I got into Bukowski about five years ago on a trip to New York from North Carolina. I swallowed Ham on Rye in a single sitting while riding in the back of some clunker-type Honda thing racing north on I-95 in what I think was June of 2005. Since then I've read all of his novels and much of his poetry (which is a lot, do you know how much poetry he wrote?) and don't give a shit about the literary ball bags at the Vice office who say he's a boring, repetitive, pompous, fake-macho, southern-California-weather-system-addled boozehole, partly because I agree, and partly because I don't read him for some sort of illumination on the haggard life of the proletariat. I just see his writing as a quick source of thrills, spills, and funny things to call women that you're angry at but also still want to fuck.
A few weeks ago, I was going through books at that bookstore up on Fourth Ave by Columbia with all the shelves on the sidewalk when I found a copy of Open All Night with a bunch of folded-up papers crammed in the front cover. The first couple pages were old carbons that looked like some sort of accounting slips, but behind them was a four-page handwritten manuscript about a professional wrestling match in the Buke's unmistakably sloppy, is-there-a-point-coming style. I pocketed them and left without buying anything, pretty certain that I'd just made off with some undergrad's shitty attempt at an homage. But a few nights later my roommate convinced me to scan the pages and email a copy to Bukowski's old publisher John Martin, just on the off-chance it was real. Turns out it was. I present to you now, with Martin's blessings, Charles Bukowski's brief foray into wrestling.
The spandex was tighter than I had expected. It was hot backstage and I could hear the roar of the excited crowd outside. I took a long hit of my beer. It was good. The purple pants grasped my aging thighs. Held them in places and positions they hadn’t seen for years.
I was drunk and had been unemployed for a couple of weeks when Lydia talked me into this thing.
“You bastard!” she had said, “we’re living in this shithole apartment, and you can’t keep a job longer than two weeks, you get the shit kicked out of you regularly anyway, why not get paid for it?”
It did make sense at the time. I had been going to the same bar and fighting the same bartender several times a week for the past year or so.
I was sitting on the couch and when she turned around, crying into the wall, I stared at her ass. It was nice.
“Okay Lydia. You win, I’ll do it.” I was tired and drunk. I just wanted to fuck that tight ass of hers. She turned around and sat beside me on the couch.
“I knew you’d do it for me Hank, it won’t be bad, you might even be good at it.” I ran my hand up her thigh and let my fingers fall over her cunt as I eased my purple head out through the zipper. “Let’s go to bed Lydia.”
Backstage at the arena, they gave me a mask. It reminded me of when my face was bandaged as a child, only instead of brown gauze, the mask was purple with yellow lightning bolts jutting out from the ears. It had two small slits for eyes and, luckily, a hole in the mouth that I was able to drink beer through. Standing in front of the dressing room mirror, it all seemed like a bad idea. At least I had a cooler full of beer. That was my stipulation.
I had told Jon Pinchot, the ring manager, at the interview that I had to be drunk to fight. Or fuck. Or write. Or go to the track. He agreed as he thought it would make for a much better match. It was obvious he had never been in a fight himself. He had the build of some sort of fragile and rotten fruit. A soft pear. He sat behind an oak desk that looked much too big for him. I left the office and went to the bar. I ordered a Seven and Seven. The fight was in two days.
Lydia was backstage with me. She tied my red sash nice and tight. It held up my gut. The room was cramped and the blood and sweat made it smell like sex. I was getting hot.
“Lydia,” I said,“ let’s fuck.”
She looked surprised, which surprised me. I always made blunt sexual advances towards girls back then.
“Here? You have to fight in ten minutes Hank!”
My cock was rising through the purple spandex. It looked like a small eggplant. “Fuck the fight baby, let’s drink these beers and lay down on the couch. That door has a lock on it.”
“you fucking cock sucking bag of shit!” She said. “I know you’re fucking those twenty year old girls!” It was true, “Who the fuck do you think you’re fooling? it was my idea to get you this gig and now you want to blow it? You haven’t had a solid job since the post office, even there you raped some poor housewife! Now get your cock down and fight that bastard out there or i’m leaving you!”
She was pissed. I took another sip of my beer. It was good. Then I threw the bottle across the room at Lydia, it exploded on the white cinderblock wall beside her head.
“Okay baby,” I said, my sweat now starting to darken the yellow lighting bolts on my forearms. “I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna fight that guy, and when I kick his ass, all those cunts in the audience will be wet for me baby. YOU THINK I NEED YOU? YOU FUCKING WHORE!”
Then she walked slowly around me, and before I realized what was happening she grabbed my cape and flipped it over my head. All I could see was purple. Then my head smacked the ground.
“YOU FUCKING BASTARD!” She shouted as she kicked me in the ribs. “YOU THINK I NEED YOU? YOU COULDN’T EVEN GET IT UP FOR THOSE WHORES, YOU STUPID OLD MAN!”
Then she started jumping on top of me. I held my cape tight over my head and curled into a protective ball. She was still screaming something about my drinking or my women and then she jumped off and I heard what sounded like a lamp smash against the wall. Then she delivered a strong, running kick to my head. I went out for a minute, and when I came to she was still screaming.
By this time I wasn’t sure if the cape was still covering my head or if the purple I was seeing was from my swollen eye sockets. I needed a beer. Then I felt a tugging at my feet. Lydia had grabbed the string closest to the toe of my boots. She was dragging me across the room like a mad woman. From the way she was holding my leg up she was able to kick me in the ass with whichever foot happened to be free as she walked backwards around the room. My boots were wingtips, and they had about 22 lace holes that came nearly to my kneecap. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix the damage before the fight.
Just then I heard Jon Pinchot come in.
He said, “What’s going on here?” I pulled the cape away from my face. Lydia was still holding onto my left boot, looking at Jon.
“What is this?” Jon was waving his arms around his head and running towards Lydia. “Why are you doing this? Hank, you have to be in the ring in five minutes!” Lydia kicked me in the balls and let go of my boot.
“It’s okay, Jon.” I said, “The bitch does stuff like this all the time. I can still fight. Just let me drink another beer. I’ll be ready.”
I dusted off my cape and straightened my mask so I could see out of the eyeholes again. Lydia was sitting on the table watching me. Her tits looked good. I thought about how nice it would be to fuck them later that night. Blood was seeping through the spandex of my purple onesy, making parts of my gut look black.
Roy tossed me a beer from the cooler. I took a hit. It was good stuff.