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Roarin` Ry James - part 2

by halfwayharry 

Posted: 21 June 2004
Word Count: 2849
Summary: The story continues.

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Part 2

Maggie blinked shaking her head slightly. ‘Miles away. Sorry Ry, I was thinking back to when you fought Billy.’

‘And I winked at you,’ Ry smiled exposing blackened gums.

‘That wink was the start of something,’ she said with a tight smile. Maggie’s mind again wandered into the past. Ry started to speak again; Maggie nodded as if listening but could not prevent her mind travelling back over the years.

Maggie felt the elbow in her ribs. ‘Look at him,’ hissed Lizzie barely moving her lips as they walked together to the Girls College in Hodborough. A deft flick of Maggie’s eyes took in Ry in a smart pinstripe suit lounging against a lamp post.

‘He’s coming over,’ Lizzie hissed staring straight ahead, a small smile gambolling on her lips.

‘Excuse me,’ Ry said drawing close with surprising speed.

‘Ignore him,’ Maggie whispered, marching forward. They passed Ry who did not follow. Maggie felt as if her heart was about to give up the way it was thumping. She could feel Lizzie’s curious glances. She could not help herself. Glancing back towards Ry she saw the disappointment on his handsome, masculine features.

‘I suppose we could find out what he wants,’ she said. She felt Lizzie’s sidelong look and the warm grim that it carried.

‘Is there something we can help you with?’ Maggie demanded. A beaming smile softened Ry’s hard features.

‘Would you like to come out tonight?’ he asked.

‘I don’t think my dad would be very pleased. He thinks you’re the devil since you knocked out my brother last week.’

‘E’s a good fighter your brother. I just ‘appened to be the better man on t’ night,’ Ry stated. ‘And I won’t tell your dad if you don’t.’

Maggie heard Lizzie’s snort of suppressed laughter. ‘Where are you planning on taking me?’

‘I’ll take you dancing at t’ Lex,’ he said, one great hand toying with a shiny black button on his jacket.

‘The Lex?’ Maggie said staring at Ry. ‘That’s in old Stillwood. I can’t go there.’

‘I live in old Stillwood,’ Ry said reddening slightly around the cheekbones.

‘Oh,’ Maggie replied. Her face reddened in a match of his. The towns of Hodborough and Stillwood were dissected by a river. The river culminated in a small port. This was ‘old’ Stillwood, a small collection of mean streets clustered around the dock area. According to her father it represented all that was wrong with the world. Maggie and her mother tried never to mention the place as it usually sent her father into his favourite rant.

‘They’re scum those folk down there, SCUM! They ought to shove t’ lot of ‘em into a container ship and sink it in t’middle of t’North Sea. And do you know how I know? he would demand prodding his chest with an erect thumb, a bright pink flush rising from his neck. Maggie and her mother did know but would ask him how he knew just to keep the peace.

‘Because I grew up there,’ he would state, eyes swimming in victory. It was a twisted logic that only he seemed to understand.

‘Look at it,’ her father would spit. From some of the rooms in their house they overlooked Old Stillwood. He would gaze at the hanging haze in the distance where the cranes slowly turned and lifted; loading and unloading cargo. ‘Disssssgusting.’

‘Well what about a café around ‘ere?’ Ry asked.

Maggie shook her head firmly. ‘Dad would find out. It’s too soon after the fight.’

They paused in silence looking for an alternative. Ry’s face lit up.

‘Ey, are you C of E?’

‘Yes,’ Maggie said uncertainly.

‘And do you go to church?’ he pressed on.

‘Of course,’ Maggie said indignantly. She went fairly regularly with her mother and her father attended at Christmas and Easter.

‘It’s just that I train at St. John’s church just over t’ bridge in Stillwood itself. Maybe you could come down one night?’

‘You train in the church?’ she asked surprised.

‘Not in t’church itself. It’s like an annexe.’

‘Ah!’ Maggie and Lizzie said in unison as the proverbial penny dropped.

‘I go to that church,’ Lizzie said brightly. ‘I’m in the choir.’

Ry’s eyes searched Maggie’s. She looked to Lizzie who’s eyes were filled with wicked humour.

‘Very well then,’ Maggie nodded. It was an acceptable compromise. Stillwood itself was respectable and she could see no harm in speaking to Ry before or after a service. ‘We’ll call on you one night when you’re training.’

Ry’s face relaxed. ‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘I’ll look forward to that.’

