Broken Neck

Name: Jamie Bryce

Name Of Main Character You Want And Gender: Bruce Bryce

Genre: Action comedy

Character Description: Bruce Bryce is my future son who I force into a world of professional boxing from a young age. He smashes it and becomes world champ.

Special Info: He has an imaginary friend who believes he should knock boxing on the head and try something completely different. (You come up with that)

Here is your story Jamie. I think you should get into origami. 

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“Block, son!” Jamie smacked his palms on the boxing ring mat.

People cheered and rose from their seats, sensing the eleventh round would be the last. Most of them had teeth to make them look like they regularly took part in impromptu boxing matches.

Bruce fell against the ropes. He threw a right hook at the air like a drunk. Leon stepped towards him, his French flag decorated gum shield taunting Bruce, and four inches taller than Bruce’s five feet ten. 

Leon punched Bruce in the stomach. His legs wobbled. His sweaty, long brown hair dangled in front of his eyes. 

“Finish him,” Leon’s manager spat, smiling. One minute left.

Bruce lifted his arms. Leon caught him with a right jab to the eye, a left hook to the cheek and a right uppercut to the chin. Bruce’s head flung back and bounced forward to meet another jab. He sidestepped to the corner, covering his head from a flurry of fists.

“Thirty seconds, Bruce, don’t bottle it.” Jamie looked at the ref. “Don’t even think about stopping it.”

“Maybe he should,” Jamie’s short colleague, Tim, said.

Jamie shot him an annoyed glance.

A right hook. Bruce's eye split open. His head snapped right and stringy blood flopped over the audience. Bruce glimpsed the crowd. A smiling cloud with big eyes, spindly human arms and skinny legs that didn’t reach the floor sat among them. It winked at Bruce. Leon punched Bruce in the side of the head. The cloud distorted like a malfunctioning TV.

Bruce’s eyes widened. Another shot to the head and the cloud blurred again. He shook his head to adjust.

The ref flinched as though he would end the bout. Leon measured Bruce for an uppercut. Bruce leapt forward, a short left jab to Leon’s nose. Another to his face knocked Leon back. Bruce’s right hook cut through the air and caught Leon on the side of the head. He collapsed.

“Yes!” Jamie shouted. 

Tim cheered, more relieved than celebratory.

The sound of the bell sent the crowd into frenzy.

“You’re fired,” Jamie told Tim.

The ring filled faster than bacteria swarming over dropped food.

“After two minutes forty eight seconds of the eleventh round, by way of knockout, your winner, and new light heavyweight champion of the world, Bruce Bryce!”

It felt empty. He looked through the crowd, hoping to see the cloud.

 

“That was ace, son.” Jamie removed Bruce’s left glove. The quiet of the changing room soothed Bruce’s brain.

“Thanks dad. Where’s Tim?”

“He had to get off,” Jamie said, looking at the floor. “Twelve years of graft, and we did it. You reminded me of me out there.”

Bruce smiled.

“When you were swinging. Not when you were getting pounded.”

Bruce looked around for the cloud.

“Top of the mountain mate.” Jamie looked at the world title belt.

“I need the toilet.”

Jamie slid Bruce’s left glove off. Bruce walked into the toilet and closed the door. He washed his hands and looked in the mirror at his wounded eye. The cloud appeared behind him.

Bruce smiled, relieved.

“You ok? You looked at me like I’d pissed on your chips out there,” the cloud said.

“Didn’t you feel anything weird?”

“Well yeah, I was bored. But I’m always bored at these barbaric things.”

Bruce turned the tap off and shook his hands dry. “Don’t worry about it.”

“You can’t say that. If you tell me not to worry I’ll worry. What am I not meant to worry about?”

“Promise you won’t overreact.”

Wendy smiled.

“When I got hit in the head… you blurred.”

Wendy puffed her cloud cheeks out, confused. “Why the hell would I worry about you getting blurry vision?”

“It was different. It was like… like you were dying.”

Wendy’s turned a blue-grey. “Dying!”

“Please calm down.”

