Let me tell you what I worked for temporarily…where I started my first job…for the past months after my graduation. An amazing story indeed!
I am a Chemistry graduate, right? But I was accepted as an extra news reporter for the newly founded TV station. At the end of my shift one Monday morning, Arthur Jimenez, the sports director at News TV 717, said, ”Marco, this Friday night theres a boxing championship fight in the Paglaum Astrodome. Youve been bugging me for a break, so heres your chance. Today, around noon, I need you to get me a three-minute interview with Billy the Kid. If you do a good job, that interview will be fed to all TV stations locally and nationwide. Getting to be heard countrywide amounts to decent exposure, wouldn you agree? ”
How could I not? Man, talk about excitement! After some time, I had finally landed a weekend-only, graveyard shift job at what, with a great payment check. Hopefully, this job would provide opportunities to climb further up the ladder. Arthur Jimenez made sure I understood a deadline existed, ”To have enough time to edit and distribute it, we need the interview tape back by one. Are you up to that challenge, Marco Fernando? ”
”Marco Fernando is your man Mr. Jimenez, ” I answered back with laurel on my head.
Having closely followed Billy the Kids career when I was in college, I knew a few things about him. His stats: undefeated after 20 professional fights with 18 KOs. His reputation: one of the fastest, strongest Ilonggo fighters in Philippine history, liked to chase women and punch annoying reporters. If you wanted an interview and expected to walk away unscathed, you had to abide by his rules: catch him before the workout started, or when he reemerged from his dressing room after his rubdown.
Arriving at the makeshift training camp in the Paglaum Astrodome exhibition hall, a number of prominent boxers scheduled to be on the upcoming fight cards were working out. Noticing a crowd of people watching Billy the Kid jumping rope, I gulped. Without notifying the media, he had begun his workout early, meaning only one chance remained to get an interview. To make matters worse, the post-workout interview period might not start in time for me to get the cassette tape back to the station by one.
Billy the Kid finished jumping rope and moved to the light bag, designed to improve a fighters ability to keep throwing punches and keep his hands and arms raised, even when tired and sore. After that, he punished the heavy bag; each thunderous, potentially bone-crushing punch, sprayed beads of sweat in all directions. The sand-filled bag jerked and jangled at the end of its chain like a condemned prisoner dangling from a hangmans rope.
Finally, he climbed up onto the canvas apron of the ring and ducked through the ropes to spar. At the end of each three-minute round, a new, leather-helmeted patsy would climb into the ring, as his predecessor was being helped out. Rather than trying to beat Billy the Kid, these men were simply being paid to simulate the style of Billy the Kids upcoming opponent, the top contender, Flash Robotic.
When the fourth sparring partner collapsed in the corner nearest to where I stood, Billy the Kid announced, ”Thats enough head-busting for today! ” He slipped into his yellow satin robe and blew kisses of appreciation to his cheering fans. His ego sufficiently massaged, he stepped through the ropes and headed for his private dressing room with me in hot pursuit. I knocked on the already locked door to Billy the Kids retreat less than 30 seconds after it closed behind him.
From inside came angry words and the sound of the doors latch being undone. Billys corner-man, fifty-year-old Manuel Duran, poked his graying, crew-cut head out, ”What you want boy? ” he demanded.
Trying to remain confident, I replied, ”Im Marco Fernando, TV News 717. Ive been sent to get an interview. Billy the Kid started his workout ahead of schedule, so I missed getting to talk to him. Ill probably have to leave to get back to the station before he comes back out to conduct his post-workout interviews, so I need to see him now, for just about three to four minutes. ”
Annoyed, Manuel Duran shouted, ”Billy won go to see you. ” He stared at me like Id lost my mind, ”He doesn see anybody until after he gets dressed. Thats the rule! ” the door slammed in my face.
Frustrated, but unwilling to give up, I did a little boxing of my own, pounding the door until it opened again.
Durans poked his head back out, ”Listen, ” he said, sounding even more annoyed, ”Billy wouldn talk to a reporter today! ”
”Come on, ” I pleaded, undaunted by the declaration of discrimination to pretend Im not a reporter for a minute. If I don get this interview, it could cost me my job.
”There must be some way… ”
”You got a woman with you? ” Manuel Duran asked. A lecherous smirk spread across his face, ”Billy would let you in if you had a pretty woman with you. ”
Sexist issue aside, my chance to get this interview was about to be TKOed. How could I possibly find a woman on such short notice? ”How long is Billy going to be in there? ” I asked.
