portion of the artwork for Mather Schneider's poetry

Headlocks
Mather Schneider

I met the Masked Marvel the other day.
He was drinking whiskey at 3 in the afternoon
at the Golden Nugget.
He was 74 years old,
everyone called him Doc.

Years ago, he was one of those
traveling professional wrestlers
moving from town to town, grappling with men
with names like The Predator
and Chainsaw Charlie.
It was quite a life,
drinking from ship-sized barrels of rum,
a new bone or joint cracked and twisted each day.
All the towns, all the crazy fun.
He told me he still had his leather mask
and shoulder pads.

Life was real back then, he insisted,
mapping his countless scars.
He had been beaten and had come back for more
somehow enjoying it,
the small animal victories
of rubbing men’s faces into the mat,
the screams from the crowd for more gore.
He thought it a lucky game
and he fancied himself a winner
as he downed
gulp after gulp.

I was believing his story,
what with all the details and facts he had
but when he stood to go to the bathroom
the bartender cleared things up for me.
There wasn’t a word of truth to any of it.
Doc was a nutcase, a few shots
short of a clip, usually harmless
but if he tried to demonstrate any
of his old “wrestling” moves on me, it
was suggested that I leave.

I thought about the other man
inside the Masked Marvel and inside
all of us, the man who holds
everything pent up
until he finally snaps
unleashing bullets into the ring
of the Circle K
like that guy in the news last week.
I pictured him strapped
to an electric chair
or pinned against the ropes of madness,
whispering pleas
to cauliflower-eared walls
costumed in a straightjacket.
I thought about that other man
we all fight each day

and when he returned from the bathroom
I looked at the Masked Marvel, old Doc
and raised my glass to the pain.


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 56 | Fall/Winter 2020