Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pitkoski v Hook

Spider Pitkoski. If a bottom-rung jobber like me can have a nemesis, it is Spider Pitkoski, elder son of Mike Pitkoski, founder and CEO of Florida All-Star Wrestling.

Spider’s an inch taller and five years younger than me. Not a terrific looking face, but a natural burly body built up on Mom’s roast beef and pierogi, high-school football, summers working construction, and now, nine years after turning pro at age nineteen, a ring-savvy knack for turning up the steam and sweat in the final stretch of a match.

Nine years into the biz, he’s starting to look a little out of shape, though, but who am I to judge?

Unlike me, Spider never fights outside the state, stays close to Daddy’s money, Daddy’s small chain of gyms, and Daddy’s bookings, which always pit the boy against butch though unprepossessing heels like me, in fact, mostly me, in one out of every 13 of Spider’s matches, me.

What can I say? I drop a good match, and I make the boss’s son look good. Spidey’s been good business for me. Our mat chemistry is good, almost perfect.

Although he’s not a huge draw for the fans, he gets some pop off the family name and connections. He’s tag-teamed a dozen times with the state heavyweight champ. His cousins, Punk’n’Patch, are huge hits around these parts, and brother Jojo is a handsome, up-and-coming rookie. Spider benefits by association with the three of them—getting fan mail from lonely girls and boys who could never hope to catch the eyes of Jojo, Punk, or Patch.

Jojo is at ringside tonight, in skintight black Aussiebums. He’s slim, young (just 22), a little wild in the eyes, more gymnastic and gym-toned than his big brother. Nicely shaped pecs, and one terrific heart-shaped ass that gets a lot of play when he fights on TV. Jojo circles the ring shouting out encouragement to his brother, pumping up the crowd.

My manager, Lord Travladore, has been officially banned from tonight’s event. He’s reportedly under lock and key in his dressing room. But I happen to know he’s visiting his sister Eleanor in Daytona Beach.

The ring announcer announces the two of us, the evening’s opening event. We’re set to wrassle for seven minutes, while the fans buy hot dogs and sodas and look for their seats. The hardcore faithful, though, have already filled the front two rows.

Neither of us makes a big show of it as our names and weights are called out. We raise our hands to the crowd, no expression on our faces, steadying our eyes at each other across the ring.

I’m a big guy with a gut. No gimmicks. I like to dish out pain, and can sell it good when it’s time for me to pay the piper. My reputation, such as it is, is for being authentic and mean—not outrageous mean like some frigging zombie character or Ayrab cannibal, but run-of-the-mill mean like your asshole brother-in-law, whom I probably resemble.

The bell rings, and Spider and I circle each other, crouching, ready to dive for a leg or lock arms in the center of the ring.

He slides in to me, catches me on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, takes eight steps in a circle, a clear show of strength, and slams me on my back on the mat. I grimace but spring back up to my feet, rubbing my lower back, my belly already starting to push down my tights a little.

I motion to the ref that Spider pulled my hair—unlikely given my buzz cut.

We circle each other, unblinking eyes sinking deep into the other’s.

We lock up. The usual close clinch where we show off our well-rehearsed muscles to the crowd.

Spider pushes me back into the turnbuckle, shoving my shoulders back to the corner post, belly to belly, slapping.

Ref calls for the break.

Spider shoves off me, but comes right back with a right fist to my gut. Loud satisfying smack of knuckles against flesh. Ref pushes him back, but he bounces back into me, one, two, three hard ones to the solar plexus.

I’m holding on to the ropes.

Spider backs off, glaring, all business. He wants me. Bad.

His little brother skips around the outskirts of the ring, urging the paying customers to cheer for Spider and point their thumbs down at me. Some old lady with silver and yellow teeth yells in the front row, “Kill him, Spider, kill him!” Her neck and underarm wattles quiver as she does a little war dance. Jojo picks up the heat and eggs the small but game crowd on to “kill him spi-der kill him … kill him spi-der kill him ….”

I pull myself up on the top rope and lean over, intentionally letting the rope knead my belly unattractively. I shout at the crowd, “Shut up, losers.” Spitting the words. They laugh and cheerily call for my demise more loudly.

The kid, Jojo, positions himself right in front of me, jabs his bony finger into the air at me like a Pentecostal preacher on fire with the Holy Ghost and hoarsely leads the chant.

As soon as I turn back into the ring, Spider charges me, clotheslines me, and I drop on my butt with a dramatic—almost operatic—OWwww. This takes a second.

The crowd cheers. The nice thing about longstanding rivalries is that the cues are easy, and it doesn’t take a lot to get the story across to the fans.

Everybody knows that, when the babyface starts off strong against the older, more experienced heel, a third of the way through, the bad guy’s going to turn the tide, dominate the match until the face is reduced to raw meat, barely breathing, and then, and then, in the final minute, the heel will make a mistake, take a badly planned dive off the turnbuckle, for instance, which the hero will elude and, in a triumph of good over evil, roll up the heel, pinning him, the face’s ass on or just above the loser’s humiliated head.

Believe me, it’s an angle that never fails to satisfy.

Following up on the clothesline, Spider grabs me by the ear and pulls me to my feet. The ref shouts some terse warnings, but Spidey is lost in his thoughts. He Irish whips me into the ropes and then crashes his elbow across by throat on the rebound. I drop to the mat, bouncing twice.

