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Roarin` Ry James - part 1

by halfwayharry 

Posted: 10 June 2004
Word Count: 1855
Summary: This story is based on a true life character that I recently met.

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Part 1

Maggie Doyle gazed at her reflection in the mirror above the mantelpiece. ‘You’re decaying,’ she thought to herself eyeing the lines on her once pretty face.

‘Gran, he’s here again.’ Maggie turned from the mirror on hearing her granddaughter’s voice.

‘Who’s here?’ she called downstairs to the shop where Gemma was supposed to be serving.

‘That horrible old tramp. He’s sitting outside drinking again.’

Maggie remembered Gemma telling her a few days before that customers had been complaining about a tramp drinking outside the shop.

‘I’ll be right down,’ Maggie called to Gemma. Sliding open the sideboard drawer she took out a personal alarm.

‘Where is he?’ she asked Gemma on reaching the bottom of the stairs.

‘You can’t see him through the window; he’s sitting on the wall just over there.’ Gemma said pointing just to the right of the window.

‘Right.’ Maggie said sweeping past Gemma and tugging the shop’s door open. ‘Oh God!’ Maggie said hand flying to her throat on encountering the man.

‘Shall I get the police Gran?’ Gemma asked.

‘No,’ Maggie told her. ‘I can deal with this.’

‘What!’ the man challenged the women. ‘I’m not doing owt.’ His tiny, bloodshot eyes moved from Maggie to Gemma. ‘Are you two related by any chance?’ he asked.

‘Yes we are Ry. She’s my granddaughter,’ Maggie replied.

The man’s brow dropped and his grubby face crinkled. ‘Ow do you know my name’s Ry?’ he asked. Maggie made no reply.

‘Maggie?’ he said squinting his eyes. ‘Is it you Maggie?’ Maggie nodded. ‘I ‘aven’t seen you in nearly forty years,’ he slurred, saliva dripping from the corner of his mouth.

‘Thirty nine to be precise. I was the same age as Gemma here, eighteen.’ She paused taking a long look at him. ‘Well, we’ve a fair bit of catching up to do,’ Maggie said. ‘Why don’t you come into the shop?’

‘Graaan!’ Gemma said with widening eyes.

‘It’s okay Gemma he’s an old friend,’ A question remained on Gemma’s pale young face. ‘Trust me,’ Maggie said quietly, holding her eyes. Gemma nodded, lips pursed.

‘This way,’ Maggie said, activating the shop door’s bell as she opened it.

‘A newsagent’s eh! Not a fruit and veg shop like your old man then,’ Ry said grasping the handrail and heaving his great bulk on to the stair case. Maggie patiently followed him.

‘Would you like something to drink?’ she asked as he lowered himself on to the sofa in the flat above.

‘No, I’m allright with this,’ he said reaching into the carrier bag he had placed at his feet and withdrawing a can of lager. ‘You live ‘ere Maggie?’

‘No, no. I usually rent it out. I live with my husband Donald in Butterfield.’

‘Nice,’ Ry said. ‘Obviously you’ve ‘ad kids.’

‘Only one son, James. Gemma’s dad.’ Her voice became rich. ‘He’s a doctor.’

‘Aye, e’ll ‘ave got ‘is brains off you,’ Ry said in his low phlegmatic growl. ‘ I wish I’d ave ‘ad some. As you can see I ‘avent done too well meself.’

‘You did have brains Ry. You didn’t always use them,’ Maggie said setting her eyes square on his.

‘No,’ he agreed eyes dropping. ‘l smell don’t I?’

‘There’s worse things,’ Maggie said.

‘It’s not that I don’t want to wash. I can’t clean meself. It’s the arthritis,’ he said. Maggie’s mind had drifted back through the years to the Miner’s Welfare Club at Hodborough.

The squat compere wearing a tuxedo faced the crowd from the makeshift boxing ring. ‘In the blue corner we have the local lad defending his amateur title, Biiiiiilly Doyle.’ Maggie thought her eardrums might split as the crowd cheered her brother.

