by BRIAN DRUCKENMILLER
Donning his glossy black tights with a purple stripe down each leg, Gill Grimshaw wound electrical tape around his arms to exaggerate his biceps. Through the streaks of the locker room mirror, he couldn’t help but notice his budding physique resembling something unfamiliar, the only relics of Gill being the patches of facial hair and those brown anybody eyes, darkened pigment strung under each like little black hammocks.
In his hand, he held the mask. No design or artwork. Just black lycra. His trainer, Dylan Dangerous, said wearing a mask would compensate for Gill’s scrawny build, transform him into a superhero for the dozens of fans who ponied up the five-dollar entry. What would it feel like to have people cheer his name? Fans? Really? Gill hadn’t had a friend since high school, and now he’d have fans?
He took a breath and pulled the mask over his face, waving bye-bye to Gill—unpopular, insignificant Gill—and hello to the Capital District’s next hero. Hailing from the shadows of Schenectady: Phantom.
The power chord of his entrance music crackled through the Sportatorium’s aged speakers, and Phantom burst from behind the curtain, a black shower curtain with a slit down the middle. A strobe light flashed velvet in fickle intervals as he made his way toward the ring. All nine rows of the crowd cheered while those who spent the extra dollar to sit ringside gave Phantom high-fives and pats on the back.
He slid under the bottom rope and into the ring where he stared at his much larger opponent: “Jacked” Jaxon Jones. In any other circumstance, Jones would chomp on Phantom for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But this was Capital District Pro Wrestling, and this was booked to be Phantom’s night.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
Phantom dropped eighty-something jaws with a somersaulting spot-fest blended with chain-wrestling and brawling, hard-swung fists landing softly, each punch accompanied by a large stomp to amplify the force. Phantom ended the bout by ascending the ropes and leaping onto Jackson with an elbow drop that had more hang-time than a stunt in a kung-fu film. The referee raised Phantom’s hand after the one-two-three, and the fans gave him the biggest pop of the night.
As the spotlight toasted the wrestling ring, Phantom stood with his fists raised in the air. Gill’s insides tingled so much that his skin could rupture.
At the end of the show, he left the locker room with the mask on and was approached by a boy in a baseball cap pleading for an autograph. He signed the boy’s cardstock program Gill Grimshaw as if signing a rent check. The boy complained and rightfully so. Gill had broken kayfabe, which, according to Dylan, was the biggest wrestling no-no. When the mask was on, he was Phantom, not Gill. “If a kid meets Santa at the mall,” Dylan once explained, “that kid meets Santa. Not Bob or Ted or Frank.”
Gill corrected his mistake, and the boy received the signature he really wanted.
The overhanging bell jingled as Gill entered Bolten’s Hardware for his shift. Marv, the owner, sat as he always sat: behind the counter, face hidden by the freshly stamped serif of the day’s Schenectady Gazette. Thick cigar smoke wafted from behind the thin paper.
“You’re late,” Marv said.
Gill glanced at the wall clock. “I’m early.”
Marv lowered the paper. His face looked rough, his wrinkles like withered waterways. He pointed toward Gill’s post. “She needs your expertise.”
Gill turned, though he couldn’t see through the shelves of blue, nail-filled cubbies. Marv brought the paper back to his face.
“She got here before you,” Marv continued, cigar smoke escorting the words from his mouth. “You’re late.”
Gill had been working at Bolten’s for more than six years and knew that debate would be useless. Bolten’s was in the business of home repair, the rebuilding of a customer’s life. All Marv cared about was providing quality service to Upstate New York, which, as he frequently reminded everyone, never had a set schedule.
Gill went to the breakroom and grabbed his red company vest, his name embroidered on the left breast in a whirly white font. Then, he headed toward his post: the key cutter. An antiquated, manually-operated Martinburg Model 0450. 110 volts. 1/4 horsepower. Fourteen and a half cycles per second. Gill reveled in the precision and care it took to carve access into a hunk of brass, opening literal doors to allow people to find the figurative ones. Gill thought he had found his calling behind the Martinburg, but, considering Phantom’s successful debut the previous night, he no longer knew. Perhaps cutting keys was never the door but Gill’s way of finding it.
