The following story is just one tale from many in a series known as “Puroresu World,” where the world of professional wrestling is very much real and it is the means to all ends. Enjoy!
As the doors of Paterson’s Pet Shop swung open, old man Torly stumbled out, clumsily dropping his cane as he struggled to shove the paper bag containing his purchase into his pocket. This will do nicely he thought as he cautiously squatted down to pick up his cane. He’d tell you the old wheel “ain’t quite what it used to be,” to sell you the gravity of his situation, but his age showed regardless of his worn out tires. Liver spots took residence over most of his body while his skin wrinkled and sagged like that piece of laundry you threw into the hamper a week ago, but decided to put on anyway.
As the old coot struggled to grab his cane, townie big-shot and local date-rapist, Al Lombardi, strutted down the street, locked in arms with a young, gullible lady he managed to bring home without drugging from the night before. Al was physically gigantic, but somehow paled in comparison to size of his own ego. Still, a barrel-chested stud who could deadlift a smart car attracted a lot of attention from guys and gals alike. The baffling aspect of Big Lombard’s personality was with all his massive size and strength, the big oaf had a beautiful head of jet black hair and he bleached the hell out of it. Some of the locals believed that after years of making a fortune husting the townsfolk in the local luchas, he wanted to get noticed by Hollywood. He’s been heard telling some of the girls that he had the “bod and the look.” Somehow, the fact that he lives in Cedar Falls, MI didn’t seem to faze him.
Meanwhile, old Mr. Torly still struggled to get up. To boot, he just didn’t have the vision he used to have. And Big Al? Well, he just didn’t see anyone that wasn’t his reflection in a mirror (or at least a well-polished shop window). What followed could only be described as the perfect alignment of every celestial body in the universe. Torly once again fumbled his cane, dropping it directly in Al’s path. Al, who was so busy admiring his perfect eyebrows in the pet store window that he’d fail to notice the sun reigning down fire on the earth, failed to notice the cane falling in his path. The big oaf stepped right into the walking stick, sending him soaring head-first into a fresh pile of some locally produced fecal matter left by a rather large beast. While it sent all the bystanders into a frenzy of laughter, there is absolutely nothing funny about not cleaning up after your dog (or being a bum shitting in the street. Maybe).
“You dumb old fuck! Can’t you see I’m walking?” Al sat up, violently ripping the fecal-stained shirt off his body, continuing to verbally berate the old man.
“Oh, goodness… I’m so sorry,” said the old man as he shuffled over to attempt to help up the human tree trunk he just inadvertently chopped down.
Al sprung to his feet, grabbing poor old Torly by the collar to aggressively pin him to the display window of a neighboring store front.
“No, old man. Sorry just ain’t gonna cut it. Sorry ain’t gonna clean the shit off of my shirt or shut these idiots’ dumb fucking laughter.”
Al paused for a moment to look down at the ground at his shirt that looks like it could be discarded in a toilet in a public restroom, almost as to refuel his anger.
“That shirt cost me ninety bucks. It was worth more than your whole stinkin’ life and you turned it into a sheet of toilet paper. No…”
Lombardi quickly scoped the street, spotting a police Lucha de Acuerdo outpost on the opposite corner. The outposts served to settle petty crimes and local disputes with several locations scattered around major hubs in all towns and cities. If you were wronged, you settled it in the ring. If you got caught stealing or performing any other illegal activity, you paid for it in the ring. If you didn’t pay your parking ticket, you paid up in the ring.
Old man Torly flailed around in a futile attempt to escape the giant’s grasp.
“Please, I’m sorry, sir! I’ll gladly buy you— “
Al interrupted, cupping the bottom of Torly’s jaw in his massive hands.
“Shut the fuck up. We are gonna settle this right now. My way,” Big Al dragged the old man forcefully across the street to the office manning the podium in front of the outpost.
“Officer, I demand a Lucha de Apuesta. This careless old man wronged me and I deserve justice under the law,” Al said, finally releasing Torly from his clutches, sending the old man stumbling into the podium.
The officer looked back and forth at the frail-looking old man and the giant hunk of mass that dragged him there, several times. It was his duty to listen to the complaints and determine whether or not a match would be justified. Often times, if the two guys were in agreement, they would bypass the decision making and let them beat each other silly. It was entertainment for the boys on duty.
Al looked at the officer’s badge, impatiently urging him to make a decision.
“Come on Officer – what is this – Calloway! I don’t have all fucking day,” he said impatiently while slamming his giant ham-for-a-hand down on the podium.
Officer Calloway had seen and heard a lot of bullshit on this beat over the years, but this one was absolutely the most ridiculous case he has ever seen.
“You curse at me again, and your ass is going to be thrown in a cell so tight, all those girls you spend the night with are gonna look like endless caverns. Now tell me what happened.”
