by Tom Weller
Out in the back lot, I hose off Baby. His flesh is round and soft and slick with water, droplets racing toward his bare nether regions and beyond, all of him shiny, silver, in the glow of the autumn moon. He looks like a seal, a big, happy seal. Water splishes around Baby’s feet, and tires crunch across gravel, the last few fans leaving the parking lot, and Baby just can’t shut up: “Man, we really had ‘em tonight, dontcha think? Did you hear them after the second clothesline? Pop of the night.”
Less than thirty minutes ago I had beaten Baby, one, two, three, pinned him clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring. That’s how things go for Baby. Losing is kind of Baby’s job. But he doesn’t mind at all. “Pin me. Pay me,” he always says, “but just let me be in the show.” And he always is in the show, almost always near the top of the card. He’s one of the best draws around here. People love to see Baby take an ass beating and will pay good money for the privilege to do so.
“Hey,” Baby says, as I turn off the hose, hand him a towel and then another—there’s a lot of Baby to towel off, “Do you think she was here tonight? Do you think she saw?”
“I bet she was, Baby. I bet she was.”
And we pause and gaze at the moon. I try to look sort of wistful, for Baby’s sake, try to look like a man who believes that love always triumphs in the end. Baby doesn’t have to try to look that way. It comes natural to him. He is that man.
Baby’s deal is simple. A classic, but, man, it still works. Here’s how it goes: “Now making his way to the ring, from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, weighing in at 330 pounds, Bodacious Baby Ferrrrisssss.” And out through the curtain comes Baby, looking like some kind of white-trash Buddha in the gold lamé robe his grandma made for him, silver boa hugging his neck, shoulder length waves of bleach blonde hair framing his chubby cheeks. Walking to the ring Baby is all short mincing steps up on his toes and a wave that’s a half-open hand and a slow turning of the wrist, pageant princess style. But the crowd is having none of it.
Our crowds are decent, you know, considering everything, usually around a hundred, maybe closer to 150 during the summer, when the kids are out of school and parents are looking for something to keep them occupied. But the crowd is mostly regulars, same people showing up and sitting in the same seats every two weeks. I could stand in the middle of the ring and point them each out with my eyes closed. There’s a handful of the boys’ girlfriends and two wives, one pregnant, so I guess soon there’ll be one more regular. There’s lots of friends and family. There’s some people who live close enough to the Slamatorium that they can walk up and seem to come to every show just because why the hell not? What else is there to do? And all of these people know Baby, have seen how his deal works, so they startup before Baby even sets foot in the ring: “Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee.”
And Baby’s good. He enters the ring like he’s ascending to a throne. His face frozen into a humble-brag smile, he circles the ring once or twice, still waving and making sure the crowd can see his face melt from humble-brag smile, to confusion, to ring-rope kicking anger as he realizes what the crowd is chanting.
Then it really picks up: “Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee,” and you’ll never see it on Baby’s face—Baby’s too good for that—but I know just what he’s thinking as the crowd’s chant grows louder. He’s thinking I got ‘em now. I’ve really got ‘em.
After I finish hosing Baby down, we work on cleaning up the Slamatorium. The place doesn’t look like much to most people, just a pole barn off a gravel country road, but it’s ours, and we will not run a sloppy shop. Chairs up, floor swept, trash bagged and loaded into Chainsaw’s truck so he can burn it the next day—all the boys help out.
Baby works slow, stops every five minutes to check his phone. his chubby index finger smashing against the screen like a bratwurst tapping on a window and asking to be let in. The blue light of the phone screen washes across Baby’s face. Even after the matches, Baby’s facials tell the story.
Eye’s pinched into a squint, lips pulled into a loose pucker. Searching, searching, searching.
Eye’s widening. Lips loosening. Getting closer.
Eyes dropping, cheeks puffing, mouth opening, a slow exhale.
“So?” I ask, as I sweep past a stalled Baby.
“Nothing, Muscle. Nothing at all.”
“Still early. Give it time.”
“Yeah. She’ll come through. She always comes through.”
By the time we finish it’s after midnight. My stomach is growling and Baby is still punching away at his phone. Same story after every show. We both go home starving.
