The Boxing Championship
(ghost written by Vlad Paraschiv)

Tee, a feisty ten year old, and his younger brother, Sam, were riding the school bus back from school, as they did every day. The two brothers were very different: Tee was athletic and the ruling boxing champion on his block, while the eight year old Sam was interested in bugs, not sports. Usually, Tee was cool and laid-back, but now he squirmed nervously in his seat. He was trying to think of a way to ditch Sam this afternoon, because Tyrone — Tee's best friend and 'manager' — had asked him today at lunch:

"Hey, Tee man, are you up for a challenge? The boys are after your belt! I arranged to meet with all the contenders in the park, around four. Cool with you?”

"Sure," replied Tee enthusiastically, always eager for a fight. "I'll be there!"

The championship belt was Tee's most prized possession. He had fashioned it himself from cardboard and decorated it with markers and lots of glitter. 'Nobody's touching my belt,' Tee thought confidently. However, he worried that if his little brother would tag along it would cramp his style and take away cool points with the guys. Their mother always insisted they go everywhere together. What a drag... 'I'm no babysitter,' he muttered mournfully to himself. He took a quick glance at his right, where Sam was sitting. The wide-eyed boy was looking out the window, oblivious to his older brother's plight.

At home, Tee did not mind spending time with his younger brother. They got along just fine, and had lots of fun playing 'Imagination' — a game Tee invented. The boys could pretend to be pirates, crime fighters, or explorers who discovered hidden treasures. Sam was also quite skilled at video games, challenging Tee and even winning sometimes. Playing outside was a different matter altogether... Tee was well built and tall for his age, he was fast and strong; Sam was small and slender, neither fast, nor strong. Tee dreamed to be one day the boxing World Champion, just like his hero, Muhammad Ali — whose CD's he watched all the time, and whose poster covered almost an entire wall in his room. When he was sparring, Tee kept reminding himself, 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee...' When he won a fight Tee boasted, "I'm the greatest! I'm the greatest!" Although Sam looked up to Tee, he gave no indication he'd ever follow in his older brother's steps. The little boy was the last to be picked for any game, and then he always seemed to be in the way. Clumsy and distracted, Sam would gladly choose to chase after butterflies rather than after balls.

The school bus stopped at the curbe, and Tee nudged Sam, "Come on, let's go!" Startled from his daydreaming, the little boy gathered his backpack in a hurry and hustled down the aisle after Tee.

"See you tomorrow," smiled Mr. Stan, their favorite bus driver.

"See you," answered the boys as they climbed down the bus stairs and started to run toward their home, half a block down the street.

Once home, Tee burst through the door, discarded his backpack in the hallway, and ran into the kitchen, "Hi, mom!"

"Hi, mom," Sam followed, taking off his backpack as well and set it on a chair.

"Hey! You boys are home early," said their mom, giving them a hug.

"How was school?"

"Great!" volunteered Sam. "Mrs. Roberts said that my dragonflies presentation for 'show and tell' was the best she'd ever seen! She said I'm gonna be a great etolologist some day! ...What's that mom?"

"You mean ENTOMOLOGIST," laughed his mom. "That's what you call someone who studies insects. I'm so proud of you, Sam!" She turned toward her older son "How about your math test, Tee?"

Tee climbed on a stool by the kitchen counter. Two frosted glasses of milk and a plate of cookies were waiting there for them, as usual. He picked up a glass, gulped down half the milk, then grinned ear to ear, sporting a skinny milk mustache, "I had only one mistake! Got a B+."

"That's wonderful! If you pay more attention, I'm sure you can get an A next time," mom smiled and started to put the clean dishes away in the cupboard.

Sam climbed on a stool next to Tee, and both boys ate their cookies and drank their milk chattering away about school. Tee finished first, wiped his mouth, and jumped down from the stool.

"Mom, can I go to the park this afternoon?"

"Only after you do your homework," mom said, poining her finger and looking straight at him. "Take your brother with you," she added.

Here it was! Tee was ready to protest, but Sam beat him to the punch.

"But mom," whined the little boy, "I want to play with my ant farm..."

