SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS 1999
El Murciélago Azul grabbed Gravy Crockett by the balls. A crushing squeeze of cajones. Gravy gasped, frozen. Gravy’s tequila-basted breath blasted El Murciélago’s masked face. Eyes stinging, the blue and yellow spandex-clad wrestler released Crockett’s nut sack and pivoted, driving his yellow-caped back into the drunken Gravy. Dropping to one knee and seizing Gravy’s outstretched arm, the Blue Bat savagely tugged and twisted Gravy’s popping limb in a forward motion.
Crockett flipped head-over-boot heels. El Murciélago watched as Gravy Crockett landed on the hard canvas with a loud thump. Winded, gasping, Crockett rolled to one side, his coonskin hat falling to the wayside. The fallen warrior pounded the mat with one hand, cupped his aching taters with the other. He gurgled and hacked, struggling not to puke. The referee crouched beside him, counting down, as Gravy fought passing out.
The crowd roared. The Blue Bat eyed the cheering witnesses. They were a mixture of Mexican laborers and Texas rednecks, neatly divided throughout the low-rent auditorium. The Hispanics screamed in Spanish, proudly thrusting Mexican flags in the smoky arena. The white trash cursed in Southern, shooting middle fingers and waving Confederate flags in defeat. They howled at the non-responsive referee, enraged.
“Aw, c’mon, Ref! That fat Spic cheated!”
“Blue Bastard grabbed Gravy by the bangers, gawd dammit!”
El Murciélago Azul beaded his manager. Scrappy Deke nodded. Whirred a finger around the ring. Blue understood. He danced and pranced about the ropes, sweating arms held high. The Mexican portion of the crowd went wild. Rolled programs and empty cerveza bottles rained down. The Blue Bat deftly sidestepped them, drawing even more cheers.
They suddenly, collectively gasped. Shouts of panic, screams of fear.
“El Murciélago Azul! Cuidado!”
El Murciélago Azul turned, confused. He caught the brunt of the empty beer bottle on his forehead. The glass shattered like a shotgun blast. Pieces flew across the ring, into the crowd. The Bat saw just a glimpse, stunned. Gravy Crockett held the bottleneck in his greasy hand, the other hand protectively kneading his swollen stones. He drunkenly raised the jagged end above the head of the teetering Blue Bat.
“Take this, you cheatin’ hijo de puta!” slurred Crockett.
Bat fell backwards as the makeshift knife swooshed down. Gravy’s fringe jacket sleeve flapped behind his slicing arm. The glittering bottle tip ripped through El Murciélago Azul’s taut chest fabric. A zig-zag thin bloodline sprouted into view.
The Blue Bat collapsed onto the canvas and remained motionless.
Now the rednecks went ballistic. They jeered and hollered at their Mexican rivals. A few grabbed Mexican flags, starting impromptu fist fights. One creative cracker hoisted a small piñata on the end of a long stick. White trash fought to grab a baseball bat and beat the paper mâché Blue Bat replica. The brown-skinned fans booed. Others shouted, enraged.
“¡Árbitro! ¡Ese campesino engañó!”
“¡Dile al hombre blanco que se vaya a la mierda!”
Gravy Crockett laughed, dangling his fringed sleeves above his crooked coonskin cap. He danced a sloppy Irish jig. His gator skin cowboy boots slapped the mat with an irregular rhythm. His booze-flushed face leered with glee as half the crowd adored him.
“Gravy! Gravy! Gravy!” his stunned fans chanted.
El Murciélago Azul kicked his feet, a man of action reborn. His laced purple boots slammed into Gravy’s legs from behind. Crockett collapsed like a sack of potatoes. The Blue Bat rolled out of the way. He sprang to his heels, defiantly waving his billowing cape.
“Murciélago! Murciélago! Murciélago!” his stunned fans chanted.
A boot tip sliced between The Blue Bat’s blue legs from behind. The Bat slammed his knees together at the last possible second, protecting the intended target. El Murciélago Azul turned and yanked, grasping the boot. He now faced the agonized Gravy, laying on his back. He screamed in pain as The Bat further bent his quaking leg.
“Rendición!” demanded El Murciélago Azul, applying pressure.
“Ain’t gone happen, you greasy f –” bellowed Gravy.
“Rendición! Ahora!” repeated El Murciélago Azul, contorting Gravy’s cracking leg.
