How To Thrive in the Days of Skunk Repellent
“So, what, you think I should quit after one loss? Go back to whoring full time. Put on my hooker boots and work a street corner cause it’s easier to make a living on my back? Fuck that. And fuck this, do I still smell like shit?”
Standing in the middle of the canned food aisle of a grocery store hiding my face from the awkward glances of an elderly shopper with about an, oh I dunno, an 8 or 9 out of 10, (but we grew up together and she’s like my sister so forget I said that), Florence Kearsey. She’s asking me to smell her face.
You’re probably wondering how I got here.
Flashback to a very young Dante standing in front of his father.
“You’ll amount to nothing, Dante. You’ll probably grow up to smell whore’s faces in a grocery store like all the other perverts. Now get out there and mow the damn lawn.”
Hold up. That’s too far back. I’m not even sure that actually happened.
Fast forward to another memory. Dante’s first awkward sexual experiment. He has a frown on his face. For some reason the smell of her shit turned him on then…
Eh… too far back as well. Skip this. Skip all of adolescence. In fact, never return to this memory.
Dante stands backstage at the Yuengling center watching Flo step down the hallway towards her first ever wrestling match.
There we go. Better.
I moved to a monitor backstage so I could watch. I think there were a few others beside me, but I was too focused. I swear I was more nervous than she was. For the first couple of minutes one hand guarded my face. I winced with every connected blow. She looked so small compared to Halitosis.
But then, oddly enough, she didn’t do terribly. From the moment Flo had signed the contract, I’d gradually come around to the idea that maybe she wasn’t all I’d thought I’d known her to be. She kicks like a freight train and moves quicker than I do, like she’d been training and preparing for this for a lot longer than I had given her credit for. I started to actually believe in her that night in the Yuengling center. I think a lot of people who wrote her off took notice. She almost had him. But in the end, in wrestling, something I’m learning as a complete newb, almost doesn’t cut it, and Halitosis put her down with the fumes of whatever the hell died in the back of his throat.
That brings us up to speed, or thereabouts.
“Nah, Flo. You don’t still smell like shit.”
Florence Kearsey aggressively swipes cans of tomato sauce into the shopping cart and eyes him crossly.
“Go back to full-time sex for money and just pack it all in, huh? You think an ass beating is gonna deter me, Dante?”
She was taking some frustration out as she heaped still more cans of tomato products into the cart next to a load of containers of apple cider vinegar. I cringed and noticed a few heads had turned to pay attention.
“Can you keep your voice down, please?”
“Why? Hey,” she leaned into a passing elderly lady reading from a shopping list and presented her face. “Do I still smell like shit?”
The elderly lady pulled her face away from Flo entirely unwilling to smell her either way and pushed her cart as fast she could down the aisle away from them.
“Sorry,” Dante apologized after her then looked back to Flo, “You don’t still smell like shit.”
“It’s an honest question.” Flo shrugged and swept the remainder of the shelf’s contents of into the cart.
“You know that all that tomato sauce is a myth for de-skunking yourself, right?”
“We’ll see. Herbs and Garlic or original recipe? Do you think brand name matters?” Flo held the two cans up considering the merit of either for her purposes.
“I don’t know.” I responded. Flo considered either before tossing both in the cart.
“I can’t take the risk.” And she pushed the cart purposefully down the aisle with me hurrying to catch up. “I need vanilla extract.”
“I’m just saying you entered that tournament thinking you were gonna hit the ground running all the way to a championship, and now here you are buying shit to wash away the Hallitosis stink.”
“You can still smell it, can’t you?” Flo looked disgusted as they rounded a corner and entered another aisle.
“No, I can’t, Flo. But it might be worthwhile to consider backing out of this if you can.” She leveled an irritated gaze at me in between pricing different baking soda brands. I had a window of opportunity to present my thoughts to her.
“Look, some people are born to do one thing all their lives. My dad. My dad was a security guard fresh out of high school for his first summer job. That was the job he aged out of. Everybody needs to do something, and not everybody’s meant for great things or stardom or anything.” She didn’t look impressed. “There’s no shame in sticking to what you’re good at, girl.” I shrugged awkwardly, perhaps speaking from experience than trying to for some manual for what Flo should do next.
“I’m not quitting, Dante. Everybody in HOW got some history here. Lindsey Troy, and Eric Dane and who the fuck ever else all returning legends with their built-in name recognition and brand highlighting this new era of HOW, keeping the lights on, selling tickets and then there’s me. A nobody. Last person Lee Best would even bother signing. Why can’t I do this, Dante? Hmmm? Why is it so surprising I aspire to be something more than what I am?”
“A professional wrestler?”
“As opposed to a professional whore?”
I felt more eyes looking up from there shopping to spy us. A mother frowned and cupped the ears of her son and pushed the little family away from us. Flo didn’t seem to notice.
