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Benjamin Had Always Been a Brawler

A 985 word flash fiction entry for a random literary competition I stumbled upon. No theme or genre specified so I wrote about a theme I have always considered to be sad; ageing. Especially amongst older men who still have such a strong sense of justice in troubling situations, but are unable to help. Forced into becoming a passive bystander.


Benjamin had always been a brawler.

Big Ben. That was what they had called him through high school. He often recalled a vivid memory of this nickname being shouted out by onlookers as he beat Johnathon Wardlaw to a pulp out by the Home Economics block. The story changed with each retelling, of course. All decent stories did. The last iteration involved a harmonised crescendo and unanimous wagers being placed in Big Ben’s favour. Benjamin had kept tabs on his bouts since childhood, and he was currently sitting at 37 from 38.

Of course, he had suffered his fair share of injuries. Bruised ribs, broken bones, torn muscles, sprained joints. You name it, Benjamin had experienced it.

Because Benjamin had always been a brawler.

When Benjamin was 10 years old, he was cornered by two high schoolers at the bus stop. They tore the fresh kicks from his feet, rummaged through his bag, claimed his pocket money as their own and threatened to come back for more should he snitch. Benjamin kept true to the promise that he had shrieked through a mouthful of snot and tears that day; he never told a soul. He copped a beating from his old man that night, though, and his dad hit much harder than the two high schoolers could ever. He would never receive a pair of shoes from his father again, nor anything else of value. Because of this, he became relentless and headstrong in the face of violence. He never backed down from a brawl and he fought hard to the bitter end from that moment on.

Now, 71 years of age, his body was failing him. That’s how old Benjamin saw it; his body was not pulling its weight. Never mind the physical torture Benjamin had sought out in his youth. Never mind the bruised organs and shattered bones that he’d grieved because of his pride and crooked morals. But he’d take any man on, any day at any time.

Because Benjamin had always been a brawler.

‘You can take Benjamin out of the brawl, but you can’t take the brawl out of Benjamin.’ His wife had once joked endearingly, nursing him back to health after another close encounter. For Benjamin, the problem seemed to be that you actually couldn’t take Big Ben out of the brawl. It was an impossible feat, and most people knew it.

Because Benjamin had always been a brawler.

He had always won the fight because he had always had the fight in him. But now, 71 years old, there was little fight to spark. Little wood left to chuck on the fire. Every man and their dog could tell that he wouldn’t survive another brawl, let alone a strong gust of wind. Everyone knew but poor old Benjamin, which is why he injected himself into the altercation blossoming on the train carriage this morning.

12:02am, last train out of Perth on the Midland line. The two hoodlums taunt a woman in black. Benjamin wonders if it is because of the cut of her dress, but deep down he knows this is the outspoken traditionalist in him. Regardless, she does not deserve this. No one does.

She is very pretty. Her short brown hair frames a polite and gentle face. The face of a teacher or nurse. The face of someone who does not belong on the train at this hour. The two men sit either side of her. Close. Too close. She intends to move, but a greasy arm is thrown grossly across her body, gripping her into the greying train seat. The worst kind of seatbelt.

‘Smile for us.’ One of them mutters.

‘Yeah, I bet you’re real pretty when you smile.’ The other joins in.

‘It’s only a smile.’

‘Yeah, we’re only asking for a smile. Come on.’

Benjamin had seen enough. He had heard enough. He launched to his feet, expending far more energy than he had planned to. He caught glimpse of the varicose veins winding their way down his legs, strangling the life out of any muscle that was left. He willed himself to walk and started over towards the thugs, though unconvincingly as the train wavered on the tracks.

He arrived.

They watched on.

He shook his head.

They spat at his feet.

Game on. He grabbed at a handful of jumper, and possibly some skin, retching the first man up to his feet. The man wrestled with Benjamin’s grip, to no avail. All of Benjamin’s energy was now surging towards his grip on the thug. Latched on like a dog, he was not going to let go.

Because Benjamin had always been a brawler.

And he absolutely wouldn’t have let go, if not for a sudden hit to the side of his head. A stray fist collided hard with his right temple, and he lost sight of the two thugs. He stepped sidewards haphazardly to stabilise himself but could not meet his foot with the right part of the floor. He fell backwards and collapsed awkwardly on the parallel seating. He felt the muscles in and around his eyes tighten.



Cry out in response to what was happening. A flurry of hits and kicks tenderised the left side of his body until his bulk blurred into complete numbness. The thugs were hammering him now, pounding him into the train’s laminate. He wondered why he had gotten involved. Why he had interfered and whether these two ruffians would have even overstepped with the lady. Whether he could have avoided this altogether. Because he was losing this battle.

And in that moment, he came to realise what every man and their dog knew; that he wouldn’t survive another fight. He wouldn’t survive this fight.

‘I just wanted to help.’ He gurgled through a mouth soaked with blood and regret.

And just like that, Big Ben was taken out of the brawl.


I would love to know what you thought about this piece of writing. Let me know in the comments below; it would make my day!

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