HEART PUNCH BLUES,
The piss-thin spray
from the Metro’s locker room shower washes her tang off me too
damn slow. I’m still riding the wave of her in my mind, not spending
one iota on him or our match tonight. How soft, and willing, it
was almost too easy. I lather up and let the suds find their way
into the crevices of my sore flesh from yesterday’s bumps. The
muscle-head jackass nearly broke my neck with a bloody back drop
that even a jobber could get right. I turn and let the weak blast
sting my neck, and it’s cold. All the heat is in the steam.
Coleman Haggerty waddles
into the room. You would never believe it to look at him, but in
his prime, Haggerty could do a cardio killing Broadway with anyone.
Apollo the Great, Kid Mongoose, and even Tokyo Dynamite. Sad thing
was that all that remained of those days was arthritis so savage
he was basically a marionette, a few busted disks, and a nose as
crooked as a politician’s smile. Probably ain’t one in a billion
remember those matches, but I know the slap and thud of his orthotics
shoes like I know the routine I’m planning to dump on Max tonight,
making him a brand name superstar by using my body as a tackle
dummy. That’s me, Keith Winnick. Trampoline for the stars.
“Bullet? Almost game
I give my nostrils a
farmer’s handkerchief and rid them of the guck the steam has loosened,
the little yellow clumps spinning down the drain. “You dirty old
shit,” I said. “Can’t I have some privacy?” I shut off the water
and rinse off with a clean towel I stole from the hotel, since
my last one was too stained with blood to be anything but a souvenir
for the gore hound grannies in the front row. I inhale steam, but
a hint of her stink is still on me. You’d have to be damn close
to catch it. Perfect.
“You’re not my type,
Bullet,” Haggarty says.
“What? Not pretty enough?”
“In your dreams. I only
fuck women who look like Ava Gardner in her prime.”
“Ok, I only fuck whores
that look like Ava Gardner today.”
I snickered. Haggerty
was ok, for a casualty. I toweled up and marched in flip flops
to the change room, Haggerty trailing me. “You feeling ok, Bullet?”
“Never better.” My gym
bag lies untouched. The boys know that if they rib me they’ll get
it back in spades, and if they pull a stink job I’ll break their
jaws. Most of them are pretty body builders who I make look like
Greek gods in the ring. Me? I can shoot, for real, and they fucking
know it. I wouldn’t rate half of them to survive a real tangle
with even the worst of the shooters I trained with.
As I get in my trunks,
Haggerty tries not to look at my cock like the ass bandit we all
know he is and just do what a booker does best and give us the
game plan for tonight, not that I need it. He stands outside striking
distance. “You know you’re jobbing for Max tonight?”
Good ol’ Haggerty. He’s
not stupid. I nod, lacing up my boots. “Right. Boss told me last
week. Big push coming for the Nightmare Express. Sorry, one half
of the Nightmare Express. The fucking caboose.”
“Well, things have changed
Hope rose and I bit
her down. Yeah, I hated that Max Carnage was getting the big push.
Guy was pumping the gas like he was a fucking jumbo jet, forcing
real talent like Creeper Sanchez into squash matches to make him
look great. But no one looks when Creeper walks by, neck inflamed
from a botched suplex. A fucking suplex. A shaved gorilla could
go out and do a better suplex than Max.
But the boy had heat
and women liked that farm boy face and bad boy posture and fuck
if he wasn’t good on the mic. I could barely spit out what lines
I could remember, and my face was acne scabs and a head made of
scar tissue from all the blading I’d done as a stone cold moron
back up North, fighting for scraps in Calgary with beer gutted
old timers who didn’t mind drilling you when you weren’t paying
Spaghetti laces sat
on my boots.
I grunt. Whoever did
this was getting a swirly. I exhaled. “What happened, Hag? He break
a nail? Hair dresser on strike? Whatever it is, I won’t do a squash
match for him. Hell, his slams are as fluid as steak shits.”
