“You’re one ugly bastard, but in a cute way.”

It was fourth day of shooting, and Sharon Silverwood introduced herself to me. The beautiful blonde that I had noticed on the first day proved to have an effervescent laugh and an easy manner. She tugged at the sleeve of my costume.

“Amazing what they can do these days. I mean, you do look like a radiation mutant come to life,” she said with a giggle. When I took off my hood and mask, she giggled again.

“That’s much better. They told me about your looks, but you’re not half bad.” That made me grin from ear to ear. I told her that such kind words coming from an angel meant a lot.

“Knock that off right now.” Another giggle. “I know charm is natural to you Southern boys, but don’t get any fancy ideas about me. I’m a city girl. I don’t fool easily.” She let off a flirtatious wink that gave mixed signals.

“And which city would that be?” I asked.

“The only city that matters—Los Angeles.” With that, Sharon Silverwood walked off to her trailer. Thus began our whirlwind relationship that ended with plenty of dead bodies, but only two graves.

The next night I knocked on her trailer door with two bottles of beer. She informed me that she did not drink beer, but that she liked whisky just fine.

“I’ll have to bum some from Alonzo then,” I said.

“No bother,” she shot back. “I have a full bar in here.” With that, we settled into an easy night of drinking. She broke the ice first by asking about my background. Like everyone else on set, she knew I came from the carny world of wrestling. But unlike the others, she did not give me grief about it. Never once said “fake” or “phony.” I reciprocated her kindness by not giving her a mean look when she spilled the beans about her past.

“I used to work in stag movies. You know, the kind they show at bachelor parties.”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Ain’t you ever been married?”

“No, and I’ve never known any married couples. Well, besides my folks, that is.”

“My God, where do they breed guys like you?”

“I come from Mississippi,” I said with unintended seriousness. Sharon let out a loud laugh. It was a weird laugh, which meant that she felt comfortable with me.

“You say ‘Mississippi’ like its heaven.”

“I guess it is. But what I want to know is why you started working in those stag movies or whatever they’re called.”

“I needed money. Why else would I do it? Better to be exploited than be broke.”

“And Mr. Art knows about this?

She laughed again. “You really are a baby, Bulldog. Who do you think made those stag movies? It was Mr. Art and his friends. They are only making this picture to launder money and skirt a pending obscenity case in Utah. Well, I think that Mr. Art does also hold some wishes too.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think he wishes to go legit. Wants out of the ghetto. Don’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, wrestling is a dog’s work.” She titled her drink back and stared at me with hard, but still empathetic eyes. “That type of lifestyle is meant for rounders who don’t expect a long life.”

“That’s me, I guess.”

“No, it isn’t. Bulldog, I have known a lot of scum in my life. I see them every day, even here on set. You ain’t scum. You have hidden class.”

It was my turn to laugh. She struck me in the shoulder and told me to cut it out.

“Stop selling yourself so short. Sure, you aren’t a model. But you’ve got brains. Anyone can see that. So why don’t you do something else besides wrestling? Learn a trade or find a nice office somewhere.”

“And what? Become just another mark? I remember how my daddy lived. No thanks.”

“Such a negative outlook on life. The sun also rises, you know.”

“Hemingway,” I mumbled.

“See, you ain’t a moron.” She reached over and placed a soft hand on my forearm. The touch sent an electric charge through my marrow. I felt my blood stir and turn warm. Despite my best efforts, my cheeks broke red.

“I like it when you blush, Bulldog.”

The sweetest words ever, and they were over so soon. I tried hard to change the subject, but she kept on target like a bulldog with a meal in its jowls. She would not relent until I agreed, with the full remnants of the second beer in my stomach, to quit wrestling as soon as shooting wrapped.

“And what about movies? I kind of like working on set,” I said.

“You can do that, sure. But don’t ever work for Peeper Pictures again, okay?” Sharon stared me down. I nodded just to break her gaze.

“Good. Now let’s get tight.”

We spent the next several nights just like that. Eventually, I talked Kolb into joining our group. As a trio, we got drunk every night and swapped stories. Kolb and Sharon learned that they shared a similar hatred of the Reds, while Sharon and I bonded over books. It was the time of my life, to be sure. Nothing outside of a world title victory could compare to those nights in that hot and sweaty trailer.

Again, like everything good and decent in the world, it was over too soon.

It began on a Wednesday evening. There is always something special about a late summer evening. The dark orange sun goes to bed against the backdrop of a beautiful world. The air is cooler and the vibrations coming from the soil are more mellow. Back when I was a kid, I used to lay down and just feel the energy. Ma used to tongue-lash me for always ruining my clothes, but I couldn’t help it. I just loved a late summer’s evening. I felt the same way that Wednesday when Mr. Art assembled us altogether.

“We’re taking an extended break, everyone,” he said. Several groans came from the crowd. Kolb kicked up the sand in front of him and groused about another failed project. Sharon, on the other hand, seemed as still and as placid as a statue.

“Now, don’t worry,” Mr. Art continued. “This break does not mean that we are quitting this picture. Far from it. This break is intended to help us to secure some much-needed funding so we can complete the movie. No need to get upset or start looking for new jobs. Everything is copacetic.” He gave us a wink and a smile full of slime. I knew such looks well. Every wrestling promoter can pull off the same look with ease. As soon as I saw Mr. Art’s performance, I knew that something was up. I cornered Sharon and told her my suspicions.

“Of course, he’s a sleaze,” she said. “But he’s not totally lying. He and his partners are trying to get more funding so they can complete this picture.” She took a sip of her whisky and lit up a cigarette. I could tell that she was uneasy.

“Do they have backers in mind?” I asked.

“Sort of. They’re going back to what they know best. They have a big buyer from Mexico lined up. Just have to pull off a short shoot down there. That’s it.”

It took me a minute or two to put the pieces together. When I did, I grabbed Sharon by the shoulders. “No way,” I said. “You’re not making another stag movie.”

She shook me off of her and kicked my shin. “You don’t own me, Bulldog. You barely even know me. Why do you care if I do something I’m good at? After all, one more movie for the lechers and I’ll be responsible for your acting debut.” She said that last sentence with unchecked venom.

“I’m doing this for us—you, me, and Kolb,” she continued. “With the Mex’s money, we can put this creature feature out to the public. And then we get paid.”

“And you’ll be done with stag films after this?” I mumbled. I meant it as a statement, but it came out more like a question. Sharon gave me nothing in return. She just finished her whisky and cigarette and moved away.

“I have to get going. We’re driving across the border tonight. Shooting should be wrapped up in a day. I’ll see you and Old Man Kolb this weekend. I promise.”

I watched her walk away in the dusk. For the first time ever, I thought I could smell flowers in the desert. It felt like an omen.


For all installments of “Dig Two Graves,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1