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Today's Story by Brad Efford

Gosh she’s good looking, he thought. Maybe she’d like to know about the wrestling after all.


In his spare time, Harrison Reyes liked to do some backyard wrestling. Like with an 18-foot aluminum ladder opened up like leaning crutches parallel to his brother’s flat house and cushions pulled from the torn corduroy loveseat they found in the alley by the K-Mart dumpster in a wide sort of pile and the folding chairs they took from the chapel after service one Sunday—little Bridget was an acolyte and she crushed hard on both the Reyes boys, told them not to let the minister see—and even hard stuff that sometimes scared Harrison, like burnt out fluorescent light tubes and a fencepost coiled with barbed wire they lifted when Timothy Childress was widening his pasture and broke to take a shit. They made sure to set the camcorder far enough away from it all before they began. Plus, the tarp covering the far woodpile was the backyard’s only real flat surface.

This is what he wanted to say to the pretty girl with bangs askew but heavy green eyes across from him at the tableclothed candle-lit table. She had asked him what he did for fun. It was nice of her to have asked. He was still sitting there thinking about it.

He took another sip of his water—it came in a wine glass and helped to clear his head. Gosh she’s good looking, he thought. Maybe she’d like to know about the wrestling after all.

He thought better of it, opting instead for “Sailing,” which he said in an accent he thought was as close to New York City as he could get.

This seemed like the right thing to have said—her green eyes, heavier than anvils, widened. Wow! Really? Wow! she said. What’s your boat called? She seemed really interested and so he took the water to his lips again, sipped it in what he hope came across as an elegant though manly sip.

He didn’t have a boat, and that boat he didn’t have certainly hadn’t been named. He panicked for a moment, shot a glance behind her to the nook where the restrooms were tucked. They had confusing names for men and women rather than just the stickpeople he was used to. He recovered, even straightening a little and cocking an eyebrow. Femmes, he told her. Boat’s called Femmes, pronouncing it fims and letting the left corner of his mouth curl into what he hoped resembled a grin.

She laughed quietly but hard, a polite laugh for public use, into her hand. Its rings looked like brass knuckles all lined up like that. He thought about how nice that was, that maybe she could have handled the barbed wire and the folding chairs after all. He allowed himself a smile. She really was something how beautiful she made every dull thing seem.

But when the cowbell went off with a clang too loud for the crowded Silver Bullet—Everett’s: A Real American Diner, its vinyl menus boasted—she stood and offered her hand. Quite nice to meet you, Harrison, she said, quaint though not completely cold. She sidled to the next table-for-two, where a man with wide lapels and full hair was already reaching his hand out to take hers, smiling with his whole immaculate mouth.

By the time Harrison Reyes made it home, it was nearly ten o’clock and the only phone number he had come away with was one he’d copied from the bathroom stall door. The extra hot wings he had ordered had done a number on him—he had spent the length of three dates clutching his gut and groaning in the Hommes room. He was happy he hadn’t chosen Hommes as his boat’s name; he didn’t even know where to begin with that word.

His brother Gerry was supine on the broken armchair. Its springs dislocated if you took it back too far; Gerry didn’t seem to mind it too much. He had the footrest kicked out and the back slid behind him. He slept and the Coors he had fallen asleep cradling slept with him, nestled in the crook of his arm. A little had spilled across his undershirt when he had shifted, hadn’t yet dried to a stain.

Harrison frowned and stood by the armchair, the room lit only by the television’s half-static infomercial. The sound had been turned low, but he watched for a few minutes the figures on the screen. A man in a soft blue apron was talking excitedly to a woman in a soft pink apron in a studio built to resemble a kitchen. The man used his hands when he spoke and had an especially enormous head; the woman looked frail beside him, though she kept grinning and mouthing Wow! at the camera. At one point the man picked a wand up from off the counter—it looked to be about a foot long and made of white ceramic. He held it a few inches above a hamburger idling on a plate and waved it carefully to the left and the right and back to the left one more time. The woman mouthed And that’s it? at the man, and again at the camera, raising her hands, palms-up. He offered the hamburger to her, and she took a tiny bite from it. Her eyes became medallion-sized and she mimed Mmmm with her whole body.

Harrison walked into his own kitchen, still frowning. He opened the refrigerator, and closed it again with only a habitual glance inside. Leaning against the sink, its basin brimming with clouded glasses and bowls, he took the stall-number from the pocket of his cargo pants. He wondered whose it was—the scrawled note accompanying it had only promised a Good fuck n suck. He fingered the napkin he’d copied it down on, absentmindedly flipping the frayed corner back and forth a little.

Nothing had ever been this hard before, he thought. He was thirty-three years old and had made sex exactly twice in his life, but both times had been triumphant and mostly sober. Both girls had been mostly pretty, one even mostly into him. Frances had been a nice girlfriend for as long as she had tolerated him, and Mallory and he were happy while they were together, though she wouldn’t admit they were ever really dating, per se. Tomato, potato, Harrison thought, smiling at his brother’s butchered aphorism.

He found he had wandered into the backyard, the moth-battered bulb casting everything but the far woodpile in its milky light. Leaving the screen door slid open behind him, he moved to where the aluminum ladder had been left against the house. He pried it open, locking its legs in place with a determination he was only barely conscious of. It felt more like ritual than anything else. He moved the ladder closer to the house and double checked that the corduroy cushions were still there; he rebuilt them into a tighter pile, threw himself into it a couple times to be sure.

What he did next he would be too tired to remember the next morning: opening his arms wide and lifting his head back, Harrison Reyes took a slow spin, imagining the deafening hollers of a stadium crowd and making a little of it himself in the back of his throat. Ladies and gentlemen! he said aloud, though quietly. Harrison…RRRRReyes!

The crowd went wild. He made his way up the ladder, pausing at each rung to fling one arm out, to flex and grimace and make a whole to-do. At the top, he took the small step across to the low roof and stood pumping both fists, grimacing and fake-hollering some more. The barbed wire fencepost had been left up there; he raised it above his head and really played it up. He did a clumsy cartwheel but imagined it perfect, and when he scrambled back to his feet everyone went nuts. Before he finally jumped, glancing only once at the cushions, he breathed in quick and closed his eyes.


Brad Efford is an MFA candidate at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. His work can currently be found at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.


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