Lights Out Lizzie

The story of Lights Out Lizzie, Sister Sue, the Christian Ladies of Wrestling, and the match that changed everything…

by: James Hanna

In case ya don’t remember me, my name is Gertie McDowell. When I was eighteen years old, I left my home in Turkey Roost, Kentucky. I left ’cause the town is a whole lot of nothing, and I wanted to become a movie star. Well, I had me a bunch of adventures and I put ’em in a diary, and James Hanna edited my diary and published it as a book. I ain’t too fond of that book even though James got most things right. Shucks, a book should teach ya something like how to make a dress — it don’t oughta describe the dark deeds a girl done ’cause she’s too easy to talk into stuff. The fact that I starred on a foot fetish site oughtn’t to be in no book  — nor the fact that I served some prison time ’cause I accidentally muled powdered meth. And the public sure don’t need to know how I almost got sold into slavery, or how I rode on a bondage float in San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade. But James he’s kinda twisted, so he published all that stuff, and I guess a lot of the public is twisted as well ’cause the book is almost a best seller. Well, I been living off the royalties, which is just making me lazy and fat, so if ya don’t mind, I don’t wanna talk no more about that book. What I wanna do is tell ya about this new experience I had, and I hope James don’t get wind of it and add it to the book.  

Now before I get into this story, I gotta tell ya a couple more things. I’m twenty-four years old now, so I oughta be gettin’ smarter, and I been living in South Texas not far from the town of Laredo. I’ve been living on Bertha Jean’s ranch ’cause she invited me to stay there. Bertha Jean’s a great big woman who’s been arrested a lot for mail fraud, and I met her while I was serving time for accidentally transporting meth. Bertha Jean worked in the kitchen and she took a shine to me, and she was nice enough to let me join her prison family. She acted like she was the father and a woman named Wanda Sue acted like the mother, and a whole bunch of younger women and me pretended we was the kids. I was the youngest of them all so that made me the princess, and sometimes, when I went through the serving line, Bertha Jean gave me an extra pork chop. Them chops were kinda dry, if ya wanna know the truth, but I gobbled ‘em up anyhow ’cause I didn’t want to hurt Bertha Jean’s feelings. Well, Bertha Jean’s back in prison now ’cause she ain’t right in the head, and she got in a peck of new trouble which I don’t want to go into neither. So I been staying all by myself on her ranch and taking care of her chickens, and when I ain’t feeding chickens, I sit on her front porch and watch the tumbleweeds roll. 

My new story begins on a Sunday morning while I was sittin’ on the porch. I hadn’t fixed myself breakfast yet ’cause I was entertainin’ some real deep thoughts. I was thinkin’ about the Old Testament, which usually confuses me, but at least it ain’t as boring as watching them tumbleweeds roll. So I was thinkin’ ’bout the Book of Samuel and how David slayed Goliath, and how all the Israelites celebrated and let him become a king. Well, it don’t seem to me like David fought fair ’cause he never got close to Goliath, and on top of that, it sure don’t look like he became a very good king. Shucks, Goliath’s head weren’t enough for him, so he killed him a whole lot more people and then he killed Bathsheba’s husband so he could have a child with her. 

Well, I needed an explanation as to why David deserved to be a king, so I called up Ma on my cell phone to get her opinion on that. Ma stuck in Turkey Roost where she lives in a nursing home, and when she ain’t watchin’ Frasier on television, she don’t mind correctin’ me. Well, I told Ma that it didn’t make no sense that God made David a King ’cause all David done was kill folks and steal another man’s wife. Ma said it weren’t uncommon for kings to misbehave, and that if I expected David to be an exception, I was missin’ the point. She said the point is a person’s sins eventually catch up with him ’cause, after David killed Bathsheba’s husband so he could rut with her, God went and punished David by killing his favorite son. Well, I told Ma that that didn’t make sense neither ’cause David’s son done nothing wrong, and Ma said that stuff don’t matter when chickens come home to roost. Ma said it was likely just a matter of time till my own chickens came home to roost, and she said I oughta think about that instead of frettin’ about ancient kings.

Well, I told Ma that I weren’t too concerned about my past catching up with me ’cause all I been doing was feeding chickens and watchin’ tumbleweeds roll. I said I didn’t see no point in fearing the Lord’s wrath because, if I hadda pick between grief and boredom, I’d just as soon settle for grief. When I told Ma I was beholdin’ to her for taking the time to chat, Ma said that a pale horse was comin’ my way and I’ll soon be beholding that.

After I hung up on Ma, I saw this RV come rollin’ toward me. At first, I thought the driver was lost and was comin’ to ask for directions, but I disregarded that notion when I saw how it was kickin’ up dust. That RV was closing in on me like a hungry duck on a June bug, and that dust was pluming behind it like the Devil was on its tail. 

When the RV pulled up in front of the porch, I saw the lettering on its side. The letters said Sister Sue and her Christian Ladies of Wrestling. Well, I sure weren’t expectin’ nothin’ like this to be creepin’ outta my past, and when I saw the picture painted under the letters, things got even stranger. It was the face of some dark-skinned woman and it was larger than life, and it looked like the woman had plans for me and was studying me with her eyes. 

