Word count 1842

Joey Kellog was born twenty five years ago in Fresno.

His father Gary was and still is a real estate salesman.  He had been a three sport letterman in high school and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs upon graduation.  He got as far as Triple A baseball, but had inadequate speed for someone who was not a power hitter to make it to the bigs.  The disappointment gnawed inside him, but outwardly it showed in his belittling the accomplishments of others.

Gary’s relative success in sports made him the leader of the guys in the neighborhood.  At work, while hunting, fishing or golfing, or at the local sports bar he was deferred to.  His opinions on sports, politics, sex, art and metaphysics were given great weight by his peers.  They did not question his beliefs that ancient astronauts had created the art on the plains of Peru, or that Atlantis had not been colonized by Lemuria.  Gary was not smarter than his friends, but his early success had given him an aura of assurance.

His mother Mary was a minor league (and below Triple A at that) trophy wife.  Unfortunately for Gary his greatest successes had been early in life so he had not been able to upgrade.  Mary dabbled – her interests included drinking, cards, volunteer projects (her part of the work always involved the phone) and an antique boutique which Gary hoped would make money some years and qualify as a write off in other years.  Gary had better luck with the write offs than the profits.

Their marriage was a success because each was self involved and tried to ignore the other.  Their unspoken road to marital contentment, if not bliss, was to keep anything controversial out of sight.  Mary did most of her drinking, beauty treatments and phone marathons when Gary was gone, and Gary’s cigar smoking, poker and pornographic movies were always enjoyed with the boys.  Their partnership was the envy of both men and women, and who can say they are wrong?

Gene was Joey’s younger brother.  Since he was significantly taller than both Joey and Gary and had different skin tone and eye color, there was some good natured debate about his parentage.  Gary had no problem with any such conjecture since Mary never broached the subject and Gary secretly believed that Gene was better than he could have conceived, so to speak.  If Gary had dwelt on the subject he probably would have suspected that Gene’s father was one of his better ex ballplayer buddies.

At twenty two Gene had made it to the bigs.  He was only a utility player, but his looks and quotability had made him a favorite of sports writers and fans.  His inability to change a tire, locate Argentina on a map, find the square root of 16 or spell “cache” was not held against him, in fact it added to his charm.  He did know the important things – Don’t show up the umpire, always wear a condom during sex and then only with unmarried females over 18, have someone else drive after you are unconscious, get a good agent and financial manager (not the same person) and don’t spit on fans regardless of how bad a day you are having.  Having a father in the business had helped a great deal.

Joey was the odd man out in this household.  He was the brightest, but intelligence did not impress anyone in the family and education was not encouraged.  All of them knew that success was not dependent on a college education.  Looks and motor skills suffice.  His mother made him good meals and would tend to boo – boos, but he did not really fit into any of her interests.  His father had spent a lot of time with him until he quit youth baseball for high school wrestling which was more appropriate for his build and skills.  By that time, it was obvious that Gene was the one with the most potential so the family got behind the more likely winner.  Gene had tagged along with Joey in order to play with the big boys, until his talent made it clear that he was better than his brother.  Then he started to hang out with the even bigger boys.  By the time Gene was a freshman in high school, he was a better ball player than Senior Joey, who had already quit ball in favor of girls, wrestling and wrestling girls.

Because of his illustrious, if flawed, family, Joey was deemed a loser.  This was in spite of his successes in wrestling (not a big sport locally) and weightlifting.  A good wrestler of the legitimate or the show business variety must have a combination of strength, speed, technique and endurance.  Joey was only better than average at everything but strength.  He built on his naturally superior strength with hours of weightlifting with the football players.  At 145 pounds he got so he could lift with some of the linemen.  He aided his quest for strength with a nutritious diet and supplements which had not been generally outlawed.

Because Joey was not really good at baseball, his father never gave him much advice.  Therefore, he got herpes which limited his social life to some extent.  Aside from that handicap, his perceived inferiority compared to the rest of his family made him somewhat inhibited.  He mostly hung out with other wrestlers.

He had average grades in most subjects, but was good at logic and got good math grades.  His family saw no reason for him to go to college, and he did not disagree.  In any case no financial support was offered by the family, nor did he qualify for any good scholarships based on grades, athletics or other extracurricular activities.

