Friday, December 19, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Midget Wrestling - Part One

First off, thanks guys for indulging me by allowing me to post my rambling works of fiction here.

Secondly, this piece sort of took off on me and, while I'm not much of a short story writer, it has already grown out of the flash fiction genre. So much so that I'm going to post this in two parts. Oh, and any similarities between the characters here and real life are, as they say, purely coincidental. I'd also like to add, that this is pretty rough still.

Stayed tuned. Hope you enjoy it.

Midget Wrestling

When it comes to professional wrestling, for my money it’s midget or nothing. At least that’s what my old man always used to say. Probably one of the only things in life we ever agreed on.

Jade, my “life mate” is home now, working on her art, and not talking. Not that she’s intentionally not talking. For everything that’s not said between us many more things are. But there’s something hanging in the air one can feel. We haven’t been communicating much lately--days now--mostly because I had this premonition that I would be doing something stupid in the near future to trash our relationship. Since then it’s been nothing but pleasantries between us. You know, “What do you want for dinner?” or “Is it okay with you if I play the piano?” That kind of stuff.

Then in the midst of all this silence, right out of the blue, I start thinking about the old man. We haven’t talked for months, since his birthday, when I called, not to wish him well, but because I had just gotten a new job I wanted to tell him about. Of course, when Mom picked up the phone and said they were going to Red Lobster I had to improvise and sing that little song to him—the same one they sing to you in the restaurant when they bring out your dessert.

But today, while Jade is doing some sort of sculpture thingie with globs of glue and acrylics, piling them into mountainous landscapes onto a big piece of plywood, I stop with the bicycle repairs I’m doing and start thinking about January, 1965.

At 12 years-old, I had only a slight growing knowledge of the midget wrestling circuit, mostly acquired from listening to Dad drivel on with his buddies over their weekly card game about how Lord Littlebrook was a far superior wrestler than Pee Wee James or Frenchie Lamont. I found it hard to believe that anyone other than the old man actually cared as much about the sport as he did, but between the men seated around the lopsided folding card table, all using various sorts of tobacco and drinking the cheapest beer they could lay their hands on, the discussions would get quite heated.

Jade’s taken a break from her art and is talking on the phone now, probably to one of her pals from before we met. For whatever deep seeded reasons, this makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Even though I’ve pretty much assimilated into her group of bohemian artist types and have no worries about her affections going elsewhere, I become painfully aware of how much I have to learn when it comes to relationships. Not being so controlling is probably tops on the list. I try to listen in on the conversation while pretending to be busy with something else. Eavesdropping is rude and not conducive to the picture I hold onto as being the perfect boyfriend. Still, I can’t help but let it bother me when I see her laughing that happy laugh, the one that makes her so beautiful, the one I try to pull out of her but never seem to be able to.

Christmas is right around the corner. I have decided this year to give nothing but crappy gifts, sort of as a joke, but more like a protest against the big retail chains, who try to convince everyone that in order to be a good person you should buy the most expensive items in their store to prove to the people you love how much you care about them.

By the time Christmas rolled around in 1964, my knowledge of midget wrestling had grown to the point where I could use it as a tool to get the old man to agree to letting me do stuff he normally wouldn’t. Not like he was so easily fooled. About a week before the big day, I was angling for the ultimate present--a new 10-speed, milking what I’d picked up about the sport for all it was worth. I decided to start up with him about his favorite wrestler, telling him how much I’d like to see a match in person and all that crap and how Lord Littlebrook deserved the title because Beau Brummell obviously violated the rules when he introduced a foreign object, namely thumbtacks, into the match.

“Why you always have to use such big words, you little smartass,” was the old man’s reply.

I didn’t get the bike. What I did get was, in the old man’s eyes, much better.

“You want to see a live match?”

Here it comes, I thought.

“How about three?”

Most people have no understanding of the sport. There is, in fact, a world of difference between the midget circuit and that nonsense they show on cable TV featuring the behemoths with their silly made-up back stories all pumped up full of hormones and steroids. The only way to get a feel for the subtleties of the little guys other than following the circuit in person, as my dad and I did in January of 1965, is to mail order some DVDs and spend an afternoon or several absorbing them.

Jade and I were getting high one evening, flipping through the channels, when she stopped on one of those scripted WWE shows, because she thought Chris Jericho was “all right looking.” She then sat, mesmerized by the campiness, while I broke up another bud and stuffed it into the bowl of the bong, trying to ignore my feelings of disgust. An enlightened boyfriend understands the differences between himself and his woman and learns to accept them. I mean, it wasn’t like she was asking to go to MacDonald’s for dinner or anything. I have to add that, to the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t watch any of that crap on a regular basis and probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the history between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, or even that the Hart family spans generations in the industry despite young Owen Hart's tragic demise.

Neither was she all that impressed when I received my DVD from the HPB (Half Pint Brawlers), which featured, among other things, naked midget hitchhiking, midgets in dryers, and staple gun death matches.

In 1965, the circuit was more serious. Lord Littlebrook and Pee Wee James were true artists, masters of their craft, and terrific entertainers. They’d have to be to keep the old man’s interest, as he was as discriminating a fan as ever walked the planet. When we headed off from our home just outside of Lexington and headed to Georgia for a week long adventure, I had no idea what to expect. I have to admit to a fair amount of anticipation at having the opportunity to view in person something I had only experienced vicariously through the eyes of a man I despised along with his loathsome friends. The whole idea of little people fine-tuned and using their bodies in a way most big people can’t even imagine, putting their physical well-being on the line all in the name of entertainment for big folks, for some reason was a concept I couldn’t help but admire. The twist of it all, of course, was that we were the suckers, paying out good money to see something most people wouldn’t admit to caring much about.

Aside from the matches we watched, January 6th in Columbus, January 8th in Atlanta, and January 9th in Marietta, there are three instances on that trip that I will never forget: my first beer, my first cigarette, and the first time I ever told my father to fuck off to his face.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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