click for homepage

              The Barcelona Review

Author Bio



The blonde’s left arm had Bronko pinned to the bed. His entire professional life he’d been covering, or covered by, others. The difference was, on a wrestling mat he could kick out. The bare arm of a woman slipped over a man in slumber presented a far greater challenge than an Andre the Giant splash taken in the middle of the ring. All he could do here was lift the limb, appreciating the soft and supple skin of youth—a rose and thorns tattooed around the wrist, fingernails painted black—and place it by her side. Something about her poked at his memory, but he could not discern which memories were lighting up. A weak sense of familiarity he could not explain enveloped him, then vanished. Thousands of girls bearing tens of thousands of tattoos. One like this on another girl in another town, perhaps?

      He squinted in the general direction of the room’s one window and cursed under his breath. The too-floral curtains in this shitty motel room refused to settle when he pulled them together, allowing the garish glow of the parking lot’s sodium arc lamps to penetrate the protective darkness. Before the first fall with the blonde, he had thrown his pants over the gap to keep out prying eyes, but sometime after round two—after they had both fallen asleep—the pants must have slipped to the floor, and the harsh light once again invaded the room, waking Bronko from his thin slumber.

       Careful not to wake the blonde, he swung his legs from the bed and stood up, shuffling naked towards the window until his feet tangled in pants. He crouched, grabbed a fistful of denim, and rehung them over the curtain. Even if some light continued to creep around the edges, the interior of the room neared pitch. Bronko decided he might as well piss and put on some underwear, as a reward for escaping the world’s oldest and most dangerous hold.

       By the time he found his way back to the bed, something, maybe the flushing of the toilet, had awoken the girl. Though he could not see her in the dark, what he could make of her shape was no longer prone but shifted upright against the headboard, the bedsheet bunched beneath breasts even God must brag about creating.

      “Did I wake you up?” she asked. “Sometimes I think I snore a little.”

       Damn, this one was cute. “No, babe. Just these ghetto curtains. Go on back to sleep now,” he said as he crawled back under the thin sheets.

       “Can you hold me?” she asked.

       Christ. They always wanted to cuddle. Bronko hoped she carried no expectations beyond a little tussle and tumble. Okay, maybe round three in the morning. At best, the ring rats could expect to hang around until breakfast, maybe lunch if they earned it. With luck, they might get signed to a return match when (if) he came back to town. Good thing for her he had a soft spot for blondes. Especially the ones built to rumble. “Okay, babe. Put your head right here on Bronko’s chest. We need to get some sleep now.” She nestled in beside him, still naked, and he considered moving round three up in the card. Wrestlers, good ones anyway, maxed on the cardio and that meant stamina. And, for him at least, a short refractory period.

       “I know,” she replied, yawning as her left hand combed through his chest hair in time with her own breathing, both slowing as she neared sleep once more. “I love all this hair. So manly.”

       Bronko traced circles on her exposed lower back, enjoying the sensations of her delicate massages and of her tender flesh. “I know, babe. Bronko the Badger. Gotta keep it hairy. None of that shaving bullshit like Hogan and Warrior.”

      She raised her eyes to his and smiled. “Well, I’m glad you’re the Badger. It makes me feel safe,” she said. “Your match was really good tonight. You kicked that hillbilly’s ass. Did I say that already? We kind of got into other stuff pretty quick.” Her smile faded as her eyelids dropped involuntarily, giving the impression of gravity pulling at the contours of her face.

       “Thanks, babe. Just another match.”

       “I know you’ve been doing this a long time,” she mumbled. “But you still look good in there. And you look good here, too.”

       Bronko supposed that much was true, not caring to reflect too much on how long he had been at this. He had broken into the business at a young age, and even with two decades under his belt, he was not an old man, maintaining most of his physique from the early days. Still, at forty-two, it was a rarity to land a rat this fresh. In his own youth, girls willing to spend the night had swarmed over him like, well, rats. Some guys preferred strange—Bronko rarely turned it down—but he also had his favorites around the territories. This one was no exception. If he recalled, back in the day, there were a couple of girls he locked up with more than once. A blonde and a brunette he alternated with each trip. Once, he challenged them to what some of the boys called a handicap match. They tagged in and out for a while but, ultimately, put Bronko over. Both of them. Several times.

