Clark Sanderson sat at his desk in his office above Guiliani’s Pizza on East Locust Street in downtown Davenport. Without thinking, he leaned over and untied his shoes. He walked across his office, and neatly deposited his shoes next to the bookcase. As if he were in a trance, Clark walked back across the office and picked up the phone. He dialed the number without looking at the keypad; he knew it by heart. “Roland, it’s me. Yeah, everything is set for tonight, the dinner rush should clear out by ten and then we can get down to business.” He listened to Roland’s reply, and set the receiver back down. It was risky business doing this at his pizza joint, but wasn’t that most of the rush?
He and Roland had been doing this for about nine months now, and every week the crowds and the payout grew. Clark worried that the large crowds every Tuesday night would bring unwanted attention to Guiliani’s, but as of now he had nowhere else to hold the event. It had all started nine months earlier, on a sunny and warm afternoon at the pizza shop. Clark was working the lunch rush crowd with his usual witty banter when they walked in the door. Midgets-Roland and three others-in his restaurant-at lunchtime. Clark had seen them before; Davenport had one of the highest concentrations of midgets in the Midwest. He had even made small talk with them after they put on a demonstration during the county fair, three weeks earlier. But that day was different; that day, they had business on their minds. They quickly approached the counter, and in a hushed voice, Roland asked Clark if they could have a minute of his time. Clark took them to his office upstairs and everyone sat down. “We could help each other out,” said Roland, and for the next 45 minutes he laid out his proposal. Underground midget wrestling, in the basement of Guiliani’s.” The basement had once been a boxing gym but was now used for storage, and would be a rather large space, with all the boxes moved out. The old boxing ring was still there and mostly needed cleaning up and to have the ropes tightened. The ring was well known throughout the town of Davenport, and Roland knew that it was not being used as anything other than a cardboard graveyard.
Promotion would prove to be the hardest thing to pull off. Roland would be able to use his stature in the community of little people to keep things quiet on his end, but, being the business owner, Clark had to do a little more work. Clark had always enjoyed games of chance and had cultivated a large group of friends who knew how to fly under the radar. They picked Tuesday night because they figured that would give the people of Davenport something to do during the week, and people with children would be dissuaded from attending. Underground midget wrestling events were no place for children.
A knock on the door brought Clark back to the present. Jimmy, the assistant manager of Guiliani’s, was bringing his nightly ritual to an end. “The drawer is counted and the floors are mopped, Mr. Sanderson,” said Jimmy. “Thanks Jimmy, have a good night.” Clark had to be extra careful, as Jimmy was the son of a cop. He knew that midget wrestling was not illegal, but the gambling and the booze were. He descended the stairs, made sure the restaurant was empty, and unlocked the back door. Cars were already arriving in the back parking lot and Clark took his spot at the door. Over the next twenty minutes, he checked Id’s and counted heads. He had found that 75 was the maximum number of people that would fit comfortably into the basement, so, as usual, he had to turn away almost as many midget wrestling fanatics as he let in. He walked past the bookie’s table, and took his place in the ring to announce the evening’s bouts. When he saw Roland coming out of the locker room, he knew it was going to be a good night. Roland had been working on a new character for the last three weeks. He called the character Chief Little Bear, and he looked every bit the part of a white, midget Indian chief. Resplendent in knee high moccasins, buffalo hide leotard, a tomahawk, and a headdress almost as large as he was, when Roland raised his arms into the air and gave his best war cry, the crowd went wild. The bell rang, midgets flew from turnbuckles, and Clark smiled.