The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Located in the heart of northern Wisconsin, the massive swath of wilderness is 1.5 million acres of pristine wilderness. Still relatively untouched by modern man, it’s the true definition of the word ‘wild’. And that just doesn’t describe the flora and fauna that inhabit the area. It also describes the people who live there as well. There’s a reason Al Capone built his vacation cabin in the Chequamegon. It’s like the Ozarks without any tourists. Or the Everglades if you traded the gators and snakes for bears and wolves. Beautiful, dangerous, and most of all, remote.
Most importantly, it’s where “The Innovator” Brock Newbludd was born and raised. At least until he moved onto bigger and better things, specifically professional wrestling. Today, though, he’s back in his native land to show his best friend, and city slicker, “Black Out” Pat Cassidy that a person doesn’t need indoor plumbing to have a good time. It’s not all leisure though for the tag team partners, they still got business to take care of if they want to continue to survive in PRIME.
And that’s eating weird and nasty food.
“Here we are, bro. The jewel of the Northwoods…’Dirty Mike’s Tavern and Taxidermy’. This is where the real survivors hang out.”
Positioned behind the wheel of a side-by-side ATV, Brock Newbludd looks over to his best friend sitting next to him in the passenger seat and grins. Pat Cassidy takes a moment to survey the run-down wooden shack before glancing over to Brock with a suspicious eyebrow raised.
“This is the place? I’ve been in some real dives before, man, but this is a whole nother’ level,” Cassidy says warily.
Reaching for the open can of beer sitting in one of the cupholders located on the UTV’s dash, Newbludd takes a drink and nods his head in agreement.
“Yeah, bro. The rules said gross food, right? Well, we ain’t gonna find any grosser shit than what Dirty Mike serves up inside those hallowed plywood walls. Don’t worry, dude, I’ll do the heavy lifting once we get down to it. I’ve eaten here enough times that my stomach can take it.”
Suddenly the tavern’s rickety door flies open and a couple of drunken locals, or maybe yokels, stumble out into the small gravel parking lot. The pair of blitzed buddies start stumbling towards their car and The Saturday Night Specials watch as first one, and then the other, empty their stomachs onto the dirt. Newbludd winces, and looks hesitantly over to his partner.
“Probably…” Newbludd says through a forced grin.
“Whatever you say, man. I’m thinking I’m gonna have to get tested after this,” Cassidy mutters with a snort.
“Probably,” Newbludd states matter of factly as he puts the UTV into gear and hits the gas. “I’m sure if you drink enough of Dirty Mike’s homemade shine’ it’ll kill anything ya catch, buddy.”
Rolling his eyes, Cassidy grabs his own beer and tilts his head way back to fuel up with some last minute liquid courage before he enters ‘Dirty Mike’s Tavern and Taxidermy’.
The scene slowly fades out as SNS drive towards their culinary destiny. After a brief moment of darkness, it fades back in just as they enter the dingy establishment. They are instantly greeted with a showering of cheers the dozen or so locals who were anxiously awaiting the duo’s arrival. Brock and Pat offer handshakes and high fives as they wade through them towards the long wooden bar. Cassidy falls behind slightly when a older woman with a mullet grabs him by the face and plants a sloppy kiss on his cheek. She lets him go and when the red-faced Cassidy looks at her, the glamorous granny flashes him a smile that contains a single tooth.
“Th…thanks, ma’am…” Cassidy croaks and the woman responds by running her tongue along the bottom of her fang while winking at him.
Newbludd chuckles and puts a comforting hand on Pat’s shoulder.
“I knew bringing a smooth operator like you would make the women go crazy. She must really want a piece of you, buddy. I don’t think she’d paint her tooth just for anyone,” Brock says before giving a playful elbow to his friends ribs.
Cassidy looks back to the woman and squints to zero in on her fang to see that she did indeed paint it with what appears to be white-out. Taking Pat’s staring the completely wrong way, the fanged fox takes a seductive step towards him but stops when a deep voice booms from behind the bar.
“Ya ya! Give em’ some room to breathe, ya animals! They’re not here for autographs, they’re here to chow down! Put that damn tooth of yours back, Gladys, you’re scarin’ everyone!”
The small group of people back away from SNS, and the two men turn their attention to the bar and the burly man standing behind it. Sporting dreadlocks and a long beard, the bear-sized human locks eyes with Brock and smiles as he wipes his hands on a stained apron.
“Well sheeeeiiiit…if it ain’t Mr. Big Time Brock Newbludd! Ya know, big shooter, I almost shit a damn brick when ya called me up and said that The Saturday Night Specials were gonna come all the way up here to try some of my fresh eats. We don’t get too many celebrities around here, dontcha know?” the man says as he motions for SNS to take a seat at the two stools situated in front of him.