Well, the driver-side door of the van opened up and Wanda Sue got out, and ya coulda knocked me down with a feather at the sight of her. Like I told ya, she acted like my mother when I was servin’ time. Wanda Sue was real strict with me ’cause she’s got a streak of religion, which don’t make a whole lot of sense ’cause she was doin’ time for robbing a bank. But she was all the time checking my jumpsuit to make sure I weren’t swiping tampons, and when I saucered and blowed my coffee, she told me that ladies don’t do stuff like that. She weren’t no great shakes as a mother, if ya wanna know the truth, but my real ma never robbed no one and she ain’t no great shakes either. So, I been writin’ to Wanda Sue now and then, just to ask her how she was doin’, and I guess them letters was all it took to bring her here to the ranch.

Well, I didn’t feel no particular thrill at the sight of Wanda Sue ’cause I can’t be slurpin’ my coffee with Wanda Sue around. But regardless of that, she stepped onto the porch and gave me a great big hug, and although she’s as lean as an otter, she crushed the air right outta my lungs. 

“Gertrude McDowell,” Wanda Sue said after I got back my breath. “Child, I can’t believe what I’ve been learning about you.”

“Ya musta read that darn book,” I said. 

Wanda Sue pinched her nose like she was protectin’ herself from germs. “Mercy, Child, I read enough of it to know you still need looking after. Now why on earth did you go and seek out all that sin and smut?”

“I didn’t seek out nothin’,” I said. “That sin and smut sought out me.”

Wanda Sue sighed and reminded me of when we was both in prison and how she kept me on the straight and narrow so I wouldn’t end up in no trouble. I suppose I was grateful to Wanda Sue for helpin’ me mind my ways, but she got a way of bringin’ up stuff that’ll put you in her debt.

Well, Wanda Sue crossed herself like we was sittin’ in church, and she said that, since I’ve been wrestling the Devil, I may as well team up with her. She said professional women’s wrestling ain’t the safest thing to do, but it was safer than wrestling Lucifer and going to hell if I lose. She said she joined an outfit called Women of Wrestling after gettin’ out of prison ’cause there ain’t too many options for women convicted of robbing banks. But she quit, after only a week, ’cause them women wrestlers were sinning too much, and now she was planning to muster together a Christian troop of her own. She said she was pickin’ up wayward girls to give ’em a direction in life ’cause puttin’ on skits for God was better than sluttin’ and smokin’ dope.

Well, I told Wanda Sue that joining her troop didn’t seem like a whole lot of direction, and Wanda Sue said, “Child, it’s direction enough if you’ve got no direction at all. You said in your book that you’re spending your time just looking at tumbleweeds roll.” So, I said I was also thinkin’ ’bout David and Goliath, and I asked her if she believed someone like David deserved to be a king. Wanda Sue snorted and said that story is just a skit and that I would be better off puttin’ on skits with her instead of thinkin’ ’bout nonsense like that.

Well, I told ya I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and I told that to Wanda Sue. Since I’d turned twenty-four I’ve made it a rule not to rush into things no more. So, I told Wanda Sue it ain’t practical to make plans on an empty stomach, and I said she was welcome to join me if she hadn’t had breakfast yet. Wanda said she’d be partial to breakfast if it didn’t put me to too much trouble, and I said that fixin’ an extra plate wouldn’t be no trouble at all. Shucks, with all them chickens running around, I had me plenty of eggs.

I ain’t too fonda wrestling, if ya wanna know the truth, and while we was having our breakfast, I told that to Wanda Sue. I told her how I used to tussle with boys when I was back in high school, and because of that, I couldn’t get no date to the senior prom. See, I tossed them boys all over the place ’cause I’m stronger than a spring bull, so none of ’em were inclined to look at me with no romantic intentions. ’Cept for Tommy Lee Weaver and his romantic intentions don’t count ’cause he was all the time grabbin’ my tits while I was throwin’ him to the ground. So I said to him finally, “Tommy Lee Weaver, you ain’t no gentleman. If ya grab ahold of my tits again, it’s gonna be lights out for you.” Well, Tommy Lee he couldn’t help himself, not being no gentleman, so when he grabbed my tits again, I butted him with my head. I butted him right between the eyes and it knocked Tommy Lee out cold, and he lay on the ground like a road-killed buck and I felt real bad about that. There weren’t no justice in what I done ’cause my tits are as small as apples, so I shoulda let him off with a slap or maybe a kick in the shins. On top of that, the rest of them boys were so impressed by what I’d done that they came up with this nickname that I ain’t never lived down. My middle name is Elizabeth, but I don’t like mentioning that ’cause them boys all called me Lights Out Lizzie after I knocked Tommy Lee Weaver out. 