With Lizzie’s help their illicit love affair began. Her domineering father did not suspect that her newfound interest in the choir of St. John’s was based on anything but religious devotion. Therefore his suspicions were not aroused by comments made by shop customers such as: ‘Saw your Maggie crossing over to Stillwood last night.’

‘Aye, she’s in t’ church choir at St’ John’s,’ he would proudly reply. And this was true but much of her ‘choir practice’ was spent in Ry’ arms on one of the benches in a hidden corner of the old churchyard. It was a glorious summer which ended with two main events. The first was that Maggie agreed to visit Ry’s family in old Stillwood with a view to eventually telling her own family about Ry. The second was that Ry’s boxing career suddenly stepped up a gear.

Maggie stepped down from the platform of the bus on to the cracked uneven pavement. She felt Ry’s reassuring hand on her arm. The sounds of children’s excited shouts assailed her ears. Maggie stepped back as a boy whizzed past her on a bicycle. ‘Watch it,’ Ry called after him only to be rewarded by a cheeky grin.

‘Nearly ‘ad me over,’ a gaunt young woman nursing a baby outside a house said. Her eyes searched Maggie from head to toe before half smiling towards her. Maggie began to force a smile in response. A snarling black head jutted through a half open window of the house causing Maggie to stumble against Ry.

‘Oh shut up fiver,’ the woman shouted expertly nursing the baby with one hand while simultaneously palming the dog’s face and closing the window with the other.

‘You ok,’ Ry asked steadying Maggie.

‘Yes, I’m fine,’ she said noticing an enormous crane swing a container. It reminded Maggie of a spider dangling from the ceiling.

‘Isn’t that dangerous,’ Maggie asked. ‘Being so near to the houses.’

‘Only if they drop it,’ Ry laughed as he pushed open the door of house releasing a waft of dampness.

‘Ello love,’ Ry’s mother Jean greeted her. She’s a lovely looking lass Ry,’ Jean smiled. Maggie smiled back. ‘Well sit down the pair of you. I’ll make some tea.’

There was just enough room for Maggie to sit next to Ry on the settee. She put her handbag on to bare floorboards. Jean returned from the kitchen carrying a tray full of tea things. Her breath was heavy as she placed the tray carefully on a small table. Her grey hair fell forward as she bent to pour milk into the cups. She scooped it back drawing Maggie’s attention to the dark stains under her eyes. The smell of alcohol from Jean’s heavy breaths reached Maggie’s nostrils.

‘Ry’s told me all about you love,’ Jean said, slumping into a worn armchair.

‘All good I hope,’ Maggie mumbled.

‘Oh yes all good love,’ Jean replied before being assailed by a hacking cough. ‘And our Ry’s a good un. You know that don’t you,’ Jean said regaining her composure.

‘Oh, I know that all right Mrs James,’ Maggie told her glancing at Ry’s profile. Sipping her tea from Jean’s best china, she made polite conversation. She tried to keep her eyes away from the peeling wallpaper and the holes in Jean’s clothes. As they left, Jean detained her in the doorway.

‘Look after ‘im love. I won’t be ‘ere much longer,’ Jean said. Maggie resisted the urge to turn away from the fetid smell of Jean’s breath.

‘I will,’ Maggie said, feeling hot tears behind her eyes.

‘Thanks love,’ Jean said in a struggle for breath. Maggie felt the cold, dry lips on her cheek.

As Maggie regarded Ry in the room above the shop she saw the same look in Ry’s face. She held a conversation with Ry but her mind was unable to stay in the present.

‘Look at this,’ Ry said thrusting a letter into Maggie’s hand. He had intercepted Maggie and Lizzie as they headed towards the church.

‘Tommy Butler’s taking you on?’ she stated in amazement.

‘Who’s Tommy Butler?’ asked Lizzie.

Ry laughed. ‘Only t’ biggest boxing promoter in t’ country.’

‘Really?’ said Lizzie.

‘Really,’ Ry nodded slowly, taken off guard by Maggie throwing her arms around his neck.
‘See you in church Maggie,’ Lizzie said over her shoulder as she walked away.

‘Of course it means I’ll ‘ave to leave you for a while. ‘E wants me to fight in Blackpool and London,’ Ry told her with a kiss.

Maggie nodded. ‘It’s your big chance Ry. You must take it.’

