shadow boxing by abby chicken | Flickr
Jimmy Ward shadowboxed in his bedroom as the morning light seeped through the blinds creating a dense silhouette. His joints were weak but he still had the moves.
“You'll damage the lining,” said his wife, Ruby, appearing at the door. “It's the best suit we could afford and you're bulging at the seams as it is. Hey, what's wrong champ?”
“I don't want to go the market, I hate that place,” he said lowering his arms and crossing them defensively.
“No, Jimmy, have you forgotten already?” Ruby said, fiddling with his blood red tie. “We're going to see the Queen at Buckingham Palace. You're going to be honoured.”
“Oh, oh, yes, I remember now, the Queen.”
“You're worrying me,” Ruby said, staring at Jimmy intently.
“You've got that look on your face, like when you're preparing to fight. Anyway, we're late, we've got to get to the gym first, you’re giving a speech.”
The couple's cab pulled into a side street where kids chased each other on bikes and spat at pigeons as they fluttered about. Nearby, there was a royal blue building with a murky windowpane that allowed no view inside. It was labelled Jimmy's Box Nation but the letter 'Y' was tilted at an angle.
Inside the gym, youths of all ages skipped rope, beat bags and sparred - oblivious to Jimmy and Ruby's presence.
Boz the seventy-two-year-old trainer who had guided Jimmy throughout his whole career was barking orders at some poor kid in the ring. The boy wore a face guard that kept slipping down over his nose and he kept pawing at it.
“Keep your head low, Jeffrey, for chrissakes, you'll never make it if you don't keep your head low.”
Boz caught sight of the couple and he threw his towel into the ring, putting an end to the fight. He drew his visitors into his office.
“So, this is the day, all your hard work has finally paid off,” said Boz, “But I don't get it, shouldn't we be celebrating after the event?”
“That wouldn't work,” said Jimmy
“Other more upmarket parties?”
“Something like that.”
“I think he's just nervous,” said Ruby with a warm smile.
“I'm not nervous,” Jimmy snapped. “The whole things a sham. Look at this place, it's a wreck and all the work I've done for the community, pointless. These kids don't even know who I am. I should have been awarded in my prime, not now when I can't even remember my own name. No one cares what I have achieved or what I have to say. Not now.”
Jimmy's knees buckled and Boz quickly rolled over an office chair and Jimmy collapsed into it.
“What shall we do?” Boz asked, as Jimmy came to his senses.
“Let's skip the speech,” said Ruby, “but we're not going to miss the ceremony for the world, no matter what he says, it means everything to him. Call a cab.”
In the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, women were draped in garish colours with hats in the shape of swans and crabs and the men wore hand-stitched suits with handkerchiefs poking out of their top pockets. Everyone took their seats and finally the Queen entered, accompanied by two Gurkha officers as the national anthem rang out. The Queen was dressed in an intricately embroidered navy-blue dress and pearl earrings.
Ruby whispered in Jimmy's ear, “You see? You wouldn't find people like this in the market.”
“No, I guess not,” Jimmy said.
“You've got that look again,” said Ruby, “what's going on?”
Jimmy became alert after a prolonged pause and said, “Don't forget the good times after this. I'm still the same person.”
Ruby chuckled, “Don't get any big ideas buster, an OBE is nice but you'll always be Jimmy to me.”
“You don't understand...”
“Jimmy, go,” she said, “you've been called.”
Jimmy stood and his suit ripped along his spine, but he couldn't turn back. He walked along the aisle as everyone gossiped and when he reached the Queen, she gave him a stilted smile. Her feet were tiny and her hands shook by her sides. She said, “Hello Mr Ward, I hear you have done a great amount of work for your community, training the youth to box and giving them hope and purpose in the process.”
“Yes,” was the only word he could muster.
“And you were once a fine boxer yourself but you were born in the Caribbean, is that right?”
“I-I, truthfully, I can't remember.”
“That’s fine. Anyway, congratulations, I hope you are very proud of your accomplishments, we certainly are.”
Then, as if a bolt of lightning shocked through his whole body, he pulled back his hand over his shoulder and unleashed his fist at the Queen with a strike so ferocious, it carried the full force of those enslaved and murdered by the ruling elite throughout the centuries, and the forgotten nations across the globe still reeling from the brutal injustice symbolised by the little old lady standing before him. The Queen hit the red carpet like a sack of sand and blood spurted from a cut above her eye. She groaned but she took the blow. She clambered to her feet as if she was trying to beat the count. She was tough. Her guards took Jimmy down, pinning him to the floor.
He didn't resist, he didn’t even flinch. All he could hear was his heart beating. “I have no future,” he said, “but I remember now.”
Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in over sixty journals including Bourbon Penn, Spank the Carp, Thrice Fiction, Misery Tourism, South Broadway Ghost Society, Oddville Press, Lowestoft Chronicle, Mad Swirl, Menacing Hedge and The Fiction Pool.