The Big Tall Wish
Bolie Jackson – Ivan Dixon
Henry Temple – Steven Perry
Frances Temple – Kim Hamilton
Joe Mizell – Walter Burke
Thomas – Henry Scott
Joey Consiglio – Charles Horvath
We open on a flyer for a boxing match at the St. Nicholas Arena between Bolie Jackson and Consiglio. Main Event! And there’s a dude leaning on some apartment stairs with a newspaper over his face. The boxer named Bolie Jackson is making a comeback that night. A boxer, whom I can only assume is Bolie Jackson, is practicing in front of a mirror.
In this corner of the universe, a prize-fighter named Bolie Jackson. 183 pounds and an hour and a half away from a comeback at St. Nick’s arena. Mr. Bolie jackson who, by the standards of his profession, is an aging, over the hill relic of what was. And who now sees the reflection of a man who’s left too many pieces of his youth in too many stadiums for too many years, before too many screaming people. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who might do well to look for some gentle magic in the hard-surfaced glass that stares back at him.
Bolie Jackson is looking a little the worse for wear. A little boy sits behind him on the bed, watching Bolie. They start goofing around, pretending to spar. It’s actually really cute. The kid gives Bolie a nice pep talk. Bolie asks if he’s going to be watching and the kid says that Bolie will be able to hear him cheering all the way to St. Nick’s. Bolie tells Henry that a fighter doesn’t need a scrapbook. His whole history is written on his face. What he’s done and where he’s fought. Then he starts listing all of his scars and when and where he got them and who gave them to him.
Bolie seems to be enjoying his trip down memory lane but Henry doesn’t seem to be enjoying it that much. Bolie calls himself a tired old man and says his bus left years ago. He says he’s short of breath with one eye almost gone. heavy arms and legs like rubber but still trying to catch the bust to glory and fame. Doesn’t really seem worth it to me. I’ve never been a huge fan of boxing so pardon me if there’s any boxing fans out there. I might get snippy about it from time to time. Anyways, when Bolie finishes up Henry hops down and snaps his fingers. Then he tells Bolie that he’s going to catch that tiger tonight. Henry’s going to make a wish. A big, tall wish. Bolie’s his good and close friend and Henry’s going to make a wish so that Bolie will win and not get hurt at all.
Bolie gives Henry a hug and goes downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs a lady, Frances, is watching him. Bolie tells Frances that she’s got quite a boy in Henry. Bolie tells her that Henry talks like a little, old man and that Henry got really intense when he said that Bolie was his “good, close friend”. Frances tells Bolie that he’s very good to Henry. Bolie takes Henry to ball games and a lot of other things. He sounds like a good guy. Frances doesn’t want Bolie to get hurt and to take care of himself. Bolie says he’ll try. It’s a little hard to promise something like that in a sport where the main even is watching two men trying to beat the crap out of each other. Henry comes down and gets all intense again and repeats that he’s going to make a wish.
Frances tells Bolie that Henry worships him. Bolie says he’s “nothing but a scared old man who doesn’t know anything except how to bleed.” But he’s very obliged to Henry for his wish. Frances says that Henry spends all of his time wishing. she starts to tell Bolie something but trails off. Bolie wants to know what she was going to say. Frances says that she needed fifteen dollars for the rent. Henry said he was going to make his “big tall wish” (the biggest wish of all, he doesn’t waste it on just anything) and then a woman she had worked for sent her a check she was owed for some work done. A check for fifteen dollars exactly.
Bolie looks very sad and talks to the mailboxes about little boys with heads full of dreams. But what happens when they find out that there’s no magic. “When does someone shove their face into the sidewalk and say, ‘Hey little boy, it’s concrete.’ ?” Damn. That got dark. Bolie’s in his own little depressed world for a moment. Frances tells Bolie good luck and Bolie says sure and that he’ll see Henry later. Leaving the apartment building he passes the guy with the newspaper on his face. Maybe he’s just reeeaally near-sighted. As Bolie passes him he pops up and tells bolie good luck, too. Everyone in the neighborhood wishes him luck as he walks down the street and says they’ll be watching. Henry watches from an upstairs window ledge and waves to Bolie.