After I told Wanda Sue that story, I felt chock full of guilt, so I told her I had no calling to ever wrestle again. And Wanda Sue rolled her eyes and took ahold of my hand and said, “Child, seek not those things that are above your capacity.” She was quotin’ from the Book of Sirach, in case ya wanna know — it was a quote she used to keep me in line while we was together in prison. So I told Wanda Sue I was glad she understood why I couldn’t wrestle no more, and Wanda Sue said, “Mercy, Child, that isn’t what I meant.” She said spending all day watchin’ tumbleweeds was beyond anyone’s capacity, and that the Lord had just given me a path to keep my sanity. She said I’d be wrestling for the Lord and I’d be bringing folks closer to God, so it weren’t gonna matter a tinker’s damn if I knocked anybody else out.

“Do I still gotta use that name?” I asked her. 

Wanda Sue shook her head. “You’re going to be spreading the light of the Lord — not tempting randy boys. But first, you have to let God-fearing women wallop the sin out of you.”

Wanda Sue told me my wrestling name was gonna be Haystacks Holly ’cause girls who flaunt themselves before boys usually end up ruttin’ in haylofts. Well, that name weren’t no improvement at all, and I told that to Wanda Sue, and I said I weren’t goin’ nowhere if I gotta be called Haystacks Holly.

Well, Wanda Sue clucked her tongue then brought up the Book of Revelation. “Lukewarm folk don’t get rescued, Child — ya gotta be cold or hot. If you’re neither, you ain’t worth saving and God will spew you out of his mouth.” 

When I told Wanda Sue I weren’t inclined to parade myself around no more, Wanda Sue clucked her tongue again and said, “Child, that’s just the point. If the Lord chose to save a hussy as famous as Mary Magdalene, he might also see fit to rescue you if you call yourself Haystacks Holly.” 

Well, Wanda Sue she stayed the night so’s to give me more time to think, and when we woke up the next morning, all of Bertha Jean’s chickens were dead. Wanda Sue clapped her hands and said, “Hallelujah, the Lord has spoken,” and I told her a bunch of dead chickens weren’t no kind of sign at all.

“A coyote done killed them chickens,” I said, but Wanda Sue shook her head.

She said, “Now Gertrude, who do you think was the one who sent it here? The Lord took those chickens off your hands because he has a job for you.”

I suppose, if I weren’t so chock full of sin, I’d have turned down Wanda Sue’s offer, but I guess I was cravin’ salvation so bad I was willing to act in dumb skits. So, I signed this contract that said I agreed to wrestle for the Lord, and after I buried them chickens, me and Wanda Sue hit the road. 

I reckon, if I couldn’t get saved for real, pretendin’ would have to do.

Wanda Sue and me headed toward Houston in search of wayward girls, and all the time she kept talkin’ in tongues and shoutin’, “Praise the Lord!” Well, it didn’t take me too long to figure that Wanda was out of her gourd, but she’d had me sign that darn contract before we got on the road, and I couldn’t be breakin’ no contract even though she weren’t right in the head. But when Wanda Sue stole some tampons from a roadside pharmacy, I kinda lost the inclination to spread the light of the Lord. It ain’t like I got uppity after I turned twenty-four, but a girl’s gotta be more careful about who she lets save her soul. 

Well, we drove on into Houston where we stopped for a couple of days, and by the time we left that city, we’d been joined by three wayward girls. What we done was we hung ’round the Greyhound station and watched the buses pull in, and Wanda Sue was real good at spottin’ girls that had run off from home. So, she approached a few of them runaway girls and chatted with ’em for a while, and she said she would treat ’em like daughters if they wanted to wrestle for the Lord. Well, three of them girls signed contracts to grapple for the Lord, and those girls seemed happy to have found ’em a mother even though it was Wanda Sue. I guess Wanda done somethin’ right when she took them girls under her wing ’cause she said it would just be a matter of time before pimps recruited them. 

Well, before I go on with this story, I wanna tell ya about them girls. There was Cocheta from New Mexico — a girl with big shoulders, a buncha tattoos and a stainless-steel stud in her tongue. Cocheta a full-blooded Apache and she wore her hair down to her shoulders, and she said she’d left her reservation ’cause she didn’t wanna murder her cousin. She said her cousin snuck into her bedroom a lot and she’d already stabbed him twice, so the next step was cuttin’ his throat and she didn’t wanna be locked up for that. Well, I told her ’bout Tommy Lee Weaver and how he kept grabbin’ my tits, and how I felt real guilty after I knocked him out. Cocheta said she wouldn’t feel bad ’bout cuttin’ her cousin’s throat ’cause it wouldn’t be no worse than killing a chicken-thievin’ dog. And she said it was cool to meet me since we had so much in common, and she said she would be a blood sister to me if I wanted one. Well, I have me a coupl of sisters already, but I never mention ’em ’cause they don’t have nothing to do with me on account of my wicked ways. So, I told Cocheta my sins were worse than Delilah’s and I told her more stuff I done, and Cocheta smirked and said, “Sweetheart, I’m twice as wicked as you.”

