I’m nervous. I don’t normally get nervous, but tonight, my body is dripping sweat from every available pore. Having been a fat man, I’m accustomed to the meat sweats, the diabetic sweats, the I moved too fast sweats, to even the my shower was too hot sweats. That’s the one where for 20 minutes after you shower you’re still sweating from the warm water temperature.
But this? This was the I’m about to shit my pants from my stomach doing backflips nervous sweats.
Why though? What is there to be nervous about? Jiles is confident. Doozer is supportive. Zeb is excited beyond belief. Me? I can’t help but wonder if we’re all making a huge mistake. And that’s saying something, considering the number of huge mistakes I’ve introduced to the group.
“Relax buddy,” Doozer soothes from across our locker room. “You’re gonna have to change your tights again. I swear, it looked like you had liquid shit in the back of your last pair, your crack sweated so much…”
“I’ve never known a guy who had a sweatier crack than you Bobbo.” Jiles quips with a chuckle. “But, no, seriously, calm down. You’ll do fine. We all discussed it, and we think you and Zeb is the way to go.”
Zeb nods his head enthusiastically, as Doozer grins. Jiles walks over and plops down next to me, extending his arm across my shoulder, but once he feels how drenched I am he quickly removes his arm and begins wiping his palms clean.
“What could you be so nervous about?” he asks with a grimace as he looks down at his wet palm.
“You’re asking me to be in the War Games match!” I answer as if he didn’t know. “You all know how I’m cursed. Not only is this going to be a multi-team match, but it’s for the mother fucking title belts! And it’s on a PPV!”
“You have a thing about pay-per-views?” Big Daddy Dooze questions, obviously aware of the first two hangups of mine. “I never heard that one.”
“Well, not really.” I answer sheepishly. “I mean, normally I’m the curtain jerker on a big show, the caliber of War Games. But combine that with the other two issues, it certainly isn’t helping.”
A random, no name guy in HOW backstage employee apparel pops his head into the dressing room and calls out, “Bandits, you’re up.”
Cancer, forgetful, lovable, Cancer, reaches out and pats me on the back and grimaces once more. “You worry too much former-big guy. We got this.”
Jiles arises and makes his way to the door, all the while wiping at his persistently damp hands. Zeb follows in his wake, the proverbial shit eat grin never leaves his cherubic face. Doozer waits for me to climb out of my chair and gently guides me out the door so that he’s bringing up the rear.
“Bobby, you don’t need to worry about a thing.” he assures me, smartly avoiding the usual fatherly pat. “So what if you and Zeb shit the bed come War Games, where we originally won the Tag Team titles before. Who cares if you flush all of our recent hard work down the toilet? I don’t think Jiles will be upset after he beat Woodson to earn us this opportunity. No, there is not an ounce of pressure on you my friend. Not a single ounce.”
I can’t help it. It’s like I’m a marionette and someone just came and cut my strings. I stop, right there in the hallway, the other three Bandits continue on towards the gorilla position to await our cue.
No pressure, he says. HA!
“WOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!” Zeb wails out causing Jiles and Doozer to laugh out loud. “I ain’t never get useta that.”
“What, having so many people cheer for you?” Doozer, or as he’s more commonly known Captain Obvious, asks.
While the three men are riding their high from the rare in ring segment, I still can’t shake this feeling of foreboding doom. I walk over to my open locker and begin to gather my things. Not bothering to change, I just throw everything into my bag and quickly make my way towards the exit, still in my gear.
“Where ya going bud?” Jiles calls out as I’m just seconds away from my escape.
“I gotta…” I stammer, fading off instead of finishing.
How do you explain to your friends that you can’t get rid of this feeling of dread? Like you’re drowning? And that the last thing you want to do is bring your closest friends down into the abyss with you?
Ultimately you know, deep down, it’s silly. It’s just a match. Like any other match.
Sure it’s against the Bruvs. And why not throw in MurrBerg as well… Oh and HATE, I suppose I should include them.
See, just another match.
For the titles…
At War Games…
Without another word I walk out of the room, gently closing the door behind me.
I don’t leave, rather just stand against the closed door, trying not to eavesdrop on my friends’ conversation.
“That was odd.” The Maestro ominously adds while checking in on his hair. “I feel like one of us should go chase him down.”
