Syndic No. 17
Syndic Literary Journal

Story: Alan Swyer

Photo by Mukesh Srivastava

 

“SLUGGER”

By Alan Swyer

No one in her neighborhood, or in all of East LA, or arguably anywhere in Southern

California, seemed a less likely candidate for the moniker “Slugger” than Sandra Sanchez. Slim and lithe, she was blessed with an angelic face, plus a body that stood in marked contrast to the girth prevalent among the women in her family.

After years of being teased, albeit good-naturedly, for seeming to be the product of a different gene pool – or perhaps another species – than her mom, aunts, and cousins, Sandra, as she entered her teens, went from being labeled flaca to being admired as guapa, bella, and linda. But it wasn’t until her kid sister Elida’s quinceanera that her new English nickname came into being, thanks to a local lightweight contender named Ramon Ramirez, whose boxing handle was Rayo. Translated into English, that meant “Lightning Bolt,” leading to his street moniker: “The Bolt.”

First playfully, then more forcefully, Rayo tried to get fresh with Sandra, who did her best to keep her distance. When The Bolt kept persisting, eventually cornering her

in the kitchen pantry, where his attempts at pawing morphed into a full-fledged grope, Sandra stopped dodging and weaving, then let loose with a right jab.

Ay!” Ramirez screamed as he reached for his nose. “Eso duele! That really hurts!”

“Serves you right.”

“You hit harder than half the guys I’ve fought,” The Bolt mumbled as he checked again for blood. “You’re a damn slugger C’mon, I mean it. You oughta take up boxing.”

“Right after I sprout wings.”

“I’m serious.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Sandra, assuming that the issue was settled.

In the weeks, then months, that followed, that proved to be far from the case. At malls, mercados, and gatherings, and even at her favorite raspados place on Ford Boulevard, or her go-to taco stand on East Olympic, time after time Sandra would hear Rayo’s voice cry out, “Hola, Slugger!” or “Slugger, que tal?”

Inevitably, and much to her chagrin, the name stuck. Unhappy about it, Sandra confronted Rayo one evening as he approached a bar he was known to frequent.

“Hope you know I’m not proud.”

“The way I see it, you oughta be. I know guys who would kill to hit as hard as you.”

“Give me a break.”

“I mean it. With your punching power and your looks, a few weeks of training and the

world would forget Mia St. John and Leila Ali.”

“Who?”

Ramirez shrugged. “Old school names who made serious bucks. I mean it, home girl. You and me together? We’d be rolling in green.”

“Forget you and me together. And above all, forget that Slugger stuff. We good?”

“Not really, but I’ll try.”

The use of the dreaded nickname dwindled somewhat as days turned into weeks, then weeks into months, yet never fully disappeared. Nor, in a remote corner of Sandra’s mind, did the notion that had been instilled. Though most of the time the prospect of boxing seemed bizarre, insane, and almost laughable, at off moments – while doing yoga, or showering, or when awakened in the middle of the night by mariachi music or gunshots – it nonetheless intrigued her. Despite what she considered to be her better judgment, Sandra periodically found herself wondering what it might be like to face an opponent in the ring. And whether her innate shyness would hinder her in front of cheering – or jeering – fans. And most of all, whether she could really hit as hard as her sometime nemesis claimed.

Those thoughts, plus a few others that occasionally insinuated their way into Sandra’s consciousness, she chose to lump together in an imaginary folder labeled What if. What if she could somehow become a hero of sorts to young girls with dreams of their own? What if she could achieve even some measure of fame? And above all, what if she could help her hard-working family finally gain some measure of financial stability?

Willfully pragmatic and level-headed most of the time, Sandra largely, but not entirely, succeeded in dismissing the questions as a form of reverie in which she generally felt unable, or unwilling, to indulge herself.

That thinking began to change, however, when her kid sister, who had always been considered to be the brains in the family, received acceptances from several four-year universities. Even with offers of scholarship money combined with part-time jobs, it seemed that Elida would likely be forced to turn down – or at least defer – UCLA, Berkeley, and Stanford, so as to commute, just as Sandra had done, to the local junior college, known in her neighborhood as ELA.

Though publicly a good sport, stating frequently that being with her family was what mattered most, Sanda nevertheless caught Elida crying on several occasions. That led to a considerable amount of soul-searching, plus a week’s worth of sleepless nights, culminating with a text Sandra sent to Ramon Ramirez: Meet me for coffee tomorrow @ 3?

