August 9, 2020
Crescent City Fight Club
“Where. Is. The Fuckhead?”
“I’mma need you to take it down a few notches, Graysie!”
Angus Skaaland never was all that good at reading the room. Nevermind that it was his gym that they were standing in, and nevermind that it was his Intermediate Mat Grappling class that she was interrupting. The only thing in the world that mattered at that moment to Graysie Parker was the issue at hand.
. . .
Let’s take it back a bit, rewind a few frames and find some reference.
It was ten in the morning, Graysie padded around the couch at the center of her accidentally unironic kitsch studio apartment with an oversized mug of some obscure blend of tea or another in her hands. She curled up comfortably on the couch, glanced at the iHome over beside the television, and spoke out loud to nobody in particular.
“Okay, Google. Play HOTv”
The moderately sized television in front of her blinked to life. The daily mid-morning recap show of all things High Octane had only just started and a replay of this morning’s press conference was now on the screen. She cocked an eyebrow as she watched Angus Skaaland, her current landlord, step up to a podium and start orating in a much more bureaucratic way than she’d known him to speak since meeting the grappling guru.
She watched as Angus first introduced himself, then went on to extrapolate on the gravity of his working in conjunction with HOW after so many years of defiant opposition. He then explained that they had gathered to announce the signing of one of his and Eric Dane’s hottest students to an HOW performance contract.
“Okay, Google. Pause.”
An irritated sneer curled onto Graysie’s lips as she reached for her phone. A couple of taps later and she was on the line with Eric Dane’s ringtone.
“Come one, c’mon c’mon c’mon pick up you smug son-of-a-”
A fiery red rage fills her eyes as a mechanical feminine voice tells her that the Verizon customer she’s calling has a full inbox at this time. Enraged, she taps the phone off and sends it twirling across the couch into a waiting pile of pillows.
“Okay, Google.” Graysie barked at the device. “Resume play.”
The camera panned away from Angus, lingered on a straight-faced Eric Dane for what seemed like just long enough to have been a personal affront to Graysie, and settled on Ryan John McKinney. McKinney had been the other star pupil at the CCFC along with Graysie. They’d gotten along well enough, each having a hand in the training of the kids that were coming up behind them, but he hadn’t said anything about any contract offers coming up. Matter of factly, nobody had said anything about any contracts to her since Dane had tried to explain to her why he was wrestling and she had been sitting at home, working out with dojo kids.
Flash forward, back to the present.
Graysie had searched the second floor of the building. Dane’s and McKinney’s apartments had both been empty and as yet nobody in the entire facility had seen hide nor hair of either. It would have been after that fruitless search that Graysie decided to interrupt class to ask Angus just exactly where either of them had gone.
“Where are they?” Graysie demanded from the floor.
“Pronouns,” Angus chided from inside the ring. Anybody who cared enough to look could see the annoyance written all over his face at just the thought of the shitfit that everybody knew was about to go down. “Be more specific.”
Angus tried to continue the workout in the ring. Graysie’s sheer force of will ground it to a halt. She stared up at him, incredulous and uncaring that she was making a huge scene.
“Where. Is. The Fuckhead?”
Angus rolled his eyes and dismissed his students. He’d hoped to avoid this situation entirely, but he knew Eric and he was getting to know Graysie and had been on the verge of having a Come to Jesus meeting with the both of them, separately and together, about the sheer amount of bullshit drama that they’d brought into his dojo in just under two months.
“I’mma need you to pull it back a few notches, Graysie!”
She seethed. It’s not that she had a sense of entitlement so much as that she was starting to drink the Kool-aid about Eric Dane. She thought she’d known him better, but the past several weeks had been enlightening to the young lady grappler.
“Now look, you ain’t my student, we’ve had that argument enough times that we ain’t gotta pick it up again now. But you are my tenant, and this is my building, and so help me Kneesus I’ll throw you outta here on your ass so fast your fuckin’ head’ll spin if you ever come at me like that in front of my kids inside of my building again!”
He paused, letting it hang in the air for a moment.
“Now. What’s the underlying issue, here?”
With the students gone and her rage subsided a bit, Graysie let some of her guard down. She looked up at Angus, the redness of rage replaced by the redness of near sobs. You could tell that the young woman wasn’t in the best of ways and more than anything she was coming to the end of her rope.
Graysie took a deep breath.
“I’m losing faith in him, Angus.”
“Eric was retired. He was my manager, my advocator. He was supposed to be helping me get to the next level! So how does he show it? He quits a good gig for me and shows up on TV the next week laying out the one woman in my life who hasn’t treated me like some kind of a burden!”
