My father is a lying, cheating, womanising bastard. Well that’s what my mother called him shortly before they first separated then later divorced. At the time it didn’t come as a great shock to me. I’d been watching and listening to their marriage fall apart since I was twelve. I’m fourteen now.

The last fight they had was by far the worst and they both said some nasty things about each other. So the next day my mom came up to my bedroom and sat on the side of my bed. At then time I was playing some random game on my computer.

"Jamie come sit here." I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was about to tell me something important. Nefertiti, the Siamese cat whose home we shared, jumped up onto the bed next to mom so that couldn’t sit beside her, so I swung my chair around and faced her.

“What’s up mom?”

She fussed a bit with her hair, which to me always looked to be perfect, then turned her sad blue eyes on me, sort of transfixing me the way Superman did with Louis Lane.

“Jamie ... son. "

I figured this was gonna be like a serious moment in both our lives cos she called me Jamie and son at the same time.

"I suppose you heard the shouting match just now between your father and I?"

I thought about saying; "Well not like you'd really notice." But I knew that she’d know I'd heard every word. I mean I'd have to have been deaf not to so I said: "Yes I did."

"I'm so sorry that you had to hear your father and I saying the things we did to each other."

"That's okay. No big deal mom."

"Your father is very good looking, dashing and very very charming. But he hasn't been a very good husband or father for that matter. He cheated on me virtually from day one. Jamie your dad and I are going to split up ... divorce. How do you feel about that?"

"I haven't had time to think about it." I replied truthfully.

"Okay that's understandable. You're fourteen and mature for your age.” She made it sound as if my balls had just dropped. “What I'm saying is that you have to decide whether you want to stay with me after the divorce or with your father." I said nothing and I think she interpreted my silence as indecision. "You can take your time ... think about what you want."

She reached out and took my hands in hers. Nefertiti quickly moved to mom’s lap. I loved my mother. She’d always, always been there for me. Even before she began working from home she made certain that she was there in our house when I got home from school or sport.I stood up and went over to my bed and put my arms around her and she hugged me too. "I don't need time to think about anything mom," I said against her shoulder. "I only want to be with you. Dad can look after himself but I want to look after you."

"Oh Jamie." She hugged me even tighter. "I was so hoping that you would say that."

Nefertiti hissed at me.

Next Saturday morning Nicky, my dad, came to collect his stuff from the house. Mom made sure she wasn't at home when he got there. He asked me to go upstairs with him and while he packed he chatted to me.

"Son I'm sorry about all this," he said, tossing shirts, socks and stuff into a suitcase, "but in the long run I think maybe its the best thing for everyone concerned, don't you?"

"I guess."

"Yes. So your mother told me you're going to stay here with her. I'm glad Jamie. As you know I go out of town a lot on business trips so living here would be best for you."

"Sure dad."

"Now," he went on, "I don't want you to think that I'm gonna leave here and forget about you. I'll keep in touch. You're my son and I love you." He ruffled my hair with a hand full of neck ties. "And when I die you'll inherit everything I have. Okay? Now give me a hand to get all this stuff down to the van."
And that was the last time I saw my father alive.

A couple of weeks later I came home from school with a cut above my right eye and an awesome bruise on my cheek.

"Omigod, let me look at that.' Julie said. Since the divorce I’d started calling mom Julie and she didn’t seem to mind. "Who did this to you Jamie?"

"It was an accident. A bunch of us were shooting baskets at school and I got an elbow in the face. It bled a bit but was no big deal.

"Well accident or not, I'm going to do something about it."

Next day at school I half expected to be called to the principals office where I'd find Julie. Instead it turned out to be something entirely different.

Next Saturday morning she got me out of bed at seven. Fuck. Usually on any Saturday morning I sleep until ten. After a quick breakfast she drove us down-town and stopped outside a sort of tatty building. Sign above the door read :"Joe's Boxing Academy & Gymnasium."

"What's this?"

"I know you said the other day that your eye got cut by accident." she said.

"It did I swear. Mom I don't like boxing."