“I give! I give!” Gravy barked, face drained of color.
The bell rang. The referee held the Blue Bat’s hand high. The auditorium quaked with equal parts victory and rage. Some cheered, whistling. Others stomped boots on the flimsy, beer-stained bleachers, booing. After a cursory stagger around the ring, the Bat fell into his corner, exhausted. His worried, aged African manager toweled him and offered a squeeze bottle.
“What the hell?” yelled Scrappy Deke. “Why did you go off script?”
“Crockett did!” snapped El Murciélago, incensed. “He’s too drunk to remember the routine!”
“We gotta get you oughtta here, Bat,” said Deke. “Big Pete ain’t gonna like you didn’t go down like we was paid!”
Too groggy to care, too tired to argue, El Murciélago Azul followed Scrappy Deke. They darted through the aisle, lined with fans a few feet above them at every turn. The patrons yelled and clawed at the Bat’s flapping cape. One smart-ass standing in their path tried to grab the Bat’s mask. El Murciélago Azul strong-armed the foolish man, sending him sprawling. The aching wrestler hopped over the prostrate, would-be mask grabber and vanished into the dressing room.
In the emptying bleachers, Big Pete Valducci stewed. His henchmen traded nervous looks. They hated when Big Pete stewed. They knew they’d be the first ingredients tossed in the pot. Big Pete watched the broken, drunken Gravy Crockett being helped from the ring. Big Pete growled, ripping his program in half. He offed his stubby cigar on the photo of the Bat.
He eyed his henchmen. They nodded, heading for the dressing room Blue Bat had just entered. One-Eye Oley, the heaviest, scariest henchman, lingered behind. He whispered into Big Pete’s ear, pointing at Gravy Crockett with dark intent as he was assisted down the aisle.
Big Pete sighed, shaking his head. Spared. One-Eye Oley was surprised.
“Boss, you sure? Crockett drank his way through the whole match!”
Big Pete glared at his stooge, then jerked his head towards the other henchmen. One-Eye Oley swallowed. He followed his crew, slowly reaching into his double-breasted suit jacket.
* * * *
They beat a hasty retreat. When the dressing room’s emergency exit door wouldn’t open from rusted hinges, El Murciélago Azul leapt into action. He delivered two well-timed brown patent leather flying loafers into the frozen handle. The emergency exit flew open. The Bat landed a few feet from his beat-up convertible Cadillac, top left down for just such hurried escapes. Dressed in his trademark turtleneck, tweed sports coat, polyester slacks and his ever-present mask, El Murciélago Azul tossed his canvas bag into the backseat.
“Hurry, Scrap! They’re pounding on the door!”
“So’s my heart, kid! Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door!”
Scrappy Deke dragged his overstuffed suitcase as far as the sidewalk and paused, gasping for breath. His seersucker suit, bow-tie and spats were as worn as his lined face. With a sigh, El Murciélago Azul hoisted both suitcase and diminutive manager into the front seat. He hopped behind the wheel, igniting the engine. He turned to Scrappy, masked features contorted with concern.
“Wait… what about the pay-out?”
“Didn’t have time, Bat. Pay-out’s after the match.”
“And the advance?”
“Blown on the hooch and dames.”
“Fuck!” the Bat roared, throwing the Caddy into reverse. He backed out of the one-way alley with precision skill. The tail fins swerved left and right, avoiding trash cans and a snoring bum. The only opening filled with Big Pete’s goons. They held guns. Lots of them.
El Murciélago Azul braked, startled. Scrappy nearly tumbled into the back seat. One-Eye Oley grinned.
“Youz thinkin’ maybe goin’ somewheres, Fat Bat?” Oley asked. His boys chuckled.
The Bat pumped the gas, Caddy in neutral, brake mashed. The monster car roared, spewing blue exhaust at the boys. They coughed, eyes stinging.
“Fat? It’s all muscle!” yelled the Blue Bat, hoisting a middle finger.
He shoved the Cadillac into gear, gunning the engine. It screeched. It blasted forward. It zoomed straight at a wide-eyed One-Eye Oley and gang. They dove for cover. The gleaming rear fender chrome caught Chunky Moe’s legs. Moe spun like a top as the car backed into the street. The yellow-colored vehicle skidded in a circle as the Bat slammed the brakes.
“Boss, please! I’m gonna be sick!” gagged Scrappy Deke.
“Hold on, old friend!” instructed the Bat, shoving the gear into drive.
