wood textureTitle: A Family Portrait
Author: Oliver Lee Bateman
Category: Fiction
On a lonely Christmas Eve in the Anytown suburbs, Eddy Jacks, Jr. and Eddy Jacks, Sr sat down to watch VHS footage of the elder Jacks’ bloodiest wrestling matches.
“Son, there aren’t set-tos like this anymore,” said the original and greater of the Eddy Jackses.  “You ever see a 400-pound man do a dropkick like that?”

The imitation Eddy Jacks, who had failed to equal the legendary feats performed by his predecessor, shook his head.  “Well, other than you, no.”

“Your old man had the grace of a ballet dancer and the balance of a sumo wrestler,” continued the original.

On the television screen, between the hazy lines created by unadjusted tracking on the VCR, a younger version of the original used his head to drive a series of nails into a two-by-four.

“They loved that gimmick in the Great Lakes territory.  Madman Jacks, they called me,” said the original.  “God, those were the days.  You remember that, boy?  Me and you against the whole wide world.”

The imitation Eddy Jacks would never forget the original Jacks’ stint in that federation.  The original Jacks was getting a divorce from his third wife and needed a new outlet for his rage.  On those nights when he wasn’t at an auditorium delivering dropkicks and using his head to drive nails into a board, he would while away the lonely hours by whaling on his son.

“Yeah, you were pretty great, Dad,” agreed the imitation.  “You were really something.”

They stayed together like that until Christmas Eve became Christmas Day, one studying the man he used to be and the other studying the man he never was.  Were they still in love, this father and son?  Yes, yes—after a fashion.
Oliver Lee Bateman is currently an Andrew Mellon Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.  Starting next August, he will begin serving as Assistant Professor of Legal and Constitutional History at the University of Texas at Arlington.  He and his good friend Erik Hinton co-curate the Moustache Club of America, an online literary magazine that has published over 220 essays and short stories.  He is a columnist for The Good Men Project and The Pitt News, and a regular contributor to Stymie.