Monday, September 4, 2017

The Sunset Flip by Tom Leins

The Sunset Flip

I first met Peter ‘Chicken Lips’ Delgado back in 1982 when I was wrestling down in Boca Raton. He was a 150lb weakling – out of his depth – and he got tossed around the ring like a rag doll. He barely lasted ten fights before his career flat-lined. 

I was the one who put him out of commission, with a Sunset Flip at a house show. Flipped him so hard I damn near broke his back. I was young and ruthless back then – more ruthless than I needed to be – and flattened him in front of less than a hundred people, just for the sheer fucking hell of it. The lipless shriek etched across his face as he was stretchered out of the auditorium haunted me – for a day or two, at least. Until I put the hurt on some other small town shmuck with ideas above his station. 

The Boca Raton News write-up referred to me as Killer McHann, but that was actually the name of the fat shit-bag who had his jaw shattered in the previous bout. I liked the name enough to take it with me when left town. That other motherfucker wouldn’t be needing it again anytime soon...    


The next time I saw Chicken Lips, he had washed up in Testament. It was 1985, and he was trying to establish himself as a manager. Everyone in the fight game washes up in Testament eventually – it is just a case of how hard you land when you come skidding down the shit-streaked career pipeline. He was wearing a mustard-yellow shirt and a brown polyester tie and was managing a guy named Bobbie-Sue Barraclough – a big drifter-looking bastard with eyes like an escaped mental patient. 

Bobbie-Sue fought under the name ‘Beast’ and was billed as hailing from ‘Parts Unknown’, despite the fact he grew up in a single-wide in Old Testament, with his two wet-brain uncles. His Testament accent was so thick he couldn’t convincingly record telecasts and had to grunt unintelligibly through all of the questions to conceal his prosaic background.

Beast wasn’t cut out for the rigors of professional wrestling – the company physician said his brain was infected with demons – and he was back on the carnival circuit in less than a year. He still managed to make his mark on me though: smashed three of my vertebrae on New Year’s Day 1986. Chicken Lips was at ring-side. He laughed like a drain as I was dragged down the runway on an old plank, and dumped in the private ambulance that lurked outside the auditorium like a prowler. 


My boss, Fingerfuck Flanagan, was the eleventh person to visit me in the trauma unit. He said he felt guilty about my pulverised spine and offered me the job of bagman for the Testament Wrestling Alliance when I was back on my feet – in charge of delivering his quarterly bribes to the state athletic commissioner. It was almost eight months before I was able to walk again, and even then, I needed a cane. Flanagan set me up with a used hatchback the colour of dried blood and paid me a lousy one hundred dollars a month to hand over the greasy stash of used banknotes to an octogenarian named Cheadle. 


We usually met in the parking lot outside the auditorium, but this morning – four months in – Fingerfuck invited me into his office. When I finally hobbled into the bowels of the building, I was sweatier than Satan’s scrotum. He was watching softcore pornography with Barry Boulevard, the Master of Ceremonies. It is only breakfast time, but Barry is already wearing a maroon dinner jacket and a ruffled evening shirt. I haven’t seen him in Testament since a scandal involving a couple of local schoolgirls, a gallon of vodka and a camcorder. The way I heard it when the cops turned up, Boulevard disappeared quicker than a cut-price magician – leaving nothing behind but a stained cummerbund, a pair of spit-shined wingtip shoes and a half-drunk tumbler of cheap booze.

Boulevard glared at me like a carnival freak but didn’t offer me his seat. He had a shaving cut on his jaw and kept dabbing at it with the sleeve of his dinner jacket. 

“Have I done something wrong, Mr. Flanagan?”

“No, son. Everything is working out just fine. How are you enjoying the work?”

I shrugged.

“I just appreciate the chance to stay involved in the business, sir.”

He nodded, approvingly.  

“Change of plan, son. There is a new commissioner in town. Here is his address.”

He passed me a scrap of paper, and I slipped it into my jacket pocket.