Baby and me, we’re not famous. I mean, if you walked into the Krogers here and started asking shoppers, “What do you think of Bodacious Baby Ferris and Sexy Muscle Sammy Mercury,” you’d just get a bunch of cockeyed stares in reply.
But Baby is internet famous, kind of, in some small way. The Cry Baby Ferris Sucks Facebook group has sixty-seven members. When Baby first showed me the page, I accused him of making it, but he swore up and down he didn’t, and I believe him because Baby never lies to me.
The page only gets a couple of posts each week, and most of them aren’t much. My favorites are the few gifs of Baby falling down and a couple of memes featuring a close up of Baby’s pouting face. But the bulk of the page is just still pics from matches, and in every pic Baby looks stupid, pics of Baby taking awkward bumps, arms windmilling, rolls of flesh rippling, spit and sweat flying, all of it captured, frozen in time, pics of Baby’s face contorted into impossible shapes during his Crybaby routine. Under each pic there’s always a couple thumbs up and three or four comments, stuff about Baby’s weight mostly, short and to the point, Fat fuck, Eat a salad, shit about whales and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, and there’s some gay slurs, too, none of them interesting or original. For a long time the page was all middle-school name calling,
But then Baby Ferris Boo showed up on the page with her stories, and she kind of changed everything.
The next morning, I make the guys breakfast while Baby takes care of the med pass. We’re a good team, been working first shift in the group home together for almost three years.
Baby and I sit with the guys to eat, keep an eye on everybody, make sure greedy Donald doesn’t choke himself forgetting to chew. It’s the best part of the workday, all the guys are morning sluggish and focused on their food, quiet, and there’s plenty of coffee and some time to bullshit.
“You sore today, Baby? You took that hip toss pretty hard.”
“Nah. I’m cool. A little stiff maybe. Have you been on Facebook?”
This is new. This is not how this conversation is supposed to go. Baby is supposed to ask me how I feel, and then I’m supposed to complain about some aches and pains, and then we both get to shake it off, call it all just part of the business, and pretend that most of our aches don’t come from setting up chairs and taking down chair. But that’s clearly not in the cards today. So I follow Baby’s lead, open a lane so he can steer this conversation where he wants it to go.
“Haven’t been online since last night. Did I miss something?”
Baby leans toward me, his eyes big and shiny as silver dollars, “She wrote a new one.”
“And in this one, I win.” Baby sounds like a cool breeze blowing off a lake when he says win. His whole face is glowing, honest to God, glowing like a damn enlightened white-trash Buddha.
I guess you’d call them fan fiction, the posts from Baby Ferris Boo. The settings change some. Baby Ferris Boo comforting Baby as he lays in the ring after a loss. Baby and Boo together in some slick steamy shower, a place tens of thousands of dollars removed from the hose and spigot that serves as the Slamatorium shower. But the plotlines are all pretty much the same. Boo comes to Baby during yet another Bodacious Baby Ferris breakdown. There’s never much dialogue to start, but a lot of early dramatic embracing, Boo rushing to lay across the fallen Baby. There’s some early resistance from Baby, some squirming and pushing away, the don’t-touch-me body language of a cranky child. Then the dialogue kicks in. Boo fills line after line with sugary declarations of her great love for Baby, stuff lifted right out of the wedding section of the Hallmark display.
From there the stories always go exactly where you’d expect them to go. Caressing becomes rubbing becomes shucking of clothes becomes tongues on bodies and on and on until Baby and Boo lay together, a spent tangle of limbs swapping breathy promises of eternal love.
After breakfast we load the guys into the van, all six of them. We’re required to take everybody with us when we go grocery shopping. Getting out in the community, it’s supposed to be therapeutic. The hard stares we get from other shoppers for blocking aisles and clogging checkout lanes don’t feel so therapeutic.
I drive while Baby sits shotgun, face inches from his phone, reading aloud: “And when I reach for him, my heart races. I touch his skin. It’s hot and moist. A fire grows inside of me.”
