Don’t let the moniker fool you. Tex was born and raised in Quebec, never traveled further south than Illinois, and that was when he was a baby.
Tex’s buddy Marc laces up his white leather boots, the same leather used for brides’ bibles, while Tex, head bowed, enters his zone before the match. Shoulders glittering with baby oil, the transistor radio in the locker buzzing some old Charles Aznavour shit.
I’m ten lockers away, sitting on a hardwood bench, gulping a warm Budweiser, feeling the dull ache of last night’s fight, itching to get my hands on the tall, solid, bony-faced fake cowboy who knows even less English than I know French.
Ordinarily, under normal conditions, I would chat up the babyface before the show, find out whether he has some extra-fancy moves or gimmicks I should know about, settle how soon he’s gonna knock my lights out. Oh, yes, he will win all right, sure as Christmas. They always do. I have not won a match since legit freestyle wrestling in high school, and that was ten Canadian winters ago. Grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma, which makes me three times the Texan Tex is.
I’m Mad Mantis. I wear a black facemask with, inexplicably, a tarantula silhouetted over the front. A puke-green tarantula. Real name is Matt Mathis, so you can see how the name evolved. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure how Tex became Tex—or how he came to enter the ring wearing a white cowboy hat and carrying a rolled-up bull rope he basically just tosses aside when the ring announcer calls his name.
Yeah, we’re in the ring right now, under the hot white lights; we made our entrances while I was telling you a little bit about myself, just to make my inevitable thrashing at the hands of this kid a bit more poignant.
Announcer calls out, “Mad Mantis … parts unknown … 205 pounds,” and the crowd boos and hisses. It’s Tex’s crowd all the way. I grab my right wrist and make an arthritic claw out over the top ring rope, just a foreshadowing of the villainy ahead.
The boy bounces on the balls of his feet and punches the air. He’s a tall drink of water, with a honeyed tan and strong back and thighs, famous for his figure fours. Like me, he likes mat and rope work, not like the high-flyin’ young Mexican turks I don’t know what the hell to do with, half the time. We’re looking at some Irish whip action tonight and maybe, if I can generate the heat, a climactic leap off the top of the turnbuckle.
Bell rings a half-second after I elbow the back of Tex’s head, mid-autograph. He drops to one knee but springs right back up. We lock up and the kid pushes me all the way back to my corner. His chest and stomach press mine, I slip my right foot through the ring ropes, and the ref pulls the boy off me.
He rubs the back of his neck for a little sympathy from the fans. He bunches his eyebrows and glares at me like he wants to hurt me bad.
I’ll spare you the give-and-take minutia—you seen one of my fights, you seen pretty much every one. In general, there’s some scientific rolling off hips, some trading off of headlocks, some slobbery growling at the crowd, and a great deal of working up of sweat, till our bodies flash and spark under the lights. So let’s fast-forward through ten minutes of exposition and hit the climax.
Tex keeps his hair cut close to the skull, not a crew cut exactly, but Roman senator short, so, right now, I’m trying to grab the kid by his hair, strictly illegal, of course, but the kid deftly slips loose and pops me in the kisser. Four or five times. Good solid punches that have a sting to them, but pulled just enough to qualify as fake. The Quebecois cowboy is a real pro, whatever else he isn’t.
His white tights are now glued to his sweaty butt cheeks. BBs of sweat roll down his neck over his smooth chest and belly. I want my lips to feel the heat glowing on his skin.
I jab my knee to his kidneys and he falls on his face. The ref pushes me back, and the crowd momentarily hushes on the off chance that Tex is really injured. The ref kneels over the grimacing boy. I grab the back of the ref’s shirt and toss him out of the ring. He’s knocked out cold on the concrete floor. I circle in on Tex and begin driving my heel down on his strong shoulders—tight as two seaman’s knots and shiny as chrome.
Tex tries two or three times to push himself up but collapses every time. I take a running leap and land my butt hard on the small of his back. The kid groans a real one. I feel a satisfying throb in my groin at the sound of his hurt.
I reach round his head and grab his nose in my left hand and hook my right hand into his mouth and pull both ways and back. I get the back of his head all the way back to my chest, and then I twist his head, feel his cool ear strum my hard right nipple, and howl like a wolf. Tex begins to holler, too, and slam his fists on the mat.
Somebody in the crowd yells, “Mantis you piece of shit,” and the crowd starts to chant encouragements to the handsome young wrestler.
I crook my left arm at Tex’s throat, slip my right arm under his right arm, clench my wrist, and squeeze. I’ve got his back bent up, just shy of L-shaped. The crowd can see his stretched abdomen, palpitating with his heartbeats, and vainly he claws at my forearms.
I lean back to deepen the pain and rest my forehead against the back of his head.
In a lucky thrust, he grabs the lacing of my mask and yanks me forward. I tumble over his shoulders and land with a loud thud on my back, and the fans go apeshit.
Tex locks his powerful thighs round my chest. I feel what I imagine to be his cock massage my upper spine. He tears at the mask, bunches it up at my forehead, exposing my mouth as I scream, “No no no.”
The crowd chants, “Fuck him up, Tex, fuck him up, fuck him up, Tex, fuck him up ….”
He peels the mask further up, over the bridge of my nose. From behind, he slugs me in the mouth with his fist. He strips the mask entirely off. The crowd cheers ecstatically. I feel a bead of precum wet my tights.
He leaps up to his feet and pulls me up by the back of my tights to mine. He chops at my belly with the sides of his hands and forearms.
He pushes me back to the turnbuckle, locks my head into his armpit, and flips me over his head to the center of the ring. My body bounces at the impact.
He climbs up on the top ring rope at the turnbuckle. He stands there like a statue for about ten seconds, then leaps …
I see his lithe body in the air, as if in slow motion, his toothy mouth stretched in a bloodless grimace. In a second, I see the bottom of his boots rush to my face. And …
Lights out. Totally and for real.
I come to on a stretcher, gliding, almost floating through the audience, who pelt me with empty paper cups and wadded up cellophane wrappers.
In the dressing room, I manage to sit up and shake the cobwebs from my head. Tex strides in, arm laced in his buddy Marc’s. His slick shiny body looks like a golden statue I saw a picture of in a book. Marc lets him go and backs out the doorway.
Tex pushes aside the medic who is dabbing a cut with a cotton swab and wraps me warmly in his sinewy arms, kissing my temples with boyish enthusiasm.
“Bon combat,” he whispers in my ear. “Tu me branches, toi, salaud.” He chuckles, slyly.
I feel the heat rise off his body and run my finger up his slick sweaty waist. “Well, cowboy,” I say, “I’ve got a boner you could knock a dog out with.” I lick the curve of his jawbone up to his earlobe.
His body tenses, and he grabs me tightly, a little roughly, as if we were still in the ring. A smile flickers across his lips, and his eyes sparkle.
“Tu as besoin d’une bonne punition.”
I see the hard look in his eyes and smile.
“You got that right, pardner.”