“You ready, kid?” asked Shafe, cocking his fists. “You all set to go?”

“Knock it out of him, Shafe. Knock his ears off. Fix that little bastard, good.”

“You better put ’em up kid. I ain’t-a-gonna dance.”

Ernie said nothing. His arms hung loosely. Shafe hit him lightly on the chest and Ernie’s arms came up as he clumsily stepped backwards. The crowd was noiseless. Shafe little-stepped, wide-legged, forward. Ernie threw out his left hand; Shafe swung and Ernie again went backwards on his heels. When he had his balance, he jogged to the right.

“You ain’t runnin’ away, kid? You ain’t got a mind to run away?”

“He ain’t getting’ through here, Shafe.”

Ernie came into range and was hit in the stomach. Then he clicked Shafe’s jaw with a wild right arm swing, and Shafe’s face splotched purple. Now Shafe moved more quickly. He cuffed Ernie upright with a left, and hit him hard on the cheek. Ernie fell backward and rolled, and then came half up on his kneed, his face against his forearm. His back swayed but he made no sound, no motion to rise.