Fairytales for Hard Men
Ordell knew he wanted to be a hooker the first time he saw Mama zip up her thigh-high boots, lean against the sink and scrub her rancid fanny with a wet-wipe.
In fairness to Ordell, it was a valid career option. Ever since the lipstick factory shut down, there hadn’t been too many good jobs in Testament.
Mama didn’t think so. When he told her, she whipped his arms with a wire coat-hanger until the backs of his wrists and hands were cracked and bloody.
I didn’t mind having a sissy for a brother. It gave me something to fight for… and I fuckin’ loved fighting.
When I was eleven, I ruptured the spleen of a boy named Curtis Corliss for punching Ordell in the lunch line. I didn’t even know what a spleen was, or where to find one, but I beat that little fucker black and blue.
Mama and Ordell never got on, and that made me sad. Kin is kin, way I see it.
We all end up buried under the same patch of dirt in the end. May as well be pleasant to one another while we’re still sucking down the same rotten air.
Most of the boys from Shady Pines trailer-park headed down to the recruiting office on their 17thbirthdays, shipping out as soon as the paperwork cleared. Me, I never did like the damned heat. Two years in a hell-shaped sand-box would have ruined me.
I was one of the lucky ones, I guess. I got to wrestle instead. It wasn’t a scholarship as such – more of a favor. People told me that Shriek Watson felt guilty towards my Mama, but I was never really sure what they meant.
Shriek’s wrestling academy was in the Old Testament badlands, in the basement of his sprawling family home. It was known as the Ghoul School, on account of the hauntings, but the scariest thing I ever saw there was his sister’s webbed feet.
On my first day, it was sub-zero temperatures, or pretty fuckin’ close. When I arrived, there were seven other boys standing awkwardly in Shriek’s basement, wearing their gaudy, hand-me-down wrestling trunks. The smallest, a kid named Alvin Lupus, was shivering so hard his rotten teeth were chattering.
“Say, Mr. Watson, can you fire up the boiler?” he asked. “It’s awful cold down here…”
Shriek gazed at him playfully, through rheumy eyes.
“Sure thing, young man. If you can get out of this arm-lock I’ll let you help me get that boiler going.”
Shriek’s wheezy breath hung in the frozen air.
Moments later, he’d snapped Alvin’s elbow joint like a dry tree branch.
With Alvin out of commission, I had to practice with Shriek instead. That first day he clotheslined me so hard I felt blood trickle down my throat.
He was a hard man, but a good man. His methods were a little unorthodox, but within six months I had signed my first contract with Fingerfuck Flanagan and the Testament Wrestling Alliance. Mama was so damn proud of me that day she almost soiled her mesh panties.
Ordell is sat in a ripped-out car seat outside the Testament Savings & Loan Association, wearing Mama’s old, scuffed boots and not much else.
An older woman named Angel is painting his nails slaughterhouse red. Painting right over the shit-flakes and snagged pubes. I used to know her, a little. She was a real fuckin’ ring-rat for a time. Used to prefer tag-teams, until she slipped a disc.
She was a whole lot less flexible after that. For a while she caught a gig as a wrestler’s valet, escorting various mid-card motherfuckers down to the ring.
She used to stand behind the turnbuckle, wailing like a banshee with botulism, but that all ended when she got cold-cocked by a mistimed Freddie Regal drop-kick. The old bastard crumpled her damn skull like an empty beer can.
I stifle a sour belch and clear my throat.
She smiles nervously at me, and her damaged face twitches in three different places at once. I turn to my brother.
“It’s time, Ordell.”
He rolls his thickly lashed eyes at me.
“What do you need me to do?”
“I don’t need you to do nothin’. I just need your car.”
“I’m gonna steal her body home.”
“Bury her in the yard – next to the septic tank. In between Uncle Amos and Little Julie.”
In the end, Ordell offers to drive me.
I try to squeeze in, but the steering wheel presses into my gut, even with the seat reclined. The damn horn shrieks like a handicapped child until I manage to wriggle free.
I glance across at Ordell on the way there. His lipstick matches his bloodshot eyes. He keeps them trained on the ragged asphalt up ahead.
The county morgue is a squat, brown-brick building, adjacent to Testament Falls. There is a sluice that runs out of the back of the morgue into the river. It stinks of entrails and bone-juice. I used to swim in the Falls as a child. Man… the innocence of youth.
“Wait here, Ordell.”
He shrugs and starts to reapply his lipstick in the rearview mirror.
Mama sure is heavy for a dead gal. I waddle across the parking lot with her brittle body slung across my shoulder. I’m sweating like a hog in the slaughter-line.
“Horace, look out!”
I’m not sure who is shouting at first. Then I realize that it is Ordell. He hates his accent. Tries on new voices the way some people try on unfamiliar items of clothing.
I turn and see a cop in a sweat-stained uniform gaining on me. He is almost as fat as I am, but not quite.
I dump Mama’s body in the backseat and squeeze into the passenger door.
“Go, Ordell, go!”
The first gunshot spiderwebs the windshield.
The cop smiles at me through the cracked glass as he raises his gun again.
I smile back, and I realize that this is the closest I am ever gonna get to a happy ending.