officious attitudes of "The Girls" became even more demonstrative.

They believed they had blindly suckered us into something; that they had outsmarted us. They were drooling at the mouth in anticipation of the humiliating revenge their obviously very experienced Champion would exact upon the Guards. We Guards became very apprehensive. Where was the sense of fairness in this thing? Instead of seeing our Champion as “kicking ass,” we now knew that our Champion was, in fact, the Underdog.

Knowing this, the officers of Kagnew Station were adamant that this Boxing Match between Hill and "Ringer" must not occur. It was against regulations; it violated every code of gentlemanly conduct; this barbarism was not to take place.

But Necessity would not be denied. No amount of resistance would deter either side from the resolution of their Will. John Hill, to his credit, was imperturbable. While all about him his friends were panicking, he remained very calm and self-confident. He seemed to know something we didn't; he knew "John Hill."

Finally, it came to this: the event would be held at the Old Oasis. There was to be no publicity surrounding the fight in order to keep crowds at a minimum. The fewer people that knew about this infraction of military decorum, the better. After endless pleadings, compromises, and assurances, what was so frustratingly awaited, finally arrived:

FIGHT NIGHT AT THE OASIS

Automobiles and Gharry Carts were parked along the streets leading to the Oasis for well over a mile. Lines of people of every ethnicity imaginable, were jockeying for position to get inside the Oasis for the chance to witness the Big Showdown.

Inside, the Ring was set up on the Dance Floor. Every seat was taken; people were jammed packed on the stage, standing on tables; trying anything and everything to gain a viewing advantage. The cigarette and cigar smoke that filled the room was a carcinogenic miasma that only added to the excitement and anticipation that permeated the atmosphere and held all of us firmly in its grip; Guards on one side of the room, everyone else on the other.

Stationed outside was an Eritrean whose function it was to relay progress reports to the hundreds who could not gain entrance to the fight. The Referee, who was also the Announcer, called for calm among the drunken, screaming, profanity-shouting spectators.

After what seemed an eternity, a hush fell over the room as the Ref-Nouncer began to introduce the Fighters. Both looked evenly matched for height and weight, and in extremely good shape for the fight.

First introduced was the Ringer of Operations. The Guards went insane, cursing trilingually in English, Italian, and Eritrean: “Boo!” “Fuck you, you pieces of shit!” Get fucking lost, you fucking pansies!” “Bafongoola!” “Mange cozzo!” “Atti attawa!” “Eat my fucking ass!” Oh, we were creative profanists without peer. We were soldiers, after all.

John Hill was introduced next. The cheers and foot stomping from the Guards must have hit 7.9 on the Richter scale as we drowned out the pathetic “Boo’s” and “Raspberries” of “The Girls.” This went on without lull, hushed only by the Sound of the Bell signaling the start of

ROUND NUMBER ONE

Both fighters charged to the center of the Ring. The Ringer lived up to his name. He had that style and grace that revealed him to be exactly what he was - an experienced well-conditioned boxer. A sharp right jab caught John dead on the nose and snapped his head back. Bloodied, it looked like it might be over for John before it began. His disbelieving, mouth-gaping corner men looked for all the world like they were ready to throw in the towel.

Sensing the “kill” was at hand, “The Girls” were out of control, reeking of Schadenfreude. But John had a heart that was fighting for something none of us could really understand. He was fighting for John, the Inner John; he was not going to be denied his right to be his own man. He was possessed with an indomitable will to go forward, to overcome this adversary that dared to stand before him. This was no longer a Boxing Match; this was a Street Fight of the No Holds Barred kind. We began to see John for who he truly was: “John, the New York Kid!”

The fight quickly degraded into the only real fighting John ever knew - the “Don’t come home, unless you’re either dead or a winner!” kind of fight, that was the “Street Law” imposed by New York fathers on their sons.

Oh, John was a Champion! There was no denying that. How we admired the courage of our Champion.

