The Switch

Bonus Content

Written September 25, 2016 by Elizabeth Neale


“Let’s dance, little girl.”

I stare at his smug face and take it all in: his size, his training, his sureness. His knuckles are clenched into fists but other than that the guy hasn’t taken a fighting stance.

I dart my gaze away from him for a second. Just a half-second. I take in the smattering of people around the ring: they look bored. It’s a slow day and we’re not exactly prime time. Kanna looks almost as bored as the audience. He set up this fight–my first time in a pit–but he knows how it’ll pan out. He’s humoring me, I can tell. Raw talent, he says. Potential, he says. But not ready. Not for the pits. Took a solid week of tailing him, asking non-stop, to make this happen. So he set me up with a big guy just to shut me up. Not huge, just a mid-level fighter. Kanna wants to knock me down a couple of pegs and figured this guy’ll take care of things no problem. He’s bored, the crowd’s bored, the other guy’s bored. They all just want to get this over with. Okay.

“Let’s dance, little girl.”

I don’t dance.

I fly.

I dodge his first haymaker easily, throwing him off balance right away. I slip through his clumsy attacks, driving my elbow into some choice spots. A sweet jab burrows into the side of his neck, hard. He stumbles backwards, gasping for breath, and our eyes meet. In that half-second I see it:

The switch.

His smugness gone. Replaced by…fear? No. Realization. He’s losing. He’s gonna lose.

Shit. That’s beautiful. I’ll need to think up a name for it. But first:

I drop low and strike his knees. Meet with a satisfying crunch of cartilage. I’m proud of my style. Not the prettiest technique, but you take out someone’s knees and it’s over.

I take out his knees. It’s over.

I wish I could say in the aftermath that I shook the guy’s hand, nodded to Kanna and walked slowly and silently out of the arena. Yeah, that would’ve been cool. But I’m just not that cool. I jumped around, shrieked, yipped, swore, pointed, laughed, told Kanna to find a real challenge for next week.

I think I actually skipped outside and all the way home, where of course I lied to my dad about what I’d been doing. He looked a little sad, but nodded. I made dinner in silence.

I’m a bad cook. I’m a shitty daughter. I’m not cool. I can’t read or write. I don’t dance.

But that day, something switched.

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