Here's a sample of my upcoming book, available January 24. These are excerpts from pages 1-104. You can preorder now at my website.
FROM THE DEDICATION:
A Ford Ranger pulled onto the shoulder fifty yards past my car.
Thank God, I thought. I trotted towards the truck.
What happened next took me several years to see from a different point of view.
Picture this: You're driving down a dark highway at three-thirty in the morning. You see a stranded motorist and you pull over to help. You look in the side mirror and see the idiot running at you with a lug wrench in his hand. What would you do?
I was only about twenty feet from the Ranger when its tires spun, showering me with gravel.
I remembered the last time I'd been covered in gravel that way. It had been the day before my sophomore year started, the day I'd waited more than two-and-a-half hours for Grandma to pick me up after football practice, unaware that I'd been deserted there by design.
Then memories of everything else, all the bullshit I'd gone through, flashed through my mind. The sight of Kyle beating the shit out of Mom while Shane and I cried and clung to each other. The feeling of clenched fists and blue Nike lowtops smashing into my frail twelve-year-old body as the Crips beat me down. The smell of the piss-stained mattresses that bordered the apartment walls. The sound of my college-roommate-to-be's hateful, half-drunk dad berating me and calling me a welfare bum. The taste that filled my mouth, however, was new and it was awful.
For twenty years, I had eaten shit from the world and kept my emotions inside. On the side of Missouri Highway 19 between Center and New London, two decades of bottled-up torment exploded from inside me.
The rage was like nothing I'd felt before, something I hope to never experience again. I’ll never forget the unearthly sound my yells and cries made. It's a horrific feeling when you meet your darkest side for the first time and you realize what you might be capable of doing.
I saw the faces of evil that had made my childhood a nightmare and I crushed them, slamming the lug wrench into the hood and roof of my car. With each dent, another face of evil vanished.
I was out of my fucking mind.
I was exorcising my demons.
Either I bashed all the demons away, the impact hurt my hand too much to continue, or I just plain wore myself out, but I eventually stopped hitting my car. The Plymouth Duster looked like it'd been through a Southeast Kansas hailstorm.
Sometime during my tantrum, the rain had started to pour again.
My mind was tired and my body was soaked. I stared at the lug wrench on the ground.
I climbed into my car, taking shelter under its pock-marked roof. With each drag off a Newport cigarette, apathy set in just a little more.
I would sleep in the car and walk to Center or New London in the morning to get my tire fixed. The direction I walked, I decided, would determine my future. North to New London meant I was on my way home to settle for whatever dead-end job I could find; I'd grow tired of failure, give up on life, and end up dead or in jail soon enough. South to Center meant I was on my way to Springfield to pursue my dream. When I went to sleep, I didn't really give a shit either way.
I never had to make that decision.
A few hours after I'd drifted to sleep, I was awakened by tapping on my driver's-side window. A mail-cargo driver stood next to my car.
"Need some help?" he asked.
I did, in ways that a stranger could never know.
He was headed south. He drove to Center, took me to get my tire fixed and then back to my car.
I never asked his name. To him, he was probably just helping a stranger with a random act of kindness, but to me, his generosity meant the world. Without knowing it, he made my decision for me; for that, I owe him everything.
It is to him that I dedicate my book.
FROM THE BOOK:
Mom bought Kyle a new Yamaha motorcycle and threw him a "Welcome Home" party at our little ten-dollar-a-month shack in the Northeast Missouri sticks. Kyle got the liquid evil in his veins and got mean.
It was an arm-wrestling match that started it all that night. Kyle had a harder time with his opponent than he'd expected and they were at it for a while. Shane and I were playing fifteen or twenty feet away when Kyle got loud. Mom and Kyle's friends left us to deal with him.
Kyle yelled at Mom and she yelled back. Then things got physical.
My brother and I clung to each other, crying in stereo while we watched our mom get the absolute shit beat out of her.
Mom told us to run. It was dark and we lived along some curvy, narrow highway, but we were too scared to think about that. We ran. Mom caught up with us while Kyle kicked his new motorcycle to pieces. I only looked back once. I could see the bonfire illuminate Kyle; this is what Satan looked like to me as a six-year-old boy.
