“Takes meta-fiction to dizzying new heights.”—The Huffington Post
About the Author
Franz Kafka is one of the 20th century's most influential authors. His novella "The Metamorphosis" and his novels The Trial and The Castle are regarded among the most original works of modern Western literature. Coleridge Cook, writing under a different name, is a beloved fantasy novelist and blogger as well as the winner of several prestigious literary awards.
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Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of Saturday mornings, when the wrestlers would make the weekly trek up to the Hart House to pick up their paychecks. Our house, as most Calgarians can tell you, was located on an escarpment on the west end of town, overlooking the city. Although we were within the city limits, my dad, who’d grown up on a farm, seemed to think it was perfectly normal to have goats, cows, horses, chickens and turkeys (human and otherwise) wandering around the yard. Combine that with this bizarre procession of midgets, giants, wrestling bears (human and otherwise), nefarious Nazis, conniving commies, insidious Orientals and assorted other misfits and it’s easy to see why most of our neighbors or anyone who happened to be driving by considered us to be some kind of cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Addams Family — with just a touch of The Twilight Zone thrown in for good, or perhaps bad, measure.
Since my dad tended to be terminally disorganized, like I am, the pay envelopes (which were prepared by my poor, beleaguered mother) were very rarely ready on time. As a consequence, the wrestlers were forced to wait downstairs, patiently.
While the boys cooled their heels, my dad would make coffee, bacon, eggs and pancakes for them. Legend has it that one time one of the animals (I’m not sure if it was supposed to have been a dog, cat, bear or what) defecated on the floor and my dad scooped up the shit with his spatula, discarded it and then turned to whomever he was serving and inquired, “Did you want your eggs over easy?” Over the years, I swear that I must have run into dozens of wrestlers who claimed they were the recipients of said eggs. My dad, of course, used to vehemently deny that he’d ever served up any such offering — as he only served his eggs scrambled.
One of the things that really amazes me now — given today’s open admission that wrestling is a work — is the lengths the wrestlers would go to, back then, to maintain the façade that wrestling was legitimate and not “phony,” as they used to say.
Even though we were the promoter’s kids, all the wrestlers, heels and babyfaces would arrive in separate vehicles and the heels would sequester themselves in one room, behind closed doors, while the faces would gather in another room. Although there were never staged brawls or any of that, they always maintained the pretense that they didn’t like each other and would never let their guards down.
Most of the heels were pretty intimidating. I remember being uneasy around the likes of “Mad Dog” Vachon, Skull Murphy, Fritz Von Erich, Sky Hi Lee, “Iron Mike” DiBiase, the Kalmikoff Brothers and “Bulldog” Brower — all of whom bore striking resemblances to sinister villain types you’d see in the movies. Two of the most convincing bad guys were Hard Boiled Haggerty and Bob Orton Sr. — both of whom always seemed to be in a rotten mood and would scowl at us whenever they saw us. Funny enough, a few years back I was at this old–time wrestlers’ reunion called Cauliflower Alley in Las Vegas and ran into them. Even though I was long since wise to the business, because of my childhood preconceptions I was still somewhat apprehensive and I mentioned that to them. They both laughed and told me that I’d just made their day.
In retrospect, I’m not sure if my dad ordered the wrestlers to kayfabe (old carny slang that roughly translates as “play the role”) like that around us, or if that was just the prevailing norm. In any case, as far as we were concerned, wrestling was for real. I can still recall how, if any kids at school had the audacity — as some did — to suggest that wrestling was phony, it was a personal affront and grounds for fighting.
Many a time our school principal — this dour and austere old British fart named Mr. Broadberry — would haul our asses into the office and give us the strap for our schoolground altercations. He would then call up my dad on the phone and have him come down to reprimand us for our transgressions. My dad would make out to be displeased with us for our misbehavior, but later at home, he’d give us a pat on the back for having defended the wrestling business.
I remember one time my older brother Smith had this overbearing, big blowhard of a phys. ed. teacher named Mr. Ward, who was always making snide remarks about wrestling, claiming that it was all a sham and that he, himself, could annihilate any of those phony pretenders and that sort of thing. As a result, a lot of kids also began making fun of us and mocking the wrestling business. When my dad got wind of this, he was quite pissed off and one day, he showed up at our school, unannounced, while Ward was conducting an amateur wrestling class and making his usual disparaging remarks about the wrestling business. As Ward was babbling on, my dad casually strolled up to the mat and beckoned him to try him on for size, if wrestlers were all phonies and pushovers, as he’d been alleging.
I doubt that Ward wanted any part of my dad, but since he’d been blowing his own horn so much and was being egged on by the kids, he didn’t have much choice but to accept. In a matter of seconds, my dad had him on the mat in some killer submission hold, screaming like a baby and begging for mercy. After that, we never heard Ward or any of the other kids at school cast any aspersions about wrestling being phony.
When I think back now on how guys like my dad, Haggerty, Orton and so many others used to go to such inordinate lengths to protect the business, I find it hard to fathom how Vince McMahon could have chosen to so indiscriminately expose it years later.