‘Hey Bev, where’s the long blonde hair?’
Terry Fox’s first words when we met show how the image stays put while we move on. The long blonde hair was forty years ago, I remind him. The image belongs to my time writing colour stories for Fighter Magazine - and lives on, on the cover of my book Fighter Lady. Terry was just a lad then, hadn’t even laced on the gloves.
He laughs and puts an arm around my shoulder, reaches down from his height advantage, plants a kiss on my hair somewhere between eyebrow and top of head.
‘Never mind, you’re still lovely.’ Am I feeling compensated or flattered?
Behind him, one is always behind Foxy, is the author of this biography Michael Macdonald, who has come with Foxy for a meeting at my home to look over the manuscript and sign some sort of a contract.
Printed out copies on A4 sheets are ready on my dining table and I suggest we sit right away and get on with it.
‘Right,’ says Foxy. ‘But first, Bev, gotta tell you. I just sold two copies of the book on the plane coming over. Got their addresses ‘n all.’ He beams with confidence, which is something he has plenty of.
‘Hope you didn’t give a price. We haven’t fixed it yet,’ I say.
‘Yep. Michael here, me and Michael have fixed it at thirty dollars.’
Michael is nodding.
‘But ... ‘ I say. ‘Look here, I think that’s a bit much. It’s only a small book. A very small book.’
‘Never mind that,’ says Foxy. ‘Think what’s in it. All those photos.’
I don’t like to puncture his enthusiasm, but show a printout of the narrow spine.
‘We might go for a thicker paper,’ I suggest. ‘It won’t be pure white and the pics won’t be quite as clear, but see, here, this print-out shows it will be a little bit wider with the thicker stock.’
No hesitation in Foxy. ‘Yeah. Let’s go for the thicker.’ (Later, with added sections, we change back to the pure white paper.)
‘Now, before we get on to the book, as publisher, I’m obliged to draw up some sort of contract. Here’s a copy each for signing.’
‘Ah don’t worry about that. You do what you like about that. But me and Michael, we’ve got our own arrangements.’ He nods and smiles to Michael.
‘Look, that’s all very well, but things can go wrong, you just can’t tell. You need some agreements.’
Foxy looks me in the eyes with his steady blues, and just short of taking my chin in hand to hold me there, declares: ‘Lissen Bev. I’m a man of my word. I don’t need bits of paper with signatures. When I know someone - how long have I known you Michael? six months is it? - well when I know someone, they’re my friend for life.’
He still has my eyes locked. OK I believe you.
‘I’m going to pay back Michael the money he put up for the book. From sales of the book.’
Michael Macdonald had deposited money in my Green Place Books account and the contract I had prepared makes it clear that he is the one to make decisions and to collect profit.
I’m thinking, Foxy’s being cagey. This way he gets the profit without taking the risk. But it seems that Michael has said he wants any profit to go to Foxy’s Gym.
I’m looking at Michael across the table. Can he afford to make this substantial contribution? He doesn’t look as though he could. Not today anyway. Michael is wearing an arm brace that looks like part of a mechanical man, with a stainless steel wheel at elbow joint and leather braces strapped above the elbow down to the hand. Hampered by his fractured right arm, he’s just managed to slip into a cream t-shirt and hang a check shirt over his left shoulder. He looks a tad wan, as though he needed some caring and is still, no doubt, mourning his partner Tracey who died not long ago.
I press on. ‘Well, I think the agreement should still state that Michael has paid this money. Let’s just add that Terry Fox agrees to repay the sum to Michael Macdonald from sales of the book.’
We come to setting down the selling price.
‘I reckon we’d get thirty, twenty-five for sure.’ This is Foxy’s opinion.
Hard to argue with an optimist. I point out that people hand over a twenty-dollar note easily, but when it’s a twenty and another five or ten, they hesitate.
‘I reckon twenty-five.’ Is Foxy doing sums or just being stubborn?
‘Look at it this way.’ I counter. ‘If you pay thirty dollars for a book and see it’s only a very small book, you think, well, that was a rip-off, but if you pay a twenty note, you think, well, worth it maybe.’
Foxy shuffles under the table. ‘OK Bev. Put down twenty dollars on the paper.’
Which I do before it gets changed, but I sense that Foxy intends to bend the rules.
‘And think, if you do a re-run, the profit’s much greater.’
Foxy demands my attention with a stare that lands like a straight right.
‘When we do a re-run,’ he says in his husky voice.
‘Well, if we do a re-run you will ...’
He interrupts. ‘Look at me. I’m talking to you,’ he commands.
I obey and look.
‘When we do a re-run.’ Set in cement. OK.
I move on. I have set down in the agreement that Terry Fox is to be paid ten per cent of sales, since he would be virtually selling agent and would expect to make almost all sales in his gym.
This is now to be scrapped due to the fact that Terry Fox will repay Macdonald the sum advanced.
I’m still uneasy about Michael. In one sense, he loses his professional status, not getting paid for his writing. Perhaps he should at least get ten per cent as author. And his repayment depends on sales; not a firm immediate sum.
Other items in the contract, being agreeable, I go to the computer in my office across the room, make the changes to what has become a very loose contract and print a copy each, which we sign.
Every now and then Foxy has risen and excused himself from the room. At first I think he has a bladder problem, but no, he’s stepping out to the garden for a cigarette. He reminds me, now and then, how strong his lungs are from all that fighting.
One great shot of him in the book is holding the sidecar trophy and a bottle of champagne; as the caption says you could mistake him for Paul Newman. Sure, that was then, like my long blonde hair. Now he’s more your Stacy Keach, the actor who played Billy Tully in the superb film by John Huston, Fat City, from the novel by Leonard Gardner. Foxy’s nose is like Stacy’s, only more so. But both are compelling faces. Compelling enough to sell two copies of his coming biography to female passengers on the plane and to two more on the way back.
