"Right in his Belly!"

Sunday, June 5, 2016


He took a lot of time dressing. He was after a "look," and he kept changing outfits till he liked what he saw. Whatever it was, the pants rode low, down on the hips, to expose his belly. And the top, if there was one, was a short, open fest, or a tight T-shirt top that easily rode up. Sometimes he shamelessly wore a girls' bellyshirt in the ring.

Then, after he oiled up, he headed for the ring. He always entered the same. Jeans slung low on his hips, gut thrust out, hands held up, like he was accepting applause (or surrendering). Head high, smiling, seemingly unaware that he looked like a walking target with his belly jutting out bare in front of him.

Being the "jobber" in the match, he always was introduced first. While the better-known fighter got introduced, the jobber just slouched in the corner, looking bored, pot-bellied.

When the bell rang and the fighting began, he had his hands up high, defending his face, and his belly stuck out like a hanging curveball over home plate.

And somehow, he's the only one in the arena (and in 40 million TV living rooms) who doesn't see it coming.

You know he isn't expecting it because the fist socks him right in his stomach and he doesn't flinch or brace. The fist just torpedoes his belly. It's in and out of him before the OOF! bursts from his mouth.

After the punch-jolt and the OOF! there's that frozen, silent second of winded agony. Then he goes all to pieces, grips his belly-curve with both hands and staggers around the ring at a full flounder, all grimmace and gasp.

Then he blunders back into his foe, who gives him a bop on the head to make him reflexively stand upright, and his hands go to his noggin. And while they do his rival winds up his arm and his fist does a cannonball in the wimp's bread-basket.

This time he folds right over it, busted limp in his middle, lifted to his toes by a sock in the stomach. His face is down toward the floor but still the wimp gives up an OOF! that shakes the rafters.

When the rival wrenches the fist out from up in his gut, the wimp flops to his knees, cradling his punched belly, and he keeps going down, falling, rolling, thrashing on the mat, his feet flailing in feckless kicks, his hands gripped to his soft belly. His eyes are wide in breathless panic, and his mouth hangs askew; the only sounds that come out of him are long, low belly-ache groans.

He was still winded when his rival strode impatiently up to him and kicked his forehead and knocked him flat on his back on the mat. Like the jobber he was, his hands instantly forgot about his vulnerable gut and flew to his head. He even arched his back in pain, so his belly thrust right up and out at the booted bad-man.

And once again, he seemed the only one unaware of what was on the way: the hard rubber heel of a size-12 Texas cowboy boot stamped down like a hot brand right smack in the middle of his bare belly.

In the crowd, you could feel the electric second of anticipation before the stomp, and then when the boot came down it was like a thunderbolt. The poor potbellied wimp on the mat flailed arms and legs helplessly like a broken toy. His face looked mad and it seemed like his tongue lolled out at one point.

It was painfully obvious that this beating was far past his ability to endure -- and that such ability, in his case, was embarassingly low. Yet he had put himself there. It was safe to laugh at him, mock him, enjoy his suffering.

The brute reaches down, grabs the wimp by the hair, yanks him roughly up to his knees. Jobber sags weakly, kneeling, hands up trying to ease the hairpull. His belly protrudes dutifully for the brute to draw back a leg and swing a boot-kick up into his gut.

Bellyboy hits the mat again in full-on stage-5 bellyache mode. He's flopping like a caught fish and crying. The brute does a few poses for the crowd before returning to his hapless victim, who has now gotten himself together so far as to rise to his knees on his own.

The brawler saunters up, and lays a hand on his hair. The jobber musters all he has of courage and strength and swings a punch against his tormentor's stomach. It bounces off. Swings the other fist the same way. Same result. The brute laughs, and pulls the wimp upright, swings him by the arm, and tosses him back into a corner of the ring.

The wimp turns as he stumbles into it, and hits it with his back, then slumps there, arms draped on the ropes. The thug approaches confidently. There's a lesson he has to teach this fool who took shots at his abs. He grips the wimp by the throat and bends his head back over the top turnbuckle, forcing him to arch his body, belly out. The wimp's hands are all at the wrist above the grip on his throat.

The brute holds his other arm aloft, in a fist, and looks around the crowd as if to ask, "shall I?" Whistles, cheers, shouts of "do it!" For once, though he can't see it, the wimp knows it's coming and manages to bleat out, "no, not my belly!" just as the fist hammer-drops on his stomach.

This time the bellypunch-grunt came out of him in a long, low UUH! that sounded like it started in the bottom of a kettle drum.

And there's still 15 minutes of TV time to fill until the next match!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Can't Take It in the Belly

He gave me a classic four-punch bellyache. Sealed with a kick.

First a chop in the pit. No warning, just let fly a sidearm punch, and his hand's edge jutted into my bare belly. He chopped me high on my stomach. Totally winded me and froze me to the spot.

Bug-eyed and stunned, I watched in silent horror as his other fist served me up a belly-busting uppercut punch.

It was a real stomach-masher, a slug to drive the OOF! out of my gut and double me far over.

He pulled me upright again, rared back, and POW! - he let me have it. Right in the belly with his full-force fist. Drove me right back to the wall, and he caught me there as I arched myself away from the impact. Caught me good and hard with a bellyslammer. Pinned my belly-button to my spine and sent my breath on a long vacation. I was on my way to my knees before his fist left my gut.

My suffering and weakness drove me down to the ground, and I writhed there and grovelled on my belly.

I tried to rise and he caught me stretched out on my side, sucking for air, and gave me a contemptuous kick with his boot to my belly.

I scrolled in the sand helplessly, mouthing a winded, silent "O!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

OOF! Right in the Belly!

So I dashed up behind the barkeep and grabbed his elbow. I got it, but despite my advantage in height and weight, he shook me off easily. When I went for him again, he was ready. He backed into me as I lurched forward, and jammed his elbow right where he knew my belly would be.

I took the brunt of the blow in my upper stomach. Intense, overwhelming bellyache exploded in my core. And his punch kicked the wind out of me and left me too stunned to take another breath. My last word was UURFF!

The beefy little beast was warming to his task. His elbow-shot to my stomach had shocked me dumb and I stood like a martyr bound to a stake, wide open, helpless, and unfit for torture. Not the kind of man who hardens himself against pain and takes pride in his physical endurance. No, nothing but a softbelly.

He turned and rose from the crouch in which he delivered his elbow to my gut. The sound of my bellyaching told my tormentor he could take his time with his next move. This pot belly wasn't going anywhere.

My shirts always fit tight, and in my initial struggle with him it had bunched up around my chest. So I was as bare-bellied as Britney Spears when he started beating me up, and I stayed like that until the end. I must have looked like I was asking for it, like I was offering my belly-button for a bulls-eye. He looked at me, looked at my bare midriff, and punched me right in my belly.

I had just manage to suck a breath into my body in the aftermath of his stomach-buster elbow jab, but that breath came right back out of me as a lusty OOOUPHFF! when his fist hit my belly. It felt as big as a bowling ball in me and it seemed to explode me. I staggered back, arms flailing and hit my back against the wall. I instantly folded far forward, bent double, with both hands pressed up into the fold of my body, cradling the place my belly used to be before he socked it into the Twilight Zone.

"Stand up, you potbellied wimp!" he said as he grabbed me by my ponytail and jerked my body upright against the wall. My hands instinctively flew to my hair. I felt like my body was still deeply caved in the middle from his punch, but now I had my belly stuck out again.

He made something of the occasion. From close range he hit me with a one-two bellybuster combo: a straight jab followed by a wicked hook, both of them right on the belly.


I crumpled like tinfoil and started rocking and foot-shuffling, doing the bellyache dance with both hands gripping my punched gut and moaning and sobbing as I stand and suffer.

He grabs my shirt, wheels me around and lets my own momentum throw me back against the wall.

I hit it with a smack and rebound into the hallway, my back arched in pain. And there's my bare belly again, like a hanging curve ball over home plate. He steps into the swing and plants a rocksolid fist in my exposed belly.


I flop to my knees like a marionette with snapped strings. One slug in the belly took all the starch and strength out of me. Just one punch put me on my knees with a howling bellyache.

Hands glued to my belly-button I rock on my knees, moans and sobs my only words. But my body says it all. I can't take it in the belly. I'm nothing but a potbellied wimp. Humiliated, I raise my hands to him, speechlessly pleading for mercy. But he just laughs and drills his boot into my belly. Stomach-kicked, I tumble to the floor and writhe there, rolling and kicking and lost in my bellypunch suffering.

I'm in tears from getting my pathetic gut stomped by his fist. With all the breath kicked out of me, and a roaring bellyache crippling me, I can only crawl, not run, toward the door. But I need to get my body away from him, and those horrid fists. I've got myself on my feet, and I stagger into the barroom. Both hands grip my punched belly, and no power in me can budge them from tenderly cradling my stomach.

I had all the grace and dignity of a plucked chicken. He caught me by the hair at the end of the bar. "Leaving so soon, Potbelly? I don't think so. Get back here so I can give you the belly-beating you deserve!"

His fist felt like a sledgehammer as it hit me, with the driving weight of his full body leaned into it, right smack in the belly.

He forced sound out of me like a crude squeezebox. He stole my voice when he stuck his hand in my belly. And he made it say stupid, humiliating things I never would let myself say, like "OOF, UUH, OOMPH, OOOAAH, ... Oh, my belly! Right in my belly! No, please, not in the belly, please not in my bel–OOUFF!!"

I've got my back to the waitress in the hallway, watching, but she knows he just punched me in the stomach because she can see the look of victory on his face and she can see the flesh ripple on my loins and hips.

And, of course, she also can hear me blurt out my humiliating belly-grunt, my forced confession of inadequacy. The punch drives me back, and, off balance, I windmill my arms out and lean forward, which is right where he wants me. A real skilled fighter will do that to you. Not only does each punch torture your belly and ravish your pride, each one sets you up for the next shot, leaves you particularly exposed to it.

