My son, Trashman Jr. picked tonight's subject. He really seems to enjoy this story (I think because in this one I get my ass kicked). For a long time he didn't believe me, that is until Granny Grunt verified it at Christmas time.
In the early 80's Jack and I went to the big city on more than one occasion to be tested for military service. We used to go once or twice a year just for the free hotel and meal and there was usually a party. The guys shipping out the next day had to get in one last drunken good time. The recruiter in our hometown had been sending us for quite some time always hoping we would sign up. I don't remember if this was the time they got me or not, but I do remember what happened when we got home.
My mom was waiting at The Patch bus depot when we got back. She greeted us as we got off the bus and we headed for her car. I think she may have asked if we signed up. I'm not sure. However I remember very distinctly (I hear it in slow motion every time I think about it) she said "They have bear wrestling at the mall. Do either one of you want to sign up for it?" I turned and looked at Jack and he was looking at me, we both had stupid grins on our faces, which really wasn't that unusual. In those days we always had stupid grins on our faces, if you know what I mean. If you don't, I'm not going to spell it out for you.
I've always considered myself one of, if not the Baddest Mother Fucker on the planet. I had my mom drive straight to the mall. I went inside and signed up for "Bear Rasslin". There were three sets a day with three matches per set. I managed to get signed up for the next to last set on the last day. I had to wait a week. The anticipation damn near ate me alive, which was really the bears job. Jack and I went to the mall a couple of times during the week to look at the bear. I was scouting my competition. I remember saying things like
"When this is over I'm gonna have a bear skin rug."
"Should I have him stuffed?"
"How about mount the head?"
"Should I pose nekkid on the skin when I'm done with him?"
"I could use his fur for a coat and move to Alaska."
I'm sure I said a lot of other stupid shit as well.
Now let me give you a little background on the bear. His name was "Victor the Victorious". I think he was a Canadian brown. The chart said he was 6'8" and 680 pounds. He knew more than 40 wrestling moves all of which were controlled by his handler who used sight and sound signals. He had never lost a match. That of course was because he never fucked with me. Yet. What Victor and I both didn't know, was sooner or later you run into somebody bigger and badder. Somebody that's going to hand you your ass.
The night before the match I was hanging out at my mom's house, watching some detective show with her. She always loved detective shows but she hated watching them with me. Fifteen minutes in, I would announce who did it. Not that night.
Mom: "Something wrong?"
Mom: "You didn't tell me who did it."
Trashman: "I'm kind of nervous about tomorrow."
Mom: "Oh, the bear thing?"
Mom: "I could always refuse to let you do it."
Trashman: "No. I already talked too much shit. I have to wrestle him."
Mom: "Ok. Let me know if you want out of it."
Trashman: "Gotta do it."
The next day I was prepared. I put on sneakers with plenty of grip. Lose clothing for a quick get away. Clothes under the clothes in case I had to use the get away. I went to the mall and the place was packed. It was Saturday so everybody in town that didn't have anything to do was there to hopefully see some poor bastard get mauled.
The bear had been declawed and wore a muzzle. The handler stayed in the ring the whole time, so there was "no chance" you would be hurt. The ring looked like any wresting ring except it was surrounded by chain link. I'm still not sure if it was to keep in the bear or the idiot that signed up to wrestle him.
I was first on the list for that set. When they called my name I crawled through the hole in the fence. I could hear "Gonna Fly Now" playing in my head. I was Rocky Balboa and he was Apollo Creed. The thing is, I was in Rocky 2, where Rocky won. He was in Rocky 1, where Apollo won.
I was told by the handler that Victor would only be as aggressive as I was. All that meant to me was this big hunk of bear meat was in the fight of his life.
I stood toe to toe with the hairy beast. I was looking up into his eyes and he was looking down into mine. I swear I saw a little spark of fear in those beady brown eyes. He put his paws on my shoulders and the trainer clapped his hands. I was driven into the mat. My knees buckled and I was on my back. The bear was headed for me, he was going to bring 680 pounds right down on my chest. I'm surprisingly fast for a fat man and back then I wasn't fat. I quickly rolled to my left and bounced to my feet. The bear stood back up walked over to me and put his paws on my shoulders again. CLAP. Down I went, and this time it hurt. Victor landed on my chest knocking the wind out of me. I couldn't breathe. He then proceeded to try to bite me, but he was wearing the muzzle so all he did was bounce his face off my chest, knocking out any wind I had left. The trainer leaned over any looked at me.
Trainer: "You had enough?"
Trashman (wheezing): "Get this mother fucker off me."
He gave the bear a little tug and lead him away. I rolled over and started crawling for the hole in the fence. I got about halfway and the bastard reached out with his big meat hook of a paw and grabbed my left foot (you know, the one that's not as cool as the rest of me) and pulled me back. I remember hearing a little girl scream (I'm sure it wasn't me). I kicked free and crawled even faster. I dove for the hole in the fence and tumbled out onto the floor of the mall. The crowd was cheering for me (laughing at me). I raised both arms high in triumph. As far as I'm concerned I won, I made it out alive. And I'm pretty sure he cheated.