In the spirit of finally facing the infamous High Flyer, let’s travel back in time.
The destination: 1980.
And what a year that was…
We were introduced to the Rubik’s Cube. A marvel matched in mysticism only by Harmen’s mired mind.
Mount St. Helens erupted, killing fifty-seven. Time will only tell how many will fall victim to the liquid, hot magma continuously screwed from the top of COOLYMPUS forty years later.
And, of course, the United States Olympic hockey team defeated the ridiculously dominant Russians. They call it the Miracle on ice.
I wonder how much milk they drank?
Oh wait, looks like we got ourselves an old fashioned audible.
It’d be remiss, either way, not to note that Lennon got shot.
They say his pitch was near Perfection.
I guess his shooter’s been denied parole ten times.
They say he’ll never be a Free man.
So what was The Dooze up to, at the age of five, with all this going on in the world around him?
~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~
I’m sitting down, legs crossed like a Native, working the joystick of an Atari 2600 controller like I was Mike Best after winning his 9th HOW World Title. As usual, I’m wearing my favorite t-shirt; you know the one with the S on the chest. In lieu of a red cape, mom bought me the same colored shorts to complete the look.
I wonder what shade of red those were?
Long, bleached blond hair sits like a mop atop my little head. I swipe it away from my big, blue, doe eyes, which refuse to move from the box set TV screen sitting upon my wooden dresser.
You could say I was flying high shooting down all those Space Invaders. I just wanted to protect the world; especially my family and friends.
That was my immurrsion.
A fleeting thought races across my overactive brain, “It kinda looks like I’m shooting snowballs at these aliens and once they get as much as they want, they leave.” Then I realize, even at a mere five years old, “Nah that’s dumb.”
I lean forward. It’s time to-
“HEY, SCOTTY!” Uh oh. My father’s deep voice booms from outside my bedroom window, shaking the walls around me and shattering my virtual realm. “GET OUT HERE AND HELP YOUR OLD MAN!”
I throw my head back and chin to the ceiling while releasing a dramatic groan. “But I don’t wanna…” The whiny words release more through my nose than mouth.
“NO BACKTALK!” I turn red-faced, not realizing he could hear me, and high tail it out of my bedroom. I speed through our small living room out to the front yard.
Our property was a modest one. A small patch of grass laid beside a short, tarred driveway that led to a one car garage with an old basketball hoop hanging over the door. On the other side of the driveway was a big, wood log pile.
Beside that? My old man. One by one, he snags a log, places it on a stump in front of him, and with a seasoned swing of his axe, splits them up into sticks for the wood stove inside.
“Yer on stackin’ duty.” Dad commands while keeping his dark, brown eyes locked on their target. “Member, no big gaps, right?”
I stomp my right foot and can feel the blood rush to my small, round face. “Why can’t Chris do it? He’s better than me, anyway!” Chris was my older brother of five years.
“Well that’s how ya get better.” The blunt response comes in between axe swings. “Now get to work.”
I tilt my head to the side, rolling my eyes toward the ground while making circles in the dirt beneath me with the tip of my right shoe.
“I hate work!”
You don’t say that!
As he leans his axe against the stump, my skin crawls. My dad slowly turns toward me, and lowers himself down onto a knee so his eyes meet mine. While his eyes squint, mine open wide.
“You ‘member that book you like me to read ya?” He asks me a rhetorical question, but I’m five so I respond.
“Well you know your favorite little guys in there, right?”
I release a melodramatic huff while looking off to the side just to avoid more eye contact.
He nods again. The edge of his mouth twitches, almost like it wanted to smirk.
“Yeah.” A large, hard-worked hand lands on my left shoulder. I stare at it, then slowly look back up to my father as he continues, “You know, they’re the ones who do all the work around Fraggle Rock so everyone-” His eyes narrow down on mine. “- including the Doozers, can enjoy it there; having fun and playing games and all that.”
I roll my eyes so hard they summon the other hand that lands on my opposite shoulder. I lower my head, hoping somehow that’ll help bolster my defenses.
“Without Doozers, like you and me, there’s no Fraggle Rock. No fun times. It’d all become a big mess that no one can enjoy, like your big brother’s bedroom.” I can’t help but smile and let out a little chortle at that one. I return my focus back on my dad’s now smiling face. “Understand?”
I sheepishly nod my head.
“And you’ll have even more fun, when we’re all done, knowing that you earned it.”
My old man stands back tall, lifts up the axe, and splits another log. I rush toward the fallen pieces and snag a couple with my scrawny, short arms. I run them over to the short stack in the shed leftover from last year and hurry back to snag the ones he’d already cut prior to summoning me for help.
I catch Dad’s eye in between swings. He shoots me a sharp nod oozing with pride.
“That’s my Doozer.”
~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~
Welcome to 1985.
More specifically, the setting is a mid-sized classroom at my elementary school. I’m in fifth grade and, despite my teacher’s general disposition, today we get to have fun. There’s candy, costumes, and creative decorations in the spirit of the spooky day hanging all over the walls.