“Dying!”

“I’m too tired for volume.”

“Don’t let me die. You gotta stop boxing. It’s obviously the shots to the head. Do something that’s gentler, like snooker. Actually no. I’ve seen people shank shots and hit people in the head.”

“Wendy…”

“Badminton. That’s easy. Actually no. That shuttlecock thing can hit you like a bullet.”

“Wendy…”

“Bruce!” Jamie’s voice called through the door. “Stop talking to yourself. You got press waiting.”

Bruce huffed. “Wendy. I’m a boxer,” he whispered.

“Come on man. You don’t even care that you just became world champ.”

 

The next morning, Bruce entered the kitchen to a ready-made breakfast. Jamie served him some eggs, bacon, beans, and hash browns. “Here you go, son. One day of enjoying your food before you’re back on the training diet.” He washed pots and pans.

“One?”

“Yep. A champion is no good if he’s not defending his belt. Julian Reed is next. He’s a hard hitter but moves like a barge. You should batter him.”

“Let me relax a bit before jumping straight back in.”

“You’re one away from breaking the record for…”

“Consecutive knockouts. I know.” Bruce thought Jamie was obsessed. He took a bite out of his overcooked bacon. “I was thinking of having a short break.”

Wendy appeared on the chair opposite. “Well said, my friend. Well said.”

“Have you gone mental?” Jamie said.

“I just… I've been doing this since I was ten. I want to experience something other than sit-ups and throwing punches for a couple of months.”

“Like what?”

Wendy leant forward. “I thought about it. Origami.”

Bruce furrowed his brow. “You know, just being normal, using my imagination.”

"Origami,” Wendy stood on the table.

“Boxing uses your imagination,” Jamie said. “You have to imagine your opponent and imagine ways to beat them and imagine what you’d do in certain imagined scenarios, before applying that imagination to the reality of a fight.”
Bruce huffed.

Wendy turned herself into various origami shapes. A swan cloud. “Origami.” A Ferris wheel cloud. “Origami.” A dragon cloud. “Origami.”

“I want to have a go at origami.”

Jamie stopped washing dishes. “Ori-twattting-gami? Your hands are made for pounding not for fiddling with paper.”

Bruce put his fork in a sausage, but Jamie took his plate away. “You can have a salad for spouting that bollocks. You’re a fighter, and we’re going to break records.”

Wendy looked at Bruce. Her eyes filled with tears that poured out of her like rain.

Jamie opened the bin but Bruce grabbed the plate. He snatched it back.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jamie said.

“I’m hungry.” He took the plate. “And I’m doing origami.”

 

Bruce sat on his bed. He still lived with Jamie. His mum died when he was a boy so it was hard to leave the family house, an it kept his feet on the ground. Bruce scanned the Internet on his phone. He chuckled at a Yoda made from origami, but his chuckle faded into a frown.

“Don’t feel bad. You’ve given him what he wanted, now you can do stuff for you.”

“Yeah…”

“And you can make origami cool,” Wendy said, sat on the floor.

“Let’s make one.” Bruce took a sheet of one of his boxing contracts from a folder. He tried to fold it into a swan. He showed Wendy.

“What did the swan do to deserve a broken neck?”

They laughed together.

“Hey look.” Bruce showed him a web page. “An origami school.”

“In Japan?”

“No. Birmingham.”

“You should go.”

Bruce sighed. “Maybe…”

Wendy rubbed her cloud face against his cheek to cheer him up.

“Thanks for always being there for me Wendy.”

In the corridor, Jamie listened through the door.

 

The sun beat down on Bruce’s head as he carried a box of printer paper from the stationers. He’d destroyed every magazine in his room trying to get the swan right, determined to make one without a floppy neck.

“You just have to be gentle, Wendy said, walking next to him.”

“I am being gentle!”

“It’s like you’re strangling the paper.”

“I just have to get used to it, that’s all.” He hated being rubbish at anything.

He waited at a traffic light while Wendy walked through cars to the other side. “See ya!”

Bruce shook his head. Someone kicked the back of his knee. He buckled and turned around.