In a flash Spider hauls up my left leg and twists my ankle while he anchors my right leg to the mat with his left foot on my knee. He spreads his legs wide and leans into my upraised left leg, adding weight to my pinned knee and pressure to my stretched hamstrings.

I pound on the mat with clenched fists, yowling in agony. The ref pantomimes asking me if I want to give up. I shake my head no. My whole torso is twisted, my back painfully arched.

Desperately I reach out and grab a ring rope. The ref makes Spider break the hold.

I pull myself up on the ropes. Gingerly. Spider springs back to action and tackles me, and we both fly through the ropes and land on the concrete floor below.

This hurts.

We lie there side by side, shaking our heads trying to shake out the cobwebs. Sweat drips off our bodies and gathers into reflecting pools under us.

Groggily, I try for a cover on the half-conscious Spider, grabbing his leg and thrusting my chest and stomach over his face, but Jojo rushes over and pulls me off, delivering an indignant slap to my face. Fists at his chest in a boxer’s stance, Jojo stands guard over his fallen brother.

I get up on wobbly feet and roll back into the ring. The ref starts the count of ten, but Jojo lifts Spider up and hoists him back onto the mat. I lunge and kick Jojo in the face, separating the brothers, and the handsome kid falls flat on his back.

Being bad has taught me a thing or two about taking an unfair advantage. I drag my opponent to the center of the ring, away from the ropes. I pound his face once with the sole of my boot, then grind it into the bridge of his nose, while he furiously, helplessly kicks and stomps. I grab his feet and stretch his legs wide and, in true payback-is-a-bitch mode, drive my boot into his balls.

Boos and hisses from the crowd. Jojo is back on his feet now, screaming foul at the ref, who, distracted, doesn’t see me drive my knee into Spider’s jaw. Spider and I have done this routine a dozen times, and the fans lap it up every time.

He groans and cups his hands over his crotch.

On cue, I climb up onto the top ring rope at the turnbuckle. Jojo’s at my back, slapping at the heels of my boots and hurling insults. He grabs the seat of my tights. My balance is not good up here, and Jojo distracts me as his brother slowly and heroically rises to his feet. The crowd is screaming its head off.

Spider charges the turnbuckle and climbs up to face me, for several seconds we stand there, precariously, eyeball to eyeball, our chests heaving with exhaustion and lust for dishing out pain.

He hooks my head in his armpit, and I hear his heart tom-tom into the side of my face. My hands flail, trying for a hold or a defense, but they slip off Spider’s slick body. He flips backward, tossing me clear across the ring.

He’s up on his feet, bouncing, in less than a second. I spring to my knees, arms outstretched, in classic begging-for-mercy pantomime. Spider crooks his arms into the fighter’s stance and looks around at the crowd.

The crowd is with us now. The seats that were empty have filled up. Everybody’s heaving, shouting, chanting “kill him,” Jojo is pounding the palms of his hands on the mat, syncopated to the fans’ incantation.

Spider pulls in closer. I take advantage and slug him in the gut. He crashes into me, fists flying. I do my wobbly lump bit as the punches keep coming like lightning strikes. His body is shining and poised. Each blow rocks mine. My round belly—a point of erotic pride for me—quakes to every jab.

Again he armlocks my head and spins me around, walloping my face with his free fist six or seven or eight times.

The audience’s newfound roar fills the auditorium.

He releases me and I collapse on my back with a resonant thud, my quivering gut a hill he’s about to charge and take. He stomps his boot to the space beneath my navel. Twelve times and then I stop counting. He climaxes with a double stomp to the chest.

The ref tries to tear him away, but the young stud will not be pacified.

He kneels next to my head, grabs me up by the ear, and punches me in the face. One, two, three times.

Then he pulls me to my knees, locks his arms around my waist, his chest against my back, hauls me upside down, holds me aloft for a good 20 seconds, then delivers a piledriver. My body crashing down like a demolitioned hotel in Vegas.

Lights out. Kaput.

My ears ringing with the screams of the fans, hailing the young hero, firstborn of the FASW empire, triumphing for the 100th time, perhaps, over his longtime foe. In a cocky kid-brother gesture, Jojo clambers into the ring and poses with his boot on my chest, grinning broadly, beaming with family pride, flexing his tight biceps to the adoring lights and flashing bulbs surrounding us.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Christian Fight

In the eight years I knew him, at church and later at the Christian college we attended together, I saw him really, out-of-control mad only once.

A guy named Christian in our dorm—blond, tan, muscular, and smooth, a cherry birthmark on the snow-white right buttock we could see in the showers, but positioned just so that Christian may never have known it was there—for some reason, Len took an instant dislike to him.

The guy looked like he was from Sweden or somewhere, but his name was English, Christian Lee Morrison, according to the college annual: about as Anglo-Saxon as can be. From Richmond.

What about him riled Len up I’ll never know. Even early in the fall semester, when the guys on our floor lined up against the hallway walls for evening prayer meeting, before lights-out, I would sometimes catch Len shooting the guy fleeting, askance, yet fierce scowls. On other occasions, even when the banter was friendly, I could sense Len bristle every time Christian spoke.

Maybe it was that he called himself “Christian,” and not something chummier like “Chris” or “Lee.” Just that? Maybe. Len was the sort to keep his reasons simple, bare-boned, hardly reasons at all, more like animal reflexes.

It occurred to me, too, that Len might be jealous.

But why? Nobody was more popular than Len, son of a well-known (in our circles) pastor of a Florida church with one of the ten largest Sunday schools in America.