“No,” Haggerty said,
rolled up papers in his fist. “Nothing like that. Boss said tonight,
he’s jobbing for you.” He tried to smile. It failed.
I laughed, then started
untangling the laces. “Ha fucking ha. You know better than to give
me that kind of shit, Hag. Especially when some dead jobber has
done this to my laces.”
He scratched his neck
with the rolled up paper. “No shit, Winnick. Tonight the Bullet
I leaped out of my boots,
and rammed him against the wall, elbow at his throat. “Do not rib
about this. I will take your faggot head off.”
Haggerty shook, face
going from red to plum.
“You send me out there
thinking he’s jobbing—”
“And I end up in the
worst match of my life.”
“Not,” squawked Hag. “Boss
wants you to be the big babyface.”
I eased some. Tonight,
I was to turn on him, a big ass heel, maybe even blade the poodle
faced muscle head. I’d sharpened my thumb nail accordingly and
was looking forward to it. Damn thing cut through a melon rind
from the motel’s continental breakfast. Then I caught wise and
laid on the pressure. “What the fuck is Max’s angle?”
“No angle. Bad heart,
Winnick. Max has…a bad heart.” I eased off again but kept the elbow
below his jowls, resting on his weak chest. “That’s why he hasn’t
been here. Had chest pain, Doc says he’s got scars on his heart.
Black ones. No way he can do the big come backs.”
There was a grain of
truth in this shit. Poodle haired heels can get by on soft matches.
Toss around their opponent who makes them look like Hercules. But
once you go baby face, you have to carry the show. Take the hard
bumps. Make the heel look like he’s tearing you a new asshole with
every move. Make them look great. That takes skill and cardio,
not a three hundred pound body made of iron.
“Black scars.” I dropped
my elbow. “From the gas.”
Hag wiped the spittle
off his mouth with his forearm. “Never said that.”
I’d heard about this
happening. Gas increases muscle mass throughout the whole body.
Including your heart. Can’t just target your guns or your neck.
Heart starts to grow. Sometimes too big. Starts to burst, scars
form. Black scars.
“Boss needs someone
healthy to make a good run,” Hag said.
“You mean clean.”
“Never said that.”
I stepped back from
Hag. Max Carnage, also known as Mike Sidowski, had just given me
the biggest break of my life.
And I’d spent all night
fucking his wife bareback.
Freddie Shift ran in,
hair slicked back. “Bullet, you’re on in ten. Haggerty, Dr. Boss
wants to see you.”
Haggerty rubbed his
neck as Freddie slinked off. “It’s your night, Max. He’s going
to squash you for the first ten, then your comeback is going to
be epic.” Haggerty kept talking, hashing out my match as I tried
to lace my boots. I couldn’t take another shower. “Then,” he said, “right
when he thinks he has you, give him the Bullet punch. He’ll drop
like a sack of potatoes and people will love you for being a giant
Ah, the heart punch.
Thank you, Ox Baker. The heart punch was the dumbest move ever.
But since Ox got heat for having it tied to two deaths, the fans
have eaten it like sugar sprinkled shit. I hated it. There was
no action in it. No fancy set up. No counter move into a dramatic
reversal. Nothing. But when the boss knew I had some amateur boxing
creds and saw me on the speed bag, I was saddled with it instead
of my standard high cross body block. Called it the Bullet Punch
just so I wasn’t associated with Ox and the other grandpas who
used it. Thing was, it looked awful if you didn’t use enough force…
“Shouldn’t I try something
else,” I said. “Maybe a reverse sunset flip, get an upset out of
Haggerty shook his giblets,
face almost returning to normal. “People won’t talk about that.
They’ll talk about the Bullet shooting down a giant with one well
placed shot out of nowhere. Now get laced.” He rubbed his
fat neck. “And congrats.”
Haggerty left. And despite
sitting in a room full of piss, shit, and vomit, all I could smell
Complete story available in the print
edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010