The Girls from Eldorado

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Illustration by David Lynburn

The material was not as forgiving as it had been the night before when Cathy’s sister had handed it to her hurriedly as soon as the last stitch had been sewn.

It was purple and felt rebellious. The leotard paused at her hips and Cathy had to pull it upwards with determination before finally slipping her arms into the sleeves.

She stood in her brother’s gym shoes in the small, dingy, toilet cubicle of The Eldorado and crossed her arms over her chest, trying to feel powerful. It seemed hard to believe that this night had arrived so soon, the weight of it hung on her shoulders.

“Hurry up Cath, what are you doing in there?”

“I’m going as fast as I can. You sure you measured me up properly?”

“I measured you up fine. I just hadn’t made room for all those scones you scoffed last night.”

“Shut up Anne!”

Cathy screwed her face up in the direction of Anne from behind the safety of the cubicle door that stood between them. She was regretting inviting her already.

She wondered if the men felt like this before a fight. Taking a deep breath, Cathy opened the door and stood in front of her sister.

“Looks nice, but hang on you’re missing something.”

“It’s not meant to look nice, I’m meant to look like you wouldn’t want to mess.”

Anne reached into her bag and pulled out a mask and some cat ears. She pulled the elastic on the mask backwards and put it over Cathy’s eyes, nipping her on the back of the head. Cathy grabbed the ears off her sister and put them on too. She stood with her hands on her hips and waited for her sister’s assessment.

“It’s like Cat Woman crossed with a bairn’s Halloween costume.”

Cathy gave her sister a fierce look, suggesting she was debuting as Leith’s first female wrestler in less than an hour, whatever her sister had to say about it.

“You’re the one that made it.”

“Aye to your design. If you don’t like it maybe I could tell Mum...”

“You wouldn’t bloody dare...remember, I know all about you and John from down the road.”

The girls stood staring at each other, reaching an uncomfortable impasse loaded with the other’s secrets, the unfortunate bond of sisters.

It had been a battle for Cathy to persuade Bob, the owner, to even consider women competing against each other at the Eldorado. It took persistence bordering on harassment.

Why couldn’t they wrestle? She’d demanded repeatedly - like men from all over the country.

Perhaps, exhausted by Cathy’s constant badgering on the subject, Bob came to the sudden realisation that the girls could pull in some extra ticket money as warm ups for the main events. Either way, Bob relented with the gruff words:

“You get one Friday night warm up, you find the other girl and if you both end up getting taken out of here on stretchers it’s on you.”

She had squealed and almost thrown her arms around his mountainous frame then quickly reconsidered and carefully held out a hand for him to shake.

He had smirked to himself, removed the cigar he was smoking and almost crushed her hand in his gold ring laden fingers.

Cathy and Anne left the small toilet and walked out into the corridor of The Eldorado. She could hear the growing buzz of the crowds gathering out front. The smell of cigarette smoke tickled the back of her throat. She felt like she was going to spew.

“Who’s the girl you’re up against?”

“Hetty Hulk, well... Babs Smith from Porty.”

Anne looked aghast and in a horrified voice said. “She plays rugby and she’s a girl, she’s built like a wardrobe!”

Then she kissed Cathy on the cheeks, held her hand out, and said:

“In that case I want my money for the material now then.”

“Anne, I’m standing here nearly naked, where would I be keeping a shilling?”

“I’ll take it out of your purse for you, I’m not risking your death and an unpaid debt. Doubly don’t die please, it’s your turn to do the stair tomorrow!

Cathy rolled her eyes and pushed her sister away down the corridor. As Anne opened the door into front of house Cathy longed to be going with her. Sometimes she did not understand herself at all. It hadn’t been enough to watch the male wrestlers fight with the safe adrenalin of a spectator she had to daydream about standing in the middle of the ring herself.

A huge man appeared beside her. He stood leaning against the wall along from her. She recognised him instantly it was Dundee’s own George Kidd. Cathy looked up at him, he seemed to go on forever.

Standing side by side. Both were silent. Trying to muster the strength to go out and fight. Then all of a sudden Bob burst through the door leading to the wrestling ring, “That’s you up Cath! Don’t let me down, the whole of Leith’s out there.”

She swallowed hard and stood as tall as she could at 5ft 3in. She began to walk down the corridor, the crowd was cheering. She could hear her name. Cathy looked behind her at George Kidd, he looked up from his feet and gave her a nod. She returned it feeling a rush of power.

She pushed through the door of Eldorado, smoke filled light almost blinded her. She pounced over the ropes and faced her opponent.

And now, in this moment, she was Kat Claws. Leith’s first female wrestler and whatever else happened… Hetty the Hulk couldn’t take that away from her.

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She stood in her brother’s gym shoes in the small, dingy, toilet cubicle of The Eldorado and crossed her arms over her chest

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