“Besides, I don’t think I did so badly. Not a single asshat in the back was expecting much out of me. I’d say the fact some seasoned pro didn’t have his way with me in my first match is a success.”
She filled in the remaining empty spaces of the nigh-overflowing cart with baking soda.
“And all is not lost. One door closes, and another opens. I have this battle royal to sink my teeth into now.”
I blinked it off. Life with Flo was, to put it politely, rife with potential spectacle. She dressed for attention, spoke with purpose, brazenly and unapologetically. She didn’t do anything half-assed as long as I’d known her. I wasn’t going to talk her out of this HOW thing.
“I guess.” I shrugged and followed along beside her. “I’ll stick it out with you as long as you wanna keep doing this. Just might need to rethink your approach. If you wanna win, I mean.”
Flo quirked an eyebrow as she looked ahead, pushing the overloaded cart up to the checkout line, paying more attention to my words than the cashier as she set item after item onto the conveyor.
“That’s all I need to do, right?”
“What?” I asked looking up from a National Enquirer headline.
“Take all the elements of what I do best as an escort and apply it to wrestling.” I watched the cashier swallow awkwardly, pausing halfway through scanning the barcode on a tomato sauce can to make sure she’d heard what she thought she’d heard.
“…uh…” I swallowed too. Spectacle. Not my thing.
“Research. Know my marks. Know what turns them on. What turns them off. Conquer through knowledge. Like… watch, list off to me who could possibly be in this rumble match and we’ll see how well I know them.”
“You’re not about to do one of those obligatory sequences where a wrestler lists off their opponents in their upcoming mutli-person match, are you?”
“Yea, why not? It’s the style. I’m a wrestler now, ain’t I?”
The cashier looked from Flo to me, hesitating periodically to look down at the mass amount of cans of tomato sauce, lemons, and baking soda she’d already rung in.
“Well,” I stammered, trying to shrug it off at the cashier while still validating Flo, “I mean I don’t actually know the roster offhand, or even who might be in this–”
“Chris Kostoff,” she blurted, eyeing me stone-faced reciting from memory, “this guy’s a fucking badass beast of a returning wrestler with more scars than I got notches in my bedpost. He could fuck my shit up any number of ways. I just need to find out what injury still aggravates him and kick at it as hard as I fucking can. That’s for openers. But, I mean it’s a royal rumble… I pretty much need to prepare for anything and anyone. Eric Dane could rage-spill his way into this match at any moment. Plus, it’s kind of a hit or miss situation where my strategies can get thrown out the–”
Beep. The cashier rang in another item awkwardly. Flo noticed her, as if for the first time.
“Do I still smell like shit?” Flo leaned towards the till as the cashier, bless her adolescent heart, was unsure how to proceed.
“Do you need bags…?” She asked caught between disgust and incredulity.
On the way home, with me behind the wheel I listened intently as Flo continued without missing a beat.
“…do you think Madman Szalinski’s still a thing? Like did he die, or was it just the persona that died? Is this gonna be one of these things where he swings down from the rafters after the lights go off with a brand new identity? What about Bobbinette Carey, you figure if I kidnap her kid she’ll fight harder or not as much? Is that taking it too far? Am I even supposed to know about her kid, or…?”
“I… really don’t… know, Flo…? I know that’s potentially kidnapping, and its illegal.”
“It’s a lot of work, too– Aw shit.” She remembered suddenly. “I have a client. Drop me off? It’s up here.”
“What about your groceries? The skunk bath thing.”
“You can handle it.”
“I’m not a valet.”
“No,” she smiled, “you’re my manager now.”
This was more my speed, a career chauffeuring an adult escort to visit clients than this suddenly invigorated, career-oriented woman I felt like I was getting to know for the very first time.
This is where I drop her off, the equivalent of seeing her walk down the hallway towards a wrestling match. I, feeling still like the older brother, sensing helplessness seep in, light a cigarette and drive off wondering why I’ve allowed myself to care so much for Florence Kearsey.
She was let in discreetly. His eyes lit up the moment he laid eyes on her as much impressed and pleased with what he was about to pay for as another fact that just occurred to him at first sight.
“It is you!” She stood in the front foyer sizing him up as he continued. “I thought I recognized you from your videos online but now I know where I saw you.”
“Yeah! You wrestle for High Octane! Dammit I love them.”
Right, she mused, stepping onto the carpet still in her heels wishing for tiled floor. Of all the johns in all the world, she had to pick a wrestling fan.
“You just fought Halitosis. Hell of a match.”
Her demeanor grew cold at the mention, her features hardening.
“You just said the magic phrase.” 0 to dominatrix in seconds flat. His face dropped to worry just as quickly. “You’re not going to speak the rest of the night, little man.”
“And don’t say I smell like shit or you’re going to regret it.” She fished into her handbag for a set of handcuffs, holding them up in front of him, wordlessly commanding he strip his pants off right here in the living room.
And, for the sake of privacy, that’s curtain.