Double Cross

Sometimes you get nailed, sometimes you don't

After a complicated handshake at center court that involves various grips and much hand-waving, the contestants insert mouthpieces and climb onto footstools, after which they're roped in place. Gondolfi is right about the sweat -- both men are soon dripping. Schuh is the more Christlike of the two, his head often resting on a shoulder, his eyes cast downward. Gondolfi hyperventilates and treats the cross like a piece of exercise equipment, at one point raising his feet from the resting board and spreading his legs. He also uses his left foot to relieve an itchy crotch. Twice Larico warns Gondolfi for excessive movement of the cross, which bounces against the wall as he contorts.

Mostly the two men just glare at each other. Neither speaks a word.

Spectators divide their attention between the two, like tennis fans with a ball in superslow motion. At first quiet as an Augusta National gallery, the audience gradually begins shouting encouragement, with Schuh a decided favorite: "C'mon, Schuh, you got him, man!" "Suck it up, Schuh!"

But the yelled exhortations come only occasionally and are tempered by reservations delivered in elevator voices. "I think Schuh's in trouble," someone says. "It looks like he's suffering."

Between rounds, Gondolfi kicks a metal pail toward Schuh and otherwise acts belligerent, squirting water from a Gatorade squeeze bottle at his rival. The trainers massage shoulders and towel away sweat. Round girl Leslie Derrington starts as a shepherd chick straight out of Bethlehem but removes an item of clothing with each appearance: First the head shawl, then the outer robe; by round five, she wears nothing but a matching purple bra and panties.

Clearly this can't last forever.

The bout ends before Larico can say, "Ding, ding," to signal round six. Gondolfi and Schuh advance toward each other, attempting to wave their crosses in menacing fashion. But the crosses prove too heavy and are cast aside in favor of a wrestling match that draws in both trainers. Schuh emerges from the pile; Gondolfi lies motionless. As Schuh limps away, Derrington, Larico and the trainers follow, falling to their knees in worship position as he raises his arms in triumph.

Minutes later, sucking in fresh air on the sidewalk, Schuh and Gondolfi declare the evening a success. Schuh swears there are no deep meanings here -- none intentional, at least.

"I think we always keep things strange enough and different enough -- we can always count on that, if not a larger intellectual experience," he says.

"You can draw a million things from it, or nothing."

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