The Day That Comprised The Totality Of Mike’s Bare Knuckle Boxing Career
The following story is meant to be humorous, and is not intended to represent the real-life Mike Pence. As far as we know he has never, in fact, been to Bondi Beach.
It was at a rest stop outside of Dayton, Ohio that the hunger kicked in. Mike Pence and I were with our roommate Dick Richards buying snack foods and drinks, completely unaware that several hours before we’d been filmed in the background of the movie Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Our good friend Dick has always been an impulsive guy; he’d happily admit this to you. It was as he was about to pay—it was his turn, this stop—when he said, “Hey, I’ll take a Number 6.” And before we knew it the cashier was ripping off a scratch ticket.
Two months later we found ourselves trekking the Australian Outback.
Mike, being Mike, took a great interest in the plight of the aboriginal people of that continent. He asked often after their ways and their legal status in Australia. Dick wanted to tour the beaches. For myself, I just wanted to see a kangaroo. So Mike, Dick and I ended up going to an outfitter who promised to take us into the interior. Brent Macgillicuddy was the name attached to his gruff, weathered person. He and Dick became fast friends.
Several days in, it got to be evening and we’d found a likely enough spot to set up camp. Just as we were about to begin supper we heard the panicked screams of a woman: “My baby! My baby!” We ran to her at once.
We found the mother and her two other children frantic. Mike was calm, and calming.
“Ma’am, we are here to help,” he said.
“Was it a dingo?” I couldn’t help but ask. Mike glared at me. I patted my brow dry with my handkerchief.
“It just appeared,” she said. “Out of nowhere. And before we knew it, it had grabbed Alphonse and was gone!”
“We will begin a search at once. First you must let us know when and in what approximate direction your baby may have gone.”
“But, was. It. A. Dingo?” I demanded.
“Bryan,” Mike said. One who knew him, as I did, would be attuned to the minute change in the tone of his voice that communicated rather clearly that one had grossly overstepped one’s bounds. “Why don’t you go and fetch our flashlights and lanterns and—” he grabbed me by the arm “—grab as many batteries as you can.”
I was off at a run. I know when I’ve been put in my place and I’m not the sort to make it worse by fussing, so I collected the lanterns, flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit and stuffed them in a rucksack I’d emptied by dumping it out on the ground. I will say I was surprised at the depth of our friend Richards’ interest in men’s fashion by the voluminous . . . volume of reading material on the subject that came out, piled high on the dusty ground.
By the time I got back to the group, Mike had all the details he needed and Macgillicuddy was ready to help us track the baby, or whatever had it.
“Mike,” I whispered. “Was it—?”
“No,” he said quietly. “A kangaroo.”
I was torn between a thrill of excitement and a paroxysm of fear. On the one hand, I might finally get to see my kangaroo. On the other hand …
“Mike,” I said. “I’m told your kangaroos are some of the fiercest, most unpleasant, most disputatious gentlemen you can meet in God’s beautiful creation.”
“We have to chance it, Bryan,” he said. “There’s a child’s life in the balance.”
“I’ll grant you that,” I said, perhaps too loudly. “But the kangaroo is—I have it on good authority from the most learned men on the subject—the most irksome, most disagreeable character walking about under the sun. A personality the equal of which you could only fashion by crossing the disposition of the camel, the wasp and a mule with a nasty infection of the urinary tract. Meet this fellow in a dark alley and if he doesn’t like the look of you, he’ll donkey-bonk you, arse over tea kettle, into the next month without a care in the world.”
“But, Bryan,” Mike said. “I thought you wanted to see one.” His voice—if such a thing is possible—winked at me.
“See? Yes,” I said. “At a distance. Majestic giant bipedal rabbits that they are. Meet? In person? With it between me and something it coveted? No, thank you. I’d rather be tossed live and whole into a supervolcano, thank you very much. The person of a kangaroo is not one I’d want to find myself in dispute with in a pub, much less in a dispute in his own well-trod back yard.”