Len, who made the girls sigh and the boys laugh, could have nothing to fear from Christian, who kept to himself, took his future goals and athletics serious, passed every course he took with a B, never sought the spotlight, and rarely took it.

Christian was handsome—beautiful even—his clear skin looked like you could see down into it, like a gemstone—but his unassuming nature tended to diminish the impact of his beauty, almost by intention.

He wore black Bakelite glasses even on the soccer field—some of the girls called him “Clark Kent,” in spite of his radiant white-blond hair and honey tan, mostly because the black intramural uniform nicely showed off his biceps, forearms, and thighs. Only in the showers did the glasses come off.

I had ample opportunity to observe him. We took almost all the same classes together our freshmen year. He tended to sit towards the back of the class, near the door, never speaking up or showing off, and vanishing almost as soon as the lecture ended.

I knew that Len bore Christian a grudging respect on top of his irrational hostility, because once one of the fellows in our bible study group called Morrison a fairy, and Len shot the guy a stern look and said matter-of-factly, “I wouldn’t want to have to fight him.”

But there was a fight, and it happened about two weeks after Christmas break.

Ten or twelve of us were in the locker room following P.E. Len was snapping his towel at the combination locks, making a racket—bragging about the accuracy of his aim. Christian, two other guys, and I were in the shower.

Len, still dripping from having just showered, with just a thin towel wrapped around his waist, shouted out to us: “Hey, girls, lookee this.” He tossed a bar of soap in the air and snapped it with his towel, and it propelled into the showers, landing against my heel.

“Hey, watch it,” I said. I was laughing when I said it.

Len wound the towel up tight and thwacked it against my lower back. The sound echoed. I jumped and bumped against Christian.

Christian looked up at Len and said, “Leave him alone.”

Len looked like he had been slapped.

“What?”

“Leave him alone. You could hurt him.”

I started to say something then, to explain that this was just the kind of buddies Len and I were, horse-playing, all in fun, when suddenly Len whipped the towel against my ear. It stung like hell.

Before I could even feel the pain, though, Christian charged into Len, knocking him on his ass and sliding him across the tiles. The back of Len’s head thudded against the wall. The two other guys jumped out of the shower area, but everybody congregated at the doorway to watch.

I didn’t move. Christian stood, in a shoulder-wide stance, dead center, over the drain. For lack of a better word, he looked magnificent.

Len pulled himself up. The towel around his waist was soaked, but secure. Water drops navigated the hair on his chest and stomach, like marbles in a pinball. His eyes shot lightning bolts, the scar across his nose flushed, but a smirk played over his lips.

He put up his fists, and Christian put up his.

At first they just circled each other, their jabs connecting midway between their bodies, knuckle to knuckle. But then Christian caught Len in a headlock and began to spin him in circles.

His feet hydroplaning on the slick floor, Len landed five or six roundhouse punches to Christian’s back and chest.

Len pulled loose, but no sooner than he did, Christian caught him in an arm-twist. Len howled.

Christian kept his balance, feet apart, his cock and balls wobbling minimally, with a sort of Olympian decorum, even. Then he wrapped his right leg around Len’s left leg and brought them both down with a thud, a splash, and the squish of skin on skin.

They slid a couple of feet, fists and heels flailing.

The guys in the locker room were cheering Len on. “Kill him,” they shouted.

I crouched in the corner, to stay out of the way, and to hide my semi-hard-on.

Len drove his fist into Christian’s nose, and blood spurted out. It swirled in the water and vanished into the drain, like Psycho.

Christian grabbed Len by the neck and flipped him over on his back. Brought his flexed calves across his face, then planted the soles of his feet on Len’s forehead and jaw, yanked his arm up between his glistening thighs, gripping Len’s twisted wrist, again, right above his cock.

Len’s legs struggled for traction on the wet floor. The spray of one shower nozzle hitting him square in the face. He gasped and spat. Christian sat with his back straight, biceps flexed, arms bent like a statue of Anubis, blood darkening his upper lip.

The guys outside were screaming instructions to Len, all of them infeasible under the circumstances.

Christian let go and pushed himself away from Len. Wiped the blood off his nose. Thought the technical pin had put an end to the fight.

Another guy might have faced that he had been outfought, not Len. He sprang to his feet, unsteadily on the tile, and crouched like a wrestler.

His and Christian’s bodies collided and collapsed. It was like a clap of thunder. Len’s towel shook loose and fell to the floor. They grappled belly to belly and chest to chest. Len’s face rigid in a vicious, leering mask. Christian’s face oddly docile—through the whole fight he looked like he was solving difficult math problems in his head. Their bodies rolled under the steady downpour of the showers. Their slippery skin reflecting the overhead lights in flashes.

Len straddled Christian’s waist and drove wild punches into his face and shoulders. His only attack plan seemed to be to make Christian bleed more. Christian bucked and managed to catch Len in another headlock. Len planted the palm of his right hand against Christian’s face and pushed, one leg wrapped around Christian’s waist, his heel resting right under his opponent’s navel. I could see Len’s face turning bright red.

The two were wound tight into each other. The water cooled, and both men’s nipples turned small and hard. They breathed through the diaphragm; their bellies’ rhythmic heaving was the only movement for maybe forty seconds.

I inched my way to the doorway, close to the cheering guys, who ignored me.

