(first appeared at Hirschworth.com 9/8/2013)
He had seen them come and he’d seen them go. Young ladies, full of promise but never having the gumption to see it through to the end.
Then along came Cindy.
Before he met her she would walk through suburban neighborhoods carrying her Little Mermaid pillow looking for a fight.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say they found each other. Whatever the case, potential without training and a firm guiding hand becomes just another cliché played out to an uncaring audience. That’s what he told her anyway.
He liked to think of himself as more of an Aristotle than a Don King, perhaps that’s why he gave her the moniker Cindy the Great. He taught her the game and she did what she was told and the peanut butter and jelly sandwich came together… with chips.
It wasn’t until he was able to get her invited to some slumber parties in the inner city that she realized just how rough and tumble the world she was about to enter could be. Let’s just say that these little girls never needed someone to wrap a string around their baby teeth and give a yank to dislodge them. Some nights the tooth fairy left with her bag full up.
Cindy never gave less than 100%. She did the pushups and the sit-ups and she chased the chickens as instructed. She drank the raw eggs because she saw that in a movie once. Not her favorite movie of course. That was Bad Boys. And not the lame Martin Lawrence one. The Bad Boys with Sean Penn. If you have to ask why than I suggest you ask Clancy Brown.
He tried to convince her to switch to a cotton pillowcase but she was loyal to her old nylon one. She said it felt comfortable in her hand.
She had a swing that came along once in a lifetime. Sometimes they would have to pry the other girl out of the drywall. Once he was done polishing her technique, working on her center of gravity, getting her to pivot from the hips and follow-through correctly, she was unstoppable.
Cindy the Great had arrived.
She barnstormed through the circuit and soon her dance card was filled every Friday and Saturday night. Sleeping bag in one hand and cold compresses in the other, she set out each weekend to defend her title.
And then just as quickly, it was over.
She was about to turn thirteen. Teens weren’t invited to any of the high profile get-togethers. Pillow fighting was a young girl’s game.
He sat at her bedside on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. His last night as her mentor.
“You remember the end of Million Dollar Baby?” he asked her as he stroked her hair.
“The one with Hilary Swank?” she asked innocently.
“Yep. That’s the one.”
She looked up at him. “Doesn’t he kill her at the end?”
“Yes. Yes he does,” he answered and gazed leisurely up at the ceiling.
“Are you thinking about killing me?” the girl asked half-jokingly.
After a deep sigh he slowly looked back down at her and returned to stroking her hair.
“Nope. Just funny that he used a pillow.”
She relaxed a little and said “Yeah, I guess that is funny.”