Bolie’s getting taped up for his big fight. Bolie’s manager lurks in the corner, smoking a cigar. After the trainer tapes Bolie up the manager walks over and blows a big puff of cigar smoke right in Bolie’s face. That’s just rude. Bolie tells him to put it out. The Smoking Man tells Bolie that since Bolie hired him for the night it’s a package deal. His cigar goes where he does so get used to it. Talk about your phallic symbols. Bolie says he doesn’t care and tells the Smoking Douche to put it out. He finally does and the Smoking Man calls Bolie a yapping old man. That the older they get, the louder they talk. And the more they want, the less chance of getting it. Why does everyone keep calling Bolie old? He doesn’t look that old to me. Maybe they mean in boxing years. Bolie asks himself how he ended up with this ass for the night. The jerk says that he’s a bargain because he’s an expert on has-beens. Bolie says he’s seen this dude’s boys. Basically punching bags who can stay in the ring to get knocked around long enough to earn their pay and then patched up for the next round. The Leech agrees and says that since Bolie has about had it then maybe he’ll sign him up in a month or two. He tries to sell Bolie on this being a good idea. That he should get in the stable why he has a chance. Why are they called stables? It seems very…demeaning. Bolie says he thought the smell of B.S. came with the cigar. Then to make it clear he tells The Leech (whose name is Thomas but I prefer Leech) that he stinks. There’s a knock on the door, letting Bolie know he’s got ten minutes. The Leech says Bolie will be ready and wanders off, probably to play with his cigar.
Bolie wants to know what to watch out for with his opponent. Bolie’s only seen the guy fight once and that was a few years ago. The Leech tells Bolie that he’s never seen Consiglio fight at all. Bolie calls b.s. on this, saying that The Leech has seen Consiglio fight at least six or seven times this year. Bolie figures out what’s going on. He grabs The Leech by his lapels and accuses him of betting on Consiglio. Wow. I’m thinking The Leech is too good of a name for him. I’ve decided to change his name to Double D. You can use your imagination on what the second ‘D’ stands for. I don’t know exactly what a boxing manager does but I would think checking out the competition would be at least one thing that they do. So there’s some shady stuff going on here.
Bolie threatens to lay D.D. out right then and there and D.D. says he’ll have Bolie up on charges for assault. The trainer is trying to break it up but not before Bolie lands a punch on the cement wall. Way to go. Somehow I don’t think that a broken hand will help you in your match much. While some sad harmonica plays the trainer chews Bolie out saying how’s he going in the ring with four busted knuckles. And, wouldn’t you know, a guy pops his head in right then and tells Bolie it’s time to get in the ring and tosses him his gloves. The trainer asks Bolie what he’s going to do. Bolie says there’s nothing to do except go on. Bolie thinks about Henry and that he’s given him two strikes on his magic. I get the second one, the broken knuckles, but what was the first? Bolie being ‘too old’ or the sleazy twenty buck manager? The trainer says, “Booze?” and I’m not sure if he’s asking Bolie if he wants booze or if he’s already had booze. I dunno. Of course Bolie says that there’s no such thing as magic. Great. You just killed a fairy. Happy now, Bolie? They put his robe on him and they head out.
There’s a shot of the eager crowd. People are cheering, landing punches on their hands. A lady is compulsively clutching the arm of her companion, rubbing their hands together in anticipation and shoveling popcorn in their faces. A woman also bizarrely has her hands up in front of her face like she’s blocking her face from…I have no idea. If she’s so freaked out by being there, why is she there? Another woman is hiding her face (again, why?) and a man is wringing the hell out of a newspaper. I’m going to take a wild guess and say he’s got a bit of money on the fight.
Bolie seems to be getting pummeled in the ring by Consiglio. For the fifties it’s quite brutal looking. Of course, that could just be me. In my opinion it is a brutal sport. No offense to any boxing fans out there. Bolie Jackson goes down and the scene suddenly flips from Bolie looking up at the ref to Henry at home. Henry is repeating Bolie’s name over and over.
As the ref is counting Bolie out it flips again to Henry muttering to himself with his eyes closed. Everything freezes for a minute while Bolie is still down and being counted out. The only movement is Henry. Doing his big tall wish. Suddenly things start moving again but it’s not Bolie on the mat being counted out but Consiglio! Henry’s big tall wish must have worked. Bolie looks confused for a second but then they’re holding his arm up, declaring him the victor. Bolie grins happily and leaves the ring through the ropes.
Back in the dressing room Bolie is fully dressed and looking very confused again. The trainer comes in and Bolie says that they must have been wrong about his knuckles being broken. The trainer doesn’t seem to know what Bolie’s talking about. Bolie says that it sure felt broken but they tell him he beat Consiglio with it so it must not have been broken after all. Bolie says when Consiglio knocked him down but, again, Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Bolie says he doesn’t even remember getting back up. Joe says they must have been watching two completely different fights because as far as he knows Bolie never went down. Bolie’s very confused and asks again if Joe’s sure he didn’t go down. Joe tells him to read about it in the papers and that he’s proud of Bolie. Then he says good night and leaves.
Bolie still looks bewildered after Joe leaves. On his way back home everyone is congratulating him and telling him he was great. Bolie’s very happy. Once inside the apartment building he goes up to the roof where Henry is feeding some bunnies. Bolie asks Henry if he looked ok and Henry says that Bolie looked like a champ, like a real tiger. Henry says that old boy must have hit him so hard it knocked all of the hurt right out of him because he feels great. But he thinks he must have been punchy because he didn’t remember some of it. Bolie tells Henry that he remembers laying there looking up at the ref and the lights but then says it must have been a dream or something. Henry walks sadly over to his bunnies and Bolie wants to know what’s wrong. Bolie insists that he never was off his feet and never went down. Henry just stands there looking sad and shaking his head a little. Bolie grabs Henry and asks if he was on his back and on his way out?
