A Cock in the Hand is Better Than Two in the Bush

A Cock in the Hand is Better Than Two in the Bush

Posted on December 2, 2023 at 6:17 pm by Jackson Cooley

Fade in. The eerie electronic pangs beginning “Goodbye Horses” bleed from a grainy speaker. Tight focus on a pair of lips. They look like Whitney Houston, burnt from the pipe and busted from talking back. Blood is crusted on a large split right down the middle, top and bottom. 

Red lipstick slowly slides across the lips. Pan out. Jackson Cooley stands in a dark room, a dim light over him by a lamp in the corner. He is naked save for a leopard kimono and for some reason, he’s putting on red lipstick. The neglected joint hanging lazily gets tagged red and pulls at his dry skin as he works around it.

He puckers his lips.

“Would you fuck me?”

Cooley takes a deep drag, pulls the joint back and leans forward. A picture of Evan Ward taped to the mirror receives a deep red kiss. 

“I’d fuck me. I’d fuck me real good.”

Sat next to Cooley on the floor is a fake pit, bricks haphazardly stacked in a shape loosely resembling a circle. A Kearny Whitehackle stands in the center. His feathers gleam in the light, solid blocks of red and black and white and various streaks of blue. The rooster tilts its head, as if asking Cooley to repeat himself. 

“It puts the win in the basket or it gets catatonic again.” Cooley says to the rooster.

Just as the chorus kicks in, Nick DiSalvo comes bursting into the room. Nick’s face moves through emotions like a Rube Goldberg’s machine. Confusion. Shock. Horror. Of course, he lands on anger. 

“Cooley,” Nick screams with his eyes clamped shut, “what in the FUCK is going on here?”

“What?”

Cooley’s face is the complete other side of the coin from Nick’s. Calm and questioning, childlike almost in his confusion as to why Nick is screaming at him.

“You’re ass naked reenacting that scene from Hannibal Lecter with a fucking chicken!” 

“There’s a lot wrong with what you said, Nick. We don’t really have time to go over it all. Just know they say you’re the company you keep and it worries me sometimes cause I spend a lot of time with you.”

Growling sounds spawn deep in Nick’s throat like a dog hearing an intruder. It’s unconscious, knee-jerk to the rubber hammer. 

“You’re worried? About ME?!” Nick shouts, his eyes still clamped tighter than a butthole’s first shower at San Quentin. 

“Yeah, man. You can be really ignorant. First of all, it isn’t Hannibal Lecter. The movie is called Silence of the Lambs. Second, I’m getting my head in the game here, man. Finally, that is not a chicken. It’s a rooster.” 

“Cooley, for chrissake, YOUR DICK IS OUT! FUCK WHAT THE MOVIE IS CALLED!”

Begrudgingly, Cooley ties the kimono. 

“There. I put the snake away so Nick isn’t threatened anymore. Also, Nick, dick is not the preferred nomenclature. Cock, if you will. Come, we’ve got things to do.”

Slowly one eye peeks open. A visible wave of relief washes over Nick, opening his eyes. The room is dark and a thick cloud of smoke hangs like a Chinese sunset. Nick squints, leaning forward.

“Oh my god. Are you wearing lipstick? And is that a picture of… Cooley what the fuck?”

“See, that’s the ignorance. A guy can’t wear lipstick and appreciate the dashing Evan Ward?” 

“Cooley, this guy is another Hall of Famer.”

Smirking, Cooley twists the cap off a bottle of cheap red wine sitting on the mirrored vanity with Ward’s picture hanging. This is the type of wine that has never been within 100 feet of a grape. In one hand he holds the wine bottle and the other the cap. He clinks the wine bottle against Ward’s picture. Turning his hand around as he takes a plug from the bottle, he examines the cap before tossing it with disinterest.

“Another dead soldier. As disposable as that cap, as useful, too.” 

“This guy, Ward, he’s known for grabbing his opponent’s junk. Stop fucking around and take this serious.”

“A boy should be so lucky. Someone to fight AND grab my dick? Hell, Nick, he might turn me..”

Nick feigns vomiting, eliciting a smirk from Cooley. 

“C’mon, get your shit. We gotta go,” Cooley says, sliding on a pair of zebra print Crocs. 

“Go fucking where? Every time you say we have somewhere to go you drag me into some weird shit.” 

The rooster crows to Cooley as he picks it up and tucks it under his arm. 

“Calm down.” Cooley whispers lovingly to the rooster. He then turns to Nick and says,”You botched my parlay. Gotta right the ship. Uber should be here.” 

