The town of Arapoh lies along the Sitka river that slices a deep valley between the immense Bear Tooth and Chugach mountain ranges. Perpetually looming over the town, they swaddle it in complete darkness through winter. The sun barely rising above the horizon, let alone mustering the strength to hurl its rays over the towering granite walls formed from the buckling of the earth. It is rare to meet a native, most having meandered in for reasons that are spoken in hushed tones that fill the taverns, often no larger than closets or hallways. Fishermen will not disclose their favorite holes, or predictions on the next Coho run. Hunters much the same.
Down where the Spit juts into Resurrection bay, where the wind is perpetual and cold after cutting across the Denali icefield, lies Frontier Combat Arts. Owned and operated by a man named Judas who can often be seen wearing maroon sweatpants stained with paint, a hacked off faded t-shirt, and neon green flippy-floppies bandaged together with duct tape. The gym is a venture he put together after winning enough purses on the amateur bare knuckle boxing circuit. A favorite pastime for residents that filled bars around the domain with howls and shouts. His face told the story. A crooked nose he refused to straighten, any softness pounded away over the months of punishment, but he could not walk into a bar without a free drink. That’s how it is in Arapoh, standing out will wear anything down, but that is the price to pay for glimpsing the sun.
Cameron “flex” slugs at Judas’ focus mits preparing for his own fight next week. They hit with the satisfying pop of dried wood. Judas speeds up and begins to switch patterns. Back and forth they go. Then Judas bops him in the top of his head. Cameron misses again, Judas hits his head again, and stops him “You must stop trying to anticipate. A million rights is not an indication of a left. You must accept the reality that you are always and only reacting. Again. Let’s go.”
Three swollen men walk into the gym. The tallest among them, built like a healthy viking, folds his arms and watches. No words uttered. Impenetrable sunglasses remain in place.
Judas has Cameron work on the heavy-bag, and already knows that these are the contractors brought in to keep calm for the Coho run. Last year being the first year summer nights were punctured by rifle fire. Wellington introduces himself and shakes Judas’ hand, which is flawlessly manicured, and asks for space to work out while on the contract.
“It ain’t much, but it should work for you fellas.” Judas says putting a wad of tobacco in his lip. Worn out quad tires still caked with mud are strung up between the heavy bags bandaged by duct tape. In another room lie piles of weights, a bench, bar and dumbbells. To Wellington it smells of dirty feet and feels that everything is covered in dust. It’s the most ramshackle gym he’s ever seen in his travels. No belts, trophies or accolades are hung on the wall. Wellington figures Judas to be nothing but a charlatan.
“When did you open this place?” Wellington asks, hands on hips and gazing down on Judas.
“A few years back.” He says shrugging. “I just like to tinker…Are you fellas wanting to workout with us, or alone?”
“Alone” Wellington quips while walking away with his entourage.
Judas turns to Cameron who is still pounding away on this bag. “Keep me in the loop on them, would ya?”
“They reek of rotting meat,” Judas says walking back to the weight room.