by Willard Mans
Was The Shtarker
really intending to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel?
Okay, so it wasnt really a barrel but a mini-space capsule designed
by retired NASA engineers and sponsored by Disney TV, which was desperate
to bolster its sagging ratings.
But that didnt make the stunt any less perilous. This much was clear
from one look at The Falls, with scads of water cascading down, roiling
and crashing on the basin below, kicking up a spray that caught the sunlight
and splattered everyone for miles around.
The Shtarkers husband, a librarian by trade, stood on the look-out
deck on the American side, wincing as The Falls showed off its power and
ferocity. He couldnt imagine how anyone could survive that maelstrom.
Only someone with a serious death wish would even contemplate such a thing.
Beg to disagree, The Shtarker said, pausing to take a puff
on her cigar. Many people have gone over The Falls and survived,
beginning in 1901 when a woman named Annie Edson Taylor did it in a wine
for Annie, but hundreds have died after her, trying to duplicate her success.
Most of them were hoping to commit suicide in a spectacular way.
Isnt that exactly what youre trying to do? Tell the
The Shtarker reacted angrily. No, goddammit! she snapped.
I dont want to die! I want to live well and long with you
as my helpmeet.
Youve got a weird way of showing it.
They argued back and forth, each in a loud, agitated voice, but were unable
to persuade the other. The Shtarkers husband grabbed his jacket
and announced he was going for a walk. That was only partially true. His
walk was a short one, just around the corner to the Blossom Lounge, where
he sat morosely for the rest of the afternoon, knocking back one Irish
whiskey after another.
* * *
The road to Niagara Falls had commenced two years earlier at an international
track and field event in Chicago, where The Shtarker won first prize (and
ten thousand dollars) with a shotput toss of 67 feet, 1 inch. This was
a world record; no other woman had even come close to that mark, few men
made The Shtarker semi-famous. More fame came a year later, when she appeared
on the Fox TV show, American Decathlon. This reality series
featured six female jocks competing against each other in a bunch of different
categories. First they heaved the shotput, javelin and discus(easy wins
for The Shtarker). Then they traveled to Siberia to don snowshoes and
stagger through a blizzard. Then it was on to Tanzania where they clawed
their way up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Next came Italy for an insanely fast bobsled
The competition went on, with sprints, hurdles and long-distance races
spread out over the next few months. All that physical and mental stress
began to take its toll on the athletes. One of them suffered a broken
leg, two ruptured discs and a punctured lung. Two others had nervous breakdowns;
another was felled by heat-stroke and had to be air-lifted to a clinic
That left The Shtarker and The Black Amazon as the last standing contestants.
The Black Amazon, who was trans, seven feet tall and 350 heavily-muscled
pounds (she had spent two years playing nose tackle for the Chicago Bears),
was every bit as skilled and strong as The Shtarker, which made for an
evenly-matched and exciting match. The finale of American Decathlon,
with the two lionesses battling it out for the hundred-thousand-dollar
prize, was the most-watched sporting event of the year.
The match took place in a wrestling ring. This gave The Shtarker an advantage
as she had begun her career as a high-school wrestler. Although she was
about a hundred pounds lighter then-this was before she discovered
protein shakes and steroids-she had gone undefeated in four years
of wrestlings tricky moves-back-step throws, head-locks, leg
attacks-eventually proved superior to The Black Amazons brute
strength. She was able to pin the hulking African-American to the mat
and cop first prize-and with it much of the nations attention
Additional rewards came her way: a sneaker deal, a vaginal cream named
after her. But that didnt compare to the money she could make if
she agreed to plunge down Niagara Falls in a titanium bubble. Taking TV,
film rights and a book contract (with Stephen King ghosting) into account,
The Shtarker stood to earn a million bucks. Thats right, a cool
million-and not in crapola currencies like Cryptocoin or Bitcoin,
either. This was the real thing-a load of greenbacks, delivered
straight from the U.S. Mint.
The Shtarkers husband was dead set against his 5 foot 4, 275-pound
wife risking her life for a bundle of cash. He loved her too much for
that and did not wish to see her go careening down The Falls and landing
with a sickening thud. No fucking way, Jose!
Once again The Shtarker took issue with him. Youre forgetting
something important, she pointed out. I am a feminist icon,
a role-model to millions of girls and women. I must rise to the occasion
and lead the way for them. If I can conquer Niagara Falls, they will be
inspired to achieve great things for themselves.
But then, a day later, she had a change of heart and cried out, What
am I, nuts? Itll take a miracle to survive The Falls. Why the hell
should I chance death for the sake of female empowerment-and a bit
of financial security?
Now youre talking.
As time went
by, though, The Shtarker began to back-track, equivocate. Finally she
threw up her hands and said,I dont know what to do. Im
going to leave the decision up to the family. Ill do whatever they
think is best.
Thats not what The Shtarkers husband wanted to hear. Having
grown up in a Hebrew orphanage without any identifiable relatives, it
would fall to her family to make the call. Specifically, The Shtarkers
mother and father.