Today he’s in his flashy gym shoes. ‘I wear ‘em only for special occasions. Like coming to meet you, that is a special occasion.’
The shoes have gilded strips around the soles and sparkle as he walks. He does a little bouncy shuffle in my kitchen to show them off.
He’s wearing a black t-shirt with Foxy’s Gym singing in white, and a large money-belt around his waist, pouch at front like a groin guard in which he has all his particulars.
When he found he’d be here earlier than the arranged meeting time, I said to come here whatever time and I’d make him a cafe latté.
‘Do you have Tetley teabags?’
‘Ah, you don’t drink coffee. I only have Dilmah.’
‘I’ll bring m’own Tetley bag.’
I imagined him slipping it into his pocket on the way out his door. But he forgot, settles for the Dilmah ‘with one sugar’ and helps himself to milk from my fridge.
At one moment there at the table, he turns to me, leans across and picks a stray hair from my jacket. Sharp eyes has Terry.
‘Hey Bev. When I was fighting Ray ‘The Rock’ Spurling ...’ Foxy rises to his feet and acts out a moment, shoulders hunched, fists flying, feet bouncing on my living room carpet - ‘I hit him one that put him on the canvas. I was still on my toes when he’s being counted out. Still on m’toes.’ - he rises on his toes to show me. Pride glowing, he adds ‘Spurling said I hid him harder than a heavyweight and I was a light heavyweight.’
‘Yeah,’ I say, looking over to the man who wrote it up. ‘Sure, I read it.’
Other recollections follow from time to time, and to each I nod to show I’ve read about it.
A memory catches, he’s on his feet again. ‘Hey, you were talking about Gus Mercurio earlier. Well every time I met Gus, he didn’t shake hands with me, he’d take my face in both his hands ...’ Terry demonstrates, pushing his hands into his cheeks .. ‘like this, and kiss me on the cheek. Gee he was a good bloke.’
I tell the boys to clear the table of papers. I am about to serve lunch.
To make life easier for the man with one arm, I chose to serve fried rice with chicken fillets in Tandoori paste.
‘You get your chicken cut up and a bowl and spoon,’ I tell Michael.
I heat the fried rice and cook the chicken in the paste and take them to the table.
‘Now guys, mind the sauce on the table. Devil of a job to get this curry out of the tablecloth.’
Both eat heartily and I replenish the rice bowl for second and third serves, and fourth for Michael, who probably hasn’t managed a decent meal lately with his one arm. We eat it all.
Foxy’s enjoying the rice, in which I put steamed runner beans and carrots and peas.
‘I never eat vegetables. Only just started trying to eat them. I like them in rice like this. And hey, I love this chicken - what’s it called? Tandoori,’ he says.
I check the tablecloth and find the only spots are in my area. Serves me right.
I’m about to get the sticky date pudding, which I’ve mentioned several times, when the ever-active mind next to me says ‘Bev. You know how you admire that wall painting of me and Ian Prudham. Well there’s murals all over the gym. Some are high as the ceiling, ten feet or more. You never seen anything like Foxy’s Gym.’
‘It really is something,’ says Michael. ‘There’s no gym I’ve ever seen to match it. People come just to look.’
Foxy insists we go right away to my computer and have a look at his gym on the website.
As I’m opening up his site, he grabs a folding chair from behind a folded clothesline standing in the corner of my office and makes himself at home beside me.
He directs me through the links and we click through the remarkable murals and shots of his gym.
‘We should have these in the book.’ I say, my mind working on a special addition. ‘Suppose I put it at the end of the book, call it Inside Foxy’s Gym, do a little intro and run the pics. Make ten or more pages for sure.’
‘Great idea,’ says Foxy. And Michael’s keen to see more pages added.
I start saving the images from the web, and have a stack of jpegs on file numbered from one to twenty-three. With Foxy at my shoulder we race to beat each other to find the numbers in sequence.
I assure them I’ll put this together pronto to avoid delay in publication.
Back in the kitchen I go to rinse off a few plates. Before I reach the tap, Foxy has his hands in the sink looking for the plug, determined to wash up.
‘No. No, leave it. I never wash up till later,’ I say.
It’s nearing two o’clock and Foxy’s plane home doesn’t leave till eight o’clock. With six hours to kill, he heads off with Michael. Each carries his copy of the manuscript in one of those little doggy-poo bags I pinched from the local park for such purposes.
Foxy has chided me earlier for pinching the tiny dishes from the Chateau D’Artigny in France, which I used for biscuits with coffee.
‘Oh, I don’t mind pinching things like that. I think they’ve already added them to the room price,’ I say.
Foxy’s scorn is his way of joking. He admits to pinching bath towels from hotels all over the place.
‘If they find out I always offer to pay for them, but they never take the money,’ he says.
Before wrapping it up, I mention the certificates and medals on his website. We might include them in the book.
He waves his hand like a monarch with too much treasure to quibble. ‘Oh, don’t worry about those.’
I know him better than he does. When the book’s out, he’ll regret they’re not there. After all, he’s not one to hide his assets.
Those assets are worth a mention, for the record. There are fourteen handsome medals, a string of certificates in branches of sports therapy, Certificates of Honorary Membership for Services to Amateur Boxing, Life Member of South Australia Amateur Football League, Life Member Kilburn Football and Cricket Club, a letter from Peter Whitehouse, Executive Director of Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia, expressing appreciation for ‘your fantastic effort and support’ as top fundraiser.
After he and Michael had gone, I got straight down to putting the new section together and emailed copies to Michael and Foxy before five.
After that, it occurred to me that I might write an introduction to the book. This is it.
Know something? I forgot to serve the sticky date pudding.
Bev Will Fighter Lady