Anxious, Zebulon quickly moves toward the door. Dooze calls out, stopping him short. “Wait! Let him go. He’s not used to living outside of his skin, and that reception we just received put him there.”
He’s not wrong.
It was quite raucous, the reception.
Doozer continues, “He will be fine. He needed to see himself shine in order to complete his transformation… or something like that.”
Jiles finishes, “He better be. There’s no turning back now.”
In the air over the Atlantic Ocean
Airplanes are both a blessing and curse.
In this business you end up travelling a lot. Most of it by way of car. I’m used to that. 4 of us crammed into a moderate sized SUV is our preferred method of travel. We play road games, like I Spy, or Slug Bug, or Out of State Plates, or Guess What I Ate Today.
I suppose anything you do is considered “more fun” when you have your friends along with you to share in either the fun or even the misery. And trust me, stuck on a plane for 11 hours is what I would consider miserable.
After the third rendition of Guess What I Ate Today I was threatened. I was told by someone that if I did it again I’d be ejected from the plane. I don’t think they could literally do it, but the look the guy gave me really made me think. Who knew pilots were so mean!
Luckily with the long flights the airlines were wise. Knowing that we Americans suffer from Electronic Attention Deficit Disorder, EADD. Basically if we don’t have a phone, tablet, gaming console, MP3 player, or just anything electronic to distract us we get a little antsy.
So the air lines offered us a movie to enjoy. On this day it was the American classic Grumpy Old Men. I’d seen the movie a hundred times and yet the antics of John Gustafson and Max Goldman still make me chuckle as they bicker and fight for the love of a lady.
While my seatmate Chlamydia Jiles slept next to me, I sat entranced by the movie, as if I were seeing it for the first time. I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying, and finally couldn’t take it anymore.
Nudging a sleeping Jiles is quite an adventure in itself. I mean, the man loves his sleep. But my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to ask him about it.
“What!?” Callous Jiles demands, as he lowers his shades and glares at me eye to eye.
“You’ve seen this movie, right?” I ask pointing at the screen, in which he refuses to acknowledge. “What’s wrong with it? It seems off.”
Sighing, the Maestro of COOL returns his shades to their upright position, and returns his head to its resting position. As if it were an afterthought, he answers softly, “It’s in German.”
“German?” I can’t help but ask in return, my face scrunched up in confusion. “But I thought after they lost the war they had to speak American…”
Sighing once more, Cancer turns his head away from me and looks across the aisle at Doozer and Zeb Martin, both of which are soundly asleep. He sighs once more.
“Have you ever realized that Grumpy Old Men is a lot like modern day MurrBerg?” I ask my neighbor. “The two of them bicker and bitch at one another and they’re both so…”
Before I can finish Castrated Jiles turns towards me with swiftness. “Don’t say it.” He looks at me, daring me to say it, but I know better. When he says not to say something, I usually don’t. Well, it’s about a 70/40 chance I don’t.
“You remember when you were fat? How everyone and their mother would always make mention to that fact? Like you weren’t aware? You remember how obnoxious that was? Or how dumb you thought they were for always talking about your weight, as if you didn’t have a myriad of other nonredeemable qualities they could focus on?”
I begin to nod my head, remembering the annoyance I felt day in and day out with people not bright enough to focus on anything but my weight.
“Yeah, but he’s so old!” I can’t help it. I just couldn’t stop myself.
Without a word, Chaotic Jiles rises from his seat and takes three steps over to the slumbering form of Doozer. With a single, none too gentle, slap to the forehead, Jiles has Doozer’s undivided attention. Simply pointing over his shoulder Jiles says, “Tag, you’re it.”
Offering a sigh of his own, Doozer slowly rises out of his seat and plops down next to me. Before I’m able to say a single word Doozer holds up an extended forefinger, stopping me. “Bobby, I’m tired. We’ve still got another 4 and ½ hours left on this flight. Let me sleep.”
I smile, innocently, and nod my head. Looking back to the movie, forgetting for a moment that it is still in German. After about 8 minutes, which is probably 7 minutes longer than Doozer thought it’d take me, I can’t help but ask, “Have you ever given any thought to Rick and HATE?”
“No? I thought about it a couple of days back, how it’s like that game, one of these things is not like the other. He’s so carefree and funny. While Scottywood and company are full of sour eggs and a dour face. They look at the world as if the world owes them something, where as Rick looks like he just wants a good time.
