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Dead Game
by Andrew Vachss

Dead Game from Hard Looks, adapted stories by Andrew Vachss
"Dead Game" from Hard Looks
adaptation by Neal Barrett, Jr.
art by John Bergin

I'm no good until I get hit the first time.

Tony says I'm a slow starter.

But once I get going, nothing can stop me.

I never quit. Never.

I looked across the ring. I'm fighting a black guy tonight. Bosco, I think his name is.

It doesn't matter what his name is.

This is the first time I saw him. They don't let me face the other guy at the weigh-ins anymore. Sometimes, I go after them right there. I have to save it for the fight.

He's a little bigger than me, but he's still inside the weight limit.

He's younger than me, too.

But I've been around a lot longer. You can see it on my face. And all over my body. Experience counts for a lot in these fights. You can't tell if a fighter's any good until he gets nailed the first time, that's what Tony says. Then you find out about his heart.

They say it's in my blood, fighting.

But I really only do it for Tony.

I love him.

He's been with me since I was real little. He gives me everything.

I train the old way. Special food. No sex before a fight.

They say that's why we started fighting. For sex. To have our pick of the bitches.

But I could have sex even if I didn't fight. I fight for Tony.

I work out all the time. Tony even built a special treadmill for me, to build up my endurance.

If you get tired in these fights, you lose.

I never get tired.

I watched the black guy across from me, waiting for the signal to start. I watched his eyes. He wasn't afraid.

They never are.

Down here, the purse is nothing . . . all the money comes from betting.

Tony always bets on me.

I'd never let him down.

I'd die first.

I'm not afraid of dying. It's just sleep. And you don't wake up.

I faced the black guy. Tony rubbed the back of my neck, getting it loose.

The crowd screamed.

We bumped once and the black guy came at me.

He was quicker than me. I took his first shot right in the chest. The fire exploded in me and I tried to tear his head off.

He went down, but he got right back up.

The referee separated us a couple of times when we locked together, but they never stop these fights.

It was a long time before I took him out.

Tony carried me out of the ring.

I couldn't see Tony, my eyes were torn.

The other guy hurt me real deep.

I was going to sleep.

I heard Tony crying.

I felt his hand on my head.

Patting my bloody fur for the last time.

© 1994 Andrew Vachss. All rights reserved.

This story appears in Born Bad by Andrew Vachss. We wish it was "fiction."
Read "Dead Dogs: Breed bans, euthanasia, and preemptive justice," by Colin Dayan, for more proof.

Proving It, the first Andrew Vachss audiobook collection


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