And now I was nothing but a human punching bag, a belly wide open for fists. He hooked them up into the curve of my upper stomach, and each one lifted my feet off the floor with the power of their thrust. The waitress told me later he gave me seven bellyslammers in that position – she remembered each distinctly – I would have guessed it was 70. Then he pulled me upright, with my back stretched back against the bar. Aware of the girl watching him, he paused, slowed, and swaggered.

"Are you ready for this, bellywimp?" He said, menacing my belly-button with his free fist. I had no breath to answer him. He didn't care. He was showing off for her, tormenting me to impress her with his dominance

Monday, March 9, 2015


It would be lovely if there could be a sustainable Belly Punching Forum as a virtual watering hole. It could work only if pictures and videos were forbidden. Copyright issues bring down every open one, and those that remain are limited to individual producers. Which leaves us without the Belly Punching forum. As for the special subset of "men who get off on suffering a punch in the belly in front of a woman" (and the women who love them), we are probably too few to have enough semi-public members at any one time to sustain a forum. So a belly-punching blog will have to do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


He had a belly that begged to be slugged, and he had a bad habit of showing it off. It's like he was asking for it. And he had a mouth that didn't know when to quit. And now 10 biker-gang toughs had him in the clear California sunlight outside their clubhouse, ready to deal him a bad belly-ache.

He's in black boots, tight jeans, and he's shirtless, with only a short black-leather vest open in front.

They're around him in a ragged ring, roughing him up. He staggers stupidly from a shove; one of them grabs his shoulder, spins him around. As he stands astonished the thug hauls off with his fist and whomps him in the belly.

"OOF!" Lips rounded out in a belly-button O announce his ache. Eyes go wide with the panic of feeling all the breath socked out of him and knuckles deep in his stomach. With first touch of a fist on his belly he's broken. Can't fake it. Can't hide it. Total humiliation. He's sobbing, staggering, gasping, cradling his poor punched belly. A punch in his gut stole his voice and everything else.

A different biker rips him upright, throws him back to the clubhouse wall, and holds him there by the neck. "You're the pussy who likes to belly-ache about us, eh? I'll give you something to BELLY-ache about!" and with that the thug slams a fist into his stomach.

He had no air left to lose. His whole body looked like it wanted to explode out of him -- bug-eyed, tongue pushed out, fingers flared. And the middle of him crumpled in, T-boned by a fist.

The bully swung him around to face the rest of them and held him there for all to enjoy the sight of him looking down, gasping, at his own exposed belly, the fist-mark pink on his stomach. His mouth is tragic, and he has that comical look in his eyes like he was being eaten from inside.

Then the bruiser shoves him and he drops to his knees in full windedness, with a fist-mark branded on his belly.

But their hands grip him and pull him. They're just beginning to have their fun. His face is wide-eyed, mouth twisted in the supreme effort to draw a breath into his stunned body.

The one who started it rudely hammers another punch to his belly. With a sour "UUH!" belly-boy instantly folds over, cradling his stomach, gasping at the ground and mooing out a low, loud bellyache.

They pluck him upright again. He stands stiff and winded, with agony in his face. They shove him around the circle, twice. He, unresisting, staggering. His mind is one punch behind reality. Flapping arms like a flightless bird, he blunders belly-first into every fist ready to greets him.

The moment he got punched in the stomach his whole body would go limp. The way he took it you'd think he got hit in the belly with a wrecking ball. And his face would burst into the most comical OOF-expression. His eyes would go crossed and bug out. His cheeks puffed, like he was stuck saying the letter O. You could really see the wind get knocked out of him.

Then he'd jack-knife forward and double up around the bellyache, with his hands pressed up under his belly and his mouth gasping at the floor. Or he'd stagger and stand breathless, feet shuffling in the bellypunch dance, while the shock of pain possesses him.

Either way he would be a man who had totally lost himself. Every punch in the stomach doubles him over or drops him to his knees gasping and cradling a bellyache.

"Hold him up," the beater demands.

Two of them grab him from behind by the arms and hair and vest and rudely pull him upright, arms away from his body, bread-basket arched out.

"Punching bag!" the beater declares, as he shoves a jab into his victim's stomach. The bare belly blurts out an "OOF!" His clenching reflex lifts his knee and bends his upper body forward, straining in their grip on his arms. His hands, pinned to his sides, claw at the air. He can't protect his midriff, and now the beater swings a full-armed uppercut into the pit of his belly. The upward force of it high in the belly rockets his body upright, wide-eyed in agony, and poses him as a perfect punching-bag target for the next fist. It's a knuckle-jab to the stomach that pins his belly-button to his spine.

They made him dance a belly-dance there. How? First they stood him up on a chair back against the back porch rail, tied his arms back to it, then kicked the chair away. The stress of being held up by his arms got to him at once and he began kicking the air and found his voice again. But they quickly silenced him with a round of punches to the belly. Watching the reaction on his face looked like he swallowed a fistful of cherry bombs and now they were blowing up in his belly one by one. Held up and helpless, he just dangled there OOF-ing while they pounded out a fist-beat on his stomach. They called that a "belly-dance."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


My fight opens with me making a series of ineffective lunges and haymaker swings toward my opponent. He easily dodges or blocks each one, and he responds to each one with a hard punch in my belly.

Each of these counterpunches makes me recoil and grab my belly. But he holds his fire and lets me recover myself and go at him again. And again he baffles me and whomps me in the stomach. These jabs to the belly take their toll on me, and soon I'm puffing and wheezing and weak.

She knows he is doing this to impress her. It angers her against him. But another part of her is turned on by it all.

That's when he gives me the big uppercut in the stomach. That does it. As someone calls out "bellyslammer!" and they all laugh and cheer, I grab my belly and "OOF" out loud and body-rock up and down convulsively while my wobbly knees try to move me away from him. I lose balance and dash to my knees, body upright, still gutpunched and lost in a bellyache.

He walks in front of me. Wide-eyed, I clench my hands and hold them up in a begging gesture. But he mercilessly kicks me in the belly. Black boot to white belly. My whole body jolts, freezes, wide-eyed, and then I pitch forward, face-down, belly-first. And quickly I flop over onto my back, writhing and shaking, stomach thrust up, arms and legs fish-flopping, in the helpless zombie-dance of the winded.

... wind knocked out of me ...

The necessary other-half of the humiliation belly-punch. I let myself get so vulnerable that she saw a man square his arm and ram his fist straight into my helpless belly. And it stripped all the self-control from me, and made me a physical fool in front of her.

That specific and humiliating way I responded to the shock and body-panic of a sharp punch in the stomach. The potbellied, kettle-drum impact thud, then the clownish OOF! sound I make.

Then the achingly long seconds of my breathless silence. The full throes of it, when my diaphragm just won't budge to let my lungs draw air. That frozen, dying feeling. The spear of pain that he lunged into my stomach transfixing me, crucifix and san sebastian in one pose, pinned bug. Every second it goes on adds a lead weight to my humiliation. Every second I lie there stunned and gape-mouthed, tear-streaming, unbreathing, the brand burns deeper into my belly.

The brand is her gaze, whether she wills it or not.

Finally I draw a breath, but a scant one, and quickly bleated back out. And so it goes, breaths coming more rapidly, but my bellyache still owns me, and I can only grunt and bray and make sour faces -- uuuh! ooooouu!

All that from one punch right in my belly. Even if it was a cheap shot, a boy's supposed to be able to take one or two stomach punches, or at least recover quickly from them. But there I am, still down and belly-punched, long past a count of ten, if there had been one. The panic possessing me, my body writhing in embarrassing tortured poses I would never allow her to see me assume. A head-to-toe picture of complete male failure.

She's not a bad girl. Really. She tells herself. To like this, a little? She looks at me and knows, pityingly, that I'll always be shy of her because I am ashamed that she watched me get my belly beat up. That's what a nice girl would feel, right? A girl that's not a bully's slut.

My belly is right there when he takes his victory stomp/pin.

Before he's finished with me, he's given me a nickname -- oof-belly. And that's what he and his gang will be calling me, loudly and publicly, for a few days at least, until they tire of mocking my belly and move on to some other sport. I hope. Meanwhile the other girls who did not see the fight, will hear them taunt me and go ask her what it's all about. And she will retell it in detail many times. Some will want to hear it more than once.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yes, It's Deliberate

It's the stun of awareness that hits you when you get a punch in the belly in intimacy.

This person, who makes you feel like he just rammed your stomach up your lungs with a casual shove of his fist, is loving this.

Is getting off on it. On having given you that punch right plump in your gut.

Your lover erased your person-hood for the duration of your suffering. And the sight of you proving it, writhing and belly-aching, is an erotic delight.

The eyes that sparkle as they watch you get humiliated by a belly-punch -- those eyes deliver the second wallop, the invisible follow up punch, the one that takes all the voice out of you, the one that hits your soular plexus.

Monday, June 24, 2013


these two are about to have a belly-punch fistfight. Who do you think will win?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Punchable Pot-Bellies

Gathered from here and there.

Flaunting your pot belly can earn you some unwanted attention.

Straight knuckle-jab in the stomach will wind him. 

It doesn't matter how tall you are, if you're a pot-bellied wimp.

Bare for a bellypunch. 

She wants to see you to do it to him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


He's facing the crowd, posing and smiling. You seem to think he doesn't see you get up. You walk up behind him with your belly stuck out. And he just jerks his arm back and mashes his elbow into your stomach.

OOF! Instant bellyache. You fold in at the shoulders and grab your stomach with both hands and spin around. You stagger away from him with all the breath socked out of you.

Everyone in the arena is thinking the same thing. The announcer simply puts it into words. In long, low tones, "uuh! Right in the belly!" It hits you like the stamp of a brand -- right in the belly. Soft-bellied wimp. Can't take it in the belly.

