THE RETURN OF MIDGET X
AN AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY
After washing down a couple of reds with a beer, the ride from Ensenada to Tijuana had passed by in a flash. When he woke up, they had already pulled into the parking lot of the bullring, the scene of that night's matches. He had wrestled here numerous times before and hated it with a passion. The fans were vicious and had been know to assault wrestlers, and the air was hard to breath inside the bullring with all the red dirt dust that was kicked up in the air.
His back was already killing him after he had slipped off the top rope and landed hard on the ring apron the previous night and sleeping on a van seat with shitty springs hadn't done anything to improve the situation.
The other wrestlers had already gotten out of the van and were limping and shuffling towards the dressing room. He sat up, grabbed his gym bag, and followed the others. When he stepped down from the van, his title belt, which proclaimed him the "World Champion of the Mexican Wrestling Federation," slipped out of his bag and fell to the ground. With a groan he reached over and picked it up. Dusting it off, he couldn't help but think how about how he had sacrificed his body and self respect for this leather, plastic, and metal piece of shit.
At one time, he would have given up his left nut to own that piece of garbage. Now it meant nothing.
He slung the belt over his shoulder and headed towards the dressing room.
* * *
My parents were dirt poor when I was growing up in Austin, Texas. They didn’t have a bucket to shit in or the proverbial window to throw it out of. Our house was a shotgun shack on the outside of town with a yard about as big as a postage stamp. Talk about a bunch of fucking hillbillies, we actually had chickens scratching around in the front yard. My brother and I dressed in hand me downs from the Goodwill or the Salvation Army and stood out like a couple of sore thumbs. The kids at school were brutal to us. I don’t know how many times we were kicked out of school for fighting. I had just started junior high when my older brother, Aaron, was killed on his bike when he rode out in front of a dairy delivery truck. Milk grows strong bones.
I saw it happen. The whole fucking thing was so surreal. When the truck hit him, he flew through the air like a rag doll. His head literally exploded like a grape. I had nightmares for years after.
After that I kinda went inside of myself. My parents had been huge drunks before Aaron was killed. After the funeral they got crank and grass involved in the mix. They’d turn on each other and fight like maniacs, sometimes physically. More than once the cops would pay us a visit. I started staying away from home for long stretches of time.
Then I met the Hultgren twins. Terry and Thomas. They were both like me. Outsiders. The throwaways of society.
Terry was kinda slow, almost retarded, but a good kid. He always stayed close to the home. The farm would always be his life.
Thomas was a wild man. He lived to drink, lift weights, fight, and chase after girls who always turned him down.
The twins didn’t know their father, he had been a one night stand, but their young for her age mother, Ruth, was a damn fine person and she basically took me in. I spent more time in their old farmhouse in my high school years than I did at my own house. She was the only person who ever had any faith in me and was the one who convinced to try to become a writer.
She was also an incredible source of sexual fantasies for me.
Thomas and I became partners, we formed a bond, the kind you do when you’re young and you don’t ever envision a future. We had had each other’s backs. Anyone fucked with one of us, the other one wouldn’t be far away. We may get our ass kicked in the process but we’d give the prick something to think about.
There wasn’t a day that Thomas didn’t talk about his dream and what life would be like once he achieved it. How he wouldn’t be the small town loser everyone thought he was anymore.
I never told him I thought he was full of shit. But good friends don’t step on each other’s dreams.
The day after high school graduation he jumped on a train headed towards Los Angeles. The city where he said he could live out his dream. He never told me he was going to do it. I couldn’t believe my friend was gone. I wouldn’t see him again for years.
* * *
The call from the Galveston police came when I was at work. My boss took the call and glared at me as if I had farted and had shit my pants instead. A body had been found floating in the Houston ship channel and someone was needed to identify it. That someone was me, since my name and both home and work phone numbers had been found amongst the victim’s personal affects.
The drive down from Austin took about four hours. It was a Saturday, my day off of course, and I had to fight the idiotic tourist traffic once I got close to the island. It was around noon when I finally arrived and the temperature in Galveston was already as hot as the proverbial gates of hell.
The morgue was located down in the basement of the hospital and the closest parking spot I could find was about three blocks away. By the time I walked back to the hospital my armpits were bubbling like a witch’s brew and I had completely sweated through my shirt.
