Friday, November 9, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #12

Max studied his opponent closely as he gradually closed the distance between them. As he entered striking range again he faked a right hook to the head. His opponent responded by bringing his hands up to protect his face, so Max snapped two crisp left jabs to the body before slipping away again.

“Are you going to peck away at me with those sissy jabs all fight,” Cate asked from beside him, “or are you going to be a man and try to knock me out?”

It was Monday afternoon and the two of them had completed their cleaning duties shortly after lunch. A rare rain shower had trapped them inside since then, where they had been reading and writing until Cate had asked him from across the room if he was up for some video game action.

Max had been impressed and quickly agreed. When she suggested that they play a boxing game first, he had had to quash a very strong urge to propose to her on the spot.

“You’re just mad that you can’t break through my iron clad defense,” Max replied while maneuvering his boxer confidently around the digital ring. He had selected Joe Frazier as his fighter while Cate had chosen Lennox Lewis, as any good wannabe-British Canadian girl ought to.

“You fight like a girl,” Cate countered as she threw a wild right that Max easily ducked.

“Hey now, just because I’m beating the pants off you there’s no need to question my masculinity!”

“Ha! You wish you were beating the pants off me!”

Max blinked and looked at her sideways. She had definitely been joking but he thought that he had detected something else in her voice. Before he could give it much thought he realized Cate was not looking back at him. In fact, she was still focused on the TV, her fingers working rapidly over the controller in her hands.

Max snapped back to the game just in time to see Frazier double over from the impact of a left hook to the body. Before he could recover, Lewis followed up with a huge right uppercut that sent him reeling.

“Ow, son of a…” he muttered as he scrambled to reestablish his defense.

“Iron clad me arse!” Cate shouted triumphantly. Sadly, there was no one else around to hear that particular gem.

“Lucky shot,” Max grumbled.

“Shots, actually – there were two,” she pointed out happily. She then added in a more thoughtful tone, “I guess while I’m nit-picking I should also point out that in order for you to be beating the pants off me, I’d have to be wearing pants.”

Max had to struggle to prevent himself from looking at the tanned legs stretched out beside him, on full display thanks to Cate’s brown Columbia shorts. He managed to keep his eyes on the game but Frazier still ended up eating three sharp jabs to the face before Max regained his focus.

“You’re cheating,” he told her matter-of-factly. “Stop cheating.”

“Am I now?” she laughed. “And how do you suppose I’m managing that?”

Yes Max, just how is she doing that?

Bloody hell, he thought. Well there’s no good answer to that, so I might as well go with the truth.

“You’re distracting me from the game,” he said, swallowing the awkward laugh threatening to add itself on to the end of his statement. He kept his eyes firmly on the boxers in front of him.

“What’s wrong? You can’t talk and box at the same time?” She sounded as though she was trying to tease him but Max could sense the conversation ebbing inexorably to a more serious tone. He could feel her eyes on him now as a small bead of sweat formed at the base of his neck, then slowly trickled down between his shoulder blades.

You should ask her “Is it hot in here or is it just you?” the little voice cackled.

Max calmly rummaged around in the back of his head until he found the voice. He then grabbed it by the neck, dragged it out behind the shed and shot it. Twice.

He continued to move Frazier around the ring, trying to buy himself time to figure out what to say next. Lewis had stopped protecting his head again so Frazier moved in to try to end the fight early. As Max wound up for a knockout punch, he realized Lewis had stopped moving completely.

Max held the punch and glanced at Cate. She had let go of the controller and was looking at him with a mixture of concern, confusion and something else.


You talk pretty well for a guy with two bullet holes in him, Max thought darkly.

I’m resilient like that.

“Max?” Cate said gently.

“Sorry, just have a lot going on up here right now,” he replied, putting down his controller to tap his head.

“Care to share?”

Max swallowed hard. He tried to make it silent but, as is always the case when you need it to be quiet – in a library or church, speaking in front of a large crowd – the body rebelled and made sure the gulp was loud enough to rattle the windows.

“Ah, yeah, actually,” Max began carefully.

“Hey kids!” Mossy boomed as he strode into the room.

“Holy – hey big man, didn’t hear you come in,” Max told him. He had jumped at least two feet in the air.

“Hey boss,” Cate said.

Is that disappointment in her voice?

Don’t make me shoot you again, Max threatened silently.

“Did I, um… interrupt? I can come back later,” Mossy offered while doing a remarkable job of ignoring the idle boxers on the TV to his left.

“No,” Max and Cate said together. Max flashed a smile at her then continued on, “You need something?”

“I just wanted to go over some of the books with you Max, my accountant is coming in tomorrow and I just want to be clear on a few things ahead of time.”

“Sure, no problem,” Max replied, standing up. As he left the room with Mossy he turned and gave Cate a quick smile. She returned it, although a bit sadly, he thought to himself as he turned away again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The suspense continues with Max pretty interesting I like it