Lombardi explained his side of the story, greatly exaggerating the spill he took and painting a picture of the old man that depicted him as a runner up to Hitler as one of the worst people to ever live. Years on the beat had earned Calloway a nearly infallible bullshit meter and he had reached a decision even before hearing Torly’s side of the story. Clearly, there was no way he would allow this hoss of a bully to dismantle this old man for any reason. In the interest of fairness and protocol, he listened to Torly’s side anyway.
“…and then the old man fucking laughed at me as I swallowed shit – “
“Ok, ok. I get it, Lombardi,” Calloway interrupted, switching focus to Torly.
“And you, sir? What’s your say?”
Torly sighed and leaned his cane against the podium, straightening out his shirt from the brutalization his suffered from Al beforehand.
“I understand this gentleman’s rage and I am eternally sorry. It was truly a horrible accident, but it does not change what has happened. I accept his challenge for the lucha. I may be old and brittle, but I am still a man and I still have my dignity.”
Calloway looked the old fool in a state of disbelief. If both men agree, it was difficult for him to interfere. He was about to watch an old man get crippled and that wasn’t quite the dinner conversation he had in mind to have with his wife and kid later.
“Ok then,” Calloway said hesitantly, “Al demanded a Lucha de Apuesta, do you accept these terms?”
Apuestas involved a wager that the two participants decided upon before stepping in the ring. While normal matches got people out of paying fines, or settling a score, Apuestas actually had participants losing or giving up something in a big wager.
Torly nodded firmly, appearing shaken, but steadfast in his decision. Calloway lifted his cap, wiping the sweat away from his forehead, still unsure whether he should really let this proceed.
“And your wager?” Calloway asked, looking between the two would-be competitors.
“That old fuck ain’t got nothing I want. The only thing I want is for him to feel the humiliation he put me through. When I beat him, I want that old fuck to walk around in a diaper filled with my – “
Calloway interrupted him before he could even finish his disgusting thought.
“Come on, Lombardi. Is that really what you want? Can’t settle for him being your personal assistant for a month or something?”
“No. That’s what I fucking want!” Al exclaimed like a kid whose parents weren’t going to buy him the toy he wanted from their trip to the store.
Calloway shook his head, wondering how he got any woman to ever go back to his place. He quickly switched his sights to Torly to ask him the same question.”
Old man Torly may have been a little behind the times with technology and fashion, but it wasn’t hard to spot expensive taste, especially when a guy mentions spending ninety dollars on a t-shirt. He also recognized that it was usually those with the least class and tact with the most money in their accounts.
“I know this is silly and I know I don’t deserve to even make a wager, but if I have to… I’ll take 80% of whatever is in his bank account right now.”
Al could barely contain his laughter. He figured the old coot just spit out the most ridiculous idea he could because he knew he had no chance anyway.
Reluctant as he has been since the beginning of this fiasco, Calloway reached under the podium, pulling out various paperwork for the two to sign. Included in the pile were the templated for the terms of agreement, a consent form, and a waiver that released the city, state, country, and police department from any responsibility for injuries sustained in the ring, including death (the ultimate TKO).
After all the T’s were crosses and the I’s were dotted, the two contestants were led into a room by one of the other on duty police officers. It was the size of a small town recreation center, but instead of basketball courts and a stage, there was a wrestling ring smack in the middle of where the court would be. The mini-arena was dimly lit all around, except for the hot lights illuminating the squared circle. Surrounded the ring were some flimsy barricades that served only to show a clear separation between the ring and the bleachers that lined the outskirts of the hall. The officer led Big Al to the far end of the arena, while he allowed Torly the side nearest the door to cut down his distance.
“Better make sure that grandpa signed those waivers,” Al shouted from across the ring, reaching for the middle rope, and easily taking giant step up to the apron of the ring before continuing to hurl insults at the old man.
“Death is coming for that crypt-keeping old fool!” he screamed again towards Torly, as he stepped through the ropes and leaned back against the corner turnbuckles, watching and waiting for the bell to ring.
Torly, meanwhile, was still attempting to roll into the ring. He had placed one leg up on the apron, but was lacked the lower-body strength necessary to pull his other leg up and roll into the ring. He laid there, dangling helplessly on the apron before Calloway came and assisted him in rolling the rest of his body into the ring.
You couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin off of Lombardi’s face if you tried to do it with a brillo pad soaked in bleach. The most concerning issue, especially to Calloway, was Al’s particularly violent reputation in these luchas. Either Torly didn’t know about him or he was looking for suicide via lucha. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time somebody’s attempted it.
To his credit, Torly was able to pull himself up with some assistance from the ropes, dusting himself off and tossing the worn down, green cardigan he had been wearing over the ring post. He fell back gently into the turnbuckles in the corner, visibly exhausted from his strenuous journey into the ring.
