“You know it's all fake, right?” Even as she finished her sentence, before her co-worker could give her the stink-eye, Violet knew that that was the wrong thing to say. She held up her hand and continued. “Sorry. That was... that was insensitive and makes it sound like I think you're an idiot. I mean... what's the excitement in it? They pick who's going to win the wrestling matches beforehand, right? And all of the moves are staged?” Kiera, her co-worker gave her a look and then sighed quietly, a smile dancing around her lips.
“Sure, they're working together up there,” she said, “And the winner is picked before the match, but what they're doing up there... it's stuntwork. There's no way to fake slamming into that ring floor, or into a crowd barrier. And it's not like they can stage and rehearse the entire fight, or do multiple takes. It's like improv and stage combat and... well, not to mince words, but hot sweaty muscular guys grappling!” She squealed the last bit in a bit of a stage whisper, albeit one loud enough that a few people turned their heads.
“Shush,” Violet said, waving her hand to lower the volume, “First off, you're assuming I'm that shallow.” She ignored Kiera's answering snort and continued. “Second, I watched wrestling on the TV as a kid and they're not all hot. There's a lot of fat guys, and old guys, and this is a bunch of local wrestlers, right? These are the guys who couldn't make it in the big leagues, so now they go to county fairs and high school gyms, and, well, the Ashland Armory building, right?”
“You know,” said Kiera, “You're right. This isn't your thing. I'll ask someone else.” She stood up from the desk. “I just... Richard isn't going to be able to make it so I had the ticket and I thought we could have a girl's night togther.” Violet's chest twinged with guilt. “But it's OK. I'll find someone else to do it. Maybe Sarah?” Violet's chest twinged with a rather more jealous emotion. Sarah was an OK worker, but she was one of those girls who thought Sex and the City was a thoughtful biopic.
“Wait,” Violet said, “Just let me finish transcribing these physician reports and I'll think about it, K? It's just... I do want to hang out with you and I'm probably not giving these guys a chance, right? What do you wear to one of things anyhow?”
“Whatever you'd normally wear to a sport event. Someone people wear T-shirts for their favorite wrestler — they sell them at the shows — and some people just show up in whatever is comfortable. I'd suggest jeans, though. The Armory gets drafty and it's all folding chairs. That is, if you're coming, right?” Kiera flashed Violet a triumphant smile, certain she'd hooked her.
“Right. I said I'd think about it...” Violet cocked her head off to the side, trying to frame the question, then deciding she'd might as well just come out with it. “Are you cheering someone in particular on tonight?” Kiera's smile spread into a Cheshire grin.
“Oh girlfriend, you're in for a surprise. Just wait 'til I show you my man, Warren. He's... well, let's just say that it makes it worth the fact that some of the wrestlers are past their prime.” She assumed a thoughtful look and stared up at the ceiling. “You know, if you're coming tonight...” Violet laughed and waved Kiera away.
“I'll think about. I'll think about it. Now let me get back to my transcriptions. You know they're never satisfied with our work rate. Go, go, shoo!” As Kiera strode away toward her own work, manning the counter at the medicine dispensary, Violet slipped a set of headphones on and lost herself in the droning voices of doctors dictating their patient encounters.
In the middle of typing out a lengthy description of a Mrs. Theodora Coraghessan's boils, a loud bang startled Violet out of her desk chair. She tumbled backwards, the headphones yanking themselves off of her head to see Kiera looking very chagrined, hands poised over a set of dropped medical texts.
“Oh, I'm so sorry, Violet. I didn't... I just wanted to get your attention and you didn't seem to be hearing me...” She leaned down and gave Violet a hand.up.
“Just for that, you're buying the hotdogs and drinks tonight,” Violet said, brushing herself off. She quickly pecked the key to stop the recording that was sounding tinnily over her headphones and hit another key to blank the screen. “My own fault for letting you sneak up on me... Fred would have my ass up on HIPAA violations if he knew I let someone potentially read it.” Keira nodded in sympathy, well aware of Violet's issues with her boss, then her eyes narrowed.
“Wait a sec... so you're going to go?”
