Mash Potatoes

by Douglas Thomas Wallace

I don't remember ever being obsessed with my body except for when I was four years old. I wasn't obsessed with my whole body, just my arms.

As a child I loved professional wrestling. But I never called it wrestling, for me it was pronounced, "Wras-lin'." 

My childhood idols were "The Nature Boy" Rick Flair, Jimmy "Super-fly" Snuka, and St. Louis's own "King Kong" Brody. These guys were big, bad, rough and tough monsters. When one of them would finally defeat their opponent after a bloody brawl, they would stand over them in victory and undoubtedly flex their muscles.

There is no doubt in my mind that watching wras-lin on TV at my grandma's house, with my entire family after church, was how I became obsessed with my muscles, or "mush-els," as I used to call them.

I always wore the same outfit when I was four: blue jeans, a white Snoopy muscle shirt, little black cowboy boots and mirrored sunglasses. My mother couldn't get me to wear anything else. "They're my favorites," I'd say. My hair was snow white from playing out in the sun.

I would walk around and flex my mush-els for my three girl cousins many afternoons while playing outside at my grandma's house. The four of us were a year or two apart in age and the twelfth generation to live on our family's 80 acre farm in Troy, MO.

Look at my mush-els," I'd say to them. "Check out these pythons," I'd say as I flexed and kissed each arm like my wrestling heroes would do. 

One day my Uncle Clay pulled up on his motorcycle as my cousins and I were playing in my grandma's front yard. Clay was only eleven or twelve years older than all of us, but we thought of him as our real wrestling hero. To us, he was a big man and he looked like a wrestler. He had big arms like all the wrestlers had. He had long hair like all the wrestlers had. And we all knew Uncle Clay had a list. It was his, "Kickin' ass and takin' names," list. He'd always threaten us, "You wanna be on the list? Cuz I'm kickin' ass and takin' names."

I remember all the girls running up to my uncle as he parked his brand new black Yamaha on my grandma's sidewalk. "Harley's are shit. They leak too much o'l," I'd later overhear Clay say to my Uncle Bobby. It was the late seventies after all,Harley Davidson's AMF years, when their bikes were only good for a hundred miles.

That particular hot summer's day, I remember him stepping off his bike, shirtless and wearing his favorites: cut-off blue jeans and a blue bandana wrapped around his head, no helmet because, "Those are for sissies." Sweat was rolling down his chest and dripped over his six pack abs from a long day's ride. 

My cousin Jenny leapt from the ground into his arms and in one giant swoop he lifted her above his head with one arm. With his other arm, he grabbed my cousin Wendy, threw her over his shoulder and spun them both around like helicopter blades. Once he got done giving them a customary tickle, he let them down with a big booming laugh.

I marched my little black cowboy boots right up to him on the sidewalk, stood with my legs spread wide apart and demanded him to, "Look at my mush-els," as I flexed my chicken legged arms.

Muscles?" he said in disbelief. "Where?" 

I screamed, "Look at my mush-els!" and flexed even harder, straining my tiny arms.

Muscles huh?" He took his forefinger and thumb and gave my left arm a squeeze. "Those aren't muscles," he said, "those are mash' potatoes."

I was devastated. My cousins started chanting, "Doug's got mash' po-ta-toes, Doug's got mash' po-ta-toes."

I yelled, "Shut up! They're not mash' potatoes! They're pythons."

My uncle said, "Yeah, they're pythons alright."

See, even Uncle Clay said, 'They're pythons'," I said to my cousins. And if he said it, that was good enough for me. I didn't understand sarcasm at four years old.

One day a couple years later, half of my four generation family--fifty people in all, stood in the exact same spot where my Uncle Clay called my muscles mashed potatoes. We watched my Uncle Clay knock a guy out in the middle of grandma's long gravel drive-way after the stranger had almost ran over my cousin Wendy with his truck. Uncle Clay didn't do the whole foot stomp thing like the wrestlers used to do, just to make noise. He hit this guy for real, right through his window that was rolled down. Then he snatched the stranger out of his blue Ford by his shirt. The guy tried to give Uncle Clay a little push, but Clay just slid to the side like a rattlesnake on hot desert sand and then all I heard was "pop!" The guy dropped like a jumper without a parachute right in the middle of my grandma's drive-way and fell on his back.

I turned to my cousin Jenny and whispered, "He musta' been on Uncle Clay's list."

Mind Your Manners

         by Douglas Thomas Wallace

I'm from the Midwest. Missouri to be exact. We're Mid-Western with Southern tendencies. Yes, some people marry their cousins here, or at least have played around with'em a little. But besides incest, in Missouri we also are polite and have manners.

            But you know what I hate about having manners? When people take advantage of it. Like when you hold the door open for a lady. Just like you always would, it's just second nature. But then her husband and full-grown son just follow right behind her, not even taking the door. Then all of a sudden six more people come walking out and you're stuck there. You don't want to let the door slam in their face, but you're thinking to yourself, God Damn it! I'm not the fucking Wal-Mart greeter! So you let the door go and it slams in some lady's face. Then she's looking at you like, "Thanks, Asshole!"

            I blame it all on my mother. She's the one who taught me I'm supposed to do these things, that there's some kind of secret code that real men are supposed to live by. This secret code's like a dying language, like Latin or Gaelic, or something. Oh sure, some people know it but for the most part the kids think it's outdated and useless, "Nice to know but when are you ever going to use it in real life?" kind of thing.

            So for the few who still know this secret code--pssst--the password is, "Thank You." No praise or blowjob required. Just a thank you will be sufficient.  

            But for you, the rest of the world who this secret code goes unnoticed, the occasional, "Thanks asshole," will suffice.

BIO: Douglas Thomas Wallace received his Master of Arts in Communications from Lindenwood University. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and newly born daughter and is working on a memoir of the three weeks he spent in India with his wife and her family. You can find more of his work at douglasthomaswallace.blogspot.com.