Still breathless, you stagger stupidly to the edge of the ring and drop to your knees there, hands still pressed to your stomach. Tragic-mouthed, bug-eyed, you finally get a feeble breath into your stung lungs, only to wail it right out again, "oh, my BELLY!"

Yes, you waste your precious breath on announcing the obvious. Every eye on you can already tell that, yes, you got elbowed in the belly. Especially those giggling three in the front row, who are pointing at your belly as you lean against the ropes and sag your half-stripped body toward the crowd.

Then you feel a big grip in your scalp, and you're rotated by your hair, while you hear his voice call out, over you, "get your belly back up here, so I can beat you properly," addressing you, but bawling it out for the crowd. And with that, he's thrown your arms back over the top rope, and pinned them there in the tangled ropes, so you're slumped belly-open, arms wide.

He can beat you at his leisure, for the entertainment of the crowd. He grips you under the chin and pushes your head back, forcing you to arch your back and thrust up your stomach. Then he raises a fist, which you cannot see but which looms like a hammer over your helpless belly, and lets it hang there a second so everyone in the house -- except you -- can see what's coming.

Your upside-down view of the crowd shows their faces lit with expectation, some shocked, some cringing, some laughing. Then he drops the hammer on your stomach.

Your body jolts in shock and you blare the effect of the punch from head to toe. Head jerks, mouth opens to OOF out the impact, body falls back into the ropes but can't drop. Legs kick helplessly, fingers clench in suffering. You can't escape till he pulls you out of it. You're hung up there like a belly punching bag. And he's in a mood to show off.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


"Come in," she said. I opened the door, and caught my breath, though I managed not to gasp. She stood across the room, just turning as I entered, casually setting a glass on the table, a moment framed so perfectly she must have been a long time setting it up.

She wore her belly-dance gear. The one I like best, the dull gray-blue one, the one that almost vanishes into the background when she wears it, so that her dance becomes a whirl all of bare hips and belly, fingertips and smiles, navel-kisses fluttered with every step.

And the gold sandals, and her hair set just so, and as she turned to face me she let her hips tip toward me, back-arching, belly-flaunting, and she looked me in the eye and arched one brow and smiled.

Invitation is too weak a word. She knew what she did to me. She knew all my erotic buttons, and what happened when you punched a fistful of them all at once. I began to walk toward her.

And I walked right into a bellypunch. He must have been right behind the door, because I didn't get one step past it when I saw a big brawny arm swing around from my side and plunge a brass-balled fist plump into my stomach. It was a perfectly placed punch in the gut and it took the wind right out of my belly with an OOUFF!!! I doubled right up, with a big, bad belly-ache.

There were two of them, it turned out. I saw the other after he hauled me back upright. I was still folded in half mouth toward the floor, my stunned belly still frozen breathless. I felt my hands pulled behind my back and someone tied my wrists there. Then they un-jacked me with one hand, and forced me upright, and they both presented me open-bellied to her.

Her twin muscle-thugs held my arms tightly on either side. As if I was going to try anything with my wrists already tied behind me. Or maybe they just did it to make me look vulnerable to her.

They held me up in front of her and let her casually look me up and down, and back again. She stepped casually past me, her hand lingering down the front of me as I shivered shirtless.

"Take him down to the dungeon," she purred to the twin towers behind me, "and beat up his belly."

They hustled me down the steps and threw me down on my bare belly on the cold concrete floor. I was perspiring in fear and my belly hit the icy floor with a soft splat. I heard her chuckle, then the stiletto click of her heels on the floor. Then I saw her in front of me -- or, exactly, I saw her sumptuous pumps and perfect painted toes. Because one of the goons had his knee pressed to my back to hold me down. The other apparently was tying my ankles together, and lifting them up enough to hook them to something.

"Something" turned out to be a boat-engine lift, and with a touch of her slender hand on a switch (and the big thugs roughing me along), she had me hoisted up, hanging upside down, ankle-bound and hands tied behind my back. She let it lift until she was about eye-level with my navel, then she locked it there.

She strode slowly up to me. She set a fingertip in my navel, then dragged it down to the center of my belly, midway to my sternum. She paused, bent down, and planted a lipstick kiss on me there. Then she turned and walked away.

"Now," she told them. "Give it to him in the belly. I want to see which one of you can make him 'OOF!' loudest. I marked it so you won't miss. Punch him on the kiss."

The chain or cord that held me was anchored to a free-rotating wheel, so they could turn me to face any direction in my helpless pose. The brawlers took up position on opposite sides, and began a game with my helpless belly.

One would grab me by the hair, which I have plenty of, and turn my body to face him, navel-out. Then he'd line up his shot and deliver some sort of show-off-y chop or punch into my stomach.

Disoriented, flipped, spun, dazed, I had no hope of anticipating their blows to my bread-basket and no hope of resisting them. The height she had me, they could swing straight jabs and overhand shots right into the "sweet spot" of my gut, and get the breath of me every time. The kind of sharp, shocking blows that in a typical fight only go to the head. In this beating I took them in the belly.

First one would jerk his fist into my soft stomach or jab an elbow into the pit of my belly. And stand back and let her watch me suffer. Then she'd signal the other one to take his turn.

I swung like a pot-belly pinata while they took their whacks on my bread-basket. She cooed and purred them on the whole time, teasing and suggesting what the winner might enjoy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


All my life I've secretly been a henchman at heart, not a hero.

You know, a henchman: The gang of helpers and lackeys who gather about the Bad Guy in the story or the movie. The ones whose only function is to get beaten up in the big fist-fight brawl scene -- beaten like fools, dispatched quickly, vigorously, and visibly by the hero. Often all it took was a series of chops to the belly. One of the fine arts of henchmanship was knowing how to charge out into a fistfight with your belly stuck out like it was searching for a fist to "OOF" against.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Navel Eye

In our forties, bored with dull jobs in dull places, Amy and I pitched everything and moved south to begin again in a seaside college town. She took a position as professor of costume history at the small college there. The school was known more for its parties than its graduates. I worked from home, raking money from the Internet. We bought a small, secluded house there, just off campus and in walking distance of the beach.

Once Amy was established in her post, she dusted off her belly-dance skills and organized a belly-dance club among the college girls. She danced group lessons with them in our house, teaching them the belly-button magic that came to her so naturally.

There always were a half dozen or more of them, though the names changed. They were more disciples than students. The little priestesses came to the temple in our house to worship together. She taught them not mere dance and fashion, but the allure of a woman's belly, her erotic heart. And the bevvy of belly-dancers caught up some of her intensity, though no one ever came close to Amy. They watched her walk with breathless girl-crushes.

She taught them not just the movements and the attitudes, but the deep roots of the dance, that the girl's navel is the eye of the goddess. That the man who is lured and enslaved by it is her ritual sacrifice.

They strutted across the campus, bare-bellied in their cropped tops printed with the name of their troupe -- "Belly Pride" -- in gold letters.

And at every full moon day, they gathered in our yard for their ritual. In the back yard of the house, set among a stand of pines, stood an old concrete swimming pool. It was turfed in now, and only about two feet deep. A circle in the soil, just perfect for our shared desire. I dug pit holes in the earth and set a sturdy steel railing all the way around it, with one entrance. Then I strung a mesh of rope from the rail, to complete the enclosure.

Amy's belly-lessons plunged from dance to sensual sorcery, and the girls blossomed with her, from students to priestesses. They walked out with us to the pool, each bare-bellied in her own chosen way. But Amy led them, stunningly enlaced in a perfect belly-flaunting dress. She led me by one hand. By the other, she led my opponent. Both of us were naked.

He would be a different man each time, typically some boy from the college -- a wiry, tough youth or a solid jock, all beef and muscle. Often the boyfriend of one of the girls, or some one they had chosen together and seduced into it. The priestesses trailed behind, in pairs.

With the salt breeze off the sea and the hush of the trees above, Amy and my opponent and I stepped down into the navel-shaped pool. The girls then formed a ring around the railing. Their bellies gazed down at us, a ring of unblinking navels, each anonymously unique, some virgin-pale, some bronzed and brazen. Their voices commented and speculated. But Amy's witching eyes held my gaze.

With a wise gaze and casual up-strokes of her long-fingered hands, she had both cocks instantly hard in her warm palms. And she held us both there as she explained the rules of the fight in her low, lascivious voice. She addressed both of us; I knew the rules by heart already, but it was my eyes she held with her glittering stare as she spoke.

"You may grapple and shove and pull one another. But you may only punch with a closed fist, and only in the stomach. If one of you goes down from a belly-punch, the other will hold back until he rises again. You will fight till I declare an end to the ritual."

Then she stepped back, but held her place in the arena, the queen of bare-bellied beat-downs. The priestesses began to cheer my opponent, and we raised our fists and set to work.

I am expert at this. I know how to lead with my belly. I square my stance and keep my belly soft, and let my opponent drive right into it with his punch. I know how to fall back in such a way that my arms tangle with the ropes and leave me caught and exposed and vulnerable for a belly-whomping. I know how to get winded and go down, suffering loud and long, then slowly regain my feet for more.

And he belts me with a punch right in my belly. His fist whomps me plump in the stomach, and my body folds right over. Bellyaching, staggering away from him, turning, I drop to my knees. Suffering like a bare-bellied wimp. My goddess just watched me get beat up by a bellypunch.

I glance up and catch her eyes. I see the deep arousal in them as she watches me doubled over and belly-aching, suffering from that punch in my belly.

He hauls me upright, and effortlessly buries his fist in my stomach. It catches me soft-bellied. He slams that fist into my belly and knocks the wind out of me. I double up again, with my hands pressed to my punched belly.

Amy blurts out: "Oooh! Right in the belly!"

The girls pick it up at once.

"Slug him again," one says. "Hit him in the belly!"

He shoves me back upright. He pulls his arm back and pounds another punch into my belly.