Looking out into the crowd, he noticed a group of striped shirts quietly shuffling into the ringside area. All the poor saps on civil official duty were allowed into the hall first. When the new era began, traditional jury duty was done away with. Instead, citizens were summoned every 3 years to serve as officials for matches at outposts. Some even served for the elections or more. It certainly made serving far more interesting, but with the rising interest came the increasing chance for one of them to get hurt.
Following the citizens serving, spectators were allowed to fill in the rest of the bleachers (and some standing room). People always lingered around the outposts as ultimately, this was still entertainment. And, of course, somethings will never change. Government is really still just a business, and they didn’t mind making some concession stand money off of the guys stopping by to watch.
As a microphone lowered from the ceiling, Officer Calloway rolled into the ring to get the contest under way.
“1-2…is this on?” Calloway tapped the microphone, making sure the speakers were picking him up.
“Before we begin, I’d like to announce that the police department is having its annual BBQ next Sunday. There will be food, games, and a raffle. Oh, and we’re having some of the death row jamokes come down for a couple of rounds of no holds barred action. Probably end up saving some money on an execution or two, eh boys?”
There was a sea of light laughter from some of the uniforms in the back and the officials sitting ringside. Calloway, extremely pleased with himself, held his hand up with a grin on his face and quelled the crowd.
“Anyway, today we’re gonna have ourselves an Apuesta match between Franklin Torly and Al Lombardi tonight. Sorry I had to interrupt your card game in the back for this, but one of you guys has gotta do your civic duty, tonight.”
Officer Calloway slipped his phone from his breast pocket and quickly accessed an app located in his home screen. The application began scrolling through a series random numbers until it slowly stopped at itself at number “11.”
“Official #11, you’ve drawn the magic number! You’re up,” said the officer calmly as he spotted a body rising from his seat in the front row. With all the paperwork and formalities out of the way, all that was left was for Official #11 to check the competitors for any illegal, foreign objects and ring the bell.
Number 11 made his way to Al first, who had been filling the time thus far, “flirting” with one of the spectators he spotted at the top of the bleachers. Al, at least, believed he was flirting, but the young lady was appalled the minute he started shouting to her all the things he wanted to do to that “tight little body” of her’s. A real lady’s man, that Lombardi.
As the official approached, however, Al quickly refocused his glare at the old man, practically staring a hole right through him.
“You better call an ambulance and have ‘em parked outside unless you wanna make funeral arrangements for him later,” Lombardi said to the official as he raised his right leg for him to pat down.
Protocol called for all of the on-duty officials to pat down each leg from their thighs right down to their toes, man or woman, to check for any objects that may grant the competitors an unfair advantage.
“Whatever, Lombardi. Just keep it clean. I don’t want any of your funny shit in here tonight. He’s just an old man,” the official warned Lombardi as he finished patting down the alternate leg.
Needless to say, Big Al’s ego didn’t take too kindly to being talked to like that by some jabroni in a zebra shirt. As #11 turned to head towards Torly, the big brute shoved the official aside, charging towards the old man himself. Torly, who was still struggling to just take off his cardigan, was grabbed by the collar and unceremoniously tossed across the ring.
“Ring the fucking bell or you’re going to be scrubbing his blood off the ring and all your clothes, chump!” Al shouted towards the referee as he stalked his way in Torly’s direction.
Situations like this aren’t exactly covered in the crash course the officials take before service. Usually, contests are well-contained, but not many people wanted to get in the way knowing Al’s reputation and violent streak. Nervously, Official #11 looked towards the timekeeper to ring the bell and officially start the contest.
An enraged Al Lombardi continued his all-out assault on his elderly opponent, picking him up like a rag doll and tossing him from corner to corner like a disregarded toy. Al laid in a barrage of close-fisted shots to Torly’s tender mid-section, effectively winding the old man. Well in control of the match, Al stood Torly up against the corner, pausing to mouth off to one of the fans, begging him to stop the brutalization of the elderly man.
Torly’s mouth was agape and gasping for precious molecules of air. If there was anything Lombardi liked to do more than beat people up it was talk trash about how much he liked to beat people up. The bright side is that it brought Torly time to catch his breath. Just a few more moments he thought. But moments for what? It was a miracle he even last this long.
“All right, tough guy. You want me to take it easy on him? I’ll take it easy,” Big Al mocked a fan in the back as he ripped open the flannel button down Torly had on under his sweater, sending buttons flying out into the crowd like a sea of bullets.
Al raised his arm high in the sky, only to have his hand crash down onto his elderly victim’s bare chest. The impact caused Torly to howl in pain as his chest peeled like fine slices of deli meat and turned red like a bad sunburn. The crowd jeered as Torly dropped to his knees in the corner while Al dared anyone to come do something about it.
