Punch Bag Love

It had been difficult for James and Tom, both growing up close to their mother who suddenly passed away a few years before, leaving James to look after brother Tom ever since. Dani, James girlfriend, came along into their apartment when James and her started dating and she took a liking to the boys.

They struggled to make ends meet, striving to do their best and keep a roof above their heads. James worked two jobs, back to back and rarely managed to get a moments sleep. Dani worked a full-time job, also going to college to do psychology. She wanted to help more, but James being James always wanted her to live her own dreams as well. As for Tom, well he had high-school, but also worked three paper-routes to make some extra side money for his strange family.

It was what they could have and despite all this, even in the darkest of moments, James always had a smile on his face. That was until a familiar face from their past decided to step back into it.

It was a winter when it happened, cold and frosty as always with a hint of snow every now and again. James kept fit, always wanted to and would fit the gym in when he could, today was one of those days. It was something Dani always wanted him to do in order to control his anger problems, kind of like a personalised management program for anger management.

When he wrapped up his session, laying out his struggles to a punch bag with every hit and letting it transfer from his fits to the bag, he was leaving the gym, an old broken down building which had a big sign saying ‘Bry Boxing Gym,’

As James wandered out, he saw a figure standing across the road. It looked somewhat familiar in it’s form and shape but the brief vision of it didn’t stop him to think who it could be. He continued his journey home, wandering through the old park he’d visit and remembered feeding the ducks with his mother.

It was then he got stopped, that trigger and shudder through his spine as that cold and dark gravily voice uttered words he never wanted to hear again.

“How’s it been son.”

James spun round, fists clenched and teeth held together, grinding at the whites. The pair stood in silence, staring at each other intensely, almost as if the man before him was trying to intimidate him.

“Well, how’s it been.” The man opened his arms wide, hands extending even further. “Come on, what’s it take for a son to give his ol man a hug?”

Fear struck James eyes for the first time in years, but at the same time his blood boiled. His fists became tighter, ready for any sudden movement and reactions.

“You don’t scare me anymore. Not anymore. Stay away, we’ve got nothing to do with you anymore.” James said through his gritted teeth. “Don’t come near us, you here.”

He walked away, angry and having thundering flashes of his past. His father was never really a father figure, treating him like a punch bag through his childhood, he even had the scars to prove it.

The man never followed him, never made any attempt to stop him from leaving and just stood idly by as his son walked into the distance.

That night James kept quiet over dinner with Tom and Dani, they’d always try and make sure they had some kind of sit down meal at night, like a true family, just like their mother used to do when they were younger.

As the days passed so did James’ anger. He made more time at the gym, with his punch bag of course to release all the pain he had built up over the meeting. He cast out all the bad memories, the hitting, punching, alcoholic father steering towards him and Tom ready for another fist fight. The times he’d tell Tom to run to the cupboard, close the door and not come out till he said it was alright.

A few weeks on and all was forgotten of that moment, or what James thought. When he came home late one night, Dani grabbed him, tears rolling down her face in fear.

“It’s Tom. He’s, he’s. Look I don’t know what’s happened he won’t say. It might have been a fight at school, but.”

James rushed to find Tom in his room. Curled up in his bed, hiding tight under the covers.

“Tom, Tom are you alright.”

Drops of tears streamed down his face as his teeth chattered. James could see the fright in his eyes, like the old Tom wasn’t there anymore and he was now an empty shell.

“You can talk to me buddy. What is it, who did this?”

Tom knew he could confie in his brother about anything, he’d always been there through everything so he sat up, put on a brave face and told him the truth.

“I knew you’d be annoyed so I didn’t say anything.” James pulled a strange and curious expression. “I just knew you would. I saw him, after school and, and, We talked.”

“Tom what are you saying?” Anger started building up in James, he felt he knew what Tom was going to say next like he could predict his next words.

“It was him. Our dad, we spent some time after school together. I went to his a few times, everything was fine, he told me he’d changed, everything changed.”

“HE DID THIS. IT WAS ALL HIM.” James raised his voice, clenching his fists.

James went to the car, turned the ignition and drove away as fast as he could. Dani watched from the door but she knew not to intervene. She’d known the stories of James and Tom, their childhood and comforted James when he had his night terrors.

He arrived at a motel, run down and if you drove by you’d think it was closed and empty. Tom had scrolled down a number and motel name not knowing what James was going to do with this information.

He strolled to the door, up the stairs and along the way past 5 other doors before arriving at number 22. It was quiet, the moon was out and all you could hear were the faint sound of crickets and TV’s with the evening news on.

A brief hesitation took place as his knuckles were held before the door. He took a deep breath and instead of knocking, opened the door standing in the doorway.

His father sat slumped over on the bed, bottles spread out on the floor, empty while he still held one. The TV was the only source of light, flashing colours across the walls.

“Well, well, well, how’s bout that hug then for your ol man?” 

James clenched his fist, leaped forward for his father and grabbed him by the neck holding him down. Holding one fist above him he began to pummel his fathers face.

“I told you no. I told you never to come near us. I’m not the same kid you used to beat on back in the day.”

The fist kept coming down, continuing as blood slowly appeared on his knuckles. Eventually James had no energy. He couldn’t continue and the only sound in the room was now his deep breaths to recover air and the murmurs from his broken father.

James hand shook and he could barely make a fist anymore. He slowly stood, raising himself up.

As he left, he took one last look at his fathers broken body before he closed the door on the motel room and his father for good.

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