For a couple of minutes, Len and Christian shuddered against each other like a couple of dogs that have caught each other by the throat. Banging their bones against each other and the hard tile had worn them out. Pink slap marks began to surface on their taut skin, as well as a round purple bruise on Len’s upper thigh.

Christian stopped the fight. Once again shoving Len’s body away from him with his powerful legs. He rose to his feet and pushed his way through the line of guys, none of whom had rooted for him. Still his back was straight, his face serious, his tan body nobly naked. He cleaned his nose with a cotton handkerchief out of his locker.

Not wanting to embarrass Len by staring—or daring to offer words of comfort, everybody turned away and resumed getting dressed alongside Christian. Nobody said anything.

Breathing heavily through his nose, Len got up on his feet. He walked past me without even looking at me—but I could feel the rage. It hit me like an icy wave. He grabbed his street clothes and found a corner bench where he could dress alone, his back to the rest of us.

Christian left first. Then gradually everybody else left, except for Len and me.

A long, awkward silence.

Even after I was fully dressed, I lagged behind, sat on a bench, staring down at the floor between my shoes. I could detect Len’s movements out of the corner of my eye. Eventually, he moved towards me, stood in front of me, glaring down at me.

“Look at me,” he said.

“Why.”

“I said Look at me.”

I turned my eyes up to his.

His steady gaze pinned me there where I sat.

“Stay away from me for a while,” he said.

“Why.” I could hear the whine in my voice.

“I don’t want to see you, so stay away.”

He left me alone in the locker room.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Prayer Partner, Len (for Dave and Bobby)

On the back of Len’s Honda, my crotch tucked against the butt of his corduroys, self-conscious I grip the passenger backrest behind me.

We are skipping Sunday morning service at the college, breaking one of the school’s holiest commandments—we could get suspended for this. Not to mention what the 12-pack of Buds Len steadies between his thighs might cost our eternal souls.

Cool, dry October air—the small Christian college town in the foothills.

Len has the keys to a vacant apartment. While Dr Jim delivers hellfire and damnation back in the campus chapel-torium, Len and I are fixing to cook up our own.

Len is a preacher’s son, proverbial trouble. Lost his cherry at fourteen to the good-looking daughter of a family of gospel singers back at his daddy’s church in Tampa. Six-foot-three, curly dirty-blond hair, a dashing scar over his northern Italian nose.

Haughty, superficial, hypocritical—he manages to carry his worldly bad-boy image in the same pocket as his Republican rectitude. I despise him, sort of, in a friendly way—but in my prayers I have promised God to love him as a brother.

Autumnal leaves part as he pulls into the drive. Next to the bike key, the shiny new key to the apartment. Belongs to some rich lady, friend of his father’s. We walk in, enjoy the hollow echoes of the empty rooms, smell of new paint and crisp virgin carpeting.

Len drops the beers on the breakfast nook, liberates two, and tosses one of them to me: “Drink fast. No electricity for the fridge.”

We pull the tear-shaped tabs and shuck them against the wall. Len opens the sliding glass door to the deck to let the brisk air in. The smoke of faraway burning leaves. He slides the door back to a crack.

He drains the can of beer and crumples the empty with one hand. Pressed to keep up, I gulp mine down, all but what I dribble from the corner of my mouth.

Len falls to the floor and does a dozen push-ups, then a dozen more with one hand. I can’t do that. I grab four more Buds, instead. We down the second two as quickly as the first two, facing each other, cross-legged on the floor.

We pop open the next ones, meditatively.

The beer goes down easy on my empty stomach, nourished with only a cup of lukewarm Tang for breakfast, homemade in the dorm room.

Len tugs his orange Izod off over his head and shoulders. He has an all-purpose athletic body that has yet to prove gifted in any one sport. Spade-shaped hairline on his chest broadens fern-like over his stomach, surrounding his crescent belly button.

Mainly I’m impressed by his sinewy forearms bristling with enthusiastic, gold-flecked hairs. He grins, mouth ajar, lips glistening with beer. Direct intense eye contact. The message: You now.

I unbutton my plaid shirt and toss it aside.

“You ready?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

“You promised. I dared you, and you swore it. Before God.”

“OK, then.”

We unlace our shoes and unbuckle our belts, sway as we maneuver to tug off our socks and slacks without standing up. They all fall in a common clump against the wall.

I’m wearing regular BVDs from Sears. He has on a tie-dyed cotton bikini brief, with no fly, precisely outlining his trinitarian bulge. He smirks and explains that it’s a gift from an old girlfriend from high school—the brief, that is, not the bulge.

He slaps his stomach and then flexes his biceps on either side of his head—big pearly smile, long-lashed eyes crinkling at the corners.

I strike a pose too, more earnest, eyebrows bunching up with concentration.

“What next?”

“Indian leg wrestle, first. To loosen up.”

We lie beside each other, head to foot, foot to head, raise our right legs at a 45-degree angle. One two three. We lock up, struggle.

I have had unusually large calves and muscular thighs since age eleven, so I have Len’s feet over his head in less than 30 seconds. He chuckles appreciatively, admiringly.

We both roll over onto our hands and knees, circle each other on all fours, rise up, bandy our arms offensively, defensively, for maybe a minute, Len delivering some quick painless but insulting slaps to my cheeks.

Then we lock up. Our bodies are different. Mine is smooth, baby smooth almost, stocky, thick-boned, of medium height. Len has the musculature of a leopard.