I rang the buzzer on the morgue door and was let in by the duty forensic technician. He had a lit Camel in one hand and what looked like a lizard and peanut butter sandwich in the other. The place was like a freezer inside and I immediately developed a nasty headache as my head constricted from the extreme change in temperature. The room had a weird sweet, formaldehyde funk to it. There was a radio in the corner playing Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” very loudly. Which was odd considering the circumstances and the location.
There was pissed off looking man standing in the corner. He was silent but I assumed he was the cop I had talked to on the phone the day before.
The technician walked over to one of the examining tables, jammed the sandwich in his mouth, and with a flourish, pulled a sheet off the body. “Voila!” he shouted with full mouth.
I instantly blurted out the body’s name. I knew it would be him. Who else could it have been?
“What are you, some sort of fucking smart ass?” The cop had finally spoken.
The cop, actually a detective, I would find out, looked like he had walked straight out of central casting. Huge gut, mutton chop sideburns, beady little pig eyes, spaghetti stained and pitted out white dress shirt, all topped off with a red alcohol flushed face with a cigar jammed in his mouth. Definitely the look of cop who was on the dark side of a long awaited, stress induced heart attack.
He was standing across from the body glaring at me with his hands on his ample hips. I was really starting to regret smoking those two reefers and drinking that six pack of Tecate on the drive down.
“Well, did your hear me? You’re telling me that’s his name? Are you trying to be a smart ass?” he repeated.
I was having problems concentrating. This was the first and hopefully last time that I would ever be in a morgue. There were three chrome metal slabs inside the tiny room and the other two were also occupied. There weren’t sheets covering them. On the far table there was the body of a dead hooker that was found in the dunes up on east beach. She had been severely beaten and then strangled. Her killer, mostly likely her pimp, had finished the job by shoving an empty bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 up her employment chute.
Laid out on table number two was a college aged young man who was presumably the victim of a hellacious case of spring break induced alcohol poisoning. Even in death he looked like he was enjoying himself. I hadn’t seen many stiffs but the few I had seen sure as shit weren’t smiling. People came to Galveston Island to party, maybe smoke a little pot, drink a couple cold ones, get some pussy, and have a good time, but sometimes they got more than they bargained for.
Resting on table number three was the reason I was in this hellhole. His little, muscle bound body was green with algae and had been scavenged upon by fish, crabs, and seagulls. Surprisingly, considering the condition of the rest of the body, the X tattooed in gothic script on his right bicep still stood out.
There was a large bullet hole entry wound right in the middle of his forehead.
“Hey! Dipshit! I don’t have all goddamn day so answer my question so I can get the hell out of here. This isn‘t the little Lindbergh kidnapping case you know. I have more important things than to stand around here and look at a dead dwarf, and one that‘s starting to get pretty goddamn ripe on top of it.”
He was a midget, I thought. Not a dwarf. He hated being called a dwarf. And he really when nuts when some politically correct asshole called him a “little person.”
“I’m a fucking midget, not some sawed off cock sucking circus freak!” he’d roar at the offender.
The room suddenly got very hot. The oxygen felt like it was being sucked out my lungs and the walls appeared that they were closing in on me. I looked over at the technician who was leering at me with an evil grin. Really enjoying the show. The sick fuck!
I looked back to the detective. “Midget X. That’s his name. He changed it legally.” I stammered. Jesus Christ on a motorcycle, I had to get the hell out of here!
The cop made a disgusted grunting noise. “So that’s what I have to go on? A rotting floater you say is called Midget X. And no fucking prints or dental records to work off of to ID the troll! Fucking A! Is this a fun Saturday morning or what?”
When I looked back down to X’s body I thought I saw some movement by his head. When I looked closer, to my horror, a small crab crawled out of the bullet hole wound in his forehead.
The room began to spin. In a panic, I tried to step back away from the table but my knees had locked up and I began to fall backwards as if my whole body had frozen in the upright position. I remembered watching the fights on HBO one night and Larry Holmes looked the exact same way after he walked into a Mike Tyson right hand.
I fell straight back, just like Larry did, only I caught the back of my head on an instrument tray piled high with scalpels and forceps on the way down.
Two years earlier I had been having the time of my young life. Working minimum wage in Texas had lost its allure. I had always loved to write, even as a little kid, so I had dreams of becoming a journalist. Since I had been a shitty student in school, colleges weren’t exactly beating down my door. But a visit to a Navy recruiter quickly solved my problem. The Navy had a journalism school and would even pay you while you attended.
