“I’m sorry, they were how much?”
Dan Ryan stared at his assistant Phyllis, incredulous.
“Why on God’s green Earth would a single bottle of pills cost $900??”
Phyllis stared that straight-faced Phyllis stare, an expression practiced through almost twenty years of working for Dan Ryan and by having no fucking time whatsoever for his foolishness pretty much ever.
“My guess is because you had me buy a full 90-day supply from one of your ‘contacts’ in Chinatown instead of obtaining them legally, and street pill-pushers aren’t known for their friendly pricing policies.”
“Why didn’t you smack him around and insist on a more reasonable price?”
He stared at her, and she stared back. Phyllis was in her late 50s at this point, no more than one hundred fifteen pounds soaking wet, and had the musculature of a young boy. He knew this. She knew this.
“I left my brass knuckles in my other purse, I’m afraid. If only you’d asked me last week. I’m afraid the price of mocking your opponent has gone up.”
He grumbled, looking down at the paperwork on his desk. “That sounds like an excuse, but fine. And I wasn’t mocking him. I knew there was a good chance he’d be hurting after our match, so I wanted to offer him some medicine.”
One of Phyllis’ eyebrows went up slightly.
“90 days worth?”
Dan nodded, sincerely.
“I’m willing to bet his neck is gonna be hurting awhile. And of course, there’s still the knees.”
“Ah yes,” Phyllis nodded. “The Percocet gambit. Reminiscent of your previous Morphine maneuver and the ever-popular Ibuprofen incursion.”
Dan was irritated. This wasn’t unusual. Still…
“Phyllis.” Ryan gestured toward the door. “Don’t you have something more important you could be doing right now?”
She turned to leave, quickly covering the distance from desk to door. “Almost always.”
He watched her go, his expression something between annoyed and irritated. A buzzing on his desk caught his ear and he turned to see his cell phone jumping around on his desk.
His hand reached out to grab the phone, and he picked it up to get a closer view of the name on the screen. He quickly answered and held it up to an ear.
“So, you have some information for me?”
By his expression, the answer was apparently to the affirmative.
“Good. Tell me what you’ve got.”
Sometimes, things just get away from you.
You don’t plan for them to. You don’t expect them to. You do the best with what you’ve been given, or else you go out and take what you want, but either way, you must face the inevitable truth.
The truth is what I make it. You think I have to do anything I don’t want to do if I really don’t want to do it? No one makes me do anything.
There’s never been a code I haven’t been able to crack, never been a problem I couldn’t eventually solve. I don’t accept failure, won’t accept anything less than absolute excellence, no matter what it takes to attain it. I’ll maim for it, kill for it. I’ll sell out my closest friends for it, my family.
Or will I?
There was a time where this wouldn’t even be a question. I didn’t hesitate to put Lindsay down four years ago to win a championship. It didn’t even cross my mind not to do it. I told her I would. She didn’t believe me. But now? Now I don’t know if I even believe myself. I think the same situation through and I know that I would look up at her on that ladder, and I might stand there and let her grab the belt, grab the brass ring, become champion. My choices then caused a rift in the family that took until last year to heal, yet when I made those choices, I didn’t second guess them at all.
I’m looking around my house now and I see… what? A loving wife. An adoring daughter. Trinkets and things to fill out living space. If you want, you can have all of that shit. They’re meaningless little lumps of matter that don’t…. matter.
I’m Mike Best’s mentor.
Did you know that?
But Mike Best is an animal. He’s a machine. He’s everything I used to be when questions like these never entered my head. I reacted and behaved like a monster because that’s what I was. I was a monster, and I fucking loved it. I never questioned it, because I knew it was who I was. Never, ever questioned it.
Now I find myself in a paradox where I look at a family I love and a business I love and I find that the balancing act between being a monster and being a functioning adult with responsibilities and people who care about him is one that I’m ill-prepared for if I’m to be honest with myself.