Our knees together, arms strained evenly, muscle to muscle, at an impasse, something agitates Len’s physique even now—even motionless, his body seems animated in its contours, an irrepressible liveliness.

Suddenly he slides into me, wrapping his limbs around my neck and waist, all in one smooth movement—I feel locked into him.

I tap his forearm and he immediately releases. He is no longer grinning, but a fierce light glows in his eyes, joyous and intense.

We chat a little about what we learned in judo class—how tough, though short and slim, the sensei is. Then he pounces on me, but I roll him over on his back, after quite a strenuous struggle, press his shoulders down, and straddle his chest with my legs.

He reaches up and pinches a stray carpet thread off my chest. We remain there breathing together, looking into each other’s faces, warily.

Then he heaves loose, with a surprising ferocity, thrusts his forearm against my mouth. I taste blood, but just the smallest speck.

We wrestle, grinding our bodies closer and tighter together. Len’s face blushes brightly, except for the scar, which seems to blanch, the veins in his neck pop out, his skin glows with the first lacquer of perspiration.

His limbs hone in on the gaps in my stance, he winds around me, seeking a place to anchor his flesh in mine. I am slower, more deliberate in my movements.

He favors holds that paralyze and stretch. The contact is more bumpy and bruising than I had imagined.

Neither one of us loses his temper—but Len clearly wants to dominate me. He wants to make manacles and chains of his muscles and bind me with them.

We grapple at lightning speed. Me, methodically, move by textbook move, him, in explosions of controlled frenzy, like a spider wrapping up a fly in fast motion.

The fight locks us in tight together. What onlooker could then parse the writhing, crushing knot of us two, to label that elbow mine or that foot his? We grunt and groan, lapse into long rhythmic stretches of gasping for air. Our backs shiny with sweat.

The carpet and our sandpapery jaw lines chafe our skin. We are both solid and slippery quick. Now when we glimpse each other’s face, it appears to be in a state of shock, eyes dazed, or dazzled, cheekbones raw and severe.

Len breaks and falls back on his back. His glistening hairy stomach heaves up and down.

I am numb—my head empty for once—where thoughts and memories used to be, now only a low hum. I breathe in terse asthmatic gasps.

I rest my left forearm against Len’s chest, as if to steady myself. The apartment seems to be moving, then it seems that I am the one that’s moving, then next the skyline outside the window seems to be tipping backwards.

I lay my chest and stomach across Len’s. My right hand, absent-mindedly, fondles his left ear. His hand touches the small of my back, massaging, then patting. It’s not quite noon, yet it seems like dusk outside.

Then a wave of aliveness washes over me. My senses, more acute than ever, take in the room’s silence, the slick warmth of Len’s body under mine, the mineral taste of blood on the tongue, the faint smell of Len’s Aramis, the outline of his face looking blankly up at the ceiling.

Suddenly self-conscious again, I lift myself up on one arm and roll away from Len. I remember that this is my hometown preacher’s son. His eyes are closed, but he clasps his hands behind his head and grins.

“Did I hurt you?”

“No. You OK?”

“Yeah.”

He rolls to his side, props himself up by the elbow.

“You got a boner, brother,” he says, blankly and unalarmed. “I felt it there several times, against me. Guess that happens sometimes.”

“Yeah,” I say with equal lack of emphasis. “I think I read that someplace once.”

“I could have pinned you three or four times there. Easily. Thought it’d be more fun to keep the tussle going.”

I look at him. He looks at me. Slight hint of bullying bravado.

“I think we’ll call this one a draw. But I better not hear you telling anyone you beat me.”

I chuckle. It seems like a chuckle is called for now.

“We got to get back to campus before church lets out. Somebody will notice if we’re not at dinner.”

“I guess so.”

“Look, tiger. We’re doing this again. Soon. But I don’t want you going all queer on me, OK? If it happens, I’ll get rough on you next time.”

I feel my penis adjust itself in the crotch of my briefs, as if angling for a better view. I pull my knees to my chest.

“Sure. It was nothing. You should know.”

“I’m just making an observation. And no brag, just fact, if it comes down to it, I can take you. You know that. I can be the boss of you, if I have to be, brother. And I don’t want to hurt you, truly I don’t. But if you ever push like that into me again, I will have a bone to pick with you. I will kick your butt.”

“OK.”

“OK, then. Toss me one more beer.”

We walk back out into the cool sunlight. The sweat having dried to a fine scented powder on our skin. Len saves his shirt for last, letting the brisk hard breeze hit him and clench up his nipples, before slipping the shirt back over his head.

I settle in behind him on the bike. While buckling his helmet, he turns his head to me and tells me I’d better hold on to him on the way back. Safer that way. I reach around his waist with both arms, clasping my fingers over his belly. I feel its warmth, its soft heaving motion with each breath, the fine threads of his shirt. I slip up close behind him, leaning into his muscular back, feel the tension in his shoulders, remember that, minutes ago, that strength and energy were directed at me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stretch (for Josh, an excerpt from our wrestling story)

Maestro of pain, I play his ribs like a piano. Knuckle each rib individually, beginning at the base, above his stomach. The hurt sharpens the higher I go, up to midrange, then gradually the pain tapers up close to the collarbone. The ribcage is an instrument few can play—its highest pitch at the middle, between nipple and elbow, though timbre varies from body to body.

I get the most exquisite response from the fourth or fifth bone up.