“How long would it take me to turn pro?” Sandra asked Rayo as she joined him at a hipster place she referred to as the anti-Starbucks.

“You’re playing with me.”

“Never have I been more serious.”

“You mean working at that pre-school isn’t the most rewarding position in the world both emotionally and financially?”

“Please answer my question.”

“Depends how committed you are.”

“And if I say 110 percent?

“I can probably get you a three-rounder in a couple of months.”

“No sooner?”

“Depends on your progress.”

“And how much can I possibly make?”

“For the fight?”

“And eventually.”

“Let me ask you a question. Who’s the richest guy on your block?”

“Probably Danny Corral.”

“With that mini-chain of Mexican seafood joints? With hard work, plus maybe a little luck, you can make his empire look like yesterday’s frijoles.”

“Serious?”

“Want to know how serious? I’ve got a bout this Saturday down in Tijuana –”

“And you’re going out drinking?”

Una cerveza max. But check this. If what you’re saying is true, I’ll hang up my gloves for a while to train you full-time.”

“I don’t want to mess with your career.”

“Which isn’t exactly getting me the championship I dreamed of. And until then, we can work together every afternoon. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“One last question?”

“Shoot.”

“Why all of a sudden?”

“Honestly?”

“Sure.”

“None of your business.”

The Bolt studied Sandra, then chuckled. “What time you off work the day after  tomorrow?”

“Why the day after rather than tomorrow?

Rayo reached for his wallet, then pulled out several bills. “Because tomorrow afternoon you’ll be buying the gear I need you to have.” He handed the money to Sandra, then raised his  eyebrows. “What time did you say?”

“3 PM.”

“Then I’ll see you at the Azteca Gym over on Gage at 4.”

“Okay.”

“No, not okay. That doesn’t mean 4:05 or 4:10. It means 3:50 at the latest.”

Two days later, toting a duffel bag with all the equipment she was instructed to purchase, Sandra arrived at the Azteca at 3:45. Never having been inside a boxing gym, her head was full of preconceptions, not the least of which was that it would be a temple of violence.

To her dismay, that notion was instantly dispelled when everyone – male, female, young, or old – who was not sparring, hitting the speed bag, or jumping rope came over to shake her hand.

Then, having been under the impression that training mainly meant climbing into the ring for a certain number of rounds, Sandra was even more stunned that, at least for her, sparring was not in the cards. Instead, she was given her first taste of warm-ups, Bolt-style. Then, after her hands were wrapped, she was introduced to the speed bag, then the heavy bag, and finally a session of shadow boxing.

What was exciting initially soon became grueling as the afternoon went on, until Sandra found herself not merely spent, but also frustrated. Assuming that sparring would at some point become part of her workout, she said nothing. Nor, though eager to put what she was learning into use, did she speak up about it in the days that followed.

But at the end of the second week, when her laconic mentor, who had been far from effusive with praise, gave her a rare pat on the back as a session was ending, Sandra finally spoke.

“So when do I get in the ring?” she asked.

“That’s not the key question.”

“Then what is?”

“How good do you want to be?”

“What’s that have to do with anything?”

“Other than fear, what’s the toughest thing in the world for a boxer to overcome?”

“Tell me.”

“Bad habits. I’ve seen it my whole life. Guys who rush things never overcome the bad stuff they pick up. Rotten balance. A wobbly jab. A sloppy right cross. Read me?”

“I guess.”

“But guys you probably never heard of like Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez – Sr, not his lazy son – Shane Mosley, Tito Trinidad, Israel Vazquez – they maxed the talent they had. If you don’t believe me, check ’em out on youtube. One of these days you’ll spar. But know what?”

“What’s that?”

“When you do, you’ll be ready.”

Lying awake in bed that night, Sandra found herself wondering how much of what Rayo said could be taken at face value, and how much was a mind game designed to test her commitment. Making matters worse was the fact that her workouts were taking place largely in secret.

Because her goal was to surprise Elida with the money needed to make a four-year college a reality, she had uttered not one word to anyone in her family about her new adventure, other than to encourage her sister to pick the school of her choice and send in an acceptance. That resulted in a key question: “You win the lottery or something?”

“No, but I’ve got something cooking.”

“You serious?”

“110 percent,” Sandra replied, though that was hardly the case.

