Blood, Guns and Whores

~An
All American Tale of a Boy and His Dog

Written and Illustrated by W.Ross Ayers

An SFWC Co-Publishing Studio Production © 2011 by LND, inc. All rights reserved

“Blood, Guns and Whores – An All American Tale of a Boy and His Dog“, is a coffee table novel made of micro chapters and illustrations about a boy growing up in the small farming community of Blissfield, Michigan and on to adulthood in San Francisco.

W. Ross Ayers

21. Papa Jim Standing in my underwear, I reached into the tall green locker, grabbing my Levi 50-1’s. Slowly, I put them on bending over, my arms shaking. My body was drained and my eyes felt heavy and swollen. Wrestling practice was over for the day. I had stood in the shower for ten minutes leaning against the cool tan tiled wall with my eyes closed. Now I had to get the energy to put my clothes on and go home. It was my sophomore year. The week before, I had won the 138-pound position for the varsity wrestling team during a wrestle-off. The rule was if a varsity wrestler lost his match during a meet anyone could challenge him for his spot the practice before the next meet. I had challenged Todd. I won six points to five. The excitement of that win had partially worn off, but not totally. I had won my two matches that week and held my position on the varsity team. Now I was on top and had to fight to keep it. Craig and Tom wrestled. They were brothers, two of the “thugs and burnouts.” Tom and Craig told stories about their dad fighting in the Golden Gloves competition in the army. They were tough as nails and made sure to prove it. Tom was in my grade. Craig was a year ahead of Rich.

Between fifth and sixth period Tom smoked cigarettes in the boys restroom next to the shop class. He was the varsity 98-pound wrestler. He didn’t just win against all of his opponents, he smashed them with violence. Craig was the varsity 126-pound wrestler. His right leg was deformed, slightly smaller than his left. No one talked about it. No one even mentioned it. Their dad came to some of the home matches. My dad came to all of the matches and all the tournaments. Each meet and tournament, Dad sat on the wooden bleachers alone, no one near him. Mom didn’t come to the wrestling matches anymore. She said it looked like Rich and I were in pain wrestling and couldn’t stand watching. “Pin him! Pin him!” Dad would yell, clapping his hands and stamping his foot against the bleachers during each match, all by himself, cheering on whichever Blissfield wrestler was wrestling at the time. “Hey look, it’s Papa Jim. Go Papa Jim,” Craig would say sitting next to me laughing, clapping his hands together and stomping the floor mocking my dad. Craig was Todd’s best friend. They had both terrorized me non-stop since my freshman year and doubly since I had taken Todd’s spot on the varsity team. Facing the locker, I reached into my pockets to flatten them out before buttoning up the fly. My right hand dipped into a slimy cold liquid. I pulled my hand out. It was covered in raw egg. Confusion, then understanding, then rage swept over me. I knew who had done it. He was standing right behind me. I turned and flung the slimy cold egg across Craig’s shirt and face. Craig, for an instant, stood in shock. Then his eyes went wide and his mouth snarled. Craig chucked me with both hands against my chest, slamming my shoulders back into the tall green lockers. The sound echoed through the locker room. “What the fuck are ya doin’ you fuckin’ asshole! Why the fuck did you do that?” Craig screamed raising his left fist, cocking it to smash me in the face.

Todd stood beside him to my right, leaning towards me glaring. My mind and body froze. Barefoot and shirtless, I was outnumbered. I was in too deep. I had openly challenged him, insulted him. My hands slack at my sides. They wanted to beat me down, just waiting for a reason to destroy me, to smash me into nothing. And I had just given them their excuse. They’re gonna beat the shit out of me... Then a blur from my left bashed into Craig’s face, jerking his head and body to my right. “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” Rich bellowed with power, stepping in front of me, his fists up and teeth clenched. The locker room turned into a shouting blur. Terry another of Craig’s friends and the 167-pound varsity wrestler, grabbed Craig from behind, easily holding his arms. “You fuckin’ sucker-punched me you asshole! I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you!” Craig screamed at Rich, struggling to get loose from Terry. Two Saturdays later, we all filed, one by one, onto the yellow school bus parked in the cold dark behind the High School. It was 5am. We were going to compete as a team in the Stockton Invitational tournament, a two hour bus ride north. Right before Rich and I had gotten into our orange 1976 Ford Mustang II to drive to the high school, our phone rang. An anhydrous ammonia tank had tipped over while being hauled out of dad’s fertilizer plant that morning. He had to go and make sure there were no leaks. “I’ll meet you guys at the tournament. I’ll just be a little late. But I will be there.” I sat alone in the cold dark bus on the green vinyl covered bench seat trying to get some sleep during the hour long ride. It was my first varsity tournament. I had barely slept the night before; too excited and anxious. The bus was completely silent except for the hum of the engine. I closed my eyes leaning my head against the cold metal side of the bus hoping to sleep, but only saw wrestling moves in my head wondering who I would wrestle and if I could beat them hoping they were weaker than me.

