“Mon cher, there is another strange document in your brother’s cabinet. It is even more bizarre than the last.”
The crowd’s mood was ugly and the air was dank with smoke, booze and sweat. The earlier bouts had been okay, a nice warm up, but now it was the one they’d waited for. Piranha Pete, legendary champion of this bowl, would bow out tonight. And word had it that some upstart from up north reckoned they could best Pete. As if! This is the man who fought off Sucker O’Toole and his octofists of fury, the man who destroyed Kid Tuna, who made a fool of Manuel O’ War.
Pete came into the bowl to the cheers of the crowd. There was no doubt he was getting older now. The wrinkles were starting to show and the pace was slower. But when he raised his piranha fists into the air everyone roared. As the crowd chanted, “Pete, Pete, Pete…” he joined in the chanting.
Then the opponent came out. There was silence for him, partly respectful, but mostly brooding.
“What’s he packing?” shouted someone as the crowd tried to see what type of fish fist he had. There seemed to be a towel draped over them so no-one could see. He clambered into the bowl and the announcer shouted:
“Tonight’s contender, Jack ‘The Sword’ Mancetti.” There was a shriek of surprise as the newcomer removed the towel and waved two swordfish at the audience.
“Frick, he’ll kill Pete!” said one man.
“Show some loyalty!” snarled his friend. “Pete’ll do it, you’ll see.”
The crowd was silent as the two men squared up. Pete looked a little nervous and who could blame him, what with those two spears facing him. The round started and the two men danced around each other for a minute. Then, at great speed the younger man flicked his wrist and one of the swords dragged across Pete’s chest. The audience gasped and moaned as a thin red line appeared on the piranha man.
It seemed to set Pete off though, as he lunged angrily with his fists. They were snapping like crazy, but Mancetti ducked underneath. To the crowd’s horror, Mancetti landed a blow on Pete’s shoulder, the sword jabbing into him. Pete howled in pain and pulled backwards, landing on the ropes to steady himself.
The crowd was silent now. Surely this couldn’t be happening.
“I can’t watch anymore,” said Pete’s daughter, tears streaming down her face, covered by her manta-hands. The swordfish boxer moved forward again, a smirk on his face as he stabbed his vicious fish forward. Again, the sword stabbed into Pete, and again Pete howled. But this time his left piranha came up and gripped the sword in its teeth. Mancetti tried to pull back but couldn’t. As he tried in vain he got a face full of piranha as Pete struck with his right.
The crowd found its voice again as the piranha nipped Mancetti again and again, whilst the swordfish boxer tried to pull away.
“Break,” shouted the ref. At the last second Pete let go, so Mancetti fell backwards and onto the floor.
The ref started the count as Pete steadied himself, piranhas at the ready. But as Mancetti tried to get up he slipped on one arm. The other fish, taking all his weight, snapped at the sword. The crowd roared. He was one sword down.
“Three, four, five…” intoned the ref, as Mancetti looked around wildly. The towel that had hidden his secret weapon, now useless, came flying in from the side. The bout was over, Pete was the undefeated champion and the roof went off the bowl.
About a year later, with Pete full into retirement, he bumped into Mancetti in a bar.
“I gotta thank you for that bout. I learned a lot that day,” said Mancetti. “I don’t use those swords no more, got ‘em filed off. Cos I learnt that in fish boxing, like in life, if you put all your punch in one fin, you can wind up on your ass.”
Pete nodded slowly, approvingly.
“You know what son, with an attitude like that, you may make a decent fish boxer one day.” Then he tipped his hat, tipped the waitress, and coolly left the bar.