I also gotta tell you about Sofia and Mia ’cause them two are sisters for real, and Wanda Sue recruited them after they stepped off this bus that came from California. Them girls were slim but tougher than ropes ’cause they was migrant workers, and they said they wanted to get some distance between them and California. They said they was tired of picking fruit ’cause there ain’t no future in that, and they said some policia in California kept hittin’ ’em up for sex. Sofia, who’s the oldest, said she kicked one of them cops in the balls, and that now the policia wanted to put her in jail for assault. When Wanda Sue said she would make them so famous the cops wouldn’t bother ’em, the girls just rolled their eyes, and Sofia said, “Dios mio. I do not think it is wise for illegals to want to become famous.” Well, Wanda Sue said they’d be wrestling for Jesus, so God would keep them safe, and Mia said, “Señora, how is beating up people going to please the Lord?” But both them girls agreed that wrestling sounded better than picking fruit, and they hoped the Virgin would forgive them for using God’s name in vain. 

Well, that ’bout described how me and Wanda got us a family. So now I’m gonna tell ya how things worked out for me.

Wanda Sue drove us to Dallas where her training camp was at. It was this big ol’ dirty warehouse in the slummy part of town. There was a sign in front of the warehouse that said, Christian Ladies of Wrestling, and a picture of that dark-skinned woman was painted under the sign. As the RV pulled up to the warehouse, I felt kinda jinxed by that sign ’cause that woman she seemed to be watchin’ me like she knew I was gonna arrive.   

Well, Wanda Sue took us on a tour of the camp, and the tour didn’t last for long. There weren’t nothing in that warehouse but some bunks, a few couches and a dining table with chairs. And this jacked-up ring surrounded by ropes stood in the center of the floor, and the canvass was so torn that it looked like some bobcats had partied there. Even so, it didn’t make no sense that Wanda Sue could afford the place, and when I asked her where the money come from, she said, “Never you mind, Child. The Lord has provided.” 

Well, I didn’t ask Wanda no more questions ’cause it wouldn’t have been polite, but I wondered how come she swiped them tampons if she was in good with the Lord. But I remembered Ma sayin’ to trust in the Lord ’cause he works in mysterious ways, so I decided I needed to stop thinkin’ up questions and work on saving my soul.

Each morning for a week, Wanda fixed us a breakfast of cornbread biscuits and gravy, and then she gave us our skits and we got down to practicin’ them. I practiced with Cocheta ’cause I liked her best of all, and we got real good at tumblin’ together and tossin’ each other around. Our hardest move was standin’ on a top turnbuckle then throwin’ ourselves down on each other, but Cocheta caught me every time and I got to trustin’ her. It ain’t no exaggeration to say that Cocheta became my sister, but that don’t make no sense at all ’cause she weren’t real blood to me. Shucks, I always thought my true sister would come from my natural family. I never thought she would turn out to be no homeless Apache girl. 

Well, me and Cocheta we didn’t talk much when our practicin’ was done ’cause Cocheta had a deck of cards, and we played us a whole lot of Snap. But one night, I told Cocheta about what was troublin’ me. I mentioned how I saw Wanda Sue swipe some tampons from a roadside pharmacy, and I said swipin’ tampons didn’t seem like the best way to get the Lord to provide.

Cocheta said, “Pumpkin, what makes you think God provided for Wanda Sue?”

I said, “Maybe He thinks shopliftin’ is an improvement from robbin’ banks.”

Cocheta said, “Bullcrap, I don’t think this hustle has much to do with God. When an old jailbird like Wanda comes into money, it probably came from the mob.” 

Well, we went back to playing Snap for a while, and I didn’t say nothin’ more ’cause I remember Ma once told me that there shouldn’t be no surprises. She said folks only get surprised when they’re slow to see things like they are, and how they are is that Wanda Sue ain’t quite on the up-and-up. 

I weren’t surprised neither when Cocheta patted my wrist ’cause that’s what true sisters do. She said, “Gerts, I got a bad feeling about this, but I’m still going to hang around. Someone has to look after you, and it ain’t gonna be Wanda Sue.”

After a week of practicing, we took our show on the road. Wanda Sue bought a trailer truck to haul all of our equipment, and she painted Christian Ladies of Wrestling on both sides of the trailer. Cocheta, Sofia, and Mia all had spandex costumes, and I had a red wig and bib overalls so I’d look like Haystacks Holly. I think them Mexican girls also suspected that Wanda weren’t on the up-and-up, but it didn’t seem to bother ’em none ’cause we was gonna have a whole bunch of fun.

Well, we traveled all through Texas and most of Oklahoma, and we set up the ring in high school gymnasiums and that’s where we did our skits. So, now I’m gonna tell you about them skits we put on. I ain’t sure they brought no one closer to Jesus, but Christian folk flocked to our show, and they hollered and clapped while we pretended that we was stompin’ out sin.

In one of them skits, Sofia performed the “Dance of the Seven Veils” then she waved this rubber head around, which she said belonged to John the Baptist. And she placed the head on a ring post and she chuckled like a hen, and when them Christian folk started booing at her, she just went on dancing again.

