The Quietest Little Knock
Teddy Walker is a small fish. Compared to him, Dante Morrell is phytoplankton. Dante Morrell is pond scum. These painful, up till now unrealized, facts had begun cutting straight to the heart of Dante’s ego ever since he learned them a short time ago. That Dante Morrell got Florence Kearsey’s contract in to HOW for the World Championship Tournament is the equivalent of that one sperm cell finding the egg. Dante’s learning curve, since seeing Flo’s name on the tournament bracket has, understandably, ramped from 0 up to a billion. So he’s gone looking for advice, help, guidance, and every door he’s knocked on has slammed in his face. Every door save this one. To get a meeting with Teddy Walker is no small feat. Dante breathes a sigh of relief as he sits in the booth across from Teddy in the quaint little diner for breakfast. Dante thanks his lucky stars for this break.
“Dante, the only reason I agreed to meet you is because you’re one of the few men my daughter fucked that I don’t hate.”
Dante clears his throat and shifts uncomfortably, but Teddy added, “yet.” to make Dante gingerly gulp.
“How is Jess?”
“I’m not here to talk about her, son.” Dante feels like he’s one sentence from being a mob hit the way Teddy’s eyeing him. “This is a favor to her. That’s all I’m saying. She says you’re just starting out in the business.”
Dante Morrell finds himself suddenly adrift and vastly out of his depth in the giant ocean of a wrestling industry. Another fact of which Dante Morrell has only recently become aware. It’s the perennially drudged up iceberg metaphor; on the surface are the big names, (Mike Best, Bronx Valescence, Brad Jackson, et al), and the big companies, (HOW, OCW, 4CW, etcetera). Beneath all that is the seemingly interconnected ecosystem of smaller promotions, and lesser known named talent and the various managers, agents and promoters feeding off them and that system and keeping the whole thing running.
Teddy, way back when, much as he does now, thrived in that ecosystem of smaller promotions, he wrestled in some now-defunct wrestling federation whose name doesn’t matter, under the clearly unforgettable moniker of The Sassmaster. He won a few belts before he damaged the cartilage in his knee and took to training and managing the next wave of soon-to-be forgotten talent. Thus goes the cycle. And here sits Dante Morrell, a rookie manager aiming to beat the odds set squarely against the fledgling career of Florence Kearsey. Dante gulpts again.
“No, no it’s not me, sir.” Dante clears his throat. “I’m managing someone going into HOW’s World Championship–”
“I heard HOW came back. Good for them. How’d you manage to land one of the big boys?” Teddy sprinkles some pepper on his scrambled eggs and eats like a man in no rush and absolutely comfortable in his skin after 50 + years of living in it. Dante eyes the ruby ring on his knuckle and finds himself wishing he was further along in life, wishing he was sitting where Teddy sat instead of here, realizing how young and naive he truly is.
“Uh, well. Luck, I guess. Sir.” Dante’s eating pancakes with a liberal amount of syrup dripping down the sides. He keeps his head down.
“Gonna need a lot more than luck, kid. And don’t call me sir.”
“Sorry, si– Sorry.”
Teddy eyes Dante skeptically. “Who are you managing?”
“You gotta be shitting me? There’s no cachet to this name at all. I hate it.”
“We’re going with Aunt Flo.”
“Nice. Menstruation. I like it.”
Dante nods proudly at the smiling face of Teddy. Teddy’s smile drops immediately.
“Mouth closed while you’re eating in front of me, son.”
“Sorry.” Back to his head down, Dante swallows dryly. Teddy leans back and looks out the window.
“Okay, so… woman wrestler… Aunt Flo… got a bad attitude, probably. What about her face, is she hot?”
“Is she fuckable?”
“That you have to think about it gives me my answer.”
“No, it’s just–”
“You can’t sell a chick wrestler you wouldn’t fuck, kid. Simple as that.”
“Yeah, no, of course she’s… she’s fuckable.” More discomfort.
“Would you fuck her? ”
Last night he stood in the private gym nestled within Flo’s apartment unable to resist admiring the curves of her body in the white Fabletics workout gear. A mild sheen of sweat glistening off her midriff, shoulders and neck. Dante winced. Here, in the diner, Dante blinks away the thought.
“Well… we grew up together. She’s like my sister.”
“Right. Can’t fuck your sister. Would I fuck her?”
“Would you fuck her with my dick?”
Dante’s not hungry anymore.
“Can we move on?”
Teddy looks disappointed.
“You do what, promote rap normally don’t you?”
“Yeah. Artists. Creators. Shit like that.”
“Promoting a wrestler is the same as promoting any of those people, only now you got the added dimension of a wrestling ring, and physical combat in which a man, or woman in your case, may lose her teeth. First thing’s the look, which your girl may, or may not have. You seem undecided.”
“It’s not that, it’s–”
“Can she fight?”
Dante frowns at the interrogation and thinks back to last night in Flo’s apartment.
He stood behind Flo’s punching bag asking for her best shot. The second kick is a shin kick that has him holding onto the heavy bag for dear life.
“What the fuck, Flo, where’d you learn to kick like that? You mad about this Mike Best thing?”
“What ‘Mike Best’ thing?”
Another kick that has him bracing harder against the heavy bag. Her body moves like it’s got its own internal rhythm. She shifts immediately into mid-body strikes with her taped fists, like she’d been training to box for years Dante had seemingly missed.
“On twitter. Looked like you were trying to move on him for a date. Now he’s dating Kitty Petrova. It’s bugging you, huh?”
She peppers the heavy bag, working up and down the body quickly like she were tenderizing the rib cage of Mr. Zero Chill Hero himself. Dante grits his teeth and leans into each blow and wonders again where all this was coming from.
