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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-one BOXING



he black-haired giantess walked up to us right after Luke almost fell off the balcony. I was digging deep into my purse so I nearly missed his slip, just in time grabbing Luke’s sleeve before he would have tipped over the edge.

I looked down. The drop was nine stories. If you had nine lives, that fall would take all of them.

Luke was drunk. Again. He called it self-medicating and with his concussions, fractures, and shoulder dislocation he deserved to have some of that numbed.

We were celebrating with Miller High Life and Perrier Jouët. The Champagne of Beers and actual champagne.

Daniele, Luke’s manager, said champagne was the perfect drink for him, a mix of “champ” and “pain.” With his skeletal face and frostbitten complexion, Daniele is the human version of Coldmiser from the 1974 stop-motion animated film The Year Without Santa Claus.

Luke’s the opposite of thin. He used to look like a model; now he looks like a Model Ford, a face that has hit an endless amount of potholes. I don’t mind though. I’ll love that face no matter what it turns into. It’s his heart that I worry about.

It’s difficult to party with two men who give off the vibe of talking corpses, especially with all that had happened earlier.

Luke didn’t kill the kid, but there were rumors he’d caused a CTBI. I worried that Daniele had snuck some metal into the end of one of Luke’s gloves again. I’d walked in on them when they were getting ready to see Daniele insisting to Luke, “Just put your hand in.” There was reluctance with Luke, but he slid his hand in the glove. I stepped back out.

Luke was also known for low blows, for over-wrapping his hands like Daniele’s hero, the infamous Tito Trinidad. But Luke sluffed it off, saying traumatic brain injuries happen to every boxer eventually. Daniele said that twenty percent of boxers end up with chronic brain injuries.

Daniele made a toast: “to the brain!”

All of this was overlooking the monstrous dark of Hollywood. You could almost see the fame happening right under our eyes.

If Luke had fallen, it would have been fitting. He said he wanted to be a shooting star. He wanted to die young. He wanted to make his mark and disappear. I told him not to say that too loud or too often or someone might hear. Daniele said that the whole shooting star metaphor was perfect for Luke. He said Luke was a meteor and meteors were like fists punching the Earth’s face.

Did I tell you I hated Luke’s manager?

Most everyone did. He wouldn’t shut up. He’d be in Luke’s corner during all his fights and he’d be in Luke’s corner during the entire rest of his day. Once, he asked if he could watch us make love. I told Luke that if he didn’t stop hanging around the guy so much I was going to leave for good. Luke just told me “one more fight.” He’s told me that five times. Each time, it gets worse; by the end, both fighters seem to be nothing but blood and bruise. I’m worried he’s going to kill the next kid that steps in the ring and I have a feeling that his own life could end soon too.

The boy today—and he was really just a boy, at least that’s what he looked like—was some tall Finnish kid from KIRYAS JOEL, those two words swept across the back of his homemade robe. You could tell his mother had stitched it. The sleeves were too big. I could also tell he was Finn, because I am too. I don’t speak the language and have never been there, but it’s in my ancestry, strong. You can spot people who are of your kind, a wordless connection. It made it all the harder for me to hear the news.

The giantess ducked her head under the balcony door and soon stood over Luke. She was dressed all in black, including hair and fingernails. I liked this, to see a woman towering over him. She had the presence of a storm cloud.

“You were at the fight,” Luke said, laughing. He rarely laughed. He was boxer 24-7. People become their professions. I’d dated Luke when he was a grocery boy at an Italian market. He laughed then. He was light then. Simple. Chubbier. Kinder. Helpful. A can-I-take-this-out-to-your-car mentality. Then boxing got into his blood, into his plasma, into his platelets. Fists got into his white blood cells. He started frowning everywhere. At birthday parties, weddings, Christmas gift exchanges. I told him to stop it, but he couldn’t. He was becoming a thing. The human Luke Colafranceschi died. He became Luke “The Dukes” Cola. I told him I wanted to puke all over that name.

The female giant stepped into a puddle from a spilled drink.

“I remember,” said Luke, ”Front row.”

She held out an envelope.

Daniele took it. “No autographs,” he said.

“Big fan,” the giantess said, “Of your work. Come see ours.” She walked away, her black cape fading into the party.

“An emo giant,” Luke said, “Love, love, love Hollywood.”

Luke’s manager opened the envelope, read. Luke leaned into him.

“An invite,” said Daniele.


“Magic show.”

Luke liked magic. He liked anything where people were on a stage performing. As long as it didn’t involve music or comedy or dancing. Which limited the type of things he liked to see, but magic was one of them. He’d said magic is like boxing, that people go to both to see the possibility of blood. He’d always wanted to go to The Magic Castle, an L.A. club that was exclusive members-only. They have a secret passageway to get in, a bookcase that opens. I asked if that’s where we were going.