”About thirty minutes, or so, ” Duran shrugged, ”depending on how he feels. ”
Thinking faster than Billys celebrated fists moved, I calculated the time it would take to reach the station, grab Myra Montes, the new receptionist who was a knockout, and drag her back here to act as my ticket to get in that dressing room. With luck, it might only take twenty-five minutes. I turned and ran into the parking lot.
Myra Montes sat at the receptionists desk when I burst through the stations front door. In front of her lay the stations appointment book, her black leather Bible and a bottle of cotton candy nail polish. Playboy pulchritude with a puritan persona, she was wearing a V-necked, cashmere sweater, revealing a less-than-innocent amount of cleavage.
”Come with me, ” I panted.
”Why, where are we going? ” She asked, her mascara-coated eyelashes fluttering in bewilderment.
e going to interview Billy the Kid. ”
”I can go, ” she protested, ”I have to ___ ”
”You have to help me get this interview, ” I interrupted. ”If anyone says anything, tell them I made you do this. Now, come on. ” Grabbing her arm, I dragged her to the elevator. Thank goodness she wore flats. Fashionable, five-inch heels would have slowed the mad dash we made from the station to the car, and then, with her complaining the entire way, from the car to Billys dressing room.
Resuming my assault on the dressing room door, I prayed that Billy hadn left. Standing next to me, Myra fluffed her newly-dyed blonde hair with one hand as she stared into her compact mirror to be sure she looked presentable.
When Billys corner-man peered out, he didn exactly welcome me back with open arms. ”I thought I told you…. ” Noticing Myra, his gruff words halted abruptly and changed to, ”My, my__, ” as he performed a head to toe, and back up again, an inspection of the angelic vision beside me. Myras sparkling brown eyes projected a ”what-am-I-doing-here ” kind of uncertainty and the overall aura of someone who usually had less on her mind than yours truly had in his overdrawn checking account.
Eager to get my interview and return to the station, I reminded Manuel Duran, ”You said if I brought a woman…. ” I added. ”She qualifies, don you think? ” He nodded and stepped aside.
Contrasting with the bright lights and noise of the exhibition hall, the small dressing room was dark and quiet. The sounds of training fighters vanished: The clang of heavy free weights, the whoosh of jump-ropes cutting through the air and clicking rhythmically against the concrete floor, the grunts and groans accompanying thrown punches and the smack of gloved hands against human flesh, or heavy leather bags.
Sweat and liniment lingered in the still air. One dim light with a dark green metal shade hung from the ceiling, providing just enough illumination to get around. Stretched out on a seven-foot-long flat table was the thirty-year-old, Billy the Kid. Other than the white, modesty towel draped over his hindquarters, the well-chiseled champion wore nothing. A Chinese gentleman kneaded Billys massive hamstrings, while Bruno Bautista, Billys trainer, rested on a metal chair in the corner, sipping a can of diet soda. Lying on his rock-hard stomach, Billy appeared as lifeless as a stiff in the morgue. His face turned away from the door, his arms lay against his sides. His hands, which reached just beyond the point on his thigh where the white towel stopped, were relaxed and open, rather than tightly clenched into the fists that had earned him millions of pesos.
”Billy, ” Duran spoke softly, ”Champ, you got someone here to see you. ”
Without moving a muscle, Billy replied, ”Billy the Kid, the Champ doesn ever see anybody during his rubdown. Duran, you know that. ”
Manny Duran cast a nervous glance at Myra and said, ”I know you don normally see anybody, Champ, but you want to see this body, trust me. ”
My gaze shifted from Billy the Kid to Myra Montes, whose owl-like eyes were riveted on Billy; her expression was one of shock or embarrassment.
At last, Billy moved. Without rolling over, he raised his head and turned it towards us. He began to undress Myra with his eyes. That had been inevitable, but I felt bad, anyway. Even in the dim light, I could see her face turning red. The more his eyes moved up and down, the length of her body, the redder her face became. Intending to start the interview and stop the torture, I pressed the record on my cassette player. Prepared to ask my first question, I held the Sony Recorder out in front of me, but Billy beat me to the punch.
”Are you a boxing fan? ” The Champ asked me.
