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No doubt... no donuts


by James Lloyd Davis


I love the Roller Derby.
God help me, but I do.
Watching women zip around the ring on roller skates while making mayhem with elbows, fists, handfuls of hair, and the gnashing of teeth… 
Well, for me … it's a religious experience.  
Some people say it's déclassé.  Me?  I blame my grandmother.
My folks died in a plane crash, so I had to live with my grandmother in Baltimore when I was twelve.  This is what my sainted grandmother said in her curious Baltimorean accent (my father called it a Balti-moron accent) laced with the aromatic aura of the National Bohemian beer that she always drank from one of those really tall glasses, wide at the top to tiny and narrow below with a base on the bottom as wide as the brim at the top, beer that I loved to smell, to watch … foam on top like melting cotton candy, dissipating burst by little burst of the bubbles that formed it, fed from the bottom by streams of tiny bubbles that moved up within the rich amber liquid as if by magic… 
I could spend hours watching those bubbles, trying to see how they formed, tiny at first, then growing larger on the path upward, sometimes birthing separate streams of bubbles, multiple lines of silver balls so quickly climbing …  Where was I?
What did my grandmother say?  
I was sixteen.  She caught me reading a book.
“Yer goin' t'hell in a handbasket you keep readin' that stuff.”
What was I reading?
Dostoevsky.
Yes, Crime and Punishment, which, in case you never read it, or skipped the Cliff Notes even, is a moralistic work in which the student, Raskolnikov, rises from a fevered state of libertine justification of a high crime … evolves through the perceived greatness of his moral freedom … through the acceptance of a greater destiny … into murder.  Rodion, as his friends call him, barrels through guilt like an entire chapter of church basement AA practitioners … and, ultimately,  stumbles into redemption by way of loving intervention in the person of a saintly prostitute … long story … 
But my dear sainted grandmother would never have thought to read such a book, would never have read anything written by a Russian … “Roosians” she called them, godless Antichrists all … but she did love wrestling, watched every match on TV and attended weekly programs at the Arena.  She was a great believer in the honorific and metaphorical combat of good vs evil played out in the fury of large, angry men in briefs.  
I had to watch them too.  She would never relinquish control of her remote and the Arena was as close as I could get to a night out.  I began to see wrestling as a kind of morality play.  Yeah.
My Grandmother knew the concepts well.  
“No doubt, no donuts,” she'd say, “right is right and wrong is wrong and the good guys will always win.”  
This was her theology in a nutshell.  Along with one of those Papal encyclicals she had framed on the wall… eventually.   Oh, they may get beat up for twenty minutes in a tag team, tossed out onto the ringside news guys' table, knocked over the head with a folding chair and paralyzed by some trick of a devious choke hold from which there seems no escape, but virtue will triumph in the end.
Explain?  The point of what she told me is this:  if you have to read a book, you are confused, you are going to hell in a hurry, but if you are not confused … if you have the perfect answer to all those nagging questions … if you can place your faith in Holy Mother, the Church … then you, sir or madam, are heaven bound and when that final trumpet sounds … on the day of the Rapture you can smile as you fade from view like the Cheshire cat in Alice's rabbit hole universe.
On Judgment Day you can say to the confused apostates like me, “I told you so.”
And won't God be pleased? 
With you, I mean.
Or is that one of those self-destructive progressions of thought?  The very idea that God finds you pleasing may very well be prideful.  Given that, to which side of the good & evil table does that take you.
Think about that.
Ad superbia aut humilitas.  Quo vadis?  
(To pride or humility.  Where are you headed?)
Pride is a major sin, gets you omitted from the Book of Life.
Puts you right into that lake of burning fire (or is burning fire redundant?) with Satan and the Anti-Christ.  Joins you to the Anti-Christ like Siamese twins.
But that's not what I'm trying to say.
I'm trying to explain why I so love the Roller Derby.
See … like my grandmother, my personal theology is perfectly expressed in the conflict and mayhem of a violent ‘sport.'  Only in my case, it's the Roller Derby.  Maybe it's because of the confusion my grandmother brought into my young life with her weird homilies and her passion for wrestling, but there it is.
Roller Derby is my religion.
No doubt, no donuts.

Which is why I married Cindy Featherstone aka The Torrid Tornado, star jammer for the Albuquerque Amazons.  I was an EMT for the County, so the match was perfect, what you might call … symbiotic.  In fact, I lost my license because of the inordinate amount of pain-killers I pilfered from the hospital pharmacy.  See, while dating Cindy, I came to realize that a bottle of Oxy and a bag of burgers for the team was a more appropriate gift than the usual box of chocolates and a handful of roses.
Anyway, when they kicked me out of the Fire Department, I got hired by the Amazons as a trainer/manager/agent/dealer and travelled all over the country with the team.  But like everything else, this perfect, oh too perfect life went to hell in a handbasket … love that term … to hell in a handbasket.  
Hell in a handbasket.
Gotta love that kind of metaphor.
Great visual I have is this too tall woman on rollerskates and a really short white skirt, like they used to wear back in the fifties at drive-in burger joints, like you see once in a while on the AMC … anyway, the image is this woman and she's soooo tall and she's got you wrapped in a blanket so you can't move, but you're happy … ‘cause you don't know that she is taking you to hell in a hurry.  You don't know it until you smell the sulphur.
Goin' t'hell in a handbasket.
My grandmother used that all the time to describe my future.
Which brings me to the moment, brings me to the reason why I'm sitting in a damn bar in El Paso, drinking myself senseless.
See, I always get hot after a match.
Not warm … hot.
I know what you're thinking … a little S&M kind of suggestivity with the incessant violence involving women-on-women-on-skates-in-skimpy-skirts … and, yes, you'd be right.
Anyway, we're in El Paso.  Cindy got hurt early on with a broken collarbone and was zipped off to the hospital in an ambulance.  I wanted to go with her, but she said, “No, no, no … you gotta stay with the team … stay with the team.”  So I did.
After the match, Rosie Santiago… Rosie is a stand-in jammer, wears a rhinestone studded vest and her skates are attached to western style boots and she goes by the name The Rhinestone Wowgirl … Go ahead, tell me you don't get it … Anyway, Rosie said she had a stiff neck.  So … in the locker room, ‘cause, among other things, I'm a trained EMT and know these things … I'm massaging her neck while all the other girls are getting into their street clothes.  Then Rosie says her back hurts, so I'm rubbing her back.  
After all the other girls have left, she says …
Well.  Anyway.  Your imagination can take it home from there.
But Rosie has a big mouth and one night, out of the black and blue, Cindy tells me she knows about me and Rosie.  One thing leads to another and … here I am.  
She's gone, Cindy.  
The Amazons are gone … loaded up the bus and left town without me.  
So here I am in Dallas singing, “Oh Lawd, drunk in Lodi … ag'in.”
Would I do it all over … just like it was?
Christ yes!
I love the Roller Derby.
God help me, but I do.

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