Hamilton-Wentworth Correctional Centre
March 23, 2020
If you were ever ‘emotionally sensitive’ enough to believe in pathetic fallacy, the bright sun in the center of a spotless sky should shake you out of your own ass. But, I still guess you have a choice in which reality fits you: either you’re nothing more than a grain of sand on the beaches of time, as important as the miniscule, dead thing; or, you were so incredibly important that you live in the one habitable world in the vaccuumous sea of black holes, stars and baren clumps of rock. Whatever your ambition, the truth is we’re all in some prison, some cage.
I can’t help waxing philosophic every time I leave this place, and I’m the one that gets to come and go as I please. It was as if that red brick castle of misery and time clung to me like a parasite. It invited me to live in my head, explore the thoughts and feelings of who I was, and how I defined myself on what I valued. I could live there all day if I didn’t say something aloud, if I didn’t say something that was real.
“That wasn’t so hard,” I grin at the back of Grace’s head.
When she doesn’t say anything, I know that conversation at this point might just be a good walk spoiled. Her head dips, like she thinks there’s a message in the blacktop, some secret off switch. I guess she’s found it, as she simply turns back and smiles.
Those eyes don’t mean it, and I wonder if deepdiving is an allergic reaction to this place that we share as siblings.
“I’m not trying to be a dick,” gets another turn, and a curious look. “But, I know it meant a lot to Dad to see you. To see both of us. Means a lot to me, too.”
“I… I know,” she sounded like the little seven year old trying not to pout when Lee accidently spoiled the whole Santa thing for her. Grown women always seem to know how to instill guilt.
I swallow my tongue and keep her pace as the meteorological spring didn’t quite mean Southern Ontario was through with the subzero temps. I keep my eyes busy looking at this crack in the pavement, or that tree, anything but looking back.
“Thanks,” she says in sincerity. She doesn’t look at me full on, but offers a glance over her shoulder, “It helped, you know? Having you there with me.”
I forget that she doesn’t really know Dad, not as an adult, not as a friend. When he went in, she was a little girl, still into anime princesses saving the day, and he was the unfalable parent. Then she left, out West with everyone else. Every time she must feel that dissonance.
“That place gives you the willies, too, huh?” is met with a shrug.
“I just can’t think of being locked away like that, you know? Heh, we’re barely in the same country at the same time. I can’t imagine being held in place like that.”
Getting locked up? I had that in my future. It wasn’t a long sentence, but that cage would take a toll. It’d shave years off of my career, hurry up that hip replacement I saw coming when I turn fifty. If it’s to the will of the men I entered the Colosseum with, they’d be happy to hand me the rudis, or spill my blood out on the sands like first century sport.
But, I’m not prepared to die, and like fuck would I salute you.
“Alex? Hey,” she grabs my attention. Did I look like I wasn’t listening? “We’re here,” she points to the ‘19 Chevy Malibu I should have had warming two hundred yards ago.
“Sorry,” I swing round to the driver side and unlock the set of doors.
As we hop in, shut the doors and fire up the engine, her eyes are a weight on me. And it’s this heaviness that’ll keep me in park for longer than I’d care. “You’ve been quiet all week.”
“Quiet and angry.”
“Nothing, right?” she cuts me off. Fine, I’ll look over, she wants to have this conversation. But what I see is the worst of faces: expectant. “I know you’ve got this big match coming up, but you never get angry. You get to work. You grab Ted and start preparing. I haven’t seen him all week.” All five days, sure, but she is right.
“Ted’s busy with his own business. You think I’m worried about this match, I’m not. Maybe that’s scary. But I’m too focused on finishing my goal, seeing my friend get right, and get the recognition we both deserve, but he needs.”
“Then why haven’t you just gone to him?” cold logic wasn’t comforting, but we were fluent in it.
I had no real good answer, other than that Ted decided he wanted to fail on his own terms. He wants to succeed without me. She isn’t up for this bullshit, so I don’t voice it.
“You know what I think you need?” the beautiful Pandora asked Epimetheus.
But I’m Prometheus, father of wisdom. I sit silent and would rather welcome the eagle to eat my liver than answer.
“We need a pet.”
My laughter dies down when I see she isn’t joking. “You just said it a minute ago, we’re never home. How exactly do you think we’d look after a thing?”