After graduating from high school, he got a series of jobs including furniture moving, video rental and the like.  He liked the physical jobs best because they allowed his mind free rein, but they paid barely enough for his small apartment, meals and a ten year old Corolla.  Now he always used condoms and occasionally got lucky at closing time at the local bar “Drown Town”.  By mutual agreement, his entanglements were mostly NSA.  During the early years after high school he fooled around with weight lifting and was surprised to see steady improvement in his ability.

To find out how good he really was, he joined a local group which trained at the best gym in Fresno.  To his mild surprise he rose to rank second or third nationally, depending on the meet, in his weight division.  That was good enough to get him a little notice in the local news and some “Attaboys” from family and acquaintances.  His mother used him in bragging to her friends that “Joey is very strong and won something or other”, his father was pleased that, as he put it, “Everyone in the family has had some success at something” and his brother told him “I might not be the only star in the family”.

After about a year of holding steady in the rankings, he finally got a break or lost his brakes.  He was driving alone outside of town on a rare rainy day when he ran off the road.  A friend, Garfield Travis, who was following him took him to a nearby clinic where his legs below the knees had to amputated.

Although he was not exactly famous, he was well enough known that he was showered with best wishes, presents and money.  The local tech school “Better Than McJobs” paid his way through programming school while he recuperated.  He got good, lightweight prosthetics which while not as good as the original issue, never got athletes foot or ingrown toenails.

To the surprise and amazement of most, Joey was as good at weightlifting, albeit a bit more mechanical, as ever after he finished physical therapy.  Fortunately, style doesn’t count as it does in body building and synchronized swimming.  Better yet, the light weight prosthetics lowered his weight enough to put him in a lighter division where he could be the best in the world.

When he began winning competitions, two things happened.  First, some competitors and fans said that he had an unfair “bionic” advantage.  In this case, he was the $5,432.50 man – the cost of the prosthetics as donated by a sympathetic citizen.  The reaction to the criticism was being lionized by editorial writers and opinion makers around the country.  Politicians of all stripes and dots rallied to his defense as did various athletes who had gone through similar difficulties.  He was compared to the gymnast who completed her routine in the Olympics despite voluminous and noisy flatulence.  His picture was put on the front of the breakfast cereal of endorsers.  He became the actual poster boy (not the figurative or metaphorical, but actual) of the Disabled and / or Disgruntled Political Action Group.

                                                             The End

Or so it seemed except for those 7 or 8 people who knew differently.  Joey had “issues” and he had a lot of information.  Agents had told him number three would get him nothing, but number one would pay off.  Brian Silver was ready to represent him if he could move up.  Before drinking to excess and past remembrance (what did they do later that evening – he didn’t know) with a physical therapist named Jane Lane he had learned a lot about the prosthetics and physical therapy involved in lower limb amputations.  When he was sober he found that Jane knew an emergency clinic Quick Fix that would provide services not sanctioned by the late Hipocrates (who was, after all, far beyond approving or disapproving).

Garfield and Joey ran Joey’s car off the road close to Quick Fix.  Under anesthesia, Joey’s lower legs were amputated.  Brian Silver did all of the public relations from the sympathy campaign, through the protests against his competition and ultimately the overwhelming support he received.

How do I know the whole story?  I was assigned to what appeared to be a normal public interest story about Joey by Sports Deified.  One of the people I interviewed for the story was Jane Lane.  The interview started at Drown Town, but ended at her apartment.  I don’t know if it was my charm, good looks (not likely), the aphrodisiac qualities of Budweiser, or the fact that I was from a national magazine, but we ended up in the sack.  The next morning, when I woke up she was quietly weeping.  I have gotten that reaction more than once and I know that it can represent either an emotional release or fornicator’s regret.  When I asked her why she was crying, most of the Joey Kellog story came out.  I later pieced together the rest.

Is Joey crazy?  Is family to blame?  Should I run the story as is, or the sugar coated version?  Maybe I should have another beer than ask any more questions.

Appeared in Insert Magazine and Down In The Dirt. Meditation on family dysfunction, inferiority and desperation.

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