“It starts in less than an hour.”

“So we’re going now?” I asked.

“Looks like it’s a private address,” said Luke, “in the hills.”

Daniele explained that there were underground restaurants in L.A., illegal, invite-only. He thought that maybe that’s what this was, except with magic. A private show solely for the famous.

“Guess I’m a star,” said Luke.

“You’re a luminous sphere of ego,” said Daniele, “That’s why I love you, Luke ‘The Duke.’”

“I’m going to the bathroom,” I said.

I told him I wanted to freshen up. I was exhausted. The party hurt my knees. It was immobility, no intermingling, just permanent groups, an unhappiness coming from each one. Sorrow happens with too much money, like every 0 added at the end of their net worth creates more loss, more nothingness to their existence.

In the bathroom, I looked down at my engagement ring, a diamond boxing glove. My mother told me I was marrying into violence.

“The limo is waiting downstairs,” said a voice. The giantess stood against a wall. The bathroom walls were black. She blended in. Or perhaps she wasn’t really even there . . . I wondered if the limo would be.

It was.

We got in.

On the drive, I asked about the wedding date. Luke said it was up to me. Instead he talked with Daniele in detail about a 1973 Madison Square Garden match where someone named Earnie Shavers punched someone named Jimmy Ellis so hard that the man was knocked out, convulsing. Luke did his impression of Ellis as an epileptic and the two argued about whether or not the man had a seizure at the end of the fight.

The limo had a black dividing screen separating us from the driver. I stared at it, wondering if we were being watched.

On arrival we found that the building was definitely not a Magic Castle. There was nothing magic about the building. It was more comedic, or just plain bizarre—a tiny obese lighthouse, hidden in the hills. It had a halo roof, like a UFO had landed on it.

“Welcome to insanity,” said Daniele stepping out of the limo.

The limo driver didn’t get out. He just drove away, leaving us on the lawn.

“Rude,” said Luke.

Above the house’s front door was the word TERVETULOA. It felt strangely familiar.

“Tarantula,” said Daniela.

The door opened on its own.

“You don’t own money to the Mafia, do you?” Daniele asked.

“Half million,” Luke said, “Yen.”

“What’s that? Like two dollars U.S.?”

“Less,” said Luke.

“Then I guess we’re safe,” said Daniele.

The front room was nearly empty; what little was there was all in white. Sparse postmodern home décor. A long glass window that made our previous balcony view seem pathetic.

“You can see every inch of Los Angeles.”

“Hell, you can see San Fran with a view like this,” said Daniele.

“Hell, you can see Hell with a view like this,” said a voice.

There was no one there.

“Magic,” said Daniele, “It’s beginning.”

“Intercom,” said the voice. “Go through the door on your right.”

I noticed a chandelier made of glass so clear that you almost wondered if it was even there. What would be the point of having something so expensive when you barely even notice it?

“The show’s starting,” said the voice and the intercom clicked off.

Luke took in the room. The lighting was cinematographic. So much was accomplished with so little. To have a room almost completely empty—just a long white Last Supper-like table, a few simple white chairs, a wall mirror, and the breathtaking view—and to give such an intense feel of wealth, of eccentricity.

“One day I’ll have a house like this,” said Luke.

“No, you will not,” I said.

Luke opened the next room’s door.

Inside was a massive storage room, a hoarder’s paradise. The magician blocked everything, his appearance forceful, abrupt, dramatic, large. His presence, even though he was average height and average weight, felt far from average. Maybe it was the voice booming, “A suit of armor.” Beside him stood a suit of armor. “The Diamond Armor Suit is the most expensive suit of armor in the world. It is laced with eight-hundred-and-eighty black diamonds. It’s completely bulletproof and worth more than 3.2 million dollars.” The magician stood next to it, getting on his tiptoes to attempt to reach its height. “This,” said the magician, “is not that suit. A facsimile I had made personally in China for a very reasonable sum of 3.2 hundred dollars.”

The magician continued motioning around the room, strolling to each random piece, skipping piles and mounds, picking up and caressing pieces, “luxury tequila, empty bottle, the bottle nearly worthless” and “violin rumored to have been played by one Johann Christian Bach who was not, I’m afraid, Johann Sebastian Bach, but who was, I’m not afraid, his son,” and “a top hat made completely and totally and completely out of something known as plastic.”

He handed the top hat to me. He motioned for it back. I held it out. He put it quickly on his head. It looked good, the perfect finishing touch for a magician’s look. He took the hat off and handed it back to me.

“Does it feel like plastic?” he asked.

“No,” I said, shocked. It was a different hat.

“Hatter’s plush,” he said, “A soft silk weave. Put it on your head.”

I did. It felt wonderful.

“You,” the magician said, “Look like a magician.”