Almost a year prior, Gill carved a key for Dylan, the most massive customer Gill had ever met: arms bigger than Gill’s waist, neck bigger than Gill’s head, and a chest wider than most doorways. His dark hair was spiked and reeked of chemicals while a tattooed sleeve of bones piled up his left arm. Dylan needed an additional key for the Sportatorium, an ancient gymnasium tucked behind a karate dojo off State Street. There, he owned, operated, and promoted a small indie wrestling promotion. He was also the promotion’s head trainer, heavyweight champion, and most hated heel, tagged himself Dylan Dangerous: the “Most Dangerous Man on Planet Earth.” Gill caught most of Dylan’s spiel, but he had a job to do, his focus remaining on crafting the consummate key.
“We have a show tonight,” Dylan said, his voice as large as his muscles. “You should stop in.”
The cutter faded off and Gill blew on his creation, ran his fingers along its ridge, and blew on it again.
“Just check us out,” Dylan continued. He slapped a ticket on the plastic countertop—an index card with FREE ADMISSION sloppily scripted with a Sharpie. “You’ll love it.”
Gill rang him up for his beautiful key as well as the RocLok Hide-a-Key model 217—2.25 cubic inches of concealment, a fine way to protect a fine key—and Dylan left.
Gill didn’t care for wrestling. He knew the ruse: predetermined outcomes, embellished pain. Why bother watch people pretend the ruse didn’t exist? But, as always, Gill had nowhere to be and no one to see. So, why not?
It turned out that the Sportatorium was on Gill’s route to work, though he had never noticed it. There was a strip mall out front with the dojo and quarter laundromat and a New York style pizza joint that, according to reviews, served more grease than pizza.
Upon entering—which required extra oomph to push open the heavy steel and glass door—he observed many hardware iniquities: exposed electrical, protruding nails, loose hand- railings, chipped molding, and missing New York state-mandated smoke detectors, not to mention the slanted wrestling ring with uneven ropes and missing ceiling tiles above a turnbuckle. The air tickled his throat, potent with charred mozzarella and wilted hot dogs.
Then, he took his seat.
The lights dimmed and the crowd went nuts and the announcer announced and strobes flashed and the crowd went nuts and the slams erupted and the chairs cracked and the crowd went nuts and the cheaters cheated and the baby-faces baby-faced and the crowd went nuts.
When Dylan came out for the night’s main event—dressed in ripped jean shorts and a black, spandex-looking tank—the crowd’s collective anger was as palpable as the kitchen’s odors. The boos boomed in Gill’s chest as Dylan marched toward the ring, stopping and squatting to meet the eyes of a blond-haired boy with the gall to give Dylan a thumbs-down. Dylan’s eyes widened, leaving the kid punching-bag-stiff before grabbing his upside-down fist and thumb and turning it 180 degrees, thumb now pointed upward. Dylan winked, slid into the ring, and smiled, the kid’s arm and fist and thumb stuck.
While Dylan was a large man in the hardware store, that Dylan was an everyday person, someone with a job, neighbors, bills, errands. Yet, with an outfit donned and boots strapped, Dylan became something much more. The crowd hated every ounce of him, yet they didn’t actually hate Dylan. Rather, they loved hating him. They were emotionally invested in him. He was a part of their lives, more so than a guy who crafted spare keys.
Gill examined himself—five-foot-eight, buck fifty-five, an oversized noodle—but had to try.
Gill saw his customer waiting when he slipped behind the counter.
“You the key guy?” she asked. Her mouth curled into a smile once she looked up, though she disposed of it quickly. Her freckles looked familiar, as did the frizzy reddish hair veiling her ears. “You do keys, or what?”
“I’m Gill,” he said, scratching the back of his scalp.
“I need a copy of my house key,” she said, dropping the key onto the counter. “How long will it take?”
Gill looked at the key and back to her. “Carrie, right?”
Her face creased as if she had bitten into a lemon. “Who’s asking?”
“Gill Grimshaw,” she interrupted. “Hi, Gill.”
She remembered him? No one ever remembered him. Though his name was on his vest. Either way, Gill smiled.
“It’s been years,” he said.
“Mmhmm.” She glanced at her watch. “How long will the key take?”
“As long as I feel like taking.”
She smiled, and Gill turned to hide the victory dance in his head, excited to be even slightly flirty. Where did that come from?
Her key remained on the counter as their conversation drowned out the ticking secondhand behind him. How did he manage not to blow it? He was never able to talk to women. Anyone for that matter. What was different this time?
“I’m a professional wrestler.” Gill immediately regretted blurting that out, considering Carrie was neither under thirteen years old nor a male—the two typical demographics.