After boot camp and journalism school, I found myself onboard a small training aircraft carrier home-ported out of Pensacola, Florida. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I shared a four man stateroom with a couple of other journalists, was exempt from most mundane Navy shipboard activities (painting, mess cooking, toilet cleaning), and I worked for a Lieutenant Commander who was both female and as hot as they come for a woman almost twice my age.
My boss, Barb, was married, her husband a civilian with a high paying job as an insurance adjuster. They owned a beautiful home on Gulf Breeze, located just outside of Pensacola. Both her and her husband were staunch Catholics and were very active in the church. They had two children, Martin, who was and eleven, and Lynn, who was eight.
I also soon discovered that she had a taste for young enlisted men, especially virgins like myself. Along with imported vodka, wild uninhibited sex, and cocaine. Not necessarily in that order.
We carried on an affair that lasted close to a year before the Naval Investigative Service, who got tipped off by a jealous snitch, caught wind of it.
We were out on a two-week training cruise. It was in the middle of the night and I was in the Commander’s stateroom. We had been drinking, shooting coke, and we were both buck ass naked, sleepin off a night I'd never forget.
Without any kind of warning, the door to her stateroom slammed open and in jumped the Master At Arms and the ship‘s resident NIS agent who was brandishing a large caliber service revolver and was pointing it at both of us as we broke about every goddamn rule in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
Barb was looking over at the two intruders with wild eyed horror and was shrieking incoherently. She was either trying to protest her innocence, screaming rape, or telling them to get the fuck out, all at once.
Barb was allowed to retired gracefully with full pay and benefits. I was offered a deal. Keep my mouth shut, plead guilty to cocaine possession and possession of alcohol onboard a military vessel at my court martial, and I’d get a bad conduct discharge and a day short of a year in the Pensacola Naval Air Station brig. All I had to do was sign a statement saying that I would never divulge any information about the incident for the rest of my natural life. The other option was hire an attorney, fight the charges, lose, and spend long hard time at Leavenworth Federal Prison.
What would you have done? Myself, I took the easy way out.
I was standing at attention as best as I could with my hands cuffed behind me. It had already been a long fucking morning. My head was shaved as clean and slick as a pool ball, I had been de-loused, a medical technician had shoved a rubber gloved hand up my ass looking for drugs or a pistol, and was outfitted in a blaze orange jumpsuit.
The warden was sitting at his desk, reading from a Bible, of all things. His lips moved as he read silently and slid his finger across the passages. My mother always told me that anyone who moved their lips as they read was an idiot. I smiled slightly at the thought. The warden suddenly looked up and caught me in mid smirk.
“What in the heck are you smiling about, son?” He pushed himself up from his chair, walked around his desk, and stood in front of me. His face was about five inches from mine, and his breath smelled like dirty running shoes.
“Seems to me that a young man in your position wouldn’t have a lot to be happy about.” Jesus Christ! That breath was killing me. I tried covertly to pull my head back a micro-inch to avoid the stench.
He stepped back and took a seat on the edge of his desk as he opened up my file and reviewed the contents. He shook his head in disbelief.
“Possession of narcotics. Possession of liquor onboard a naval vessel. Engaged in unlawful sexual intercourse with a commissioned officer of the United States Navy.” He shook his head again and slapped the file closed. “Disgusting.”
The warden stood up and began to pace back and forth in front of me, his hands behind him, his eyes locked down onto the carpet. “Before I took this assignment I was a chaplain for the first fourteen years of my naval career.” Oh, that’s just fucking great I thought, a scripture reading, Bible thumping warden. Probably has a crucifix in every cell.
“Yes, you might not believe me but it’s true. My degree is in theology not criminology. No, my initial calling was to spread God’s word. But over the years I began to become disillusioned. Disheartened. Even bored. Yes, bored. Bored with the tales of sailors who were homesick and wanted to jump overboard. Bored with the lies from the young men who claimed a death or illness in their family in order to get a leave home. Bored with confessions of the sailors caught masturbating over a picture of their girlfriend or some movie actress, and who then couldn’t handle the teasing of their peers so they wanted to jump overboard. Bored with the maudlin tears from the young man caught washing his best buddy's back in the shower.”