Tee saw an opportunity and grabbed it. Playing it cool, he shrugged, "That's all right if he doesn't want to go... I'll play with Tyrone and the other boys."

Mom stopped what she was doing, and frowned at them, "I don't want to hear it from either one of you. Tee, you are taking your brother. Sam, you need to go out in the sun every once in a while. You can play with your bugs when it rains. Now, both of you, go do your homework!"

There was no further argument to be made, so the boys picked up their backpacks and went into the den. Tee plopped himself in front of the computer and took out his worksheets. After he checked on his ants for a minute, Sam sat at the table and started on his own assignments. Pretty soon, both boys were engrossed in their homework, and the only sounds one could hear in the room were the rustling of papers, and computer blips. Mom stuck her head in every now and then to check on them, but seeing her sons diligently at work, she just smiled and walked away.

Just as they were wrapping up their homework and putting their books away, a knock on the window announced Tyrone's arrival. "Ready to go, big guy?" he asked, when Tee opened the window.

"I'll be right out," said Tee, grabbing the championship belt and his boxing gloves. "Let's go, small fry," he urged Sam. "You better not embarrass me in front of the boys," he cautioned him. Sam just sighed and followed his brother in the kitchen.

"We're off, mom," Tee announced. "We finished our homework."

"OK. Be careful crossing the street. Dad will be home at six, so do not be late for dinner," she warned them. "Tee, remember — you are your brother's keeper! Make sure he doesn't get hurt. You know I'll keep an eye on you..." It was a blessing that the park was just across the street, so she could easily supervise her sons from the kitchen window. "Now go, have fun," mom dismissed them with a wave of her hand.

"Bye, mom!" Tee flew out the front door. Sam waved at his mom, and rushed to catch up with his brother.

Tyrone was waiting in front of the house. "You're babysitting again, Tee?" he smirked at the sight of Sam.

Sam gave Tyrone an angry stare, but didn't say anything. Tee just shrugged, "I got to... Don't worry, he won't be any trouble."

The three of them crossed the street and entered the park. They seemed to be the first to arrive at the meeting place.

"Do you think they lost their nerve?" Tee snorted.

"They'll show up," Tyrone reassured him. "They can't wait to get their hands on that belt of yours..."

"Let them try!" laughed Tee, and started hitting his chest with his closed fist, "I'm the greatest!"

While they waited, the three of them had fun practicing their curve ball. Soon, one after another, Tee's opponents started to gather around them. Some of them had the boxing gloves already on, and were jumping around to warm up.

"We want a fight!" Josh, yelled impatiently. He was one of the kids who was there just to watch. All the other boys joined in, "Fight, fight, fight!"

"Hey! Are you in a hurry to get your butt kicked?" Tyrone protested, but he put the ball away. Then, taking the glittery belt from Tee, he held it high above his head, calling, "Come all fighters! Tee will fight all contenders! This is a fight to the finish, for the Championship of The World! Who wants to go first?" Setting up the fights was one of his jobs as Tee's manager.

The first match was with a dude called Monster P. He was a fierce fighter, but not as good as Tee. "One, two, three. You’re out,” said Jibar, the kid chosen to be the referee. The next fighter was Turtle. "One, two, three, you’re out." Just as fast as they came, they dropped like flies, and Tee wasn't even breaking a sweat.

Sam was extremely proud of his older brother. He cheered louder than anyone else every time Tee won. Another match was about to start, when he heard a deep voice behind him. The little boy knew that voice very well. It belonged to KT, the neighborhood bully....

Sam was terrified of KT. One day at Fast & Friendly’s he had accidentally backed into KT and spilled his chocolate ice-cream cone all over the bully's new shirt. The little boy apologized and tried to wipe it clean, but KT grabbed him by the arm and almost lifted him off the ground, ready to strike him. Luckily, KT noticed that Sam's mother was at the other end of the counter, and just muttered furiously through his teeth, "I'll get you good for this, don't you worry!" Now KT was making his way through the crowd. Everyone stood back to let him come up front.

“Man, not again..." Tyrone objected, turning toward Tee. "You’ve already fought him the other day. Hasn’t he had enough? He doesn't even have his gloves..."