Clearly having put more thought in this than me, her words spring forward, “Well, Marci down the street already told me she’d pet-sit for me.”
“And you’d be up for the early morning walks and shit pickup?” I pivoted to the responsibility when she’d be home.
“Cats don’t need to go for those walks, and they go in litter boxes.”
“Nope,” I barely let her finish. Cats are assholes, not pets. They are squatters that you feed. “Do you remember what happened to the last cat you had?” I ask.
“Sox grew fat and died happy,” she thought of the thing buried under some backyard in Alberta.
“No, that stray you brought home when you were ten,” I correct her to understand I meant the last cat she had around me. I can’t tell if that face is a grimace, of puzzlement, so I just go on, “I had to punt the stupid thing from the second story window when it tried to swipe at my dick when I was taking a piss.”
She makes this sound trying to decide whether or not my actions were just a decade and a half ago, but thinks better than putting words to it. “So, not cats. But you need a pet.”
Conscious of idling too long, and wasting the $1.17/L gas, I pop it in drive and slowly cruise out of the parking lot. “Sorry, kiddo, but my house, my rules. No pets.”
Mississauga Animal Services Building
So confident was I when I started back to my humble Mississauga homestead that I barely noticed when Grace started to whittle away at my will, my resolve. Maybe if I had a touch more resolve, I would be the one facing Cecilworth Farthington in the Colosseum, not Ted. Then I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the steel, without a place to grab a moment’s peace. Maybe if I was more selfish, more stubborn. Maybe.
Maybe I wouldn’t be standing amongst a row of little cages, with the full olfactory experience of the local SPCA. This place was set up for pet lovers, that delusional bunch who call themselves ‘parents’ to the lower animals. Me, I saw a claustrophobic mess, painted an ugly off-white, buttery light shooting from overhead fluorescents. It’s a small wonder I’m not sitting in the car, watching another series of Ted’s matches, the ones against Kael, Kostoff and Deacon.
But that small wonder was in the middle of the sad tour, and in mid-conversation with the tour guide named Janice. “Oooooh! He looks so cute!” Grace fawns over a bunny dearly.
“Jack’s been with us for three months now,” came the pitch. I tone it out, and take myself around the regretful zoo.
This place had to have had about two-score of fur covered creatures, and a handful of scaled ones. It seems I’ve gone from one prison to another, as they each had their little cells, and an exercise yard. The things take little note of my presence, except to recoil for the strange man. They must have smelt it on me. I dodge the one wall, full of those pygmy tiger dicks, and find myself watching a volunteer just feeding the pooches.
“He’s a Lab, Tiny,” Janice and Grace had caught up.
“But, what’s with his leg?” Grace didn’t mean to be cruel, as if the thing could be offended.
“When we rescued Tiny, his hind leg was injured beyond any chance of healing. To keep him healthy, we had to make the hard decision. But, we’ve fitted him with those wheels, and he moves just as well as any of the doggos here.”
It’s funny, I never pictured Kael as a Labrador. Maybe a Scottish Terrier, or Chihuahua, some constantly upset thing, fighting the world despite of its size. Maybe I was wrong thinking Kael would be that wheeled dog, it was only 25% metal. He’d be more like some roadkill they warmed up and fitted with braces and motors.
There weren’t any Pit Bulls here, or anywhere in the Province. Not legally, at least. When they’d find them, the stubby tails were shipped south, or given that sleepy needle. Sorry, Kostoff, you weren’t to be found.
Neither were there any Great Danes. The giants all usually have health problems, not to mention the cost of maintaining the 100 kilo beast. It’s for this reason they weren’t popular enough to even be castaways. Sorry, Deacon.
“Oh, I see you’re looking at Frisco?” that cheery tone is directed to.. me?
I don’t want to volunteer anything, or give anyone high hopes.
“Don’t mind him. Alex is probably thinking back to our first dog, Rex.”
Rex, that big, dumb thing. He was my dog, he just happened to get pet every now and then from Lee and terrorized by a three year old Gracie. I can always laugh calling back the times I’d yell out ‘sic ‘em!’ and the happy pooch would run over to whoever I was pointed at, usually an unsuspecting friend, and dosing them in slobber and kisses. The best cheat code in gaming history. Suck it, Konami.
