I could not have predicted wanting to publish a story about wrestling, however, when we accepted Jared’s piece I started to become the editor I am today: one who is willing to see the common thread that ties together a well-crafted story or poem, no matter the world in which it takes place. The voice of Weave is the voice of many, and it's redefined with each issue. I believe the last line of “Making Weight” really encapsulates this broad aesthetic; ‘Anywhere there’s everything...” That’s Weave. Enjoy.
Laura E. Davis
founding editor, Weave Magazine
Making Weight by Jared Ward
My draws hit the floor, taking a quarter pound with them. I stepped naked onto the beam scale, cold metal under my feet. Slid the big weight to the right, clicking it into the hundred notch, then flicked the smaller one to 18, 19, 20.
One pound over. One hour til weigh-in.
I stepped off as Eddie slipped out of his boxers.
He laughed like a young Tone-Loc, a six a.m. laugh, his white teeth gleaming, always gleaming in his black cantaloupe head, teeth I’d ask him to show in the dark of the bus coming home from a meet in Derby or Wichita, Ark City or Winfield.
Eddie, where are you? Smile so we can all see you.
He’d sock my arm, flash me those pearlies, and turn up Too Short, Geto Boys, or whatever rap he had in his Walkman.
I layered two pairs of warm-ups over illegal plastic, the suit trapping heat so I’d sweat like a hydrant. Pulled on my Asics and laced them up tight, always tight.
If you’re gonna die, die with your boots on, coach always said.
Eddie, skin and bones, a shadow in the dim locker room light, stepped off.
He grinned. Half.
See you upstairs.
I stopped at the fountain, letting the cold fill my mouth, swishing it twice before spitting it back. I’d taken three swallows for lunch eighteen hours before, not nearly enough to drive away dreams of pizza and milk and medium ribeyes.
The thermostat was on the far side of the room. I cranked it to ninety, high as it went, and stood under the vent. Heat, when cutting fifteen pounds every week, is a wrestler’s best friend. The night before I ran three miles after practice, then drove to the health club and jumped in the sauna, pounding out push-ups and sit-ups on steamed wooden benches. The air got too hot to breathe and I crawled to the floor, pressed my face hard to the doorway crack, and sucked the cool air from outside.
Fifteen pounds was almost too much.
Waiting for Eddie, I crouched in front of the mirrors on the wall, shot imaginary doubles and popped to my feet. Singles and arm drags and fireman’s carries.
He was buttoning his headgear, the old school ones shaped like big headphones. I grabbed my new triangles whose front strap always fell over my eyes. Snapped it.
After some hand-checking, he caught an underhook, stepped deep with his right foot and snagged my left heel. Had to give him the takedown, twisting to save back points. Caught a wicked crossface on the bridge of my nose and he drove my face to the mat. I could feel the burn as the top layers of skin disappeared from the left side of my forehead.
I cussed him and drove my head back, fought to my knees, feet, then broke his grip to escape. Turned and faced him.
Lucky, I said, and we circled, probing for weakness.
My legs felt too worn to be weary. It was Thursday morning, because meets were always on Thursday, and it’d been Sunday since my last meal of more than a Powerbar and a couple of kiwis, or a cup of plain noodles and a few leaves of lettuce. By Wednesday morning, it was just a sugarless grapefruit for breakfast, then nothing until after weigh-ins. I hated grapefruit, but they took the longest to eat.
The running, though, hit me the hardest. Three miles before school, stair laps at lunchtime, two miles before practice, a mile at the start, and three miles after. Monday through Wednesday, usually Friday. Toss in practice with two pairs of sweats, sometimes the plastic, an extra two hundred push-ups and sit-ups at home, and by Thursday, fatigue was more of a concept than anything tangible.
Eddie’s dark hands trying to tear me apart, that was tangible.
Our heads came together, ear to ear, my right hand clenching his neck, his right curled around mine, and our lefts grabbing and pulling whatever they could. Locked in those tight circles, his breath was the loudest sound I could hear, smooth exhales surrounded by dull thuds of our warring bodies and the plastic clap of our headgear colliding.
He tried again for the underhook. I caught it this time, pushed his arm inside and clamped a front headlock. I sprawled back, forcing him to the mat, and as I cranked his neck to the side a river of sweat poured out hidden plastic, onto his head.
Shrieked like a girl. You wearing the Hefties?
Gotta. No time.
Bastard, he said, wiping himself. Come on.
We went twenty more minutes, wrenching each other down to the ground, trying to squeeze out the air, inflict enough pain so the other would quit. Sometimes we’d careen out of bounds and lie side by side, lungs sucking the heat. One would get up, offer a hand, and head back to the center.
I’d just escaped and turned towards him. He was hunched over, hands on his knees, looking at me.
I shrugged. We’ll see.
On the stairs his arm slung over my shoulder. I won, he said, and I thought for a moment.
Tied, I said, and he knew he was right.
Pushed me into the wall and took off. I call first.
I stripped by my locker while Eddie toweled off, weighed, and sighed in relief. Left my clothes in a puddle and stepped on.
Under. Fifteen minutes to spare.
Lying on the bench he asked, where we eating?
Anywhere there’s everything, I said, closing my eyes.
Jared Ward has had work accepted by West Branch, Santa Clara Review, New Delta Review, and others. More importantly, he never missed weight... even if he sometimes wanted to.
This story originally appeared in Weave Magazine Issue 01, October 2008