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(The Story So Far: Ponsie and Carolyn are still in the diner where Ponsie is telling the story of his role in turning mild-mannered Mike McCoy the Tampon salesman into Pukin’ Nuke McCoy the wrestler. Carolyn is wolfing down her asparagus au gruele like a longshoreman while Ponsie attempts to nuzzle his cheeseburger in between her karate kicks to his shinbone every time he stops talking to chew. We have just reached the point where professional Mafia Nephew and would-be crooked wrestling promoter Johnny Jenkins Bellamy-Beauregard the IV (also known as J2B2-4) has broached the topic for the first time.)

“Have you ever considered becoming a wrestler?”

Mike blinked. “Wrestler?”

“Yeah. You know. Like on teevee. You’d like to be on teevee, wouldn’t yah?”

“What would I want to be on teevee for?”

J2B2 the IV looked stunned. “For money, dopey. And fame. And chicks. And money. Lots of money.”

“Oh, I don’t know….”

“You’re out of work, Mike,” I said. “You need the money or the next time the Old Coot kicks you out, you’ll stay kicked.”

“So I’d have to swing people around over my head and then slam them down on the mat and break their arms and throw them out of the ring into some poor old lady’s lap in the third row and stuff? I don’t think I could do that.”

J2B2 the IV glared at me. “What’s wrong with him? Is he some kind of fruit?”

“He’s sensitive,” I countered defensively. “He has feelings.”

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(The Story So Far: Our hero, having been dragooned by a dreaded aunt into purloining the sacred knitting trophy annexed by a jealous rival when said aunt wasn’t looking, has enlisted the aid of Carolyn Emblehoff, an old girlfriend with some surprising skills. Carolyn has agreed to help but in return she wants Ponsie to pretend he’s married to her so she can discourage a hard-to-discourage ex-boyfriend named Mike McCoy, a wrestler who, it turns out, already has a history with Our Hero. As this week’s episode begins, Ponsie is telling her how it was he who was responsible for turning Mike, previously a tampon salesman, into the fearsome Pukin’ Nuke.)

It was an accident, I tried to explain to Carolyn. I didn’t mean it. It wasn’t even so much an accident as a bad joke that got out of hand. It was one of those times when the Universe hiccups and then coughs up a hairball where no hairball should exist. Not that I mean to call Johnny Jenkins Bellamy-Beauregard the IV a hairball. Not even if that turned out to be what he was.

It was like this: I kind of liked McCoy. If you could get over the fact that he could, if he felt like it, crush your tibia between his toes, you eventually realized that he was a really sweet guy. The type who opened doors for elderly ladies even when they clocked him with their metal canes because they had no particular desire to enter the door through which he then hustled them. The type who would save a puppy from a burning building even if it bit him in the ankle. The type, in short, who believed in Good Deeds the way other people believed in the Dow Jones or the Kinsey Report.

He seemed to like everybody, even his dry cleaner. Hanging out with him was an exercise in loving thy neighbor no matter how obnoxious he – or she- might be. He even liked his landlord despite the fact that the old coot regularly locked Mike out of his apartment for imaginary rule infractions. Playing Barry Manilow, for instance, was strictly forbidden except, for some unexplained reason, on Thursdays, and whistling in the stairwell was good for an instant eviction notice. Mike tried to understand where he was coming from.

“You can see it,” he would muse. “Manilow’s tough. Classical music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.” Read the rest of this entry »

Once we got all that straightened out and Diego introduced us, we got on fine. I even liked him, the way you might like a big dumb puppy who, yes, blunders around breaking the furniture, but you can tell even while he’s doing it that he means well. As a matter of fact, I was the one who got him into wrestling.

“You?” Carolyn squealed. “Why, that’s wonderful, Ponsie!”


“Because he’s undoubtedly grateful and fond of you and he’ll think you’re worthy and it will all be over. Gad, I’m one lucky broad. Fancy you being his mentor. He must love you.”

“He must, must he?”

“Oodles and oodles.”

I didn’t say anything. There was nothing I could say.

“Doesn’t he?” There was a warning tone in her voice that suggested she was beginning to suspect that all was not quite as chummy between myself and the Puker as it had at first appeared. I wriggled uncomfortably on the seat and pretended I hadn’t heard her. “I’m sorry. What was the question?” Read the rest of this entry »

I had no idea at this point, of course, what had happened. My whole response to the snippet of conversation that had felled Mike like a mighty sequoia after Paul Bunyon got through reading it its rights was “Yuck.” It would never have occurred to me that somebody that big could be knocked for a loop by something that…ordinary. Gross, certainly, but gross in an ordinary, everyday, “Look Ma, there’s wooly bears in the egg cream” sort of way.

I thought he was having a heart attack.

At first I was going to rush over there and apply emergency CPR. Then I came to my senses. I’d have to climb on top of him and jump up and down with both feet to have any effect at all, and if he woke while I was doing it, he’d swat me like a fly.

On the other hand, I couldn’t just let him lay there, could I? Potentially breathing his last honking gasps of air as his life oozed away in the park like melted ice cream from a 2-yr-old’s cone? Could I?

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