If Billy wanted to ask a few questions, no problem, as long as it helped move things along. ”Sure am, Champ, ” I replied. ”Im Marco Fernando, TV News 717. Followed your career since you won the Gold medal in the Olympics…. ”
Billy interrupted, saying, ”I am not talking to you, Sonny. ” An amused snort came from the corner of the room, where Duran stood.
Determined to take control, I said, ”Weve got a hundred TV stations nationwide and a thousand radio stations nationwide too, waiting to hear what youve got to say…. ”
”Then shut up and listen. ”
”But, what about the interview we were supposed to…. ”
”Don make me get up from this table, kid, I said, shut up and listen, ” he sounded serious.
”I, uh, yes sir. I apologize. ” Like an injured fighter, leaning against the ropes, I fought to regain my wits.
”Alright, ” Billy nodded. ”Now then, young lady, I asked a question. Are you a boxing fan? ” Myra glanced at me, seeming unsure as to whether she should answer, or what to say if she did.
”Go ahead, Myra, ” I encouraged her. ”Answer the Champ. ”
”Well… ” she squeaked. If she had been auditioning for the role of a tiny mouse in an animated film shed have won the part, for sure.
”Well? ” Billy asked again, ”Are you? ”
”Not really, ” Myra admitted. ”I don like violence. ”
Hanging my head in dismay, I hit stop on the recorder and thought, ”Thanks, Myra. If youd said you were a fight fan, we could possibly get this interview back, but no. ”
From the metal chair where he still sat, Billys trainer said, ”Bet she never seen a knockout, Champ. ”
”You know what, Bruno, I bet you
e right. Is that true, little lady? ” Billy asked.
I sensed something fishy going on, but didn know what until Billy got up and let the towel fall to the floor.
”Well, now you have, ” Billy leered. ”Isn that a knockout? ” Billy planted his hands on his hips and stretched way over to his left, from the waist. Then he repeated the motion, towards his right. As he stretched from side to side, something began swinging and swaying, back and forth…like a Pendulum.
Billys exhibition could have been a scene for a sleazy film, The Pit, and the Organic Pendulum, based on Edgar Allan Poes classic horror story. The bizarre sight inspired feelings of awe and inadequacy, conjuring memories of being a young boy at the zoo with a peanut in my little hand, reaching through the metal bars towards the extended trunks of the giant elephants. However, in this case, I didn have a peanut to offer, and I didn want to be anywhere near that trunk. My bosss words earlier that morning about decent exposure flashed into my mind, ”Decent Exposure? ”
As Bruno Bautista, Manuel Duran, the Chinese man, and Billy laughed. I cringed. I was a dead man, for sure. The way Myra looked reminded me of a cartoon where the blood rose in a characters face, resembling a thermometer about to burst. Her eyes threatened to pop out of her skull. She made little choking noises for a moment and then cut loose with a blood-curdling scream. While Billy the Kid and his entourage howled with delight, she wrestled with the locked door, fumbled desperately with the latch, got it open, and ran from the dressing room.
Over the chuckles and snorts, I said, ”Oh, thanks. Thanks very much. ” Pointing towards the opened door, I made sure they knew what they had done. ”I have to work with her, you know. ”
”Maybe not anymore, ” Manuel Duran quipped, generating a new outburst of guffaws.
”Guess who has to drive her back to the station? Shes going to kill me! ” I exclaimed.
” Billy shook his head.
e in trouble than Flash Robotic. ” Wiping laughter-induced tears from his eyes, he said, ”I guess I owe you a good interview. ”
A quick glance at my watch showed the time to be twenty-thirty-five. Once again thrusting my trusty Sony towards The Champ, I said, ”Lets do it. ”
During our interview, Billy opened up to me in a way he hadn with any other reporter. Calls came in from everywhere, praising me for eliciting such candid responses from such a tough guy. The interview floored my boss. That Friday, Billy did the same to Flash Robotic, KO him in less than two minutes of the second round. I got promoted to a full-time position on the day shift and received a fat bonus, to boot. Myra got a well-deserved bonus too. After all, Billy never would have seen me if she hadn been such a knockout.
I resumed working as a reporter, knew some beautiful women around, and got hooked on drugs. ”God, I am weak, get easily tempted, its like going round-and-round in circles, trying to be free, ” my heart bleeds inside.
Edward was there to remind me always, extending his time in whatever ways he could give to me.
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