Danielle Povey


Danielle lives and works in Kent and is currently studying for an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University.

Email: daniellepovey@hotmail.com

View as PDF: Danielle Povey - Deep Ocean

Deep Ocean 

“Truth is, I do believe in magic.”

Charlie rested his hand on his son’s forehead as he read. Max sighed, signalling sleep, rolling onto his right side to face the wall, his knees pulled up, his arm hugging a pillow to his stomach. From his chair next to the bed Charlie watched him, leaning down to snap off the light, blanketing the room in darkness.

Max woke once during the night, cold because he had kicked his covers to the floor. His father was still in the chair, head on his chest, breathing shallow, sleeping. Max knew that his father slept in that chair every night to protect him from the monsters.

Max knelt at the head of his bed to look out of his window. They were out there now, watchful, waiting behind the low stone wall that bordered his garden from the next. He saw them sometimes when the moon was particularly heavy; crouched low, covered in spiked branches and sharp leaves, inching slowly towards the house. One Mississippi, two Mississippi. Max pulled his covers up over his head and stuck out one foot, resting it gently against his father’s leg. Every morning when he left Charlie replaced his leg with a jean covered cushion. Max never realised he was gone until the sun came up.

Charlie Bennett Jr watched the sunrise everyday whilst jumping rope. He began with five sets of twenty, and then five sets of fifty to finish. He always used the same rope; he always laced his left boot first before his right. The gym was peaceful in the early mornings, and today he didn’t even turn on the radio, letting the quiet soothe his nerves, letting the familiar smell of sweat and dust lead him inwards, using the rhythmic dripping of the showerheads as his mantra. He skipped with his eyes closed, falling into a comfortable practiced rhythm, picturing his fellow fighters just waking up. Be easy. The guys rolled in an hour later when two damp patches were already appearing on Charlie’s grey sweatshirt. They walked fast, heads down, pushed past him and headed to the locker room. Be easy Charlie boy, especially today.

Max’s grandma picked him up from school at ten minutes to five. He was waiting for her by the front entrance under two huge beech trees with his rucksack still on his back. She was late like always. He climbed into the front seat of her car and stared out of the open window as she peppered him with questions.

“How was school darling? Are you hungry? Are you sure that you still want to come tonight?”

Max nodded yes to all three questions without taking his eyes from the window. He loved to feel the wind on his face. He imagined that he was flying alongside the car with his arms outstretched, weightless and free. His grandmother kept her eyes focused on the road.

They arrived at the venue early and were ushered in through the back doors. Max held his grandmother’s hand as they weaved through the corridors underneath the main arena. Charlie was lying face down on a couch when Max entered. A grey-haired man was working the muscles in Charlie’s thighs with both hands; forcing his thumb deep into the muscles and then pushing it hard up and down the thigh. He didn’t acknowledge Max. Charlie stretched out his left arm and took hold of his son’s hand. He pulled him close, rested an arm over Max’s shoulders.

“You’re sure you want to do this?”

Max looked at his dad,

“I can ask grandma to take you home?”

Max shook his head. “I want to see.”

“Ok buddy you can stay, but if you wanna leave you need to say ok? I like your style by the way.” He pointed at Max’s shorts and T-shirt. “Very nice.”

The physio rolled Charlie over so he could continue working on his shoulders and upper arms. Max sat in a chair next to the couch watching. He didn’t like the smell of the oil. It smelled like hospitals. It was quiet too like the hospital, the sound of his grandmother’s rhythmic breathing familiar and foreboding. His father’s red and blue robe hung on the back of the dressing room door. Max stood up to feel it – it was silky, slippery between his fingers. He thought of fish in the sea. He wondered what it would be like to swim with them.

The noise in the main arena was deafening, the arena lights harshly illuminating the object of the crowd’s focus. The warm-up fight was in its last seconds, certain to be a points decision in favour of the more experienced boxer; no great surprise. It was the next fight that the fans were waiting for, the first professional fight for legacy boxer Charlie Bennett Jr against the experienced and aggressive Manny ‘Metallo’ Puzo. As the warm up fighters left the ring and the lights went down to announce the next match the venue photographer stood back to let an elderly woman and a little boy to their seats. The little boy was dressed in blue shorts and a red t-shirt. He also had a blue cape draped around his shoulders.