“Have no fear, Bryan,” Mike said. “We’ll rescue this poor babe from the uncouth clutches of this rude beast.”
As usual, I had to take his confidence on as my own.
Macgillicuddy, the brave Australian that he was, was tracking that roo brigand in the dark like I could follow an interstate at noon on a bicycle.
Few people know this, but the kangaroo will, under certain conditions, turn a cave into his lair. There he keeps his unholy harem of jills and the sun-baked bones of his slain foes. Oh, and the treasure! Not the kind of treasure you or I would appreciate, mind. But the marsupial is nature’s original serial shoplifter. Shiny bits of metal, scraps of cloth, old, weathered pharmacy receipts, perhaps a dented folding chair: the gathered detritus of man’s dominion over nature.
So it was that our trail came to its end before the mouth of such a cave. The child, playing absentmindedly with an empty packet of candy cigarettes, appeared unharmed by this fellow we shall call The Collector. And between ourselves and the child The Collector stood, like a pugilist preparing for a title fight. I broke out in a cold sweat, unable to move or speak.
“We’ve come for the child!” proclaimed Richards who had, for reasons known only to himself, taken off his shirt.
“No, Dick,” Mike said. “I got us into this, and I mean to get us out of it. Save your steely courage. Should I fall, it will be needed then.”
Mike walked up to The Collector; each took the measure of the other. Mike was mere inches taller than his opponent. He squared up manfully.
The boomer took the first swing, a roundhouse Mike parried skillfully before countering with a jab to the chin. Your man the roo ducked it like a champion pugilist. Mike was in for the fight of his life.
They circled each other. Mike tried a skillful one-two, but The Collector hid his face behind raised forearms. Sweat was pouring from Mike’s brow while the other fellow danced from foot to foot as cool as you please.
Deftly, the kangaroo kicked some dust into the night air. Mike was temporarily blinded and he staggered back.
“Gentlemen!” I shouted as I stepped in to separate them. “Not sporting. Not sporting at all. You should be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Kangaroo. No excuses, now. Expect to be sanctioned, and consider yourself lucky that it’s only that.”
I withdrew. I’ll accept any result as long as there’s fair play.
Mike advanced and landed a flurry of body blows. This was a war of attrition now, as far as Mike was concerned. The roo faded back, but Mike was back on him like a flash.
That’s when it happened. Mike is pounding the pouch of the great beast when an uppercut like a missile launch went through his chin and skyward. Mike was carried up and off his feet and was out before he hit the ground in a great pile of unconscious American goodness. I swear we thought we’d lost him.
“No!” Dick shouted. The boomer rounded on us.
The sweat was pouring from my brow, now. I took out my handkerchief. He fixed on me, mere meek Bryan. Up to me he walked, methodical. I froze, handkerchief frozen, still at the temple as he slowly strode to where I stood. I was a dead man. I said my prayers and commended my soul heavenward.
I could smell his fell breath.
His arm slowly reached to my head. I thought he’d be smothering me at any moment. I called to mind every unconfessed sin I could think of and closed my eyes, begging forgiveness. I didn’t want to watch my own brutal end. I was about to be beaten, torn limb from limb, my bones to be picked clean and made into a rude, unholy memorial to my brief, pathetic life.
He -— hear me now! —- with an almost human gentleness pawed the handkerchief from my sweating brow. I felt it fall and I opened my eyes to see him contrive with his mouth and paws the handkerchief aforesaid into his pocket.
Now, this next is the most incredible moment.
The Collector, my handkerchief stolen, hopped off into his lair, a merry song on his lips.
For a moment a tense, chilled silence held the air.
The child’s mother, hesitant at first to be sure, retrieved her son.
Well, Mike’s post-concussion syndrome caused us to spend the rest of our visit on Bondi Beach, which at least Dick and I appreciated. Mike spent it in a dark hotel room, shunning the sunlight. Do you know what? He said that in the Southern Hemisphere the dizzy spins in his head went in the other direction, counter-clockwise.
Sometime I’ll have to tell you about the time Mike seriously considered cannibalism.