That’s me over by the punch bowl. I’m in a full on Superman costume, cape and all. Only problem is, it’s a little on the big side for me. It was my big bro’s hand me down from when he was my age.
Thinking back on it now. It kinda fit me like Bobby Dean’s skin fits him post weight loss.
The loose flaps here and there don’t bother me, though.
I’m fucking Superman; my childhood idol.
And that’s when they came over. A pair of my classmates, both on the older and larger end of the spectrum for our year, approach me from the back while snickering.
I overhear one whispering loud enough for me to catch it, “What a dork. Doesn’t even fit the little twerp. And Superman’s gay anyway.” I hear more of them tee-heeing behind me.
All my pride pops like a balloon.
I feel pins lightly prickling the skin up my back and over my neck.
It gets tough to swallow, almost like there’s sand sifting through my throat.
My lip starts to quiver.
It’s a good thing I could run to my house from the school.
And I did.
Embarrassing thoughts and shame flood my brain as I sprint through the woods back home. Before I even realize it, I’m there. I burst through the front door with a lobster red face full of tears.
Instinctively, I find myself in my mother’s arms. The only, truly safe place in the world.
After she gets me to stop blatting like the little, overly sensitive ten year old I was, she asks, “Now what’s got my little Superman so upset like this? And why’d you come back from your school party so early?”
Through sniffles and snuffles, I detail the events. Without care, I blurt out the offender’s name. You see, my mom was a teacher at the same school. It’s my subtle way of hoping for retribution.
“Now, now. Be a tough, little Dooze. You can go watch TV with your brother in the other room. Settle down and get ready for a big night of trick or treating, okay?” That motherly smile soothes like nothing else.
I nod my head and march into the next room. My brother eyes me with a twist of disgusted jubilation. Just as I take a seat, he turns off the television and leaves.
I hang my head and sigh.
The Next Morning
Despite our differences, the morning after Halloween is a special one for Chris and me. It’s one of two days, Christmas being the other, when my brother and I actually get along. In other words, it’s a rare day that doesn’t see a morning beatdown for myself thanks to him… which is nice.
Since he started coming home later, the post trick-or-treat candy trades occur the next morning. Which works for me, since I get a chance to hide my favorites from him.
Anyway, this time it was different.
Not for me, not at first. I’m sitting in the middle of the living room with all my candy out and sorted.
But my brother? He just waltzes in, no bag in sight, with an evil grin across his face…
And an egg carton.
I freeze in absolute horror at the thought of what’s to come.
After yesterday, I didn’t think things could get worse.
Like usual, my big brother was about to prove me wrong…
I squint my eyes shut so hard they hurt as I prepare for the assault.
But nothing hits me. No cracks. No oozing nastiness running down my face…
Slowly, I open one eyelid and slightly expose myself out of curiosity.
My big brother Chris, smiling from ear to ear now, drops the carton in front of me.
I look up at him, a fair mix of relieved and confused.
“So I spent last night hunting a couple douchebags who apparently think Superman likes dudes.” His bright blue eyes sparkle down at me. “They’re very sorry, by the way.”
My eyes start to swell. I open my mouth to thank him, but can’t choke out the words.
“No one makes my little brother cry like that, ‘cept me.”
The big bastard winks at me. I half smile up at him and nod.
“Now give me your candy.” My eyes pop open at the sudden demand. “I didn’t get shit ‘cause of you. So cough it up.”
I scramble through my piles to find his favorites, forgetting I hid them the night before.
“All of it.” He commands coldly. “And everything from your stupid, secret stache too. I know the Harrison family hocked that good stuff. I know mom always takes you there, too. And I don’t see any in that pile.”
I sigh, but agree to the terms.
It was on that day; November 1st, 1985…
I learned Loyalty, and Sacrifice.
~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~ ~do-DO-do~
The Here and Now
Before Gray Wakes
You know the room.
You sat through Graybush Douchetalker go on and on right here just days ago.
We always knew the guy could talk, but lately he’s proving that he can walk as well.
Good for him.
That’s me sitting on “his throne.” That oh so cherished, 97RED, glorified La-Z-Boy.
And there’s that stupid, fucking fern he talks about like it’s the next Cardboard Dan.
Gotta say, that empty portrait on the wall made me grimace when I entered. I know it could very well be Freeman or Flyer’s picture destined for that spot, but I’m not stupid enough to think Cancer hasn’t enjoyed the mental picture of seeing mine there instead. If anything, I’m more pissed that he took down my new painting of a Beast mauling Centaur Zion to put that empty shell up.
I have more important matters to think on and discuss, though.
So I sit, fully decked out in my 97RED jumpsuit. Apparently, my balls are also big enough to withstand the power of the loveseat. Also, ironically matching the man you saw here four days ago, as if we were still a team and not opponents this coming weekend.
I lean forward, determination dripping from my demeanor.
“Let’s start with the good and end with the bad this time, okay?”
I pause for your consent.
“First and foremost, I have to tell you all just how excited I am to FINALLY step into the squared circle with Mr. Jack Harmen.”
No sarcastic smile.
No inauthentic clapping.