“What’s your get-up?” she asked, laughing. “What do they call you?”
“Phantom, huh?” She covered a laugh with her hand before resting her elbows on the counter. “How about you make that key for me and then tell me all about this Phantom for as long as you’d like.” She backed away while Gill fidgeted for herkey.
While Gill had never seriously pursued anyone, this felt off. Exciting, sure, but way too easy.
“Give me—” Gill swallowed. “Give me two minutes.”
He reached under the counter and grabbed his thick safety goggles. He snapped them on, and she giggled as he motioned for her to step back. He placed her key in the left vice, tightening it slowly and, after lowering the fence, did the same with a blank. The fence needed to be raised before he turned on the blade and, methodically, he tilted the blank toward the rotating blade and maneuvered it along, burrs pelting his goggles like tiny comets. The carving sounded like a nickel in a garbage disposal, ambient music to Gill. He removed the key and placed it in the brush, then smoothed it out with his fingers, blowing on it upon completion. Perfect.
Gill placed the warm key in her palm and asked, “What do you want to know about Phantom?”
She dropped her chin a bit and placed the spare key back in Gill’s hand.
“You don’t know how to read women, do you?”
She laughed before taking Gill’s keyless hand and, with a pen fetched from her purse, branded his arm with her address. He felt cold metal where she gripped him and, when she let go, saw the gold band looped around her ring finger. Of course, she was married. Why wouldn’t she be? Yet, Gill had nobody, and Carrie was somebody. People wore non-wedding rings all the time, right?
“I’m free until six,” she said.
“Early, isn’t it?”
“That’s when I’m free until.”
She turned and left without looking back.
Where had this newfound confidence come from? Instead of looking for answers, all his brain could do was play reruns of his debut match, enjoying every move, every bump, and everybody giving him the approbation he knew he deserved.
Over the next few months, Phantom grew beyond the Sportatorium. Aside from climbing the CDPW card, his matches often ran on Saturday Night Slobber-Knocker—a late-night public access show broadcast from Plattsburg to Plattekill, from Rochester to Stephentown. He even endorsed an Albany car dealership owned by the father of a die-hard mark and was interviewed for several wrestling sites buzzing with rumors of two prominent Northeast circuits wanting to bring him in, branding him an “indie darling.” He out-autographed the rest of the locker room, Phantom’s signature becoming more natural than ever. Phantom loved it.
Gill was drained, the black hammocks darker and deeper than ever. But, between shifts at Bolten’s and shifts as Phantom, he was making money and paying the rent on time. Though, when February’s rent was due, he signed the check Phantom.
Why couldn’t Gill be Gill? He grew tired of Phantom. Tired of signing as Phantom. Leaving as Phantom. The crowd chanting for Phantom. Why not: Let’s go, Grimshaw? Fans should know who their real superhero was.
“I wanna be legit,” Gill finally told Dylan during training one night. The loud bump of a sand-bagging jobber echoed through the building.
Dylan laughed. “You can’t be.” He yelled encouraging curses to the group in the ring. “Everyone in that locker room would murder to be as over as you, mask or not. And it’s only been months. Shit usually takes years.”
“I don’t need the mask. You know I have the talent.”
Dylan stepped back and looked Gill up and down, more for show than actual measurement. No one could eyeball an accurate measurement of anything, let alone of another person.
“You’re a scrawny little shit,” Dylan said. “And no one wants to see a scrawny little shit unless it wears a mask and flies.”
Phantom was in the duffel bag, so nothing hid Gill’s drooped face.
“Fans connect with the big brutes they wish they could be,” Dylan continued, raising his voice to combat a hip-toss bump drill, “or the superhero they can never be. Gill is neither. Phantom is. You’re in it for them.” He gestured toward the empty blue folding chairs lined in jagged rows.
Dylan patted Gill on the back and hopped onto the ring apron. “Oh yeah,” he turned back to Gill, “Phantom’s getting the strap next Friday. Give the fans what they want, ya know?”
Gill lifted his head. “You’re giving me the title?”
“Think of some spots,” Dylan said. “We’ll work on them next week. There may be scouts there too, so let’s make them happy they came.”
After training, Gill sped home and called Carrie, though he knew he shouldn’t have. A married woman wasn’t the person Gill would have wanted to call, but he had news and she was somebody to share it with.
“Get here now,” she said. “We don’t have much time.”
