Mike picks me up three hours before the fights and weaves the rust brown Accord through low clouds and light fog on Hwy 132 bearing east. The old county road kills commuters in the double digits every year, and an unbroken train of drivers and cars tailing each other at a distance closer than two lengths must figure this shorter drive is worth the risk. The interior of the car is quiet. He exits at Maze Blvd. and cuts through Modesto’s downtown traffic.
At The Fat Cat we show our driver’s licenses to a big local boy in new jeans in front of the open red door. The sleeves on his un-tucked green buttoned down are rolled up past the elbow and a thick forearm and biceps gleam with the sweat of a worker’s tan as he brings my license closer. He studies my face and then looks back at the card. His left leg and shoulder fill the doorway while he hesitates and then finally steps aside to let us in. He glances at Mike’s ID and then looks back at me. I nod and we walk in.
We walk over a red carpet once plush, now mottled by beer stains and bleached patches. Between the blood, the visible vomit and liquor combinations I can only imagine what that whitewash did obliterate. A man in a black t-shirt and jeans sets up behind the wooden bar on the right.
I feel like I’m the only one who sees the boxing ring, a box that has been built on top of the black-and-white tiled dance floor. I want to dance above that floor. The cocktail tables have been draped with maroon tablecloths and tagged with VIP placards, and moved onto the stage where cover bands usually perform. Ice clinks in a metal wash bin and there is a murmur of muffled conversation drifting from a hallway in the back. The grip of well vodka and gin is thick. I am going to dance on that floor.
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