The warden stopped his pacing. This time we were practically nose to nose. I thought his breath was going to make me barf. “I realized that I couldn’t make a difference out there in the fleet. There are no morals anymore out there. Too many distractions with the rap music, the MTV, and the R rated movies. But in here, I can make a difference. Because in here there are no distractions! No television, no movies, no dirty magazines, no drugs or booze, and in your case, no women.” He patted himself on his chest. “In here I can mold minds. Change minds. In here I can make a difference.”
He turned around and opened my file again. Thank you, God. I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle much more of him at that close of a range. “I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you seduced a fine woman and in the process ruined both her career and her life. All for the sake of your filthy little pleasures.” He turned back around and crossed his arms across his chest.
“So what’s our side of the story, son. I really want to hear it. Every inmate or pervert always has a sad story to cry to the chaplain about.”
I was sick of this motherfucker already and I hadn’t known him for more than fifteen minutes yet.
“Chaplain. Warden. Whatever you go by. I signed the goddamn statement. I agreed to do my time and keep my mouth shut and that’s what I intend to do. But don’t try to paint her up like she was some victim. That woman screwed me until I couldn’t see straight and it was all her idea. I’m just taking the fall for her.”
The Bible that the warden had been reading was one of those old style son of a bitches that was handed down from generation to generation and everyone in the family signed. It weighed a ton and when he swung it at my head, it put my lights straight the fuck out.
I woke up in the prison dispensary with a major concussion. There was a giant black man in the bed beside me. His arms and legs were strapped down to the bed with these thick leather straps. His eyes were glassy and drool was running down his chin as he raised his head and spoke to me.
“Let me tell you about the woman I killed. She was beautiful and she had the most incredible eyes. They were as brown as a fresh steaming turd.”
I realized right there and then that prison was not the place for me.
I had learned my lesson. I attended the warden’s weekly Bible classes. Did my shitty prison cleaning duties. Kept my mouth shut. I became the stereotypical good little inmate.
And walked out the brig a day short of a year later.
When I reported in to the brig I was wearing my uniform. Since that option was gone the prison staff gave me a cheap set of clothes, fifty dollars, and a Greyhound bus ticket back to Texas. I was headed back to where I had started.
* * *
His back was shot and both knees were blown. His days in the ring were over. He now earned his money by performing in live sex acts at seedy bars in Tijuana. On occasion, because there was some perverted interest in it, he performed in low budget porno movies.
When they shot film in San Diego and LA, he earned extra income by muling drugs over the border. On one occasion he smuggled a hundred thousand hits of Ecstasy across the border. Upon delivery, the dealer handed him five hundred dollars. When X voiced his displeasure, the dealer told him he could either take the money or he could get shoved up a horse’s ass. He took the money.
* * *
For two years there was a string of real crappy jobs after I got back to Austin. I was a pizza delivery boy, cab driver, janitor, bartender, and even a telemarketer selling advertising space. Anything to make a buck.
The telemarketing job was at the offices of a free weekly entertainment newspaper. One day in a casual conversation with the manager I mentioned that I had been in journalism school. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was a minor contributing writer covering the hot bar scene in Austin.
Things began to look up.
Until the night I went to cover a hot new band’s performance down at grungy downtown bar called Antone’s.
The band was on break and I had gone upfront to grab a beer. While I was waiting for my drink I could feel eyes on me. When I turned around I saw Ruth sitting across the bar from me. Even though she seemed to have aged a decade since I had last seen her, she was still a very attractive woman. And she was royally drunk.
One thing led to another and after the bar closed we wound up spending the night at my apartment. It was the next morning when we sobered up that she told me the story.
* * *
After arriving in Los Angeles, Thomas had gotten himself enrolled in a pro wrestling school. He wound up wrestling in bars, high school gyms, and in musty old national guard armories, but the big time never called.
It seemed midget wrestling had lost it’s audience in the United States. So he migrated south to Mexico where he found seemingly immediate acceptance and popularity. Wearing a mask and billing himself as Midget X, he quickly won a “world” title and defended his title all over Mexico and South America. He earned a very good salary and the long awaited attention of many women. One of whom he eventually married.
But the constant touring and the physical abuse on his body began to exact a heavy toll. He had to go under the knife six times. Two on his back, four on his knees, and it wasn’t long before he was dependent on a combination of painkillers and booze.
The wrestling promoters finally decided to cut their losses and arranged for X to “lose” his title. Soon after he was delegated to the role of an under-card wrestler. The drop in status crushed him and he began to drink even more heavily and started to play around with brown heroin. His wife, who had enjoyed the money and status of being married to a champion, even a champion midget wrestler, filed for divorce.