Gill arrived at her place quickly, and she answered her apartment door in a salmon- colored men’s shirt with the top buttons unbuttoned. The flat’s entrance was lined with empty shelves, coats of dust outlining spots where trinkets and picture frames ought to be. Did she think her marriage was still a secret? She should’ve stopped pretending months ago, though she was more dedicated to protecting kayfabe than Gill.
She shoved Gill against the wall. The corner of a shelf dug into his back.
“Let’s talk about—” was all Gill could say before Carrie’s lips interrupted. They tasted like dated cigarettes, but Gill didn’t think she smoked. He held her face away from his and gazed into her green eyes. “Let’s chat for a bit.”
“No time to chat,” she replied, her hands venturing down his body. “Did you bring him?”
Carrie snatched his keys from his pocket, and Gill watched her run down the stairs and go through the gym bag in the backseat. She pulled out the mask, locked the car, and skipped back, closing the door behind her. She tugged his shirt and pulled him into her bedroom where she gave him the mask, the lycra slippery in his hands.
He donned the mask and his periphery was eliminated, directing his focus solely to Carrie who smiled while unbuttoning the rest of her men’s shirt. This was only Carrie’s second time seeing Phantom. His shows were almost always on her “busy” nights.
“What are you gonna do?” Carrie asked, twirling her shirt like a lasso before flinging it over his shoulder.
Normally, by this point, she would have taken control: push him onto the bed, unzip his pants, detail everything she would do to him, ask how badly he wanted said things done to him, and then do said things. But this was different. She looked at him with stars in her dark eyes and an open smile, a look he had seen hundreds of times.
She looked like a fan.
As such, she looked smaller. Whenever Gill was Phantom, everybody looked smaller. Not out of arrogance, but if he was going to win over fans, he needed to be something they could only dream of being. From the shadows of Schenectady, ladies and gentlemen, your hero: Phantom.
Phantom was rough. He slammed Carrie around the room and in the bed and twisted her into inventive sexual submissions until she tapped out quicker than ever. Phantom was challenged to a rematch the next day.
Gill arrived to work anxious to recalibrate the Martinburg whose alignment had been off during his previous shift, carving nothing but crooked keys. At the front counter, he was stopped by Marv’s smoke, partly because the heavy cloud sunk into his lungs, partly because attached to the smoke was the sentence: “You have a new toy to play with.”
Marv’s face was hidden by the latest Gazette. The front page had a color photo of a vinyl- sided house behind layers of fire, its oranges and reds vibrant even on the cheap newsprint. The headline read “One Lost, Two Injured in Front Street Fire.” That was right by the banks of the Mohawk River. Had he been out on his stoop, Gill probably could’ve smelled the smoke.
“Ordered it this morning,” Marv continued. “Overnight delivery from Utica. We’ll learn how to use it tomorrow.”
Without looking from the Gazette, Marv turned the computer monitor toward Gill, and it creaked like its position had never been altered. In the monitor’s glow was the WILCO Jet 4400. Digital cutter. Laser measurement. Seven copies per minute. Press a button. Insert key. Press another button or two. Listen for the clink clink clink in the aluminum tray.
Gill’s face tightened, his lips clenching into each other as if cinched in one of Aisle Three’s state-of-the-art vices. He leaned closer to Marv and asked, “What’s wrong with the Martinburg?”
“What’s wrong with the forty-four hundred?” Marv said. “The Martinburg belongs in the world’s most boring museum.”
A circular saw whirled on from the back room and sliced through what sounded like yellow pine, the buzz piercing through the empty shop. The nails shook behind him.
“We’ll learn tomorrow,” Marv continued. He lowered the Gazette and bit down on his Dutchmaster. Gill’s lips unclenched, and he walked back to the Martinburg where he recalibrated it for the eighteen keys he crafted that day, the process more languid with every key, with every single nook, until it was time to punch out.
In twenty-four hours, Gill would be the champ.
He wore the mask during training to get a feel for wrestling a man Dylan’s size without peripheral vision, though sight soon became the least of his concerns. Dylan slammed hard.
Punched hard. Kicked hard. Chopped hard. Even with proper technique, the canvas refused to absorb the blows.
“Get used to it,” he reminded Phantom, his words pronounced with globs of saliva. The mask hid Phantom’s grinding teeth.
