“You Still Got It.”
Every ass planted in every Goddamned seat might as well have been chanting it because fuck, I still got it. Like, I’m not trying to be cocky here, and no discredit to James ‘Black Mamba’ Ranger and the fight he brought, but the Embosser Grouping is in trouble. I’m talking 2017 Cleveland Browns kind of trouble.
Well, maybe not that kind of trouble. I don’t think anything can be that bad…
Now I know what everyone is thinking. ‘Come on down back to earth Teddy, my boy. It was your first match in five years. Take a chill pill.’ True. Valid point. But I went down to that ring with people thinking ‘is it Tom or Ted?’ and marched out with people saying ‘there goes Teddy Fuckin Palmer.’
Now sure, there will be some wins littered amongst my competition throughout this journey, but they sure as fuck won’t come at my expense. That’s for damn sure. I’m well on my way down the path to Four and O. And I can’t stress enough, that’s not being cocky, or overlooking the legitimate talent floating around my pool. And there is some serious talent that I will be tangling with in the weeks to come.
But I’m in the zone.
And that’s not some cheesy cliche. It’s a very real place. I’ve been here before, and I’ve seen the results it yields. Trying to describe this feeling as confidence would be a monumental understatement. I don’t know if there is a word to describe it. I don’t know if you try to describe it. You just experience and bear witness to it. There is nothing and no one that can derail this freight train of momentum.
…except, maybe, some form of divine intervention…
January 25th, 2020
The timekeeper tolls the ring bell three times with his hammer, and the speakers begin with the ominous Gregorian Chant. Grady and I look away from the behemoth down below, exchanging glances with one another.
“He’s a big fucker, eh?” I say to Grady.
“Meh, I’ve seen bigger.”
“Bet you’ve heard that a time or two.” I quip with trouble containing my laughter.
“Fuck off.” Grady snarls.
The two of us have taken refuge in a couple vacant seats in section 212. I’ve traded the sweaty wrestling garb post shower in favour of a fresh black tracksuit. The hood is pulled up, doing an excellent job of concealing my identity. That, or the fans filing out of the nosebleeds do recognize the face and simply don’t give a shit.
I’ve chosen to believe the former.
“What’s the deal with the broad?” I ask, looking down at Magdalena.
“She’s the big bastards keeper.”
“Yeah. Like as in zoo keeper, same idea. I think he’s retarded or something.”
It’s at this point that some nosey passersby interjects.
“Excuse me, but it is extremely offensive to use that term.” She informs us, matter of factly.
“And it’s extremely annoying when blowhards like yourself jump into other people’s conversations.”
“Wait, how do you know she’s a whore?” I ask in confusion, which is enough for both Grady and the lady to shift their focus towards me, confused expressions painted across their faces.
“Blowhard, Ted.” Grady says slowly, with a side eye.
“I heard you.”
“As in pompous, opinionated bitch.” He replies, shifting those beady eyes towards the woman.
“I don’t know if I follow. I’ve been with my share of blowhards and they ain’t very pompous, nor opinionated. Very open really, and generous. Well, so long as you got the money…” I trail off as Grady and his new found friend have had enough with my spiel, continuing to bicker back and forth.
Deacon and Magdalena have left the ring, making their way up the stage towards the backstage area. His music fades away, taken over by the white noise of the arenas occupants. They are making their way to their sections exits, and I find myself distracted amongst the organized chaos.
He’s a big fucker.
Quite the religious fanatic too, I gather.
I’ve always hated interacting with them. Religious fanatics that is, not big fuckers. They’re hard to get a read on. They often preach the same message but it’s their ulterior motives driving their actions. You never truly know where their heads are at, or what their true motivations are.
And this is why they can be dangerous in this environment.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the mental side of the challenge at hand, that stupid mistakes are made during the physical challenge. Obsessing over the whys and what ifs that you don’t see the foe in front of you for what they truly are.
In this instance: an inferior competitor.
Size is the only advantage, and leaping that mental hurdle of being in awe of said gigantism is the first, necessary step. Shake that shit off. With size often comes power, sure. But what cost comes with that size?
Acceleration. Speed. Agility.
Big Deke can’t match my technical ability. He can’t fly around the ring like I do. He most certainly doesn’t love and live for this craft like I do. He needs a keeper in his corner whereas my hype man hangs out back with the boys.
That Keeper though.
Magdalena. That’s a weird name. Don’t hear it too often. It’s kind of mysterious. Kind of sexy. She’s definitely not hard on the eyes, that’s for sure. A forbidden fruit of sorts. Magdalena…
Knock it off! Get out of your head. See what you just did there? You took your eye off the prize for a different prize of sorts. Focus on the hooking up with the divine diva and you’ll quickly find yourself at the mercy of a creepy altar boy.
Smarten up Dickweed…
“Dickweed?” Grady asks, looking at me with a stupid grin.
“You were mumbling about, said Dickweed emphatically. Some real Rain Man shit…”
“No, I just was…”
“Forget that.” Grady cuts in. “What a snag! Quite the impressive turnaround, huh?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Getting that chicks number.”
“Who? The blowhard?”
“What? Yes the blowhard. Who else?”
Grady furls his brow, clearly annoyed I wasn’t paying attention. Last I recall of their conversation, I suppose it would have been quite the web he’d of had to spin to get her number. His arm is outstretched, his grimy little fingers pinching the piece of paper bearing the number he’s waving in my face.