Well, it didn’t take long for them Christian folk to get their fill of Sofia, and that’s when Mia hopped into the ring dressed like an angel of the Lord. Mia had on a spandex outfit that was whiter than new-fallen snow, and a plastic halo that glowed like foxfire was wired to her head. And Mia and Sofia tussled around for maybe ten minutes or so then Mia backed Sofia into a corner and walloped the daylights out of her. She did that by striking the palm of her hand instead of Sofia’s face, and them Cristian folk shouted, “Hit her for Jesus!” and “Put that bitch in her place!” 

Well, after takin’ a dozen blows, Sofia begged for mercy then this spotlight from the back of the gym cast a white glow into the ring. And while the sound system played “Nearer my God to Thee,” Mia took Sofia’s hand and led her towards the light. And Sofia wept and prayed all the time she was stumblin’ toward the light, and them Christian folk all joined in singing, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Another skit we performed was based on folks who profane God in modern times — folks who spit on the Bible and are full of disbelief. Cocheta, whose stage name was Blasphemous Berta, hopped into the ring and she had this microphone in her hand and she shouted, “God is dead!” Then Cocheta she started lecturing the crowd about black magic and worshipin’ Satin, and the sound system belted out, “Friend of the Devil,” which is sung by the Grateful Dead. I don’t think Cocheta had no trouble confessin’ she had no faith ’cause she told me she’s an atheist and ain’t never been to church.

Well, after the crowd started booing so loud you could hardly hear the song, Wanda Sue, wearing a choir robe, climbed into the ring. Wanda and Cocheta spent five or six minutes slammin’ each other onto the canvas then Wanda Sue put Cocheta in this figure-four leg-lock and cried, “Girl, it’s time to repent!” Well, Cocheta started howling like her leg was about to break then she shouted, “I believe! I believe!” and the crowd gave a great big cheer. And Cocheta knelt and pretended to pray while that white light fell over the stage, and them Christian folk went back to singing, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Now, them skits were really popular and they and they sure worked up the crowd, so them Christian folk were already riled when it was my turn to step into the ring. Wanda Sue cried, “Ladies, hang onto your husbands! Haystacks Holly is here!” The sound system played Dolly Parton singin’, “Jolene, please don’t take my man,” and I strutted around the ring in them bib overalls and blew kisses at all the men. Well, that red wig made my head itchy and them overalls were too tight, but I gotta admit it was kinda fun to be paradin’ myself around. See, when I was back in high school, I played the lead in Annie and I kinda caught the acting bug ’cause I remembered most all of my lines. 

Well, it weren’t too long till the crowd started booing ’cause lust is a deadly sin, and that’s when Cocheta, dressed in a nun’s habit, hopped into the ring. Cocheta pretended like she’d joined a nunnery after escaping the Devil’s spell, and she grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and tossed me all over the ring. Well, Cocheta and me tumbled around and bounced off the ropes a few times then we climbed up on the turnbuckles and threw ourselves down on each other. After that, Cocheta drop-kicked me and I staggered around like a drunk, and by the time I stopped my staggering, she had placed me in wooden stocks. And Cocheta cried, “Holly, I’m not turning you loose till you stop tempting married men!” so I pretended to be real sorry for all the lustin’ I done. And the sound system played “Abide With Me,” and the Christian folk all sang along, and Cocheta released me from them stocks and we gave each other a hug. Ya know, them Christian folks seemed real pleased that I’d ended my trollopin’ ways, but of course by the time the next show rolled around, I was blowin’ the men kisses again.

After we’d been on the road for two months, we ended up back in Houston, and Wanda Sue told us it was time to change our routine. She said we was going to do that circuit again and return to them same high school gyms, but that this time Blasphemous Berta and Holly was gonna occasionally win. Well, that didn’t seem too comfortin’ ’cause them crowds liked our show like it was, so I discussed the matter with Cocheta while we was alone at a Holiday Inn. We was sittin’ in a room we shared and playing a game of Snap, and Cocheta sighed like a broken pump and put down all her cards.

“Gerts,” she said, “how’d you ever survive to become twenty-four years old?”

“I done it a day at a time,” I said.

She said, “Pumpkin, that’s not what I meant. People get smarter with age, but from the way you talk, it doesn’t seem as though you’ve picked up any smarts at all.”

Well, Cocheta started talkin’ to me like the street-smart sister she was, and she told me Christian Ladies of Wrestling hadda ’a’ been financed by the mob. She said she had spotted bookies working the crowds at our shows, and that the mob was gonna get rich as lords when the crowd’s favorite wrestlers lose. 

Well, I said it didn’t make no sense that folks would bet on fake shows, and Cocheta she took my hands in hers and said, “Pumpkin, listen up.” She told me that folks who was down on their luck would bet on most anything, and that most of the folks that attended our show appeared to be outta luck. She said folks was also down on their luck on Apache reservations, and them reservations had lotsa casinos that took advantage of that. She said she seen Indians bet their whole welfare checks on a single toss of the dice.