We walked several miles to the nearest house. Mom sobbed and bled. Her face was swollen and cut and broken. Shane and I cried too.
The distant neighbors were probably watching Johnny Carson when we came knocking. This was 1985 in Small Town, Missouri, when only whores and druggies had visitors after the nightly news. I'm sure they were shocked to see a bloodied woman and two terrified boys standing at their doorstep. They let us inside and called the police.
My great-uncle Doc, a police officer who was on duty when the call came through, called my grandpa. When a police car took us back to our house, Doc and other police officers were already there. So was Grandpa.
I could see through the window that Kyle was passed out on the couch. Grandpa grabbed a stick and went inside, where he gave Kyle one hell of a beating.
Mom took Kyle back several times and several beatings after that night.
My love for wrestling grew to an obsession in late-1986. During a challenge for the WWF Intercontinental Title, Steamboat suffered a "crushed" larynx at the hands of Savage, the defending champion. Watching Steamboat gasp for breath while paramedics and WWF officials scrambled to save him, I was first paralyzed with fear. Then I cried. A lot. Steamboat was sidelined for several weeks. During this time, WWF aired an interview with Steamboat’s doctor, who said that "the Dragon" should never step into the ring again, and another video in which Steamboat went through speech therapy. On January 3, 1987, Steamboat guest-starred on an episode of the crime drama Sidekicks, starring Ernie Reyes Jr. Later that night, on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Savage was about to injure George "the Animal" Steele the same way he’d injured Steamboat weeks before. Steamboat came to ringside, restrained by several WWF officials, and saved his friend Steele.
Just like that, I was hooked. My future was decided; I was going to become a professional wrestler just like my idol, Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat. I immersed myself deep in the mysterious world of wrestling and worshipped Steamboat. He was tough, exciting, and he represented good (me) overcoming evil (Kyle and the other sources of my childhood angst). When Steamboat beat Savage for the WWF Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania III, I thought he did it just for me.
I was in seventh grade when I had my first masturbation injury. Back in the early days of my hand's relationship with my penis, I was anything but gentle. I wrapped it in a white-knuckled grip and pounded fiercely, anxious to experience the mess-free tingle of prepubescent masturbation.
After a typical self-service session, I felt a bit of discomfort downstairs. I pulled out my penis. I was concerned when my eyes met my flaccid, hourglass-shaped dick. Concern gave way to indescribable fear when I remembered what Mr. Coffin said in science class.
"How does Jesus bite his nails?" I had asked in class that day. I put my palms to my mouth and made chomping sounds, drawing widespread groans from my classmates.
"You know, San Kinison told a joke about Jesus the night he died," Mr. Coffin said.
I laughed it off at the time, but fast-forward a few hours and I was a whimpering mess. I thought my dick would stay that way forever, a permanent hourglass. I thought about next year's football physical and how the doctor would surely know what I'd done to myself. He'd tell Uncle Steve and everyone at school. It would probably be on the news, my picture superimposed in the top-right of the screen while Dr. Dean Edell talked about the physical and spiritual dangers of masturbation.
"I'm sorry," I told God. "Just make it go back to normal and I'll never play with myself or make a Jesus joke again."
It took a few days to return to its natural shape and, though I wouldn't dare make another Jesus joke for many years, I was whacking off (albeit more gently) within hours of my penis's healing.
I always thought it would be a lot of fun to sit behind the merchant's table at a yard sale. What can I say? I always envied the kids who sat behind the tables during those times I'd been dragged to yard sales. It looked like a whole new kind of fun I hadn't yet discovered.
Grandma had a yard sale a few days before the start of my freshman year. The only thing standing between me and the thrills of second-hand commerce was that I had football practice that day. I'd had a very good eighth-grade football season and I was looking forward to the start of my high-school career on the gridiron, but I really, really wanted to take part in that yard sale. Visions of used kitchenware, nearly new clothes, and dusty books spread across folding tables danced through my head.