My mouth flies open as my body slowly crumples. I stagger away from him, suffering.

My lover needs me to feel the fullness of humiliation. She purrs, “Uh, right in the belly!”

Her priestesses mimic her. "Uh, right in the belly," they say.

I straighten up and try to fight him. But he just laughs, enjoying the attention.

"I was hoping you'd get back up, so I can give you another punch in the belly."

Instead of another big belly-slammer, this time he hits me with a series of sharp jabs, with his knuckles, right in the pit of my stomach.

One-two-three! I can't even protect my belly. Each punch drives me back. Then he gives me a belly-full of fist.

I slowly fold forward till my forehead almost touches the dirt. Both hands clutch my punched belly.

And his girlfriend cheers him while he beats me up:

"Go on, hit him in the belly. Give him a belly-ache. Oh, nice punch, right in his belly."

There is no surrender in this fight. My belly-beating will continue until Amy decides I have given enough to please her. She allows him to have my belly for his personal punching bag.

She looks down at me, doubled over and belly-aching. She says, "What's wrong? Can't take it in the belly?"

He grabs me, pulls me forward, then shoves me and I stagger back. I flop back against the ropes, then bounce off them, belly-first, right into a ferocious punch.

I clutch my stomach and bend far forward. I fall and I roll onto my back and lie in a pose of bare-bellied submission. Breathless and beaten by a punch in the belly.

Amy looks down at me, on the ground. She says "belly-wimp." Then she holds his hand up as he stomps his heel down in my belly for his victory pose.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Now I had him. Now he was helpless. I was in full control. I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him upright. But his hands wouldn't release their grip on his poor punched belly. So I shook him roughly by the collar and slapped him back against the side of the tree to loosen his clutch. Eventually he reached for my arms, and I whipped my left fist back and socked him a haymaker uppercut in the stomach, then I swung my right back and gave him the same thing again.

I saw his eyes cross briefly and he roared out an anguished belly-grunt -- uuh! The girls had a full view of it (I made sure to stand just right), and they both blurted out "oh, right in the belly!" then they looked at each other and laughed.

The pot-bellied oaf was leaning back on the tree, fully winded, with his shirt bunched up to his chest. I rared a fist back, aimed at his face, and his hands flew up to try to block it, pure reflex, while his eyes got big.

Instead I dropped the punch overhand into the upper curve of his stomach, right in the gut! His eyes got even bigger then. I let them see me hold it in him, pure mass of muscle in my punch and pure vulnerability in his soft belly.

His worthless, girly belly paid the price while I put on a show for the girls. They were chanting, "belly-punch! belly-puch!" and calling out, "beat his belly! What's wrong, can't take it in the belly?"

I stepped aside to let him stagger. I love it when they stagger. When they're torqued up by the suffering in their belly, and they can't keep their wobbly knees straight. When I got tired of hearing their giggles at that, I whipped him back upright by the collar, jerked him around toward me, ducked down and packed a sledgehammer punch right into his belly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Yes, that's what I do. I'm a specialist. If you want to have your ex-boyfriend or cheating husband beat up, you hire me.

Bellypunches? They're my specialty. First, it not only beats your man, it humiliates him. Makes him moan and belly-ache and lose his breath and roll on the floor holding his stomach. Second, it leaves no marks, no bruises, breaks no bones. No physical evidence. That helps me stay out of jail.

I'm a good-sized man, and I learned how to handle my fists before I was 12. I didn't go out of my way to show it off, but if push came to shove I knew what to do. And I noticed that, when I did hammer some poor wimp who deserved it, the sight of it seemed to fascinate certain girls.

My current client had been one of them. She had seen me deliver a beat-down when I was right out of high school. The kid had been caught peeping-tom style outside the girls' bathroom at the campground where everyone hung out and I worked as a lifeguard.

A group of sophomores had spotted him, and as he ran off he knocked one of them down. She happened to be the kid sister of my best friend, and I saw the whole thing and ran after the boy and tackled him easily. We were beyond the trees, but just outside the camp clearing, and the girls had followed me after him.

I stood him up by his T-shirt and shoved him hard back against the tree. I heard him huff out his breath from the shock of the impact, but just to be sure I stepped up and mashed my fist into his belly.

I felt his gut squirm inside and he gave up his remaining wind with a softbellied OOF!!

The girls formed a semi-circle around the scene and taunted him and cheered me on while I hooked the back of his T-shirt up over a stump of broken branch, leaving him with feet just touching the dirt, and gave him a two-fisted belly-whomping that crushed his pride and his stomach.

Some of the girls were quite vocal, but I don't remember Carla saying anything. But she must have remembered. Now, six years later, she wanted revenge on a boyfriend who had texted lurid pictures of her to his friends. She was still with him -- planned to marry him, she told me -- but she wanted to see him as hurt and humiliated as she felt. So she looked me up.

"You understand, I am not going to bust up his face," I told her.

"I know," she said almost before I finished. "I want you to do it like you did it to that perv at the campground. Right in the belly. And don't stop till he's down and won't get up."

For Carla, I would have done it for free. But you don't feed yourself that way. She paid, and I told her what I needed, and she said she would arrange it.

"OK if Emily comes?" I asked her.

"Sure, the more the merrier," she said. But I knew she disliked my girlfriend, and the scorn was returned. "She never wants to miss a good beat-down," I explained.

"Well, you show her one and you'll make two women happy," Carla said as she opened the door. She turned then and paused and smiled at me. "This is going to be so hot," she said.

That weekend I'm out in the hot sun, right back at the old campground, right where Carla first saw me work my fists out on another boy's belly. It was no trick for her to lure her man out there, and I was waiting. I pretended to be an addled drunk, I put the mash on Carla, she burst out in huffy and demanded that her dishrag boyfriend defend her and teach me a lesson. I have to hand it to her, the girl can act.

I had the time to work him over nice and slow. No hurry, no need to hang him up on a branch and use his belly as my punching bag. I let him challenge me, gave him every indication to think he would beat me, and even let him knock me down a few times.

The third time, when he walked up to me on my knees with a contemptible arrogance, I shoved my fist hard into his bare stomach.

He folded right over my arm with a rotund "OUPH!!" and stayed doubled up even after I pulled my fist out of his gut. His hands were buried up under his jackknifed body, probably trying to pick his stomach out of his lungs. He turned away from me and staggered toward Carla and Emily, who both laughed at him.

I actually hadn't hit him that hard. He just couldn't take it. But I kept up the drunk act and let him think that was just a lucky shot. It took him a minute but he put himself back together and came out at me looking meaner than ever.

I ducked a few limp haymakers from him, and when I knew he was going to draw back for another, I stepped forward in pace with him and punched him right smack in the belly.

He never threw that punch. He just kept stepping back, backward, arms flailing and a loud "UUUUUUHHH!!!" trailing from his mouth.

[to be continued]

Monday, May 21, 2012


by Belly Boy

She awoke from the sweetest sleep, resentful at whomever had dragged her out of it. The room was dark. "I heard something downstairs," her husband's voice said. She said nothing. Then she felt the bed lift as he got up from it and heard his belt buckle as he slipped a pair of jeans on over his nakedness. He left the room.

She lay back on her pillow and tried to find sleep again. But soon she heard muffled thumps and groans from a distant part of the house. Suddenly alert, she sat up, grabbed her robe, and swung it over her shoulders as she jogged toward the commotion.

It came from the basement, and as she ran down the steps her robe slipped from her shoulders. But she seemed not to notice, as she suddenly stopped short at the sight of what had brought her running.

Two men in black clothes -- burglars, evidently, by the tools they had carried -- had her husband between them like a hopeless mousie between two mean cats. One would punch her husband in the belly a few times, making him double over and moan loudly, then shove her beaten man toward the other, who would pull him upright for more belly punishment.

Her wimp was a hopeless sight. Just in jeans, bare-bellied punching bag for the men in black masks and gloves. A helpless pot belly punching bag. Taking each fist deep and high in his stomach, folding right over it with the most pitiful "OOUFFs" she had ever heard.

And it left her breathless with lust. And looking at him like that somehow she knew, deep in her belly, that she'd always wanted this.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


by Belly Boy

The teen-ager swung overhand at the wily old bruiser, the way he'd seen the senior boys do in the ring. His pale knuckles smacked the man's cheek. The dockhand shrugged, rubbed his face a bit, then effortlessly punched his horny fist into the poor lad's belly. The uppercut utterly winded him, and he flopped moaning to the floor. The sailor turned his tender attention to the girl blushing against the wall.

Her suitor staggered to his feet again, in a bid to save his princess from this brute. Still breathless, his face a bellyache mask, he lurched toward the old lecher. But the dockhand just laughed. "Sit tight, lass," he told the girl, "this won't take but a second." He grabbed the youth by the collar, then thumped him back against the wall. And with that the veteran took the student for his punch-bag, and thudded fist after after fist into his tender belly.

When the tar at last released that collar, the boy in it dropped breathless and writhed on the floor. Self-respect slipped from him like spilled milk from his broken body, from his punched belly.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


by Belly Boy

And it was only after the three bullies had been tossing me back and forth, two holding me while the third pumped punches into my pot belly, for what felt like forever. And I saw the three girls sitting idly, watching, with a secret sort of fascination under their outward hauteur, the spectacle of a big, potbellied wimp getting his stomach beat up, and suffering elaborately from it.

Only after the toughs had picked me up by the arms and legs, lifted me, hoisted me so my belly hung down, and started uppercutting me in the stomach with their free hands, did the one girl get up and slowly, affectionately, tell the boys it was going too far, and they'd had their fun, and it was time to move along before someone wandered by and heard me OOF-ing like that.

And the boys drop me and go and leave me with the goddesses.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


by Belly Boy

The bellybeating. Instant, devastating, humiliating agony. Publicly stripped of all self-possession and pride. Made a braying ass, aching for air, and revealed as a softbelly in a world where only hardbellies survived.