“So there you have it, Gerts,” she said. “We’re just helping the mob fix bets. On top of that, I’ll bet we’re a front for money laundering too.”

As I listened to Cocheta, I started to feel real strange ’cause it seemed like a flea-bitten mongrel was birthing puppies in my brain. Sure, wearing them fancy bib-overalls made me feel like a movie star, but that star weren’t gonna rise too high if I was helpin’ fix bets for the mob. So me and Cocheta made a pact that we was gonna quit the show, and we pricked our palms with a pin then shook hands like blood sisters gotta do. We decided to quit the next morning then take off on our own, but before we could quit somethin’ happened that you ain’t gonna believe.

The next morning, when I went to the breakfast bar, Wanda Sue was sittin’ there, and she was so excited you’d a thought she had just won the lottery. She said the meanest female wrestler in all of America had bad-mouthed our show on Fox Sports ’cause that woman had seen us on YouTube and thought we was provocateurs. Her name was Samoa Moa and she performed for Women of Wrestling, and she was a great-big, powerful woman who had never lost a match. Well, Samoa Moa wanted us to combine our shows for one night. She said Blasphemous Berta and Holly were nothin’ but shameless sluts, and she wouldn’t have no trouble whuppin’ both of us at once. So Wanda had drawn up a big ol’ contract and faxed it to Women of Wrestling, and tomorrow, me and Cocheta was gonna wrestle Samoa Moa.

Well, I weren’t expectin’ nothing like this when I came to the breakfast bar. I was expectin’ to saucer and blow me some coffee and gobble a donut or two — not find out that me and Cocheta was scheduled to wrestle some great-big shrew. When I told this to Cocheta, Cocheta gasped like a faucet. She said she knew about Samoa Moa ’cause she had seen her on Pluto TV, and Samoa Moa pulverized everyone who got in the ring with her. She also said Samoa Moa weren’t inclined to follow scripts, and some of the women she wrestled ended up gettin’ hurt for real.

Cocheta said, “Pumpkin, this clusterfuck is gonna make leaving hard. If we quit the show now, I’m gonna feel like a coward for the rest of my life.”

Well, I don’t suppose no Apache girl is accustomed to backing down, especially if she comes from a family where a pervert creeps into her room. But it also seemed like Wanda Sue weren’t takin’ good care of her flock — not if she was gonna let me and Cocheta get ourselves pulverized.

My head it started spinnin’ like a pup that was after its tail, but Cocheta knew what was on my mind, so there really weren’t nothin’ to say.

“Don’t ask me questions, Gerts,” she said. “There’s just one thing I know that’s true. Whatever I’m facing tomorrow, I wanna face it with you.”

The match was held the next evening in Houston’s Toyota Center, a gigantic colosseum the likes of which I ain’t never seen before. It musta had a million seats and ’bout half of ‘em was full, and there was television cameras all over the place and the ring was inside a steel cage. When I asked Cocheta how come we hadda wrestle in a cage, she told me Samoa Moa always wrestled in a cage. That’s ’cause most of her opponents were so afraid of her that they was likely to scamper away before she could pulverize ’em.

Well, this bossy usher herded me and Cocheta into a big ol’ locker room, and the two of us put our costumes on while the preliminary bouts went on. I put on my wig and bib overalls though I weren’t feeling sexy and all, and Cocheta put on this black cat outfit that made her look like a witch. After about an hour, the usher mustered us back to the arena, and I felt like I needed to pee as we was walkin’ toward the cage. 

Well, this announcer in the ring shouted, “Here they come, folks! A couple of sinful girls!” and the arena went dark and this red spotlight hit us like we was descending into hell. And the sound system started playing “Victory in Jesus,” and the crowd musta been full of Christian folks ’cause it started singing along.

As we mounted the ramp and stepped into the cage, Cocheta slipped her hand into mine, and a coupla folks shouted, “May God protect you!” while we waited for Samoa Moa. I suppose them folks mighta been rootin’ for us, but I took no comfort in that ’cause the only one stickin’ her neck out for me was an atheist Apache girl.

Well, after the crowd finished singing “Victory in Jesus,” the red spotlight went off and the lights of the arena came back on again. And the sound system started playing, “Another One Bites the Dust,” and Samoa Moa, bathed in white light, came struttin’ toward the cage. 

Samoa Moa hadda be the biggest woman I ever saw. She was ’bout six feet tall and her legs were like tree trunks and she musta weighed three hundred pounds. And, although she was wearin’ a hula skirt, there weren’t nothin’ congenial about her. She pounded the palm of her hand with her fist as she stepped into the cage, and when the announcer fella interviewed her, her voice was full of rage. She told the crowd that Christian Women of Wrestling oughta be shut down ’cause Berta and Holly were too busy breaking Commandments and whoring around. 

