1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 30
“You got gloves and mouth protectors and everything going?”
“Working on gloves. The fighters we’ve got mostly don’t like the big 16 ounce ones. I’ve had someone make up some of the padded 5 ounce martial arts style gloves that leave the fingers free, and some of the fighters have started using them.”
“That include Hans Metzger?”
“Yep. And some of the guys have started using pieces of thick leather for mouth protectors, too. That works okay, but I’d rather have rubber. I keep hearing someone’s bringing rubber in from overseas, but I haven’t been able to chase it down yet. That would be better.”
Todd looked over Byron’s shoulder and waved.
“Gotta go, there’s my cue. Watch the fight — it could be good.”
Simon hadn’t dealt much with ladders in his short life; a one-handed man is at a bit of a disadvantage on one. Of course, a one-handed man is at a bit of a disadvantage everywhere, he thought to himself as he reached for the left pole. A couple of moments later he was standing on the floor of the pit, pleased with himself that he had managed to scramble down the ladder without knocking it over or falling off of it.
He looked up to see two men coming down the ladder at the other end of the pit. One of them began taking off his coat, followed by his shirt, which he handed to the other man.
Hans took off his own coat and folded it over one of the ladder rungs. His shirt went on top of it. His hat he dropped on Simon’s head, grinning as it settled on top of the boy’s ears. Then he dug a couple of leather gloves without fingers out of his coat pockets and tugged them on.
Without the shrouding of his clothing, Hans’ body looked like a solid slab of muscle. His waist wasn’t much narrower than his shoulders, which were wide enough. He smacked his fist into the palm of his other hand a few times, shook his arms, then stood waiting.
“What do I do?” Simon asked. He was nervous about being in the pit itself.
Hans looked over at him and grinned. “Just stand in the corner out of the way and wish me luck. I will take care of the rest of it.”
Just then another man came down the ladder at the other end of the pit and moved to the center. “All right,” he called out, in that distinctive up-time accent. “I’m Todd Pierpoint, and I’m the referee, the fight-master, for this contest. At this end of the pit, we have Hans Metzger.” Scattered cheers broke out. “And at the other end, we have Pieter Sokolovsky.” A couple of cheers and scattered boos. “This fight will be fought under the Markie of Cuiensberry rules . . .” or at least that’s what Simon thought was said. It didn’t make any sense to him. “. . . so there will be no biting, gouging, kicking, or blows below the belt. One infraction gets a warning. The second will stop the fight and give the win to your opponent. Do you understand?” Herr Pierpoint looked to Hans’ opponent first, and received a nod. “Do you understand?” Now he was looking at Hans. Hans nodded.
“Good. This fight will be fought for ten three-minute rounds. The sound of the bell,” he pointed to someone in the crowd and a bell rang, “will start and end the rounds. There will be one minute between the rounds. Now,” Herr Pierpoint looked up at the crowd surrounding the pit, “the fight begins in two minutes.” There was a rush of noise as the crowd members cajoled and argued with each other as they made bets.
Simon looked over at the other fighter. Sokolovsky was taller than Hans. His arms were longer, too. He looked soft, though; there was a bulge around his belly. Hans, by contrast, looked flat and hard. Stark Hans. The other fighter kept moving, picking his feet up and down, swinging his arms. Hans just stood there like a lump, waiting.
The two minutes passed quickly. Herr Pierpoint stepped to the center of the pit. “Are you ready?” The crowd packed around the pit roared as the two fighters nodded. Simon backed into the corner of the pit. “Begin!” Herr Pierpoint pointed up at the crowd and the bell rang.
Hans stepped forward, step, step, step, until he was close to the center of the pit. His opponent came forward at about the same pace. They started circling one another. Hans had his fists up in front of his face, Simon saw, elbows tucked in by his side. Sokolovsky was holding his fists in front of his chest with his elbows stuck out.
Simon started muttering, “Come on, Hans . . . come on, Hans . . .” over and over. The crowd was yelling and screaming.
The other fighter took a swing at Hans, a big wide looping swing of his right fist. Hans ducked the swing, stepped in while the other man was off-balance, and buried his own fist in Sokolovsky’s gut. Then Hans slammed his other hand to the other man’s ear. Sokolovsky was staggered, but manfully made a swing with his other fist. Hans ducked that one as well, then stepped back in to deliver another hammer blow to the gut.
The rest of the first round was like that. Sokolovsky would swing, Hans would evade the blows, then provide a punishing hit or two. By the end of the round, there were red marks and the beginnings of bruises on the body and face of the other fighter, but Hans stood untouched.
The bell rang. Herr Pierpoint stepped in between the two fighters and waved them to opposite ends of the pit. Hans came and stood by Simon.
“So, what do you think so far?” Hans asked.
Simon could barely hear him through the noise of the crowd. He was so excited he was bouncing on his toes. “You’re better. You’re beating him.”