When it came Phantom’s turn to try some moves, he was uncontrollably stiff, delivering strong-style elbows and kicks to Dylan’s chest and stomach and face, and he couldn’t stop. Wouldn’t stop. No one could stop him. He Irish-whipped Dylan into the ropes and, as Dylan slingshot back, Phantom nailed a kick-combo followed by his signature leaping calf kick that blasted Dylan’s nose, gushing more blood than a nose ever should.
Some jobbers came to his aid with cloths and gauze pads, though Dylan smiled through the crimson. He wiped his face with his arm, bloodying his macabre tattoo.
“Save some of that shit for tomorrow night,” Dylan said, the words so red they stained the ring’s eggshell-colored canvas.
Phantom drove home.
Checking Gill’s answering machine, Phantom heard Carrie’s voice, softer than usual, saying she’d be at the show, but—and Phantom deleted the message. But she had to confess something? But she wouldn’t be alone? Didn’t matter. Like the rest of his fans, he’d see her the following night.
Phantom changed into Gill’s pajamas, lay in Gill’s bed, rested his head on Gill’s pillow, tucked himself under Gill’s comforter, and had Gill’s dreams.
He woke and put on gym shorts and a tight t-shirt and went on Gill’s daily run. The Schenectady sky was overcast. It was garbage day. Over-filled cans lined the sidewalks. Nothing smelled worse than Schenectady on garbage day.
Cars slowed down, and drivers looked puzzled. Fellow runners stopped running. Prep-school boys and girls lined by gender cheered him on. Two boys shouted “Phantom!” and he stopped, turned around, and felt the lycra on his face. He turned back and sprinted to Gill’s home where he took a shower and washed away the sweat and stink from his body. Water and suds soaked into the mask, barely dampening the hair and skin underneath.
He put on jeans and a white t-shirt and drove to work. Marv demanded he take off the mask, but Phantom refused. So he was sent home to, as Marv put it, “find Gill before tomorrow, or tell Gill to find a new job.”
When Phantom left, he saw Gill’s replacement behind the counter. The WILCO, the 4400, unboxed, basking in celestial sunshine. Dust hovered in the light like confetti.
Although several hours early, Phantom went straight to the Sportatorium. The door was locked, but Phantom sat on the pile of rocks next to the door, whiffs of the plaza’s pepperoni grease keeping him awake.
“Why didn’t you let yourself in?” Dylan asked when he eventually arrived. He pointed to the rocks where Phantom had been sitting before he opened the door, turning sideways to fit his body through the frame. One of the rocks must have been the RocLok Hide-a-Key, model number 217, doing exactly what it was made to do.
The audience was berserk, the Sportatorium shaking like a bouncy house. Phantom peeked through the slit of the curtain and tried to locate the scouts Dylan had mentioned. He spotted the back of Carrie’s head a few rows from the ring. A large man in the salmon shirt sat next to her.
“You ready?” Dylan asked, slapping Phantom on the back a bit harder than expected.
“What kind of question is that?” he replied. He replayed the spots in his head, visualizing
the strap draped over his shoulder, his arm raised in victory.
Gill would love that.
The emcee riled up the fans before the guitar jolted through the Sportatorium. Phantom stepped out uncharacteristically slow. Purposeful but, for the first time, nervous. He looked to Carrie whose green eyes focused on her own fidgety hands. The man next to her was a slob, shirt unbuttoned and terrain on his chest that would clog an electric razor.
He pointed at Carrie and curled his finger in and out, summoning her to the guardrail. Some fans looked disappointed that they weren’t chosen, but, of course, they didn’t stop cheering. They’d never do that.
Carrie’s hair hung over her eyes. Phantom wanted to both stroke it over her ear and pull more of it in front of her guilty face.
“Glad you two could make it,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be doing this now.”
Phantom could taste the menthol from her breath.
She was right. His thoughts, this conversation: he could’ve broken kayfabe on Phantom’s biggest night.
Phantom’s music faded as the second verse began. The man in the fishy shirt stood, then raised his chin, then inched a bit higher as if to levitate.
Phantom turned and climbed into the ring. He really wanted to turn around, see whether Carrie was frozen, lifeless, looking like someone who had lost everything, or if he’d see her backside as she walked away, himself something she’d neither regret nor remember.
Phantom couldn’t lose focus. He couldn’t. He couldn’t.
Thick thuds of a drum solo signaled the arrival of Dylan Dangerous, who ran through the curtain and slid into the ring. He stood taller than Phantom and shoved his championship belt in Phantom’s face, the plated gold cold against his cheek, even through the lycra.
