Sweet Chin Music

When Michael told his parents the big news, he knew they would not share in his joy.

It was best to tell them now, so they could begin moving forward—with Michael, as his parents always did—instead of lying, which he briefly debated, and filling his journey with more emotional angst than necessary.

Michael’s words floated into the living room’s air like a butterfly and stung like a vicious uppercut, “I’ve decided, for now, to leave school and turn pro. I already have a fight lined up next month.”

The “for now” Michael inserted didn’t soften the blow. His parents’ facial expressions bounced between disappointment and horror; he received similar looks after he announced his interest in competing as an amateur mixed martial artist last year. They assumed Michael was just going through a phase—much like his wild craze of collecting baseball cards as a young boy.

His parents believed: a full slate of classes and first-seat in the college’s symphony would distract Michael from training. Wrong.

Truth be known, Michael was an artist—mixed, martial, or otherwise. Anything creative he approached with curiosity—from the strings on a violin to the chins of opponents—hummed in perfect harmony. Michael’s mother signed him up for violin lessons at the age of four, and his father enrolled him in Jiu-Jitsu at eight; both, he grew to believe, were as vital to his survival as oxygen—until he scratched the itch he got for cage fighting.

Once Michael’s instructor, and owner of Deadbolt Jiu-Jitsu, added a beginner’s MMA class to the weekly schedule, it spawned his intrigue in the sport. Much like his violin teacher noted a prodigious talent early on, the MMA coach coaxed Michael into planting his green, though lush with confidence, skillset inside a cage.

Michael was hooked at the sound of the bell—the crowd, the noise, the rush. A close decision loss only poured gasoline at the thoughts sparking in Michael’s mind: How far could a cage fighter travel in their career? Could they even have a career to begin with? 

During the last couple months of high school—when Michael was to be applying for colleges—his attention to the strings had snapped. He didn’t hate the violin; he’d just fallen in love with orchestrating violence. Where Michael’s effort toward filling out applications wained, his mother picked up the slack, and he was accepted, along with a generous scholarship, to Long Beach State’s music program.

“Good,” was Michael’s response every time his parent asked how things were going. 

He didn’t want to tell them that he had won five straight fights, or his grades had settled on a losing record. Following Michael’s most recent victory—a slick triangle submission over an undefeated prospect on everyone’s radar—several managers and promoters informed the blossoming up-and-comer that they could increase the value of his stock if he chose to go pro. 

Michael showed his parents some footage from his latest outing, hinting at an imminent return, while home for the summer from his freshman year. Dad was visibly impressed when the referee forced Michael to unlock his stranglehold, and Mom covered her face and watched through the small cracks between her fingers.

“I don’t know what you get out that,” she’d say. She said the same thing, however, when Michael competed in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments as a white belt; however, by the time he was a purple belt, she was the loudest voice in the venue.

Two weeks before the fall semester drew students back to the campus, Michael delivered the direction of his new dream—one of four-ounce gloves, face-punching, ring card girls, bundles of cash, and the allure of championships—would be taking him.

As if in a game of musical chairs, there was only one seat left, and it belonged to MMA.

Prompted from Fandango’s Word of the Day Challenge at: https://fivedotoh.com/2019/12/30/fowc-with-fandango-musical/.