“I don’t care what your record is here.” I pump my eyebrows up then lower them. “Look at mine.” A quick scoff at myself. “For twenty years, I observed and appreciated your work from afar. While, like myself, you’ve seen better days in other places…” I curl my bottom lip and nod my head back and forth slightly. “Also like myself, it looks like you’ve rediscovered what works. You’re on a decent little streak, with one of those wins over The Beast himself.”
The lip-curl turns into a full on frown.
“Too bad I’ll have to pay you back a bit for that.” There’s that insincere smile. “See I like K. Dude’s good shit. And I don’t like seeing my friend’s set up for failure.” I shake my head. “It’s not your fault, Jack. You just did your job. It’s Lee who put you in that situation. It’s Lee who wanted to break The Beast before No Remorse. And sure, Kostoff got his by laying you out flat after the bell rung.” I bring my hands together and crack my knuckles. “But I plan to make an example out of you, to Lee, for my buddy. I hope you can understand. Other than that, best of luck, old chap.”
I tip the invisible cap on my head to the former snow salesmen.
Calm down, Mike.
“Now onto another who should be ready for retribution.”
I slowly turn my head until my neck cracks.
“Hughie Freeman. The Flamer.” I chuckle, then return to a straight face. “It’s another term for an arsonist. Watch Arrested Development.” I pause to appreciate the coincidental irony of that statement regarding my opponent’s current situation in Alcatraz. “See, you messed up even worse than the green cow also known as High Flyer.”
A sharp loogie slaps the wall to my side.
“When you decided to take an unconventional approach to baking us all some pumpkin pie, not only did you steal a friend’s chance at revenge he so longed for-” More headshaking, more disappointed this time, though. “- no, you did worse than that. You hit Perfection so hard, you knocked him out of existence.” I snort. “By the way, when you grow up with an older brother who loves to beat the shit out of you-” Thumb point to myself. “- you learn to see punches before they’re thrown. And I can take everything else you throw at me.” A moment of emphasis ensues. “But back to your egregious mistake, now what’s my best friend Jiles going to do after this match when he’ll actually NEED that spare liver?”
Then, with an air of trepidation, I inhale deep and sit back in the chair.
“And I guess that’s as good of a segway as ever.”
One more deep breath.
“Last, but certainly not least.” Shaking my head in disbelief that I have to step into the ring against my tag team partner of over ten years, I continue,
“Cancer motherfucking Jiles.”
I raise a pointed index finger toward the feed.
“Know first and foremost, you are the closest thing I have to a brother in this business. Good and bad.” The pointer finger retreats as I ball my right hand into a fist. “And I know, more than anyone, what kind of mental state you’re in.”
My eyebrows raise for emphasis.
“Fuck, you’re crazier than me and Kostoff combined right now.” A half smile emerges. “And that’s why this Old Bull is going to do nothing but protect the Gray Wolf this Saturday night.”
“That’s right, High Octane. Lee Best. Whoever the fuck cares.”
I return to lean forward.
“I know my place. I know my goals.”
The baby blues electrify.
“I want the Tag Team Titles back at No Remorse.”
Pointer finger re-engaged.
“And I won’t let a silly fucking singles belt get in my way of that.”
And just like that, I turn cold.
“That’s why, more so than harming Harmen or freeing Freeman from his consciousness… I’m going to spend every second ensuring that not one, single gray hair on my friend’s head gets hurt. The only chance you’ll see me climb that fucking ladder is if I feel it’s the only way to save Jiles from taking a beating he can’t recover from in time for No Remorse.”
I pause for a quick breath.
“You can look at this like I’m a lamb being led to slaughter. Even my closest friend is licking his chops at the sight of me.” I suck in my teeth while scrunching one side of my nose. “But that’s the big mistake.” I raise that pointer finger again, but this time it’s waving ala Dikembe Mutumbo. “Tell me, what do you get when you strike through a D? Looks kinda like a B, right? Well that’s what you got; another Beast. Trained by the original. And I’m ready to protect the Big, Bad Wolf… even from himself.”
This smile’s for Jiles.
It vanishes as quickly as it formed.
“Loyalty and sacrifice my fucking ass. I’ve been an eGG Bandit for over a decade, with the same core of dingleberries and dumbasses.” A sneer crosses my face. “So don’t talk to me about fucking loyalty. And sacrifice?” My head tilts like a curious dog. “My entire fucking run at High Octane has been a sacrifice. My ego, my pride, my self-respect, my legacy of success in between the ropes…”
I slowly shake my head.
“All given to the GOD of HOW himself. GONE!”
My face twists in dismay.
“For a chance to face Farthington to be the Champ of Lee’s Shitty Division?” An emphatic headshake this time. “No fucking thank you. I’m Team Kostoff and I’ll be rooting for him to rip that other fucking eye out. Tell hell with representing that asshole.”
A more violent loogie takes a fake leaf straight off the fern.
“As long as we’re making up names for LSD, it might as well stand for Lee Sucks Dick for all I care.”
I bring an open hand up to my mouth.
I kiss my palm, then lay it flat.
“And you can choke on it, boss man.”