“Wouldn't miss it. You're right. I need to get outside of my comfort zones, get over-” Kiera interrupted her, her mouth crooking in a slightly sardonic grin.
“Well, I was going to say getting over doing what's comfortable but yeah, I need to get over him.” Violet absently squared up her keyboard and desk as her brain ran a quick retrospect of the relationship. “He was... well, he was an OK guy, but it just didn't click, you know?”
“Bad in bed?” Kiera quipped, provoking a blush from Violet.
“No, no... sort of. We were just looking for different things,” she finished diplomatically, picking up a paperclip.
“Right. Like he was looking for a subservient little housewife to cook his food and fetch his slippers. Which, of course, you're not.”
“Well, I haven't entirely ruled out the housewife bit. But it's not who I am now and he... he just couldn't accept that.” Violet forced herself to put down the paperclip she'd just twisted into a tangled mess. “Anyhow, yeah, I'll be there. But I'm driving separate just in case this turns out to not be my scene, alright?” Kiera held up her hands in mock surrender.
“Sure thing, Vi. Bell rings at 7, but there isn't assigned seats, so try to get there by 6:30. Are you stopping home?”
“I probably should. This,” Violet said as she indicated her purple silk blouse and black slacks, “probably isn't going to fit in. But I really need to finish this transcription... you think I can get by with it?”
“Don't worry. You and I wear about the same size, right? And you probably still have those jeans in your backseat from the picnic? And sneakers?” To Violet's nod, she added, “And I've got some spare T-shirts at home. What do you think, are you more a Canadian Destroyer kind of gal, or a Haught Mess?” Violet gave her a puzzled look.
“I assume those are wrestling things? No one's going to shiv me or spit on me for supporting the wrong guy?”
“Nah. This isn't Puerto Rico. You'll fit right in. Promise you'll show?” Violet took a deep breath and answered with a sharp nod. “Great! I'll leave you to Dr. Whassisname and his no doubt riveting narrative.” She shook her head, “Never understand how you don't just fall asleep to that stuff, but hey, whatever works for a living right?”
“Right. Now go, please. I'm already falling behind.”
* * *
A few hours later, Violet slipped the headphones off and arched her back, feeling the vertabrae pop as Dr. Finch's dry description of ichthyosis vulgaris played out in her head. A quick click of the button showed that she'd hit her word count for the day, only needing to work an hour outside of those she clocked in. The clock showed that she had about an hour before the wrestling event started, a half hour before meeting up with Kiera.
“Oh dear lord, what have I gotten myself into?” she asked the ceiling, then quickly glanced around the room to be sure no one other than God was there to answer her. The room was deserted. King's Daughters' Medical Center was, as befitted the only hospital in a small town (in the back of her head, the oft-repeated ad copy chimed in Ashland's largest employer at over 4000 people, providing quality health and wellness in a Christian environment), was always active in one way or another, but the transcription department was silent and still, everyone else having gone home. Violet double-checked her most recent transcription and then saved and submitted it before filing out her official timesheet. Pushing herself away from her desk, she got up and jogged down the halls, waving to the occasional nurse or patient, and out to her car, where she fetched her more casual clothing. She found a T-shirt, but wrinkled her nose at the skull emblazoned over a Confederate flag. Outdoors with the Outlaws, featuring some big names like David Allen Coe and Johnny Cash, may he rest in peace, wasn't a concert she'd attended, but the Blazer choir teacher gave them out one day and she'd grabbed it, free being free and all that. Still, it would get her down to the Armory.
She jogged back to one of the changing rooms on the hospital's campus, noting with some distaste that that quick jog had raised a sweat despite the coolth of the September evening. Obviously, she needed more exercise in her life. She slipped the t-shirt on and smoothed it down in front, irritatedly poking at that hard-to-eliminate bit of pudge around her middle.
