This time the
"at" top was really jammed at a special price of $1.50 a head. A couple
of dignified-looking gents who might be businessmen from a nearby town were
covering all bets on Brannock. Several thousand dollars were in the tent, the
stakes held by a committee of local men.
lights had been turned off and the banner line dropped. The crowd was cautioned
to be quiet, "so the cops won't get wind of what we're putting on tonight
and stop it." The entrance flap was discreetly lowered. I suspected that
the cops had already got wind of it to the tune of a sawbuck apiece and were
lurking unobtrusively outside in case they were needed.
Tonight, with all
rules off, Charley Brannock was free to use every dirty trick in the book, and
the crowd was with him, urging him to slaughter the Gorilla. But from the
opening bell, there occurred a strange, unpredictable and utterly mystifying
reversal of roles. Charley kneed the Gorilla, punched him, stuck thumbs in his
eyes, twisted his fingers, kicked his "bad" knee and chopped at his
jugular vein with the open hand, all to no avail. The Gorilla seemed made of
iron. Brannock's face was flushed, his mouth twisted into a scowl. His hair
falling damply over his eyes, he fought like a man possessed.
completely out of character, disdained dirty fighting and stuck to straight
wrestling. No intercollegiate contestant could have been more punctilious. He
was emerging as the "hero," while Charley Brannock, the town's idol,
had become the "heel." The self-righteousness of the crowd was taking a
beating. They knew something weird was going on, but they couldn't figure out
After an arm-lock
and inside-crotch hold had dumped Brannock hard on the canvas, he crouched and
started a haymaker from the floor. It caught O'Toole on the jaw, but the old
wrestler merely shook his head, wiped blood from his split lip with the back of
his hand, grinned, circled around behind the younger man and deftly worked him
into the murderous figure-four body scissors.
like a fly on flypaper while the oldtimer rode him, a sweet, tolerant smile on
his battered face. Slowly and cleanly he levered Brannock's shoulders to the
mat and held them there.
muttered in resentment and confusion. The show's owner and the two dignified
characters, not seeming in a hurry, collected from the stake holders and
suddenly were gone. The side walls of the tent fell as canvasmen started to
tear it down. Some of the crowd still lingered sullenly until the center poles
were pulled out and the top started to settle. Outside, the carnival had
evaporated. The few naked work lights began going out one by one. Charley
Brannock had vanished. And with him, Gorilla O'Toole.