“Oh, I do know, Dirty Mike. How the hell are ya, man?” Brock says as he sits down on one of the stools, while Cassidy sits down on the other.
“I’m happier than a pig in shit, brother,” Dirty Mike answers with a laugh before looking over to Cassidy and sticking a paw sized hand out.
“Mr. Cassidy. I’m Dirty Mike, owner of this fine establishment you somehow found yourself in. I’ll be the one serving you boys my finest exotic foods today.”
“That’s what I hear.” Cassidy takes the big man’s hand and shakes it. Nodding his head in approval, Mike reaches down under the bar and pulls two bottles of beer out from the sliding cooler. Popping off the caps, he slides one in front of each man.
“It’s a real pleasure, Dirty Mike. I gotta say, from one bar owner to another, I really like the setup you got going here. It’s…cozy,” Pat says with a smile and Dirty Mike rolls his eyes.
“No need for bullshit, son. I know this place is a shithole. But, it’s my shithole, so I guess that’s something. Now, Brock told me that you guys came all this way to eat some weird stuff, eh?” Mike asks with a hint of excitement in his voice.
“That’s right, Mike. It’s for a work thing. But, I’ll take care of most of the eatin’. You can just give Pat the biggest basket of those homemade chicken nuggets that everyone raves about,” Brock tells Mike with a wink unseen by Cassidy.
Dirty Mike looks at Brock for a long second before nodding his head in agreement. Cassidy spins on his stool and gives his friend a questioning look.
“Hang on a second, dude. We’re in this thing together. Whatever you eat, I eat. That’s only fair,” Pat says with a defiant tone.
Brock waves a dismissive hand at his friend before slapping him on the shoulder.
“Buddy, believe me, you will not want any part of this. You’re here for moral support today. I just appreciate the fact that you agreed to come all the way up here to be in my corner. Besides, I owe you one after that whole mafia wanting to kill us in the desert thing.”
“I dunno, buddy – I think we’re kinda even after my nana’s gang drugged and robbed us.” Obviously not wanting to press the issue, and up eating whatever Dirty Mike has cooked up, Cassidy lets it go and shrugs his shoulders. Raising up his bottle of beer to Brock, the Bostonian grins.
“Have it your way, brother. I’ll be your Mickey today,” Pat says and Brock nods his head before raising his own beer and clinking it on his partners.
Together, SNS turn their attention to Dirty Mike.
“Alright, old man. Let’s do this. My friend here will have a 24 piece basket of those juicy nuggies and I…well…I’ll have whatever you’ve came up with. Just don’t kill me,” Newbludd says with confidence despite an involuntary nervous shiver running down his spine.
“You got it, chief. Gimme about ten minutes to fry up those nugs and cut your meal out of it’s owner,” Dirty Mike says as he rubs his hands together in anticipation.
Brock opens his mouth to ask for a bit of clarification on the whole ‘cutting out’ remark but before he can get any words out the burly bartender exits through a door behind the bar. Shaking his head, Brock reaches over behind the bar and procures a couple more beers for him and Cassidy.
“I think I’m gonna need this,” Newbludd states flatly as he twists the cap off his fresh beer and immediately starts chugging it down.
“You got this, buddy. I believe in you, one million percent,” the grinning Cassidy says as he takes a drink.
Ten Minutes Later…
“Alright, boys! It’s feedin’ time!”
Dirty Mike reappears from the backroom with a basket of deep-fried goodness in one hand and a covered plate in another. Now sitting in front of more than a few empty beer bottles, Cassidy and Newbludd watch nervously as the bartender pushes the bottles aside with his forearms to place the food in front of them. Cassidy’s eyes light up in surprise when he sees the perfectly cooked golden nuggets in front of him. Brock, meanwhile, simply stares warily at whatever mystery lies before him.
“A couple dozen of Dirty Mike’s bonafide world famous nuggies for our friend from the mysterious land known as Boston. And for our hometown here we have…”
Dirty Mike raises the plate cover off with a flourish and Newbludd breathes a sigh of relief while Cassidy instantly gags.
“Fresh, raw, deer heart! Taken from a big bastard of a buck I shot this morning. It’s paired with a side serving of Zungenwurst, otherwise known as tongue sausage. Dig in, Brock. Can’t let the blood clot in that heart unless you wanna get worms,” Dirty Mike says with pride in voice.
Cassidy looks at the heart and loafed sausage that has a literal tongue embedded in it and then looks to the smiling Newbludd.
“Am I missing something here? Why would you be happy about this? That heart looks straight out of the Temple of Doom, man!”
Forgoing the cutlery that Dirty Mike provided, Brock picks the heart up and inspects like one would inspect an onion at the grocery store.
