When Erica heard about the total eclipse, it sounded mythical—that it wouldn’t happen again for decades; that it turned day to darkness, back to day like that. That all those animals would be confused—the ones that roamed during the day seeking cover and the nocturnal life we never knew was around us springing to life. This moment of chaos.

Then the search for eclipse glasses—those disposable things that looked like the 3D glasses they gave out at theaters. It started with a trip to the community college Erica had almost gone to, when she almost chickened out of reporting for training camp for her career in wrestling. An hour in line, only to hear the announcement and they’d given out the supply they advertised. Then the trip to the science store at the mall, enjoying its biggest business as far as Erica had ever seen. They were sold out at ten bucks a pair. A cash cow, like those big wrestling shows where promoters could make up for a slow year and make sure everyone got paid, everyone survived another year, and everyone stuck around another five on the promise that nights like that did exist in the wrestling world, you just had to be patient and cash in before you hung up your boots.

Her mother was involved in more than one show like that before Erica was born, and when she was little. Her most infamous came the night of the wardrobe malfunction. Erica didn’t know what description meant, and might have thought it was no big deal had she not overheard Mom and her stepfather talking about it later that night, taking the care to speak in low voices the way they talked about money and about Christmas presents.

In those days, before the Internet, she’d read copies of Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the grocery store aisle until a stock boy ran her off. That’s how she learned about the night her mother powerbombed Jenny Flaminco, only for Mom’s top to collapse when she threw her down and her chest was fully exposed to onlookers. The incident became known as The Flash in Farmington. After it was apparent that the territory had edited out any indecency in their VHS release—after they’d already sold out of their inventory, billing the whole show as The Flash in Farmington and given everyone a handsome payday—the bootleggers got their cut, never producing enough supply to contend with the demand.

And when it became apparent it would cost a fortune to find any remaining supply of glasses this close to the total eclipse, Erica decided the whole thing was a scam. All that time searching, at the mercy of whatever some con man considered them worth at that time, and how’d she know if they were genuine article anyway? Was she really going to trust not just her money, but her eyesight to someone’s word that these were real eclipse glasses, certified or whatever. It was a scam—not in the sense that something wasn’t happening—something rare, something impressive even—but would it change her life not to see it?

Years later, Mom insisted she’d changed people’s lives with the Flash. In an interview, she talked about how it was a sexual awakening for thousands of young men—maybe some women, too. How it foretold the commercial viability of the sexualization of wrestling to follow when promoters would start lining programs with cheesecake photos of the girls in lingerie, and starting booking them to wrestle in their underwear as a special attraction, bringing in girls who had no business in a wrestling ring, but were pretty faces. I ain’t saying I changed it all for the better. But I was important.

Erica spoke to her Mom weekly, and when she called the day of the eclipse, she vented about what a sham it was anyway. Mom was getting older, and had trouble staying on topic sometimes. She thought she was going on one of her tangents when she referenced The Flash. How she’d gotten her hands on about every bootleg there was, and her favorite footage by far was the official VHS that panned around to the frozen ref and the man in the front row who was so obviously ogling her, and with his arm over his girlfriend who was so clearly, so purposefully looking off at nothing. That video footage cut back just as Jenny Flaminco got her wits about her, jumped on her and covered her up in a smothering pin that covered her body. Jenny was the face, but you’d never knew it the way the crowd booed her. It’s beautiful, to watch all that negative space, everything going on around me.

But there was a lesson there. Erica didn’t have eclipse glasses and had read the article debunking that you could watch it through the lens of your phone with the knowledge that that may intensify all of the damaging rays likely to cause irreversible retinal harm. And so, she didn’t look up at the sun, even in that path of near-totality. She sat in the grass at the park, back to the sun and looked out at all those black lenses framed in cardboard, those homemade viewer cut from shoe boxes and tin foil. She watched them all stare in one direction while she looked in another. She watched them fade to darkness.


Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and his hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press. He won Bayou Magazine’s Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, and Hobart.  He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.