The Rarest Piece of Nothing
I scrolled through the toy collector’s trading site I scrolled through every night. The tiny cranking gear of my mouse never stopping. A guy here in Chicago was selling a Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth figure by LJN. I sent him a message, I wanted it.
You see, the Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth figure was one of the most sought-after figures. Created by the LJN toy company, the purple skirt variant was a limited version, possibly a mistake. I already had the gold skirt variation. The purple skirt one, if mint, was valued at upwards of a couple grand. In the height of the 80's wrestling boom, everyone knew who Miss Elizabeth was. She wasn't the most valuable wrestling figure out there but it wasn't about the money to me.
There was always something missing in my collection. Once a thing was found, another black void appeared. A puzzle completed but one piece was kicked under the couch, eaten by the dog, plucked out in a fit of lunacy by the guy working at the puzzle factory and never added to the box in the first place. I decided that Miss Elizabeth was the woman to fill out the blurry chasm in my heart. My collection, rather.
Sometimes it felt like that sliding coin game at arcades and carnivals. I kept sliding coins down, hoping to create that windfall. They stand at the precipice and I know that this next coin will start a landslide. But it never does. Do they ever fall? Are they supposed to fall?
I rode the brown line north to the address this Rick gave me. I thought about Miss Elizabeth and the wrestler she managed, her real-life husband, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. His figures netted a hefty sum themselves. I thought about those glasses, that voice. His charisma, the otherworldly id—all mania and neon tassels. I thought about my lack of those things, squished into a train seat, breathing into my jacket's sleeve to avoid the sickness in the air.
I climbed down frozen steps to the door of Rick's basement apartment. Orange glow from the little window at my knees. I heard locks being slammed open when I rapped the special knock he told me about in his email. Rick pulled me into the apartment and down the steps like a KGB officer. He was middle-aged, stumpy but expanding sideways. He led me through a hallway lined with shelves of toys and collectibles that looked the same as my shelves of toys and collectibles. I smelled the clean air from the humidifiers that were necessary to keep things pristine. A row of Skeletors cackled at me. I was used to their piercing taunts—some of their number populated a shelf in my kitchen.
Rick smiled the awkward smile people like us can only manage and slid one of his glass cases open. Within the glass case, within her own cardboard and plastic case, LJN Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth beamed. I knew already that she was the one.
I slapped an envelope full of twenties into his puffy hand. He counted and looked me over. Miss Elizabeth was held out in front of me, lightly balanced by Rick's index fingers at two corners. I received her likewise, held in between my fingers like a precious artifact. Not like one, she was one. More precious even. Rick began to speak but I was anxious to get her home and into my collection. I nodded at Rick as I backed towards his front door. Yeah? Oh, nice, thank you, I need to get going.
The most nervous train ride of my existence followed. Everyone's eyes were on her, I could tell. I knew what the "Macho Man" felt now.
The moving lights I could see up in my second floor apartment from the street below made my stomach curl up. I'd come to find thieves in mid-ransack once before, when I was 21 and new to the city. I stayed down in the street and hid behind cars until they'd pilfered my useless belongings to their satisfaction. Things were different now—nothing in that apartment was useless. I ran up the stairs and shouted like a stray cat had wandered in an open window. "Out of here now!"
The two men in black hoodies did not leave. They exchanged a look and the nearest man to me dropped a Spider-Man and punched me right in the face. I crumpled. I think I cried a bit while they stuffed pristine mint items into trash bags like goddamn lunatics. They weren't even handling them properly. I stared at Miss Elizabeth with my cheek against the hardwood, blood trickling. I told her I was sorry that I was so weak. One of them picked her up and stepped over me. They'd defeated me with ease.
But I thought about Miss Elizabeth. She'd be pawned, she'd be bought later by a child probably, touched carelessly. I was raised from the floor by the steam my anger created. There was no blood hotter anywhere in the world. I stepped out onto my balcony, the men tossing bags of my life into a van just below. I became him, I became "Macho Man" Randy Savage, if only for that moment. Balanced on the black wrought iron balcony, fingers pointed to the heavens. I floated down, a flying elbow drop of which even the man himself would approve.
I landed right on one of them. He and I mangled into one, the sound of air leaving us filled the dark street. I clawed at his bag, found her and pulled her out. The other guy put two hard kicks into my already busted ribs and yanked his cohort away.
I stared up at the stars as the van pulled away, Miss Elizabeth on my crushed chest. I said aloud, there's always something missing from my collection.
Lanny Durbin lives in Springfield, IL, plays in a few bands and drives a Buick. His work has appeared in Hobart Pulp, *82 Review and The Fiction Pool. He can be found on Twitter @LannyDurbin.