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 time.”

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 some.”

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 attention.

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 goes over.”

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 killer.”

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 nowhere.”

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 was her.

Complete story available in the print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010




Jason Ridler has published over 30 short stories in venues such as Brain Harvest, Not One of Us, Crossed Genres, Chilling Tales, Tesseracts Thirteen, as well as Big Pulp and many other venues. His non-fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Dark Scribe, and the Internet Review of Science Fiction. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. Visit him at his writing blog, Ridlerville, Facebook, and on Twitter.

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