The Shtarkers husband did not care for The Hefts, which was his
secret name for her parents, both of whom had their daughters size
but not her musculature. The Hefts were huge and obese, with rolls of
fat hanging over their belts and asses like weather balloons. They were
too fat, stinky and sickly to work. They were also shot through with venom
and spite. Here are just a few of the things they despised:
-Jews, gays, Asians, Mexicans, Mormons, Catholics, African-Americans,
Brahmins, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Shintoists, Gnostics, Jehovahs
Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists, Pagans, Unitarians
-female sports announcers
Here are some of the things they managed to like:
Because The Hefts were overweight and ill enough to qualify for disability
payments (the American Dream), they desperately wanted The Shtarker to
try for the million-dollar prize. It would be a blessing to have
a little bit of money after a lifetime of poverty, illness and hardship,
is how Mrs Heft put it.
Yore so right, Big Mama, the Mississippi-born Mr Heft drawled.
Its tahm we got whut we deserve for bein such loyal,
devout, patriotic, white Christian-Americans.
Amen, Big Daddy. Amen!
The Shtarker, always the obedient daughter, did as instructed and announced
that she would accept the Niagara challenge. Her lawyer, manager and accountant
began negotiating a contract with a vast armada of Disney attorneys.
The deal they finally thrashed out went like this. If The Shtarker managed
to survive the trip down The Falls, the million-dollar prize would be
hers. But if, heaven forbid, she died as a result of the stunt, tough
titty. Disney would not be obliged to shell out one single penny.
As the Disney CEO said, imitating the companys famed Bugs Bunny,
Its all or n-n-n-nothing, f-f-f-folks. T-t-t take it or leave
The Hefts urged The Shtarker to accept the deal. Her husband argued against
it, but to no avail. The Shtarker eventually signed on. After that he
was unable to spend much time with his wife, so busy was she with p.r
flacks, reporters, talk show hosts, hairdressers and podcasters. They
made love only once and even then it was a rush job. Consequently, The
Shtarker did not realize that her husbands testicles had slipped
between her mammoth thighs; she came close to cracking his balls open
like a couple of walnuts.
* * *
Came the fateful day. The Shtarker, standing on the American side and
looking out over the The Falls, cried out, That sure is one shit-load
The Hefts pretended not to have heard. Their focus was on the prize that
was going to make them rich and improve their lives (beginning with liposuction
and kidney transplants).
As for the Shtarkers husband, he was nowhere to be found, having
refused to take part in the public proceedings. He had no desire to be
caught on camera while witnessing his wifes horrific demise.
Instead he crept off to a nearby ginmill and watched the proceedings on
TV: the reporters and photographers jostling for closer angles, the bleachers
packed with thrill-seeking spectators, the souvenir stalls hawking buttons,
hot-dogs and T-shirts, the politicians singing the praises of The Shtarkers
bravery and patriotism (she had pasted an American-flag decal on her crash
It was a tense, taut, highly dramatic scene-and a unique one. After
all, Americas most famous female athlete was about to take a precipitous
plunge down the waterfall that divided two great nations, a waterfall
that had shattered the lives of so many unfortunate human beings over
husband winced when someone in a Mickey Mouse costume lifted a champagne
bottle and smashed it against the capsule, sending it sliding down a greased
runway. Fireworks exploded and the band played a Souza march as the capsule
suddenly shot high into the air, then dropped and disappeared into the
froth. Screams went up as the capsule became a mere speck in the grasp
of that thundering force of nature.
The Shtarkers husband winced as his wife spun down toward the basin,
the rocks, the whirlpools! Then the capsule hit bottom with an explosive
SMACK, bounced up, and disappeared in the swirling white water again.
He felt nothing but dizziness, fear and pain.
Then an ESPN helicopter appeared in the sky and clattered down to film
a Coast Guard lifeboat as it sped toward the bobbing capsule. Moments
later the lifeboat began towing it toward the shore, where medics unlocked
the hatch and pulled the unconscious Shtarker from the badly dented container.
They gave her various injections and whiffs of oxygen in a desperate attempt
to revive her, but alas, none of these things worked. The woman many considered
to be the most famous woman on earth, a champion shot-putter and discus-tosser,
was pronounced DOA when her ambulance reached a nearby hospital.
The autopsy revealed something unexpected. The Shtarker had not been killed
by the impact of the landing. What took her life, the doctors insisted,
was a massive heart-attack. This posed a tricky question: when exactly
did the attack occur? As she was zooming down The Falls? Or after she
crash-landed and was knocked for a loop?
It was an
important distinction, one which had a significant impact on the million-dollar
prize. The Shtarkers contract stated that she must survive the descent
to qualify for the award. The Disney suits took the position that she
had died of fright while she was shooting down The Falls-which meant
that no prize money need be paid.
The Hefts (and most Americans, always on the side of the underdog) insisted
that The Shtarker was still alive when the capsule struck bottom. As a
result, she and her estate deserved to be fully compensated.
The Shtarkers husband did not take part in this legal squabble.
Although he was the main beneficiary in his wifes will, he declined
to put in a claim. The reason? He wanted no part of Disneys blood
money. In his opinion it was they who had killed his beloved, shot-putting,
The case has been in litigation for many years now. Experts doubt whether
it will be resolved at any time in the near future.