FICTION August 15, 2014

Everybody’s Mrs. Fahrenheit

Though she’d been married to both men (common law), neither Buddy Frazier Jr. nor Paul Runyon had any final respects to pay Babe the Blue Fox. She’d left Paul for Buddy back when the two men were tag-team partners then left Buddy a few years after the EXPLOSION OF LOVE!!! The wrestlers had only come out of respect for El Gaucho, her third and final husband—also a wrestler, also common law, also estranged. As her last and, by default, current husband, El Gaucho was burdened with making the arraignments. A burden because Babe the Blue Fox estranged herself from family and friends more swiftly and permanently than she had from her husbands. A burden because El Gaucho was tasked to speak honestly but somehow lovingly about her (he was a babyface, a hero, after all) when it would have been much easier to play the heel like Buddy and cut a scathing promo on Babe. A burden because she’d left no money or written instructions for her final rest. El Gaucho requested that Babe’s casket match the iconic blue dresses she wore at ringside, so Zampillo sent a 20 Gauge Yankee Silver model over to Chicago Street Auto Body where a powder coat was mixed and applied to achieve the desired effect.

Buddy appreciated the effort. The casket’s color was the only thing El Gaucho had gotten right about Babe’s funeral. She wore an aqua blue dress, not because of her gimmick or ring name, but because it reminded her of a distant childhood summer spent on the shores of the Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey, Michigan. Babe was quick to tell this to strangers and lovers alike. She’d often remark on it to Smilin Joe Spiceland during her interviews when she’d appear in a glamorous new gown.

After they’d moved in together Babe took Buddy “Up North” as she called the vast wilderness of Northern Michigan, to Petoskey for a long weekend at a bed and breakfast. Buddy always thought of this as their common law honeymoon. She’d taken Paul to Petoskey as well when she first hooked up with him years earlier, though she wouldn’t tell Buddy if she and Paul stayed at the same place.

The bed and breakfast was only yards from the bay. Babe and Buddy spent most of their time in the water, bodies entwined under the surface as the occasional kayaker lost in thought or the pontoon boat of partiers sailed past them.

It was in the bay, as she approached her petite mort, that Babe whispered into Buddy’s ear those wishes upon her actual death. Flight. Yes. Trebuchet. Don’t stop. Water. Oh god. Blue, came the words in gasps and convulsions. When they were both spent, floating blissfully in the water, Babe clarified her wishes. She was to be launched by trebuchet over the Little Traverse Bay where her casket would fly through the Northern heavens before plunging into those placid and idyllic waters of her youth. And it sounded reasonable and right to Buddy floating there in the pristine bay with the most beautiful woman he’d ever known whispering dreams to him.

Maybe she never shared this with El Gaucho. Or maybe she did but the great luchador discounted it as pure fantasy. Perhaps he simply didn’t care. In any case, Buddy wasn’t consulted about the arraignments. He doubted Paul was either. And why would they be? Buddy and Paul were insignificant next to El Gaucho, jobbers in the grand scheme of things compared to the great champion. In the end, El Gaucho chose to burry her in Black Hawk, in the side by side plot at San Giovanni cemetery he’d purchased in a fit of love and existential angst when he and Babe first hooked up.

“Ain’t no way you’d get me to share eternal rest with my ex,” Buddy said.

“Our ex,” said Paul who took another swig from his flask then handed it to Buddy.

“Shall I kill it?” Buddy asked. He emptied the flask before Paul could answer then wiped his lips with the pink pocket square. “Only reason that big hoss is being so gracious about her is that he won,” he told Paul. “Gaucho’s the last one to plant his flag, if you will.”

Paul shook his head no. “Babe was the winner. Man-eater-upper.”

“All-around eater-upper,” said Buddy.

Paul bowed his head in agreement and let out a quiet, “Woo yeah.”

On the television Buddy Frasier Jr. and Paul Runyon had already made their entrances to the ring. Each combatant stared the other down from his corner. Then the house lights dimmed and a lone spotlight shone down on a golf cart decorated like a parade float where Babe the Blue Fox stood, stoic and glamorous in a satin gown the color of the Little Traverse Bay in late June. She didn’t smile, didn’t wave to the fans like the beauty queen she could have been. She looked her destiny head on.

Story-line heartbreak transcended the squared circle and bore down on the wrestlers in real life. First Paul, then Buddy. Babe left him for the professor of an anthropology class she was taking at Black Hawk Community College during a period of self-improvement which involved swearing off wrestlers. “I’m tired of you guys shitting all over yourselves where you eat,” she’d often tell the boys in the back who asked her out during that period. Then she was with a veterinarian for a time, a handsome and kind-hearted woman fifteen years her senior. (Some of the boys ribbed her about a fox seeing a veterinarian.) That relationship didn’t last. “Dogs and cats are dogs and cats,” was the only reason Babe ever gave for that failed experiment.

The wrestlers watched El Gaucho and the undertaker embrace with the familiarity of good friends. This was El Gaucho’s old neighborhood, or so they guessed; the luchador was billed as hailing from Parts Unknown on arena marquees and in wrestling programs throughout the Rustbelt.

“Must attend to my vitals,” Buddy said. “Where’s the head around here?”

Paul pointed down a hallway leading to the back of the building.

Zampillo’s funeral parlor was a small one with only two showrooms. The second room was no longer used for viewings. Zampillo treated it as a staging ground, a workshop to put final touches on the departed—a little blush on the cheeks, some hairspray to tame flyways, a carefully placed memento or crucifix in the departed’s hands.