Barnstormer Betty

This is a guest post by Marissa. Inspiration for this sketch came from this image.

“Around U.S. Navy bases, bars still dependent on military customers introduced ‘foxy boxing.’ These entrepreneurs believed that having women wrestle and box each other on stage would make the American sailors more eager to have sex. Women, in turn, learned that they would be paid for their performance only if at the end of a bout they could show bruises or had drawn blood.”
– paraphrased from Cynthia Enloe, The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War

“Women’s boxing is hounded by a widely held assumption that the female body plus violent aggression equals pornography.” -Carlo Rotella, Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesman and Other Characters from the Rust Belt

“A flying mare is when you get a girl by the hair of the head and pull her over your shoulder, then slam her to the mat as hard you can. And I love doing that.” – The Fabulous Moolah

It started as a joke that wasn’t funny. Betty’s new boyfriend, the boxer, was teaching her some moves.

“You know, there’s a lot a real jokers in this world. With the lousy security in this joint, forget about it! I don’t know how many times there’s been some no good, two bit grizzler nipping at my tits like I’m some kind of free range bovine in a milk bar! One a these days, a swift knee to the groin might not cut it.”

She was showing off to the other girls, quick and light jabs at a blank opponent.

“They call this one the Candy Cane!” She made a vicious twisting gesture with her fist and threw her whole body into a punch to the costumes rack, sending the whole mess over.

“What’s that racket?” Nick busted in right away.

“Just showing off my on-the-ropes technique, Coach.”

“The charming influence of that palooka you’re making it with, I gather.”

“You betta watch out callin’ him that.” And she faked a cross to the chin.

He dodged and then froze, making the screwed up face that was the gloomy omen of all of Nick’s worst schemes.

“What’s tha matta? Oh, here we go . . . ” Betty dropped her wrists, but it was too late.

The club was slow this summer. There was no money for a real revamp like their competition though, with classy decor and rainbow neon signs, or Nick was too cheap for that anyway. The Happy Clam had the same peeling paint and sticky floors it always had. Even the peppy burlesque figures on the front windows looked weary. During the day, most people were off the boardwalk and on the beach anyway. Without customers and without foot traffic, the club was sunk and the only solution was some gimmick to try to pack them in.

“We’ll call it foxy boxing! We’ll stage it on the beach and it’ll bring all kinds of low lifes in here!”

The ladies groaned but by the next week, they all had hand-me-down boxing gloves that were so oversized they almost flew off their hands when they punched. Not that anyone punched much, besides Betty. Compared to her, the other girls looked like sad cupcakes melting in the sun. They were city girls through and through. They’d made eyes at a thousand men, but hadn’t made a fist more than twice. Betty, on the other hand, was a farm girl from a family of 6 brothers and with a shitkicking Pop, who worked her like hell until she finally ran away.

At first, she pulled her punches to keep from hurting anybody or “bruising the merchandise,” as Nick phrased it. But her fists wanted to connect. She itched for real knockouts. And it wasn’t long until she found one, like it or not, with a right uppercut to Nancy’s lantern jaw. Betty quit before she could be fired. She’d found her calling.

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