Max stood on his chair to see as his father entered the arena to huge cheers and boos from the crowd. His body was shaking. Charlie had the blue hood of his robe pulled down over his face as he emerged from two double doors just off to the left of the judges. He climbed into the ring and sat quietly on the stool in his corner. Max couldn’t see his face, but he could see his gloves, resting heavily on his knees. The music changed for Puzo’s entry. He came bounding through the door, gloves up, saluting the crowd in a silver and black robe. He entered the ring and shrugged the robe to the floor, standing near his corner throwing punches to the air. Under his hood Charlie closed his eyes, concentrating on his breathing. Easy kid, be easy. She used to say that to him before every fight. Easy. He repeated it as they called him to touch gloves, eyes still lowered, easy. The referee was shouting at him,

“When I say break, you break, I want this fight clean gentlemen, you understand?”

Charlie raised his head just as Puzo smashed a beautiful right hook into his left eye. Charlie lifted his gloves, protecting his face. He could feel blood, then felt the ropes against his bare skin as Puzo moved in and hit him with an eight punch combination just under the heart finishing with a perfectly timed uppercut flush to the point of Charlie’s chin, snapping his head back. If he hadn’t been against the ropes Charlie would have gone down. He reached out for a clinch, pulling Puzo in and spinning him round, he could feel his breath on his shoulder, the referee was shouting in his ear.

“Break, I told you, break.”

Charlie pushed back from Puzo, back-pedalling, catching his breath. There was a ringing in his ears. Puzo was coming at him, determined to finish this fight in one round, cocky. Telegraphing his next punch with his eyes he moved in fast throwing a hard left that just grazed Charlie’s ear as he anticipated and ducked under it. Charlie moved decisively, landing a solid right in Puzo’s solar plexus, putting his whole weight behind it and feeling his knuckles sinking deep into flesh. Back pedalling again he moved out of trouble, gloves up, ready. The right hook came out of nowhere, smashing his nose and ripping open the cut above his eye. Charlie went down, his head bouncing against the canvas as he landed. Puzo moved quickly back to his neutral corner arms raised in a victory salute, Charlie heard the count starting. He couldn’t get up.

Max watched his dad lying on the floor of the ring. He couldn’t hear the crowd screaming. He was in a vacuum; there was a strange ringing in his ears. The siren, when they took her away in the ambulance that day, the blue lights flashing. The paramedics were kind to him, they let him sit in the front seat, they told him he needed to be quiet, to let them work. They told him to look out the window, that he shouldn’t look back over his shoulder. He did what they said, behind every tree on the way to the hospital seeing the car pull out again, seeing it coming straight towards him and feeling over and over the huge impact of her shoulder against his as she shoved him away. He didn’t need to look over his shoulder to see the blood trickling from the corners of her eyes. They couldn’t stop him from seeing. From his third row seat Max watched his dad lying on the ring floor. He wasn’t moving. He had to get up.

The photographer’s camera was suspended halfway between her hands and her eye. The elderly woman two seats to the left of her was screaming. Coming into the match a first round knockdown was not even on the cards. She felt someone push past her; she looked to her left and saw the little boy in blue and red running towards the ringside, the cape caught in the air behind him. She lifted her camera and started shooting. Later ‘Ring’ magazine would publish her pictures on the front cover. Max could feel the crowd now, the hollering voices weaving themselves into his hair and t shirt and shorts, lifting him, swallowing him whole inside a great scream that everyone but him realised was coming from the pit of his own stomach. He reached the ringside, standing on his toes eye to eye with his father. Charlie felt the eyes on him before he saw them, heard the voice before he saw the face.

“Get up, dad, please, you have to get up, get up.”

Charlie opened his eyes; they were unfocused, blurry from the blood and bright lights. He tried to focus them on the voice he recognised, but all he could see was small specks of dust caught and unmoving in the glare, suspended. A hand reached out to touch his arm.


“Dad, please.”


Charlie pushed himself up onto his forearms, head hanging. He rolled it from side to side, testing it,


He lifted a knee and pulled himself into a half kneel. Looking over he saw his son standing alone in the glare of the lights. The crowd were on their feet now, Max was screaming with them. Easy baby, you have this. We got this. Charlie looped an arm through the bottom rope and pulled himself into a standing position, testing his balance, holding the ropes behind him as he breathed slowly, steadying himself while the world tipped for just a second on its axis, and then he let go.