”The road to hell was paved with the bones of men who did not know when to quit fighting.”
– Paulette Jiles
Oh good, look it’s the Alabama Gang again. Sweet. Made some bets a few weeks back with my sports book, and I put down a cool grand on ‘have to defend our tag team championships against the same redneck hillbilly fucks we won them from in the first place’ and the points. So nice that my wish has been granted.
What is there to say about you guys?
This story of ours has reached an inevitable moment of resolution, my friends. I guess if we were all writing a movie, this is where the first time screenwriters would write in the redemption story. But then again, I guess we’ve already seen that Jatt and I aren’t working from the same script you are. You had it all set up, right? You guys were the sympathetic fan favorites, you stacked the deck against us, and we still beat you anyway.
You challenged us, dared us to go into your territory where presumably Lee Best couldn’t send his goons out to tilt things in our favor. Jatt and I looked at each other, then at you, then we shrugged, then we accepted. So we went into your home, surrounded by your people, a bunch of people who look like they’re hoping to someday move up to the trailer park, without the Final Alliance, without Lee Best, without the EPU…
And we beat you anyway.
All of that and we fucking beat you anyway.
Well, things have changed a little bit. We’re not in Kentucky, or Tennessee or Alabama, we’re not in any state where you can call in the moonshine brigade to stand guard around the ring and spit to-baccy into their little metal buckets while being all not so bright and completely unable to affect the match in any way, standing there to prevent an outside attack that never came… that never had to come. No, we’re in Australia. No one here knows what the fuck your ‘the South will rise again’ wife beater t-shirts even mean. They don’t care that there’s a nice piece of ass working the register down at the Sak-N-Sav.
So what, if anything, has changed that makes you or anyone else think that the result this week will be any different than it was back then? You’re in our ring now, on our show, with our people in charge, and this is going to be very bad for you.
Truth be told, I’m in a pretty foul mood since losing to STRONK! and my tag team partner, while a very very good wrestler, is absolute shit at making people feel better. His idea of cheering someone up is drugs and whores. My idea of cheering myself up comes from pounding the face in of two fucking hackey-ass cousin fuckers and then stomping the rest of you both into mush. That’s the kind of thing that really cleanses the palate for me.
Yeah I know, I’m older, not what I used to be, we’ve covered all of those bases and then some, but I can’t fucking stand losing, and that’s probably never gonna change, so here we are. You boys against me and Jatt for the PWA World Tag Team Titles. We are the best tag team in the world, bar none, no arguments to be had or made, and you are not taking these belts from us and parading them around the grand opening of the new Knoxville Wal-mart in your best dungarees and shoes that are almost completely free of holes.
I haven’t heard from you boys in a little while, don’t know if you’re in Australia yet, I figure the language barrier at customs has held you up a little bit. Don’t know how many Aussies speak backwoods gibberish. But when y’all do get here, I wanna make sure you understand a few things.
First of all, kangaroos may look and smell like your sister, but don’t fuck one. That is deeply frowned upon in this country, and ignorance is no defense. Keep those disease infested things packed away. The last thing we need is an outbreak of chlamydia among the kangaroo population.
Koalas are cute and all, but those motherfuckers are the gangsters of the Outback. Do not touch, and if one offers you free candy, don’t take it. It’s a trick. They will claw your eyes out and then suck your soul from your bones faster than you can say ‘this has not been a very g’day, mate’.
If you choose to try and see the sights of Melbourne, might I suggest the Royal Botanic Gardens or some other park or outside venue. This will give you the best chance of not offending the locals with your smell. It may be that in Alabama, your patented combination of ball sweat, pork cracklins and misplaced ambition flies under the radar, or else simply passes as normal due to the overwhelming nose blindness epidemic there. But while you’re in Australia, unless you can bring yourself to take your monthly shower while you’re here, please be courteous. Stay outside. It’s bad enough that the two of you look like Jim Varney fucked Ellie May Clampett and then pushed you down the stairs, let’s not stink up the place, too.
