Open 2024 Stories - Michael Tyler


Live or Die A Little

By Michael Tyler


And I never meant for it to go on so long, but it did and in the end no-one had any complaints, even Paul who ended the night a bloodied mess.

I’d arrived that evening with a bottle cap in one hand, half bottle of whiskey in the other and with a word of welcome felt almost spent.

I was rarely at ease in a crowd and so would stand and smile and nod, I was more than content on the outskirts ... except man to man, where time stood still and my greater self revealed all and screamed 'Yes!' to every confrontation.

I was nineteen years old, six foot three and two hundred and twenty pounds, the end result of an intense training regime and whatever Coach was injecting daily - 'Vitamins, good ole vitamins,' I recall him mumbling without once moving his lips - and in the eyes of many I surely appeared little more than a brute, yet this was something I came to accept as I was on this fine college campus due to an amateur wrestling record beyond repute and a blind eye turned to all else. The scholarship was seen as a lifeline and everyone from the old neighborhood had wished me well.

And so I found myself plucked from a world where familial bonds were everything to everybody, and placed in a community all the more foreign for its apparent disdain for those very bonds ... yet any thoughts of flight were readily dismissed thanks to the efforts of two of the best friends a guy ever had - Jimmy and Paul, blood brothers, bound by pacts you make when young and foolhardy and which you never relinquish - who declared that we would up and leave and journey as one, we were friends and that was simply what friends did for each other. Jimmy and Paul would work shitty jobs and live in a shitty apartment and lead relatively shitty lives, yet they were close by and they knew it meant the world to me and they knew it kept me together, kept me moving forward.

And so we three arrived, certain we were destined to live and learn and strut and stage and fight and fuck our way through these years of first freedom. Free from small town concern, free from mothers embrace, free from the tangled knots that a lifetime in such a small community can weave.

Little did we know that such freedom came with a price, a price that some believed we were yet ready to pay.

It was Jimmy who made the connection that night, 'There ... on the balcony,' from the corner of his mouth, 'Mickey Jenkins'.

And in an instant we were home once more.

Paul had slept with Mickey's cousin and then failed to propose ... and so the muttered 'Mickey Jenkins' was spoke with menace known to only us few.
'It won't be tonight', I offered, knowing full well this were a lie, and yet 'It won't be tonight,' I offered once more.

'Yeah it will,' replied Paul with eyes to the floor. He sighed, and with resignation confirmed ... 'It'll be tonight'.

He was simply saying what we all knew to be true.

Mickey came for Paul and here Paul was and here Mickey was and it would be what it would be and at that moment the evening became simple countdown to the inevitable and so all involved and all that transpired seemed to take on a significance that seems almost mythical to recall.

And it began as convention dictates it must ... Mickey's eyes narrowed from across the room and Paul replied in kind and no words were spoken and Jimmy and I followed and were ourselves followed by a few, then a mass, then a mob, a single force begging for blood and bruises and the kind of violence that Mothers and Pastors had for years attempted in vain to suppress.

Mickey and Paul would fight for respect or dignity or honor and that was what it was and that is the what and the who and the how, and why a woman will never appreciate a fight's true beauty at times of gravest concern.

Mickey strode forward with the confidence of a street-fighter, took Paul to the ground with ease and was soon in a position to simply lean back and throw punch after punch with almost no chance of reversal or response.

And he did. And the punches reigned down and Paul slipped one, and Paul slipped another but it was never enough. Knuckle met flesh and bone, knuckle after knuckle after knuckle, and then elbow after elbow, blood, blood, blood, and all was deafening and all was somehow silent and I caught Paul's eye and I caught myself as I moved to stop the fight. Paul wanted it to continue. And so it continued.

Blow after blow reigned down. And finally Mickey relented and with a sigh stood and retreated to the silence of a mob's despair. And Jimmy and I lifted Paul, and draped Paul over our shoulders, and lead Paul home, and we three sat and drank through the early hours and I noticed, in the manner one notices things in the morning after the evening before, that while our eye's all shone from youth and whiskey, Paul's eyes shone brightest of all.


Michael Tyler is from New Zealand and writes from a shack overlooking the ocean just south of the edge of the world. He has been published in several literary magazines and plans a short story collection sometime before the Andromeda Galaxy collides with ours and …


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occasionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.