Angus nodded again, of course he’d already known all of this.
“And now this thing with RJ…”
“What thing?” Angus frowned.
“You know. You were there. So was he.”
“Are you jealous?”
She didn’t answer him, and that was all the answer needed.
“McKinney’s your peer, more than that he’s your friend.”
There went the faucet, her eyes began to well up with tears after being forced to look at the situation from a point of view other than her own.
“Now what was Eric supposed to do? Cockblock my student because he couldn’t get you signed?”
Graysie’s shoulders slumped; she was defeated. “I just want my shot.”
Angus nodded again. He knew more than he was letting on.
“Maybe you should go talk to Eric. And maybe don’t lead with Hey fuckhead. Just don’t be surprised if he tells you something you’re not ready to deal with, okay?”
She stifled a sniffle and wiped away at fresh tears.
“Yeah,” Graysie nodded back. “Okay. I’ll talk to him.”
Skaaland gave a rare smile.
“Good,” Angus said. “He’s at Cafe du Monde.”
Here we are, Ma.
You and me, Queen versus Only Star.
However many years in the making.
A Chicago Street Fight with nothing on the line but your hurt pride and my broken ribs. It’s a goddamned wonder Lee’s even giving us the time of day! If I had to guess he’s probably hoping that one or the other of us won’t make it through this match. Hell, ya gotta figure it’s a win for him if either of us puts the other out for good, am I right?
Except, maybe not.
You heard what he said last week. Maybe I’m not his favorite toy in the box, but my probation is over with. The handcuffs have been taken off, and with them come the kiddie gloves. Maybe I didn’t do my job all those weeks ago and put you down for good because I had some sort of lingering sense of loyalty to you from before. Maybe I was holding back.
Go ahead, I know you can’t wait. Call me on my shit.
You might be right.
Or, and highly more likely, you’re full of shit and you don’t have a goddamned clue what in the entirety of fuck you’re talking about. Yeah, I left the Industry high and dry last year, but let’s talk about that for a minute, shall we? The writing had been on the wall for weeks. I was all up in my feels and I hated everything about everything. Every single member of the Industry, especially you were telling me that maybe I’d be better off anywhere else in the world than in HOW. And you all were right. That’s the part that fuckin’ bugs me the most, you and Dan specifically were right.
I needed to go.
For my own mental health.
For the stress of everyone else in the group.
For Queen and Country, so to speak.
So I left. Maybe I did it a little more publicly than you all wanted me to. Hell, I buried pretty much everyone and everything possible on my way out. There’s no denying that. But you’re trying to live in this fantasy universe where you didn’t know it was coming. You want to make up this whole narrative about how I up and left your ass at the altar as it were, but I didn’t. You and Dan still won the match.
You didn’t cost Dan those belts until later.
Nevermind semantics, though, lets focus on where we are now.
“Hatred and Mistrust.”
You want my head on a platter and you don’t even know why.
This is all so typical of your type, Lindz. You get yourself all worked up and you get behind some cause, manufactured more times than not, and you rage against the proverbial machine until there’s nothing and nobody left to rage against. Did you ever wonder why you can’t keep any friends, Lindz? Maybe it’s not because you’re the Queen of Social Justice…
Probably it’s because you’re an overbearing cunt. A bully of a woman who’s ruined more men and women in her time just by wearing them down with that shrill, holier than thou voice of yours. I’ll be honest, I’m surprised Mike hasn’t just blown his fuckin’ brains out yet, I can’t even imagine the bleating that you do when he breaks you off a piece of his low hangin’ fruit.
Nah, surely you don’t.
To be clear, your entire existence is a millennial-styled reboot of The Taming of the Shrew. Let’s call a spade a spade, I might have been an overbearing bully of a boss back in the day, but I never treated you any different than I did anybody else. I surmise that’s what salted your precious little bum-bum back then, that I didn’t give any extra consideration to the Queen of the fuckin’ Ring.
I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, Ma, but the world doesn’t actually revolve around you.
Allow me to clarify:
You. Are. Not. Special.
There’s one thing I’ll give ya, though. You are easily the most difficult person I’ve ever come across in this business. You get on your shit and no man, woman, promoter or partner can tell you fuck about all and that’s just the way you like it. That’s your whole deal, ain’t it? Are you even aware enough to see it?
The rest of us are.