As for explanations about soreness in parts of her body that had never ached before, plus her recent tendency to yawn repeatedly at the dinner table, all that, Sandra claimed, owed to a decision to be the first member of the Sanchez clan to run the LA marathon.

Workouts took a new direction on a Thursday, when The Bolt put on what are known in boxing as pads. The purpose, he explained, was for Sandra to follow his instructions and use the appropriate hands as he called for specific punches or combinations.

“You’ve heard the expression that practice makes perfect?” he asked as they were set to begin.

“Sure.”

“So tell me what’s wrong with it.”

“No idea.”

“It’s perfect practice that makes perfect. Most fighters when they hit the pads, or mitts, or whatever you want to call ’em, it’s a farce. It may look impressive, but it’s nothing but mechanical. I give points for style in the ring, not style in the workout. I want each punch and every movement to have a purpose, not just be part of a dance step. So here’s a question for you. What’s a ‘gym champion’?”

“I give up.”

“Somebody who looks like a world-beater sparring, but get’s an ass-kicking the moment it’s for real. Ready to have a go?”

“You bet.”

“Then let me see every single punch count. Left jab…! Another…! Right cross…! Now duck…!” Rayo barked as he swatted the area Sandra’s head was forced to vacate. “Now a left jab… an overhead right… and a left hook!”

As Sandra, having showered and changed, stepped out of the dressing room, she was surprised to find her trainer, who usually bade her farewell with a nod, waiting for her.

 “Got time for an horchata?” he asked.

“I thought sugar was a no-no.”

“We’ll make an exception. Let’s head down to Chuy’s.”

The two of them ambled down the street, then chose a quiet table inside the sweet shop, where Sandra waited until Rayo brought over two of the Mexican drinks made from rice, cinnamon and sugar. “Let me pass on something said to me by a great fighter named Ruben Olivares who’s been largely forgotten,” he then said. “Ready?”

Sandra nodded.

“Kill the body, and the head will die. Know what that means?”

“I suspect you’re going to tell me.”

“Wise ass, huh? What’s the best way to get a knockout?”

“A shot to the chin?”

“What if that’s your opponent’s strong suit? Or what she’s trying to defend? But like the guys in Mexico say, you can’t defend everything, and the body’s a big target. Make sense?”

“I guess.”

“You guess? You’re smarter than that. And what do Mexicans say is that most vulnerable spot of all?”

“I give up.”

“The liver! Dig a left hook in – un gancho al higado – and your opponent can’t breath.

But if through some miracle she’s still managing to stand, then what?”

“I’m listening.”

“End it with an overhead right. Been watching the fights I told you about on youtube?”

“Yup.”

“Then what’s the biggest problem with the fighters of today?”

“They don’t fight enough?”

“That’s a problem, but not the big one. Boxers today throw a two- or three-punch combination, then back off. But a Sugar Ray Robinson, an Ali, a Duran in his prime, or a local guy like Bobby Chacon, they blitzed you with a barrage that just wore you out. So why do you think I’m coming at you with all this at this moment?”

“No clue.”

“What if I say you’re fighting a week from Saturday?”

“B-but –”

“Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“But I haven’t even sparred.”

“How much confidence do you have in me?”

“A good amount.”

“That’s all?”

“Okay, a lot.”

“Then have a little faith, okay? And know that I only get something out of this if you do.”

The next day Sandra got to spar. Once she overcame her initial timidity, which vanished swiftly when stung by a jab, she began to realize how well Rayo had prepared her.

Her opponent, though older and more experienced, periodically was flat-footed or off balance, resulting in punches that were largely ineffectual. Sandra’s, in contrast, were true, and far more powerful. More to the point, her foe never put together combinations of more than two or three punches. The moment Sandra started countering with volleys of three, four, or even five shots in a row, the tide turned completely.

After the third round and final round, she was ebullient. “That was great!” Sandra exclaimed as she removed her mouth guard.

“And you know what you get as a reward?”

“The suspense is killing me.”

“To meet me at 5 AM for road work.”

The toughest part of the early morning running proved to be not the exertion itself, but rousting herself in the stillness before dawn. That, however, was less of a problem after the first few days, so that within a week’s time Sandra was enjoying keeping Rayo company as the two of them huffed and puffed through a city not yet fully awake.

