Latest Flash

Stay Ugly

Everyone has their fix.

For some people, it's grinding teeth and breaking bones.

Stay Ugly by Daniel Vlasaty

For a second there is only the screaming and cheering of dozens and dozens of drunk motherfuckers hungry for blood, money, and action.

They are so much background noise.

I spit some blood and a chunk of broken tooth on the filthy ground, crack my knuckles, and wait to see what happens.  Take a breath.

And then the dude shakes my last few hits away, squares up again, comes at me.

Fresh blood pours from a newly-opened gash on his face.

I put my fists up and we kind of dance around each other. Right now we are the same. I am not better than him and he is not better than me. We are just two guys. Both of us trying to come out five hundred dollars richer at the end of this thing.

He makes the first move this time. Comes in with a slow jab I side-step easily enough. I counter and get him twice in the ribs, once on the side of his face.

He stumbles back and I take another breath, squeezing my fists to try to get some feeling back in them.

I watch him get himself together again. Dude’s big. Got about a good thirty pounds on me but size don’t mean shit. The only thing that matters is what you can do with it.

That’s something I learned early on. That’s something you have to learn early on if you want to make it at this.

I continue to watch him and the rise and fall of his shoulders as he breathes heavy. His dirty hair hangs in his face. Pieces of it sticking to the blood running down it.

He grunts out something like, “fuck you” and he’s quicker this time, hits me with two solid jabs to the face.  

I barely feel them. They are just pain, added on top of more pain, added on top of more pain.

Pain is something I learned to not even think about anymore.

He smiles at me and I can read it all across his face. He thinks he’s got me now. He’s already spending that five hundred in his head.

But fuck him.

He takes his eyes off me for barely a second. Just a quick glance out at the people crowding around us.

Then I come in, kick the side of his leg in so he buckles a little, and hit him again and again.

I don’t stop until I start to feel his face breaking under my fists; don’t stop until he’s coughing and spitting blood; don’t stop until the only thing holding him up is the people he’s leaning against.

Then the ref calls it and the people holding him up let him drop to the floor. He falls like a lump of shit and it’s over.


I see the crowd around me erupt into equal parts joy and anger. Some people just made some money and others got to go home to their wives or girlfriends or whatever and explain to them why rent’s going to be coming up short this month.

But that’s the nature of this shit. There are always going to be winners and losers.

I let it all go around me. Try to control my breathing. Close my eyes and take in all the sounds and smells. The buzz of it before I have to step out of this makeshift ring and come back to the real world.

Before I have to leave this stuffy-ass basement and get back to it.

This is what I need. My fix. This is my zen place. This is where I’ve always been at my most comfortable. Surrounded by screaming and hungry animals. Like I’m on display. In a makeshift ring in the grimy basement of a shit bar, in a shit neighborhood, in a shit city. Or in a prison yard, surrounded by different but equally hungry animals; or in some fucking alley somewhere, where the fights are more intimate and personal and for something other than entertainment, or status, or small amounts of cash. Something like pride or ego. Or, because, fuck it.

Fighting’s always been that thing for me. My thing. Some people get it from drugs or drink or fucking.  But I get it from the gladiator shit of a bareknuckle fight.

I found it early in life and ran with it. They don’t call me Ugly for nothing.

When I finally open my eyes again, I see that the room around me has cleared out a bit. Everyone’s either back at the bar to get a fresh drink before the next fight starts, or they’re doing some rails in the bathroom, or smoking a quick one.

The dude I fought is still laid out on the dirty floor and some of his people are standing around me. A small group of them. There’s one girl, skinny and pretty, that’s standing a bit away from the rest. I can see the tears in her eyes but she’s trying to play it cool. She’s the girlfriend.

I’ve never understood why some guys feel the need to bring their whole crew down into this basement with them. Their dudes and their pussy. Like they got a posse and like that shit means anything. 

I turn away from them and head up the stairs. The bar’s pretty slamming right now. But it’s only because of the fights. Friday’s are always popping. Any other night of the week and Meadows is so dead it almost seems like a waste of time and energy for it to even stay open.

The way it works with the fight nights is the house cashes out the following day. The winners come to collect the Saturday morning after a fight. Kenny has a stack of envelopes behind the bar and he just passes them out to whoever’s name’s written on them. No big show. You come in, get your cash, and get the fuck out. Maybe you buy a beer or two; some dope or blow; some pussy from one of the girls Acevedo runs out the bar. Or whatever.

I make my way past the bar and catch sight of Kenny doing his thing behind the bar. I give him a little nod and he knows what that means.

Knows I’ll be back tomorrow to get what’s mine. 

Daniel Vlasaty lives outside of Chicago. He is the author of The Church of TV as God, Amphetamine Psychosis, Only Bones, and A New and Different Kind of Pain.