The unqualified, frantic and confused, Ref-Nouncer had lost control over what was taking place in the Ring, almost from the beginning. The Spectators were hoarse from screaming, encouraging, pleading, praying, many were in tears. After two eternal minutes, two agonizing minutes of bone crushing body blows, blows violating every Rule the Marquis of Queensbury formulated to gentlemanize this barbaric sport of settlement of differences, the Bell mercifully rang, giving us Spectators a brief moment to collapse in our seats, catch our breaths, and lower our heartbeats. The castigating internecine epithets had become silent as we all fearfully, anxiously awaited that most dreaded, terrifying of all sounds, the Ring of the Bell, signaling the start of

ROUND NUMBER TWO


It was horrible; it was wonderful; it was a brutally beautiful ballet of barbarism at its best. Boom! Boom! Boom! There was scarcely a space between the staccato sounds of sharp punches, snapping jabs, rib breaking hooks, jaw smashing uppercuts, head butts, vicious in-fighting, a non-stop exchange reminiscent of the eternal Battle for Dominance that has attended Mankind since the Dawn of Existence.

This was poetry manifest. These were the words that have never been spoken; the words that do not exist to describe the savage essence of what we truly are. Without warning, as quickly as Round Two had begun, the Bell Rang; the fury before us stopped, leaving us in stunned silence, unabashedly in awe at what we had just witnessed.

The Spectators now saw something in each of the Combatants that was ignored before the fight – Heart, Courage, Wills of Iron, the Balls to go out there before One and All and be the Men that others wish they could be, but were not, and never could be. Something new had entered this arena, this Court of Violence. “The Girls of Operations,” those not in the Ring; the Guards, those not in the Ring, were realizing that they shared a common bond they didn’t know existed between them – RESPECT FOR THE HERO!

They all began to look at one another differently; their Collective Consciousness in a higher place. When the Bell sounded for its final knell, they melded into One Voice, One Spectator, cheering, applauding, praising, loving, those ordinary men who rose to greatness before our eyes, as they so courageously, now each seeing themselves in the Other, walked to the Center of the Ring, touched gloves, to begin the

THIRD AND FINAL ROUND


No one who was there that night will ever forget that Glorious Ending. It was pure Pandemonium exacerbated by its confinement to a 16 X 16 foot roped prison. How could they continue taking and giving this extraordinary punishing effort?

Both fighters appeared renewed in spirit. It was obvious that neither one was willing to shrink back one iota. A Win by Decision was not an option. It was Knock Out or be Knocked Out!

Both fighters reached deep inside themselves to find that secret strength that only True Champions possess; that “I Will Not Quit!” “I Will Win No Matter What!” My Last Will Be My Best!” I Will Be Victorious!” kind of Strength. The Spectators were spellbound by the unrelenting violence. They were as birds transfixed hypnotically by the seductive presence of the snake. Who could look away? How we all wanted to look away from this Horrific, Beautiful, Poetic, Macabre, Grand Guignol that was playing before us.

But we were its slaves. Blow after crashing blow, delivered by each fighter to the other, contorted their faces into grotesque masks of Pain. Their last would be their best. They were no longer who they were. They had become something new, something great, something magnificent; they had become more than men in this moment. The dross of mere mortal existence was burned away in the Fire of this most noble of confrontations.

At last, exhausted, spiritual and physical tanks emptied, they collapsed in Brotherly embrace, sharing a mutual respect reserved only for those who have walked the Path of Champions, as

THE ENDING BELL SOUNDED

As we awaited the decision, opinions as to the outcome were as numerous as the numbers of people in attendance. There could only be one decision. IT WAS A DRAW!

But someone did win that fight that night. It was all of us at Kagnew Station. It was no longer “Us” and “Them.” It was now “We!” We became friends; we began to socialize with one another; we shared common interests; we began to really like one another’s company. WE BECAME FRIENDS!

We learned something from our Champions, our representatives of dispute resolution: “It is possible to turn our enemies into friends and to turn our friends into brothers.” Little did we, of the 1950’s era realize, then, that we were setting the stage for a New Kagnew Station that was coming; a wonderful new Kagnew Station, a more civilized Kagnew Station, a Kagnew Station upon which all of us now look back fondly, as an Island of Happy Memories set high among the Clouds in that unforgettable Garden Spot of East Africa.

5 comments:

Dannie Taylor said...

This was an outstanding story. I was very interested from the begining to the end.

It was written as well as any Hollywood writer could write.

Xena said...

Damn JIM!

What a superb story!

Dannie Taylor was correct!

You should be a Hollywood Writer, but put more naked women in your Future Stories!

Respectfully,
Xena

Hank Fey said...

Great story Jim, Never heard tell of that while at Kagnew but you learn something new all the time

Bob Young said...

Geez, that was something. I felt like I was there and part of the frenzied mob just from reading it.

zemed said...

Tesfai-Brilliant work! Zemed