“Why is he even in HATE to begin with?” I ask, apparently rhetorically because Dooze appears to be asleep. “He reminds me of a fat girl, settling for the first boy who shows her attention. She just wants to be loved, but how can you be loved in a faction that is literally called HATE?”
“Seriously, he should have held out a little longer. I’m sure he could have joined a different faction. Maybe a reformation of The Industry? Or change his name to Miiiiiiick! And reform The eMpire?” I explain, shooting idea after idea out into the ether.
“Or he could have reformed the WTFC with Mikey.” Doozer comments, causing me to gasp.
No one reforms the WTFC! No sir! The WTFC is a sacred group. As close as Mikey is with Kendrix as the Bruvs, Kendrix will never be as close as Mikey and I were when we were in the WTFC. Mikey pretends to be a sour puss bad guy, but he’s just a fun loving, weed toking, friendly guy, who needs a refresher on how to laugh.
As concerned as I am about the upcoming match, I feel this overwhelming glee at the thought of getting my hands on Kendrix. Maybe if I destroy that man, I can convince Mikey to join up with the Bandits, where he truly belongs! I feel like I’m in my very own Star Wars. Kendrix is pulling Mikey to the Dark Side, and it’s up to me to bring him back to the Light… I’ve never seen Star Wars, I hope that’s how it works.
“You okay?” Doozer calls out. Which is kind of funny, considering how much he wanted to sleep. “You got all quiet all of a sudden. And now I see that I made a mistake. I should have just fallen asleep. Fuck…”
“It’s just another match.”
“It’s just another match.”
The mantra continues on as I whisper it under my breath. One after another, I saw it as Doozer gradually falls asleep to my soothing whisper.
Château La Chenevière
It’s D-Day my friends.
I know that seems melodramatic, because as I keep reminding myself, this is just another match. But here I am, in this 5-star hotel, hovering over a porcelain throne spewing forth my recent addition of eggs benedict.
Why would the Maestro of COOL pick me to represent the Bandits? Why isn’t him and Zeb? Or even Dooze and Zeb? Or Dooze and Jiles? Or hell, put me back in the coma and bring in a 5th member and put them in the match.
“It’s because we believe in you.” a voice full of warmth and compassion calls out from over my shoulder.
Turning my head I see Charles Jiles III standing in the doorway of my bathroom, his sunglasses are tucked away, sitting on the collar of his shirt as he looks down at me with a friendly smile.
“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s just another match. No, this match is important. At the last War Games Doozer and I won those tag team titles. With your help, if you remember. I’d give anything to repeat that here tonight. To see you and Zeb with your arms raised. Beating guys like Andy Murray, Joe Bergman, the Bruvs, and even the underrated team of Woodson and Rick. It’d be the greatest accomplishment of your career. And I know that’s not going to help you right now, but you need to believe in yourself as much as we believe in you.
“Doozer, Zeb, myself, all those fans. We all believe that not only do you deserve this shot tonight, we believe that you have what it takes to bring home the gold. You’ve come a long way, my friend, just a bit further and maybe we can sit back and watch Doozer shine those title belts the way we used to make you.”
Those were the days.
“But hey, regardless of all that.” Cancer says, moving away from the door jamb while putting his sunglasses back in place on his face. “It’s time we make our way over and start to get ready.”
I reluctantly nod. Rising to my feet, and following my friend out the door. Before I can grab my equipment bag Jiles is there slipping it over his shoulder, a reassuring smiling back my way.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe the only person who doesn’t have faith in me, is me.
This might not be just another match. But maybe this is the exact match I need to turn my 0-4 slump around? As my good friend Pete once said in a Discord chat, #2020Goals. Sure, I didn’t use the word thworp, but maybe winning the titles for the second time at a War Games is the perfect #2020Goals to have.
Retrieving my phone from my pocket, the facial recognition kicks in and unlocks the device. It’s a miracle in and of itself, since my face had lost approximately seven chins since I’d originally gotten it. Scrolling to my stored files, I take a deep breath and press play.
“You’ve got this, Bobby. You’re going to win!”
The recording that I’d saved for years was the additional reassurance I needed. It was always great to hear the voice of an old friend in Mikey Unlikely. Sure it was recorded back in the ole UTAH days, but it’s one that I will never delete, unlike all the voicemail messages Madman Szalinski ever left me.