‘And let’s not forget,’ the compere’s voice tinnily boomed over the crude PA system. ‘that Billy’s father Martin is a great friend to these events. An ex pro-boxer himself, he’s now your local greengrocer so don’t let the missus buy your apples anywhere else allright!’ Maggie forced herself to sit still as she felt the eyes of male crowd focus on her and her father.

‘So let’s have a round of applause for Mr Martin Doyle,’ the compere called. Maggie’s father stood and took a slight bow at the hand clapping and whistles in the smoky hall. Maggie glanced to the bar where the only two other females in the club served frothy pints.

‘Best of British son,’ her father shouted to Billy in the ring one hand cupping his mouth .

Maggie turned her head from a leering man puffing at a cigarette and eying her up and down. She had not wanted to come to see her brother fight. ‘You’re going and that’s that,’ her father had told her. ‘Your mother can’t stand to see Billy get hit but you’re his sister and he needs family support.’ A glance between Maggie and her mother had said it all. There was no way out. Maggie had sat through eleven amateur bouts. She had watched boys of ascending ages punch each other. But the crowd had been waiting for this last bout to see their local hero fight. They loved her brother. He was tipped to become a British heavyweight champion within the next few years.

Maggie’s attention was diverted by a pocket of shouts and jeers from the other side of the ring. Her father’s face had set hard. Maggie’s breath caught in her throat as an enormous man leapt into the ring’s other corner landing on the canvas with a thump making the ropes shake. The shouts and jeers spread throughout the men in the club.

‘You’ll get yours tonight pal,’ she heard one man drunkenly shout. The man in the ring replied by puckering his lips and making a kissing gesture which further inflamed the crowd.

‘Settle down, settle down,’ the compere said through whistling feedback on the PA system. ‘Remember this is about sportsmanship.’ The compere gestured towards the man. ‘In the red corner we have Ryan James of the Stillwood Amateur Boxing Club.’ Ry remained impassive, arms hanging loose at his sides as he was loudly booed. He crossed to the centre of ring touching gloves with Billy and cocked his head listening intently to the referee’s instructions.

The bell clanged. Maggie watched Ry and her brother warily circle each other, first one way then the other. Billy held both fists in front of him while Ry moved sideways, his left arm sagging and his right as if it was stroking his chin. Almost cat like Ry avoided Billy’s fast jab’s and dismissively threw his long left arm towards Billy’s head.

They stamped and snorted as they danced around the ring reminding Maggie of bulls about to charge. Billy pressed forward throwing a flurry of punches that reddened the skin on Ry’s torso. The crowd loudly encouraged him.

The bell clanged to end the first round. Maggie exhaled realising that she had been breathing shallowly.

‘You see it’s not that bad is it.’ her father’s voice boomed into her ear causing her to jump.

‘Sorry?’ she turned to see his flushed and beaming face.

‘You were watching Billy fight. You didn’t think you’d be able to,’ he said before turning away to accept a glass of spirits.

‘Well, he is my brother,’ Maggie replied.

‘That’s a good lass,’ he patted her arm. ‘I’ve ordered an orange juice for you.’

A moment later Maggie turned to answer a tap on her shoulder and was handed a drink. ‘Thanks,’ she mouthed. ‘You should be watching your brother, not Ryan James,’ she told herself over and over again as she sipped at the lukewarm fizzy orange.

The bell clanged again prompting her brother to leap from his seat in the corner. ‘Go on Billy f------ kill ‘im’, ‘send ‘im back over t’river in a stretcher,’ were among the comments from the audience.

‘He’s got ‘im on t’ back foot,’ her father shouted through a wide grin gripping Maggie’s arm. Maggie winced inwardly at the sound of leather on flesh as her brother steadily pummelled Ry.

‘E’s gonna have him in t’ next. I can feel it,’ her father said slapping his hands together as the round came to a close.

Maggie’s eyes darted to Ry’s corner. A powerfully built grey haired man was pouring water into Ryan’s open mouth. She noted the brightness of his eyes and the fresh pink tinge to his skin.

‘Round three, go on put ‘im away son,’ her father cried on hearing the bell.

The two men circled each other as they had at the beginning of the fight like children chasing each other around a tree. Billy surged forward and the men in the crowd stamped their feet in approval. Maggie felt her chair rock with the vibration.