Henry nods his head, still looking sad. Bolie says nobody remembers it but nobody else does. Well, Henry does. Bolie says (again) that he was on his back and being counted out. Henry says that he made his big wish then. That he wished that Bolie had never been knocked out. He closed his eyes and wished real hard for it. A big tall wish. Henry tells Bolie that it was magic and that Bolie needed it then. While Henry is talking about the magic, Bolie calls him a crazy kid and that there’s no such thing as magic. He tells Henry that he’s too old to believe in ‘nutsy’ ideas like magic and fairy tales. Because eight yeas old is way too old to have an imagination, I guess. Henry tells Bolie that if he wishes hard enough and believes hard enough that it will happen. Bolie believes that someone has to knock those ideas out and it’s time for Henry to hit the sidewalk of life. Metaphorically, fortunately.
Bolie tells Henry that he’s been wishing all of his life and he doesn’t have anything to show for it but a face full of scars and a head that aches from all of the hurt and the memories that go with it. Bolie asks Henry if he’s trying to tell him that Henry ‘magicked’ him out of a knockout and back on his feet. When Henry nods yes, Bolie calls him a ‘little kook’ and how did he get mixed up with a crazy little boy that still believes in magic. Dude! He’s a little boy! I’d say maybe eight or so, ten at the very most but I think that’s stretching it. Why don’t you kick a puppy, too, while you’re at it, Bolie?
Henry pretty much just keeps telling Bolie that if Bolie doesn’t believe then the magic won’t work. Bolie says that it was all him and that he had that fight in is pocket from the start. Yeaah, when was that, exactly? When you stupidly broke your hand on a wall? When the other boxer was pulverizing your face? Bolie says that it was all him. Slugging and punching and winning. Winning!
I kind of get why he’d want to believe it was all him but, speaking for myself, I’d take magic anywhere I could find it and tell the little boy thank you. Bolie tells Henry again that there isn’t any magic but god he wishes there was. Well, if you wish it that badly you can’t believe the kid for two seconds instead of crushing him?
They go back and forth with “You’ve gotta believe”, “I can’t believe” for a while. Dude, just take your win and be happy. Damn. The light from the streetlamp fades into the light from the arena. Consiglio is still on the mat and everything is still frozen. After a quick shot of the popcorn eater everything goes back to normal time and now it’s Bolie on the mat. Guess you should have believed Henry, Bolie.
His team helps him up and out of the ring. As he’s walking back home from the match the whole neighborhood is looking at him like he just killed all of their puppies. The guy who was formerly wearing the newspaper tells Bolie that he should have “stood in bed” and asks why he didn’t use his right hand. If you’re such an expert why don’t you do it Newspaper Man? I also have to ask. Was “stood in bed” a perfectly acceptable way of saying “stayed in bed” at one time or is that a Serling-only phrase? Because it sounds weird and he uses it a couple of other times.
Anyways, Bolie goes into the building and knocks on Frances’ door. Frances looks kind of sad when she sees how beat up Bolie looks. Have I mentioned how pretty this woman is? Because if you didn’t notice from the pictures above, she is. Very.
Frances tells Bolie that Henry is in bed but Bolie asks to see him anyways. She tells him that Henry’s probably waiting for him. On his way to Henry’s room Frances tells Bolie she’s sorry he lost.
Bolie tells Henry that he threw a punch before he should have and hit a wall. He went into the ring with half of his artillery gone. Henry tells Bolie that he still looked like a tiger and that he’s still really proud of him. Bolie gives Henry a kiss on the head and goes to leave but Henry says his name. Bolie tells him that he’ll take Henry to a hockey game or something tomorrow. Henry says ok but calls Bolie back again.
Henry says he’s not going to make any more wishes. he’s too old for magic, right? Bolie says that’s right. Way to go Bolie. But he does say that maybe there are wishes and magic but that maybe not enough people believe in them. Then he says goodnight and leaves the room.
Mr. Bolie Jackson, 183 pounds. Who left a second chance lying in a heap on a rosin-spattered canvas at St. Nick’s Arena. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who shares the most common ailment of all men the strange and perverse disinclination to believe in a miracle. The kind of miracle to come from the mind of a little boy. Perhaps only to be found in the Twilight Zone.
This is the first of a few boxing episodes on the Twilight Zone. Perhaps he drew on his own knowledge of how the sport worked and the people were. To me it’s a bit schmaltzy but not too bad.
Join us again next week for a great episode: A Nice Place to Visit