To go back to being the monster — or to hang ‘em up and find a nice spot in my study to smoke a pipe and put on my slippers. Maybe I can get a lazy basset hound to sit at my feet and hang on my every word.
These are extremes, but I’m only comfortable with one of these options, and that’s what scares me. Do I let my instincts take over, become the monster again? Or is there a third option, something in between?
If it doesn’t lead to excellence, if it doesn’t lead back to the top of the mountain, I’m just not interested. I won’t settle for a lukewarm existence, won’t bide my time as someone’s side piece. And I won’t go silently into the night, shuffling down the hallway with a cane to adoring cheers and ‘remember when he was the best’ pouring from some overgrown adolescent announcer’s mouth.
I can’t let this go on anymore.
I’d rather be the monster, because the truth is, only the monster is real.
I have in my hands a manila file folder, the contents of which could have serious ramifications in the very near future. You can’t see this folder, but I’m holding it up right now. Actually, I’m typing this blog right now. I’m holding it…. NOW. No… ok, NOW.
I was holding it a few moments ago.
I want both of you to know that you’ve caught my attention.
I remember a time not so long ago that the Egg Bandits were a humorous, entertaining, if not entirely threatening bunch. You ran out during a serious moment and threw eggs at people. The crowd ate it up, purchased your merchandise, and so on. Some of them took it a bit too far and started egging other fans. Entire sections of the arena (even 214) had to be cleaned of egg yolk at the end of the night. Your stock was steady, if not rising. You were a place to keep the money safe, not so much a fund with much-expected growth potential.
But then, something started happening.
People started noticing you again. I started noticing you.
What has happened recently with Bobby has been nothing short of inspirational. I’ve known Bobby a long time. Almost every moment of the time I’ve known you, Bobby, you’ve been a lovable goof. I watched you joke around through DEFIANCE, then I watched you run errands for Eric Dane. I sat at the same dinner table with you while you begged for his scraps, and I pitied you if I’m to be honest. The food jokes came fast and furious, and your self-esteem, I assume, wasn’t at its highest point.
But I wanna say — you coming up as the challenger to Mike’s ICON title in the draw at Lethal Lottery was one of the biggest feel-good moments I’ve seen in this sport in a long, long time. The crowd was electric when you came down the aisle, full of fire. It was absolutely goosebump-inducing, the way you bounded down to the ring, hope and determination dragging you out to your destiny. Part of me always wondered if you had been given a fair shake, if maybe there was something more to Bobby Dean, something inside waiting to come out. I wondered if you had truly been used to your full potential. Then, the match started….
And I realized you had been.
Not since Snow White ate the apple has someone been put into so deep of a sleep. I’m not a squeamish man, obviously. I’ve done my fair share of bloodletting and bone-breaking to be sure. But the sight of Mike raining elbows down on your head, with no one able to stop him, with you slumped there, forced to just take it — it was — well, it was awesome. I feel like I wanted to say it was too much for even me, but if anything, it made me proud. Mike is relentless. You know this. You know it about me, too, probably more than most in HOW, since you were there for some of the most brutal acts in my own recent history. Obviously, recent is relative. The most recent five years of a twenty-five-year career is but a brief chunk of time, and yet it seems the most relevant. You saw a man’s back torn to ribbons by broken glass at my hands. You were there. So I can’t really say anything more than this: watching Mike almost murder you in the ring only made the bonds of our friendship stronger.
I don’t want you to misconstrue what I’m saying. I didn’t feel pleasure at your suffering. I felt nothing at all.
But what’s interesting to me is that Mike considers you a friend. He considers you a friend too, Doozer.
That part of all of this is fascinating to me. I don’t consider either of you friends, so I’m now consumed by a curiosity which forces me to wonder how I’ll react when I find myself perched over either of you, and I have the opportunity to either simply put your shoulders to the mat, or else send one or both of you into a coma, or in your case, Bobby, back to one.
I’ve never gone out of my way to permanently injure someone unless there was a good reason to unless it was necessary. But now, as I think back on what Mike has done, friendship or no, I find myself becoming very competitive.