      Bronko’s last trip to this area had been many years before. When the office that ran it closed for good, no one bothered to step in and take over the towns. Tonight had been one of those small-time independent cards, not a regular event. The promoter brought in freelancers, like Bronko, and matched them up. No story, no psychology. Just six matches. By far, he was the biggest name in the building tonight. He thought the card may have been a fundraiser for a marching band program or some shit.

      Big show or not, he felt lucky to have caught the blonde’s eye early in the evening. She had sauntered right on up to him at the gimmick table while he peddled his 8 x10s, trying to scrape up enough money to make the trip worth it. Her T-shirt, probably from eBay or the local Goodwill, boasted his face on the front. A relic, vintage merch made before she was born - during his time in this territory.

       “That’s a helluva thing you’re wearing, babe,” he told her when she approached the table. “You want me to sign that?”

       “Sure,” she replied. “Wherever you want. Here?” She pointed to the spot between her breasts, pushing them forward.

       Bronko agreed this would be a fine place and told her it was on the house. He usually charged ten bucks to sign gimmicks the fans brought, but cash wasn’t everything. “Who should I sign it to, darling?”

       “Bethany would be just fine,” she answered as she pulled the shirt tight to her body, ensuring a firm surface for Bronko’s silver Sharpie.

       The match had been less enjoyable. The drizzling shits, to be exact. Bronko himself would have given it no more than half a star. He could only do so much with these part-time, local hotshots. Nonetheless, tonight he was the attraction, and that meant the main event. He was wrestling the “champion” (for all Bronko knew, they handed the guy the belt three seconds before he walked to the ring), and while he absolutely would not put this lousy guy over, he also could not pummel him as he wished. This wasn’t quite outlaw mud show level, but it was minor league. Very minor. The kid—called himself Farmer Troy, for god’s sake—was green as grass, built like a flagpole, and worked just about as stiff.

       After slapping on a few arm bars and one headlock that felt like it lasted a month, Bronko took a couple to the face, selling for the jabroni as best he could. On one poorly executed flying elbow, Farmer Troy potatoed him and Bronko got color the hard way. Lying on the mat, he reached up and felt the newly tender spot on his head. Blood. Shit. Professional enough not to blow the gig, he pushed himself to his feet, chopped the scrawny little hill jack, and threw him to the turnbuckles. Once there, Bronko offered some corrective guidance, reminding him how lucky he was to be working with a pro. He slung the kid across the ring and allowed himself to take a boot to the face after chasing Troy into the corner. Bronko stumbled back, slid from the ring, and threw a chair from the audience at the champion. The referee disqualified him immediately, and everyone saved face.

       Not by accident, the chair he had introduced into the match belonged to the blonde. As he reached for it, he helped her stand, keeping her from getting thrown at Farmer Troy along with her seat. His hand found the rose tattoo on her wrist and lingered there for a moment. Bronko had more than a little experience with men in tights and getting women out of them, and he could see in her face the complete desire to hump him right there in the first row of the National Guard Armory. In his estimation, that would have made a far better show.

       Bronko had not been surprised to see her waiting outside the locker room after his shower. She wrapped her arm through his, accompanying him to the van in which he usually slept after the matches. He drove with the blonde to the first, cheapest motel he could find. The Roselawn Inn’s sign did not read, “Our rooms may be small, but they’re not that clean either,” but that slogan would have worked just fine.

       Two falls in, and as he struggled to find his way back into sleep, he wondered why him, why tonight? If he still cared in the morning, he could ask her then.


He awoke to find her mouth around his dick. Usually, in his experience, heels called the matches, and Bronko was most certainly a veteran heel. In this case, he let her take control since she had proven herself excellent at calling finishes last night.

