The Christmas Song, Part 2

The way Ashley told the story of her teeth and the washing machine, it was harmless, an accident. Her brother was in Cub Scouts and their father was the Pack Leader, which meant that meetings happened at their house. One of the boys, Gordon McCorkle, claimed to be a bigger pro wrestling fan than Ashley. The other boys—save Ashley’s brother, who knew well enough to stay quiet—teased Gordon, asking him what did that prove, asking him how a girl could be a bigger wrestling fan than a boy anyway. Ashley paused her video game—Super Mario Brothers in early tellings of the story, Duck Hunt later, because she liked the laser gun as a prop—and she challenged Gordon to try a wrestling hold on her, promising she’d get out of it.

Gordon looked stumped as Ashley stalked up to him, this short pudgy girl in sweatpants and a Bart Simpson t-shirt. He stuttered as he backpedaled out of the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen.

“Name your hold,” said Ashley, “The Million Dollar Dream? The Cobra Clutch? The Figure Four?”

“Full nelson,” stammered Gordon.

The boys gathered round, some of them in the kitchen, some in the cramped hallway that led to the bathroom. Where was Ashley’s father during all of this? Probably smoking a butt outside, according to Ashley. And what about her brother? He stayed silent, as was his wont.

Ashley turned her back on Gordon and held her arms loose at her sides. “Get on with it,” she told him.

Gordon passed his arms Ashley’s and then yanked them backward and upward, grasping his hands together behind her neck. He cranked his hands forward, and she gasped a little, but then she laughed.

She said: “That the best you can do, Animal?”

“Animal?” said Gordon, confused.

“George Steele,” she said, scoffing, beginning to try and wiggle her way out of the hold. “George—The Animal—Steele. The full nelson is his thing, jerk.”

Gordon tightened the hold. Some of the boys laughed, some were murmuring about letting her go—“She’s just a girl,” was what Ashley heard.

She checked her surroundings and maneuvered Gordon toward the washing machine. The plan, in her mind, was to swing her whole body forward and down, so that Gordon’s big stupid head bounced off the maroon appliance.

But, of course, with Ashley, things never went according to plan. She misjudged the distances how tightly Gordon was holding on, and when she threw her body forward it was her face that hit the old maroon monstrosity. There was a loud thwack of tooth against metal and Ashley collapsed to the ground, crying as much in digust with herself as in pain. She spit a triangle of front tooth out onto the floor as Gordon backed away saying, “What the hell? What fricken hell?”

“Why I didn’t remember that all those years later,” Ashley says, when she’s telling this story, “when he asked me out—that I’ll never know. Maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment. Or maybe I wanted payback. Or maybe, it was a little of both.”

To be continued…

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