A breathless, bellyaching boobie. Just a big, soft-bellied oaf. Whose size ought to have dominated a fight, but he never got to use it because his opponents always quickly winded him with a punch in his weak stomach, and kept him that way till they had him beat.

Just something about the way I knelt there, bowing in front of the man, the rival, who had just slugged me in the stomach. Kneeling and powerless to rise from my weak reaction to the other man's fist. Soft in the belly. While my rival stands over me, fist still cocked and hooked up, like it was when it hit my bare belly.

I could be standing proud, hands on my hips, saying the smartest, wittiest, sassiest put-down, then in an instant he'll belly-punch me with no warning and I'll be rolling on the floor, moaning like a slut, tears flowing.

And if you ever want a girl to respect you, never let her see you in a fight that ends with the other man's heel planted in your belly. Because no matter how artfully you seduce her, she always will see you like that.

Friday, January 6, 2012


by Belly Boy

The mid-1960s to mid-1970s was a golden age of bellypunching on TV. The few fetishists I know seem to confirm my recollection that you could hardly watch an evening of TV without seeing at least one.

Violence always has been part of TV programming, part of its limited vocabulary. But in those days of three networks only a few types of violence were permissible on the air. That forced the shows to rely on the same few allowed violent acts. One of them was the bellypunch. And so many shows offered a convenient contextual license for it: Westerns, detective and crime shows, superhero adventures, the old gangster and noir films on UHF, hell even "Star Trek" couldn't seem to get through an episode without a bar-room brawl on some alien planet.

I clearly remember "Batman," 1964, 65, when I was 4 and 5. It was the big thing with little boys, but the writers had way more time slot than plot, and so they seemed to use action scenes as filler, and drag them out. There was an obligatory "heroes beat up the henchmen" brawl scene toward the climax. Bellypunches abounded, of course. Sometimes after someone got a good fold-you-in-half stomach punch, they'd cut away to one of their goofy comic book visual sound effects, which was part of the show's schtick. You'd see a big word "OOF!" flash on the screen, in plump, soft letters with droplets flying off them and a cartoon tongue hanging out of the first "O," like the mouth that's making the sound, the bellypunch sound.

Then there was the British import "Avengers" series, which had a different envelope than the American shows. A beautiful woman, Mrs. Peel, doled out belly-chops in batches as she coldly dispatched the bad guys. And occasionally bad girls. (I believe Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Peel, never took one herself. But her successor in the show, Linda Thornton, did on at least two occasions.)

Factor in that old staple of weekend afternoon TV, professional wrestling, and you've got the perfect storm of bellypunching (this-world version). Wrestling then was in its pre-steroid heyday of pot-bellied fighters, including and especially among the pack of soft-bellied "squash jobbers."

Professional wrestling jobber is as close to my ideal career as exists in this world. Along perhaps with fist-fight stuntman. The "jobber" is ring slang for a fighter who gets hired by the match (job) rather than having a contract, and is paid to basically lose and get beat up in public by one of the marquee names in the wrestling federation, to boost the star's career. The soft-bellied, can't-take-it-in-the-stomach "belly jobber" is one of the natural forms of that, especially if the star is a brawler.

The federations and circuits I want to work for would be full of brawlers, and each of them would have at least one slutty, sexy "valet" or "manager" in his corner, cheering him on, doing everything in her power to make sure the jobber gets thrashed and humiliated.

It turns me on to imagine having that for a career. To have to explain to girls in singles' bars what it is that I do for a living!

I remember one wrestler who had huge shoulder and upper body muscles and wild curly blond hair and a bully's sneer. He was the type of fighter who would walk right up to a jobber at the start of a match and just punch him in the belly. Not give him even a full second of dignity in the ring. Something in his eyes I recognized from the older boys who really had bullied me in my life. And he was so much bigger than them, and a known bellypuncher.

Not for nothing do people talk of verbal bullying as feeling like a punch in the stomach. The words are thrown like punches and they are aimed at your soft spot, your insides. They are meant to leave you breathless and silent and suffering. They are punches in the belly of your spirit. Verbal bullying is emotional bellybeating.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


by Belly Boy

I'm a part-time stuntman who moonlights as a professional wrestling jobber -- my specialty in both professions is "bellypunch: taker."

One day I get a call for a wrestling job in the next county. It's with a pretty big federation. They even have their own TV show. Cool! I accept the contract before I discover the details. My opponent is to be the reigning king of the ring, the vicious "heel" bad-boy wrestler they call "School Yard Bully."

And it's going to be a total belly-punch squash job for me. But worse, for my pride, it isn't even in a ring. It happens during the taping of the pre-match interviews, right there on camera, in a room.

We're both on camera, in the studio. Bully is ranting about the pitiful quality of the "opponents" the league sends him. He's building up his game, you see, weaving his plot. I don't even matter. I'm just an accessory. But to prove his point about the weakness of the opponents he's been getting, he belly-whomps me right there and drops me to my knees.

And as he rants, periodically, he hauls me up off the floor and beats my belly some more for emphasis. I'm nothing more than visual flourishes for his egotistical rant. But those flourishes cost me a belly-wimp humiliation-beating.

And of course he has a female sidekick/valet/love interest, and of course she's there, and of course she cheers it all on, and of course she turns out to be also the fed president, and the one who scouted and contracted me for this job.

Yes, right on the air, right on TV all over the southeast, and recorded on tape for constant replay, edited down to its most belly-busting moments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Scene: Interior

by Belly Boy

She strolled into her man's room. He didn't budge from his easy chair, but he smiled. By her face, he knew it's good news.

"I've got your wimp," she said, walking past him and dropping the room key in his lap. "He just signed up for the fight."

The plot was simple. Her boyfriend was trying to boost his "win" total in the barroom "Fight Club" circuit, in hopes of getting called up to fight MMA on webcasts. She was his manager/valet/squeeze -- and half her work was to keep him looking like a contender in spite of himself. He was too lazy to line up opponents, so it fell to her to get them for him. And she was sure to always pick a real patsy, who would get beat up easily. She didn't want there to be any setbacks.

"I'll see you at ringside," she said from down the hall.

"Wait." A few seconds later she padded slowly back into the room with an inquiring brow.

He stood and approached her, in his robe. "What did you use to get him?"

In spite of herself, she glanced down, and she knew he caught it, so she just blurted it. "Like this," she said, hands on her hips, stomach pushed out. "He's a belly-button freak. That's how I hooked him."

He said nothing, then he said, "You enjoy this too much. Tell me about him."

"Nothing to tell," she answered. "Pot-bellied wimp. Tall, skinny arms, nothin' but belly."

He laughed and went past her, down the hall to the bedroom to change for the fight.

"See you at ringside," he said.

"Don't hurt my boyfriend," she said coyly. "Don't punch him in his sexy belly."

Sunday, January 1, 2012


by Belly Boy

You might say, I stuck my belly out; and I paid the price for it. Right in the belly!

It's true, I was dressed like this when we got into that fistfight. No shirt. Just my jeans. Low-waisted, too. So my belly was pretty obvious. And I had gotten a little soft that summer. Which pretty much painted a bull's eye on my stomach.

I rushed him. But he saw me coming like I was in slow motion. He simply ducked out of the sweep of my wild, weak punch at his head, and slammed his fist right smack into my belly.

You could say I walked right into it, and you'd be right. Right straight into a hard punch in the belly. An uppercut, right in the pit of my stomach, and I never saw it coming, and now I'm winded and staggered-back.

He lunged and ducked down at the same time, and he piled all his weight on a punch that slugged me like a sledgehammer. Right in my belly.

Again, I never saw it coming. I felt his fist buried in my belly, and my mouth flew open and I said OOUFF! and doubled up and grabbed my bare belly with both hands.

It must have been so obvious to everyone watching me. In just my jeans. Pot-bellied. It sure was obvious to his girlfriend. She stood there, watching him use my belly for his personal punching bag. Clapping, laughing, encouraging him. She was the kind of girl who not only would tolerate a bully, she would egg him on.

"That's it! Hit him again! Right in the belly! Yeah! Can't take it in the belly. Give him another one. Right in his belly. Go on, hit him in the belly. That's his soft spot. Oh, yesh. Right there. Look at him! He can't take it in the stomach. Can't take it in the belly!"

Through the whole fight.

And now I'm standing there with my mouth hanging open, breathless, stunned, helpless, and he swings his hip and thuds another bellypunch full in my stummik. I let go an "OOOUFFFF!!" Next an uppercut thwacks me right in the pit of my stomach.

My mouth flies open. OOUFF!! A loud grunt from my stomach. His fist pulls out, and I see my belly relax back into its familiar curve, but my stomach is still crushed. I could not breathe. All I could do was groan out long, low belly-ache moans, like ooouuuooaooh!

And while I did that, he was mugging for the crowd. He knew he didn't have to worry about me. I was too absorbed in my belly-ache to give him any trouble. I just stood there, trying to press my knees up against my punched stomach. I couldn't help it. I just stood there and suffered like a wimp. Like a pot-bellied wimp.

He could have put me out right then, but he chose not to. He chose to show off and use my stomach for a punching bag.

He pushed me back and I fell into the wall. It hurt! I arched my back out. And of course that just made me stick out my bare belly.

I felt another punch pound my stomach. My humiliated belly swallowed the whole thing, and it threw me back to the wall again, howling out of my punched stomach. He followed through with a spin move that jabbed his elbow back into the pit of my stomach.

UUUUUHH!! My poor belly. I clapped my hands over my bare belly and howled. Then I made pathetic empty noises with my wide-open mouth as I desperately tried to find my stomach muscles and breathe.