As he fell to his knees in the corner, Torly eyed the cane that was placed under the bottom turnbuckle, deciding to finally reach for it. From the corner of his eye, #11 saw the desperate old fool reach for what ultimately was an illegal object. Quickly, he side stepped over to Torly, placing his foot firmly above the cane to stop the action.
“You can’t use this. What do you think you’re doing?” he asked sternly.
“Please, I just need help getting up. My body aches,” Torly begged the referee to allow him to at least get up, but the rules were the rules.
Official #11 reached for the cane, only to have it snatched out of his own hands by a looming Lombardi.
“Oh, so the old man wants to fight back, huh? I’ll break this over his fucking skull.”
Al reared back again, gripping the cane tightly with two hands, but as Torly cowered in fear, the official jumped up and pulled the cane back down before Lombardi could take a swing.
“No one gets the fucking cane. Let it go!”
The two struggled for control of the cane as they moved to opposite corner of the ring, with Al arguing that Torly brought it in, he should just be able to use it. #11 reminded him he can’t just make things up.
As the two argued over the foreign object on the opposite end of the ring, Torly seized the moment as the opening he had been waiting for. As Torly struggled to come to a knee, he reached deep into his pocket and impatiently ripped into the bag he had stuffed in his pocket earlier. After a moment of feeling around, Torly pulled out a chain-linked dog collar that local hoodlums like to buy for their pit bulls in an effort to look intimidating. Quickly wrapping it around his right hand, he waited hunched over and watching as the two continued their argument on the other side.
Finally letting go of the cane, Al set his sights back on the task at hand while the referee leaned out through the middle rope, struggling to find someone to take the cane off his hands and out of the ring. Torly, feeling Al’s gaze burn through him, gingerly got to his feet, starting to slowly turn towards his opponent, almost in an attempt to goad the giant into charging right at him like a matador taunting a bull. Al let a smile consume his face as his internal engine went from 0 to 60, running at the old man like a primal beast. Torly, stepped out with his right foot, timing it so that he would pivot off the foot, dodging the charging bull of a man, and lay a solid chain-wrapped right hand into Al’s soft temple.
Falling, dazed right onto his stomach, Lombardi struggled to get back to his knees, but his mind wandered in a daze as his eyes tried and failed to focus and everyone seemed to multiply into several blurred versions of themselves. Old man Torly stood over his bully rearing his hand back one more time.
“Thanks for helping an old man get back on his feet, you big worthless shit stain,” Torly said uncharacteristically as he came down with one last violent shot to the side of the head, turning the lights out in the already dimmed mind of Big Al Lombardi.
Torly tossed the chain out into the crowd, as they shouted words of encouragement at the old man. Lombardi, after all, was nothing more than a bully and most of that crowd wanted nothing more for him to be put in his place. Torly fell to his knees, turning his downed opponent onto his back, laying his own exhausted corpse on top. Official #11, finally just deciding to drop the damned cane, turned his attention back into the ring, pausing in shock, to the image in front of him. Not having seen anything that transpired behind him, he had no choice but to dive down onto the canvas and bang his hand down 3 times to award old man Torly the victory.
Before the official could even raise his hand in victory, Torly rolled out about as limber as any young man in that crowd, fetching his cane, and making his way to the back of the hall into a small, private office, where Calloway sat filling out paperwork.
“Job’s done then?” Calloway didn’t even look up, as Torly leaned his cane against the desk where the officer was planted. “I suppose you’ll be wanting the account information.”
Torly nodded as Calloway ripped off a piece of loose-leaf paper with some numbers written on both sides.
“The second set of numbers is my account information. You can send my share when you get the hell out of town.”
Torly, smiled as he faced a mirror in the attached bathroom of the office, peeling some loose prosthetic off his face.
“Don’t worry, Officer, you’ll get your fucking cut,” Torly said as he decided to stop playing with the prosthetics and concentrate on the bag he had underneath the desk in the office.
The “old man” pulled out a small, moleskin journal and turned to the bookmarked page with a list of names, checking off Lombardi’s.
“So what’s the endgame here, Franklin? Where are you going with all of this.”
“Government activity isn’t the concern of small-town cops in some streak mark in the USA. Just know that piece of shit was funding some dangerous people and now he has enough to eat for a few weeks before someone finishes that shmuck off.”
Torly stuffed everything back into his backpack before stepping towards the door.
“Franklin Torly took the money and moved to some beautiful Caribbean island of your choosing. You never saw me again. If I hear any different for any reason, agencies you never even knew existed are going to make you cease to exist. You got it?”
Calloway slowly nodded as he watched Torly walk out the door and disappear through a window in a quiet part of the hall. Franklin Torly was never heard from again, but the legend of the old man would stick around for decades.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Guilherme Marconi.