The Contract

The next day, hungover, I pounded out the poisons on a heavy bag. The gym was quiet, a few fighters ducking and weaving under the tuition of a trainer, who between coarse instruction, flicked through a newspaper, bodies from the previous day’s barrio murders splashed across its front page, the fight game covered in loving detail in its sport section. I finished my penance and walked toward Agrazal, catching Agua’s trembling reflection in the scarred mirrors as he skipped rope.

Agrazal was keen on my managerial proposal and did not seem to have Enrique’s concerns that my experience was less than adequate. If I came with cash, he was certain we could buy the permission Agua needed to live legally in Panama, and the fighter could travel outside the country for better paydays. It would also mean more for Agrazal.

‘What about finding him fights, I don’t have any contacts?’ I asked, suddenly suspicious of the trainers enthusiasm.

Tengo bastante!’ he growled.

After Agua had finished his workout, after he had showered, we sat together on a log under a towering, heavily leafed mango tree in a dry dusty yard next to the boxing club. It was a training ground for fighting cocks. The birds surrounded us chained by a single leg to a spike like convicts in a barbaric bastille. A fowl, freed of its restraints was being thrown continuously into the air to strengthen his wings, another taunted by a fake bird attached to a stick until he fought ferociously back.

Se llama mono.’ A monkey. Agrazal knew most things about cockfighting- it was not a lot different to men fighting.

Two fowl had been set to sparring, small boxing gloves covering their spurs so that they could not rip each other apart. A single cock had been shaved of his chest and thigh feathers, his comb and wattle cut off so that his opponent would have less to tear at. In the following days, the bird would fight to the death. Men lounged in hammocks, strung between trees. They watched listlessly.

Agua always wore knock-off perfume, today he smelled of daisies. We sat side by side, leaning into each other as if wanting to keep our contract a secret. A dented, dusty police car rolled past, a street vendor loaded down with plastic wares. Waves of uniformed kids, carefree and noisy were returning from school.