Then, Phantom struck him. And struck again. And struck again. Angry. Stiff. Strong-style forearms to Dylan’s face reopened his nose. The referee tried pulling Phantom off—the bell hadn’t even rung—but he couldn’t stop, pounding Dylan until he was backed up against the turnbuckle and fell to his rear. Then, Phantom kicked his face and stomped his chest and kicked and stomped, and Dylan’s big body bounced with every blow.
He backed away from Dylan, and Gill felt himself from behind the mask. Every strike was someone telling him no or not appreciating him, or a non-girlfriend girlfriend. A lifetime of being treated like a nobody culminated in so much blood and a nose so dislodged that the only
thing holding it to Dylan’s face was skin.
The place was rocking, hundreds of eyes reflecting the spotlight.
The bell rang. Dylan pushed the referee out of the way and leveled Gill with a forearm to the face. When he got back to his feet, Dylan leveled him again, picked him up, whipped him into the ropes, and bashed him in the face with the tattooed elbow. Dylan went for the pin and winked at Gill.
They brawled and bumped to cheers and boos until Dylan gorilla-pressed Gill above his head like a cartoon barbell and tossed Gill over the top rope onto the concrete floor, and fans erupted with a collective oh my god, prompting Dylan to flex and tell everyone to “Shut the hell up” before stepping out to the crowd where Gill landed a few jabs, but Dylan, as only Dylan could do, chopped the holy hell out of Gill’s bare chest, each crack deafening and branding bold, red hand-prints onto his flesh. Dylan forced him back to the ring, but not before getting major heat when mocking a large woman wearing a neon green muumuu sitting in the front row, and he climbed the ropes and leapt off and smacked into the canvas—a bump so large the ref even sold it by leaping into the air—leaving a bloody face imprint as Gill dodged the big blow. Gill ascended to the top turnbuckle, jumped, and soared higher than ever before crashing down and drilling his elbow deep into Dylan’s chest. The maneuver only managed a two-count, and the crowd booed the ref’s sluggish counting, prompting Gill to argue with him until a rising Dylan charged. Gill averted the gore but the ref did not, causing the decibel level to tip the local Richter Scale before Gill landed his kick-combo that would have earned the pin-fall victory had the referee not been kayfabe “out cold” and unable to make the count.
Gill stood and saw nothing but the light’s glare, so he climbed to the second turnbuckle to see beyond the blur and into the admiration. But no one chanted his name. They were chanting for Phantom. Phantom. Phantom. Not Gill.
Phantom was no longer necessary, no longer deserved the praise. This was Gill’s night.
Gill reached back and pulled Phantom’s face off. There he was: Gill Grimshaw. Standing on the corner. Arms raised. Mask in hand. Gnarly facial hair. Black hammocks. Anybody eyes. The key cutter. His chest expanded and contracted and expanded and contracted, his breath deafening.
Silence. Gaped mouths.
Then, the silence morphed into boos.
I’m in it for them, Gill thought.
A tug at his trunks pulled him down. Stumbling off the turnbuckle, Gill turned, and Dylan stiffed him with a closed fist. Dylan’s knuckles burrowed through Gill’s scalp and skull and dented his brain, rattling his neurons, consciousness finicky. That was not a professional wrestling punch. Dylan didn’t need to stomp.
“You blew it,” Dylan yelled, his face coated in drying blood. “You blew it, you scrawny little shit!”
Gill, in and out of his own head, saw a blurred Dylan head to the locker room, followed by the referee and the crowd, including the scouts—wherever they were—as well as Carrie, who’d probably gone home to gaze at her trinkets and picture frames and whatever else she displayed with her shirt-sharer.
Seconds or minutes or hours later, he propped himself on wobbly elbows and baked in the spotlight. With all the other lights shut off, a dark nothingness surrounded him and the ring. Gill tried hard to think about anything to make sure he could still think. And he eventually had a thought: the WILCO Jet 4400—how, while any brainless idiot could operate it, Gill could carve so many more keys during his next shift, help more customers than ever, improve the lives of so many Upstate New Yorkers looking to find whatever it is they were looking for.
The spotlight shut off, and Gill became part of the nothing.
Brian Druckenmiller was a semi-professional wrestler before earning his MA from Coastal Carolina and and MFA from the University of Central Florida. Currently, he is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Spring Hill College and faculty advisor for The Motley literary magazine. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver, Hawaii Pacific Review, Orlando Sentinel, and Silk Road among other publications.