Also if you want to get some exercise while you’re here, you know, keep the ol’ muscles loose, why not take a nice leisurely swim out to the Great Barrier Reef. It is a lovely, picturesque landscape and there are absolutely, positively no sharks out there, only friendly fish like trout and bass. This would have the side benefit of the sea water cleaning you up a bit and making you smell a little better when the sharks eat you… I mean, when you get back to shore.
Maybe all of this stuff isn’t really your thing though. I know, I know. Nothing beats a glass bottle of Coke and a trusty Moon Pie under the heat of the Alabama sun.
But whatever you decide to do while you’re here, whether it be sightseeing, or training, picking up a couple ladies and taking them back to your rented trailer, introducing the Hemsworth brothers to crystal meth and moonshine, or whatever else, I want you fine gentlemen to enjoy every single last second of it.
Because this match? This is it for you. There aren’t gonna be any rematches. You lose twice, you’re done. Back of the line, and I’ll go out and personally dig up a fucking tag team to defend these belts against before I get in the ring with the Alabama Gang for a third time.
Y’all might fancy this a rivalry, and I guess it is in the most technical sense of the term. But if you want to end up as anything but the fill-in team before the real challenges come, you’re gonna have to do more, work harder, be better. You’re gonna have to figure out how to win against the big boys, or alternately, you can just slink back to EM-VEE-DUB and get back to signing the tattooed tits of your favorite single-toothed ring rat.
Can’t wait to see you boys in the ring. Can’t wait. Thank you for giving me some faces to pummel so I can feel like myself again.
Your sacrifice won’t be forgotten.
”Out there on the edge, the spinning of the Earth had slowed to give us the time we need to start finding each other again.”
– Laurie Halse Anderson
This… is almost unbearable.
I never thought much about the distant future, or what seemed to be distant in my youth. I saved my money, but that’s not really what I’m talking about.
I sacrificed too much for my success, for my fame, for all of the glory that comes along with being at the very top of your field. I lied to myself, said that I was doing it for them, for the wife and daughter I constantly left at home while I went out on the road for months at a time. I told myself and anyone who asked that it would be worth it, that they would be well taken care of, that Cecilia would understand one day why I did… what I had done.
How incredibly foolish.
God, there are so many one dimensional people in this business. You’re tough. You’re soft. You’re weak. You’re strong. You’re a fighter. You’re emotional. You love your job. You love your family. What if you’re all of these things at the same time? Is that even possible to you? Is it? No. Probably not. I think it absolutely fucking sucks that we spend all of our time in a ring working to bash each other’s brains in, and then, when we leave, we pretend like it didn’t affect us at all. I win. No big deal. I’ve won tons of times. I lose. No big deal. I’ve lost tons of times. Why is it that so often the actual reaction is no reaction at all, or some extreme variation?
I’M SO ANGRY!!!!
I AM CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED.
YOU CUT ME TO MY CORE.
I FEEL NOTHING.
Here’s the God’s honest truth.
I have not yet learned how to age gracefully in this sport. I don’t understand it yet at all. I don’t know how a person wins championship after championship for years and years and then suddenly copes with the reality that there may never be another. I don’t know how anyone feels that rush, the blood pumping through your veins, the absolute thrill of victory, of crushing your enemies under your feet, accomplishing everything possible, and then gracefully faces the end of it all.
I’m not done yet.
But God knows there are fewer years ahead of me in this thing than there are behind me. Maybe it’s only a handful. Maybe it’s even less. I don’t know.
Everywhere I look around, I find I am the oldest or damn near oldest man left in the locker room. I get plenty of respect, but I cringe at the mere possibility that I’m getting pity. It’s all in my head, I’m sure. I would rather put a revolver into my mouth and pull the trigger than become a nostalgia act. I won’t do it.
