"House Show In Badger County High School Gym" originally appeared in the Winter 2016 Edition of The Avalon Literary Review. It is currently available in Centum Press' "100 Voices, Vol. 2" Anthology Series.
Blood geysered out of Maisy’s face and onto her mask. She missed her next spot and flopped onto the canvas, the house lights so bleary that she had to grope with her hands out to find the bottom rope. Her outstretched fingers plucked at them a couple times before she got a good hold to pull herself back up, the entire time feeling like she had botched the timing and she’d get knocked on her payout. Her boots scuffed up skid marks from the puddle that had gathered beneath her as she reached her mark. The front few rows had come to life by then, the loss of Maisy’s bodily fluids giving them something to believe in. She peeled her mask away from her face to drain it out and keep the blood from pushing up to her eyes. Blood in the eyes was the danger of masks, but to Maisy anonymity beat out a couple blind spots. Rhoda had also slipped in her puddle, but without so much as a nod she was already up and back on Maisy. Rhoda stomped like bush league, but maybe Maisy had it coming. It was her blood after all.
It would be a delicate balance removing the mask. If the blood had dried already, that meant the mask would be stuck to her skin. If her nose was broke, ripping the mask off would unsettle it right after she had crooked it back and she’d be bleeding all over again. What had Maisy worried most was her eyebrows. She didn’t want to rip them off if the blood had glued them to her mask. She could take the sting. She didn’t know how she’d pencil in fake ones.
Someone had sent a doctor into the locker room to tend to her nose. He waited in the hall with a box of jawbreakers while Maisy shimmied the mask off her face. After he had crunched through his second candy he stepped inside before she had finished.
“Buenas noches,” he said. “They told me to come in here and take care of Cuerva.” Maisy grunted and ripped off the mask, pulling out a stringy patch of blond hair.
“I’m Cuerva. It’s a work.” The doctor looked at her and leaned over, not wanting to get any closer.
“Your nose is broke.”
The doctor muttered about how he wasn’t getting paid enough to stay at the school this late and walked out. Maisy wondered if he was one of the types that never left high school, if maybe she looked around the gym she’d find some picture of him somewhere. The jock that became school nurse and insisted on being called “Doctor.” It made the thought of her approaching ten year reunion creep back into her head and she decided that now wasn’t the best time to worry about such things.
Maisy reached into her bag after she had wiped herself off and pulled out the spray can. The one advantage to doing gym shows was no one cared if she sprayed there. Maybe they did, but no one had said anything yet. She let the spray fly, her skin taking on the initial orange hue that she’d have to even out. It was always good to get out ahead of it before it began to fade. She took a look in the gym mirror, where SARAH SUCKS BIG DICK was lovingly etched at the bottom. Her nose would be okay. The spray tan pocked through her T-shirt. It was still wet, but it was warm out and it felt good.
The pay was shit. Shows in gyms always paid shit. Maisy was smart enough to never complain. Bitching never got anyone booked. She asked her booker if she got paid less for bleeding. He said no. Mid cards just go that way. He stopped, wanting to ask her something but thinking better of it. She made it easy on him and asked if she could have a flier from the night, just as a keepsake. He planted it in her hand and told her he’d let her know if they’d have anything for her in a few weeks.
Her shirt was stuck to her body by the time she reached her car. She overheard Rhoda talking to a few fans that stayed behind to get an autograph. They were mostly men that thought if they could convince Rhoda that they were somehow different from the other fans, then they would be accepted into her good graces and she would let them go home with her.
“You really beat the hell out of that Mexican.”
“Thanks. You all drive safe now.”
Maisy looked at herself in the car window. The spray had dried already, and she was right. She’d have to even it out. She would have to find a way to make her face match her body a little more. Maybe that was something she could call Mom about that wouldn’t lead to any kind of dust up. The worst were the big gaps in conversation where Maisy could hear all of the things her mother was prohibiting herself from saying and would instead give her some pleasantry about how she’s making the yard really come together back home. A closed fist or a missed spot never hurt like whatever Maisy thought her mother really wanted to say. It was always lurking there.
“They all got masks, too,” she thought. She glanced at her nose without much thought and looked down at her stomach. It was getting soft. She had been working her arms and chest too much lately.
It was a few minutes to one before Maisy’s food came out. Some of the veggies had been fried along with her steak, which made her think of her stomach again. Muffin tops don’t do shit against boots, Rhoda had made sure of that. She’d do sit-ups before heading out to St. Paul in the morning.