Wrestling the Tin Man

The call came in from my friend, Mike. He needed a production assistant for a video shoot he was doing on the other side of Florida. It didn’t pay much, but the star of the video was one of the most famous professional wrestlers in the world, so I figured the experience would be interesting enough to make up for the lack of pay. I told Mike I would be there the next day and drove halfway through the night across the state. I arrived at the studio just before 7:00 a.m., the front of my car splattered with hordes of lovebugs, the surest sign of having driven across Florida in May.

The Wrestler arrived at 9:00am. I stood in the hallway as he walked towards me at a glacier’s pace, the largest human I had ever seen. He was easily four times bigger than he looked on television. At 5’ 4”, I felt like I was a member of a different species next to him.

I introduced myself as the production assistant and showed him to his dressing room.

He said in a low, so-quiet-you-could-barely-hear-it voice, “Thanks, honey.”

The Wrestler moved large and slow across the room, like a freighter ship across the horizon. You could have counted three Mississippis between each step. He told me he had just had another back surgery— his fifth—a few weeks before, and told me all these surgeries were bankrupting him “faster than my ex-wife.” He joked about his money problems in a way where you could tell he wasn’t joking, where the laugh was followed by a micro-expression of sadness before he caught himself and doubled-down into another joke.

“At least the coffee’s free, right?”

As I finished setting up the studio, the makeup artist came out of the dressing room with an emergency. In real life, an emergency would mean that the catering table was engulfed in flames from a knocked over can of Sterno. In professional wrestling life, an emergency meant that she had forgotten her baby oil, and The Wrestler does not appear on camera without his arms oiled up. It’s just simply not done.

Tasks such as tracking down baby oil fall squarely under the job description of production assistant, so I wasn’t surprised when Mike slapped a twenty into my hand and said, “Go find baby oil, NOW.”

For the record, anything short of murder falls firmly in the job description of production assistant. At some point as a production assistant, someone will ask you to be a human footstool.

The studio was in a historic downtown area like you might find in any mid-size city, where the businesses were generally limited to bars and nightclubs. It was 9:30 a.m., so when I burst out onto the sidewalk outside of the studio, desperate for baby oil, it was a ghost town. I didn’t live in the area, and I had no idea where anything was.

My (pre-smartphone) cellphone rang.

Mike said, “The Wrestler doesn’t like the smell of one of the baby oil brands, but he can’t remember which one. Buy more than one brand, and get back here NOW.”

I stared into the Florida sun, surrounded by nothing but closed nightclub storefronts and thought, “Is there more than one brand of baby oil?”

I looked left, I looked right, and took off running. To somewhere. I didn’t know where.

Six blocks later, I found a convenience store.

I threw the door open and yelled, “BABY OIL! I NEED BABY OIL AND MORE THAN ONE BRAND!”

My only guess is that The Wrestler wasn’t the only person in the world with a baby oil preference, because the cashier pointed to a shelf that contained not one, but TWO brands of baby oil. I grabbed them off the shelf and my cellphone rang. It was Mike again. I had been gone five minutes at that point.

“Where the hell are you? We need that baby oil NOW!”

I paid for the baby oil and ran the six blocks back. I tore into the studio with the two bottles and passed them to the makeup artist, and she got down to the business of oiling up The Wrestler’s arms.

The Wrestler took his seat in front of the camera, walking so slowly you might think he was a freight train rolling backwards, his face drawn and his eyes half open.

Mike said, “Okay, we’re gonna roll here, so feel free to let loose, but don’t do anything uncomfortable for you, okay? Aaaand, roll.”

The Wrestler leaped off the stool, bugged out his eyes, clapped his hands, hard, and struck a bodybuilder pose. Then he yelled his most famous tag line, threw his head back and laughed, “HA HA HA HA!!” until he was red in the face, and held the pose, wild-eyed to the camera, with veins rippling across his forehead.

Mike managed to stutter, “Cut!”

The Wrestler’s body wilted and his eyes closed halfway. He winced as he made the descent back to his seat, a Tin Man in desperate need of an oil they didn’t sell six blocks down.

Maggie Dove is a cross-genre Southern writer by way of South Florida. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, JMWW, Drunk Monkeys, Foliate Oak, and elsewhere. She is petty and immature, and has many tribal tattoos from the ‘90s for which she refuses to be apologetic. Her blog can be found at romcomdojo.com and she is on Twitter at @romcomdojo.