Sam was shaking in his shoes and moved backwards, to hide behind his older brother, but KT was coming straight for him, pointing with his fat finger over Tee's shoulder, "I want you, punk!"

Tee didn't understand at first, but when he saw where the bully was pointing, he put a hand on KT's chest to keep him away from Sam. “Ease up, bro. That’s my little brother, and he doesn't fight.”

KT tried to push Tee out of the way, "I want him, not you!" he barked, in a fit of anger.

“Well, me is what you got,” said Tee, standing his ground.

Almost blind with rage and frustration, KT swung at Tee. Tee moved sideways swiftly, and punched him in the mouth. Losing his balance, KT went down on one knee. Disregarding all the rules of a fair fight, the bully picked up a big rock. Everyone gasped and began to run. The kids scattered quickly toward the different park exits, before KT had a chance to hurl the rock to anyone's head.

Usually, Sam wasn't very fast, but now he was the first out of the park and into his house across the street. Tee and Tyrone closed the ranks, right behind him. Tee closed the door and locked it quickly.

"That's... not... cool..." Tyrone wheezed, out of breath, "KT is a loose cannon, man... What does... he want... with you...Sam?"

Sam, still shaken by the close call, told them about the ice-cream incident.

"That's it? Tee asked. "The guy is crazy if he can get so worked up over a stained shirt... You keep out of his way, Sam!"


It was a sunny Saturday morning. Tee and Sam just finished breakfast, when the phone rang. Dad picked up the receiver.

"Boys," called dad after he hung up, "Tyrone's dad needs to borrow some tools. I need you to take them over to him."

"No problem, dad," Tee answered, happy to get out of the house. "Can we stay and play for a while?"

"Sure, but not for long. You have soccer practice in 2 hours. I'll drop you off and take Sam to the Museum of Natural Science, as I promised."

"Yay!" Sam jumped up and down, excited. Although dad takes him there any chance he has, Sam can't wait to go again and see the amazing insect collections.

Dad gathered the tools and handed each of the boys a small bag. Tee and Sam grabbed their skateboards and rushed down the street, to Tyrone's house. After delivering the tools, Tyrone joined them, and they all went outside to skateboard in the cul-de-sac. There, some girls were jumping rope on the sidewalk. At first, the three boys were annoyed by their presence, but as soon as the girls started to watch them, they began to show off their skills. They rolled on the pavement forward and backward, turned and jumped, twisted and swerved, challenging each other to do more and more complicated moves.

The girls were impressed all right, clapping and squealing. Keisha — a girl in the same class with Tee and Tyrone — started to ask for skateboarding pointers. Tee offered to teach her a few tricks, and Tyrone let her use his skateboard. The kids were all laughing and having fun, watching Keisha, as she wiggled clumsily on the skateboard.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Tyrone saw a hefty kid on a big red bike, racing toward them.

"Guys, that's KT. Let's book!" he pointed, and ran into his house. He kept the door opened and urged his friends to come inside.

Tee bolted, "Sorry, Keisha, the lesson will have to wait." He pulled Sam tightly and ran into Tyrone's house. The girls disappeared as well into Keisha's yard. Nobody wanted anything to do with KT.

Safe for now, Tee, Sam, and Tyrone, watched from behind the curtains as KT arrived in the cul-de-sac. Clearly, he had seen them all from a distance, because he shook his fist toward Tyrone's house, twisting his face into an evil smirk. Then he started riding in circles, and gave no sign he would leave any time soon.

"What's he doing?" Sam asked his brother. "We have to leave soon! Dad is waiting for us..."

"Looks like KT is waiting for us too," Tee mumbled. "If we don't leave now, I'll be late for soccer practice..."

"You guys can go through my backyard," suggested Tyrone. "There is a board loose in the fence. You can easily go into Mr. Bart's backyard, and he doesn't have a fence. Neither does Mis. Beetle next door to him... After that, you can go around, back on the street. KT'll never catch you."

Sounds like a plan," Tee approved. "Let's go, small fry."

The brothers went out through the back door and jetted through the neighboring backyards. Once back on the street, they rode their skateboards all the way back home as fast as they could.