I can only half listen to Baby, partly because I’m driving, but mostly because who the hell besides Baby would want to listen to this shit. I look in the review mirror, check on the guys, all asleep already. I know it’s the cocktail of their morning meds and the steady rhythm of the ride that’s put them down, but I imagine it’s their gift to Baby. I imagine they are all letting Baby bask in Boo’s story, free of judgement from outsiders’ eyes, free of embarrassment.
“And after my third orgasm, Baby held me next to him. I felt his sweaty naked chest against my back, and I could feel his heart beating. It went BeatBeat, Beatbeat. It was the heartbeat of a stallion. It was the heartbeat of a winner who would never lose another match as long as he lives. It was the heartbeat of a winner who would never lose me. So great, right?”
“Poetry.” I take the turn into the Kroger lot too sharp and shake Donald and Ernie awake. Their faces hover in the rearview mirror, masks of confusion.
“So how are we gonna do it,” Baby says. I prowl the parking lot looking for a spot.
“The finish. It’s got to be clean. What do you think I should pin you with?”
“Yeah. I think I need a new finisher. Something with pizzazz.”
“What’s wrong with your finish? I love your big splash. Simple, effective. Bundy used it. Kamala used it. A big-man classic. But you can’t pin me.” I turn the van into a spot, cut the engine.
“I have to pin you. Weren’t you listening? Boo’s sending me a message that after I win, that’s when she’ll finally reveal herself. That’s when we can be together.”
“You can’t win, Baby. That’s not how it works.” I turn in my seat, yell to the guys, “Everybody out. Out. Out. Out.”
At the start, me and Baby were a team. Now entering the ring, Bodacious Baby Ferris and Sexy Muscle Sammy Mercury, the Good Time Express. Back then, I had a gold lamé robe, too. Thanks, Grandma Ferris. And we’d both preen and pose as we walked to the ring, blow air kisses to the crowd, kiss each other on the cheek at the start of the match. The arrogant, girly heel tag team, classic. Got a ton of heat.
The Good Time Express lost a lot and won a few, and we always had to cheat to win, punching a guy with a roll of quarters we had hidden in our tights, nut shots while the ref was distracted, all the usual stuff. But mostly we were out there to bounce around for some fan favorites while the crowd booed and shouted comments about our sex lives, and for a time that was enough. Pin us, pay us, just keep us in the show. But everything has a shelf life. Evolve or perish, right.?
The Good Times Express went on a losing streak. Baby kept costing us matches, throwing punches at opponents that missed and caught me right in the mush, tripping and accidentally hitting me with his big splash, that kind of stuff. Eventually, Sexy Muscle Sammy Mercury could take no more. The night I finally slapped Baby across the face, slammed him, and put my cross-face chicken wing on him everything changed. Just those three moves, and Sexy Muscle was a babyface and Cry Baby Ferris was his arch nemesis.
I’m not gonna lie. It felt great, the crowd chanting my name—Sex. E. Mus. Cel—while I cranked on that cross-face chicken wing and Baby whimpered like a wounded dog. It really felt great. I still daydream about that moment. Sex. E. Mus. Cel. Sex. E. Mus. Cel.
After work Baby and I meet up. The next show isn’t for a week, but we spend a lot of evenings at the Slammatorium. The rest of the boys do, too. Danny Dynamite, Chainsaw, Sweet Daddy Harris, the Virus, they all come out most nights. We roll in the ring, work on new spots, share bullshit stories, drink some beers. It’s a good time. Usually Baby is into it, but today he’s sitting in a folding chair next to the ring lost in his phone. The other guys notice it too, give me the iggy, raising their eyebrows and cocking their heads toward Baby.
I sneak up behind Baby, grab him in a headlock and give him a noogie, but Baby just half-ass swats at me. “Not now. Busy.” I release the headlock, lean in toward Baby, watch him swiping through a bunch of pictures on his phone. There’s a green cartoon doe-eyed fairy sprawled out suggestively across the top of a mushroom. There’s the same fairy pic with a red banner around it that says Happy Holidays in flowing white letters. There’s a blue cartoon fairy standing in a field and gazing forlornly into a purple night sky. There’s a headshot of a chubby cat staring daggers directly at the camera. Then the mushroom fairy is back. Then she’s back again with a different banner I can’t read because Baby’s swiping faster. Now the forlorn fairy is back. Now mushroom again and again.