“Here’s the thing, bud. Eating the heart of a fresh kill has been a long tradition of many Native American cultures. Including the Ojibwa, which was the tribe my ma was a part of. I got fifty percent of that deep history runnin’ through my veins. Long story short, my dude, this ain’t my first deer heart,” Brock says with a wink to his friend.
“What about the tongue loaf or Gutenhagen or whatever the hell it’s called!?” Cassidy exclaims as he points his fork in an accusatory fashion at Brock’s plate.
“Yeah…that’s why I just drank eleven beers in ten minutes. Just in case Dirty Mike here got a little crazy. I combat the tongue loaf with a numb tongue. Simple science,” Newbludd answers as he raises the heart up to Dirty Mike.
“Here’s to ya, asshole!” Brock proclaims before bringing the heart to his mouth and taking a massive bite out of it.
Cassidy gags while Dirty Mike and the rest of the bars patrons whoop in delight. Blood running down his chin, Newbludd turns to his pale faced friend.
“I can literally taste the nutrients, bro. Here, have a bite…”
Moving with cat-like reflexes, Cassidy grabs his basket of nuggets and leaps away from Newbludd. Snatching his beer off the bar, Pat backs away from Brock.
“I’m good…I’m good. You just do your thing, man. I’m gonna just go eat my chicken nuggets in that booth over there while you finish up your organs…holy jesus…”
Cassidy relocates to the corner booth and slides in, giving one-tooth Gladys the evil eye as he does so, causing her to rethink any attempted moves she might pull. Sighing, Cassidy picks up one of the nuggets and takes a bite. His eyes widen in surprise and he pulls the nugget away to look at it in admiration.
“Fuckin’ A…this is delicious. Dark meat, though. But shit – that’s flavor!”
Popping the nugget in his mouth, Cassidy raises his beer to Dirty Mike.
“Hey, Gordon Ramsay – this shit is hitting the spot! Best I’ve ever had! Must be the dark meat!” Pat exclaims and Dirty Mike gives him a thumbs up.
“Must be!” the old man hollers back with a grin before focusing back on Newbludd just as he takes another bite out of the heart.
“I’ll keep my eye on him. To keep count. You enjoy your heart.”
His mouth full, Brock gives the bartender a thumbs up of his own before glancing over his shoulder to see Cassidy devouring another nugget.
Ten Minutes Later…
Organs devoured and plate clean, Newbludd wipes his mouth and spins on his barstool to stare at what everyone else in the tavern is silently staring at. Pat Cassidy gleefully eating nuggets. Brock looks over to Dirty Mike to see the bartender nervously biting his nails as he watches.
“Where’s he at?” Brock asks and Dirty Mike only gives him the briefest of glances before looking back to Cassidy.
“Twenty three…twenty fuckin’ three. That ties the record…here comes twenty-four…” Dirty Mike quickly whispers back before catching his breath as Cassidy puts the final nugget in his basket into his mouth.
Two big bites and a swallow later and the tavern erupts into cheers. Cassidy nearly has a heart attack as he looks up to see the rest of the patrons celebrating wildly.
“That’s it! We have a new record! Twenty-four Rocky Mountain Oysters! That’s 12 bulls, folks! I never thought I’d see it!” Dirty Mike exclaims as him and Brock race over to the dumbfounded Cassidy.
“Oh man! You’re unstoppable!” Brock says to his friend as he slaps him on the back.
Cassidy looks to Brock and then to Dirty Mike in confusion. He then looks to his empty basket and realization floods over him. Something the bartender said…
“Dirty Mike…what did you call these…” Cassidy asks with trepidation in his voice.
“Rocky Mountain Oysters! Bull testicles! You just broke the record for the most ever eaten! Congratulations man! If that doesn’t win that contest you guys are in, I don’t know what will!” Dirty Mike answers as he stomps his foot on the bar floor in joy.
“LEGEND!” Brock screams out in triumph.
Behind the two, Gladys breaks down sobbing as what she just witnessed overwhelms her. With a stone-face, Pat stands up from his seat. Brock and the entire place watches as he walks, zombie-like, up to Dirty Mike.
“Whisky,” he says simply.
“On the rocks?”
“Whole bottle.” Cassidy’s outstretched arm and emotionless face don’t let much of a chance to debate. Mike hands over a dirty bottle of whisky of dubious origin. Pat returns to the table, slams the booze onto the counter, and takes a hard seat. Brock, whose been watching him with wide eyes, moves into his field of vision.
“You okay, buddy?”
“I’m gonna need like… half an hour. Just give me that,” responds Cassidy without turning his head.
Nodding his head in understanding, Brock slaps Cassidy once more on the shoulder as he moves away to light it up with Dirty Mike. Pat dips his head back with force, chugging the whisky for at least twenty seconds. He slams the bottle down on the table once more.
“I just… wanted… to wrestle…”