Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Adventures in Indie Rock: Issue 3

The Ring Of Pain

Robert Pollard was scared.

When he agreed to the fight, he thought that he even though he was at a height disadvantage he could take him. But sitting there on his stool in the corner of the ring looking at Abe Lincoln's shirtless torso he knew he had picked a fight he couldn't win. He had assumed that since Lincoln was so skinny that there would hardly be any muscle, but he was wrong.

Very wrong.

Lincoln stood across the ring as his son Tad rubbed baby oil on his shoulders, Lincoln cut an impressive figure as his 6'4" frame was cut, each muscle taught and bulging. He was in amazing shape for a 52 year old man.

Pollard on the other hand felt every bit his 49 years, and the half dozen mugs of ale he had downed the night before certainly weren't helping matters. Plus Lincoln looked to have about 6 inches on him. But Pollard was a man of his word, and if that meant fighting a glistening Abe Lincoln using nothing but his bare knuckles, with a wicked hang over to boot, well so be it.

The Caller stepped to the middle of the ring. The crowd of five thousand that had gathered on the White House lawn quieted.

"Ladies and Gentleman," the man yelled in a booming voice. "Today you will witness an epic clash of wills and body." He motioned to Pollards corner. "In this corner, from our 17th state Ohio, we have the Prolific Pugilist, The Musical Marauder, the one the only, Robert 'punch-drunk' Pollard!"

Mostly boo's came from the crowd, and some threw tomatoes as well as copies of the ill-received 'Do the Collapse' album. Pollard ignored them and sipped some hard liquor from a flask to calm his nerves.

"And in this corner," the Caller continued motioning to Lincoln's corner, "the man you know and love. The President of Pain, the Illinois rail splitter, Aaaaabraham Lincolnnnnn!".

The crowd cheered wildly. Men shouted 'Hurrah" and women held up babies. Pollard took another sip from the flask.

"We will be following the London Prize Ring rules," the Caller said to all. "Biting, headbutting and hitting below the belt are fouls. Everything else is fair game. Now come and shake hands gentleman."

Pollard put down the flask and approached the center of the ring. He was met there by Lincoln. The President was wearing long black pants, but had no shoes. Atop his head was the stovepipe hat that he helped popularize. He eyed Pollard like a cougar sizing up a feral rabbit. Pollard looked him up and down.

Holy fuck, Pollard thought as he looked at Lincolns hands, is that barbed wire?

Sure enough Lincoln had wrapped barbed wire around his knuckles. As the two combatants shook the sharp edges gauged into Pollards hands. Lincoln released his grip, and flashed an devilish smile and they stepped apart.

"On the count of three," the caller started. "One, two, th..."

But Lincoln couldn't wait. He swung hard with his right and hit Pollard on his right temple. Before he could even react the President had sunk his left fist into Pollard's stomach. Pollard swung his fists, but got only air. Lincoln was like a crazed animal. His huge frame moved effortlessly, his fists finding their targets all over Pollards torso and head. The singer was bleeding and his blue button up shirt was shredded, as he tried to defend himself. Lincoln swung over his head and Pollard used this opportunity to get the other side of the ring, and was trying to regroup when Lincoln came after him again. The great emancipator swung a mighty right hook but missed as Pollard dodged under it. The bell rung. Round one was over.

Pollard felt like he had played a 7 hour set when he came out for the next round, and the pummeling Lincoln put on him just made it worse. Round after round this went on. Finally in the 11th round Lincoln started to tire, as the effort of throwing so many punches into his opponents body wore him down. Lincoln was slowing and as he swung weakly at the bloody head of Pollard he left down his defenses. Pollard seized the moment and delivered a right hook of his own directly into Lincoln's solar plexus. The president stumbled backward and fell on his back. When he hit the canvas his hat flew off.

The crowd, which had been loudly calling for Pollards head as the fight went on, suddenly hushed. People murmured in hushed tones. Seeing the President lose his hat disturbed them. Many of the babies started to cry. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

Pollard walked to his corner, picked up the flask and emptied its contents into his mouth. Lincoln was slowly getting up. Pollard tore off the remains of his shirt and made a bandana of it. Blood trickled into his mouth and down his neck. He walked towards Lincoln and looked him in the eye.

"Bring it on toothpick," he said. Lincoln's eyes blazed as if Stephen Douglas himself had leveled this insult. Lincoln rose to his full height and he held his fists out in front of him. Pollard could see bits of drool involuntarily gathering at the side of his mouth. He's a mad dog, Pollard thought.

Lincoln moved forward, but he was too angry, he swung wildly. Pollard had him where he wanted. He threw punch after punch at Lincoln, his hands strong from having written and played on 187 Guided By Voices albums. Lincoln backed into a corner and put his arms up to protect himself. But it was no use. Pollard had him. He threw one last punch and then backed away. Lincoln swayed for a moment, and then fell like a mighty oak. The crowd was stunned.

Pollard smiled and lit a cigar that he had kept in his pocket. The Caller moved to the center of the ring.

"The winner by knockout, and new President of the United States of America, Robert Pollard!"

The crowd moaned as one and started to disperse. All that remained were a few hardcore fans of GBV. They gathered around Pollard. Some handed him Ale.

Lincoln walked over, held up by Tad and Mary. He held out his hat, which Tad had retrieved.

"This is yours sir," he said handing the hat to Pollard. "You are as cunning as you are crafty."

"Pfff," Pollard said throwing the hat to the ground. "No hard feelings. Lets go get a drink."

And together they headed into the White House.

Late into the night they drank while out on the lawn fans who had taken daguerreotypes of the match eagerly traded them. They would be invaluable when compiling Suitcase # 3.