‘Aye I will and there’s another big chance I want to take,’ he grinned. He inserted his shovel like hand into his jacket pocket and brought out a small box. ‘Ere.’ He said thrusting it toward her.

The box opened with a click revealing a diamond ring. ‘Where did you get it Ry?’ Maggie asked, unable to take her eyes from it.

‘Well, I didn’t nick it if that’s what you’re thinking,’ Ry joked.

‘No, of course not. I didn’t think you did,’ Maggie said pushing herself from him. ‘I just don’t want you getting into debt that’s all.’

‘Well don’t you worry yourself. Tommy Butler sent me an advance.’

‘Oh Ry it’s beautiful,’ Maggie told him lifting the ring from the box. She took his hands in hers. ‘You’ll be back by Christmas. We’ll tell dad then and he can like it or lump it.’

‘Lump it I think,’ Ry replied making them both laugh.

The days and weeks dragged for Maggie after Ry left. They kept in touch by letter via Lizzie who got to the morning post before her elderly parents. In December she received an excited letter from him. He was appearing on TV. A Saturday sports programme. Lizzie had the house to herself that day and they took the opportunity to watch her parents TV.

‘And now for another heavyweight bout,’ the announcer told them standing by the ringside. Maggie felt her heart thump in her ears as she saw Ry bound into the ring behind the announcer.

‘There he is,’ Lizzie screeched.

‘Ow!’ Maggie cried as Lizzie’s fingernails pierced the outer skin of her arm. The bell that opened the first round sounded shrill on the black and white set. Maggie watched much of the fight through narrowed eyes while Lizzie screamed encouragement.

In the fifth round Maggie witnessed the same awesome display of physical power that she had seen in the fight with her brother. Ry’s opponent hit the canvas hard. Maggie felt sorry for him but was glad that Ry had won. Maggie watched the tiny, figure on the TV screen take the centre of the ring and roar ‘champion’.

‘A confident young man indeed,’ said the announcer, eyes twinkling. The following day Maggie took the Sunday papers to read alone in her bedroom.

Sitting on her bed she leafed through the back pages. ROARIN’ RY KO’s DOONAN was the headline of the small article. The nickname was to stay with Ry for the rest of his career. The story came to an abrupt halt halfway through with ‘More on page 45’ .

Maggie turned to page 45. Ry was pictured cheek to cheek with a blonde woman. They were smiling. ‘It’s a publicity stunt’ she told herself as she read on.

‘Ry James has recently made a big splash in boxing circles. He is tipped as the next British heavyweight champion and said to be good enough to give the Americans a run for their money. He is pictured above with fiancee Nichola Evans. Nichola is an actress currently appearing in the travelling show ‘Foxtrot’. They met at a party organised by well known boxing promoter Tommy Butler. After a whirlwind romance they plan to wed in the spring.

“I’ve never been happier” Ry told me. This lovely, curvy lady certainly appears to have him “out for the count”

‘It’s just a publicity stunt’ she told herself over and over again. ‘Tommy Butler’s behind it’. But the following day Lizzie handed her a letter as they met to walk to college. Maggie waited until the break. Locking herself in a toilet cubicle, she opened the letter.

‘Dear darling Maggie, I’m so so sorry…….. .

Through silent tears she read the letter. The weeks and months that followed were hell.

In the years that followed Maggie married and had a family. This did not stop her following Ry’s career. Looking at Ry now it gave her no satisfaction that his handsome features were now bloated flesh. She had quietly read the sports pages and watched the headlines change from ‘Roarin’ Ry’ to ‘Randy Ry’ and finally to ‘Robbin’ Ry’ after he had been convicted of driving a getaway car in an armed robbery. He had spent his fortune on drugs, booze and women. There had had been four divorces and five marriages. Then the final disgrace. The drunken car crash which had killed his last wife and her nine year old daughter. Ry survived only to spend more time in prison.

‘The funny thing is,’ Maggie said. ‘I never remember you drinking when we were young.’

Ry regarded the can. ‘Believe it or not. I never touched the stuff till I were twenty nine. Mind you,’ he smiled. ‘You could say I’ve made up for it since.’

‘You could say that Ry,’ Maggie remarked. ‘Ry, why did you destroy yourself?’
This question had bothered Maggie for years. ‘You had so much going for you. You literally fought your way out of the slums. Why did you throw it all away?’

Ry shrugged, causing his immense shoulders to slowly rise and fall. ‘I never meant to. It were all just fun at first. Every time I ‘ad a fight or did an advert they gave me thousands. I just spent it. I went to parties like everybody else.’