‘Biiiiiiilly, Biiiiiiilly, Biiiiiiiilly,’ they chanted. Ry danced backwards fending Billy’s blows. He ducked Billy’s windmill arms as he backed towards the corner. He span around with a backward lean forcing Billy to turn. Ry payed out a long, darting left at Billy’s face. Billy threw up his right to block it. Ry pistoned a hard right into Billy’s jaw causing Billy to rock sideways and Maggie to flinch backward in her seat at the red blood spurting from Billy’s lips.

Billy pushed forward throwing floppy arms around Ry’s neck. The white clad referee intervened pushing them apart with his arms. Ry tattooed Billy’s face and torso with a series of fearsome blows. From the ringside Maggie watched Billy’s back retreat towards her. She saw Ry’s face over his shoulder. She saw the red flash of Ry’s gloved right hand, her brother’s feet lift from the canvas and although she looked away she heard the solid slap of her brother’s body flopping heavily on to the canvas.

‘One,’ the referee threw his arm down with the count, standing over Billy. ‘Two,’ three,’. Billy lifted himself to his elbows.

‘Come on son, get up,’ her father shouted to him, face screwed in agony.

‘Eight,’ the referee called with little movement from Billy. ‘Nine, ten.’

‘Noooooooo!’ the crowd screamed as the bell clanged harshly.

The compere ducked through the ropes into the ring. ‘Gentlemen please,’ he said. The tremor in his voice amplified by the PA system. ‘The winner of this competition is Mr Ryan James of the Stillwood Amateur Boxing Club.’ The referee took Ry’s right arm, raising it upwards. They both ducked to avoid a chair which sailed over their heads. Ry’s trainer leapt from his corner to lead him away. Shrugging their hands from him, he stepped to the very centre of the ring in one swift and graceful movement.

‘Champion!’ he roared spitting his gumshield into the assembly and raising both arms high above his head. Maggie watched as he glared at the baying crowd resisting attempts by his trainer to pull him from the ring. A huge grin split his face, turning towards Maggie he winked one glittering eye in her direction. Shifting in her seat, Maggie immediately looked towards her father. ‘Thank God he didn’t see that,’ she thought. Along with others, her father was helping her brother from the ring.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 11:34 on 11 June 2004  Report this post
Great hwh - is this the two parter you were talking about or is it part of a longer piece?
This read vry fluidly and the dialogue is spot on - the dialect is easy to read. Now, what happened between that match and Ry ending up a tramp? I am curious.

anisoara at 17:14 on 11 June 2004  Report this post
Harry --

Well written piece! Very visual wrestling match. I must say, I prefer reading about wrestling to actually watching it - same as Maggie!

I wonder what happens next? I feel this piece hasn't come to rest yet.



Oops! I just looked at the title and see that this was part one, so there is more to come, so please disregard my final comment!

halfwayharry at 14:31 on 12 June 2004  Report this post
Thanks very much, yes this is the long piece I was talking about. I have split it into 2. The second part is a bit longer. Around 2800 words. Glad you enjoyed it.


eyeball at 14:17 on 20 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Peter
The fight is great, very well described; I could just see him spitting that gumshield into the crowd. It's a nice contrast to go from the description of his current condition to him in his prime.

I have to agree with Elspeth's view(on part 2) that the accent doesn't work. I'm not always in agreement with editing books, but I'm with them on this one; phonetic dialect is hard to read.

Couple of typos: eying her up and down (eyeing) and buy your apples anywhere else allright (all right)

I think 'Go on Billy f------ kill ‘im’,' is a cop out. If he says it, type it, I say. If he does actually hold back, then maybe something like 'fff... kill 'im'

Shaping up to be a very interesting story. Ry is a great character.


crowspark at 21:07 on 31 July 2004  Report this post
This reads really well Peter. Maggie is a convincing character and the atmosphere in the fight sequence builds well.
I think the accents work well except for, ‘He’s got ‘im on t’ back foot,’ and ‘E’s gonna have him in t’ next. I can feel it,’ although I seem to remember they talk like that near Bury.

Good stuff.

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