by Ron Hogan

David Cash lowered his head as the warm trickles of water ran down his nude body, taking with it a layer of sweat, dirt, and soap. Sometimes the simplest pleasures were the most fulfilling, and after a night of struggling inside the ring that shower was just what the doctor ordered to make David feel like a human again. Unfortunately, that feeling of refreshment only lasted as long as the deluge of water.

When David killed the flow, the feelings went with it, replaced by a feeling of unpleasant heaviness in his extremities and a vague sense of foreboding. He had seen the promoter, a heavyset, balding man named Michael with a penchant for sweat-stained dress shirts and cheap jewelry, slip into the locker room behind him. This was never good. He probably wouldn't even get the chance to dress before being chewed out.

"Dave, c'mere for a second."

"I can't even get dressed, Michael?"

David padded across the tile floor in his bare feet, grabbing a towel from off the rack and draping the rough cotton around his bare, chiseled torso. It was cold in the room; they had turned the heat off expecting traditional May weather. What they received was freezing temperatures and a lot of people in various stages of nasty colds and/or flu. David was one of the lucky exceptions, and he aimed to stay that way.

"You can dress while we talk, Dave." Michael's piggish black eyes stayed on David's form, even as David removed the towel from around his waist to dry himself. "I'm sure you know what this is gonna be about."

"Yeah, I know. I sucked the place up tonight," David sighed.

"Yeah, no shit. So tell me, what's wrong?" Michael's expression changed from one of indifference to one of barely-concealed concern. He liked David, liked the kid a lot. He was a good worker and a nice guy.

"I don't know. I guess I just wasn't feeling it tonight."

"Bullshit. There's something on your mind, I can tell. You almost dropped Miguel on his head twice tonight, and normally you're my safest guy. What's eating you, kid?" Michael knew the answer before David even opened his mouth. He'd seen this a thousand times before.

"Just family shit, you know? My kid's got a cold, so I'm not sleeping too well at night. The wife's bringing both of our parents into town, its finals time at work… just a lot of shit." David leaned against the locker, as if he suddenly weighed a thousand pounds and could no longer support his own weight.

"Yeah, I understand how that is. My Julie, she was a real fussy baby, too… so if you need some time off, or you want someone to talk to about this shit, just lemme know. My door's always open to you, son." Michael gave David a pat on the back before moving towards the door. His hands were heavy, like prize-winning hams. In another life, he had been a wrestler himself.

David smiled, just slightly. "Thanks, Michael."

Michael looked suddenly embarrassed by his show of concern and affection for David, his face flushing like a plum in the sun. "Sure thing, kid. Can't let my star attraction lose his focus, can I?"

"No… I guess you can't."


David's eyes stared, glazed over like the eyes of a zombie in one of those old horror movies, at the television. He was awake, of course. He was awake a lot as of late, even when it wasn't his time to watch the baby. The baby, who was sleeping like an angel at the moment, was strapped to David's broad, bare chest in one of those carrying harnesses that allowed the child to feel the comfort of being back in the womb.

David longed for some sort of pleasure akin to that felt by the child. Late night TV screamed at him in the silence: 'Save your hair before it's too late!' 'Porn stars teach you how to grow a bigger dick, stumpy! You can't satisfy your woman until you're buried in her uterus!' 'Make a bunch of money in real estate, you fuckin' failure!' It was all thoroughly depressing, mostly because they echoed problems in David's life.

He was worried about his hair. Now was the time in a man's life when his dependable head of hair started fleeing from him. Money problems were abounding at the moment, mostly as a result of David's increased time on the road and the reduction of time he spent at home. The icing on the cake was his sexual relationship, or lack thereof, with his wife. She wasn't happy with him, despite her words. She claimed to love him, but took great pleasure in harping on his faults just because she caught him watching pornography once. She wasn't cumming anymore; hell, neither was he.

