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Aaron Shepard’s Second Story!

Mostly a Matter of Something or Other

For more treats and resources, visit Aaron Shepard at www.aaronshep.com.

Copyright © 1997 Aaron Shepard. May be copied and shared for any noncommercial, educational purpose, as long as the author note is included.

This is my second story, finished in seventh grade. I’m not sure when I started it, but I know I came back to it many times to write new versions—so I must have begun it in fifth or sixth grade. I’ve cleaned up punctuation and spelling, but made no other changes.—Aaron

It was a bright summer day in a fair‑sized New England town. The year was in the early 1900s, and it was a day that everyone had been patiently waiting for. The state prizefighting champion, Butch McGraw, was to battle the British champ, Willing William!

A platform had been erected in the public square for the occasion. Fifty benches, each able to accommodate seven persons, were placed around the arena. Out-of-towners had been arriving for days, and some men woke as early as 6:00 a.m. to get ringside seats to the affair, which was to take place at noon. As for Butch, he was up at 10:00.

* * *

“Huhu. . . . Huhuha. . . . Hahahaha. . . . Oh, quit tickling me!” Butch roared, sitting straight up in bed, revealing the clothes he had worn during the night.

“Butch, you’re a disgrace.” “Belly” Button, Butch’s plump manager, stood by the bed with a merry twinkle in his eye. “It’s ten o’clock already, and you’re not up. Why, you should be down at the gym, getting ready.”

“Oh, grumble,” muttered Butch, shoving his head under the pillows. “I’ll meet you downstairs for breakfast. . . . Y’know, Belly,” said Butch, turning over on his back, “I’m worried. I’ve heard this Willing William is pretty skillful.”

“Don’t worry, champ. You’re a sure thing. It’s mostly a matter of strength.”

* * *

As for Willing William, he was up at 5:00.

“One, two, one, two, one . . . . Oh, hello, Cedric,” he called as his small manager entered the gym. “Just running around a bit.”

“So I see.” The manager pulled an immense bottle of scotch from inside his coat, took a long draught, and placed it back.

“Cedric, I wish you would not be so uncouth as to drink in my presence,” William complained.

William stopped running and faced his manager. “You know, Cedric, I’m worried. I’ve heard that this Butch McGraw is quite strong.”

“Don’t worry, champ. You’re a sure thing. It’s mostly a matter of skill.”

* * *

It was only 10:00 when the entirety of the seats were filled and twenty more were added. The remainder of the enthusiasts were content to stand.

Finally, noon.

The occasion was handled with some ceremony. Butch came out of a building on one side of the square. Willing William came from a building on the opposite side. The referee chanted his paragraph. The fighters shook hands and returned to their corners.

If you had been close enough, you could have heard the managers talking soothingly to the fighters.

“Don’t worry, champ. It’s mostly a matter of strength.”

“Don’t worry, champ. It’s mostly a matter of skill.”

The bell rang.

Butch lunged towards the Britisher. Willing William, however, seemed in no hurry and just jumped around like a kid playing hopscotch. Every time Butch struck out his fists, William would be at a different point. Finally, the bell sounded, ending that round.

The same thing happened in the next round and the next round and the next. When the seventeenth round rolled along, Butch was dead tired and showed it, but William was as agile as ever. Butch decided that he’d have to resort to strategy.

He pretended he was just about to collapse. William, who thought it now safe to give the final (and first) blow, came a mite too close, and Butch walloped him!

The referee counted to ten, proclaimed Butch the winner, and dropped a bag containing $500 prize money into Butch’s hand.

At once there was a cavalcade of cheering. “Butch,” yelled the referee so as to be heard, “say a few words to everyone.” The crowd immediately quieted so as to hear what Butch would say.

Butch stood there stupefied for a moment and then yelled, “The drinks are on me!” The crowd offered its acknowledgment.

Butch climbed out of the ring and was instantaneously greeted by six hundred back-slappers and hand-shakers. Suddenly, he was mounted on top of some friendly shoulders and was being carried off to the tavern.

* * *

When William came to, a few minutes after he had been knocked out, he was lying on his back in the center of the ring with his manager by his side. There was no one else in the square.

“Ohh . . . . Where am I?”

“In the ring, champ. Are you all right?” asked Cedric, in a sympathetic tone.

“No!—thanks to you and your ‘skill.’”

* * *

“Bartender, bartender,” shouted Butch, pounding his fists against the counter.

The short, plump bartender rushed out of the crowd, whisked on an apron and said, “What’ll it be . . . champ?” and poked Butch in the ribs as if he’d told a funny joke.

“The best beer ya got, for everyone,” boomed Butch. The bartender rushed out and started whisking in steins and steins brimming with beer.

The other men in the tavern were all making merry, and in the spirit of the occasion, Belly climbed up on the counter and yelled above the din, “I’ll bet there’s no one in this here world can beat up ol’ Butch!”

“I’ll take that bet.”

The noise stopped instantly, and all turned to see the man who had dared to defy Butch McGraw. The man stood there, three and one‑half feet tall!

He was, as nearly as anyone could guess, about thirty years old. His apearance was very clean and neat. On his head, he wore a top hat. He had a white shirt and black tuxedo. His pants were also black. His shoes, black again, were as polished as could be. He carried a black cane. His sharp, piercing, black eyes looked directly at Belly. He continued:

“I will personally wager you the amount of that prize money”—at this point he nodded and pointed with his cane to the bag on the counter—“that I can render Mr. McGraw harmless.”

All was silent for a moment, then angry shouts filled the room. “It’s a deal,” yelled Belly, bounding down from the counter and vigorously, almost violently, shaking the midget’s hand. “C’mon, Butch.”

“Aw, go on home, little man,” Butch said meaningly. “I don’t wanna hurcha.”

“Are you frightened, Mr. McGraw?”

Now, if there was anything that made Butch mad, it was being called a coward. He lunged at the midget, but the latter simply stuck up his cane, and the former whammed into it! Butch howled with pain. Then, with renewed fury, he . . .

Wham! Bop! Bowie!

That cane was everywhere. Not a section of his body was free from it. Butch rolled over on the floor in agony. The midget was about to give him a resounding thwack in the ribs, when he paused as though to reconsider.





The midget left Butch moaning and groaning on the floor and walked up to Belly. “My five hundred dollars please.”

Stunned, Belly dropped the bag into the midget’s hand and watched him walk calmly toward the doors. However, just as he got there, the midget turned around.

“It’s mostly a matter of skill.”

With that, he was out the doors and gone.

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