The Cadillac leapt forward. One-Eye Oley pressed against a wall to avoid being flattened. Scrappy Deke blew chunks out the side. They splattered Oley’s shark skin suit with meticulous timing. One-Eye Oley gagged and regurgitated a veal, antipasto and red wine dinner. Between heaves, he frantically gestured for his men to open fire.
The Cadillac’s windshield exploded. Bullet holes ate away the glass. Huge chunks fell into the Bat’s and Scrappy’s laps. They scooted left and right, afraid of being neutered. Scrappy wiped his vomit-flecked lips and cursed as bullets thudded into the trunk.
“We’re almost out of range!” the Bat declared victoriously, driving like a bat out of hell.
“Bat, Big Pete rigs fights from here to Vegas. How the hell we gonna out-distance that?”
“Venezuela?” offered El Murciélago Azul after a thoughtful moment of silence.
“Venez… what about your family?”
The Bat reflected, sighing. Scrappy Deke was right. There was his wife Dolores. His son Rio. And a Chihuahua named Cholo he was particularly fond of. Scrappy saw the hesitation.
“Bat, I ain’t got nobody but you. But you got something. And ‘til we square this with Big Pete? Ain’t no way you can go home.”
El Murciélago Azul slammed the steering wheel. He slowed, pulling to the side of the street. They were in a dark one-way alley in downtown San Antonio. A willing prostitute whistled and staggered towards them until the Bat waived her away. The rumbling engine sputtered and died.
“Not now!” cried the Bat, frantically cranking the lifeless motor. “The gas! Empty!”
Headlights. A dark black sedan. Big Pete’s men. They aimed out the windows, drawing down on their growing targets.
“Run for cover, Scrappy!”
“I ain’t goin’ wit’out you, Bat!”
“Of course not. Bless you, loyal Scrap.”
Scrappy Deke smiled. He liked it when the Bat was sentimental. El Murciélago Azul smiled back from beneath his mask. He slammed his fist into Deke’s forehead just hard enough to knock the old man out. The Bat caught Deke in massive his arms. Dragged him into the alley. Lovingly covered his body with trash and boxes. Only Deke’s scruffy spats stuck out to reveal him.
The sedan stopped beside the dead Cadillac. One-Eye Oley and his heavies exited, guns drawn. No sign of El Murciélago Azul or Scrappy Deke.
“Come on out, Bat! We’z got ya surrounded!”
“Surround… this!” cried the Bat, diving from the top of a trash container. He landed atop the grouped men, scattering them like bowling pins. Several squeezed errant shots as they fell to the asphalt, knocked out cold. It was an old ring trick, but the Blue Bat executed it well.
El Murciélago Azul and his fury was upon them. He swung his fists. He kicked. He clawed. He bit. He ripped. He tore. He punched. He flung. He pile-drove. He was a savage demon man, all fight, no bluff. But street fights are a matter of time and number, not willpower and morality. Soon, the exhausted Bat could fight no longer. He hoisted a trash can and crunched a goon with it. He turned and ran, limping with a twisted ankle.
“Take ‘im out, boys!” hollered One-Eye Oley, aiming.
The bullets ripped through El Murciélago Azul’s tweed jacket back. He staggered, stiff-legged. He clawed at the dark sky for invisible support. He collapsed, falling onto his barrel chest. He crawled across the trash strewn, urine-reeking asphalt. He rolled over, gasping.
The stars blurred. They darkened. The Bat flickered his swollen orbs. At least he had a few moments left. He thought about his wife. His loving son. And his wonderful pet Chihuahua, who could fetch and play dead on command. El Murciélago Azul smiled through blood-flecked teeth. Such a terrific pet. Cholo would miss his master so. Tears welled in the Bat’s eyes.
“Hello, Bat. You don’t look so good,” said One-Eye Oley. “Maybe if we took this off, you could breathe easier, eh?”
One-Eye Oley stood over the prostrate wrestler, reaching for his mask. El Murciélago Azul reacted with horror. He grabbed the mobster’s wrist, preventing Oley from unmasking him.
“N… no!” gasped El Murciélago Azul, shaking his dying head. “Not… that!”