“Yup,” she said to her reflection, “There's crunches in your future. And fewer snacks at the desk. And maybe some salads. At least I'm not going anywhere important, right?” With those words of confidence, she took a deep breath in, tried a few positions to de-emphasize her stomach, and finally just untucked the shirt to make it more blousy, and looked herself over. For being in her 30s, she wasn't too badly off, she supposed. Pale skin, largely untouched by the sun, with a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and her cheeks. Mousy brown curls framing a heart-shaped face. The glasses were utilitarian with steel frames and ultrathin lenses. And, while she didn't have the body she had in high school, or even in college, she tried to eat healthily and she walked wherever she could. Her jeans hugged her form without bulging and bloused, the T-shirt didn't draw particular attention to her modest bosom, but it didn't hide it either. She shook her head and gathered her stuff together. Enough mooning, on to what was no doubt going to be one more event to chalk off on things not to do again.
It was 6:25 when she arrived, a quick jaunt down Lexington Avenue from the hospital to the armory. Much to her surprise, the parking lot was already half-full. She parked as close as she could, and stepped out of her car, metaphorically girding her loins before entering.
“I have been a stranger in a strange land,” she muttered to herself as she set out toward the entrance. She passed by a variety of characters. Some fit the stereotypes she'd held like the shirtless guy who had three replica belts slung over his shoulder — or maybe real belts; she couldn't tell — or the overweight woman who looked ready to sling her panties at the ring, but she also passed families, office workers, just perfectly normal people out for an evening's entertainment. Near the entrance, Keira waved her over and tossed her a t-shirt. Violet shook it out and saw Suplex Tacos emblazoned above a stylized mask.
“I've heard about that place... gas station taco joint on Thirteenth?”
“Yeah. Good tacos. The owners don't have any real luchadore ties, just thought it was a different theme for a Mexican restaurant, something other than sombreros and mariachi bands. It's a small, should fit you just fine. But come on! I have your ticket and my buddy Jeremy is holding some prime front-row seats for us. We'll be close enough to have the sweat splash on us!”
“Oh joy,” Violet said flatly, but with a faint smile, “Just what I wanted to do with my night.”
“Don't worry. I'm teasing you. Mostly. It's a sport and they work hard out there. They sweat, right?” Kiera handed two tickets to an oversized man at the front door and they walked in.
Inside, the scene was controlled chaos, a few hundred people milling around the folding chairs that were layered in four sections of four rows, surrounding a low metal fence that itself surrounded the ring. Violet hadn't been sure what to expect of it, but found herself mildly disappointed that the ring was rather plain, a black plastic skirt emblazoned with red letters that spelled out IAW, capped off by four square ringposts, painted red, supporting three parallel red cables on each side.
“IAW?” she asked Kiera.
“International Action Wrestling. Dunno who they think they're fooling about it being 'international'. Most of the wrestlers come from the Tristate area and they have maybe four or five venues in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. What can I say, they're an Indy fed.”
“Independent federation. Basically, they're not WWE, TNA, ROH... small fish. Back in the day, they probably would have been part of one of the territories, but these days, it's all independent with the groups barely recognizing that the others exist. Oh, there's Jeremy!” Kiera waved at a scruffy looking guy who was sitting in one of the chairs and had his arms draped over two more. He glanced up from an argument he was having with two men dressed in overalls and carrying cardboard signs and caught Kiera's eye, jerking his head at the men. Kiera hustled through the crowd and leaned over one of the chairs, obviously showing off her décolletage to distract them. Violet, moving through the crowd more gingerly, missed most of the conversation to the roar of the crowd, but evidently Kiera got her way and the two men moved on.
“Thanks, Kiera,” Jeremy said, “I was starting to think that I was going to have to throw down.” Violet noted Jeremy's rather pronounced Kentucky twang and his raggedy ACTC shirt and decided he must be one of the longtime natives, probably had roots in the area. He looked up to Violet.
“Oh hey, you must be Violet. Kiera's told me 'bout you. Nice shirt!” He stared at the writing a little longer than he ought to have needed to and Violet realized a little too late that he was probably ogling her. His leer was interrupted by Kiera's dope slap.
“Jeremy, be nice. Remember, I know your Mom...” Mentally, Violet subtracted a few years off of her first estimate of Jeremy's age, and placed him as being somewhere in his early 20s, an ACTC graduate, probably lived with his parents... she shook her head and scolded herself for assuming so much.