Sparring, meanwhile, became a series of lessons as The Bolt matched her with different people, each for a specific purpose. There was a lefty, so that Sandra could experience facing a southpaw. Plus a counter-puncher, to learn how not to get impatient or over-eager. Then a greater surprise: a guy! Trying to block her stronger opponent’s punches, Sandra quickly became convinced that she would suffer the ultimate humiliation – knocking herself out – when, upon blocking a punch, her own glove ricocheted into her face.

“You gotta make him miss once in a while!” Rayo insisted between rounds. “Which means you move! Sidestep, then smack him.”

Once again, The Bolt’s strategy worked. When that session was finished, Rayo did something he’d never done before, immediately ushering in another opponent. At the sight of a women – and one her own size – Sandra, with her adrenaline pumping, became a stalker, cutting off the ring, then pummeling until she literally had to be restrained.

“Now you see the animal in you,” Rayo said. “Which means you know it’s there if you need it.”

The next day Sandra was matched against a woman whose left jabs and hooks proved to be surprisingly effective. “How do I deal with those lefts?” she asked after the first round.

“When somebody’s that good with one hand,” The Bolt replied, “go after that shoulder.”

“Is that fair? And legal?”

“Fair, legal, and most of all smart. Take out the shoulder, and what good’s the hand?”

Putting that strategy into effect provided Sandra with yet another key lesson.

It wasn’t until the night before her pro debut, with her family gathered at the dinner table, that Sandra revealed what until then had been clandestine.

“Know how I told you to think about the college you want?” she asked her sister.

“Yeah?”

“You can tell ’em you’re coming.”

“Did somebody rob a bank?” her mother teased.

“Yours truly has a new career.”

“I hope it’s not as a Penthouse Pet,” her father teased, which resulted in frowns.

“So what’s the scoop?” Elida wondered a moment later.

“You won’t believe it if I tell you.”

“Try us,” said her mother.

“Remember that nickname that was driving me crazy?”

“Slugger,” her dad stated.

“It’s now part of the way I’m billed.”

“As what?” her mom asked.

“A boxer. You’re looking at Sandra ‘Slugger’ Sanchez.”

“Please tell me that you’re joking,” demanded her mother.

“Next you’re gonna say you’ll be a champ,” added her father.

“That’s the hope,” Sandra stated proudly. “So, will you be there rooting for me tomorrow night?” The silence couldn’t have been more deafening.

Sandra was brushing her teeth later that evening when her sister stepped into the bathroom.

“You really shouldn’t be doing this for me,” Elida mumbled.

“Doing it for you? Or doing it at all?”

“Isn’t it pretty much the same thing?”

“Is this you asking, or Mom and Dad putting you up to it?”

Elida shrugged guiltily.

“I bet Mom’s already been on the phone blabbing with her sisters, her cousins, and everyone else, moaning that her first-born isn’t being wise, prudent, or worst of all, lady-like.”

Elida nodded unhappily.

“You and I both know,” Sandra continued, “that instead of me having dreams, she’d rather see me married to a nice Chicano accountant or real estate guy, with two kids plus a third in the oven, and a house in Sherman Oaks or Van Nuys. Right?”

Another nod from Elida.

“Well, guess what. The 19th Century ended a while ago, and so did the 20th. What you need to know is that I’m doing it for you, but I’m also doing it for myself.”

“Really?”

“Want the honest truth?”

Yet another nod from Elida.

“I feel better about myself – and a whole lot more alive – than ever before.”

Even though she was making her debut in what the boxing world calls a “prelim” – and only a “three-rounder” at that – it was a thrill for Sandra, upon her arrival at the venue in a SoCal town called Ontario, to see at the bottom of the poster: SANDRA “SLUGGER” SANCHEZ VS “KILLER” KITTY JONES.

Trying not to reveal the conflicting emotions surging through her, she did her best to play cool, calm, and collected – or as Rayo often put it, copacetic – as she walked with him and a cutman named Rudy Mendoza toward the entrance.

Not until they had signed in, been greeted by the promoter and publicist, and reached the dressing room did Rayo speak to Sandra about what he was observing.

“Nerves I understand,” he said. “But what else is up?”

“Nothing.”

 “Right, and I’m LeBron James.”

“It’s not your problem.”

“If you got a problem, then so do I.”

“It’s family stuff.”

“You talking about not being what your family considers to be a prim and proper young lady?”

“How’d you know?”

“Think you’re the first to hear that stuff? Remember when I mentioned Mia St. John?”

“Yeah.”

“Guess who was born Maria Elena Rosales. And she’s hardly alone. But trust me, they’ll come around.”

