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The Memoirs of Daniel Van Sant
People wonder why I'm so gifted with language and eloquence. They have good and many reasons to wonder. I went to the poorest school in the poorest part of Khazan City. I became a street orphan at the age of twelve. I could have gone and lived at an actual orphanage I suppose, but something in my gut told me it would be better on the streets alone. My answer for this one is simple; practice, practice, practice. That and some minor help from grammar textbooks. I practiced on my father. You don't actually think I took those beatings willingly do you? I fought back because I was finally strong enough to do it. Before then I resorted to cunning and language. It usually involved offering to go get dad more liquor or getting him pissed at someone else so he would go beat them up instead of me. I'm not very proud of passing his anger on to someone else, but it was them or me. And if I can help it, it's never going to be me.
The sad part about this is that I had no formal training. I couldn't afford a dojo or a karate class or anything fancy like that. My style and training was mostly a process of assimilation and osmosis. I'd see a fighter do really well on the street and emulate him. Or I'd glimpse a karate demonstration on television or through a window. Bits and pieces of whole fighting styles made their way in to my repertoire. The one true advantage is my lack of qualms about using it. Karate students are taught to only use their training in self-defense. Too restricted. If a guy pisses me off I drop him right then and there. I don't need to wait for him to throw the first punch. Besides, if he punches hard enough I won't be able to retaliate in kind. First strike capability, handy little concept. It really worked well one night. Scored me several hundred dollars and a good deed.
It was fairly simple. A well-dressed businessman came out of one of the office buildings in my neighborhood. It was dark outside and the bus stop was several blocks away. I knew he'd get mugged, robbed, stabbed, beaten, and most likely killed before he got there. Just the way things were around here. He may as well have had a target painted on him. So I followed him. Sure enough, two punks waylaid him in an alley. I recognized them as two guys I already hated. They didn't care if he had money on him or anything, they just wanted to inflict pain. Any money a victim had was just icing on the cake. They got in a few good shots before I got there. Taking them down was easy enough. I knocked them out before anyone knew what was going on. Their victim was unconscious and bleeding by the time I went to check him. I lugged him to an emergency clinic about two blocks away and gave him to a nurse. I took his wallet. I figured it was a nominal price for saving his life. Like I said, moral paradox. I try to do the right thing, but most of the time it's not worth it.
I've never been a very lucky person. And I'm kind of a pessimist if you haven't already guessed. Yes I'm proactive to a point and yes I try to learn, but I still have a pretty dim view of the world. I think it's due to the amount of shit I've been through. Anyhow, one night was my lucky night, if you could call it that.
This is the part where you learn about underground prize fighting. It's a lot different than that pussy boxing you'll see on sports channels. There's no elegant boxing ring, or boxing gloves, or timed rounds or comfortable seating. This is underground fighting, literally. Usually in some warehouse basement. It's a chalk circle drawn on a hard concrete floor, bookies who take bets, and crowds of screaming onlookers. They're not fans, they just want to see someone hurt. It's fairly simple. It's you and one other fighter. You fight until one of you can't continue. If you win, you get a small share of what the bookies made on the fight, if you lose, they'll drag you off to the side of the warehouse and leave you there. Fight Club on steroids, nasty business.
Now I said this was my lucky night. First off, I was a huge underdog in this fight. They'd actually publicized it a little around the neighborhood. Not too much because this is technically illegal. But I was up against a guy who was six feet, ten inches tall and about double my size. I mean, I'm 5'9" and not exactly small, but he was a colossus. Anyhow, we started fighting. I was quicker, so I was able to get in a few punches here and there, but they didn't seem to faze him one bit. He got a few punches in too, thankfully none of them were on my head. To make a long story short, I got behind him somehow and chop-blocked his left knee. He went down hard. I got him into a sleeper hold and choked him out. Not bad for a scrawny guy. I'd just won a cut of a huge prize purse. To top it off, Darren Carlson was at the fight. He owned the Salty Dog Tavern, the roughest tavern in the roughest part of lowtown. He came up to me as I was getting my winnings and offered me a job as a bouncer/bartender.