Well, my heart istarted leapin’ like a grasshopper on a hot stove ’cause I remember how Ma once told me there was two ways to be mean. There was meanness folks felt when their expectations weren’t met and they sometimes got over that, and there was junkyard dog meanness and that kinda meanness don’t never take a rest. As I listened to Samoa Moa hollerin’ ’bout all the Commandments we broke, I knew we were facing a junkyard dog and there weren’t no avoidin’ that. 

When the announcer was done talkin’ to Samoa Moa, he introduced us all to the crowd. He said, “In this corner, we have Samoa Moa, Polynesian Priestess and unbeaten champion of women’s professional wrestling. In the other corner, we’ve got two godless girls who need a good punishing. But put your hands together anyhow, folks, for Haystacks Holly and Blasphemous Berta.”

When the announcer was done with the introductions, he shouted, “Let’s get it on!” and the crowd started cheering like all its Christmases had come. And this referee fella came into the cage and gave us a couple of instructions, and while he was talkin’, I saw the announcer put a padlock on the cage door.

Well, the referee was so skinny a breeze mighta blown him away, and his teeth were so bucked he could have probably eaten an apple through a picket fence. He sure didn’t look like he was capable of controlling a wrestling match, so I felt a little bit grateful that at least we had us a script. Cocheta and me was to wrestle Samoa Moa as a tag team — one at a time — and after we tagged off three or four times, Samoa Moa was supposed to win. She was supposed to lay on top of Cocheta after body slammin’ her to the canvass, and the ref was to slap the canvass three times and call the match for Samoa Moa. 

When the match began, I stood behind the ropes in our corner while Cocheta stayed in the ring. Right away, Cocheta jumped behind Samoa Moa and put a full nelson on her, but Samoa Moa reached back with both hands, grabbed Cocheta by the neck, and flipped her through the air so hard that she sling-shotted off the ropes.

Well, Cocheta bounced off the ropes so quick that she banged into that referee fella, and he acted real dizzy and started weavin’ around the ring. And while that fella was staggerin’ like a chicken without no head, Moa tied Cocheta up in the ropes and started wallopin’ her. Moa was supposed to be slappin’ her palm instead of strikin’ Cocheta’s head, but Cocheta’s noggin was bouncin’ around like a hare on a trampoline.

Now I was hopin’ that referee fella would keep Cocheta from getting hurt, but that fella was bending over the ropes like maybe he hadda puke. He didn’t seem too interested that Cocheta was gettin’ walloped — instead, he was quarrelin’ with Wanda Sue who was standing outside the cage. And since that fella weren’t doin no reffing, I didn’t wait for a tag — I just ducked through the ropes, grabbed Moa’s skirt and dragged her away from Cocheta. Some of the crowd started jeering ’cause I didn’t wait for no tag, but their jeers turned to cheers when Samoa Moa put an arm lock around my neck.

Well, next thing I know, Samoa Moa was crushin’ my head to her waist then she pulled a hard object outta of skirt and used it to pound my face. And my lungs was tuggin’ like hungry orphans ’cause I couldn’t capture no breath, and all the time, the referee fella kept jawin’ with Wanda Sue. Shucks, everyone in the place but the ref could see what was going on, and even some of the crowd started shoutin’ for him to turn around. But that fella kept wavein’ his hands in the air and squawkin’ at Wanda Sue ‘cause he was about as useful as tits on a razorback boar.

Now while that ref kept debatin’ with Wanda Sue, Cocheta freed herself from the ropes, and she didn’t go back to our corner like she was supposed to do. Instead, she hopped on Samoa Moa and pounded her for real, and all the time she kept hollerin’, “Let go my sister, bitch!”

The ref musta heard Cocheta yell ’cause he stopped arguing with Wanda Sue, and as he turned around, Samoa Moa tucked that object back into her skirt. So, the ref he didn’t do nothin’ but pull Cocheta off Samoa Moa then he puffed himself up like a mudpuppy and scolded Cocheta good. He said, “Honey, go to your corner or I’m going to disqualify you” and his voice sounded just like air that was squeakin’ out of a balloon. So, Cocheta ducked behind the ropes in our corner but not before telling the ref that if he didn’t start doing his job she was gonna hammer his ass.

After that, the match kinda settled into a regular routine. Samoa Moa broke her headlock on me and kept that object tucked in her skirt, and we flipped each other a couple of times although Moa was hard to flip. After that, I climbed the turnbuckles and threw myself down on her, but Moa didn’t catch me like Cocheta always done. So, I tagged off to Cocheta ’cause my knees were throbbin’ like drums, and Cocheta eased herself through the ropes and took over the match for me.

Now Samoa Moa was huffin’ and puffin’ ’cause she hadn’t had no rest, and that made me hope the match could end before someone got pulverized. But Samoa Moa weren’t happy and the crowd was still on her side, so that was kinda like hopin’ that the sun weren’t gonna rise.

When it happened, it happened so quick I didn’t have no time to be surprised. Samoa Moa plopped herself down on her butt ’cause she was all outta breath, but she still had ahold of Cocheta’s arm and was stretchin’ it between her big legs. And then I heard a pop that sounded just like a rifle shot, and I heard Cocheta holler, “That bitch broke my fucking arm!”