“You said vests! YOU SAID THEY WERE GOING TO TALK ABOUT VESTS!”

____________________________________________________________________________

Enter a seedy bar. The floors are sticky. Laminate peels from all the surfaces it covers: the bar, the chairs, the tables, the pool table. Weak overhead cast down by antiquated pendant lights you only find at Pizza Hut and shitty bars. 

Nick’s anxious eyes scan the room. A group of bikers play pool, twinning in their leather jackets with indistinguishable patches. At the bar a few old men, separated by a stool as if the urinal etiquette followed them.

“Cooley, I am not muling drugs again.”

“What if you don’t have to put them up your ass this time?” Cooley asks, putting his arm around Nick.

Panic floods Nick. Neurons fire and his eyes glaze over. 

“Nah,” Cooley says, beginning to walk, “I’d never put you through that again! We’re not here to put anything in God’s Pocket. I told you, we’re here to make money. Come on, follow me.” 

The zebra print crocs squelch across the room to the bartop. Nick produces a lysol wipe and begins cleaning the surfaces before sitting down. Nick’s eyes meet with the Bartender’s when his work is done. Well, eye, rather, as the bartender has only one. Nick’s Adam’s Apple bounces with a giant gulp. 

“You want a blue-cheese martini?” booms down from the Bartender, at least a foot above Nick’s head. Nick weakly forces one of those “white guy walking by” smiles. It’s not Nick wiping down that’s brought this oak tree’s judgment. Even the bartender realizes this place is a petri dish of infectious diseases. He just hates Italians. 

“No thanks, we brought our own.” Cooley says setting the bottle of rotgut wine on the counter. “Two glasses please.” 

Obviously irked, the Bartender leans in under the pendant light, illuminating his blackened teeth and scratcher art.

“How romantic.” the Bartender comments. “First date? Anniversary?”

“Why? You want to be the creme filling in our Golden Oreo?” 

“What the fuck did you just say?” 

Silent as a church. The bikers, the bar flys, Nick. Everyone stops. Violence hangs in the air like methane from a sewage leak, the taste of iron turning everyone’s stomachs. With his non-cock holding hand, Cooley removes the cheap sunglasses framing his black eye and bandaged nose. 

“I was being courteous, man. Do you want to be the pig at our luau?” 

Nick winces, closing his eyes. Brace for impact. 

The Bartender erupts with a belly laugh. 

“Jackson fucking Cooley. I haven’t seen you since… my god, Christmas in India back in ‘01!” 

“Do not remind me. I’m still finding splinters under my fingernails.” 

A collective sigh of relief escapes the bar patrons as all of the volatile organic compounds exit stage right. The Bartender and Cooley embrace, laying a kiss on each other’s cheek. Nick searches for the bottom of his chin to pick his jaw up from the floor. Two glasses are laid in front of Nick and Cooley and the Bartender pours from the bottle Cooley left on the counter.

“What can I do you for, Cooley?”

“Zeke, this is my friend Nick DiSalvo. I know, I know, slumming it with an Italian. Don’t hold it against him, he’s done a lot of good for me.”

Zeke the Bartender rolls his one eye around, sizing up Nick. 

“Any friend of Cooley’s is a friend of mine. Even an eye-tie.” 

“The pleasure is all mine.” Nick says, his face contorting as he tries to slug back some of the wine. 

“So, what do we owe the pleasure, Cooley?”

“My friend here,” Cooley lifts his arm to show the Rooster in the crook of his armpit,”is ready for a go at the champ.”

Surprise illuminates the bartender’s face. 

“Are you sure about that? I mean, the champ is your namesake? Might take some magic out of the lore if you think this guy really has a chance.”

“Zeke, I appreciate your concern. Truly. This pugnacious warrior’s destiny brought him here tonight. This is the way of old. Who am I to argue with tradition? With fate?”

Acquiescing, Zeke opens a wooden door behind the bar and holds his hand out. Nick’s eye catches a sign above the door as they step into the cold darkness past the doorway. “Through me you pass into the city of woe,” he reads aloud. 

____________________________________________________________________________

The atmosphere is in the basement is putrid. Chickenshit and iron and sweat. Caged animals screaming into the void. The last squawks of dying animals. 

Cooley holds the rooster closely, lovingly. Like a father sending his son to war. 

“Evan Ward… I’m sorry. Your sacrifice, it’s required. It’s… it’s ceremonial. I truly wish there was another way.”

“Bawk”

“Yes, you’ve been a good cock. You’ve done great things. I wish things had been different. You won’t be forgotten. See you in Valhalla.”