“We have to stop running away” said Tee, once inside. "KT'll catch us eventually, and when he does —WHAM! But I not afraid of him!"

"Sure you're not. You're stronger than he is! He fights dirty, but you punched him in the mouth," Sam reminded Tee. "Anyway, he wants me, not you... KT would snap me in half like a pretzel..."


The weekend was over, and it was time to go back to school. Tee, Tyrone, and Sam went to a very nice elementary school — Martin Luther King Jr.. Tee’s teacher, Mrs. Thomas, preached: “If you have to fight, do it with your words, not with your fists.” Her message of nonviolence was a topic of every recess time. Tee wasn’t thinking about that when he saw KT coming toward him, like a freight train.

"Hey man, we have some unfinished business," he boomed. "I'll take care of you first, and then I'll squash your little brother like a bug!"

Sam, who was witnessing the scene from the cafeteria stairs, panicked and ran inside yelling, "Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Thomas! KT wants to beat up my brother!"

The teacher rushed outside. Tee and KT were jumping and flexing, each looking for the best angle to throw in the first blow. Mrs. Thomas pushed them apart and threatened, ”I will call your parents, and you will be suspended for fighting on school property! You better stop before you get started!"

Just then the bell rang, and the recess was over. Tee and KT had to go back to their classrooms, under the watchful eye of Mrs. Thomas. In the hallway, KT turned around and raised his fist to Tee. Tee wanted to return the gesture, but Sam pulled at his sleeve, "Are you crazy? Don't anger him! He's already seeing red because I called Mrs. Thomas..."


Later in the week, things seemed to have calmed down. KT got detention for being disruptive during the class, so he didn't show his face for a few days, neither in recess, nor in the park, after school.

One afternoon, Tee and Sam headed to the park across the street. Tee was rushing to meet Tyrone and some other kids to play ball. Sam had promised Josh to show him his pet tarantula spider, Deedee.

"See you later, Sam," said Tee, and ran off to play baseball.

Carefully carrying the critter in a plastic box, Sam went toward the swings, where Josh was waiting for him. When Sam opened the lid, Josh shrieked, surprised and delighted, "Boy! She's huge! Big as my palm!"

Wanting to see what the excitement was all about, other kids came running and made a circle around Sam and his box. Some of them backed away almost immediately; others came even closer, to look curiously at the big, furry spider. Keisha was one of them. "Wow," she barely whispered, mesmerized by the orange and black creature. "Does it bite?"

Before Sam had a chance to answer, a dark shadow covered the sun... He looked up, and saw KT towering over him, grinning with satisfaction. The other kids were inching away, except Keisha, who was still looking at the spider. Sam froze.

"I got you now, dork!" KT bellowed victoriously, preparing his fists.

The booming voice frightened the spider, and she started to paddle around in the box, looking for a place to hide. Forgetting his fear, Sam urged KT in a controlled voice, "Back off, you big goon! You scared her!"

"Oooh," mocked KT, who didn't notice the spider, "did I scare your girlfriend?"

"Not her," Sam gestured toward Keisha, "HER!" The little boy picked up the agitated spider and held it up toward KT.

"Whoa! Keep that thing away from me!" KT screeched and jumped back, but he stumbled and fell on his butt. All the kids around burst into laughter. KT didn't seem so scary crawling backwards on the ground, trying to put as much distance between himself and Deedee, the tarantula.

Right then, Sam saw Tee, Tyrone, and four of their friends running toward them. KT saw them too. As he recognized that there is strength in numbers, the bully scrambled to his feet, and moved away, waving his clenched fist at Sam, "I'll get you next time, creep!" he threatened, trying to salvage what was left of his reputation. There was no use, because the kids who witnessed his humiliation were laughing and pointing:

"KT is afraid of spiders! KT is afraid of spiders!"

"KT screamed like a girl!"

"Hey, KT! Does your butt hurt?"

But KT kept going, as if he could not hear any of the teasing and taunting shouts.

When Tee and his posse reached the joyous crowd, Tee asked, out of breath, "What happened? Are you all right, Sam?"

Sam smiled broadly and winked, "Yeah, I'm fine. At least for now..."