His legs continue to thrash. Backward crawl-like kicks, though powerless to budge himself or me. His arms pinned, one behind his back, the other under my butt, he can’t position for escape or defense.

Best of all, his body is still strong, alert. This sonata wouldn’t be half as lovely if he were fatigued or knocked out. Total domination of a still powerful being is best. A weak, stupid, or despairing victim has no energy, so his pain has no tone. But to trap and hold the young, robust, and keen is heaven.

I knew he would be perfect for this.

Next, a good Beethoven pounding. I slam my fist into his side—a healthy drum-thump and he screams in anguish. I pound southwest of his right nippeloon, bang-bang bang-bang, allegro.

His heels dig into the carpet. Toes clutched down. Tries to arch his back, but a quick right knee jab between his navel and crotch flattens him back. Wet, satisfying smack. His exposed belly heaves. He gasps for air.

Experimentally, I bend my head down to the pink slap-marks on his chest. Try to work out a single rib-bone between my teeth. Harder than you’d think. The tip of my tongue probes the pulsing grooves between the bones—I wonder what special salty taste belongs to his particular agony.

He makes a deep, moaning sound.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shingeru (for Carl)

I lived in Japan when I was a kid. My dad was in the Air Force, and so my parents lived near Yokota AFB for three years.

My Japanese friend Shingeru taught me a trick or two. Shingeru, a couple of years older than me, wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.

His father worked for Japan Air Lines and his mother worked part-time as a housekeeper for our family, which is how I met him.

Anyway, he taught me a wrestling submission hold. It plays like this:

Two opponents tussle till one (let’s say ‘S’) manages to position himself in back of the other (let’s say ‘J’), S kneeling, knees brushing against the shoulders of J, who is flat on his back.

S plants his fingers, clawlike, into the fleshy part of the shoulders at the base of J’s neck. The grip, sudden and unprepared for, seizes J’s entire nervous system, it seems—the whole body tightens.

S’s fingers dig into the weak shoulder flesh. J feels a cold agony, felt along the scalp and flashing lightning-like to his toes.

Involuntarily, J’s own hands spasm into the shape of claws, almost mimicking S’s hold at the base of his neck. Likewise, his toes curl, painfully cramping his feet.

Then J feels a tingling in his thighs and biceps—like the limbs falling asleep. All this happens quickly, like an electric shock.

S applies the hold deeper and deeper, in a stroking motion, and J feels the sharp pangs like waves under his skin.

S pulls himself up taller to add leverage and pressure to the hold. At this point, after battling for a good 15 minutes, both S and J’s bodies shimmer with sweat.

Both of them breathing heavily, J nearly to hyperventilation. Impatient for a clean victory, S shoves his whole torso forward, his full body weight bearing down on J.

Before J can scream in agony, he blacks out. Or rather suddenly everything flashes white.

Seconds later, he awakes to find S massaging his shoulders in a circular motion, stirring the blood and bringing J gently back to consciousness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hunter v Hook

Handsome Marco Hunter enters the ring. Silver fight shorts highlighting his olive skin, reflecting up on the often-photographed tattoo tracing the bottom contour of his pecs:

“Todos guerra es el engaño.”

He flashes his black armpits to twenty upraised camera phones, held by twenty screaming fat girls.

Covered in baby oil, he looks like he’s already sweated out two rounds, and the match bell hasn’t rung yet. Clearly he’s been working hard to move up to the next weight class, more definition, more bulging roundness in general, but no steroids, according to his press releases, shooting for the kind of mass that can get him a shot at the main event.

He runs both sets of fingers through his curly hair—the styling alone cost what my first match paid me, some twelve years ago. So Handsome Marco, with his glittering grease and bouncing locks, will have to go through me to make it to the main event.

I’m here to ensure that that never happens.

He bounces on the balls of his feet, and the crowd screams louder. He makes crisp, lightning-fast boxing jabs into the gray air under the hot lights. His chest rises and falls with each jump.

Punching himself hard in his compact stomach, his pinpoint navel winking arrogantly, he backs into his corner, and then rests his arms against the top rope, nonchalant. He turns his head and flashes a perfect smile to the fans—his lavender lips framing 20 years of perfect dentistry.

I glance over at Lord Travladore, and he’s frowning, rubbing his pockmarked chin with his stubby fingers.

Travladore has managed me for the last five years. He retires next year. Not too old, but definitely tired of the circus hijinks and frathouse humiliations of the business. A fan grabs the tail of his white tuxedo; he turns and waves his lion-headed cane threateningly at the crowd, roaring in a fake British accent.

I stretch my arms out and loosen them up in a rowing motion, pacing distractedly in a tight circle. Never one of the most glittering of jobbing heels, dumpy, bearlike, crewcut hair, and an easily forgotten moniker (“Brian Hook”)—but I am dependable, professional—able to sell a snarl of contempt or a grimace of pain with the best of them, with a taut white beer belly just begging to be kicked and clawed and punched.

Plus I wear briefs three sizes too small—a kind of subliminal code for impending sexual humiliation.

The ring announcer bellows his intros—in the red corner, from Hollywooood, Califooornia, weighing in at twooo hundred twenty-eeeight pounds, Briiii-an Hoo-oook; and in the bluuue corner, from Cleeearwater, Floridaaa, weighing in at one hundred niiinety-five pounds, Handsome Maaar-co-oooo Huuuuunterrrrr.

