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Sporting Gents

Sporting Gents

An introspective traveler's tale of cockfighting and prostitution

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Literary fiction


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Paul Earl (Australia)


In front of me a father hoists his little boy onto his shoulders to get a better view. He’s taken his son to the cockfights, and the first pair has just squared up.
She wanted a better view of everything for her daughter. Waiting at home for her mother’s naked tenderness, eyes un-shuttered, an occupational necessity on hold.
I’d left my friends in the bar.
“I am just going outside and may be some time.”

Dismounting from the bike, I look around me, taking in the surroundings, or at least as well as a skinfull of Bintang will allow.
“Where’s the girl?”
“Wait here,” Katek tells me. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.” I go to the top of the alley to chill and chat with a hard-scrabble merchant taking the non- breeze with a knowing smile.
“Where you stay?”
I tell him, offer a cigar and we smoke in companionable silence.
A bike growls into the courtyard and she’s here. On the back. Removes her helmet. Introductions. I’m sure it makes a difference to her attitude – civilities with white guys forty years her senior, pale-skinned fuckers who’ve paid to sample what should belong to lovers would sure make a difference to mine.
Sitting in the bar drinking I knew I needed something else. I figured that if a staggering white guy hit the streets someone would be onto him before he knew he’d surrendered. Cultures do what they can to survive and if my white flag helps perhaps I can extract an inch or two of the moral high ground from that. Sure enough, five minutes and I’m on the back of a pimp’s bike. I should give him a name. It’s only fair. Katek took my requirements and made the call. We arrived at a motel seedy only because of the utilitarian nature of the room – a bed, a few metres of floor space and a bathroom. On the bed a sausage pillow hints at what’s to come.
I try and get over that and focus my appreciation on her extraordinary body – the bone structure of her model’s face, the smooth slim thighs. Chocolate sprinkle nipples.
The light. Oh man, the light. As it falls on her schoolgirl body. After she’s hosed me down and led me to the bed. And there’s something else here – an image unbidden. I don’t want it but there it is.
The clamorous roar comes with a languid gesture from the handlers. The boy on his father’s shoulders squirms, excited. Then into the clove-and-shit-soaked air a response from the crowd. Dramatic and unexpected. Hundreds of voices rising in a near religious fervor, hands shooting forwards and backwards towards the ring, over-eager school kids with the answer to a question no-one’s asked. Staccato shouts directed at those taking bets, possibly to excite the fighters. Let them know the time has come for one of them. The fight lasts thirty seconds. Half a minute of sustained, deadly aggression. The blades bound to the cocks’ claws flash in the buttery afternoon light as they launch themselves at each other. Slashing. Pecking. One of them deflates, seems almost to explode as feathers lose their definition, splayed around the supine, untidy form. A roar from the crowd, especially from those who backed the victorious cock. Blades are cut from claws, the loser strung up to the low chicken-wire fence enclosing the ring, awaiting decapitation and butchering. Money changes hands, 50,000 of it mine.
Katek pockets much more than that. I wonder how much of it Lina sees. I’m aware of a circle closing here, echoes of another time, roles reversed, as Lina pulls on her clothes. An awkwardness born of a realisation that there’s nothing I can say to this beautiful young woman that would make a scrap of difference to either of us. There are cock fights and then there are cock fights.


Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1

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