The remaining goons laughed. They knew. It was a matter of pride, of decency. No luchador hero was ever seen by his public sans mask. Not in the ring, not out. The Blue Bat would have preferred walking naked in a parade on a cold day to such dishonor. Provided he kept his identity concealed while making his walk of shame, that is. It was not merely respect, but a sign of his enduring machismo, his masculinity. The essence of his power derived from his very anonymity. He was not a man as El Murciélago Azul. He was all men. The best of men, rolled into one magnificent crimefighting whole. Oley snarled, staring down.
“This is for ruinin’ my shark skin suit, you bum!”
One-Eye Oley ripped the mask away.
El Murciélago Azul shut his eyes. Better that than risk seeing his own expiring reflection in the leering men’s eyes. He exhaled, head lolling to one side. His life force was ebbing, but at least he was leaving the planet with his integrity intact. They had taken his mask, but not his identity, not his honor. He was dying as he had lived, a fighter for truth, justice and the masked avenger way.
AUSTIN, TEXAS 2017
The horse farted. Rio Carnivàle buried his luchador-masked face in his sleeve. He gasped through the tweed jacket, eyes watering. The animal’s tail swished, sending a swarm of pesky flies from its ass onto Rio like a hovering cloud of buzz. Insult to injury? Rio cracked the reigns in revengeful response. The equine glanced back, weary eyes peering around worn blinders at his driver. It neighed and slowly trotted through the downtown Austin streets. Cars swerved, avoiding it.
The honeymooning couple in the carriage behind Rio gasped. They fanned tourist pamphlets in their reddening faces, hacking. Rio apologetically shrugged, turning to them.
“Sorry about that, folks. All the traffic makes him kinda nervous.”
They nodded, pulling their tee shirts over their faces. Rio sighed. The traffic was horrific. But what else was new? Ever since Austin’s Sixth Street had become a hipster mecca for its non-stop bars and sleazy nightclubs, the visitors flocked. It wouldn’t have been so bad, he figured, except then they wanted to move here. Occupancy rates in all the best cheap flop apartments quadrupled as millennials like himself poured in, jacking rents. Property values skyrocketed, meaning estate taxes were astronomical. Locals, he reflected, were good and fucked. And he was a lifer local.
Rio lived at home with his mother, which should have been affordable. But her modest two-bedroom bungalow home was a rental with a greedy landlord. Rio was working as a tourist herder behind a flatulent horse because it was the only job he’d been able to get for months. Nearly every dime went to paying his share of the rent. He adjusted his lucha libre mask and again faced his customers, clearing his throat. He spoke in an appropriately spooky voice.
“Next, you’ll see the notorious Oakwood Cemetery on your right. Legend has it that on moonlit nights like tonight? Paranormal activity goes off the EMF meters. Some visitors have wandered inside its wrought iron gates laughing in scorn, never to be seen again.”
The couple shuddered, holding one another closer.
“What happened to them?” asked the woman, chilled, as she studied the passing tombstones. They seemed to glow in the darkness, illuminated by the waxing gibbous moon. Rio shrugged.
“Dunno, ma’am,” said Rio, speculating. “Probably just left their hotels without checking out afterwards. But who knows for sure? Only thing for certain in this life is: don’t bet your ass, unless you’re willing to pay the raper. I mean, reaper! Pay the reaper! Sorry.”
They stared at him, nonplussed. Rio turned back to face the horse’s butt, mumbling.
“What the hell, lady. I’m just a carriage jockey, not a detective.”
* * * *
East Austin was the shits. At least, that’s what all the other Austinites believed. Talk radio. Free weekly newspaper. Politicos from the burbs. They all talked East Austin down, citing the tract homes, the crime, the minorities, the potholes and the lack of mega-H.E.B. grocery stores to make S.N.A.P. benefit redemption easier for residents.
Rio peddled his ten-speed bike through the desolate suburban hellscape contemplating this widespread perception. He deftly avoided the numerous sidewalk squares protruding up from the massive oak tree roots beneath, wheeling to where the slabs still adjoined to avoid crashing. It was true. East Austin was a last-standing oasis in the city where he’d spent his life prior to its gentrification. While the rest was now crowded with condos, Starbucks, block-sized chain stores and 24-hour gyms, his neighborhood remained an endless series of dimly-lit, tiny-yarded, uber-cramped 1950’s wood and brick single-story ranch houses. Each featured tin roof porches, sun-scorched micro-lawns, thin driveways crowded with vehicles, and debris stacked near trash cans for a never-occurring disposal date. Side-facing windows offered spectacular views into each neighbor’s home, insuring the mutually-facing vinyl blinds were rarely, if ever, opened. Rio sighed, relaxing as he glided past each monotonous abode. He was home from his carriage gig, and that was a good, good thing.
