in the parking lot of the slaughterhouse

then in the dressing room

in a hamper

filled with dirty uniforms.

He puked again on the concrete killing floor

bent at the waist

hands on his knees

and said “Shitfuck.”


Each time a small volcano of yellow liquid

exploded in strings from his cracked lips.


“You going to be okay?” I said.


“No” he said and wretched.


He was still half-drunk

though he’d promised himself

he wouldn’t drink before the match.


It was Saturday morning and he was 193 pounds.


At weigh-in on Tuesday night, he needed to be 167.


“Why not wrestle 185?” I said.


“Those bastards are strong” he said.


“You’re strong” I said.


Plumpy was a bear-hugging motherfucker.


He said “Not that strong.”


Those bastards at 185 were coming down from 220.

They ate broiled chicken

and hamburgers they chewed

and spit into napkins

without swallowing

and did push-ups

by the thousands.


Plumpy said “Shitfuck, hell.”


Everyone else on the team dressed in garbage bags

and ran bleachers until their hamstrings cramped

or stayed home and watched Vision Quest

while drinking lemon juice

through an eyedropper.


But Friday night

Plumpy drank Old Milwaukee pounders

and smoked some dope

and tried to get laid

because, he said, beer was a diuretic

and marijuana was fat-free

and getting laid was exercise


and anyway

he’d cut classes all week

to run laps around the gymnasium

in a plastic suit and ski hat.

Twice he’d bolted from Chemistry

to the lav because the laxatives

kicked in at the wrong time.


You can only destroy your health so much

at 16 and a half

with exercise and diet

before better forms of destruction call.


But the beer and the dope and the not getting laid

morphed his brain into an eating machine

into a tapeworm of desire

so we hit McDonald’s

and Plumpy ate

two cheeseburgers and a large fries

and drank a strawberry milkshake

and a Coke the size of his head

with intentions to puke everything back up

but it all tasted so good

and his throat was raw anyway

so he ordered another round

and another.


“Look” someone said “he doesn’t just eat

the cheeseburger, he makes love to the cheeseburger.”


Plumpy stood up and wobbled.


He went home

passed out

and forgot to throw up.



at the slaughterhouse

Plumpy stuck his fingers

down his throat

but nothing came

except strings

of bile and snot.


Down in the basement

Plumpy was my partner on the hide pull.


He was fucking useless

sleeping on the salt bags

resting in the bathroom

gagging like a billy goat eating tin cans.


Then Plumpy disappeared.


On Tuesday afternoon

he showed up for Chemistry

with a garbage bag

under his sweatshirt

and slept face down on his desk

so his cheeks drooped

like melted wax

and the sweat

marched off his forehead

like a clear liquid army.


I walked him to 5th period

so he didn’t drop in the hall


but Tuesday night

in the locker room

butt naked

he stepped on the scale

at 167 pounds

down to the ounce.


“Fucking told you” Plumpy said.


Being young is a miracle:

you spend all day

in the dirt

with a shovel

and the world

refuses your grave.


Shortly after this

Plumpy sprained his left knee

and permanently retired from sports


but not before a local sportswriter

called him

the new Mike Kirkland

Mike Kirkland

who was

more or less

the greatest name

in the history

of Hempfield wrestling.


That night

Plumpy ate an orange

and pinned his opponent

in 39 seconds.




Photo By: Tsutomu Takasu