Not able to sleep, I looked out the frost covered window watching the dark flat farmland turn into rolling wooded hills as we drove north deeper into Michigan. During weigh-ins, I stood in my underwear, in line by weight class with the other wrestlers from the sixteen teams invited to the tournament. I eyed up the 138-pounders, checking off the ones I knew I could beat; the ones that were smaller and weaker; the ones that looked scared. Some I had wrestled before and beaten, some I had never seen. One by one the wrestlers stepped onto the scales. When it was my turn I took off my underwear. I knew I was close to making weight. “Walt Hayes, Blissfield,” I said standing naked in front of everyone. “Blissfield 138. Step onto the scales,” the weigh-in official announced, looking at his clipboard. I stepped onto the scales, exhaling. The bar bobbed up and down then came to a stop. “Blissfield, 137 and one quarter pounds.” I quickly stepped off the scales and put my underwear on. After weigh-ins the wrestlers ate breakfast in silence, sitting on the rows of benches next to the rows of tables in the brightly-lit Stockton High School cafeteria. Exactly at 8:30am the 98-pound matches started on the four mats spread across the wooden gym floor. Cheers and whistles erupted, filling the gym. I sat with the other Blissfield wrestlers on the bleachers cheering and waiting for my first match. Craig paced back and forth on the wooden floor cheering for Tom with the rest of us. Tom easily won his match, pinning his opponent in the second period. When Tom came off the mat we all congratulated him.

Craig kept pacing back and forth looking at the floor. Then he stopped right in front of me, stepped up the two bleachers and sat next to me. I looked out the corner of my eye, feeling a little uncomfortable that he was sitting so close to me. He leaned towards to me, looking around. “Hey, ah... Walt, um...where’s your dad? He’s gonna be here right?” “Yeah, he’s running late. He’ll be here in a little bit. He’s on his way.” “Oh. Okay...good.” I saw Craig’s shoulders relax as he jumped up and jogged away. Thirty minutes later my dad showed up and was yelling, “Pin him! Pin him!” clapping his hands and stamping his foot against the bleachers, all by himself, cheering on Craig as he won his match. By the end of the season I earned my varsity letter, a thick, stiff yellow B. At the Stockton Invitational I had placed third and got a medal. At the county tournament I had also placed third. I got a piece of paper for that. During the winter sports assembly after the season was over, I was given the team medals for “most escapes” and “most two-point near falls.” As soon as I got home from the awards assembly, I ran up the thirteen stairs to my corner bedroom in our old farm house with the two medals and the varsity letter in my hand. I put the letter and the new medals next to the small bronze colored Stockton medal sitting on my dark brown veneer pressboard desk. Using a large needle and thick fishing line, I sewed the medals onto the thick, stiff yellow B. As a sophomore I had a varsity letter and three medals on it, but no varsity jacket to put them on. The new smooth purple felt jackets with tan leather sleeves and Blissfield Royals embroidered in yellow on the back were eighty dollars at Seagerts on the corner of South Main and East Jefferson.

I didn’t have eighty dollars. The money from working at Einhart’s Acres for the summer was already completely gone. I had spent it on concert tickets and t-shirts: Def Leppard, Van Halen, Prince. The rest I had spent on model rockets, D&D modules, and other shit I don’t even remember. Wrestling and doing homework every night and on the weekends to keep my grades up made getting a job during the school year seem completely overwhelming to me. My allowance was ten dollars every two weeks. And I only got that if I asked for it. If I didn’t need it, I didn’t ask. So I asked my mom about the varsity jacket. “Walt, that’s a lot of money. We can’t afford it.” The next weekend hanging out with Jon at his mom’s house I noticed his half brother Bobby’s varsity jacket on a hanger in the closet. Bobby had graduated two years before. His varsity jacket was the old style, rough woven purple cotton with yellow and purple leather slivers on the shoulders and the same rough woven purple sleeves. No one wore that style anymore. The nice thin dark-blue nylon lining on the inside was ripped and sagging. The woven purple cotton on the outside had little purple lint balls all over it, making it look old and worn. ‘Bobby’ was embroidered in small cursive letters on the front of the purple jacket. A week later, when Jon’s brother was home from college, I talked him into selling me the jacket for twenty dollars. My mom found a seamstress in town that re-lined the jacket in gray flannel as a favor for ten dollars. Sitting in my corner bedroom of our old farm house I pulled out the embroidered ‘Bobby’ stitch by stitch with a seam puller my mom let me use. The next day we took the jacket to Seagerts and they embroidered ‘Walt’ in yellow cursive letters on the front of my purple jacket for seventy-five cents a letter.

That night, by hand, I sewed the thick, stiff yellow B with the three medals onto the left breast of the rough woven purple cotton jacket.

“Blood, Guns and Whores – An All American Tale of a Boy and His Dog“, is a coffee table novel made of micro chapters and illustrations about a boy growing up in the small farming community of Blissfield, Michigan and on to adulthood in San Francisco.

W. Ross Ayers

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