Dolores awaited him on the sofa. Rio removed his coat, kicked off his shoes and rummaged through the fridge. A few minutes later, a massive sandwich crowded his paper plate.
He returned and took the sunken end of the couch, long since broken by Rio’s expanding girth. He was self-conscious about his appearance, but still wore button-straining dress shirts. Unlike many of his sloppy contemporaries, Rio dressed neatly. His shirt was always tucked. His pants creased. He wore dress shoes, not sneakers, and most days a hat. Whereas douchebag hipsters wore Fedoras for social signage they were in the “in” club, Rio wore Porkpies, Bowlers and even an occasional Boater to signal he could care less. Ties were optional, but a good ascot every now and again never hurt anything, he reckoned. His sartorial style made Rio a bit of an odd-duck by his co-workers’ standards. But as he considered them clueless wannabees prone to wearing whatever latest fashion trend was mandated by some godawful corporate celebrity, Rio considered their disdain a rare privilege. He was by no means a conformist, save to his own sense of identity. The mask, of course, never came off.
“Here,” he said, handing Dolores a wad of cash. “Pretty decent tonight.”
His mother counted the money.
“We’re still short for the rent, Rio.”
“Tomorrow’ll be better, Mom.”
“It better be. Else we’ll have to pay the late fee again.”
“Can’t pay what we don’t got.”
Rio stuffed his sandwich through the mask’s mouth hole. He was careful when he ate and drank, not wanting to stain it. The blue silk mask with yellow piping was, after all, a cherished heirloom. He dabbed his mouth and glanced at the wall shrine next to him.
Faded photos. A few mini-posters. One chunky belt buckle award. They were dedicated to El Murciélago Azul, Rio’s father. In some pictures, he smiled at the camera, masked. In others, he flew from the wrestling ring ropes, demolishing opponents. Never was his hidden face visible. In one photo, father and son. The lighter-skinned, naked face Rio beamed at his darker-skinned, masked dad. Pale-skinned Dolores noticed Rio’s nostalgic reverie.
“You know, you look more like him every day,” she said.
“Mom! That’s because I wear his mask!”
“No, Rio. I mean, your presence. Your way of walking. Holding yourself. Executing a flying pile-drive. Sometimes, I think I am seeing a ghost. A blue and yellow ghost.”
“That’s because you drink too much.”
Rio regretted his words. Dolores used the admonition to produce her stashed bottle. She poured herself a consoling mug of tequila.
“Anyway, he would be proud. You do him justice. El Hijo del Murciélago Azul.”
She offered him a silent toast and gulped her drink. Rio winced and looked away, as he always did when she imbibed. An aged, mangy Chihuahua leapt into his lap. Cholo’s huge, wet eyes locked into Rio’s. Rio petted the only living reminder of his father besides Dolores.
“Yeah, right. Dad never begged for work. By the time he was eighteen? He was already on his way up. A true lucha libre champ. Me? I’m a nobody.”
“He struggled, Rio. You were just too young to see it. That’s all.”
Rio contemplated her words.
“You think we’ll ever know who did it, Ma?”
Dolores froze, mid-drink. Her white face whitened even more so. She placed her cool bottle against her sweating forehead, drawing comfort.
“I dunno, son. Scrappy said it was dark. That no one saw it happen. The police? They didn’t care. Just another San Antonio homicide, back then. Another poor wrassler meeting up with an unhappy fan. One who’d maybe lost a bet. They say the city has changed a lot. Now, it’s much safer. What good does that do us, though?”
She finished her mug, saddened. Rio cleared his throat. He rose, taking his sandwich with him. Cholo followed on his socked heels.
“Think I’ll turn in now.”
“Goodnight, Rio. Sleep tight.”
* * * *
Rio’s bedroom was a wreck. Fast food containers. Wrestling magazines. Clothes. Hats. He stepped in and around the debris, as expertly as a soldier navigating a mine field. He sunk onto his tiny bed, overwhelming it. Clothes on the floor moved, rustling. Cholo appeared from beneath them, whining. Rio lifted the lazy dog onto his bed with him.
“You need an escalator, Cholo.”
