Short Story: Boxing
Sunday, 12th November 2017
(Written for Oxford University's online "Advanced Creative Writing" course, inspired by the turn-of-the-century photograph shown below... and, it's fair to say, by the fact that I was reading about the Belgian Congo at the time.)
The heat of this country got everywhere. It got under his borrowed hat, pooling at the brim before running down his face in stinging rivulets. It changed things.
The deserters were shot at eleven. The loss of any man was one too many, with the rebels so close that they heard feet outside the wall after nightfall. But examples must be made.
Beatrice insisted on going: ‘My god, Henry, do you think I’ve come all this way to play croquet?’
She applauded the shots like a Handel finale, lace fan swinging.
‘We’re on the edge of Civilisation,’ he murmured, and she turned to him, eyes too bright.
Back at the house, the party talked about nothing, punctuated by the crack of the ice in their gin, and the quick step-step-thud of young men boxing in the courtyard.
As the match ended, Beatrice moved to the the french doors. ‘I should like to try that.’
He followed her eye to the posts. ‘You’re being absurd.’
‘"We’re on the edge of Civilisation". Nothing is absurd. Margaret…?’
They have neither gloves nor form, and the sun is too hot for white men.
Nonetheless, what he feels looking at Beatrice’s tight fists is envy.
There is something in them, in this place. It needs release.