How long were you in a coma, Bobby?
About three weeks?
I kinda want to beat that.
But you, Doozer, you might be offering me a way out here. Maybe you could absorb all of this pent up energy and competitiveness I’m feeling right now. You haven’t been in a coma lately, have you? You might have to take one for the team. I can’t shake this desire to hurt one of you, and I blame Mike. While raining down some elbows of my own on Bobby’s mush-brain would be the most direct way for me to satiate this need for competition, I also have a nagging sense and desire for symmetry. Perhaps I don’t have to try and put Bobby into a coma longer than Mike did. Maybe I can just put you in one. You know, even this out.
Sadly, of all the tugs at my mind pulling at me right now, the one that’s winning out is the one that says that there is nothing currently to be gained by putting either of you on the shelf. There are no championships on the line. Neither of you has been particularly rude to me. The truth is, I’m afraid in the end, I feel much the same way Mike does about this. As long as neither of you gets any crazy ideas in your head, like thinking you can win, I think just beating you in a simple straightforward way will be alright. I can push this desire to maim down for just a bit longer. I can direct it in a more worthy direction.
Andy Murray will surely react to my gift of medicine poorly this week. More than likely he will, while looking like Father Christmas, do something that my teenage daughter would say was ‘totally lit’ in response. I’ve already been tipped off that he has another week of ‘Storytime with Andy’ all cued up for us. Gather round, children. This week, Andy will tell us the exact same thing he’s been telling us for the fourth week in a row! I believe it’s titled ‘Andy Murray and the Goblet of Fire’. War Games is right around the corner, after all. He must be READY. Former Coppertone baby and one-handed jai alai enthusiast, James Witherhold, has been selected for the opposing team, and he’s been awfully quiet since losing two weeks ago. I have to be on my guard. Even my good buddy, Maxwell DeWayne Kael Von Grumpypants is firing off passive-aggressive shots at me. If I didn’t come into this already knowing he’s out of his fucking mind, I’d almost be offended. Either way, there’s a lot to think about right now, a lot to consider.
The law of efficiency tells me that making an issue out of this just adds another variable, another thing to keep an eye on. Perhaps doing so wouldn’t be the best course of action right now.
Honestly, I would consider it to be the both of you doing me a real big solid if you just came to the ring, flipped some eggs around, and wrestled your best-by-golly match. I will be taking you both very seriously, I promise you. But the extent to which you have to suffer will depend entirely on you. I’m afraid that on this point, Mike and I are in complete agreement. It takes an awful lot of effort to keep my worst instincts at bay. Please don’t make this a bad day. Mike considers you all his friends, considers you family. I don’t, but I respect him enough to keep things in check.
Bobby, you’re a guy I want to love. I really do. I see you, the wrestling equivalent of Winnie the Pooh, a lovable pantless wrestling bear who’s always hungry and just wants to be friends, easily lured into any situation with nothing more than the promise of an early bird dinner, and I want you to think twice before bounding down that aisle this week. I want you to avoid the twinge of pride in your ear fuckin’ with ya.
And Doozer, I want to remind you that we’ve already done this once. It wasn’t that long ago, during Lethal Lottery, that you let that voice deep down inside of you fuck with your mind. You tried to call me out, tried, begged for my attention, and when you got it, I had to put you down. Remember the elbows, Dooze? Remember the knee that almost broke your orbital bone? You were one step away from wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goggles on your face for the rest of your career. I held the power at that moment, and I let you go because you had no more fight left in your body. By all means, I want you to understand that you only get one of those, Dooze. Only one. If pride takes you over again, if you call me out in my ring and dare to suggest that you can go toe-to-toe with me one more time, you will be giving me the reason I need to win that competition with Mike. You feel me, Dooze? I want you to understand and I don’t want there to be any doubt in your mind where this can go. I won’t — can’t — let that go unchecked again. I can’t.
You’re getting a second chance.
No one gets a third.