“Whatcha looking at, Baby?”
“Her profile pics. They’re speaking to me.”
I give Baby a light slap on the back of the head. “Comon. What are they saying?”
Baby turns to me, his face open and fragile as a sunflower. “They’re saying Baby Ferris is a winner. They’re saying Baby Ferris needs to take Sexy Muscle down.”
Work at the group home gets dicey. The guys, of course, are up to their nonsense. Donald keeps sneaking bologna out of the fridge and hiding it in his room. Ernie refuses to get out of bed for med pass one morning and throws a shoe at my head. Somebody keeps missing the toilet and peeing on the floor. These things I can handle. They are just part of the job. But Baby, that’s another story.
It goes on all day long. Baby is in my ear. He comes at me with short, airy phrases, breathes them into the universe one at time like a kid blowing soap bubbles When we’re sitting next to each other at the dining room table reviewing the notes third shift left from the night before: It’s Baby’s turn. Any time he crosses my path as we’re helping the guys with chores around the house: It’s Baby’s turn. In the kitchen, as we’re tripping over each other trying to pull a meal together: It’s Baby’s turn. This time love wins.
The real money in Baby’s act comes when the match is over, after Baby has eaten another pin.
Ever seen a nearly naked 330-pound man pitch a fit? It’s something to behold. One, two, three, Baby is pinned again. His opponent (me, mostly, lately) rises to his feet and celebrates. Some guys run around the ring, throw their hands in the air, climb up to the second rope and salute the crowd. Me, I like to stand over Baby’s fallen body and shadow box—right jab, right jab, left cross, right uppercut. Then I do a quick, little brush-your shoulder-off gesture and exit the ring.
Laying all alone in the ring, flat on his back, Baby looks like a giant sack of meat set out to rot, the slow rising and falling of his chest the only thing indicating there’s any life left in him. The noise starts with just a few voices, each one distinct.
Get out of the ring, fat ass.
It builds. One voice piling on top of another and another until they all blend together and rattle the sheet metal siding of the Slammatorium, a sound like a buzzing hornets’ nest.
Baby sits up slowly, shakes his head like a man trying to clear the fuzz of a hangover. His face tells the story. Mouth drops open, head swivels taking in his surroundings. The chant begins: Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee. Baby sees the referee leaning against the ropes in a corner of the ring. Baby’s eyes widen, he raises his hands, extends them towards the referee like a child pleading for comfort. Baby’s mouth collapses into a lose circle. Noooooo, Baby says, shaking his head back and forth. Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee. Louder and louder. The referee nods his head, up, down, up, down, Yessss.
Baby flops back down, bang, rolls over onto his stomach, and launches every part of himself into furious motion. His fists pound the mat, left, right, left, right, alternating like pistons; his feet kick at the mat in their own quicker alternating rhythm; his head twists side to side. Baby wails No. No. No. No. No. The crowd is with him the whole time Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry Bay. Bee. Eventually, Baby will roll onto his back and flop around like a fish out of water, still screaming the whole time, No. No. No., his fat rippling and shaking like it’s trying crawl off of him, spit and sweat flying everywhere, his face bright pink with the strain of it all. Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee. And Baby will go and go and go until he’s completely blown up, till he's all numb limbs and big gulping breaths.
And even after all that, as Baby walks away from the ring, he’ll keep going, wailing and punching and thrashing at the air, like a man fighting ghosts, keep it up all the way to the locker room. Fantastic stuff. Baby is built for losing.
“If you can’t do it for me, do it for Boo.” Baby has me cornered in the kitchen at work where I’m pulling together breakfast for the guys. He thrusts his phone into my hand, and rushes away before I can protest. I hear him yelling from the living room, “Donald, get over here and take your meds.”