       When he finally allowed himself release, not long after her third or fourth, brought on by a falls-count-anywhere style which had taken place on most surfaces of the small room, the blonde collapsed against him, sweaty and shaking. “Damn, Bronko, don’t you ever wear down?” she asked between breaths.

       He smiled and admitted it took more than a little pump-and-go to get him winded. No sex, no matter how good, drained a man the way sixty minutes of running the ropes, taking bumps, kicking out of false finishes, and making it all look good for the crowd did. Lying next to her, seeing her chest glisten and heave with equal parts pleasure and exertion, knowing his part in this, boosted an ego fragile from last night’s in-ring experience. That match merited no pay-per-view coverage, but this morning’s bout had been five stars for sure. Let Dave Meltzer review that one in his damn dirt sheet.

       They showered together, then re-dressed. The full light of day showed a bedspread matching the insufficient curtains he had wrestled with a few hours earlier. Always some flower he could not identify in colors unavailable to nature. Most likely a fictional plant created for cheap motels in the Midwest. No match for that rose on her wrist.

      He offered to take her home, and she kissed him gently in answer. He believed himself to be, if nothing else, a gentleman to the rats who gave him their time. On the way, he asked if she had a last name, and when she said, “Wilson. Bethany Wilson,” the answer might as well have been Minnie Mouse. Yet, that sense returned. Déjà vu, he guessed. Nothing.

       “You were always my mom’s favorite, and she used to show me tapes of you when I was a kid. You sure did live up to it all.”

      Sitting in his passenger seat, Bethany looked much more like a kid than she had when riding him at the motel. He worried for a moment about her age, then decided she had to be at least nineteen or twenty. Not even close. He chased the thoughts from his mind before they could develop further, one skill besides wrestling Bronko had cultivated over the years. She got what she wanted and looked no worse the wear for it. That was that.

       After a short jaunt through the very small town, he rolled up to her house, a modest white ranch set back only a few yards from the quiet street. She leaned over and gave him one last, lingering kiss before popping the handle and jumping from his van.

      The front door swung inward as she approached it, her mother stepping into the frame as Bethany mounted the steps. Bronko had a mind to wave at her. The woman was about his age and had blonde hair like her daughter. Not bad looking herself. As he raised his hand to a height where he could taunt the hapless woman, he stopped. In that glance, he recognized more than anger, and the rose on Bethany’s wrist brought back a name he immediately wished to forget.

      Almost reflexively, his hand dropped, throwing the car into drive. He hoped Bethany would not know why he peeled away from her house, that she would not ask the woman in the doorframe. Hoped that the girl who told him to call her Rosie one night many years ago would shut the door, throw the deadbolt against his fading taillights. Hoped she had learned something about kayfabe all those years ago.

      With each mile the ancient van put between him and the two women he had left behind, the tremble in Bronko’s hands seemed to increase exponentially. To the best of his remembering, the last booking he’d missed had been about ten years before when his appendix had ruptured, forcing him to spend a couple of days in the hospital, then a few weeks in recovery.

      With no worries about his reputation, Bronko the Badger pulled to the side of the road, looked up the number for the promoter in the next town, and forced his quaking fingers to punch it into the touchscreen. When the call ended, he mapped the quickest route back home before flopping his phone onto the empty passenger seat.
       The Badger was taking the first powder of his life.

      ©             Brian Hawkins 2023

Author Bio Brian Hawkins lives and works in southern Indiana. He and his wife, Lacy both teach at the high school from which they graduated. They also own and (rarely operate themselves) a used bookstore in town. They have three cats and two dogs, along with a number of koi and goldfish in their small ponds. He has a B.S. from Indiana University, an M.Ed. From Indiana Wesleyan University, an M.A in English from Morehead State University, and a graduate certificate from IU in political science. He has published two stories in Morehead State University’s journal Inscape, and recently published a poem in Scribes Micro Fiction. He bowled in his first league at age five in 1982 and has not missed a season since.

The Barcelona Review is a registered non-profit organization