When Eddie Chainsaw smiles, his face looks warped – like the reflection in a fun-house mirror.
It makes me glad he doesn’t smile very often.
Eddie operates the meat-cutter at McDaniel Meat. He doesn’t wear gloves, and his fingers glisten with meat juice. He splashes an inch of own-brand scotch into my sludgy gas station coffee and then takes a deep gulp from the bottle. His hands tremble slightly, and the glass clatters against his small, uneven teeth.
“You used to tag with the bastard. Maybe you can talk some sense into him?”
I glance down at my reflection in one of the gleaming pools of meat residue at our feet. My face looks puffy above the neck brace. The words ‘Property of Testament Hospital’ have been clumsily stencilled on the side.
If I get hurt doing Eddie this favour I will almost certainly miss out on my title shot at the ‘Slaughterhouse 6’ pay-per-view.
Eddie’s hearing aid buzzes like flies around spoiled meat. His rheumy eyes moisten and he takes another slug of scotch. He offers me some more, but the lip of the bottle is rimmed with blood from his bleeding gums.
I nod my agreement, and his leathery face cracks into a crooked smile.
Way back, in 1986 – when I was first coming up – I was jobbing against Freddie Regal. The dirty old bastard was fiercely protective of his pay-offs even then.
He was the only guy in Testament to get a share of the gate receipts instead of a monthly pay-packet, and he used to flaunt his status by counting his money in the locker room after the last bout. He was a cash-cow for sure – his feuds with Mondo McGraw were legendary – and Fingerfuck Flanagan had his hands firmly on the udders.
I vividly remember the accidental crack of bone and cartilage as my elbow pulverised Freddie’s Roman nose – splattering blood across his monogrammed wrestling trunks. He punched me in the face three times and then stomped me when I was lying on the canvas.
Backstage, I went to confront him. Freddie and a couple of his stooges – Garry Gorman and Big Nikolai – were waiting for me in the locker room with cut-down baseball bats.
“They can beat you ‘til you pass out, or they can beat you ‘til your dead. Personally I don’t much care.”
Freddie laughed like a drain as they bludgeoned me.
I remember the smell of cheap cigars on his breath, the way his crucifix dangled above my lips as he whispered threats at me. His cock pulsed against his yellow trunks: the prospect of unrestrained violence clearly excited him.
I was close to passing out when Eddie Chainsaw stepped in. He stomped the back of Garry’s knees and ripped the bat out of Nikolai’s hands, before Freddie chopped him across the throat. They held his arm against the greasy brickwork and battered it until it was black and fuckin’ blue.
“Looks worse than it feels, kid,” he told me in the hospital. He grinned sheepishly: big, lopsided face resembling a Cubist painting.
In truth, it was far worse than it looked, and he was never able to fight again — not even on the damned carny circuit.
Eddie’s step-daughter Williamine is an unusual girl with an unusual name: her dead mother named her after the colorless fruit brandy that she drank throughout her pregnancy.
A couple of years ago, Williamine was working as an outreach worker for local prostitutes. She took her job extremely seriously. One evening I saw her lay a beating on a john who had rough-housed one of the girls. Some fat fuck in a leisure suit. Beat him black and fuckin’ blue with her brass knuckles. His eye-socket was shattered, and his left eyeball looked like it was ready to pop the fuck out. Apparently it wasn’t even the worst injury he sustained that night — his baggy leisure suit concealed the worst of the damage. When I talked to her afterwards, she had a smile wider than Testament Falls.
Williamine grew up around wrestlers and their rabid impulses, and learned early that it pays to come prepared after dark in Testament. Years ago, back when we dated, briefly, she carried a retractable baton in her handbag. Scared the holy shit out of me on our first date, that’s for sure. I was only looking for her cigarette lighter.
