For several weeks, during a long-ago summer, the teenaged Sly and his friend Gutman had talked of trying out two pairs of boxing gloves that had found their way into Gutman's possession. On this day, they slipped into the thickly padded mitts and stepped down from Gutman's flagstone patio onto a grassy back lawn that sloped gently to a river below.
There, in nervous anticipation, they stretched, flexed, and threw practice punches before they turned and moved toward each other. Raising their hands, they took up fighting stances. Then, in the instant before they let the punches go, they glanced into one another's eyes. When they did, a strange thing happened. They laughed.
Not a snickering what-the-hell sort of laugh, followed by roundhouse punches, but rather a more convulsive outburst that prompted them to drop their clenched hands and disengage, and left them pacing about, trying to figure what to do about this notion of punching each other. At that moment of eye contact the idea dematerialized. But they eventually tried again. Moving to close quarters, they began to bounce soft punches off each other's arms and shoulders, steadily increas-