Fingerfuck nudges the briefcase across to me with a slip-on shoe and turns back to his video. 

As I limped down the hallway I heard Boulevard and Flanagan cackling like bandits.

“Killer, huh? I’d like to see him try,” Boulevard croaked.

“Crippled bastard’s career is deader than mine!”

They clinked glasses and laughed even louder.


The new address is in Testament Springs, a gated community in New Testament. The driveway alone is bigger than the damned trailer park I grew up on. I lean against my cane as the door creaks open, briefcase heavy in my right hand. 

I’m surprised to see Chicken Lips in a leopard-print bathrobe, gold jewelry clinking louder than the ice cubes in his vodka and tonic. He is wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses, which make him look shifty, like a recently paroled sex offender. When he recognises me, he slides the sunglasses up his forehead, into his thinning hair. His red eyes gleam like pools of fresh blood. 

He grunts slightly as he flicks through his mental Rolodex, in search of my name – real name or ring name – but he comes up short, and instead gestures down the hallway with his tumbler, sloshing booze over the parquet flooring. I follow the careerist bastard into his study, and he perches on the edge of the oak desk, letting his robe fall open.  

I’m horrified to see a tarnished-looking Testament Wrestling Alliance championship belt drooping below his gut. 

He notices my surprise. 

“This? Poxy costume jewelry. You can pick up this junk in pawn shops up to three states over. You ever win one of these things?”

I shake my head, wearily.

He giggles, and takes another sip of his booze.

“No. Of course not.”

He gazes at me again, then glances down at my cane. He prods me in the chest with a bony finger.
“My boy Beast ruined you, didn’t he? That was some damned fight! You were yelping like one of those cretins at the East Testament Lunatic Asylum when he was done with you!”

I drop the briefcase and reach for his throat. He drops his tumbler. It doesn’t shatter, merely rolls across the shag pile carpet and under his desk. He holds his hands up, pleadingly – then he sweeps my legs away. 

I crash into the glass coffee table, and a searing pain spasms up my ruined back.

Chicken Lips stoops down, heavy glass ashtray in hand. 

“You rotten bastard. I’m gonna mess you up like a truck-stop hooker.”

I reach underneath me for the Ruger GP100 tucked into the back of my khakis. I picked the gun up in a pawn shop after a pair of Samoan brothers tried to jump me outside the liquor store in Crooked Timber last month. The piece feels cold against the ragged scar where the surgeons repaired my back. 

I palm the Santoprene grip and jam the stainless steel gun barrel in his left eye socket. He squeals and I squeeze the trigger. His ugly face explodes in a welter of blood and bone, and he collapses on top of me, like a deadweight.

Motherfucker. My body feels like it has been ripped in two. I can’t feel my legs. I try to haul Chicken Lips’ scrawny corpse off me, but I can barely move.  

His dead skin feels warm against mine. The cheap, greasy metal of his title belt presses into my gut.

His skull-blood starts to leak into my mouth. I feel myself laughing. Laughing with a mouthful of blood.

I keep laughing until, eventually, I pass out.


Bio Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, the Flash Fiction Offensive and Spelk Fiction. He is currently working on a series of ‘Paignton Noir’ novels, including Boneyard Dogs, Thirsty & Miserable and All Is Swell In The Grinding Light. His first short story collection will be called Repetition Kills You. Work on a collection of wrestling-themed noir, called The Good Book, is now underway. Get your pound of flesh at:



  1. Feed the authors, show 'em some love.

  2. Tom Leins' story takes you down a gritty, body-numbing path to a dismal corner of the wrestling world where his protagonist lives. Tom's punchy style and hard-line dialogue tells you it's a dark place you may not return from, but if you do, it's only because you have the right moves or you're just lucky, read the story, strap in, take the ride, or you'll be sorry you didn't. --Jim Shaffer

    1. Thanks Jim! Great little write-up - glad you enjoyed it!

  3. I have bookmarked your blog