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“Lucinda, darlin’,” he said. “Tonight’s not the night. You look so great, I wish it were but it’s just not.” He nuzzled her and then bit, a little too hard, on the back of her neck.

She punched him and rubbed at her neck. “Geez, hope you didn’t leave marks. Just for that, you’ve got to walk me home.”

They walked to her bungalow but he went home to sleep alone. As he lay in his bed, he imagined a whole troupe of dancing bears stomping from foot to foot. The bears were singing with deep growling voices. He couldn’t make out any of the words. They moved in unison. One, two, three, Stomp. One, two three. He could feel the bed shaking with the rhythm of their feet.

The next morning, he woke around noon and phoned the number on the flyer.

“Jones and Jones Entertainment” a voice barked.

I want to register to wrestle the bear,” Bert said.

“We can squeeze you in and I do mean squeeze, har-har-har,” Jones and Jones chortled. “First I need the basics – name, rank, serial number and next of kin.”

Before Bert could respond the voice went on.

“Har-har-har. Just kidding. How’s about we get your name, height and weight for starters. And let me tell ya a bit about Victor the bear, in case ya wanna change your mind. This here’s a Kowabunga Grizzly. He’s a monster of a bear. Maybe 700, maybe 800 pounds. Solid. This is one of those, you know, ultimate challenge things. Any repairs or medical bills are yours too. Jones and Jones don’t bear no responsibility, get it?” Jones and Jones cackled away on the other end of the receiver.

“All I’ve got to do is pin this critter, right?” Bert asked.

“That’s it – a three count. No holds barred.”

Bert pictured himself lifting the massive body for a take down. The biggest one of his life. He could hear the thud and imagine himself riding on top of something resembling a dusty rug.

“Alright, sign me up. I’ll put on a good show. Bert Jenkins. 6 feet 4 inches, 275 pounds.” He flexed his muscles as he talked on, exaggerating his expertise. “I’ve wrestled alligators and wild boars. A Kowabunga Grizzly shouldn’t give me a hard time. And I get to meet Hulk Hogan, right?”

Years ago he ‘d gone to the Pontiac Silverdome to see Hogan wrestle Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 manic fans. Hogan, the much smaller wrestler, body slammed the 7 foot 4 inch 500 pound giant and the stadium went berserk. It was just before his parents’ divorce. It had been good to escape their house, which had felt electrified. He’d yelled so loudly that night cheering the Hulkster that he’d lost his voice. He remembered losing it for the rest of that year. But maybe no one else had noticed that he didn’t speak. His voice was changing at the time and it felt good to just let it be, give it a rest. He took up wrestling and weightlifting shortly afterwards.

“Yeah, yeah, sure. No problem. You can meet the Hulkster. In fact, if ya pin the bear we’ll have Hogan deliver pizza to your house. Right to your door.”

“OK. I’m on board then. What else do you need? Do I need to bring anything with me?”

Jones and Jones snorted. “Ya might wanna bring along your Last Will and Testament, and a designated driver. He can double as the designated mourner if Victor goes on a rampage. Just be at Entrance C of the Armory by 12:30. Free admission, too.”