Jared Levy has stories published in several regional and international journals including Jellyfish Review and Passages North. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Bates College and an MFA from Warren ... [+]

Image of Philly Storied City - 2020
When Wally asks me to punch him in the stomach, I try not to hold back. I let it rip. I set my feet like he taught me to, draw back my fist, and deliver a blow to the spot he's pointing at—right above his belly button.
"Harder!" he yells. "You can punch harder than that!"
I remember what he taught me about footwork. I do a little hop and replant my feet at a 45 degree angle. I shift my weight as I throw a punch from my cheek to his stomach.
"Do it again!" he says. "Harder!"
Again I hop up. Again I shift, except this time I think about my fist going through his stomach; traveling beyond his abdomen. No resistance, no stopping as my fist travels through his flesh, muscles, and bone, and keeps going—like Stretch Armstrong—to the back of the room and around the world.
"Good!" he says. "Harder!"
I worry that I'm going to break him. Or injure him severely. I am not the biggest guy: I'm just shy of six feet tall, around 190 pounds, and the muscles I have are mostly from lifting in college. I stopped for ten years, and whatever form I have now is from lifting objects out of the basement and recreational sports, like this one—boxing in my local gym.
Still, Wally is shorter than me. He's considerably older; in his 60s. And though his core feels solid and I see him doing "banana splits" in the gym—impossible ab exercises where he balances on his butt and keeps his body perfectly curved in the air—I'm afraid for him and the harm I could cause him. I'm afraid of the harm I have caused others, intentionally and unintentionally, when the power of my body exceeded what I thought myself capable of.
"Harder," I hear him say. The sound comes from the back of my mind, his voice washed out like the echo in a shell.
I am punching the wall as a kid after a fight with my dad. I am throwing a table tennis paddle at my best friend Jordan after he makes fun of me. I'm being pushed onto the ground in third grade after a fight with Sam Benny, my arch nemesis and bully. I'm kicked in the face by Nasty, the captain of the rugby team. I taste blood inside my mouth and smell grass and dirt in my nose.
"Harder," I say as I repeat the motion over and over again: weight, feet, shift, connect. Wally's abdomen is my canvas as I throw shades of pain onto the surface. I'm unsure if it's his pain or my pain. He's a thick shell and a fragile body. He's telling me to continue and I keep punching.

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