The likelihood was that no city but Vegas could have contained a spiritual conflict of these dimensions.
Which was why your correspondent, let’s call him Mailer, was in Vegas. When Mailer took his seat, Bugs was already inhabiting the ring, shadowboxing, winning some cheers from the crowd. Vegas is Bunny territory, except of course that the Mob were for Mickey. But the existential money, hot diggity damn, was on Bugs.
Donald and Daffy, the trainers, were both ducks, which must have portended something, Mailer thought, in these apocalyptic times, but now Mickey was strutting into his corner and opening combat, with a psychological gambit. He blew a raspberry.
Bugs just smiled, like the outlaw he is. There is something mythical, even apocryphal about him.
While what spoke loudest about Mickey was his blackness. Mickey sold out to the corporate execs long ago, but here we enter the terrain of high contradictions, because Mickey still has enough fighting instinct that he would sooner succumb to a knockout blow than to a suburban plastic smear campaign, our more usual, deadening, American fate.
It was Mailer’s theory that Americans no longer punched each other enough. He blamed the feminists.
Now the bell rang for the first round, and while Mickey charged into the center of the ring, Bugs slipped away to the other corner. Mickey followed him and, in the biggest surprise of the first round, smacked Bugs with a baseball bat.
Crazy. No-one expected this super-octane style of attack from Mickey, but then, Mickey can wear opponents out by the ease with which he reinvents himself. He’s been a write-in candidate in the last dozen Presidential elections, as have I. To the opponents he vanquishes, Mickey must resemble the Angel of Death, all whipcord and Teflon. Mickey can come close to awing you by his very virility, not to mention his beauty, a beauty that comes close to being a major political fact of our times.
Mickey understands power, and he has more rage in him than Bugs, but Bugs knows in his entrails things that Mickey may have forgotten, that the magical world intrudes on our reality when the stakes are high enough, that to win you must have angels on your side as well as devils. And as the first round ended, Mailer was granted this further nugget of insight, undeniably a subterranean one, that Mickey’s great fault is that he accepts technology.
If so, he was paying a price for it. For it was Bugs who now appeared in charge. The corporations keep recordings of Mickey’s past fights out of circulation, which could have been a problem for Bugs in training, except that Bugs has never relied on technology. Bugs will steal your style and make it your own. He’s a fakir messing with your psychic circuits. He’ll turn your moves inside out for you, and hand them back to you in the form of a revelation. Mailer would have developed this thought further, but the bell had rung for the second round.
Right off, Mickey got Bugs with a left jab, and for a moment Bugs was down. There is an art to watching Bugs fall down. He seems to pull the ground up to meet him. Pound Bugs into submission, and you can still feel him looking over your shoulder, saying, hey, I’m taking some punishment, aren’t I? On his feet again, Bugs pushed Mickey back into the corner, Mickey full of violence now, Bugs looking abstracted, a little grayer than usual. Mickey threw some hard punches but Bugs weaved out of his way, and counter-punched, and Mickey fell back into the ropes, disheartened.
Daffy and Donald were fighting now, and Bugs and Mickey sat down to watch them.
“There was confusion among the crowd.” — Las Vegas Sun
Yup, because what happened next would defy the descriptive power of any genius but myself. Bugs was graceful but Micky was an explosion. Every punch conveyed an epiphany. Bugs was an Indian magician, burning with schizophrenia, but Mickey was a Negro artist, athrob with jungle cat intuition and trailing glory. Circling, they were equal to two great lovers or double-agents making inroads into each other’s psyches. The fight began to remind Mailer of his third marriage.
After Bugs clapped Mickey on the head with a pair of cymbals, little vultures flew around his head. Then Mickey pulled a lever, and oh crap, an anvil almost landed on top of Bugs. It was a brilliant move, but Bugs dodged it and slugged Mickey so tenderly it was equal to a sermon dating from the moment of creation.
“Knockout!” — Las Vegas Sun
The crowd cried insanity. Who knew what, when the corporation lawyers were through with it all, would be the official result of this match? But for now everyone was cheering Bugs, bearing him aloft, and Mailer climbed into the ring and made a speech which went to the root of America. Mickey is America, but Bugs is what America should be, was the gist of Mailer’s speech. It was his way of saying that Mickey had class, but Bugs could hustle, that Mickey was Chuck Lindbergh, but Bugs was the Risen Christ.
You’ll never see Bugs do a double-take. It is no small part of his strength that there is no way to humiliate him. Not even when Donald turned out to be the referee, an arrangement Mailer considered a clear violation of the divine economy. But God has been on the defensive since the millennium turned, so it should have surprised nobody when Donald declared Mickey the prizewinner. That’s all folks.
Daffy was heard to utter the word “despicable.”
Mailer, heading for the bar to make more speeches, could detect the seed of an idea germinating, this idea being that it is the logic of pain that, by some telepathic communion, forces the direction of the Universe.
Eat or be eaten. It was getting colder, do not doubt it, and if it was a sign of Mailer’s deep cosmic pessimism that he let Daffy order him a Bourbon, it was a sign of his bravery that he put together the feat of drinking it.