But also, wrestling is my purpose. It is all I am and everything I ever was. If it ends, what is my purpose then? What is the point of getting up each day, busting my ass in the gym, running ten miles, staying in peak physical condition?
It was supposed to be my family.
That was supposed to be my purpose. That’s what should have been my purpose.
Boy, did I ever fuck that up.
My logic was flawed, and any fucking moron could have, should have known better than to do what I chose to do. A neglected wife, a neglected daughter.
I get no benefit of the doubt.
I don’t deserve one.
I don’t know if reconciliation is possible. I don’t know if either one of them will ever speak with me again.
I always thought I was the king shit, but I’m headed for something so very different. I’m on the way to being the king of nothing, all alone in a big house, with only the echo of my own thoughts to break the bone chilling silence.
I have to figure this out.
I’m not giving up. It’s not in my nature. I cannot give up. I don’t even know how. I simply have to solve it.
I can do this.
How incredibly foolish.
”Victory must be real. It must be earned. That means it must be rare and difficult, against steep odds, and defeat must be the other.”
– Rick Riordan
“Where is he?”
Dan Ryan is pacing back and forth in the hotel lobby dressed in casual wear from his flight. Phyllis is standing nearby, tapping out messages on her phone while her boss fumes.
“We only have a few days. WHERE IS HE?”
Phyllis holds up a hand as she reads a message. He stops, sighs deeply and waits. After a moment she looks up and peers over the top of her glasses.
“He’s in the air right now. On his way here.”
Dan groans and rolls his eyes.
“Fine. Once he’s on the ground… you know what? Nevermind. I’ll take care of it. Thanks Phyllis.”
He smiles at her and she smiles and nods.
Forget any more training before the match. Jatt isn’t here anyway. There are other things to be concerned with.
Dan turns and heads deeper into the hotel, steps into an elevator and rides it to the penthouse level at the top of the building. Stepping out, he walks through an foyer into the main living space and heads for a large pane of sliding glass doors. He steps through the door to the balcony, then places his hands on the railing and looks out on the city, the sun shining and casting a glow on the water of Port Phillip Bay.
His phone buzzes, and he pulls it from his pocket and glances at it. He sees that it is his attorney, and he just stares at the words in the blurb under the phone number.
“See attached letter.”
He opens the message fully and seens a text document attached. There is a cover letter from his attorney explaining that he received a notarized letter from Cecilia Ryan, his daughter. He had sent her a short note, an olive branch, a few weeks earlier.
He scrolled down to the contents of the letter, which consists of only three words.
“Not ready. Sorry.”
He continues to stare at the words, and they run back and forth through his head. There wasn’t anything more. Just a firm push back. Still…
Not a closing of the door either.
All good things to those who wait.
He hastily stuffs the phone into his pocket. In a determined huff, he makes his way back through the penthouse to the elevator and punches for the lobby. The whirring of the cables above and below form a white noise of mechanical humming, and he stares at the lighted numbers as they count back down to one.
Finally the door opens and Dan steps out, ignoring the people around him, who stare and point at the hulking figure cutting through the busy check-in time crowd, and makes his way back through the expansive lobby.
Phyllis is there, standing to the side of the main desk as a bellboy loads her luggage onto a baggage cart. Dan rushes past, and Phyllis raises an eyebrow as he passes by without a word, but she doesn’t say anything. She knows the expression, knows the look, knows that rushed gait.
As he makes it to the wall of doors on the main entrance to the hotel, he steps out onto the city sidewalk and after a few moments, breaks into a jog. He passes through the people of the city, their faces and the colors whirring past him in a tempest of sights and sounds.
His hotel is backed up to a vast green park bordering the water, so he makes a turn to his left around a corner and dashes past other joggers into the park. Flying down the blacktop path, he pays no attention to the people around him, the trees, the wind or the sky, but keeps his eyes firmly fixed ahead of him.