“Think so?”

“I bet some of ’em even show up tonight.”

Despite Rayo’s plea for her to focus, Sandra was distracted when she stepped into the ring, scanning the crowd in search of familiar faces. That created unexpected opportunities for her foe, who nailed her with a left jab in the opening seconds, then subsequently with a left hook, plus a right to the chin that sent Sandra sprawling.

Sandra took a mandatory eight-count, then got to her feet. Flustered, she did her best to hug, hold, and clinch for the rest of the round, drawing boos from those who had shown up well before the main event.

Retreating to her corner, Sandra found herself scolded as never before by her trainer. “If your heart’s not in it, let’s go home right now!” Rayo barked. “You want to embarrass yourself? Fine. But no way will I let you embarrass me! Got that?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Save the self-pity. Show yourself – and me – and most of all the world – what you’ve got inside!”

With a nod, Sandra got to her feet, then spotted something that changed everything – her sister entering the arena together with their grandmother.

As “Killer” Kitty Jones burst forward cockily at the start of the second round, eager to put away a seemingly outclassed and over-matched opponent, Sandra ducked a left, then unleashed a one…two…three…four…five punch combination. With the surprised audience cheering, Sandra blocked a wobbly counter-punch, then dug in a liver shot – un gancho al higado –which doubled her foe over, setting up the overhead right that followed.

Sandra paced in a neutral corner as the referee counted to ten, then smiled as her hand was raised in triumph.

Having showered and changed, Sandra stepped out of the dressing room, then strode toward where her sister and her grandmother were standing. After hugs and congratulations, Sandra grew more serious. “Can I ask an awkward question?”

Elida and their grandmother exchanged uncertain looks, then Sandra went on.

“Your trip here, was it with Mom and Dad’s blessing?”

The two other women said nothing.

“Okay,” Sandra continued. “But do they even know?”

More uncomfortable silence.

“Hey,” said Sandra, “it means a lot that you’re here.”

Not a word was said as Sandra, Rudy Mendoza, and Rayo strode toward The Bolt’s restored ’68 Camaro. While the cutman climbed into the rear, Sandra stopped and faced her trainer.

“About how the fight started,” she announced, “I apologize.”

“Let me tell you the two things that matter most. First, respect for the sport. Clear?”

Sandra nodded. “And most importantly, keeping you from getting hurt. That means focusing every single goddamn second. Without that, we’re finished. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

Sandra was conspicuously laconic throughout the drive back to East LA, speaking hardly a word until they dropped Rudy Mendoza off. Then she faced Rayo. “I don’t want to go home,” she mumbled.

 

“So come to my place.”

“Not a good idea.”

“C’mon, homegirl. I’m not hitting on you. My daughter’s living with my ex- down near

San Diego now, so her room’s going unused. Besides, think I’m gonna mess with my meal ticket?”

Even as word spread throughout the boxing community about a newcomer with the looks of a fashion model and the punching power of a female Gennady Golovkin, Sandra busied herself with a demanding routine of road work in the morning, followed by her day job, then harder and more advanced efforts at the gym.

The result was precious little time to ruminate about the separation from her family, especially once a generous offer came in for her second fight, which would be a far more demanding six-rounder.

“You’ll be going against a scrapper,” Rayo advised. “She’ll try every trick in the book, and then some. So we’ll focus on two things. First, since she’s gone six rounds before – and you haven’t – is stamina. And the second?”

“Tell me –”

“What to do when things get dirty.”

If, The Bolt explained, “Howitzer” Hallahan, in breaking from a clinch, just happened to nail Sandra with an elbow, her job was to wince and bend over, then surreptitiously land an elbow to her opponent’s ribs. And not if, but when, there was an attempt at an illegal headbutt, Sandra was to feign falling forward, then sneak in a rabbit punch to the back of Hallahan’s neck.

“I know this is goes against your principles, scruples, and all that,” The Bolt said. “But you know the old saying?”

“Go ahead –”

“You can’t live by the Golden Rule in a crowd that don’t play fair!”

Searching for her sister and grandmother proved to be no distraction the night of the second fight, for they were smack dab in the middle of the third row, together with Sandra’s cousin Stephanie from her mother’s side and her cousin Erica from her dad’s.

Moved all the way up the card to the co-feature, the bout proved to be a crowd-pleaser right from the opening bell, with fierce exchanges predominating over the customary first round faking, feinting, and feeling each other out.