Well, Cocheta managed to roll to her knees and stagger to her feet, which musta been hard ’cause her arm was dangling like a branch that lightning had broke. And the ref he started scolding Cocheta for using bad language around Christians, and Samoa Moa just sat there with a strange look on her face.

I dunno if Samoa Moa was thinkin’ she mighta gone too far, and I dunno if I was thinkin’ at all when I jumped back into the ring. But this weren’t no time for thinkin’, and I was kinda glad about that when I scissored my legs like a lumberjack around Samoa Moa’s waist. And as Moa lumbered to her feet with that strange look still on her face, I head-butted her right between the eyes like I done to Tommy Lee Weaver.

Well, the arena started spinnin’ like I was on a carousel and lights was poppin’ all over the place, and the canvass was pressin’ my palms. And the crowd was buzzin’ so loud it sounded just like a hive of hornets, and Cocheta was bawling as though she’s been stung a couple of hundred times. Seconds later, I saw Samoa Moa lying flat on her back, and that referee fella was kneeling beside her and trying not to count her out. It took him ’bout half a minute to slap the canvass three times, and then he jumped up and begged the announcer to let him outta the cage.

After I knocked Samoa Moa out, things kept on happinin’ fast. The crowd started hollerin’, “Hang the ref!” and the announcer unlocked the cage quick, and that referee fella he bolted away just like a gut-shot stag. And a bunch of frightened security guards came pourin’ into the cage, and one of ’em pulled me to my feet and said, “Girls, get outta here now!” Well, my legs felt softer than butter and Cocheta could only moan, so them security guards carried both of us back to the locker room.

When we got back to the locker room, a team of med techs was waitin’ for us, and they drove us to the General Hospital so we could get ourselves fixed up. And after some doctors examined my head and put a cast on Cocheta’s arm, they told us we was gonna stay overnight ’cause we needed some observation. The nurses were real considerate and put us both in the same room, but Cocheta and me were as groggy as drunks and we couldn’t play no Snap.   

Now before we could even catch us a nap, Wanda Sue came to visit us, and Wanda Sue weren’t happy that I had gone and broken the script. She said Women of Wrestling was suing her for every dollar she had, so she was gonna have to file for bankruptcy and maybe dissolve the troop. But it turned out that made no difference — the troop broke up anyway ’cause the very next morning, Wanda Sue got arrested for racketeering and laundering money. A nurse who knew we was part of the troop turned the television on in our room, and we saw some Texas Rangers leading Wanda Sue away. “What are we gonna do now?” I said to Cocheta, and Cocheta she just laughed. She said, “It looks like Blasphemous Berta and Holly will have to find other work.”

That same morning, before we was discharged, we had a visit from Samoa Moa, and she had a lump on her forehead that was almost as big as a spud. Moa apologized to Cocheta for breakin’ her arm and she said she got carried away, and she told me she was glad I knocked her out ’cause she needed punishing herself. She also said she was gonna quit wrestling for a while ’cause she wanted to sort herself out, and that Women of Wrestling wanted to hire me to take her place. She said the producers thought I was the most exciting wrestler they had ever seen, and that they wanted me to perform as a heroine instead of a trollipin’ slut. Well, that offer was mighty temptin’ ’cause I still had the acting bug, but I said I weren’t gonna sign no contract unless they also hired Cocheta. Samoa Moa said we could both have contracts ’cause they liked Cocheta as well, and we could be tag team partners again after Cocheta’s arm healed up. Well, Cocheta had the performin’ bug too, so she said she would sign a contract, and Samoa Moa gave us each a smooch and said she hoped to see us on Pluto TV. After Moa left, Cocheta said, “Pumpkin, I hope we did the right thing. It’s gonna be harder to look after you when I only have one good arm.”

Now before we left the hospital, we had us one last visit. Sofia and Mia came to tell us goodbye ’cause they was hittin’ the road. They said they knew Wanda Sue had been busted for illegal activities, and since they was illegals themselves, it’d be stupid for ’em to hang around. They said they was goin’ to the Greyhound Station and take ’em a bus to Orlando, and they hoped they could get jobs as staffers in Walt Disney’s World. They said they would always treasure the fun we had together, and they hoped the Virgin would pardon them for helping put on them skits.

Well, that’s all I got to tell ya. I’m now a professional wrestling star, and if ya switch on Pluto TV, you’ll probably see me tusslin’ there. But they don’t call me Haystacks Holly no more — the producers they snooped around and they found out what my nickname was back in my hometown. So, I turned in my wig and bib overalls for some white, spandex togs and a cape, and they’re calling me Lights Out Lizzie again. There just weren’t no escapin’ that.


Note: The heroine of “Lights Out Lizzie,” Gertie McDowell, has many other exciting adventures in James Hanna’s book, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown.

James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. His work has appeared in over thirty journals, including Crack the Spine, Sixfold, and The Literary Review. James’ books, all of which have won awards, are available on Amazon in print and Kindle. 

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