"You no longer have a father at home to teach you how to defend yourself and I can't do it. So Joe is going to give you a few lessons in self defence. Now go in before I get nabbed for stopping here. Ask for Joe. I'll fetch you in a couple of hours. Go now."

She kissed me on the cheek and drove off as soon as I got out.

The gym was up a flight of concrete stairs and smelled of stale sweat and the stuff people rubbed on their bodies when their muscles are fucked. Everywhere guys were punching bags, skipping rope or like shadow boxing.

I found Joe. He was short, wiry and wore a beanie. He reminded me of Rocky’s trainer in a movie I'd seen once on cable TV. He took me to a corner of the gym away from the boxing ring and punch bags.

"Okay. Now your mom wants me to teach you what to do when you get attacked by the school bully. Right"

"I never been attacked by the school bully."

"Well by whoever gave you the shiner. Now ..."

"It was at basketball.

Joe held up his hand. "Quiet son. I don't care who or what gave you the cut eye. Right? I'm just here to do what you mother asked. Now zip your lips and pay attention. Okay?"

"Okay ... fine."

"Now there a couple of basic ways to react when a bully ... or a basketball hits you . My personal favourite is the swift kick to the crotch also known as the balls. Done quickly and correctly the swift kick in the balls should ... I say should … deck the fucker and the fight ends there and then. You with me Jamie lad?"

I nodded. "Swift kick in the balls should deck the fucker."

"Hey, hey, hey. You kiss your mother with that dirty mouth boy?"

"But you said it and …"

"Don't matter what I say. I don't want you to use that kinda talk in my gym. Right?"

"Right. Sorry."

"Now if the swift kick in the ba ... ah groin, misses or is blocked, there are other things that also work pretty good. Pressure points. Ever heard of pressure points?"

"Yeah at First Aid class to stop bleeding."

"Yeah well there are those," Joe said, "but the ones I'm talking about are these."

He came up close to me and pinched something on the top of my shoulder near my neck. It felt as if he'd driven a white hot needle into my flesh. I have never before in my life felt such excruciating pain and I sank to my knees. Joe released his grip and went down on his haunches in front of me.

"You okay son?"

"Jesus Christ. Fuck." I gasped gulping in great mouths full of air.

"Hey. What I just say about cussing? You got no ears boy?" He reached out his hand towards me and I drew back in fright. "Its okay relax. I just gonna fix the pain."

He pinched my shoulder in another place and the pain instantly stopped. He helped me to my feet.

"What was that?" I asked massaging my neck.

"Its what you use when you can't get a good kick in and the guy grabs you. There are other things you can use but they take time to learn. Okay. Now you know what sit ups are? Crunches?"

"Sure." We have do them all the time at phys ed."

"Good. See that bench over there? Give me two fifty sit ups."

"How many?"

"Two hundred and fifty. There a problem Jamie?"

"No no problem."

"Get to it then and no cheating."

With that he turned his back on me and started walking away.

“Excuse me.”

He stopped and turned. “Yes”

“How do you know Julie … my mom?”

Joe smiled and wistful look came into his eyes as if he was remembering something very pleasant. “None of your business. Now get to it.”

Maybe twenty twenty five minutes later he returned an asked: "How many?"

Sweat was pouring off me and I was battling to do another sit up. "Eighty."

"Okay. Stop at a hundred."

I managed to get to ninety and was about to give up when I noticed a couple of the boxers standing behind Joe, big grins on their faces. I forced myself to do another ten before falling back exhausted.

Joe handed me a bottle of water. "Well done Jamie. You did good for your first time."

I sat up and chugged down the bottle of water without coming up for air.

"Okay," Joe said, "I want you back here in this gym every Saturday morning at eight and we'll work until ten. One hour of self defence tactics and pressure points and one hour working on crunches."

"Okay," I said, "but what are the crunches gonna do for me?"

"You'll find out when you have a six pack son believe me. Okay now next week come here in a sweat suit with shorts, vest and sneakers. Okay?"

"Fine by me."