“I don’t give a fuck about all that, Dante. Last thing I’m worried about is who’s dating who, or who Madman’s lipping off about in however many characters Twitter allows these days. I’m more interested in how hard I’m gonna have to hit any one of these of ‘big boys’ before I walk over them on my way to the HOW Championship.”
Flo was always the petite girl Dante thought he had to protect. Flo was just some call girl. And that’s Dante thinking politely of her. This was, to put it bluntly, not a girl he’d fuck. Not just because of their lifelong platonic relationship, but… who knows where she’s been, who she’s touched… what she’s carrying…
“Could it be,” Dante grunts breathlessly, “that you’re so used to what you do for a living, a hooker who’s unable to form emotional attachments, and thus you respond to the threat of engaging anyone on a personal level, and you wall yourself off and lash out physically to prevent a connection from being made? I think you like this Mike Be–”
Flo lands a furious knee strike into the heavy bag that knocks Dante backward a step.
“Earth to Dante?” Teddy snaps his fingers in front of Dante’s face.
“Can the bitch fight, or not? Tired of this undecided stuff.”
“I–I think so, sir.”
“You think so?” Teddy leans back once more, his skepticism growing as he surmises the rookie manager in front of him with a completely unknown commodity as his first and only client. “Okay, so who’s she facing?”
“No– of course in HOW, kid. Is she wrestling in other promotions?”
“She’s facing Halitosis. First round of the HOW Championship tournament. If she makes it past him–”
“Don’t look too far ahead. Halitosis? Bad breath dude. I heard of him. Dude can talk. He’s no slouch in the ring either. Better hope your chick can fight, cause he’s one nasty–”
Again Dante finds himself remembering standing behind the heavy bag bracing against a hurricane of punches.
“Halitosis thinks he stinks, I’ll just not wash for the week leading up to the match and sit on the fuck’s face for a minute. Choke him out with certified pussy stank. Floor him and all these HOW shitheads.”
Dante’s not hungry for his pancakes anymore. He sets his fork down and eyes Teddy who’s mid-lecture and not stopping for anything, even a mildly elsewhere Dante.
–and that’s why I don’t handle lady wrestlers. Too dainty. Delicate. You need someone who’s not afraid of getting down and dirty, stooping lower than the next guy in order to get ahead.”
Dante’s got that awkward ‘you might not have met Flo yet…’ expression, but he’s not about to correct Teddy. Ever since this sojourn into HOW began Dante’s been finding himself encountering a Florence Kearsey he’s never known. What should he expect the minute she makes her way down to the ring at the, as yet, unspecified location?
He’s out of his depth and he knows it. Teddy knows it, too.
“– and you’re already thinking about round two, kid? Pfft. Forget about round 2. Let me tell you a little something about High Octane Wrestling. I don’t even need to see the tournament brackets to tell you that, if, by some stretch of the imagination, your girl makes it past round one, it’ll only get more difficult. List the names of potential returning stars and it reads like a virtual who’s who of men you do not want to fuck with unless you’re ready for a real fight. Mike Best? What, Max Kael? Bobbinette Carey? Chris America?? Scottie Stevens??? Forget it, kid. Pack it in. Stick to the little leagues.”
“Flo knows all that.” Dante interjected. “You haven’t even seen her fight.” Teddy wasn’t done lecturing. He levels an even stare on the younger man before him, then slides out of the booth with a ‘hmph’.
“I don’t need to, son. That you’re uncertain tells me to be uncertain. I don’t know how you managed to sign your girl up for this thing but prepare yourself for a wakeup call, and an early exit, alright?” He’s counting bills out, paying for lunch.
“No I got–”
“Save your money, kid. You’ll need it. The folks you and your girl are messing with aren’t just going to give a rookie a seat at a table like HOW, alright? Consider this your only free lunch from here on out. See you around.”
Without a second look he’s gone, and Dante looks down at his plate of pancakes wondering if he should save it for later, too.
I didn’t come to HOW to knock politely on the door and ask to be let into the club.
I’m not here to ask for a seat at the table and hope you let me have it.
There’s history here, the federation is so storied you don’t need much fanfare or advertising to bring the talent like other places do. People know what to expect from HOW.
That’s why I came.
That I find my name among those accepted into this tournament is surprising.
It was such a gentle, without fanfare, little knock at the door, wasn’t it?
Lee Best, God of HOW, saw the application, signed the contract, answered the knock with a disinterested shrug and went, meh what the hell I need to fill in some brackets but did you see these other cool people I signed?! ZOMG.
I don’t have an inch of the stories HOW or half of its returning members have.
Such a quiet, mousy little knock on the door, you’d be excused if you barely took a second glance at my name.
There I was, asking ever so politely:
Let me in, it’s your Aunt Flo.
And you did.
Now you’re going to regret it.
Now I’m just some name, ranked near the bottom of the tournament because not a soul anywhere knew a damn thing about what to expect from Florence Kearsey.
I’m the quietest little knock on the door.
And now it’s time for the reality to set in that something that began so unassuming; the little contract that could, that happened before Lee Best to sign before he moved on to those big, hugely eventful signings reveals itself for what it really is.
I’ve been training for this tournament. I’ve been setting myself up to go the distance. I didn’t come here just to knock politely on the door and squeak in, do my time in the tournament and get bounced back out as quickly as I came.
I came here to knock the damn door down and set up an entirely new table with me at the head of it.
I come without baggage. Without trumpets heralding my arrival. Just a name and the wherewithal to do one more than the best and the worst any of these people in tournament are willing to do in order to win.
Aunty Flo’s here for longer than a visit.
And it’s gonna hurt.