“So… looks like it went well…” Robert Byrd’s voice echoed through the truck cab. The Behemoth’s head bandage had started to bleed through, and a small trickle of blood had started to run down the side of his face.
“Looks like ya need stitches son,” Clay grimaced and looked to the passenger seat. He didn’t have to close his eyes and imagine up an image of the old man for him to suddenly have appeared. The Monster from Plainview nodded at the spectral figure and pulled his eyes back onto the road.
“Prolly right Pops, but ain’t nothin’ a little glue won’t fix,” Clay smirked for a moment before reaching for the volume on the radio. His father looked over and placed a faintly transparent hand on his own. This was the first time he and the spectral sub conscious generated delusion had touched. The Behemoth pulled his hand bank sharply, the visual of the hand on top of his own with the lack of sensation caused him to recoil.
“Glad it was weird for you too son, I’ve never had someone pull their hand away and have it go through mine,” Robert said with a slight laugh. Clay glanced over out of the side of his eye. A chill rippled up his spine, but he pushed it to the back of his mind and continued the conversation.
“Yeah, well I ain’t never reached through, whatever the hell you are ‘neither,” Clay let a brief chuckle go as he pulled his eyes back on the road. The silence now filled the cab instead of the mindless chatter.
“Yer avoidin’ it,” Robert said matter of factly. Clay sighed, it was the conversation he had tried to avoid with his father. Advice on alliances were one thing, but actual critiques of how things went in the ring were another. Clay competed at a level Robert Byrd had only dreamed of, and the old hand couldn’t quite understand the stakes.
“So? I don’t feel like talkin’ ‘bout it.”
“Well, we prolly should…” Another deep breath for The Behemoth matched the irritated look of Robert Byrd. Resentment and disappointment were traded for irritation and frustration at an even exchange rate with the Byrd men.
“What’d I do? Not slip a collar and elbow fast enough?” Clay grumbled snarkily. Robert fired back immediately.
“I’m sure that happened Clay, but I was talkin’ ‘bout Steve…”
“What ‘bout him?” The Behemoth asked the older Byrd. Sure, Steve had struggled in the ring again, but he’d made the tags when they mattered and the two were able to cobble together enough of a tournament that they hadn’t embarrassed themselves.
“He ain’t right Clay.”
“He’s all I got,” Clay said as he shook his head. The old man was right, Steve wasn’t all there. He had a few more screws loose than before, and this clearly wasn’t the soldier he had intended to go through the tournament with.
“Yeah but he’s fuckin’ nuttier than squirrel shit after harvest, he stole a man’s child… who the hell does that?” Robert Byrd repeated himself softly as he looked out the window as the mile markers zipped past.
“Well, technically I stole the kid…” Clay stopped for a moment to collect his thoughts. His father was capable of latching onto something, and not letting it go. He’d drive it home, and drive it home, like a pitbull with a chew toy. Once he had ahold of it, there was no way you were going to get him off the subject. Or change his mind, for that matter.
“You found him, you didn’t steal the kid…”
“And I got Steve into this mess, if I didn’t show up on his doorstep with this little mongrel he’d be normal Steve. Sure, maybe he comes to the ring wearing a red lucha mask and goes into business for himself every once in a while. But he wouldn’t be treating this mute fourteen year old boy like he was eight, so yes, it’s my fault…” Hopefully that had thrown the old hound dog Robert Byrd off of the scent.
“Ya, nothin’ at all ‘bout bein’ delusional ‘bout who ya are half the time. He calls ya fuckin’ Frank, yer Momma didn’t name ya fer that maniac ta call ya Frank…”
“Dad, he could call me fuckin’ Tara Davidson, he could call me Barbie, I don’t give a fuck. As long as he isn’t tryin’ ta actually fuck me, and knows what the fuck is goin’ on in a wrasslin’ ring I don’t really care,” Clay snarled and glanced over at his father. The old man had his head in his hands and was looking down at the floor.
“What happens when that Stevens feller comes lookin’ fer revenge ‘cause you two have his kid washin’ yer ring gear and fetchin’ yer gear in the back?”
“Steve will choke that busted old scorpion out before he could fuckin’ think ‘bout takin’ that kid back. Hell, that might be where Steve is now. Just murderin’ away down at the Stevens home. I hope that’s where he is actually. Just choppin’ Scott Stevens up into pieces and feedin’ pigeons with his remains. One less dipshit ta worry ‘bout…” Clay was on a roll, but his father cut him off at the pass. Like all good fathers do, he brought his son back to reality.
“And what if Mike Best shows up…”
“I’ll smash his fuckin’ skull in,” Clay’s snarl had morphed into an expression of outright disgust. His mustache hung down below his chin as his nostrils flared. Nothing could get under his skin, besides the topic of the 10 time High Octane World Heavyweight Champion.
“And if he walks out there with Six-Time Academy and breaks yer fuckin’ arm again? Ya trust Ol’ Leave it to Stever ta have yer back?”
“Fuck,” The Behemoth said under his breath. Of course he expected Steve to understand the dire straits he’d be in if the situation presented itself. But Solex was unpredictable, lost in his own mind. The old man had a point, and Clay didn’t have much to argue back with.
