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by Elwin Cotman

Sunny was Chesterton, Maryland's most passionate, rabid, take-no-prisoners pro wrestling fan. She used to dream of being a wrestler, though her small body didn't match the sleek muscles of women on WWF television, and her pimpled face paled next to their dangerous beauty. Now in tenth grade, she spent afternoons watching local wrestlers train at the Stacks Arena. She could never do the stunts they did, so she channeled her energy into cheering at the shows. Sunny charged into the Arena once a month, wielding a poster
-board sign emblazoned in red marker: "Kid Icarus Rocks!" When the bad guys cheated she yelled in fury, thrusting a condemning finger at them. She jumped up and down, dirty blond hair bursting from her ponytail to fall untamed over her face. When Kid Icarus flew from the turnbuckle she screamed until her throat was in tatters.

Tonight Sunny sat quietly in the front row, her sneakers squishing in the purple puddle sticking them to the floor. The opening riff to Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus" crackled over the loudspeaker, twisting her insides like a punch to the gut. Chesterton's own Kid Icarus raced out, multi
-color hair streaming. He slapped hands with the audience, diving into their outstretched arms, smelling of Brut and baby oil. Eyes the color of blue sparks burned as brilliantly as the grin on his boyish face. Sunny stared at the ground to avoid his eyes, gripped the rail to avoid his furious high fives. His long fingers brushed hers, a spidery touch that sent a jolt through her body. Icarus soared into the ring. She imagined him lying spread-eagle as the ref counted him out, staring right at her with a dull, defeated gaze. Sunny's ragged breaths frosted in ghostly wisps. She pulled her arms inside her bulky Redskins sweatshirt, cocooned herself in its folds, wishing the freezing auditorium was the reason why she shivered.

Her mind flashed to practice last week. She watched Icarus somersault off the turnbuckle like he used to somersault off cars outside Chesterton High football games. Practicing his falls over and over until his back swelled flame-red. During a water break, he panted excitedly to her about the wrestling scouts who'd sought him out for their companies. At the end of the day, he slung his arms around the nearest wrestlers, forming a grunting, wheezing chain of men. They limped to the showers, but not before he touched her hand with those electric fingers.

The squeals of the girls around her snapped Sunny back to the present. Icarus had torn off his Dragonball Z t-shirt to reveal wildly dancing pec's. Tattooed angel wings flapped on his rippling shoulder-blades. Sunny's classmates packed the Arena's folding chairs and flea market armchairs, cheering the man they remembered as Jason Hawke, the daredevil of Chesterton High. On her right, a kid from Ceramics class stuffed his fat face with cheese-drenched concession stand nachos, spewing crumbs as he yelled "Faggot!" at Icarus. The smell of food made Sunny nauseous. She smiled briefly at the thought of kneeing him in the balls, right where his half-closed zipper collided with his gut. Across the room, pixilated fighters spilling blood in a Mortal Kombat arcade game older than she was made her stomach cartwheel even worse. She focused on the ring.

Icarus stared down Giant Johnson, a craggy mound of muscle from Baltimore. The bell rang. He opened with a flurry of karate chops, his hands like twin butcher knives striking red welts across Johnson's chest. His mountainous opponent laughed at him. Giant Johnson picked him up by the neck and crotch, tossed him across the ring. His hair spread in a rainbow halo on the sweat-stained mat. The crowd exploded with boos. Sunny held her breath. Johnson wrapped a ham-sized bicep around Icarus' neck. Icarus went limp,
the life fading from his eyes. Sunny sprang from her chair.

"Come on, Icarus!" she yelled. "Get up!" Agonizing seconds ticked by. "Get up!" This wasn't right. Normal people stayed on the ground. Kid Icarus flew. "Get the hell up!" Her screams pierced the din around her. Her voice grew loud enough to blow down Chesterton's Main Street like a hurricane, blasting McAdam's Hardware and Greg's Pawn Shop to ruins, tearing the George Washington statue from its moorings and hurling it toward Virginia. Her energy flowed into Icarus and gave him the power to, slowly, to stand on trembling legs. Elbows to the ribs broke Johnson's hold. Relief washed over Sunny. He could still stand. Still fly. He launched at Johnson from every direction. Jumpkicks, flying elbows from across the ring. Icarus climbed the turnbuckle for his finisher: the Dive of Legend. He knelt like a coiled spring, then pounced. Arms out like Superman, he grabbed Johnson's throat in mid-air and slammed him to the mat with a thunderous force that rained dust from the rafters overhead. Sunny laughed triumphantly.

"One...two...three!" Kid Icarus stood tall in the ring. Sunny saw a spark pass through the crowd, fond smiles for someone they watched grow up and wild applause for true talent. "Ic-ar-us! Ic-ar-us!" He seemed to look past them, toward some distant dream. Suddenly ill, Sunny ran out the auditorium into an unlit hall wallpapered in flyers that drooped like black waves ready to engulf her. She burst into the small, piss-stenched rest-room, half its space filled by the toilet she vomited in. Sunny turned the faucet to wash the rotting food taste out her mouth. No water came out. She tore open the window, took deep breaths
of cold night air. Outside, Main Street stood lifeless, American flags dangling limp over closed storefronts. Sunny thought of the neighborhood drop-outs selling heroin off their porch; the Episcopal Church three generations of her family attended; the Wal-Mart looming like a squatting god on the edge of town; the playground where 10-year-old Jason proclaimed he'd become WWF champion, then broke his arm diving off the jungle gym.

Standing in the auditorium entrance, Sunny watched Kid Icarus hug girls (Sluts! Groupies! Halter-top bitches!), his chest twitching under their admiring fingers. Giving high fives with those huge, delicate hands that did such frightening, wonderful things to her. Sunny froze, legs trembling, hands clenching until the nails cut into her palms. Her breath caught in her throat; he saw her. Icarus jogged over, his grin so bright she looked away. Sunny touched her stomach, suddenly aware that what grew inside her would someday learn pain, limitation and broken dreams.

"Hey, what's wrong Sunny?" Icarus put her in a playful headlock, squeezing a laugh out of her. His deep voice felt like baptismal water purifying her of her fears. Steeling herself, she faced him and said the words she'd practiced a thousand times. Emotions crossed his face so fast she couldn't tell fear from anger, shock from disbelief. "It could be anybody's," he said.

Fire coursed through Sunny, a white-hot urge to open her mouth and engulf Icarus in flame and forget her own troubles as he burned. Kid Icarus versus Supernova, Mistress of Destruction! Shouting so people in the next town over could hear, she unleashed the fire. She countered his "You're acting crazy" with a jab of "You're the only one I've ever been with!" Blocked his "How could you do this to me?" with a "You're so selfish!" Reversed his "Please shut up, Sunny" into her own "You wanted me to scream when we were fucking!" Her words cut him, broke him. The crowd howled in excitement. He looked weak, sluggish like when he grunted and thrust his last drops of energy into her in his leopard-print back-seat after practice. She had him against the wall. He made for the exit, but she blocked him, delivered her finishing move: "Accept Your Responsibility, Jason!" He collapsed to the floor. She waited for Kid Icarus to move, but Jason just sat in a ball. Beaten. KO'd. She pushed back the now-familiar sickness and fatigue that threatened to ruin her moment. Chesterton's own Supernova towered over her opponent, victorious, swept with a rush that lifted her so high the air whistled around her.

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Document last modified on: 12/09/2006

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