Which is to say that you, Queenie, are HOW’s very own Karen. You’ve got the ten dollar haircut, the nonstop rolling eyes, the vapid douche boyfriend. Heh. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out that you’ve got one of those yapping asshole dogs that lives in your purse, shaking and pissing all the live long day! I can just see you now, telling some minimum wage mall jockey how to do their shitty, menial job.
Lindsay fuckin’ Troy knows everything about everything, right?
Bull. Fuck you. Shit.
You didn’t know I was gonna try to cave your head in.
You still don’t know why I did it.
Worse? You don’t have a shred of a clue what I’m gonna do to you at No Remorse. So go ahead, climb high up on that horse of yours and scream to the goddamn mountains about what a piece of shit Eric Dane is. I’m sure the whole crew’ll probably even agree with you.
Hell, I’ll agree with you.
Eric Dane is a piece of shit.
Just like Lindsay Troy.
The difference between us, however, is that Eric Dane doesn’t pretend to be some kind of nice guy so all the cool kids will like him. Lindsay Troy, on the other hand, won’t be satisfied until everybody publicly agrees that she’s a pretty, pretty princess.
Oh, shit, my fault.
I meant to say Queen.
June 28, 2020
The Parking Lot
The Cadillac roared to life.
Grabbing the shifter, I slammed it down into reverse. The tires almost barked as I jabbed the gas pedal with a touch too much gusto. I was just about to whip that motherfucker around and pretend I was never there when one of the side doors into the arena exploded outward and I caught my first glimpse of her in almost a year.
She was all red hair and rage and…
I couldn’t really tell. Easing the truck back in I squinted, hoping for a better vantage point. I was shit out of luck though, I knew good and well I was parked far enough out so as to not be noticed and she was clearly lost in a hurricane of her own bullshit.
“Ah, fuck it,” I said to the either.
Killing the engine and keeping her in my line of sight I fumbled around in the seat for my phone. Seconds later and I tapped away at my little screen. I only hope she bought it, otherwise this was gonna get a lot stickier than it had to.
>Hey Ma, it’s Eric
>Look I know you’re at TV and I know you’re probably busy, but I need your help. I’m here, in Chicago, at the arena
>Meet me on the loading dock?
The cursor blinked back at me. I don’t really expect much in the way of a positive answer from her. It’d be a miracle if I got much past a good ol’ fashioned “fuck you,” but I was stubborn and I had my ways. That, and I had a job to do.
On my screen I was greeted with three dots.
She was typing.
Seconds passed and the response popped onto my screen.
First of all, fuck you.<
Second of all, no.<
Third of all, I don’t care why you’re here, I’m not getting involved in your shit again<
That’s the Lindsay Troy I knew, absolutely no time for bullshit and absolutely no mincing of words. I watched as she stuffed the phone back into a pocket and headed off further into the lot. She hopped into a black SUV and I could feel the lump getting bigger in the back of my throat. Sliding out of my own big black truck I make sure to stay out of sight, wouldn’t want to spook her now. I reached under the seat and carefully pulled out a short length of pipe. It wasn’t exactly the way that I wanted to do this, but I didn’t exactly get a lot of time to think this shit through.
Besides, any port in a fuckin’ storm, am I right?
Meanwhile, I sent another text.
>It’s not for me, Ma
>It’s for Graysie
That was it, she would either take the bait or I’d missed my opportunity. I didn’t know where the fuck she was off to in such a hurry, by my clock the show was still broadcasting live for at least another fifteen minutes, maybe more. I shouldn’t have sat out there in the parking lot all fucking night long, if I didn’t make it happen right then I’d never get another chance.
As quickly and quietly as my old bones could carry me I made my way around the lot, careful to avoid any lines of sight that might’ve blown my ruse before it was time. I did my best to flank her before she had a chance to move, after all if I wasn’t ready when the time was right then all of this was for naught and all I’d have gotten done is wasted a whole lot of time and effort for no payoff.
My phone chirped again.
I’m on my way.<
You get two minutes, don’t waste them.<
She really could be an insufferable bitch sometimes.
I didn’t hold it against her, hell I deserved it! That didn’t make her shit any easier to swallow. A quick moment passed and I was right where I said I’d be. Thankfully the dock was quiet. For the moment, anyway. Once the show ended in a few minutes every crew member and staff monkey on the payroll would be out in force.
I was on the clock.
Checking my watch I figured there was maybe five minutes before Refueled went off the air. She’d better get here quick or there were gonna be a whole lot of fucking witnesses to deal with. A moment passed and then she rounded the same corner that I did, power-walking herself right into my little trap with a scowl on her face and rage in her eyes.
It was gonna be too easy.