I felt at ease. Since entering, I had a sense of doom, but suddenly I understood that magic was comedy. It wasn’t occult. It has the same quick shift at the end that jokes have. You expect one thing and another happens.

“Mirror,” the magician said, “purchased in a non-remote area of Australia at a place known as Kmart.” He shifted the mirror. It pointed directly at me.

I looked different. Perhaps it was the lighting. Perhaps the hat. Perhaps the mirror.

“Little changes lead to great changes,” said the magician.

“When does the show start?” asked Daniele.

The magician looked to me to answer.

“It has,” I said.

The magician stood, arms crossed.

“What’s the first trick?”

“The next trick, you mean,” I said.

“When’s the actual show?” asked Daniele, “We’re here.”

“Yes, you are,” said the magician, “For now.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” said the magician, “that I’m assuming at some point tonight you will most probably be leaving, yes?”

Luke picked up an artifact. “Is this a fetus?”

“A heart,” said the magician.

“A human heart?”

“A shark’s.”

“Why do you have a shark’s heart?”

“Why did you pick up a shark’s heart?”

Luke set it back down.

“Why are we here?”

“For magic,” said the magician.

“But why did you invite us?”

“Would you rather ask questions or would you rather see some magic?”

Luke thought about this.

“I can do any trick you’d like,” said the magician. “Choose any object in the room and I’ll do a trick with it.”

We glanced around the room.

“You have everything in here,” said Luke.

“Not everything,” said the magician. He looked to me.

“It’s too hard to decide.”

“Would you like the shark’s heart?”

“No, not at all,” I said.

“What I prefer,” said the magician, “is to personalize my shows.”

“How?” said Daniele.

“Simple,” said the magician, “I find out about you and then I make the entire show around you. What you tell me right now is what’s going to become the show.”

Daniele picked at his teeth.

The magician handed him a toothpick. I wondered if that was a trick.

“Who are you?” said the magician to Luke.

“Me? A boxer.”


Luke shook his head no, nothing more to add.

“Nothing?” said the magician, “Just a boxer.”

“Pretty simple,” said Luke, “Not complex.”

“So you want a simple trick.”

“That’s what boxing is,” said Luke, “Simple sport.”


“Sure. Anyone with a heart can do it,” said Luke, “You lose at boxing, it’s ‘cause you got no heart.”

“And what should happen to someone like that?” asked the magician.

“They should just disappear. Fade away. Be gone. Got no time for that.”

“OK,” said the magician, “That’s enough.” He began to search. “Boxing,” he muttered to himself. “Simple,” he said. He put a nearly human-size birdcage to the side, a massive goose feather quill, and then took out a simple box.

He set it down on the floor.

We looked down at it.

It was nondescript, generic, simple.

A box.

Daniele laughed. “I get it,” he said.

“Get what?” asked the magician.

“Well, I don’t understand the trick,” said Daniele, “but I’m interested. Got to hand it to you, I thought you were gonna pull out some solid gold deck of cards or something, but just that—”

“Just that,” said the magician.

We waited.

We waited some more.

“You gonna do something?” asked Daniele.

“Why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I what?”

“Why don’t you do the trick?” said the magician.

“I don’t know any tricks.”

“Sure you do.” The magician seemed caught in a staring match with Daniele. Then the magician kicked the box over to Daniele.

Daniele picked it up.

“What’s inside? A snake or something?”

The magician blinked. That’s it.

Daniele looked in the box. “Nothing.” He showed us.

“Any tricks up your sleeve?” asked the magician.

Daniele laughed. The magician didn’t.

“Just to show none up mine.” He ripped the sleeves off of his shirt. Flawless. He threw them inside the birdcage and closed it.

“Pretty good,” said Luke.

“It’s just Velcro,” said Daniele.

Daniele dropped the box.

“Done?” said the magician.

“It’s empty.”

“You’re right,” said the magician, “How’d you know that?”

“I looked.”

“Well, did you reach in there?”


The box was on its side. Luke straightened it. “Go ‘head,” said Luke to Daniele.

“Just put your hand in,” said the magician.

Daniele reached inside the box and was stunned when his hand didn’t hit the bottom. The effect was comical, his arm reaching inside, going further than where the floor should have stopped him. Daniele withdrew his hand quickly. He seemed a bit frightened, caught off guard.

Luke picked up the box, looking at its bottom, still intact.

Daniele kicked at the floor. “It’s a trapdoor.” He stepped on the floor, carefully, so that he didn’t trigger anything and by mistake fall through. “That’s good,” said Daniele, “That’s really good.” He withdrew his foot. “Don’t step there,” he said to us.

“Why can’t they step there?” asked the magician.

“I’m just trying to be safe. This guy’s cutting edge on being one of the top boxers in the state,” said Daniele.

“I am the top boxer in the state.”