226 840 1112
Turning my attention away from Grady’s soon to be conquest, or more likely his soon to be disappointment, I scour my surroundings looking for it. The screen is now blank, but I know I saw it. Scanning the audience, I know it was there. Finally, in the mits of an odd looking fellow, the green sign scribbled on with black sharpie.
Coincidence or Higher Power? Fuck, I hate working with these fanatics…
February 6th, 2020
The blades of the ceiling fan rotate hypnotically. The humming motor is aggravating. My eyes are heavy, the burn a combination of a night’s worth of drinking and being tired. To my right, the blonde with the perfect ass is in a deep slumber.
Her name is Megan.
She has been exactly what the doctor ordered. Tonight has been the type of night needed to distract from the past two weeks of ‘coincidences’. From bill totals to sports stats to Grady just being a prick.
1112 has popped up frequently.
Looking at Megan, I can’t help but smile. Sleeping on her stomach, her back rises and lowers rhythmically with each breath. Her perfume has attached itself to the bed sheets. Popular opinion amongst my peers is that she’s an undisputable dime. The pride I beam with for being the fucking man quickly dissipates when I look at the clock resting on the nightstand to my left.
What the fuck! This has gotten old, real quick. It has to be Grady fucking with me. No wait, Red. Definitely Red. This is the type of thing he gets off on. But how? I’m losing it. Get out of your head, Ted.
Sitting up, I kick my feet over the side of the bed. Ripping open the drawer to the nightstand, I find what I’ve been avoiding: the Holy Bible. Grabbing the book of the lord, I rifle through its pages in search of John 11:12.
What does it mean?
Finally finding it, the words jump off the page: His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”
“Teddy, lay down. Get some sleep…” Megan requests in a groggy, still mostly asleep state.
Megan. Megan. Meg. That’s awfully close to…MAGDALENA!
“I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP!” I bark, shooting out of bed.
Megan looks at me, confused, but too tired to really give a shit. She lays her head back on the pillow, closing her eyes as I fumble to pull my shorts up over my hips. Grabbing my loose belongings, I charge the front door looking to escape.
Out in the hallway, I stumble, dropping my phone. Scooping it off the tile floor, my exhausted, rosey face unlocks the device. Swiping through the contacts, I find the name I need in this moment: Red.
Rapidly typing, I send him my SOS message: Find Me! Might seem like a silly thing to send without any details whatsoever, but this isn’t our first rodeo. My phone is GPSed to his for situations just like this.
I’ve reached a point where there’s sand between my toes, the crashing ocean waves getting louder. Tripping over nothing, I fall face first into the sand. I want to get up, but I’m exhausted. All I can smell is whiskey. My limbs are too heavy. I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
A hand brushes across my face. With each swipe, my head bobs to the left, then to the right. Left. Right. Each swipe gets harder and more impatient. My mouth is dry. My head is pounding. The rays of sunshine heating my dehydrated body are fucking annoying.
“Earth to Ted. Hey, wake up. Ted.” The familiar voice instructs.
I try to ignore my assailant, but his demands and face smacking are making it difficult. Then it stops. I’ve won. I can die here on the beach in peace. Then it happens. Ice cold water pouring over my face, shocking the system, losing this stubborn battle.
My eyes open and the sun is blinding. I can’t see anything. Slowly a hand reaches forward, my vision adjusting itself to the environment. The details of the hand soon reveals itself: The rosary beads tattooed around the wrist, the crucifix resting on the meaty portion between the thumb and index finger.
“Must’ve been a good night, buddy?” Red asks.
He yanks me semi vertical. Seated in the sand, I wipe the water from my beard, trying to gather it in the desert that is my mouth. Smacking my lips together, they moisten slightly.
“11:12” I mutter. “It’s everywhere.”
Red flashes that trademark grin of his, and crouches down. He reaches a point where his eyes are level with mine.
“Ted: You’re an idiot.”
“The clock though.”
“Megan is Magdalena!”
“Deacon is using Jesus as his cornerman!”
“I… don’t even know how to respond to that.”
Rubbing my head, I can’t determine if it’s in frustration or as a means to try and force the hangover away. Red grabs onto my arm, pulling me up. Like a weeble, I wobble, but I don’t fall down.
“Why do you get so wound up about anything vaguely religious?”
“Two words.” I say, pausing before I proclaim them as a means to emphasize their significance . “Nana Palmer”
“Nana Palmer was a mean woman. If you don’t take too much offense,” Red says sarcastically after letting out a brief snicker.
“Damn right she was. That devout Catholic put the fear of God in me.”
“Ted. I say this as your best friend. I say this because I care.” Red pauses, as a means to emphasize the significance of what he is about to drop on me. “Grow the fuck up.”
“But nothing. You got this. You know you do. Nana Palmer used to paddle your ass because you were a little asshole, not because she was acting out God’s will. You also know that all this 11:12 shit is nonsense. This isn’t the first time you’ve written yourself in a Stephen King novel.”
“That’d be kind of cool though…”
“No. No it wouldn’t…”
He’s right. It wouldn’t be cool. He’s also right about this 11:12 stuff. I tend to have an overactive imagination. It keeps things interesting though. Never a dull moment in the life of Teddy Palmer.
“Hey Red?” I pester as we walk away from the beach.
“Think I have a shot with Magdalena?”