The startup bell rings, and Marco and I leap towards each other, locking arms in the center of the ring. This is the customary strenuous clinch, during which the handsome face gets to show off his chiseled delts, traps, and lats to the crowd. Five or six times he spectacularly clenches and unclenches his ass muscles.

The fans shout out encouragement to the young wrestler, while Lord Travladore circles the outside of the ring, motioning them to pipe down.

Young Marco pinches my bicep. We’re breathing into each other’s face in regular staccato huffs. In a flash, he ducks under my armpit and twists my right arm behind me. I grimace. The pain is real, but I play it bigger to the delight of the fans. I hop on one foot in a semicircle, totally controlled by the young stud, who makes a show of tugging the trapped arm upward, intensifying the pressure and the pain. At moments like this my balloon-like white belly is particularly impressive.

Both hands holding my right arm, Hunter spins around under the arm, as if to wrench it from its socket.

I drop to one knee. My free hand upheld in petition for mercy. But then, in a flash, I fall back on my shoulders and drive the heels of my boots into Marco’s chin. He flies backwards against the ring ropes, and grabbing one of them, he lifts himself up to a kneeling position.

I’m still on the mat. Shaking my head after the fall.

Lord Travladore scurries to ringside and clubs Hunter in the head with his silver headed walking stick.

The crowd boos.

Marco spits through the ring ropes and circles in on me. Elbow drop to the left shoulder and then he bounces back up, all in one smooth motion. I yowl in agony. He makes a short circle back and again pounds his elbow into my shoulder. Once, twice more, the same thing. I cradle my aching shoulder with the opposite hand, my face red and contorted with helpless rage.

The handsome boy is good. He parades the inside of the ring with arms outstretched in a Y. The crowd cheers him on.

The slender blond ref motions for him to hold back while I pull myself up to a fighting stance. He charges anyway, clobbering me up beside the head and driving me headfirst into the turnbuckle. Sticks his knee into the small of my back and yanks my arms back.

The crowd throws empty paper cups and wadded-up programs at my agonized face.

My belly wobbles, the picture of vulnerability, as I sink to my knees, Marco’s right knee still planted on my spine. I manage to push my head through the ring ropes, and the ref slaps the boy’s beefy arms and orders him to release me and step away to the other side of the ring.

Instead, Marco hurls himself through the ropes and chases sweaty, clumsy Travladore around the outside of the ring. The folks in the first row grab at the fat man or try to trip him. Marco shoves the fake aristocrat into the outside of the corner post and steals his walking stick. Carries it with him back into the ring and brandishes it in triumph.

I cling to the ring ropes, pull myself up rung by rung, in slow motion.

The ref tries to remove the stick from Marco’s clutch. Marco pantomimes that the stick belongs to him now, further mimes the idea that he has no intention of using it as a foreign object against me.

Half of selling any fight to a large crowd is pretending you’re in a silent movie.

I am standing now, back to the turnbuckle, arms and legs stretched out. Marco’s back is to me, while the ref waves his arms, eventually gaining possession of Travladore’s stick.

Holding the ring ropes, I scrape my feet against the mat, like a bull about to charge. A dozen or so crowd members scream out warnings to Handsome Marco, but he doesn’t seem to hear them.

I charge Marco, aiming low. He turns just before the collision, his face widening with surprise. His lithe body flips weightlessly over my shoulders, and I shove into the skinny blond ref, knocking him through the ropes, onto his back on the concrete floor.

Travladore does a bit of Disney-villain comic relief, waving a lacy white hanky over the ref’s face, in a half-assed attempt to revive him.

I turn on Marco, flat on his back on the canvas. Grab the heels of his boots with both hands, then circle my arms around his lower calves and squat down on his chest, the boots sticking out between my armpits. Marco’s left hand is on the ring ropes, so it’s not a legal pin. But the ref is unconscious, and me, I’m not a very nice guy.

I bury the stud’s face in my hard smooth belly. Forcing the legs further into a hairpin. With his free hand, Marco slams the canvas in protest and pain. Travladore wobbles over to ringside again and pounds the count of three onto the mat. I’m getting an erection, which I try to hide by grinding my butt into Marco’s chest. It certainly can’t be a secret to Marco, not now.

I let go and stand, bending forward, hoping nobody notices the sudden upswing in wood. I pull Marco to the center of the ring by his boots. I can’t resist an elbow drop to the back of Marco’s knee. He writhes in pain. He’s good, this kid. His young muscles even involuntarily quiver. I grab his legs and flip him over to his chest; he pounds the mat like a spoiled brat, but clearly the audience knows that he is in tremendous pain. Confident that my black briefs, however skimpy, won’t betray my semi-hard secret, I apply a Boston crab—his boots again in my armpits, but facing the other way this time—I squat on his back, while he groans, futilely grabs behind him, and pounds his forehead against the mat.

With each groan, I lean a little further back, racking his body with sublime agony. He’s sweating in earnest, now. I glower at the audience, standing in their seats and poking their thumbs downward. Somebody throws a full, unopened can of 7-Up into the ring, missing my head by an inch. I rock back and forth on Beautiful Marco’s back. He mouths his agony to the crowd, strings of saliva linking his lips. His belly lies squashed against the canvas. Just inches from my slowly limbering cock, his ass, beautifully outlined in the silky silver shorts, bunches up into a perfect rock-hard valentine.