He turned and kneed me upright, then he gave me two judo punches right in the stomach, one-two, with only his first knuckles folded, and the fists hard and slim as the edge of a board. They stunned my soft belly, and I folded forward in a clenching reflex, but he turned and knelt then and grabbed me by the neck and flipped me over his shoulder so I fell flat on my back. And I arched my back again and grabbed it with my hands. It was just a reflex.

But he already was on his feet and I saw him stand over me and raise his knee, and there was nothing I could do but moan as he stamped his heel down right on my pot belly.

I am nothing but a soft, pot-belly now. A punching bag stomach. The crowd has joined my lover in chanting me down. Looking back from here, this fight never was in doubt. "Fight?" No, that would require two fighters, not one. This is a beating a bare belly beating. One hard-fisted man vs. one humiliated belly-boy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


by Belly Boy

She adored arousing me, captivating me with my own erotic desires. She flirted with her hot eyes, her wiles, her smiles, her clothes. And she knew the way to get a straight grip on me was to flaunt her sensual bare belly.

And she did. She was my belly-button girl. Her bare navel entranced me. I knelt reverently and, arms thrown back, leaned my face toward her bare belly for a worshipful kiss on her belly-button. But the goddess pulled back, wagged a finger at me, and said, "If you want to kiss this belly-button, you're going to have to fight for me."

She exulted, holding me on my knees by the leash of my own desire. My lust for her sweet belly-button. Her lush hips. Her bare belly. Holding my leash, yanking me with a rude tug, to lure me and send me into places where I am sure to get my belly beat up. POW! WHOMP! THUD! Right in the belly! Then she'll watch me rolling on the floor, moaning like a slut, sucking air.

And she'll smile.

She dresses me for the fight. No shirt. Just my jeans. Low-waisted, too. My belly bare and vulnerable. She might as well have painted a bull's eye on my belly. I stuck my belly out; and I paid the price for it. Right in the belly! And that's how she wanted it.

I rushed at my rival. And the next thing I felt was a cannonball fist fired into my soft belly.

My mouth flew open. "OOUFF!!"

He had simply ducked out of the way and slammed his fist right smack into my belly. And I ran right into it. Right straight into a punch in the belly. He simply ducked down and slugged me right in my belly.

I felt his fist plunge in my belly, and my mouth flew open and I said OOUFF! and doubled up and grabbed my bare belly with both hands.

And I heard her rich-toned voice furl itself around me, with a hot-blooded, cold-hearted "oooooh, right in the belly!"

And now I'm standing there with my mouth hanging open, breathless, stunned, helpless, and he swings his hip and thuds another bellypunch full in my stummik. I let go another "OOOUFFFF!!" Then an uppercut thuds me right in the pit of my stomach.

My mouth flies open. OOUFF!! His fist pulls out, but my stomach is still crushed. I can't breathe. All I can do is groan out long, low belly-ache moans. ooouuuooooh! No self-control. Hands to my stomach and doubled over, I'm totally vulnerable.

And while I do that, my rival is posing for the girl who is watching this with a cruel, erotic smile. He knows he doesn't have to worry about me. I won't give him any trouble. I'm too absorbed in my belly-ache. I just stand there, trying to press my knees up against my punched stomach. I cann't help it. I just stand there and suffer like a wimp. Like a pot-bellied wimp.

He could have put me out right then, but instead he chose to show off for her and use my stomach for a punching bag.

And I'm owned, My rival is emptying all the male cool out of me, one punch at a time, all to my belly. Pumping me dry. And I'm giving it up. OOF! OOF! OOF! Right there in front of her. And she makes no effort to disguise the pure pleasure she takes in this. Seeing me like that and knowing my bellyache was her doing.

Making sure I see the pure pleasure she takes in watching me get my belly beat up.

He pushed me back and I fell into the wall. It hurt! I arched my back out. And of course that just made me stick out my bare belly.

Another punch pounded my stomach. My humiliated belly swallowed the whole thing, and it threw me back to the wall. He followed through with a spin move that jabbed his elbow back into the pit of my stomach.

UUUUUHH!! My poor belly. I clapped my hands over my belly and howled. Then I made empty noises with my wide-open mouth as I tried to breathe.

He turned and pulled me upright, then he gave me two judo punches right in the stomach, one-two, with his fists hard and slim as the edge of a board. They stunned my soft belly, and I folded forward.

Instant, devastating, humiliating agony. Publicly stripped of pride. Pot-bellied, beaten in the belly, punched in the stomach. Getting all the breath socked out of me.

Revealed as a breathless, bellyaching wimp. Something no woman ever would desire or accept. Just a soft-bellied oaf. Easy to beat. Wind him with a quick punch in his belly, and keep him that way till you have him belly-up on the floor.

I fell to my knees, in front of the rival who had just slugged me in the stomach. Kneeling and powerless to rise. The other man's fist in my belly hit the spring that held me together, and I fell apart. Just like that. Soft in the belly. While my rival stands over me.

I took a humiliation-beating. Right in the belly.

Once a man's given you a bellybeating, there's no going back to equality. Forever after, you are his inferior. Especially if beautiful girls see it.

And if you ever want a girl to respect you, never let her see you in a fight that ends with the other man's heel planted in your belly. Because she always will see you like that.

"You can't take it in the belly."

To be so beaten like that, helpless, suffering, defenseless, and all in my belly! And with that girl's gaze watching, rapt, focused on me in that state. Such a humiliating way to be beat up. To be taunted and mocked and called names. To end up flat out with him taking a victory stomp on my belly. No one who saw that would ever picture me in any other position.

She stood there, watching him use my belly for his personal punching bag. Clapping, laughing, encouraging him. She was the kind of girl who not only would tolerate a bully, she would egg him on.

"That's it! Hit him again! Right in the belly! Yeah! Can't take it in the belly. Give him another one. Right in his belly. Go on, hit him in the belly. That's his soft spot. Oh, yes. Right there. Look at him! He can't take it in the stomach. Can't take it in the belly!"

Through the whole fight.

In the end he made me perform for her.

"Go on, wimp. beg her for mercy. Beg her to make me stop punching your belly!"

"Please, make him stop punching me."

She waited, then smiled and purred, "Stop punching you where, darling?"

"In my belly."

"I can't hear you."

"In my belly! I can't take it in the belly!"

She sneered. "Beat his belly!" she ordered.

He beat me slow and hard for another half an hour, giving me plenty of time to suffer and beg between the punches.

He didn't even have to beat ME. He merely beat my belly. And the rest of me was nothing. He didn't have to think about my smarts or my strategy. All that brainpower means nothin to a man if he can't take it in the belly in a fistfight.

A judo chop to my belly. "UUMMMPPPPHHH." Again I drop to knees as my deflated lungs suck air and ache burns in my belly.

"Oh, right in his pot belly. Hey, wimp. You're gettin' your belly beat! Come on, hit the pot-bellied wimp! Hit his belly!"

He reaches down and pulls me to my feet by the arms. "Say 'I have a soft belly,' " he hisses. I hesitate. Out of the corner of my eyes I see her watching. He drops his right hand to waist-level, snaps it into a fist and drives it full force square into the center of my stomach. His fist disappears. My belly swallows it whole before bouncing it back out.

"H-OOOOOOOO!!" I wail as I fall and roll onto my side, clutching my knotted stomach with both arms. He looks down at me, grabs me and pulls me back up.

He winds up and delivers one last punch into the meat of my stomach. The soft bellyflesh absorbs his fist. He lets me drop and curl into a fetal position, sobbing.

He kicks me in the belly. With a sharp "UUH!" I take the boot to the belly and tighten up in my curl. The girls applaud and laugh.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


My first job out of college has nothing to do with what I studied. But that’s the way it works for most guys I know.

A friend says newspaper jobs are there to be had, for anyone willing to put up with high stress and low wages. His dad is a copy editor. I interview a few places and take a job with a small paper at the New Jersey shore. I want to be near the ocean and the girls. I rent an apartment over Treasures of the Sea, a shop where people buy flip-flops and inflatable sea horses. Two years later I’m not making as much as most of my buddies from college, but I seem to be having more fun. Especially in the summer season, when the girls from Philly come down.

My co-workers are a bunch of young guys like myself, some already tied down and miserable in marriage, all of them cynical, rammy, argumentative. The editor, Don, has worked at big city dailies since he dropped out of high school and has come here to decelerate from 60-hour work weeks so his heart lasts long enough so he can retire. He pretty much lets us run the ship, though he drills us in the rules and collars us when we get sloppy with attributions. The one thing he fears is that we’ll get him sued. The one thing we don’t like about him is that he brings in Ellen Sabatini twice a week to grind up our writing and spit it out.

Don and Ellen had worked together for years in D.C., and he says she knows writing style inside and out. She is divorced and lives with her kids, and Don found enough room in the budget to pay her to come in twice a week. He says he figures she needs the money. The reporters repeat a rumor that Ellen had worked as a stripper, maybe still does. Just something someone thought he had overheard. There are always rumors. Like that Don and Ellen had been lovers. You never believe them, but they sink in like tattoo ink and pretty soon you find yourself acting as if they were true.

The reporters hate Ellen. She is harsh, sour, brusque—they call her the Blue Pencil Bitch. It gets to be a joke: Steve or someone will walk by my desk Tuesday morning and say, “Watch your ass; BPB’s here. Just saw her pull up.” But you have to be quiet about it because Don won’t stand for gripes about her. I tell the jokes and make wisecracks, too, but secretly I like what Ellen does. She takes my half-thought-out stories and lazy language and slaps them into shape, makes them stand up straight and pay attention. “Say it like you mean it,” she’ll say.

Ellen is about 42. A few strong gray hairs curl in her mane like dolphins. Ellen’s face makes me think of a wolf. It pushes toward a point. Above sharp brown eyes, her brows angle toward the bridge of her long nose. Her mouth is small and puckered to a purse by crowded teeth. It works more easily into sneers than smiles. Her small shoulders are girl-slender, though she has weight in her hips. She wears black dresses and silver bracelets. Her gestures are swan-smooth. Her walk, in flats, is erect, perfect. I can imagine a big atlas balanced on her head.

