How to Take a Punch


Marty Milton is a hard bastard. Six-foot-two and eighteen stone of solid fucking muscle.

One-on-one, no one can take him.

He wears many hats: street-fighter, bouncer, tax-man. There’s another he’d like added to that list – lothario. Thinks he’s a ladies’ man, but the truth is few ladies want any part of the flat-faced fucker.

That doesn’t stop him, though. Like taxing the local lads that deal in pills and powder, he takes what he wants.

He took a shine to our Michelle, our sister. The youngest of the three of us. Michelle didn’t take a shine to Marty Milton.

Michelle wanted nothing to do with Marty Milton.

Marty was persistent.

Marty hung round her like a bad smell.

Marty followed her home.

Marty took what he wanted.

So now me and Phil are on our way to see Marty. We’re going to do something about it.


Thing is, no one’s ever beat Marty Milton. Even two-on-one, the odds are still slim.

We go to the bar where Marty works the doors. He sees us coming. He knows why we’re here. He comes straight for us.

Phil squeaks. He runs away.

I’m alone.

When we were young, Phil taught me how to fight. Dad left after Michelle was born. Phil played at big brother very seriously.

He showed me how to raise my fists, to take a defensive stance. He said, “Do you know how to take a punch?”


He punched me. I went down.

“You took it,” he said. “Now get up.”

I got up. He punched me back down.

“You took it,” he said. “Now get up.”

He said half of fighting was knowing how to throw a punch, and half was being able to take one.

Marty Milton knocks me down. He laughs as he walks away. Laughs at the big brother that ran, and the little brother that went down with one shot.

I get up.

He turns slowly. He comes back. He knocks me down. I get up.

I spit blood. He knocks me down.

I spit a tooth. He knocks me down.

The bridge of my nose cracks. He knocks me down.

One eye swells shut. He knocks me down.

My jaw hangs loose. He knocks me down.

I get up.

“Just stay down,” he says.

I spit blood at him.

He raises his fist.

It goes no further.

Phil is behind him.

Phil has stuck a screwdriver in his neck.

Phil tells him, “For Michelle, you piece of shit.”

Phil pulls the screwdriver out.

Marty Milton’s neck sprays blood.

Marty Milton goes to his knees.

Marty Milton lands on his face.

Marty Milton doesn’t get up.

Phil doesn’t offer me a shoulder. He doesn’t offer a hand. We walk away, side by side.


I never did get very good at the throwing punches half of fighting.

But I was always very good at taking them.

~ fin ~

Paul Heatley's work has appeared online and in print for a variety of publications including Thuglit, Crime Factory, Crime Syndicate, Spelk, and Near to the Knuckle. He is also the author of six novellas, available from Amazon for Kindle, and is a regular contributor to R2 magazine. He lives in the north east of England.