There are two lessons to be learned from the decision I made. First, sitting behind the merchant's table at a yard sale is God-awful boring. Ranking my life experiences by the pleasure derived from each activity, yard-salesmanship falls between re-stringing a weed-eater and shitting in a flea-market port-a-potty. Second, if you want to be accepted in high school, do not start your freshman year by quitting football to help your grandmother with a yard sale.
I stood at the edge of the parking lot alone with my thoughts after football practice. It was the day before my sophomore school year began and three things were clear: I would not be the starting wide receiver when the Clark County Indians visited the Hamilton Cardinals in Week One; I couldn't catch crabs let alone a spiral; and Coach Cavanah and my teammates didn't think that a five-foot-three, 120-pound weenie who quit football a year earlier deserved to wear Indian scarlet and grey.
My knees were swollen and aching like they were every time we ran the mile instead of sprints. I finished near the middle of the pack on sprint days but in the back with the slowest linemen on distance days.
Forty-five minutes after our final morning practice of the season, the last teammate at the facility drove his truck through the parking lot. He gave it hell where the parking lot met Main Street, his tires kicking gravel all over the place. I didn't want to give the asshole the satisfaction of watching me duck for cover, so I just stood my ground like an idiot. A barrage of pebbles bounced off me harmlessly, but one sharp rock cut me on my right nipple.
Everyone—coaches, teammates, parents—was gone, but I still didn't want bypassers to see me standing shirtless in the parking lot with nipple-blood trickling down my torso. I fetched a Penny Hardaway shirt from my bag.
Grandma needs to get her ass in gear. It was unusual for her to be late.
I stood there looking stupid and sunburned while cars crossed the Kahoka city line and drove past the football field. My shirt slid across my sweaty, narrow body except a small spot on the front that was soon pasted to my skin with sun-dried blood.
A distant siren made me hope karma struck down the asshole that spun rocks at me and tragedy befell him. But then we'd have to dedicate our football season to him and I'd have been forced to act like I cared while coaches and teammates sobbed through teary-eyed tributes before each game.
Forty-five minutes became an hour, then an hour became an hour and a half. I waited. The unyielding sun made me smell awful. I always waited until I got home to shower because groin peachfuzz sucks when you're almost sixteen.
I had been impatient before, but after two hours I was getting pissed off.
I thought about the school year, about how this year things would be better than before. I'd picked my first-day wardrobe in June and was ready to make my statement to the entire school: NO FEAR. The next day, I'd find almost every guy in school making the same statement, only most of them had more than one T-shirt with which to express it.
I thought about Shane, who'd been gone forty-seven days, and I worried.
After two and a half hours, I was tired and smelly and hungry. A burglar hadn't invaded our house, I was sure; this was Kahoka, where I used to imagine people ate laxatives by the mouthful to break the monotony in their lives.
It was only a mile and a half home, so I started walking. I took the long route to avoid St. Paul Cemetery because I was a pussy. I passed Mac's Supersaver and Doctor Crenshaw's office. At the intersection of Main and Johnson, I headed north, walking by the family services office.
I'd spent a lot of time at the family services office since I became a ward of the state. During two visits there, they made me talk with a child psychologist. I hated that clock-watching bastard. He invited me to open up and share my feelings with him, asked me personal questions. When I answered, his attention wandered. He fidgeted like he had a bowl of his wife's special soup getting cold at home. I grew tired of him fast. I started to insert random tidbits of trivia unrelated to the conversation topics, confirming my suspicion that he wasn't listening, and asked him why he was ignoring everything I said. After two sessions, the kiddie-shrink said I was uncooperative and stopped seeing me.
You know you're a loser when even the child psychologist doesn't want to talk to you.
"Matt!" a voice called out.
I turned. It was Shane. He stood outside the family services office; he'd been caught.
"They're taking you away," he said.
"What? Who is?"
"Grandma and Grandpa called Gloria and said they don't want you to live with them anymore."
"Where are they sending me?" I waited to hear if I would have to move to another new school.
"I don't know."