"Oh, man! You should have seen it!" Josh jumped in, wiping tears of joy from his eyes, "KT lost the match to Deedee! That was a knock out, if I ever saw one!"

The kids at the scene started to talk all at once. Soon, Tee and his friends were up to speed, and laughing as hard as everyone else.

"You should take Deedee with you everywhere," said Tee, putting an arm around his younger brother's shoulders. "Sure thing KT would leave you alone for good!"

That evening, when Tee and Sam got home, Tee took his championship belt and wrapped it around Deedee's glass cage, "Right now Deedee is the champ! She deserves it!"


The next day, back from school, Tee and Sam were ready to attack the milk and cookies in the kitchen when Tyrone popped in, looking worried and upset.

“I have some bad news,” he said hesitantly.

"Spit it out! What happened?" Tee urged, disquieted by Tyrone's demeanor.

It's really bad, man! K-Dogg got in an ugly fight with Malik, that huge dude that just got out of juvie... They fought over some girl, and now K-Dogg is in the hospital! Malik hit his head against a wall and cracked his skull open!"

K-Dogg was KT's sixteen year old brother; a notorious thug and the No. 1 troublemaker in the neighborhood.

"I saw KT before he went to the hospital with his parents..." continued Tyrone,"He was crying, man..."

"That's terrible," Tee and Sam's mother cried out. She knew KT's and K-Dogg's mother very well. They were both involved in the PTA, so she was understandably grieved by the news. "I'm going to the hospital to see whether they need any help. Kids, you will go with me to comfort KT."

Although Tee and Sam were deeply disturbed by what had happened to K-dogg, they didn't know what to expect from KT. However, they were not about to tell their mom that KT was their sworn enemy. Reluctantly, they climbed in the car, and off they went.

When they arrived at the hospital, KT was in the waiting room. He was weeping in a corner, with his head down between his shrugged shoulders. Tee's and Sam's mom went to talk to KT's parents, by the nurses' station. Not sure what to do, Tee approached KT timidly, with Sam taking a strategic position behind him.

"Hey, man!" Tee dared to put a hand on KT's shoulder to comfort him. "So sorry to hear about your brother..."

KT looked up, all toughness drained out of him. "This makes no sense... I don’t understand..." he sobbed. "Who would've thought that a silly fight over a girl could lead to this. He could die..."

"Don't talk like that," said Sam, feeling sorry for his worst enemy, "I'm sure he'll be all right..."

"I hope so," sighed KT, wiping his eyes. "All I know is that's not right to hurt anyone like that, and make their mama cry," he said, looking helplessly at his mother who was sobbing in his father's arms.

As they left the hospital, mom told Tee, "That should be a lesson to you! I know you love boxing, but fights can easily get out of hand."

"Don't worry, mom. I only fight for fun, for the belt! I always follow the rules." Tee reassured her.


As Tee and Sam were walking toward the school bus the next day, they ran into KT. Tee stood in front of Sam, just in case KT forgot the anti-violence statement he made at the hospital. There was no reason to worry, because KT was smiling. “I thought you should know," he said, "my brother is better now. The doctor says it will take a few months, but he will be as good as new." KT shrugged, "He said he won’t be fighting anybody from now on. I won’t either, because I guess it's much better to have friends than enemies!"

"Does that mean I will be the undefeated boxing champion?" Tee teased him.

"Oh, no, I don't mean that," KT laughed. "I'll challenge you for the belt, but no more dirty tricks! Just gloves! I'll see you in the park tomorrow," he promised, and raised his fist high. Tee did the same.

KT left toward his bus. After only a few steps, he turned around, and grinned wickedly, "Hey, Sam! You can leave that ugly spider at home. I'll give you no grief." KT put his hand over his heart, "Promise! Are we cool, man?"

"Sure we're cool!" jumped Sam, happy to put the silly feud behind them.

Sam and Tee shook hands with KT and parted as friends. As KT was walking away, Tee warned him, "Just so you know — I won't let that belt go easily! I'll kick your butt tomorrow!"

KT made a face, "Leave my butt alone, bro! Sam's spider took care of it already!"

They all burst out laughing. The three of them were now looking forward to a long and solid friendship.


the end