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Bendigo's Prayer: The life of bareknuckle fighter William Abednego Thompson
The following passage is an extract from a short story about the life of Bendigo Thompson, a champion bare knuckle fighter who lived the 19th century.
''Oh, heavenly father, devout art thou'', Bendigo wailed to the heavens, his hands reaching upwards.
His gruff words echoed through a damp and dark church hall that was nearly empty. Only a few mournful parishioners sat with their heads bowed against the oaf panels in front, their minds lost in their own drizzly misery.
''You are the saviour'', Bendigo cried.
His voice was powerful and the conviction frightening. He clasped his hands round a gold goblet that he rose skyward. Water over-flowed from the shimmering rim and dripped softly against the oak surface below.
Bendigo immersed himself in his ritual. It was repentance that allowed him an escape from his regret and pain, a release from a body aged with cuts bruises, broken limbs. Yet when three teenagers at the rear of the hall interrupted Bendigo's prayer his ferocity was clear to see.
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The three rascals, who were no older than 16, sniggered as Bendigo spoke to his god. Bendigo's eyes flashed open and fixed upon the youngster. His eyes filled with rage. His body tensed and he slammed the gold goblet down with a crack that filled the cathedral and caused the mourners to shudder and look up.
''You there, how dare you scoundrels come into this service with your disdain for the lord'', Bendigo roared the words as he strode towards them. The boys carried on giggling.
''You will have the same respect for Christ as you do your insolence.'' Bendigo was now a few feet from the lads.
''Oh yeah, like you do old man,'' the tallest of the bunch cackled.
Bendigo wasted no time. He hoisted the youth by his collar against the wall. As he stared into his eyes he delivered an almighty blow with his right hand to the lad's gut. He fell to the floor sputtering and curled up in a ball. He cried like a lamb for his mummy.
Bendigo turned to the other two teenagers. Although the preacher had turned 60 last spring, he had the poise and quick feet that had earned his respect as boxer in his youth.
''Which one of yer’s next?’’
Bendigo stared menacingly at the boys.
''Come on Rod, let's have him, he's only an old un'', the teenager tugged at his mate's sleeve whose face was frozen with fear. ''Come on, look what he's done to Jack down there, he deserves a good un after that.''
He lunged at Bendigo with a rugby tackle but the stocky pastor stood stronger thana tree trunk. Punches flailed wildly about his sides but they were weak. Bendgio felt the rage burn up inside his chest again.
He grabbed the lads hair and yanked his head back so that his neck cricked. The lad yelped. Bendigo slammed a knee into his crotch . He spun the boy round and smashed his face into the sandstone wall at the church’s entrance. Blood splattered across the stone and onto a gold statue of Mary fixed high onto the wall. The other poor boy was now frozen in terror but managed to try and flee.
Bendigo grabbed him by one shoulder and thumped him with one of his famous right uppercuts into the stomach. In a display of merciless violence ingrained in him from days in the bare-knuckle ring, Bendigo head-butted the young lad’s face. His nose broke with the sickening sound of bones crushing. The force was so strong that his body was rammed down onto the ground, his head only cushioned by the legs of one of the other teenagers.
The first teenager was weeping on the floor. The other two were knocked out. Blood had been splattered around them onto the marble entrance hall.
Bendigo snorted. He wiped his hands together. ''Blood on my hands for god's work'', he grunted to himself.
''You scoundrels have no place in the church''. With that, he took a deep breath and spat on the crumpled bodies of the three teenagers. Bendigo turned round and walked calmly back to the pulpit with his head bowed to continue his sermon.