The reporters are usually relentlessly rational, but they let their loathing of Ellen lead them down crazy paths. Beer talk after work always finds its way to Ellen, before rock ‘n’ roll trivia but after ice hockey. Steve, who can pick apart the cover-ups in a police chief’s report, paints Ellen in the same conversation as a man-hungry slut and a man-hating dyke. Another time two of the guys try to convince me that, because Ellen never wears make-up, it proves she’s a tease trying to turn us on. It’s so nutty I can’t resist arguing.

I have a buzz on by then, I guess. Finally I say, “Well, I don’t care what she is; I think she’s sexy.”

Faces wrinkle around the table. “Why don’t you go for it, then,” Steve says and he punches my arm. Then the debate begins again about whether she is a lesbian or a slut and what kind of chance I’d have with her. But I stay out of it because I really am going to take a stab at seducing her.

She’s in again on Thursday. Ellen doesn’t have an office, of course, so she works us over in the lunchroom, amid the quiet gurgle of coffee pots and the clicks and hums of snack machines. It’s the only room in the building that has plants. People assume they’re plastic because they never grow or change, but they are real; I know because I touched them one day.

We sit on aluminum chairs with yellow plastic seats, at a round table of faded, scratched orange formica. I sit squared, my feet wrapped around the chair legs, hunched over a photocopy of one of my stories, which Ellen has scarred with small red handwriting. Ellen leans back in her chair, sitting side-saddle, legs crossed, her head turned to me but her body facing the window.

I try to divert her into flirtation. I’ve always chased girls a year or two younger than me. They seem easier to talk to, easier to impress. Ellen recognizes each attempt to manipulate the conversation, and she plays chess to my checkers. She keeps steering me back onto work.

She explains a word I had misused—gregarious—by refering to its Greek origin.

“You know Greek?” I say.

“I am Greek,” she smiles. I notch a point for me: I got her to smile.

“I thought you were Italian,” I say. “But that would be your married name, right?” I know I’m blowing it even as the words are coming out of me.

She waves me back to the clip.

“Never start a sentence with ‘it,’ “ she says. “You have here, ‘It looks like taxes will have to be raised.’ Just say, ‘Taxes may have to be raised.’"

“What’s wrong with the first way?”

“It sounds too passive.” As she says it she twists her wrist and her fingernails curl across the air like a flight of shore birds.

“Never start a sentence with ‘it,’ “ I tell her.

She tosses her head back and laughs, a deep, rich laugh.

I’m her fourth victim that morning and I take a chance that she’s ready for a break. “Wanna smoke?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says. She and I are the only two in the newsroom who smoke, though lots of advertising people do and the guys in the pressroom. You can’t smoke in the building because of the federal regulations, so smokers all wander out to the back entrance and stand around by the bushes, puffing. It looks like high school. Except no one has to keep an eye out for assistant principals.

We leave the clips on the table and walk past the roaring printing press and out the back door. The sun is bright and warm now. It’s one of those shore days where the weather changes every five minutes and you can forget about having the right clothes and just resign yourself to being hot or wet or cold much of the time.

I light my smoke and light hers as she cups her hand around my match. It’s smoker etiquette, but our hands touch. I lean back against one brace of the door, and she stands at the other. A sea fog washes silently over the building and shrouds us. It will be gone soon. We say nothing. I watch her dark features through the wet mist. Her hair is like a cowl.

I know a few things about Ellen the others don’t know because she and I have found ourselves alone out there a few times before and I’ve made conversation then, asking her about her kids, her career. Her kids are 11 and 13. She has a degree in classical mythology from Bryn Mawr. She edits book manuscripts. She rattled off a few authors’ names once: I recognized some of them. So she doesn’t need the money she gets from editing our clips. When I told her Don thinks he’s doing her a favor she laughed because she thought she was doing one for him.

I recall all this while we’re smoking. And I also remember a robin’s nest that no one else has noticed, even though it’s right where they all smoke. “Here, let me show you something.” I reach into a bush and part its stiff twigs and little white flowers.

We both lean. “Oh, look at that,” Ellen says. Two nests sit one inside the other, dirty teacups. I tell her how the robin built one last summer and hatched two eggs in it. Then one day they were all gone, the babies, the mother. I figured a snake or something ate them. But the next year she came back and built a new nest inside the old one. She hatched there again, but again they all vanished. While Ellen studies the cups of mud and grass I let my cheek brush against her hair.

All morning I’ve been pressing my fingers to the bruise on my sternum, which is where Tina beat on me the night before. We had met at a bar, and we seemed to hit it off. It was just a lot of fun walking the beach at night, just letting our ankles get wet, but once we got intimate she wanted to cling like glue and everything melted. Like I was suddenly not dealing with the same woman, like she turned into a space alien or started speaking another language. I tried to get her to recognize that it was just a fling, a shore thing that we’d both outgrown. She insisted on driving down all the way from Philly, just to go crazy and beat on my chest with her fists, then leave. As I press on the sore spots the sound of Tina’s sobs echoes in me, like a talking doll.

“What happened there?” Ellen asks.

I realize what I’ve been doing, and that this is the first time she’s ever asked me anything about myself. I wish she had started with a different topic. “Ah, this girl,” I say. “Real nut-case.” We both stand up straight but when I tell her the story it comes out wrong, like I’m the bad guy. I keep trying to tell it over until it sounds the way I want it to. I concentrate on the part where Tina’s hitting me, because at least I’m the victim there.

“Maybe she was trying to give you a ritual wound,” Ellen says, and she smiles.


“The ritual wound makes a man out of a shy child,” she says. She speaks slowly and crisply. “In the ancient cultures the village fathers, the old men and the hunters, would chant and mark the boy with something painful, like a scar, a burn to the flesh, a knocked-out tooth.”

She isn’t smiling. I want to say something clever.

“Yeah, well thank God she didn’t go for my teeth,” is the best I can do.

Ellen takes a long drag, turning her head a bit to the side, but keeping her narrow eyes on me. “You want to know what’s wrong, why she hit you?” she asks, smoking out the words. She doesn’t wait for an answer. “She’s angry because you fooled her. And not about that. You fooled her because you’re not a man yet.”

I feel hair on my head bristle. Who is she?

“Ah, whaddya mean,” I say. “I was president of my frat, I played three sports in high school, I’ve been hunting with my dad a million times. What, because I don’t send flowers after every date that makes me not a man? That’s bullshit.”

“You do the easy part,” she says. “You probably fool a lot of girls down here. But you’re not finished. Some things about being a man women know better than men do.”

I don’t say anything and I look at my shoes, because I’m trying to stack up her words again and figure out how to prove she’s wrong.

“Do you know I dance?” she says.

What’s the right answer? I think about the strip tease rumors. “I guess I do I say. “No. What do you mean?”

She laughs a little. “Belly-dance.” “Belly” comes lush and warm out of her mouth, like hot honey. She lets it flow, lets her tongue linger and turn on the double “L” I feel a shudder in my shoulders.

I nod. “You like it?”

“I’m giving a performance tonight, at the Art Center in Somers Point,” she says. “Come and see me. My kids are with their father. I want you to come up. I know a place we can go afterward.” My mind jumps. I’m thinking I’ve lost her, and then she turns around and practically pulls me into her bed. I swear that from now on I’m only ever going to seduce older women, divorcees. Why hadn’t I seen it before? They’re still desirable, and so much more worldly, and they’ll be so grateful.

“OK, great,” I say, trying to sound like it had been my idea. “It’s a date.”

* * *

Ellen’s performance is part of the annual open house at the Cape May County Art Center. Ellen, it turns out, is one of the directors as well as a dance instructor there. The art center is an old seaside mansion that was willed to the county. Its huge rooms have been cut up by poorly erected drywall into gallery space and recital halls. The dance studio is the former master bedroom, at the front of the second floor. It bows out in bay windows with a view of the sea. The crowd is mature, well-dressed, witty. They walk through the galleries, nodding at the watercolors and pastels, pausing just long enough at each one. Then they mount the wide oak staircase to the dance hall. Steel chairs are arranged in rows, facing the window. I sit off to one side.

Soon the lights dim. A spot focuses on a small parquet stage in front of the windows. Ellen runs in, on balls of her feet, trailing veils of pale blue that match the gauzy silken dress that snuggles down on her hips. Her top is a shapley band of gold sequins and coins. She stands still in the spotlight and as Middle Eastern music jitters from speakers, she begins to dance.

As she does, I discover the source of Ellen’s daily grace in gestures. But here there’s more. There are tides in her dance, and sunshine, and ancient wild places. Her wrists twine like vines in Eden. Some part of me feels awkward, like I’m seeing something secret or private and I ought to turn away. Like I’m hiding in ferns, watching a young girl swim nude in a pond. I can’t understand that because Ellen is more decently clothes than girls I see on the beach or in Ocean City Mall on summer evenings. So why is it scary?

I’m struck by her familiar face, hard, creased by lines at the lips and eyes, above a supple, smooth olive-brown body that plays hide-and-seek in the veils.

The veined hands that scribbled on my copy now make veils float away like living flames. Ellen, I think, is dancing for me: bare and heaving, belly-soft, deftly displaying her quivering landscape. It arouses me to think that. But I also know it isn’t for me and she doesn’t even know I’m in the place because all the lights are on her. She doesn’t seem to notice anyone. She’d be doing this if I wasn’t there or maybe if no one was there.

The music slows. Ellen stands still and wreathes her hands over her head and concentrates on flourishes of her oval belly. Ellen’s belly has a firm curve, and she lets it ripple and roll and undulate like wind over ripe wheat—I think pf the line from the Song of Solomon, the sexual part of the Bible, about how thy belly is like a hill of wheat and it makes sense for the first time.

