Arrogant Danny’s gut-punch battle

by Nick C.


‘What’s that jerk doing sitting in the bath?’ The question was asked by a new guy in the locker room: a tough-looking young dude in a black shirt. (1)
All of us looked round, with a sharp intake of breath. The ‘jerk’ was Danny, the best athlete in the gym: twenty-one years old, a champion swimmer and a brilliant gymnast. Danny knew he was the best, and woe betide any of us who forgot it. He would do any eccentric thing he liked, just to show he didn’t give a damn for anybody. That included lounging in the bath. (2)

‘What’s your name, kid, and how old are you?’ asked Danny.
‘Max, and I’m seventeen’ was the reply.
‘Well, Max, a kid like you needs to learn to speak only when he’s spoken to. Got that?’
‘See here, jerk! No one orders me around! If you got issues with me, let’s settle them—by seeing which of us got the hardest abs!’ (3)

Oh wow! Max had called Danny a jerk for the second time! How would the king of the gym react?
Danny stripped his shirt off and sat on the edge of the bath with his arms behind his head, as if to impress Max with his biceps and his lean well-muscled body. (4)

‘Too bad I gotta say no, kid. Because you’d only get ruined, and I’d be prosecuted for assaulting a minor.’
‘Huh!’ said Max. ‘What you mean is: you’re scared, because you can see how hard my stomach is!’ (5)

Danny stood up now. His expression was calm, but his voice was icy cold. (6)

‘You’re gonna regret saying that—really regret it! Because we’re gonna take it in turns to punch each other’s abs now, one punch each. You can start—but soon you’ll crumble!’
‘OK …’ drawled Max, with a mean expression on his face, showing off his right bicep. (7)

Danny positioned himself to receive the punch, his stern gaze fixed on Max. (8)

Max chose to take his time, however, making sure that Danny—and all of us—got a good view of his thickset torso and the truly awesome muscles that adorned it. (9)

I turned from Max’s physique to look at Danny’s, its contours bathed in light from the window: beautiful pecs, a fine tight belly, yet … I wondered if Danny was beginning to have any misgivings … (10)

As if reading my thoughts, Max gave me a sly malicious smile. (11)

Then—WHAM! The waiting was over. Max’s fist had targeted a point just above Danny’s navel. It was clearly a hard punch. Danny couldn’t suppress a look of pain and surprise. (12)

Yet I sensed that it was by no means as hard a punch as Max was capable of …
Now Max stood back, scratching the back of his head, as if surveying his handiwork. (13)

And somehow the fact that he was no longer consciously showing off his rock-hard muscles made the sight of them all the more intimidating.
Danny quickly pulled himself together after the surprise of the blow. He looked at Max appraisingly, almost (one might say) with respect. (14)

‘Not bad, kid. You ready for my turn?’
‘Hell, yeah, I’m ready!’ said Max with a sneer, patting his abs. ‘Here’s your target!’ (15)

Danny too scratched the back of his head now, as if mimicking Max’s mind games. (16)

An eye-catching physique, well muscled and beautifully proportioned … Danny’s was a body fully worthy of the lion tattooed above his right nipple … yet … yet … his torso was not carved out of rock, as Max’s seemed to be …
I sensed that all would depend on Danny’s first punch. Would the proud gymnast be able to hit hard enough to dent the arrogance of the seventeen-year-old prize-fighter?
WHAM! Danny landed a punch on the side of Max’s belly. It was a solid heavy punch, with all of Danny’s weight and musclepower behind it. In reaction, Max took a step backward. He bent over slightly, twisting leftward and exhaling sharply. But all this took only a bare second. Another half-second, and it was as if he had never been hit at all. On his lips was the same cold confident sneer. Then he spoke: ‘Enough of the warm-up, now, fella. Time for the real thing!’ And his right hand was already bunching into a fist ...
In reply, Danny said nothing. (18)

I had not liked Danny much in the past. He had been too arrogant to be likeable. But I felt a rush of sympathy for him now. He had expected to humiliate this young whipper-snapper quickly. It had not worked. He would have to hit Max harder next time. But before the next time, it was Max’s turn to hit him. And to survive that, Danny would have to muster all the stamina he possessed—or, rather, all the stamina he had left after that earlier dose of punishment from Max’s rockhard fist ...
I felt myself blushing, as if everyone could hear the words that welled up inside my head: “Oh, Danny! Don’t let him beat you, Danny! You may be arrogant, but you aren’t cruel, like he is! And … and your beauty doesn’t deserve to be ruined by this thug!” I gazed at Danny’s belly, where his smooth skin outlined the contours of his tight abdominal muscles … as if my willpower could help stiffen those muscles against Max’s next onslaught.
Max was lifting his right fist now. (19)

Then ... I turned my head away, unable to watch what was about to happen. I heard the hideous sound of the impact, prolonged as if in slow motion. I heard Danny’s groan—a groan of despair. I winced in sympathy at the pain that must be radiating through is body. At last—it seemed like an age, but it can only have been a second or two—I looked up at Danny: at his head drooping semi-conscious … (20)

Did I look at Max too? Yes. I couldn’t resist reminding myself of his hideously overdeveloped seventeen-year-old muscularity. (21)

Only then did I nerve myself to look at Danny’s torso: his belly soft now, slumped in defeat. (22)

‘Well, guys, I guess things’ll be different round here from now on!’ Max was crowing with glee … (23)

Later, in the hallway outside the gym, I plucked up my courage. Danny was walking ahead of me. He was alone, shoulders slumped, dejected. ‘Hey, Danny, stop …!’
He turned. ‘What do you want?’ His tone was bitter. His months of ruling the roost at the gym were over—and he knew it was his own fault.
My confidence nearly deserted me. But then—Danny the champion gymnast looked suddenly so sad and vulnerable, almost frail. (24)

I found myself smiling, as if to encourage him. ‘Oh, I don’t know … whatever … we could have a drink or a coffee, or get a Chinese take-away. Anything you like!’
He stood and stared at me for a second or two. ‘Nick, why are you being nice to me? I’ve always treated you and everyone else like shit. Now I’ve got what I deserved all along, and …’
‘No! I mean, maybe you were a bit … arrogant, but you didn’t deserve what happened today … or, even if you did, I’ve always admired you … and liked you … liked you a lot …’
I blushed hotly and felt my confidence draining away again. But now Danny gave me a sly sort of smile. ‘Liked me a lot, huh? Liked me with my shirt off, huh?’ (25)

‘Yes, oh yes, but … I mean … let’s have the Chinese meal first!’
Danny laughed out loud now and ruffled my hair. (Oh! It was the first time the handsome gymnast had ever touched me!) ‘You know, Nick, maybe today isn’t going to end so badly after all.’