He turned onto his back. The bed groaned, bending dangerously in the middle. Rio eyed the cheesecake poster on the stained wall. A female hottie in the wrestling ring, holding a sign indicating which round was next. Rio thought about masturbating, but he was too tired. He deeply sighed, droopy eyes drifting to the old poster of his father. Pedro Carnivàle, in his prime, owned the ring. He executed a perfect flying leap straight at the viewer. Cheesy red and blue graphics outlined his form. Rio rummaged through his blanket. Lifted the tattered cardboard 3D glasses. Propped them on his pug nose and squinted, staring at his father’s image.
El Murciélago Azul hovered in front of background ring now. By turning his head slightly back and forth, Rio brought the Blue Bat back to limited life. The mighty hero telescoped in and out of the poster, spilling over into virtual space. Rio sleepily reached up at the floating image of his father, passing his chubby hand through it. Pedro seemed invincible. But Rio knew the sad reality all too well.
Rio dozed off to sleep. Cholo licked the sideways 3D glasses off Rio’s face and settled in beside him. He accidentally farted in Rio’s snoring face and quickly moved away.
Up here, the plebeians looked like ants. Ants in cars. Ants on sidewalks. Ants in planes. Ants in pools. To her, they were all ants. As in, insects. As in, to be stepped upon. In stiletto fuck-me heels. Else, they got out of control. Built their dung-heap mounds. Clawed over one another. Lived and breathed and fucked in one horrific, jumbled mass. A cluster-fucking ugly mass. Ants. Disgusting human ants. How she hated them. Up here, at least, she was safe from them.
Chablis Valducci studied herself in the tinted window of her fab view penthouse. Trim. Buffed. Coiffed. Sophistication in a black Dior dress and matching Gucci pumps. Thankfully she’d inherited her trophy wife mother’s looks. A rhinoplasty at eighteen in a toney Dallas surgeon’s office had taken care of the only visible influence Big Pete Valducci bequeathed her. Thank God. Daddy was long gone. And his monstrous Roman honker with him. Heart attack, the fat pig. She’d warned him, hadn’t she? But he ate that gross Italian traditional cuisine like there was no goomba tomorrow. And there hadn’t been, for him. Fat, disgusting, goomba-eating pig. Ciao! And thanks for the fortune, Papa! She’d split it with her mother. Then mom split for France with her lover, who was a year younger than Chablis. Chablis had screwed her mother’s lover, of course, but kept it quiet out of respect. She respected her mother. Mom had paid the dues pretending underneath Big Pete for decades on end. Or on endless, Chablis mused.
“You earned every lira, Momma. Combat pay for surviving Big Pete.”
The door discretely opened. Marcus, her well-built (and well-hung, she knew) secretary, entered. He wore the sockless shoes she detested. She made a mental note to ream him over it later. With luck, she’d instill the fear of Jesus into him and guilt him into doing her this afternoon. Before she went shopping. Shopping with a post-fuck glow was her favorite past-time. Second favorite, she corrected herself, admiring Marcus’ ass as he handed her a cappuccino.
“Ms. Crockett is here to see you, ma’am.”
“You kept her waiting, Marcus? I told you to show her in immediately.”
Marcus gulped. He looked so silly. Like a little boy caught stealing. She reminded herself to spank him when the time came. Naughty boy. Momma knows how to handle you.
“I’ll get her right now.”
“You do that. Apologize to her. For your incompetence. Offer her coffee, too.”
“Yes. Yes, ma’am!”
Marcus, handsome face flushed, slipped out. She smiled, checking her look in the window one last time. The door opened. In sauntered Wavy Crockett. It was all Chablis could do not to gasp. Ripped jeans. A faded ‘But Her Emails!’ tank top. Tatt arms, tatt neck, tatt cheek. Diamond nose stud. Lower lip gold pin. A confederate flag knit beanie. Flip flop sandals, vintage Walmart. Chablis’ intel had revealed the only daughter of Gravy Crockett was a tramp. But this was gauche beyond imagination. White trash excelsior. In a word (and Chablis’ worst possible condemnation of anyone), vulgar.
“Mind if I vape?” asked Wavy.
Wavy vaped from a Kid Rock-adorned vaporizer before Chablis finished nodding, indicating the couch. Wavy plopped herself on the Lexington Upholstery Salon sofa. Kicked off her flops. Placed her dirty bare feet on the Benetti's Italia Sicily glass top coffee table, shaking her namesake magenta and yellow mane of curly hair. Wavy wiggled her sweaty toes, flashing the sapphire bling rings on them. Chablis chewed a collagen-enhanced full bottom lip, a nervous habit when confronted by commoners. Especially the vulgar ones.