I followed Shane into the family services office. Gloria told me that my grandparents thought they were getting too old to raise kids any longer. That was bullshit; I knew that they blamed me when Shane ran away. When they kept me around, there was a chance I would lead them to Shane or lure him home. They swore I knew where he'd been hiding, but I honest-to-God didn't. After the cops picked Shane up in the Quad Cities for curfew violation, I guess I wasn't useful any longer.
They could have at least sent somebody to pick me up rather than leaving me to bake in the goddamn sun for two and a half hours.
I was flattened. Don't get me wrong, I didn't like living with my grandparents a whole lot, but having my own family abandon me that way made me feel an unbelievable sense of rejection.
"Where are they sending you?" I asked Shane.
"Then that's where I want to go."
The supervisors heard about all three incidents and put me on medical hold pending alcoholism evaluation. It was a joke.
"Has your alcohol tolerance increased since you started drinking?" he asked.
"Have you ever had a physical altercation while under the influence of alcohol?"
"Have you ever blacked out from excessive consumption?"
"Have you ever sexually experimented with another male?"
"What? No. What's that have to do with drinking?"
"Studies show that everyone has experimented."
"Then they need to stop doing their studies at gay bars."
"You interest me. You are an emotional safe. If you give me a chance, I will figure out the combination."
"No, but thanks. Are we finished?"
We were. According to this fuckwit, I was an alcoholic.
Outside the armory, I couldn't take my eyes off Valiant as he interacted with fans and police officers, still talking Boogie-jive and trying to sell something to everyone. During my first two weeks in professional wrestling, I had slept in my car on Christmas Eve, had a rifle pointed in my face, and was evacuated from a building due to a bomb threat. But none of it raised a red flag like seeing what Jimmy Valiant, a true legend in the business, had become.
A half-minute after my ass cheeks hit the toilet seat, I felt the backs of my legs slide. I was too committed to the poop—I couldn't stop—and my body just kept going until my bare ass gave the grimy floor a chocolate kiss. Don't worry, it gets worse.
Finally, Griz got himself disqualified. As I sold the beating I'd taken and slowly walked toward the locker room, a kid stood up and asked me to autograph his Trapper Keeper. The moment I grabbed the pen out of his hand, a herd of middle-schoolers stampeded down the bleachers and surrounded me. A hundred voices called out to me.
"Will you sign my shirt?"
"Sign this poster."
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
Until then, I had only signed maybe a dozen autographs, but I had spent years practicing.
Thinking about how many people with big dreams are never asked once for their autograph, I tried to conceal my pride and I continued to sign: MATT MURPHY.
"Can you put 'The Missile' on it, too?" one kid asked.
I drew a blank.
Missile? M-I-S-S-—come on, this is easy. You were a spelling nerd, for Christ's sake.
I looked at a poster for the evening event: MATT "THE MISSLE" MURPHY. I copied it. And for the first three months of my career as a World League Wrestling star (during which I signed at least a couple-thousand autographs) I spelled my nickname wrong.
I knew one thing for sure: one or both of us, most likely me, was going to get hurt if we continued. I fought my hands free.
Harley had a strange look in his eyes. I think his competitive side wanted to finish what we'd started and the rest of him knew it was better if we left things where they stood.
"Almost had you," I said with a smile.
"Like hell you did."
I walked through the doorway and was met by the ever-present Marlboro haze that lingered in his ten-by-ten office. I sat down and stared at the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt which hovered four feet above his head on the back wall.
"What's up?" I asked.
"That computer in B.J.’s office is for business," he growled while he made a jack-off gesture with his hand, "not for this."
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "I haven’t looked at porn on the company computer."
"You weren't on some Hot Male website?"
My heart damn near stopped. I couldn’t stop my laughter despite the agitated wrestling legend's scowl directed at me. When I finally pulled myself together, I explained to him that I had visited Hotmail, the free email site, not Hot Male.
All my worries would be gone as soon as WWF or WCW signed me to a contract. It wasn't ego, it was self-confidence, and I had more of it than anyone I knew. Few others had ever believed in me. I had always relied mostly on myself for motivation and encouragement. With my new wrestling family now supporting me, challenging me, and showing me that they believed I had the talent to become a star, failure didn't stand a chance.