The skinny ref hoists himself back up into the ring, grasping the ropes. Lord Travladore, having recovered his lion’s-head cane from the unconscious ref, now holds it like a bat, intimidating an orange-skinned sexagenarian lady in a NASCAR cap. The lady’s companions laugh good-naturedly, but the lady plays the scene to the hilt. Travladore backs away, swinging the cane in the air.

The ref grabs my forearms with his bony fingers, attempting to liberate the beautifully incapacitated stud.

He signals, in broad gestures, that if I don’t comply, he will end the match and award it to Marco. I let go. Grunting and smoothing down the front of my briefs, while madly massaging my firm round gut, I shake my head disapprovingly.

I circle round the ref and pull Marco’s head up by his gleaming black curls, about waist-high, his nose nearly poking the skin of my gut. With a fistful of hair in my left hand, I wallop the rookie’s face with my right forearm.

The ref shoves me away with both hands on my chest. I go right back up to Marco and yank his head back up, this time delivering a knee to his left cheekbone. The crowd roars its disapproval.

Again, the ref intercedes.

Travladore pounds the palms of his hands on the mat. Marco is up on all fours, but shaky. I back against the ring ropes and bounce back to Marco, grapping his curls once again.

This time Marco drives his fist into my belly. The crowd goes crazy.

This is the appointed time.

Marco slams his fist into my belly again. I’m staggered, but still clutch the coal-black hair.

Now Marco uses both fists, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right. I let go of the hair to defend my stomach. Marco’s up on his feet; bent over, he jams his right elbow into my gut. The crowd is hysterical.

Now Marco rises to full height, arching his shoulders back for maximum torso photogenicity.

At this moment he has never been more beautiful and heroic. His thick eyebrows furled in intense concentration. His dark eyes flashing. His nose never more Romanesque, his ears never so petite and graceful. His lips pucker slightly, not for a kiss, but inhaling deeply to fuel a roundhouse slug to the side of my face.

I hear the whoosh of his flexed arm through space.

I stagger and collapse like timber. Almost in slow motion.

Marco stomps the mat with both feet, his fists held tight in front of him.

The ref nervously moves between us. I help myself up with the ring ropes. Marco charges me. His shoulder smacks against my chest, driving me back into the ropes. He Irish-whips me into the opposite ropes, and I bounce back stumbling to the center of the ring, only to meet his club-like forearm across my nose.

I stand there dazed, but still standing. Again, Marco attacks my stomach. He grabs the top of my briefs with his left hand to keep me from stepping back and drives one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten lethal jabs to the midsection.

He then dives into a handstand, locking his legs around my head, his boots crisscrossed behind my head. At this angle, I see Marco too sports a bulge in his shorts. And with that, he pulls me headfirst into the ropes. I’m tangled in the ropes upside down. He slips on something a fan threw into the ring, but recovers to turn the accident into a head butt to my belly. The crowd roars. So he does it again.

He lifts my head up and pulls me off the ropes, locking it between his solid biceps and pecs. I hear his heart pounding in my ear. I rest the palms of my hands on either side of his waist. He grinds my head against the side of his chest. My cheek smacks against the taut curve of his pectoral. His chest feels cool and solid like a rubber innertube too full of air. He works his arm like a wing, pummeling my head on all sides. Vainly I punch at his sides, but nothing connects. I am dizzy in the bright lights, and the room seems to spin.

My head still secure in a headlock, he bounces the both of us off the ring ropes and drives my face into the canvas.

I collapse on my back, and he covers my face with his chest and belly, while grabbing my thigh to hoist my leg. He pinches my black briefs by the butt and pulls me up, a fair and square pin. One of my arms flails between his legs, clutching his silver shorts at the ass. His sweaty stomach, still smelling sweet of baby oil, rises and falls on my mouth.

Camera phones flash all around us.

I buck like a fish just dropped on the pier, trying to free myself.

The ref bends down close to my head and drums one, uh, two, uh, three, uh, onto the mat.

Against the inside of Marco’s wrist, my hard cock throbs. Against my cheekbone, his reciprocates. He arches his back, almost to drive it into my head.

Lord Travladore and the ref do some clowning, pretending the finishing clinch is so tight that Marco and I are welded together as one. They tug at our feet and shoulders, giving us time to loosen up, shift our weight so that our cocks can return to more decorous angles in our briefs.

The ref lifts Marco’s arm in victory. Sweat rolls down from his bicep into the black hair in his armpits, and from there rolls down across one half of his tattoo motto. Lord Travladore claims that the count was too quick—a moot point since I still lie flat on my back, with Marco’s full weight on top of me.

The ref pushes Travladore away, all but pushing the fat man through the ring ropes.

Marco rolls over and bounces to his feet. He comes down with one knee on my chest and flexes his biceps for the adoring fans.

He stands and then repeats the gesture, bending with the other knee.

He leaves the ring, and the fans stretch out to touch his sweating, heaving torso as he strides with confidence back to the dressing rooms.

I sit up and stare after him, then roll under the bottom rope, and wrap my right arm around Lord Travladore’s neck. He props me up, as if the make-believe defeat had been a serious injury to me. No camera phones record our exit. The make-believe Briton places the palm of his hand on my belly, right next to my navel. With his other hand, he gently massages the small of my back.

Like Marco before us, we disappear behind the curtain.

King Kong Wrassles a T. Rex



Along with Tarzan wrassling various lions, crocodiles, and natives, and Mighty Mouse's cartoon throttling of cats dressed like thugs, this 1933 showdown inspired much prepubescent hardwood during my television time in the early Sixties.

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