A Piece of Steak

by John Rocco

This old guy I know in the bar
was drinking and talking to me
about sports and sports betting
and in the middle of it he says:

“It’s all like that
fucking life
is all like that. You make the best
bets you can and you almost win
but you lose and lose and lose.
And lose. You just can’t beat the book.”

I buy him a beer after he buys me a beer.

“You read books, right?
There’s that Hemingway story…
about a boxer and a piece of steak…
an old timer who just wants
a steak but he has to fight
this young up-and-comer
with the wife and kids home
starving and he fights his heart out
but gets knocked out late in the fight
after he gave it his all
one last time
but broke he has to walk home
two miles
broke and broken
remembering the old guys
he beat the hell out of
when he was young.”

It drove me crazy for a month until
I realized it was not Hemingway
but Jack London who wrote it.
I hadn’t read it in years
and in the second to last paragraph
was the knockout sentence when
the old boxer thought about telling
his poor starving wife and kids he
had lost again:

“That was harder than any
knockout, and it seemed almost
impossible to face.”

I never corrected the old guy in the bar
about who wrote it
because we all write it
and fight it
everyday in the bar
because it’s the late rounds for him
and the middle rounds for me
both of us knowing
while buying rounds
that the final count
is always coming.

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One Response to A Piece of Steak

  1. Joyce Juzwik says:

    Gritty slice of reality here. Well written piece. We are all awaiting that final round/countdown, it’s how we get there that makes the difference. Loved this.

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