“No!” Wendy screamed.

A pole bashed against the beck of Bruce’s head. His nose smacked the pavement. People watched, scared to do anything. Bruce turned his head and looked at Wendy. With each kick to the head Wendy distorted. She broke into pieces and disappeared. Bruce wept.

 

Bruce swung a left at the punching bag.

“Harder!” Jamie said. “You need to make sure every hit does damage. None of these flirt punches.”

Jamie helped Bruce put his robe on. Crowd noise filtered into the changing room.

Three months passed without sight of Wendy. Bruce would look at the sky hoping a cloud would look back, but they never did. He had dreams about her, but when he woke the room would be empty. He tried meditation and hypnosis but nothing worked.

Jamie nursed him back to health and he immersed himself in his training to forget about the pain. The rumour was that Julian’s crew had set Bruce up, but nothing was proven. Julian secretly visited Bruce in hospital to plead his innocence, and despite Jamie being adamant it was Julian, Bruce believed him.

“You ready son?”

Bruce took a breath. He nodded.

“Hey, come on. I need more than that.”

“I’m ready.”

“Good. This is more important than anything. It’s a legacy. You win tonight and we will be remembered forever. Never let fear, doubt, or any other nonsense going on in there.” He pointed to his head. “Get in the way of immortality.”

Bruce saw obsession in his eyes.

“See you at the entrance.”  Jamie left.

Bruce closed his eyes, calming himself. He listened to Kung-Fu Fighting blast through the arena. Julian would be riding to the ring on the back of his manager dressed as a bear. He loved to create a show because his matches were so slow and boring.

A knock on the door. Bruce got up and answered. “Tim! Where you been, man? Dad said you got another job?”

Tim hugged him. “Your dad fired me mate. I’ve even had to sneak in here.”

“What?”

The announcer could be heard introducing Julian.

“I heard about the attack. I’ve been trying to see you ever since.”

“I’m alright.” He welled up.

“Come on mate. I’ve watched the weigh in, the interviews. You look worried.”

Bruce sat down. “Can I tell you something?”

“Course.”

“And you promise you won’t rip into me.”

Tim smiled. “Depends how weird it is.”

Bruce smiled, knowing he could trust him. “Before I had my head smashed, I used to have an imaginary mate. A cloud. But now it’s gone.”

Tim’s face dropped. He looked more worried than sympathetic.

“Forget it.”

“No. No mate. It’s not that. It’s just. Your dad. He used to have one too.”

Bruce shuffled in his seat, interested to hear more.

“He used to talk to me about it all the time but I thought he was just being weird. Our trainer used to rip the piss out of him, then I found him bashing his head off the wall screaming one day.”

Bruce’s breathing slowed.

“I tried to stop him but he was mad. He told me ‘I’m killing Bopsi, I’m killing Bopsi.’ And he never mentioned his imaginary friend after that. Just became obsessed with boxing.”

Bruce cried.

“You alright, mate?” Tim asked.

Bruce stood up. “Thanks for coming here mate. I’m better than ever.”

 

Julian stood in the ring ready for the bout. The lights went down and everyone expected the champ’s entrance. Moments went by and nothing happened. Confused murmurs could be heard while they waited for the music. A spotlight shone on the curtain and cheers turned to boos when only Jamie came out. He entered the ring to total silence. He snatched the microphone off the announcer.

“He’s gone.”

Boos. A stadium employee handed a letter to the announcer. Ever the showman, the spotlight fell on him.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a letter here, believed to have been handed to our employee by the champ himself. Let’s hear it for the employee.”

Applause.

“I’m going to reveal the contents of the envelope now.”

He reached in. A drum roll played out. The announcer pulled out an origami hand with the middle finger sticking up.

“I’m not entirely sure who this is aimed at, but it seems the champ may be retiring.”

He held the origami insult towards Jamie, seething in the middle of the ring.

 

Bruce sat on a train to Birmingham. He made a little origami cloud, drew a face on it, put it in his pocket and closed his eyes to sleep.

END