A naive image prances out from the shadows of Mark’s mind glazing over the familiar chaos next door:
The wife and husband dress up for their night. He puts on a luchador mask, tapes his wrists, strains into neon-green, spandex pants, and laces up his matching calf-high boots. She massages baby oil onto his broad, tan chest. Toweling off her oily digits, she slips into her one-piece, black bathing suit, black spandex hot pants, and laces up white, thigh-high boots and her own white mask. He reciprocates the oil ritual.
They leave their bedroom, ensure the doors are locked, the kids are truly gone, the phones are off the hook. In the living room, built large and durable for these nights, he flips on a 1980s style boombox inserting a cassette from a well-labeled collection. She dims the regular lights and engages the light-show lights. Purples, pinks, and yellows strobe and sweep a thick mat surrounded by a makeshift wrestling ring ropes. A guitar shreds and big drums boom and crash into an emerging announcer’s voice.
“Ladies and gentleman. Are you ready?!” A crowd hisses awake from the speakers.
“I said! ARE YOU REEEEEEEEAADDDY?!” The crowd roars its assent.
“You know him, you love to hate him. Welcome to the ring, THE BUFF MAAAAAAAEEESTRO!”
He emerges from the kitchen and struts past the foyer, past smiling family photos, past a coat rack, past their 60” TV screen. The electric crowd thunders their disapproval. He eats it up, chin in the air and waving everybody to ‘come get some.’ He settles into the domestic ring of death, nonchalant as the announcer shifts his focus.
“Now, meet your lovely heroine, the only woman to ever enter the ring with villains like her opponent tonight. Everyone, please give your loudest, most glorious welcome to the one, the only ANGEEEEEEEEEELIIIIIIIIICA.”
The boombox shakes with the crowd’s wild cheers and whistles. She exits the bathroom poised and has affixed angel wings to her back. She glides to the ring, graceful and stoic, eyes set on her foe, who is cleaning his fingernails.
As she enters the ring and begins removing her wings, the Buff Maestro hauls off and clocks her and she tumbles into the ropes. They grapple, back and forth, the crowd responding in turn. Each of their moves is well-executed, well-timed. They are dancing a rumbling waltz of orchestrated violence.
Then, Angelica is felled, non-responsive. The announcer is wailing. The Buff Maestro is climbing the top ropes (the couch) to execute his infamous Strong Arm Elbow Drop. The crowd is ablaze with hate. Angelica’s eyes are slightly open awaiting her prey to drop. The Buff Maestro is drinking it in, loving the crowd’s fearful shouts. He bends his knees to jump.
The Buff Maestro falls, straddling the back of the couch and yelping. The crowd is deafening. The wife sits up, worry on her face.
The husband switches off the announcer and the crowd, shouting joyously at Angelica’s unfulfilled comeback. He rips off his mask, hair wild and matted with sweat. She runs to the bedroom and flings a t-shirt at him, pulling on her own. They breathe deep and walk to the door together. She fixes his hair, and they open the door to a policeman.
“Alright, you two. How many times do we have to do this?” the handsome officer says, smiling.
“Oh, we’re so sorry, Jeff,” the wife replies. “You know we can get carried away and go all out.”
“Well, keep it down next time or tell your neighbors that you’re not actually beating each other senseless. They’re worried about you,” the officer says, shaking his head. “Alright. Have a good night, okay.”
They close the door.
“Next time,” the husband says, his wife already responding with a sly smile, “you’ll have to be the villain.”
The shadows annihilate the image; anxiety and dread wash cold over Mark as he awaits the cops’ arrival to the rumbling, screaming storm next door.