There is wrestling on TV.
It’s going to be hot today. The sun is a hammer, the pavement an anvil. I’m going to go pick up stray dogs, then prowl Wal-Mart looking for unlocked cars. When I find one I’ll put the dog in, lock it up, and walk away to imagine the rescue attempt … or the no-rescue attempt. Sometimes no one notices.
I am the hand, the instrument that delivers the message. I am not the author. Or maybe I am. I wonder if it is even possible to know.
I hope I find a Chihuahua. They are easy to handle and hard to feel sorry for.
I get lucky. I get a Chihuahua. She is just behind a chain-link fence keeping her in her yard following her nose in a slow, arthritic trip around the border of her little domain. The fence is only three feet high. That’s ridiculous. It’s an old lady’s fence for an old lady’s dog. I just reach on over and pick the old girl up.
“How old are you, girl?” I ask her out loud. I rub her chin.
She just shivers and looks around and away, the way that dogs do. Her eyes are bulbous, darting. That’s part of the reason I hate Chihuahuas. That and their personalities.
I keep her in the crook of my elbow so that she can brace her paws on my arm. Dogs do not like being off of the earth. They are animals and want four feet on solid ground. With no feet on the ground they are like a box with the top cut off, unsupported, and so made weak. Being made weak, they become afraid.
“Let’s go to Wal-Mart” I say. I sound positive. I’m not faking it either, because I am pleased, and dogs don’t understand your words, just your tone. So I sound positive. I don’t want to scare her.
We walk away from the yard and the too-short chain link fence with the whitewashed metal posts, just like that.
I am lucky twice today it seems. I have found an unlocked vehicle – an old pick up, black on black. It has a topper too, so it’s impossible to see into the cab from the back. I set the Chihuahua on the seat and she looks at me, eye to eye, for the first time.
“Sit,” I say, calmly and with authority. Tone is everything.
Her eyes bulge and she shivers but she sits and she stays.
The cab smells of cigarette smoke and gasoline. Somewhere something leaks. There’s a half a jug of windshield wiper wash on the floor of the passenger side and a dream catcher hangs from the rearview mirror. Someone has been through the reservation. Probably filled ‘er up and bought the dream catcher. I bet there are fireworks and a jerry can with five gallons in the bed, under the topper. Maybe even a rifle rolled inside a blanket, but I don’t have time to look. It’s an old truck, and the owner left the windows slightly open for ventilation, so I grab the handles and I crank the windows up tighter than tight. I lock the driver’s side door and then the passenger side and then shut them firmly. I have to wipe my brow as I get out and step back. It’s already hot. Triple digit high today, I bet. The Chihuahua looks at me with those little bug eyes and is already panting hard.
I walk away, not too slow, not too fast. Don’t want to linger, don’t want to run. I brush the thought of the dog off of my shoulder, the same way my mother would have. Her learned gesture is my inheritance. I brush and I don’t look back.
I was six years old and my mother and I were walking back home from witnessing door-to-door for our faith. We walked across the pedestrian bridge alongside the overpass. Homeless men sometimes lived under the overpass, especially in the summer. Mother always held my hand a bit tighter. They frightened my mother and although she never said as much, I could feel her fear in the grip of her hand on mine whenever we would see them.
On this particular day we had crossed the bridge when three of the men, black, bearded, and smelling of sleeplessness and wine and the smoke of a fire made from broken pallets, came up carrying a fourth man. He was ruddy-cheeked and blue-eyed. He had a long beard, a honey-brown color streaked with grey. He clutched his chest and coughed and rattled and his eyes watered. They lay him on the sidewalk and then walked back down without looking back. He died of a heart attack while we just stood there looking at him.
My mother brushed her shoulder, brushed it all off like she was taught to do, then brushed mine and led me home. Dirt off our shoulders.
The next time we witnessed we went the same way but there were no men at all. I remember being a bit surprised – I thought we’d see the man laying there. The other men had very deliberately set him down away from their camp and their fire. I knew they wouldn’t move him. I wondered who had taken him? Who looks after these things?
My mother never mentioned it ever.
Monday night wrestling means TV dinner on a TV tray, and “The Elbow of God.”
My favorite wrestler is “The Priest of Pain”. When he finishes off the unworthy, the unrighteous, or the merely unruly – heels or jobbers, jabronis, all of them – he climbs the ropes and descends upon them from that great height with the “Elbow of God” to finish the match. When he singlehandedly defeated the Kentucky Klone Klan, (three overall-wearing, steel-toed-boot-clad, bearded giants, all named “Kletus”,) in a “Loser Leaves Town Match”, he ascended the ropes three times and three times came down, dropping God’s Elbow on one Klone at a time, each in his turn. Then he knelt and said a brief prayer over their twitching and insensible bulks before their manager and the other heels came in to cart them off in an old ambulance. In was pure pandemonium in front of seven hundred screaming fans in the arena and God only knows how many like me watching on local-access cable.
I love The Priest.
I also love Salisbury steak with carrots, peas, mashed potatoes and gravy. The apple cobbler I could take or leave. Dessert is for the weak. I’ve tried other TV dinners but nothing else can compare. Especially the gravy. It needs the Salisbury steak to make it all work, or so I figure.
Some nights I have two TV dinners, but if I do I fast the next day.
I don’t have cable anymore. I don’t have TV. I haven’t since Mother passed. But I have my VHS tapes and our VCR. Monday’s still Monday, so I heat up my TV dinner in the oven, (just one today because it’s so hot,) and put in my tape. “The Priest vs. the Kentucky Klone Klan” again. I watch this at least once each month, and sometimes more if I’m feeling down. But I also have “The Priest vs. Li Kang Gong,” (supposedly the former official executioner for Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China), “The Priest vs. King Coffin,” (really, a tall wrestler in a Halloween skeleton costume and top hat with a silver skull buckle that concealed “voodoo powder”), and the rare and hard-to-find “The Priest vs. Adolf Squared” – another set of clones (the idea was so good it worked twice) – in a “razor match.” Here the Priest shaves off the moustaches of the clones with a holy straight razor after a furious battle, the outcome of which was much in doubt for quite some time. The match was held in Brazil. The referees were corrupt, and mysteriously spoke only German. But still: The Priest.
I know all of his matches by heart.
The Universal Champion’s Wrestling League folded a few years back and I have since lost track of The Priest. It seems reasonable that he would have retired, rested upon his laurels with his championship belts and the memories of his many victories. But in my mind’s eye I see him continuing his ministry of strength overseas, perhaps in the Philippines, the Japans, or even the Punjab, places where they have a wrestling culture and might be prepared to hear his word even as he drops his elbow from up atop the ropes.
It’s definitely not a two-dinner night now. Way too hot. Even with the heat and some hours between us I can still smell the gas and cigarettes in the cab of that truck too. It takes the edge off of my appetite.
The timer on the oven rings and my Salisbury steak dinner is ready. It’s time to watch wrestling.
Mondays are the best days.
STEVE PASSEY is from Southern Alberta. His fiction and poetry has been published in Canada, the UK, and the USA and has appeared in, or will appear in, Existere Journal, Big Pulp, The Molotov Cocktail,Minor Literature[s], the J.J. Outre’ Review, Haverthorn Magazine, Bull: Men’s Fiction, Ginosko Literary Review, Sunstruck Magazine, Unbroken Journal, Jungftak, and the Rat’s Ass Review.