"Any man who can beat that guy." He said, "can work at my bar any day."
"Done." I croaked.
The afore-mentioned customers all came in for a drink and some grub. That's where I came in. It was my job to pour the drinks, serve the food, and make sure that when fights did break out, damage to the tavern was minimized. Things went pretty smoothly. I did my job and soon the customers knew I wasn't someone to take lightly. I think breaking four arms, two legs, several dozen fingers, and giving out a few concussions on my first night helped. It sent a message. Between that first night and my notoriety of winning the prize fight, most people took a hint and wanted nothing to do with me in a fight. This meant more fighting broke out in the alley behind the Salty Dog and on the street out front, but that's better than stuff actually happening inside. And for references' sake, the fights that started just outside the club counted as part of our "Consecutive Days with Violence" tally. After all, losing a so-called good reputation will lose you business and neither Darren nor myself wanted that.
I'd been working at the bar for about 8 years. Darren had died about 2 years before and left me the bar. I asked him why me and he said that I was the only person he trusted to run the place as it should be run. She walked into the bar one night. Maybe disheveled by her standards, but goddess-like by mine and most of my patrons. I could tell she was sad, distraught over something that had happened. Normally I wouldn't have cared, but God was she gorgeous. She asked me for a menu and I chuckled a bit. She started to sob and wince a bit. That's when I knew this girl was extremely fragile, a ticking clock if I didn't handle things right. I took a gamble and offered her a burger, fries and a soda. She weakly nodded a yes so I went and got the drink and put in the food order. Then I noticed something else. All of the patrons were staring at her too. Bad news as this place can turn ugly real quick. Luckily by now I had a reputation, and a mean one at that. I started staring down everybody, one by one. All my regulars got the message. This girl was under my protection. Messing with her was messing with me and none of the regulars in their right mind would do that. And they even had the sense to tell those who didn't understand why I was staring at them with death in my eyes.
When the food came she devoured it, kind of uncharacteristic for a girl of her class and stature. But I supposed she hadn't eaten in a long time and she probably didn't care much about pretenses right now. She was sad and hungry, and eating would fix at least one of those things. I asked her what was wrong. At first she was quiet, an unsteady look in her eyes, sort of like a trapped animal. Then she started listing out every detail of the past twelve hours. Her father, lunch, a gun, trauma, it all came at me so fast that I had a lot of trouble handling it. I did though, I've dealt with many of those same things. After she was finished talking, I asked her what she was going to do. Bad move, she started crying again. I quickly asked if she would like to lie down. I keep a cot back in my storage area for just such emergencies. She accepted and I led her back. Good thing too. My patrons know I mean business, but a lot of them are bold and stupid. They were looking frisky again which meant trouble for me and this girl. I got her to the cot though and she went to sleep.
I originally gave her the piece because she needed protection in this part of town. I took her to a shooting range and taught her what I knew of shooting. Admittedly I don't know much, but my buddy Jack Richards happened to be there that day and gave her a few pointers. He owed me a little because he won a load of cash on that fight I told you about. She was a natural. Bull's eye almost every time. Jack gave me the same pointers, but I still couldn't hit the bull's eye. Occasionally I would hit the target. That's when he suggested I use a shotgun. He went and got one from his..., I guess the word is store.
Unbelievable difference. I was hitting the bull's eye every time now. Granted I also hit most of the target with it, but this was fun. No need to aim, just point and shoot. I asked him what I owed him for the gun and he told me that we were even. I guess he really did make a load of money on that fight.
So that's the way it went. Anytime something happened in the bar, Jessica would handle the precision shooting when we only wanted to hit one person, and I would handle things when we didn't care who got hit. Good system I think. Me and my lady, we make quite a team. We dated. Never got married. Still aren't married. We're together and that's that. If you'd told me I would have a life like this when I was 14 years old, I'd have said you were full of shit and probably beaten the hell out of you for senseless optimism. And I don't know if this is karma or poetic justice or something along those lines, but I got my girl and she's got me. And I can live with that. I'm 31 years old, and life is finally working out just fine.