David S. Atkinson
Dena Rash Guzman
Michael Seidlinger, an excerpt from The Laughter of Strangers
From Michael Seidlinger, an introduction:
There’s nothing quite like the first time. No, not talking sex here. I’m talking the first time someone sent a fist right for your face. It could have been right to the gut; it might have been a slap. Maybe it was a boot to the knee… Whatever it was, someone hit someone and the end result is the same: There was a fight. And you were involved. The first time you get into a fight, it almost always readjusts your perception of reality. What does that mean? Well, that’s for you to consider. For me, the first fight might have been the first time I really “woke up.” A rude awakening. It was the battering ram of a well-placed punch that I didn’t see coming. That’s what did it.
I saw a blur of stars and shelled up, arms and elbows tucked in, gloves protecting the face, the single piece of advice floating in my head, Never ever clinch. Never clinch unless you’re already about to hit the canvas. I can’t tell you how or why I got into the boxing ring, but the moment I survived my first fight, everything suddenly balanced out—all uncertainties, all worries, any and all confusion—in a way that it might be worthwhile to wedge in some kind of martial arts film reference, in particular a scene where the main character makes valiant strides towards finding his or her inner spiritual balance using martial arts (you know, the montage right before the final fight with the antagonist).
Via the infinitely awesome support of Justin Daugherty, I was given the opportunity to transform the experience I described above into a unifying prompt of sorts. Turn a “first” into a prompt bobbing and weaving for other “firsts.” The result was nothing short of remarkable. The first time you get into a fight, it almost always readjusts your perception of reality. I asked over a dozen writers to think about a fight, a clash, a physical altercation that affected them in a way that shook free, cleared the cobwebs, or jarred the mind. It was just an idea that I hoped would generate at least a few pieces. I never expected the astounding turnout. It seems we’ve all gone in at least once with fists swinging, leaving with a few bruises, tasting blood, but in the end ending up clear-minded and curious about why we might have fought in the first place. Why do we fight?
There’s nothing quite like a fight, and I just want to say that there’s nothing more amazing that seeing such amazing talent gathering, and writing, in support of a book I wrote. I want to thank Justin for making this possible. Thank you to every single writer that graces this page (a million times, thank you, and drinks on me next time we meet). Thank you to Cameron Pierce who told me me to write about my experience in the ring; quite literally, The Laughter of Strangers would not exist if it weren’t for his guidance and friendship. Perhaps, most of all, I must say thank you to that first punch, the one that felt like cold ice against the left side of my face.
I really needed that punch to the face.