Ward bawks again, his giant eyes and soul free from corruption. He has served his purpose and served it well. Cooley releases Evan Ward into the ring and turns away, unable to watch the absolute evisceration happening behind him. The dreadful crying out of Evan Ward as he is minced by the opposition. The smell of iron fills the air whilst the howling winds down to whimpering. Cooley knows he has to be strong.

Remember, the toll of progress is blood.

And just like that, it’s over. Resolutely, Cooley nods his head up and down. The crowd is a single primal hum, some cheering for the winning cock, others lamenting the sacrifice of Evan Ward. None are aware of what they just witnessed. The importance. The symbolism. What this moment means to the mullet wearing man in a kimono with his back to the ring.

A referee holds a giant Kelso Rooster up in the air, its red feathers soaked in the blood of the fallen Evan Ward. 

“Winner and still undisputed, Carnage!”

Finding his way through the crowd, Nick puts his hand on Cooley’s shoulder. 

“I’m sorry about the loss, Cooley. It’s a week of bad beats.”

“Cooley?” Asks a Spanish man who seems to materialize from the crowd. A leather satchel is in his hands and he’s holding it out as an offering. “Here’s your take, hombre. Ballsy move betting against your own cock. Can’t nobody take Carnage down.”

“It was the only way it could have gone.”

Jackson Cooley turns around, looking down at Evan Ward. Bloody, lifeless, body unnaturally contorted like a broken machine he lays. 

“For here I am, carnage, eater of worlds.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________

Back at home. Laptop open, a few tiny framed pictures of heads populating a Zoom call. Cooley’s blue eyes reflect the light of their faces. The room is named “Cooley Monologues: Evan Ward.” The participants, outside of Cooley, are reporters. 

“Thank you for joining tonight. There’s nothing as important to the continuance of democracy as free speech. I will not be taking questions tonight, instead I’ve prepared a statement to my upcoming opponent. Forgive me, it has been an emotional day.”

Cooley pauses to collect himself. 

“Another Chaos, another HOW mainstay. Evan Ward. A pillar holding up the ideas of the past, breathing life into a time gone by. Such a beautiful, storied history you have Ward. You’ve done so much to be where you’re at today. Which is… what? Cannon fodder? Boy, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mr. Lee was using me as a tool. An instrument. The Righteous Cattle Gun of Carnage. Sent out week after week to cull the herd of all the cattle no longer producing milk.”

“Your problem, Ward, is you are a man between worlds. One day you’re vandalizing a library, the next you’re a cannibal in a fancy restaurant. You don’t stand for anything, there’s no sustenance to you. Like gas station sushi, man. Ok in a pinch, but guaranteed to cause heartache. I hear it when you talk, see it in your work. You feel it coming. Stop running from it. Feel the last warmth of the sun on your back.”

Someone in the group of reporters coughs. Cooley pauses for an uncomfortably long time. 

“What a sad, lonely existence. You’ve had it all, Ward. The big wins on the huge stage in front of the giant crowds. Bathed in cheers by adoring fans. You’ve held gold. All of your hopes and dreams have been fulfilled over your glorious career. All the stuff people have told you that you should want. But you’re still empty, aren’t you? Unfulfilled. Lonely. Sad. You keep telling yourself if you got just one more thing, it would all mean something. You’d find it again.”

“Wherever you go, there you are. There’s a hole in you that you cannot fill with your name in the marquis lights or some twenty pound belt or another man’s flesh. You need to hit bottom. And you will, at Chaos 51. This is going to be your accounting. And once all of your resources are drained and I lay you on your back and the referee signals for the bell, you will be born anew. I’m going to do this for you. I am going to give meaning to all of your suffering.” 

Emotions rise in Cooley’s voice as if he’s purging himself of them. 

“It will be a beautiful moment, Evan. Our beautiful moment. You get to be another brick in the foundation of a new epoch in High Octane Wrestling. An era fresh and free from all the stains of the past. But in order to build something new, we first must demolish what stands in the footprint. You have to cut the rot out or it will continue to fester. So worry yourself not with this loss, Evan. Your sacrifice won’t be for naught. You are finally going to be part of something larger than your little wants and needs. Carnage.”

Satisfied he has gotten his message across, Cooley salutes the reporters and pushes the screen shut.  “Goodbye Horses” plays softly in the background on repeat. Cooley pours another glass of wine, searching the pockets of his kimono for a joint. He leans the joint down into his cupped hands to light it as we fade out, mourning the sacrifice of Evan Ward that took place today. And the one that will take place at Chaos. 

Goodbye horses I’m flying, flying, flying, flying over you

FIN