‘But Ry, didn’t you ever think of the future?’

Ry played with the can, his eyes without sight. ‘The future? I never thought I’d see thirty never mind sixty.’

Maggie had never understood this side of Ry. She realised however that it was part of his make up as a human being. It was part of the reason that he had been so successful and it was also part of the reason that he had fallen. In many ways he just didn’t care for himself.

‘Are you staying anywhere at the moment Ry?’ Maggie asked.

‘Old Stillwood,’ he replied, preferring to keep his gaze on the can.

‘Is it your own place?’ Maggie asked knowing that this was unlikely.

‘No,’ he stated in a flat voice. ‘It an ‘ostel for people like me. You know, ‘omeless. ‘Omeless and ‘opeless.’

‘You could come to live here if you want.’ Maggie offered. She wanted to give him the opportunity to finish his days with some dignity. Maggie had been a nurse and knew that Ry was living on borrowed time.

Ry’s head slowly swivelled around the tiny flat.

‘Thanks Maggie but no. I’m past being fit to live normal. I’m best where I am.’ He nodded to Maggie, lips pursed. Maggie held his eyes before disengaging with a sharp breath.

‘Well, maybe I can give you something to make life more comfortable,’ she offered. ‘I have a full stock room downstairs.’

Ry’ toothless grin brought feelings for him flooding back.

‘I’m only interested in this stuff,’ he said tapping the can. Hot, saline tears pricked at her eyes. Crossing the room, she threw her arms around him. They were silent for a while until Ry struggled up from the sofa. Dabbing at her eyes, Maggie followed his slow clump downstairs.

‘You ok gran?’ Gemma asked.

‘I’m fine,’ Maggie told her opening the door to allow Ry to limp out.

‘Thanks for caring,’ Ry said hobbling past. She smiled sadly at this knowing that it would be the last time that she would ever see him. She continued to watch his enormous frame hobble across the street oblivious to the cars forced to drive around him. He climbed the pavement on the other side before turning to face her.

‘Champion,’ he shouted from a ruined throat throwing his head back. In an imitation of his younger self he lifted his arthritic arms as far as he could take them. Maggie felt her heart thump as he brought his head back to its resting position and slowly winked before turning and shuffling into the distance.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 20:20 on 21 June 2004  Report this post
A tragic tale, hwh. You portray well the destructive nature to Ry's character so that his downfall is totally believable.

A few points. Not sure about the accent.

Only t’ biggest boxing promoter in t’ country.’ = the t' works okay when it's followed by a vowel but I think in the Yorkshire accent, he'd omit it altogether in front of a vowel. I can't read the above sentence easily.

I would like to hear more about Maggie's brother and his boxing career - just a line would probably enough or something to show us he's still resentful of Ry or that he's moved on.

Her domineering father did not suspect that her newfound interest in the choir = do you need domineering? We have already picked this up.

'You ok' and 'Isn't that dangerous' need question marks.

As Maggie regarded Ry in the room above the shop she saw the same look in Ry’s face. She held a conversation with Ry but her mind was unable to stay in the present. = this threw me. I didn't pick up that we'd come back to the present for a moment, plus you use Ry's name 3 times.

I felt the story finished quickly after he broke off with her.

Also, I was surprised she hugged him, bearing in mind the state of him but maybe that's just me.

Good luck with this

eyeball at 14:35 on 20 July 2004  Report this post
Good story, Peter. I think you conveyed his decline very well.

One thing I felt didn't work so well was the movement into the back story. At the start of this section, in the para:

That wink was the start of something,’ she said with a tight smile. Maggie’s mind again wandered into the past. Ry started to speak again; Maggie nodded as if listening but could not prevent her mind travelling back over the years.

you repeat that she is thinking about the past, and you use the same format again:

but her mind was unable to stay in the present.

I think it would work better if you varied the format more, maybe use a 'back then, he...' kind of thing.

Typo: Lizzie who’s eyes (whose)

I also felt the story skipped over the development of the affair rather quickly, but I can see that you had a lot to cram into this story and it might have made it too long.

Very interesting character. I reckon you could have a novel out of him.


halfwayharry at 20:13 on 22 July 2004  Report this post
Thanks both of you. Elspeth I have worked on your feedback and take your feedback into account Sharon. Moving backwards and forwards in time is something I like to do and I need to work on improving these links.



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