There was a moment during Saturday's raucous debut smackdown of the Superhero Lady Armwrestlers of Portland when it looked like the favorite, Voom Voom Valhalla, would certainly lose. Stay-at-home mom Jenna Keys's alter ego, the pig-tailed, sweet-faced Valkyrie Valhalla, had during practice beaten nearly everyone nearly every time. But now, in the first of three rounds before a deafening crowd, Valhalla appeared to wilt under the formidable guns of Kate Squibb, a Portland chef that night known only as the beer-guzzling, dirty overall-wearing Lumber-Smack Sally. Sally hadn't been able to make it to practice, so she was an unknown. As the bloody chainsaw drawn across her left bicep twitched menacingly, Valhalla was learning the hard way that this lumberjack wouldn't topple easy.
The two women arm-wrestled on the small stage at Mayo Street Arts, standing feet spread at a black chest-high table designed for the sport with handles on either end and red elbow and pin pads. Sally had worked Valhalla until the Valkyrie's knuckles hung just shy of defeat. The crowd of about 150 screamed and cheered and chanted — Voom Voooooom! Lum-ber Smack! Lum-ber Smack! — reaching a frenzy as inch by inch Sally muscled Valhalla farther down. Valhalla's whole upper body bent sideways, practically parallel with the table. It looked pretty grim. But Valhalla seemed strangely calm. She watched their joined hands. What was she doing? Did she not know she was about to lose?
And then, the turn. Sally relaxed for a moment. That's when Valhalla began to pull. As Valhalla righted their two fists and pushed Sally's arm down, the crowd went crazy. Emboldened, Valhalla began to smile. And then, as Sally began to struggle, a referee in a Lieutenant Dangle costume and a pink sequined cowboy hat scrambled out from under the table blowing a rape whistle. Sally had lifted a foot. Foul! Foul! Round to Valhalla!
There was a pause. Beers were put down on the sidelines so the rules could be consulted and shouted again and again to the emcee over the noisy crowd. Valhalla was told, yes, Sally was out. Fouled out! Valhalla to the semi-finals!
Grinning, Valhalla grabbed one of the floor-length braids of brown and gray yarn that her eight-year-old son Milo had woven for her and spun it furiously over her winged helmet.
"Valhallaaaaaaaa!" she cried.
"Valhallaaaaaaaa!" her entourage echoed from the crowd below.
"I'm having so much fun when I'm doing it, especially that I'm winning," said Keys a few days before, while breastfeeding her one-year old daughter Ophelia at her dining-room table. It was mid-morning and Keys was still in her pajamas, her dark brown hair half out of her loose ponytail. In the next room, her sons Milo and four-year-old Nate watched television. "I'm like, 'Yes, I'm winning!'" Keys said, shifting Ophelia. "That makes me smile. Like, 'Yes, I got you!'"