After he retired, Eddie tried to convince Fingerfuck Flanagan to give Williamine a shot in the Testament Wrestling Alliance, but the cheap bastard wasn’t keen. He liked her fighting chops, but complained that he would have to bus other girls in from Florida, just to give her an opponent worth wrestling against. She had trials at a few other developmental territories in adjacent states, but nothing worked out, which was a damned shame. Eddie had been teaching her wrestling moves since she was out of fuckin’ diapers.
Her mother’s death hit her hard. Messed with her head. Dented her ambition. Last I heard, she was trawling red light districts across the south-east, supplying hookers for pipeline workers in Alaska. Told me: why the hell not? It paid better than any other gig in this shit-heap town.
Eddie told me that Williamine never made it to Alaska. Never made it out of Testament.
Instead she is shacked up with a pimp called Erasmus in a sweatbox apartment in Testament Heights. He was a promising fighter once – lightweight but agile. That all changed the afternoon he robbed a pharmacy looking for Metandienone, and was arrested jacking up in an Arby’s bathroom.
Erasmus’s front door is ajar. The blistered paintwork is one shade lighter than dried shit.
I edge slowly through the doorway into the gloom, and feel something hit me on my hip, hard and fast. I slide down the wall like fresh ejaculate.
Erasmus is holding a handheld battering ram — the same kind cops use on crack-dens, when they bust down the doors and stomp all the chickenheads.
He smiles when he recognises me, and his gleaming dentures look too big for his mouth.
People said that he got bitched out on his first day in the Big House. He tried to bite off the first animal’s dick, so they smashed his teeth in on the stainless steel edge of his cell toilet.
He gestures to my neck brace with the stem of his crack pipe.
“I was training at a new gym called Knuckle Town. Dude hit me with a corkscrew neck-breaker.”
“Fuck is right.”
I glance around the room.
Williamine is face down on the cigarette-burned couch. She is in her 30s, but her hair is a dirty grey color, like the bottom of an ashtray. Damn near breaks my heart to see her like that.
I can see his mental cogs turning as Erasmus tries to work out my angle.
“You like what you see?”
“You used to be sweet on her, right?”
I shrug again.
He chuckles and walks over to her, running his hands through her greasy grey hair.
“She’s mine now, boy. All mine.”
I feel the red mist rising as I hobble across the floor towards him. I drive the heel of my right hand into his jaw, and his head snaps back. He swings at me with the battering ram, and I feel a couple of my ribs pop. I drop to my knees, winded, and he slams the cold steel into my face. I’m surprised I don’t black out. Only the excruciating pain seems to be keeping me conscious.
Through my tears I can just about make out Williamine, as she drifts across the living room, like a ghost. On the coffee table next to the cracked flatscreen TV are a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, a double-barrelled scattergun and a retractable baton. Erasmus is evidently a paranoid motherfucker. I hope she grabs the gun, for my sake…
Erasmus is goading me, jeering at me through spittle-flecked lips. Williamine extends the baton and swipes his legs away at the knee. He hits the floorboards like a sack of hot shit, and grunts like he’s having sex. He looks up at her, confused.
Williamine peels his blistered fingers off the battering ram.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
She hammers the steel down hard on the top of his skull. It cracks like a rotten egg, and stinks twice as bad. He makes the kind of noise you hear when roadkill gets mangled under your truck.
She crouches down and drives the battering ram into the bloody, twitching mess on the floor.
“Fuck you, Erasmus.”
She doesn’t help me up, just drifts past, still in her dirty underwear, still clutching the battering ram, feet trailing through the spilled viscera.
I glance across at Erasmus, unable to heave my ruined body off the floor. His ugly, misshapen mouth is still open mid-scream. Then I look at the trail of bloody footprints leading out of the apartment.
Even that old bastard Freddie Regal would be impressed with Williamine’s handiwork. A fighter always needs to be vigilant about their fuckin’ pay-offs…
Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, Near to the Knuckle and the Flash Fiction Offensive. He is currently working on a novella entitled Boneyard Dogs. Get your pound of flesh at http://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/