Fin the Fighter  by Anna Marie Laforest

  

    Fin Fine, they called him, short for Finley the Mighty Fine Fighter.  Barely twenty in the Great War, in the trenches, newspaper stuffed in his boots, no love-letters in his pockets, helmet rotated from the dead.  Itching to fight.  Always at the ready, sparring with the heavy air until his Gen. gave the order - “go!” 

 

     He was fine-boned, you didn’t expect the punch.  The tumbles, the moves.  The sudden knife.   No caught breath before the next.  They said he learned to fight in the Irish part of Detroit.  Or Flint.  Constantly checking his back.  Didn’t care for chow, for medals; just point him at the enemy and let him - “go!”  

 

     Between the wars he married a woman less fine-boned than he, a wide woman, ready to have children.  She liked to say, “Fin looks like that angel with the spear, in church, come down and put on trousers.”  

 

     Spear or spar, he kept on fighting - with his children, his bosses, his pals.  The neighbors made a pavilion on the back of a Ford truck and set up mid-weight fights, spurring Fin on as he marched down the block at the end of the work day.  “Here he comes,” they’d say, their words pulling him down the street like a magnet.  “Look at all that energy he’s got left over from quarrelling with the boss.”   They folded his day clothes into thirds and handed him a tee shirt and a pair of rubber-soled shoes.  The clothes would travel down the block on the shoulders of little kids who searched his pockets for gum before handing them over to the wide wife, who expected them at her front door at least twice a working week, and who, as she opened her door, heard the word sent up from the crowd – “go!”

 

     Finley the Fighter learned great strategies from the bosses he fought, and in the next War he became commander extraordinaire.  He felt in the parchment plans a thirst, for his touch, his organization.  Troops sighed, and if they died they died cleanly, with purpose, mission.  His sons, the fighters, were proud of him, and all were his sons.  They went with him from Europe to the Pacific, and they longed to be his warriors, to hear him say – “go!”

 

     Now Fin was in the Pentagon, working from a leather chair, nodding at the photos of war-torn winter across the globe, focused on the play, the plan, how to forge through the bitter Korean ice and snow, while his wife back in Michigan bought quilts at the market and said, “He’s in his element in DC.  And it’s warmer there, kinder to his fine angelic bones.”

 

     At Christmas his sons arm-wrestled with him for old-times’ sake and they kicked the ball around with grandkids outside.  “Time to stop, old man?” said the sons, when they thought they saw a buckle in his knees.  “Never!” said Fin, sending the ball across the yard in a bullet-straight line.  At dinner the wide wives served a wild feast -- pheasant, berries, winter squash, and rice -- while their warrior husbands picked arguments with words, gearing up for an inevitable scrap later, down the street at the bar. 

 

     “Shouldn’t dad sleep this one out,” said the sons, as Fin the Fine passed a plate with excited but quavering old-man hands.

 

    “You can’t stop Fin.  He will have plenty of time to rest once he’s in the grave,” said their mother, though she wondered if he would be peaceful, even then.   She waved the men off.  “Just – go!”

 

 

                                                               *    *    *    *    *    *

 

 

     “I suppose I have to stop now,” said Finley, looking down at his inert body, his scant flesh already separating from his fine old bones. 

 

     “Ah,” said God.  “You have had a beautifully straight trajectory from fight to fight, war to war, and you have used your strategies well.”

 

     “I just hate having to stop,” said Finley.

 

     “Who said anything about stopping?” said God.  “Do you think I would have had you get so well prepared, just to stop?” 

 

     Finley looked around and saw a battalion of angels, led by the one whose statue he remembered from his old church, carrying a spear in one hand and a rolled up parchment in the other.  There was a red and gold banner and the angels’ warrior voices were becoming frosty puffs as they marched toward a dark, cold, arctic-seeming cave.  He noted ice-flows in cubes, like gigantic Styrofoam chests, floating about, and his mind began automatically strategizing how to get an army past those.  He looked back to God, but God was gone.

 

    “C’mon,” said the angel, handing Fin some shoes with cloud-like soles.  “You’re going to love this.  Let’s GO!”