“And then yer back on the shelf, and Mike Best comes out and has a going away party at March To Glory because yer chosen partner didn’t have the common sense, or the ability ta save ya from the beatdown…”
The noise of the road was all that could be heard throughout the cab, the tires whirred along the highway like the gears in Clay’s brain. They turned over and over again, but a solution wasn’t going to present itself.
“Kid, ya spent yer entire career alienatin’ the entire roster. Yer a fuckin’ Pariah in the back, they speak ‘bout ya in hushed tones. Hell, yer biggest fan didn’t even try ta recruit ya into his new group. Prolly ‘cause he knew that the only thing on the other side of it was betrayal, pain, and sadness…”
Clay veered sharply into a rest area exit ramp. He had to clear his head, he had to get away from the spectral image of his father. He needed quiet, he needed solace, he needed to collect his own thoughts instead of what was going on in The Behemoth’s mind. Robert Byrd had a way of bringing out the self doubt in any plan that wasn’t entirely fool-proof.
“And he’s prolly fuckin’ right Clay, ya ain’t the type of person many folks can get along with.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Clay said as he whipped the black F250 into a parking spot. He stepped out of the truck into the freezing Minnesota air and slammed the door. He stormed up to the circular building outside of the rest area and sat on a green waiting bench. In front of him sat a map of the road he was on, with ‘YOU ARE HERE’ spelled out in giant font with a red star etched just below it.
The old man was right, he was always right. That was the frustrating part, he could analyze anything and find a flaw. He was a maestro when it came to film study, and working up a strategy to attack an opponent. However, the same skill that was such a blessing was also a giant personality flaw when it came to regular discussions.
Of course, this wasn’t a regular discussion. This discussion had purpose, and when Robert Byrd had purpose, much like his son, he was unyielding in finding a solution. Clay’s thoughts raced through the scenarios in front of him. Cornfield had destroyed his own world champion after Clay had pinned him, they were about as trustworthy as a fox left to guard a hen house. Jatt was a lost cause, and might be the only person on the roster crazier than Steve Solex.
The alliance with Mario and Conor Fuse presented its own issues. Even with his hatred for Mike Best, even though he had stabbed his wife in the eye, Jatt Starr still couldn’t be trusted. He was as slimy as John Sektor, but twice as unhinged. But he seemed to value he and Clay’s friendship, he seemed to value Clay… Even without his fathers presence, Clay could imagine what he’d say to the idea. The only thing Jatt Starr cared about was the image of Clay that Jatt tried to foster. The folk hero from Texas, the big strong man capable of riding krakens out of the ocean. He wouldn’t support the actual Behemoth.
The Monster from Plainview felt around in his pocket, and pulled out his iPhone. He thumbed through the contact list and finally found the one he was looking for. He pulled up the messages and looked at the last one.
“u owe me $48.50 u fuck”
Harrison wasn’t exactly a wordsmith on the keyboard, but Clay had always been able to trust him. Sure, there was the incident with the bottomline pen, and the embarrassment it caused. But when it came to actual combat in the ring, Steve Harrison was a menace when his knee wasn’t aching. Clay thought back to the familiar Benny Newell call: “IT’S A HARRICLE!” Steve Harrison could fight half of Six-Time Academy without any effort.
Finally, the cold began to affect the big Texan. His beard had a layer of frozen condensation stuck to it, he’d lost track of time staring at the map. His father had been right, Clay needed to come up with a backup plan. Something that could buy him enough time to crack Mike Best’s skull open like a coconut. And he had finally found his answer. The Monster from Plainview stood up and stretched for a moment. He looked down the illuminated sidewalk at the inside of his truck.
His father sat waiting for him.
“Persistent old fuck,” Clay said as he marched back to the Ford F250. He opened the door, and the old man was already back on him.
“Took ya long ‘nough, ya get lost in there? Or were ya jerkin’ off in the bathroom like ya used ta do when ya were thirteen?”
“I figured out my backup plan,” Clay stated. Sure he hadn’t made the call yet, but it was as good as done. He’d pay Steve Harrison for the sunglasses and be back in his good graces in no time at all.
“I’m gonna call Steve Harrison, we can have a chat about what The Miracle Man needs, and we’ll work out somethin’. I’m sure of it,” Clay said as he started the pickup truck. He hadn’t left it on, spectral projections of your subconscious probably didn’t need the heat on anyway.
“Good one Clay, that fuckin’ guy hates you.”
“How the fuck would you know? You already said ya weren’t all omnipotent anyway, and how the fuck did you know about the bathroom?” Clay said, the confusion etched across his face. His father had never walked into the bathroom on him.
“I guess the answer ta both questions would be found in the Bible ya dimwit. All yer questions will be answered, and frankly, it always bothered me when ya took twenty minutes longer than anybody else I knew in the bathroom…”
“Fuck you,” Clay said with a chuckle as the old man cracked himself up. The two men started back down the highway, Byrd and Byrd side by side.
“By the looks of yer gearbag and all the old Best Alliance gear ya wear ‘round I think ya owe Harrison more than $48.50.”
“Fuck.” Clay looked over into the passenger seat and the old man was gone. Apparently the new plan had satisfied him. Clay reached over to the radio and found a country station turning the music up. He didn’t notice the small red glow emanating from underneath the passenger seat. But wedged between the seat in the wall, the small red eye slowly dimmed and faded back to it’s normal inert Onyx finish.