As I turn off the burner I was using to scramble eggs, I look at Baby’s phone, already certain what I’ll find. And there it is, a new post from Boo on the Cry Baby Ferris Sucks Facebook page:
Tonight is the night I have been waiting for my whole life. Tonight Baby Ferris will show the world the power of true love. Tonight Baby Ferris walks into the ring with the power of our love for each other pumping through his heart. And when Baby Ferris pins Sexy Muscle, I’ll know, and the whole world will know, the strength of our love. Then I’ll rush into the ring and hold Baby. And I’ll feel his heart beating next to mine. And we will never let each other go. NEVER.
The post ends with two lines of pink hearts and lipstick lip print emojis.
I let Baby put the match together. He goes with the plucky-underdog-gets-whipped-to- within-an-inch-of-his-life-but-refuses-to-stay-down story. We both love the classics.
At the start of the match I come out like a house on fire. I hit a dropkick and a flying forearm, and a big headbutt, and Baby is rocked, stumbling around the ring on jelly legs. I whip him into the ropes and then hit him with a big double ax handle. Boom. Baby Ferris is down in the center of the ring and the crowd knows the end is near. Sex. E. Mus. Cel. Sex. E. Mus. Cel. I slap my cross-face chicken wing on Baby, and the crowd gets louder. Sex. E. Mus. Cel. I crank on the hold and crank on the hold, but Baby just keeps gritting his teeth and shaking his head No, No, No, every time the ref asks if he wants to quit. And then Baby starts to crawl, pulling himself across the ring with me on his back still cranking on the chicken wing. And when Baby reaches the ropes and the ref makes me break the hold, all the air rushes out of the Slammatorium. Silence. I imagine that I can hear one tiny high voice, twittery as birdsong, cheering for Baby.
We run through a couple more similar sequences, me beating Baby from pillar to post, but Baby refusing to lose, the crowd feels restless and befuddled to me, but this is Baby’s match to call. He gives me the nod. He’s ready to go home.
I whip Baby into the ropes, but when he comes back at me, he ducks my clothesline, hits the ropes, and comes back at me with a cross body. I go down hard, hard enough that my brain goes fuzzy. A sympathy groan rises out of the crowd, a flock of confused whispers rising in its wake. The crowd sees it now. The crowd believes. Baby really could win. Boom. Baby hits me with a big leg drop while I’m still down.
I’m just waiting for Baby to go for his finish now, for him to run across the ring, bounce off the ropes, jump when he reaches my prone body, and come down on top. Boom. The Baby Ferris big splash.
But instead, Baby grabs my left arm and drags me toward the corner. I look up at the lights of the Slammatorium, look up at Baby climbing the ropes. First turnbuckle. Second turnbuckle. Baby’s got the crowd now. Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee. Same chant, a completely different chant.
I’m still looking up from the mat when Baby reaches the top turnbuckle. He pauses to acknowledge the crowd. Cry. Bay. Bee. Cry. Bay. Bee.
Baby jumps. This is a historic moment at the Slammatorium. The first time Cry Baby Ferris has come off the top rope. I can see it in Baby’s face as he hangs in the air, so much belief. Baby believes he can fly. Baby believes in love and its inevitable triumph. The crowd believes too, believes Cry Baby’s three hundred plus pounds are gonna come crashing down on top of me and squash me flat. One. Two. Three. The underdog wins out.
I want to believe, too. But we all know there’s another way this could go. We’ve all seen it before, a real classic. Just roll. I know that’s what some of the fans are thinking, just roll out of the way, Muscle.
Out in the crowd I see a woman standing. She’s blowing kisses toward Baby as he’s falling through the air. She looks like she might be the kind of woman who uses pictures of fairies as social media avatars. I want to believe this. I do.
I watch Baby crash to the mat in the spot where I used to lay, and as the fans chant Sex. E. Mus. Cel. I feel the shockwaves of Baby’s impact rippling around the ring and shaking my ribs like a spirit trying to pull them open and reach my heart.
Tom Weller is a former factory worker, Peace Corps volunteer, Planned Parenthood sexuality educator, and college writing instructor. His fiction has appeared in Booth, Pidgeonholes, Barrelhouse, and Milk Candy Review, among others. His fiction collection And There Came Forth a Great Fish: Stories was published in 2022. He lives in Victoria, Texas, with his wife and his ill mannered but big-hearted rescue dog, Beans. He occasionally tweets from @WellerTom1.