I’d never been sued before. All I got from the attorney was that my dog had been reported to such and such an agency and I should prepare myself for civil court. I stared at the package of legal papers at one end of my dining room table for maybe twenty minutes before googling up a lawyer.
The guy I talked to on the phone sounded like he thought it was a bullshit case after I’d gone after the details with him a few times, which made me feel a lot better, until he asked if Martha had ever bit anyone before. That’s when I told him I’d just adopted her recently and had no idea and his breath made a funny sound. He said I should call the shelter where I’d gotten her and animal control and find out.
I spent all day and half of the next morning trying to figure it out. The shelter told me no, after a ridiculous amount of time on the phone with them. The people at animal control had never had a problem with any dogs named Martha. But, they had had issues with a stray who’d bit a number of joggers on the butt over the years, and the description that they had, of a large, vaguely-colored maybe-female could have applied to my dog! She could have been a stray from that same litter. Or, her unassuming alias might be a cover for a long run as an outlaw.
When a phone call I ran to answer from the bathroom turned out to be Sensei, I let loose a good strong stream of angry bad words on his ass. He said he was having problems processing my debit card from last month’s dojo fees, and that I’d have to go in in-person to fix it. I wondered briefly if he was going to try and extort me for more fighting. But then, he was the one with something to hide; maybe he wanted me to take a bribe.
I went. Lawyers ain’t cheap.
“Hey,” I said, trying to sound tough when I’d walked through the dojo doors. Sensei nodded; he was in the middle of a children’s class. The kids yelled in unison when Sensei told them all to practice and came to meet me by his desk against the rear wall.
“Hey,” I said toughly again, in case he’d missed it the first time.
“Hi,” said Sensei briefly, and started fumbling in his desk. He came up with a handful of receipts and a smart phone. “Look at this,” he told me, and put the phone in my hand.
It was a video he’d taken at the tournament. I watched myself step into the ring, and I could hear the smirking of the crowd again, and its disappointed snorts when my rival joined me. He was so awkward-looking it was gross. I didn’t look bad. Then the fight started and…fuck! The thing that happened to me there, was fucking hot. I’d have bought a copy if they’d sold the video, even it was two strangers I was watching. I made that milkdud snap alive. I made the whole snorting crowd turn into howling animals, we made spasms of pain and elation go through the people when our arms, our fists, our shins and heels made contact in the air. And none of it after a point was awkward – our movements sharpened, and grew powerful, exhilarating. I was, objectively, ravishing, and the guy I’d had to fight was looking actually fucking hot once I got him going. The whole place in the background swayed and breathed on our command, and we didn’t know any of it but the power in the middle. The shudder that went through me when my body took a real good hit, that left me gasping and somehow seeming more alive than the second before that, was a memory I’d thought lost and buried in shame.
And there I was, standing with a video in my hand, getting all hot and bothered again. I swallowed.
Sensei was watching my face carefully. “You’re good, you know.”
“So what?” I snapped, acting not-turned-on.
“You know what.” Sensei grunted. “Lookit this. Look at what we made. This is you. Who showed you this is how you do it, huh? Who showed you how to be this?”
“I don’t owe you jack, buddy.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. You want to leave my dojo, go right ahead. Just remember everything that you’ll be leaving.”
A kid across the room was trying something fancy with his foot in the air. He’d bust his ass any second now. Sensei still watched my face, but not as carefully. His lips were wry.
“You knew,” I said, almost not out loud. He’d seen me for the horny, pulsing, craving freak I am the second I set foot on his floor, and he’d decided to keep me because addiction works out to more than the liability of strangeness on a spreadsheet.
“Yeah.” He grunted. I knew that we weren’t fighting anymore.
“Was I at least the one you were betting on?”
Sensei nodded. “I bet on you. I bet on Sam. I didn’t bet on Than.”
“You bet against your own student?” I hissed. “See, this is why you’re not a good sensei.
“He lost, before you showed up.” He touched the screen of his phone a few times, and a video of Than popped up. Than had to fight a good-looking guy with a glass jaw. I’d have bet on Than, if it was me. Sensei was right though – Than lost, but good. He took a power-house kick in the chest that laid him out flat, and before he could stand the pretty boy had jerked him off the mat and walloped him another time in the side of the face. The refs called it nonchalantly in that guy’s favor.”
“What’d you do,” I snorted, “Tell Than to throw his match?”
“That wasn’t baseball you just watched,” Sensei laughed. “You couldn’t pay a guy to take a hit like that. And if you did, he’d forget it the second he got out there.”
“Are you paying Than?” I gasped.
“He’s paying me.”
“Oh, I’m not paying you!” I shouted. “Not ever again.” Three of the kids stopped what they were doing and stared at me. I decided it would be immature to stare back, and turned my body so I could only see the Sensei. He was busy flattening out the crumpled receipts in his hand.
“I’ve already refunded your last month’s fees. See?”
“I could join another dojo, you know.”
“No you couldn’t.” Sensei shook his head, cocksure. “Not the way we do it here. Not the way you did it yesterday. You go someplace else, they’ll stop you before you get like this. You go to their competitions, the refs will stand in your way and block you. You don’t want a sport. No one will give you that but me. You got to places like this with me, and I guarantee you what you’re after. You can stand in the ring and spar and there won’t be anyone pulling you to safety when you get in over your head – just you, just your instincts, dealing with it like you need to.”
I thought about Martha, and the way she might have been living in the woods before she met me. I wondered what kind of people she’d lived with before.
“You’re making money. I want money.”
Sensei looked around with a grimace. “I don’t make a lot of money on the fighting. It subsidizes kids and people who can’t afford lessons.”
“I don’t have healthcare. I can’t fight without healthcare. Give me four-hundred a month, I’ll stay.”
“You can’t find a cheaper plan than that?!”
I looked Sensei in the eyes, and he grumbled.
“Then I’ll see you tonight.”