They hadn't made love on a regular basis since the baby was born. The problem started as a bout of postpartum depression and awkward sleeping arrangements, but it steamrolled into something entirely different with the passing of the months. The formerly happy couple were receiving lots of late night phone calls as of late from various young males wishing to harass Elana sexually and make scathing comments about David and his status as an erstwhile sex symbol to some of his students. She loved him and he loved her just the same, but she didn't trust him.

Maybe she didn't trust herself. On the rare occasions they discussed the problem, all signs pointed to her as the problem. Indeed, even she pointed to herself as the problem.

Mothers aren't supposed to be sexual, David heard her voice in his head repeating. It's not you, David. It's me. Of course, that was before the porno.

Then IT came to the surface, the IT every man knows in the back of his mind is the truth, but that no man can really face head on without feeling wholly inadequate and a failure. The couple's exchange was angry and loud; Elana had been drinking, and David was feeling especially frustrated that his planned evening of relaxation and masturbation was spoiled.

What the fuck is wrong? Don't I cook for you? Don't I clean your fuckin' house and take care of your child and suck your fucking DICK?! Elana's voice, even in remembrance, still hurt.

David could hear himself shoot back. It's YOUR house, you cook what YOU want to eat, and you haven't so much as touched me more than twice in the last two months! So don't even fuckin' call ANY of this goddamn shit MINE, when we both know it's all yours.

He was surprised he was able to keep back the comments about their child. A child that, had Elana not screwed up, wouldn't even be there. Allen was an accident of the highest order; Elana had fucked up taking her birth control, and in a few unprotected nights, the pair had conceived the bouncing baby nuisance strapped around David's neck like a burping, screaming, shitting albatross.

David… Elana whispered nervously, moments after revealing their conception. Please tell me that no matter what happens between us, you'll let me keep the baby.

She wasn't supposed to be able to bear kids to full term. Allen was a miracle child for her at that moment. Now sixteen months later, the "miracle" was an implement of torture. The "miracle" kept them from being happy. Elana had even voiced her thoughts to David once, after a brief, chilly exchange. She wished, at times, that she had never carried the baby to term. She wondered if they should be married at all. They were both happier as a cohabitation couple, but as part of David's last-ditch agreement to save their jobs, he promised Whittenhouse, the headmaster of the private academy that gave the couple their jobs, that the pair would be married as soon as possible. They were happy for a long time.

Then Allen came, in a torrent of shitty diapers, late night feedings, and newfound responsibility that threatened to overtake the sensibilities of a 25-year-old newlywed living with someone else for the first time. Having two jobs didn't help matters; every stress in David's life seemed to close around him at once. He drank too much, stayed out too late, slept too much on the weekends; everything fell around him at once.

Some days, it was like living with a stranger. Hell, some days he felt like he was estranged from himself. It was starting to affect him, personally and professionally.

He had to get up for work in three hours. He hadn't slept but maybe 2 hours the entire night. There was a stack of papers waiting to be graded in the office, no coffee in the cupboard, and he had to be at the arena tonight at 7. The thought of taking a day off sounded great at the moment, but Elana would probably give him hell for it. Haranguing him seemed to be her only pleasure anymore.


"Hey Michael?" David snapped out of his reveille, just in time to catch Michael before the door closed completely behind him.

"Yeah, Dave?" The graying man stuck his head back through the door, his forehead glistening with tiny beads of sweat.

"If it's not too much trouble, I could really use the weekend off. I've got some work to catch up on at school, and I need to get some rest-"

"Say no more," Michael interrupted. "You do what you gotta do, kid. Just don't work too damn hard, huh? This is supposed to be a day off." Michael laughed softly.

"All right, Michael. Thanks again."

"Sure, kid."

Michael disappeared out the door again, leaving David alone in the locker room with his thoughts. With a heavy sigh, David continued to towel off after a moment's hesitation, and then he dressed himself and threw his gear in his gym bag. Should he call the wife, or just go out and call her from the bar?

"I better go see what Miguel and Jason are doing tonight," David said to no one in particular.

Talking to yourself is a sign of insanity, Dave. Then again, so is answering yourself.

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