“Ahhh. Love the feel of cool glass on my Frodos. Don’t you?”
“I’ve… never tried,” said Chablis, sitting in a Barcelona-style Mies Van Der Rohe leather chair across from Wavy.
“Oh, you’re missing something. Why front for the good shit if you don’t wipe your ass with it? Am I right?” Wavy fired off a guttural snort.
“Yes. I see your point. I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you here today.”
Wavy puffed. Considered her. Blew a few smoke rings. Nodded.
“Thought had occurred to me. I mean, I feel like we’re old almost-friends, mind you. Know what I’m sayin’?” said Wavy.
“Uh. No. No, I don’t.”
“Our folks. You being Big Pete’s daughter. Me being Gravy’s. Daddy told me they used to run quite a racket. Your daddy was one smart dago. That’s what Daddy always said. ‘One smart dago.’ Only Daddy never really trusted him. ‘Gotta watch that oily dago,’ he’d tell me.”
Chablis startled. That word. The ‘D’ word. She found it… vulgar. Like the ‘C’ word. But worse. Because the ‘C’ word was at least acceptable in rude company. Not the ‘D’ word. Not ever. Not with Italians. Chablis coughed a tiny bit, waving away the clouds. She would normally not allow smoking in her office, but this mission was of critical importance.
“Sure this is lit? Cuz I can put it out, if not,” offered Wavy.
“I hardly noticed. Tell me, Wavy. How are you feeling? After the title loss, I mean?”
Wavy’s perma-grin vanished. She put away her vape, disheartened. She rubbed her legs, as if they were still sore. The ultimate fighting championship she’d lost to Little Alice (who was anything but little) was career-ending. It had been months since she’d been carried out of the ring on a stretcher, but she still heard the boos and catcalls in her sleepless nights. The easy money endorsements had vanished, leaving her broke. Her former manager was now with Little Alice’s team. Her girlfriend had bailed just last week, taking everything left.
“You know. Okay. Putting it behind me, one day at a time.”
“That’s healthy,” said Chablis. She considered the wrecked stature of the tawdry woman before her. Realized just how pathetic her words of comfort sounded.
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. Healthy,” parroted Wavy, slumping.
“How would you like to earn fifty-thousand for one more match?”
Wavy sat erect, pulling her feet from the table. She clutched herself, rocking in place.
“You kiddin’ me, lady?”
Chablis shook her luxurious coif. Her perfectly shaded eyes were deadly serious.
“I am offering you fifty grand, Wavy. For a single ‘wrasslin’ match.”
“Wrestling? But I ain’t never… I mean, sure, why not? Daddy did it, didn’t he? Good enough for Gravy Crockett, good enough for his daughter. Who I gotta wrestle? What’s her name?”
“Not a she, Wavy. A he. And I want you to wrassle, not wrestle, a man. I trust you know the difference?”
“Yeah. A man’s got a dick and balls. A woman’s got --”
“No, Wavy. I mean, between a ‘wrassler’ and a ‘wrestler.’ Do you?”
“Sure,” said Wavy, nodding. “Daddy always told me. ‘Sugar, a wrassler is a wrestler who hustles the rubes. A wrestler plays it straight for the squares.’ Had a real way with words, didn’t he?”
“Assuredly. The male wrassler’s name is… El Hijo del Murciélago Azul.”
Chablis waited for a reaction. Wavy’s face was blank.
“The Son of the Blue Bat..?”
“Look, I don’t know no Blue Bat from his son, neither. But I’ll fight his dear old fuckin’ grandpa if you pay me fifty big ones, ma’am.”
“So then… it’s a deal?” asked Chablis, standing. It took Wavy a moment. She fumbled with her flip flops, forcing them over her toe rings. She rose, offering her toe-smelly fingers to shake. Chablis declined with a frozen smile and moved behind her desk, opening a drawer.
“Hope you don’t mind, Wavy. I took the liberty. It’s standard. Have your lawyer look it over before you sign, if you wish. No reasonable change is objectionable. Except the date.”
Chablis dropped the fat contract in front of the bug-eyed Wavy.
“If you wish, I will cover the costs to hire you one. Or you may use one of mine.”