The music stops, and I clap hard as I look at my wrist. I realize she has been dancing, and I’ve been motionless, for almost an hour. Ellen bows deeply forward, her hair sweeping the floor, and stands upright, tossing her head back. She smiles, and prances out of the room before the applause ends.

The crowd sifts out of the room, flows back downstairs for a wine and cheese reception. I sip a plastic cup of red wine and chat with county officials I recognize. My eyes flicker from their faces, eager for a glimpse of Ellen. Then she’s standing beside me. “Hi,” she says.

She wears a dull gray outfit, cashmere sweater and a skirt, but they don’t meet. The skirt is slung low on her hips, like the one she danced in, a few inches below her navel, and the top is cropped short above it.

“That was beautiful,” I say, but then some people crowd around Ellen and start gushing. I watch as Ellen stands, smiling, and lets the crowd spiral to her. I expect some man to make a move, but most of them, even the unattached ones, stay back, though they look and look. It’s the women who seem to be in love with her.

So I pretend to be interested in the paintings, and use the trick I learned earlier in the gallery: how many seconds to stare at something to seem like you’re actually looking at it. But as the room starts to clear, Ellen comes up to me and says, “Are you ready to go?” We walk across the street to a restaurant and go in through the tavern door. It’s dark, paneled, and plush. She slides into her chair. We order glasses of wine. I ask her where she learned to dance like that. She tells me her aunts taught her, and their aunts taught them, on back to Eve and Lilith for all she knows.

“Americans don’t understand belly-dance,” she says.

“Even some dancers don’t get it. I worked with one girl who told me, ‘I don’t like to call it belly dancing, because it’s not just about that,’ “ she imitates a flat nasal drawl. “So these dancers advertise classes in Middle Eastern folk dance or ethnic dance and they wonder who no women sign up. It’s not about folks; it’s not about ethnics. It’s about bellies; big, beautiful, bare, brazen bellies. I don’t know why everyone’s afraid of that word.” In Ellen’s mouth it sounds like the most sensuous word in the language.

I don’t even plot my conversation strategy. I just dive in. I tell her that when men talk about a woman’s body and its sexual qualities they skip right over the center: “Lips, tits, ass, legs, thighs, whatever. The only compliment they pay a girl’s stomach is if it’s flat. That always bothers me.” Actually, I’ve just now thought of it. “It’s like everybody’s missing a mid-section. Except you.”

She passes over the compliment. “I hate that look; women with muscle there, defined flat stomachs. They look like little boys.”

We have more wine. My eyes keep slipping from her face to her belly. It pulses when she laughs, or lolls on the lip of her tight skirt, the navel puckered and beckoning like a buxom courtesan from a Spanish balcony, like a lazy, wise Juliet. I keep imagining our bodies fitting together. Cool arms and hot breasts, slide into her, crush against her, thrust and reach up into her belly to just touch with the tip of me that glow, that quivering secret heart in her center.

“Time to go,” she says suddenly, standing.


“You drive. I’ll tell you how to get there.”

She directs me back over the marshes, then we drive five miles inland up among the stiff red pines. At last, she steers me into the sandy parking lot of a low roadhouse with one red Budweiser sign in the window and a row of Harleys by the door.

“This is your place,” she says.

“Doesn’t look like my place,” I say.

She follows me in. The bar stretches along the wall to our left, and before it, where I expect a dance floor, is a boxing ring. The banner above it reads “Thursday night tough man contest.” Then I remember I’ve heard about this place from one of the ad reps. It’s primitive. Any tough can claim the ring and take all challenges from all comers. Rivals brawl with knuckles, without rules. Well, if this is what turns Ellen on, I’m willing to watch, I think, but I don’t even believe myself. It’s not going to be that simple. I’m lightheaded, from the drinks, from dreams of swimming into the body I had seen dance, and now from the sense of having stepped into a space from a very different, older dream.

“Him,” Ellen says.

I follow her eyes to the ring. He’s bald, well-muscled, broad-shouldered, pale; he has handlebar mustaches like the tusks of a wild boar.

“What about him?”

“You’re going to fight him now,” she says, she begins to unbutton my shirt.

My heart goes cold. “Whoa, wait a minute,” I try to take her hands off me.

“Shut up and do it,” she commands. She peels the shirt off my shoulders and bunches it up under her arm.

“But I don’t ...”

Her eyes blaze and she stands up straight and squares her shoulders to face me with a small rippling of her whole body that makes her seem a foot taller. Was that a move from her dance? It’s like she reached in my head and grabbed something and threw it into a cage. I can see it clanging the bars and straining its mouth, but I can’t hear it.

“Here’s what you do,” she says. “Are you listening?” I nod yes. Just then the jukebox kicks up and she had to put her face to my ear and yell. I feel the warmth of her breath tickling my neck and her small hands grip my houlders. “Protect your face and your head. Keep your hands up, and keep them close. Give him your body. Give it to him. He won’t kill you, but if he gets to your head he might. Don’t even try to throw a punch. Just stand in there and take it.”

“I don’t know if I can,” I say quietly. Dreams of the imminent lasciviousness of her body have drained out of me. Instead my mind is full of the mountain I have to leap over before I meet Ellen face to face in passion.

She is trying to teach me this. She is trying to teach me to become someone who can find her.

“You’ll do it. Give me your glasses. And your keys. Now go.”

I climb into the ring, so weak my wrists can hardly part the ropes. My mind has sheared away from my body, like it does in fevers. I’m hot but I’m shivering.

Stripped of my shirt, in just jeans, I feel lights glare against my bare chest, and hear the biker women hiss. The man facing me looks like a fist, his whole body seems to be a huge disembodied fist and my hands move to mask him from my face. I offer him my bare belly, the pale un-muscled meat in the center of me.

He quick-steps toward me, unbends his elbow, and sinks a solid fist plump into my stomach. He slings his flat fist like a hammer, and drives the punch deep into me.

I hear my mouth utter a guttural “OOUFF!,” a sound out of my core, more loud and deep than any I ever made. First I feel the shock and pain of being violated, then something swells rapidly inside me like a balloon, an ache that crowds out everything. Every second of my life, waking and sleeping, from the cutting of the cord, I had drawn breath without thinking. Now breath will not come to replace the one smacked from me.

He whomps me with another belly-slammer. His knuckles grind like granite against my belly. No breath is left to lose, so the voice that comes out of me makes an empty sound like “illll.” The next thing I know my eyes are trying to focus on my fingers, which are splayed on the white canvas. I’m down on my knees, head hanging, mouth limp and wet, sucking air. My belly is a heavy, cold knot.

I know there’s noise around me, but I hear only silence. Then a girl’s harsh laugh from the floor blows faintly through me. “Uh, right in the gut,” she says, and her voice rings in tones of sympathy but the words have the shape of a mouth that is smiling. The sound makes my heart damp with shame. My consciousness of posture rushes back and it wants to do something, to be something to make that girl stop laughing at me. But just as quickly something bigger whelms up over the shame and tells me to get up and take it again. I’ve been struck like a match. I felt the glow, then lost it.

Now it is my choice. I moan and shake my buckled knees out straight and I stand. I catch my rival’s sneer that says, ‘You haven’t learned your lesson yet, punk?’ I am calm, though cramped with pain. I dare him on to finish. I can’t speak, but I can gesture. He seems to hesitate.

I throw myself on the man, not to topple him but to seek impalement. I clutch his shoulders, leaving my body unprotected and his arms and hands free to work.

He scythes punches up into my stomach with both fists, thudding my belly like a drum, convulsing it in violent ripples. The shock of the blows shatters walls in me. He is beating me like clay, breaking brittleness, yes, but leavening jelly into sinew, making stiff into supple. My jerking writhe is a true dance, which Ellen knows because she has danced it long ago and now she shadows it in her perfumed performance.

He shoves my back against a corner, I catch the top ropes, steadying myself, but that grip poses my body arched and open, and just as I’m at my most vulnerable he torques a shoulder and pitches a punch that belts me full in the belly.

I clutch my gut and bend far forward. My knees cave and I plunge down. My shoulder takes the fall, and I roll onto my back and lie prone, knuckles to the canvas above my head in the speechless gesture of full submission known of every beast that hunts in packs.

That ends the affair. He strolls to his corner to take the glory of the boast and accept the hot caressing smiles of rifle-hipped redneck girls. But I have my own prize; an aching empty gut, hollow like a womb, that no joy will ever wholly fill.

Soon I can draw a full breath and the ceiling stops spinning. Then, as my diaphragm works in deeper and deeper draughts, I find I’m gulping sobs. Not from pain, the pain is over. I crawl to the edge of the ring and drop out of it, finding the floor with my feet.

“Ellen!” I shout, heedless of the crowd of shadows, the large music. “Ellen!” I throw my arms over her shoulders and she lets me and I cling about her and weep in her hair. She drapes my shirt over me.

Then she pulls away and says, “We have to get out of here.” She grabs my wrist and quickly she pulls me through the door as I push my arms through the sleeves.

She opens the car door for me, on the passenger side. I sink down into the seat and the movement shoots little knives into my body. She gets behind the wheel and sees me wince.

“Any pain in the ribs?” she asks.

“No,” I say. “He didn’t hit ribs. Just guts.”

She drives back to the art center. We don’t speak. I feel all the red and black things come surging back into my chest. I feel humiliated, opened, violated, stripped. Yet where they once would have filled me, now these things crouch in one closet of a mansion that seems much larger than I had known. I search for anger toward Ellen but I can’t find any. Instead I catch a sob in my throat. I don’t know where it comes from; somewhere down deep.

* * *

She parks my car next to hers, turns off the engine, and gets out, leaving the keys in the ignition. She walks around to my side. I can’t see her face, just her belly framed in the open window. She tells me, “In a few days you’ll feel like yourself and I’ll have you over to my place for a big feast.”