Finally, after showing up drunk, stoned, and belligerent for a match in Tijuana, he was fired from the "show".
Stranded in Tijuana, and desperate for cash, he transported drugs across the border into the United States and began making short porno films and performing in live sex shows in front of drunk sailors and tourists from across the border.
He eventually began to make movies for a gentleman that catered to a clientele with much harder tastes. Together, in a rundown warehouse outside of Tijuana, they made a series of bondage and rape movies.
Then for a collector who paid them a very large sum of money, they made a snuff movie in which they killed a seventeen-year old runaway from San Diego. Nothing was faked. The authorities in Mexico stumbled on to a copy of the film and turned it over to U. S law enforcement officials who were involved the investigation of the missing girl.
Thomas/Midget X disappeared off the face of the earth.
* * *
It wasn’t long after our initial meeting in the bar that Ruth and I started seeing each other on a pretty regular basis. We’d meet at a club downtown or when my schedule permitted it, I’d spend weekends out on their farm with her and Terry. One Sunday afternoon when I was getting ready to head back to the city, she handed me a large shoebox through my open car window.
“It’s Thomas’s life story, all stuck in a box. Magazines and newspaper clippings from his wrestling career that he sent me. The rest is what was written about the murder investigation, really everything I could get my hands on. I know he didn’t do what they said he did. I need someone to get to the truth.”
“What do you want me to do with it?”
“You’re a writer. Just do what you do. You know Thomas, so who could do it better than you?”
It took six months of starts and stops along with tons of fact checking but when I finally got the story down on paper, the result was huge. It was printed first in the Austin entertainment paper, but was quickly picked up by a dozen major newspapers, two wrestling magazines, and eventually Newsweek.
It had the qualities that the media is always looking for. Sex, drugs, murder. And as a bonus, a midget.
It got me a promotion and a raise.
* * *
“The little shit was staying in a fleabag hotel up on the seawall. Living with a bunch of hookers and crackheads. All he had in his room was some raggedy clothes, a moth eaten wrestling mask, and your address and phone numbers written on the cover of this magazine.”
The morgue technician walked over and handed me an ice pack for the lump on the back of my head.
“So this is the same dead midget,” the cop pointed to the body on the table, “as the midget in this article?” he waved a copy of the Newsweek with my article in it.
I nodded weakly.
“Well, fucking A dilly bar, maybe this hasn’t been a waste of a day after all. I guess I should have read the article on the little fucker before I called you down here.”
I shuffled to my feet. “Can I go now?”
The detective slapped me on the back. Hard. “I guess so. Thanks for coming down. Sorry about giving you such a hard ass time. But I imagine that the Feds are going to be giving you in a call in the very near future so I wouldn’t wander too far from home.”
Driving straight back to Austin I couldn’t get the imagine of Thomas, laying there dead on the table, all chewed up by creatures of the sea, out of my mind. I didn’t know how I was going to break it to Ruth. She hadn’t answered her phone when I tried to call her after the cops had called me at the paper.
I pulled into the farmhouse yard. Her car was gone. The place was dead quiet. Eerily quiet. I called out Ruth and Terry’s names. No answer.
The door was unlocked. There was still furniture and appliances inside but you could feel that no one was coming back here anytime soon. It had that “let’s pack quick and get the hell out of Dodge” feel to it.
Once more in my life I had no family.
* * *
About a year later.
An email was standing out from all the other Spam and work related emails that popped up every goddamn time I logged into my computer at work. For some reason it made me very uneasy.
I double clicked:
Congratulations! Your article was beautiful. Put me right up front so that when the body was found there would be no doubt. If you had known the scam up front, do you think you would have helped me anyway? I couldn’t chance it. Don’t fault Ruth, she does care for you, but remember that blood is thicker than water. She even sacrificed one of her own to save the other. I feel bad because I’m the one that pulled the trigger. Believe me when I say that I almost cried when I tattooed that matching X on his arm, he was so fucking proud that he was going to be just like me, but I’ve learned that survival of the fittest is the most pure philosophy that one can live by. He lived a good life but I have more to live. But try not to be too judgmental of me. Remember it was you who wrote that article about me. And you did it for a reason. To fulfill your dream! To be famous! Just like I wanted to be at one time. Forgive me, my brother. Maybe some day we will be together again.