As Rayo predicted, the “Howitzer” lived up to her nickname, tripping, pushing, elbowing, and using a clinch to open a cut over Sandra’s left eye with a headbutt. But instead of being flustered or intimidated, Sandra countered with tricks of her own.

First came a not wholly legal shot to the back of Hallahan’s neck after the headbutt. Then a sneaky elbow to Hallahan’s ribs after absorbing a far more blatant elbow following a clinch.

When her angry opponent tried to bully her against the ropes with an illegal push, Sandra side-stepped, then launched a five-punch combination, culminating with an uppercut that yielded a knockdown.

One round later, with a liver shot then an overhand right, Sandra again was victorious.

Seemingly overnight the woman who had grown proud of being called Slugger had gone from a nobody to someone besieged with calls. In addition to Ring Magazine inquiring about a cover story, plus nonstop internet chatter, overtures started coming in not just from reporters covering sports, but also from those specializing in women’s stories and Latino affairs. But only when a request came in from TMZ did Sandra shake her head at the phenomenon Rayo had started to call “Sluggermania.”

“I owe you,” she said as she and her mentor shared a laugh over a post-run breakfast one morning.

“It’s not like you’re the only one who’s benefiting. Got some time to talk later?”

“About?”

“With Top Rank, Golden Boy, and a bunch of the smaller operations calling, we need to discuss promoters.”

“Can we talk about something else tonight?”

“Such as?”

“I want to take you out to dinner to say thanks.”

Training went on hiatus that evening at a place not far from the Azteca Gym called La Casita Mexicana. Starting with rounds of margaritas accompanied by chips with three salsas, then on through soup, fish, and a hearty helping of churros, two people who had begun as adversaries, then had moved on to a mentor-student relationship, relaxed in each others’ company as never before.

The warmth continued when they got back to Rayo’s apartment, where what had been strictly platonic grew quickly, yet comfortably, into intimacy.

When Sandra and Rayo awakened before dawn, instead of feeling embarrassment or regret, the two of them seemed closer than they would have imagined possible. Happily, that feeling persisted during their morning run and their afternoon workout, then into the days that followed.

With more and more attention coming Sandra’s way as talks began for her first ten-round fight, she was elated when an unexpected call came from her Dad.

“Buy you lunch on Saturday?” he asked. A date was set at a Shanghai restaurant in San Gabriel. There, Sandra’s father showed up looking sheepish.

“Your Mom feels bad,” he said after they ordered Sandra’s favorite dishes, including what she referred to as fish “beignets,” plus tofu skins with a strange Chinese green, and chicken with chestnuts.

“So do I.”

“She’s old-fashioned.”

“No kidding.”

“But she’s trying to change. If, that is, you’re willing to accept her.”

“Of course,” Sandra stated with a combination of relief and joy as a steaming platter of dumplings arrived.

With her sister Elida having made the decision to attend Berkeley, her family rallying behind her, and her romance with Rayo adding yet another unexpected dimension to her life, Sandra felt that, for the first time in her entire life, she was following a path entirely of her own choosing. Not that she allowed herself the luxury of indulging in much reverie while prepping with greater zeal than ever for a ten-rounder against a veteran opponent who went by “Bonecrusher” Bonnie Barnes.

Handling the media with new-found aplomb, she signed on with a promoter, who promptly started discussing the path to a title.

Life, therefore, was filled with positives in a way that previously would have seemed unthinkable when the time arrived for Sandra’s mandatory pre-fight physical. There, after her height, weight, and blood pressure were taken, she was checked over by a doctor, who proceeded to shock her.

“Please go through the door on your left,” he announced.

“There’s got to be a mistake.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Because that’s for the gals who are pregnant.”

“Exactly.”

“B-but –”

A wave of painful and difficult thoughts hit Sandra harder than any opponent as she considered the consequences. Unless she was willing to go completely against her upbringing and beliefs, indeed everything that had come to define being a Latina in her family and her community, the fight would have to be called off.

With it, at least for the next year or so, would go dreams that heretofore seemed impossible. Which meant losing, or at least deferring, the road toward a hoped-for championship.

But worst of all was the sense that unless the doctor was completely wrong, the man who served as her mentor, trainer, and lover, had lied when discussing his so-called vasectomy.

“How could this be?” Sandra wondered, all too painfully and vividly aware that there was no means to slug her way out of the situation she was in.

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