“Exactly. And so falling through a hole in your floor wouldn’t be funny if it ended up injuring him.”

“Pick up the box,” said the magician, “place it anywhere you’d like.”

“Nah,” said Daniele, “This whole room’s not like a regular room. It’s not like out there.”

“You mean the front room?”

“Yeah,” said Daniele. “That one wasn’t filled with a bunch of stuff that you can use to trick us and block our view of stuff and this is all basically set up so you probably have cameras all around and everything in here is fake. It’s all tricks.”

“And you’re saying the other room isn’t like that?”

“Well, it probably is too, but better.”

“Then pick up the box.”

“No, I’m good,” Daniele said.

Luke picked up the box and walked to the other room. Everyone followed.

“Where you want it?” asked Luke.

“I’m good,” said Danielle.

“No, you don’t believe the man. You want it somewhere you feel you can trust.”

Daniele looked around the room. “Put it on the table.”

Luke put the box on the middle of the table.

Daniele grabbed the box and moved it to the edge. He swung his hand under the table. He knocked on the bottom of the table. Daniele went to the door to the other room and closed it. He looked around the room and seemed satisfied. He tested the bottom of the table one more time and then put his hand over the box. He stopped and looked inside.

“It’s all black in there,” he said. He waved to the magician, “Back up.”

The magician backed up.

“Why’s it all black in there?” Daniele asked.

“Because there’s no bottom,” said Luke, laughing.

“It’s not funny,” said Daniele, “I don’t like that he’s trying to make me look bad.”

“We can go,” I said.

“I’m figuring this out,” said Daniele.

“Just put your hand in,” said the magician.

He put his hand in again, this time more slowly, cautiously, up to the point where his hand should be hitting the bottom where the tabletop was. He leaned in further than that point. “Can you see my hand under the table?”

“Nope,” said Luke.

“Damn,” said Daniele. “You sure?”

Luke nodded.

Daniele looked to me. “He’s telling the truth,” I said.

“Damn,” said Daniele. He reached in further. His entire arm was in the box. He pulled it out, swung his hands under the table, dumbfounded. He stepped up on a chair and then stood on the table.

“Don’t do that,” I said.

Daniele picked up the box and looked underneath. He set it back down again. He licked his lips. “I’m figuring this out if it kills me,” said Daniele. Daniele studied the box intensely, gliding his hands all around it, Luke laughing at him. It was just a box. Nothing more.

“How you do this?” said Daniele.

The magician’s top hat, I noticed, seemed to be a shtreimel, a fur hat worn by Orthodox Jews. I wondered when he’d made the switch. I also realized that his face seemed familiar. I was sure I’d seen him earlier today, but I was unsure where. Or perhaps it was someone who looked very much like him. The kid from the fight. There was a resemblance. My mother was Jewish. My eyes locked with the magician’s. He stepped to the side. Behind him was another person, looking directly at me from another room. The effect was almost spiritual, the shock, the surprise of it. What made it even more supernatural was that the person looked exactly like me. My spine turned light, as if it had vanished from my body. My heart rate leaped. I moved and the woman moved. I realized it was a mirror. I could see myself in it. And with the worry on my face, I was so similar to my mother. The revelation was deep, too much for me to express to anyone. I looked away. The magician stepped back into place, blocking the mirror.

Daniele’s entire arm was back in the box. He leaned forward. His head now inside the box. “There’s nothing in here,” he said, “There’s not a damn thing in here.”

“Careful,” said Luke.

Daniele leaned further in, balancing so that he could lean as far inside as possible and then he slipped and Daniele wasn’t there. Gone. Inside the box.

“What?” said Luke. I noticed he made two fists.

Then I watched the magician watch Luke. He was waiting to see what Luke would do.

“What did you do to him?”

Luke was thinking hard, trying to figure it out.

“Was he in on this with you?”

He unclenched his fists.

I took a step to the box. Luke pulled me back. He stepped towards the box himself.

“So he’s under the house right now?” Luke said. He scratched his head.

I could tell that Luke was halfway between his old childlike self—the grocery boy I met who would know to stay away from fire, that it can burn you—and “The Dukes,” a man with no fear, even when there should be. Luke looked to me. I hoped he’d return to my arms, but he stepped up to the box. I felt that he was that person now, the one who’d step directly to where there was the possibility of loss. Luke looked inside, skeptic, worried.

Outside the window, the night was all that the house had now.

Luke leaned forward.

The magician said, “Just put your hand in.”




Ron Riekki has had horror published in several journals including Voluted Tales, Loch Raven Review, Cease, Cows, Nailpolish Stories, WSU Press, Microhorror, Mad Swirl, HelloHorror, and many others. He is co-editing Essays on the Evil Dead with Jeff Sartain of American Book Review. @RonRiekki on Twitter.

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