“Why does she look so sad?” I don’t know if I asked, or Grace does.
“He was a rescue that came to us when his owner died of a heart attack.”
“And no one’s come to adopt the little guy? I mean, he’s beautiful,” that was definitely Grace talking.
“Frisco just hasn’t been able to warm up to anyone. He’s been with us for four months,” and I could guess she pulled a sad face without even looking.
In a deep catcher’s squat, I’m just trying to get on his level to get a good look. He looks as happy to be in the cage as I’m going to be Saturday. He was playing hooky on his whole ‘save me’ play, like I was on HOW and my supposed media availability.
“You’ve lost a friend, huh, pal?”
His brown eyes lift to meet my emerald ones. He backs away to the far corner of his enclosure, but keeps his gaze locked.
“What breed is he?” my sister asked the person, while I searched the pup.
“A Golden Shepard, a mixed breed of Golden Retriever and German Shepard. I don’t know if there’s anything else mixed in there.”
I reach out my arm, but just hold it there. This was your chance, paws. Did you want a new home, or just stay locked up? Do you trust me enough to take you home? Am I talking to the dog, or the LSD title?
“Ohhh!” Grace somehow manages to squeal in a hush excitement, “He’s coming to you, Alex.”
I nod my head, to her and the dog, and soon he’s sniffing the back of my hand, and dipping under it for me to pat him on the head.
It gets a, “Wow,” from Janice, too.
I leave Grace to handle all the paperwork when the other staffer, Betty, hands me a fistful of treats to get acquainted with, “Frisco? Nah. You don’t look like a Frisco to me. You look like Goldie.” And he just lapped at my hand, ‘til every crumb was gone.
Four hundred dollars later, I was carrying Goldie in a cart out to my backseat. Fifteen hundred dollars more had been ordered online on the short trip home.
March 24, 2020
Four days away now. I was supposed to be on the plane out three days ago. I was still working at getting ready for March to Glory, but maybe the wrong parts of it. I wouldn’t be able to plan for the chaos of a four-way dance, penned in like cattle. I watched the film I could, but it was funny to see how I kept looking at what Ted did. The tells Ted had. The information I bet Farthington would pay top dollar for, if I thought any dollar could equal the bonds of brotherhood. Then I’d look at the only time I shared a ring with any of these guys, the tag title ladder match. Grady spent more time in Max’s face than I did. I was focused on Farthington then, too. It was only at the closing moment, one inch short, and one second late, when Kael came crashing into me, lucky enough to hold tight to the belts he now freely shared with the rest of his Group.
Can’t do anything about that now. But what I know I could do is stay in shape for whatever may come. To wit, I had my Nikes taut and an old GCW hoodie over the rest of the usual. I stretched one thigh, the picture of readiness.
My polar-opposite dragged fuzzy slippers over the hardwood kitchen floors, house robe over the PJs, craving to feed the caffeine withdrawal.
“Good morning,” I don’t laugh, but offer in a joking tone.
A groan is what I get in return. A groan and her plopping the coffee mug on the island, the one that read, ‘don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.’
“Good talk. I’m going to hit the trails,” gets a thumbs up, and wave.
As I opened the door, the fresh air must have alerted my new housemate, because the gold and black coat came ‘round the corner. Sixty pounds of begging sat at my feet.
“Take him,” like I needed to be told.
I take the leash from its place near the jackets, and click it into the leather collar. “You ready to go, Goldie?”
We go for a mile and a half in the brisk almost Spring morning weather, and he has kept up with me. I’ve forgotten what it was to be looked at with eagerness to please written in those doughy eyes. He smiles when I do, I’m proud, but didn’t remember to bring a treat. Next best thing, when I’m done taking a gulp of water, I let him bite at the bit I try pouring into his mouth.
I check my pulse, and it’s still too high for too long to be ready in time for the madness in Flavian’s Amphitheatre. I could go further, but my Goldie, I think it’d be best to turn back. In the time I’ve been distracted thinking about trains heading in opposite directions, meeting somewhere in the middle, and dreaming about everyone in their underwear, Goldie is sniffing away at a pair.
“Oh, aren’t you a cute little pup!” the mid-forties housewife out for her morning jog didn’t mind the attention. I’d think she was looking for it, wearing those painted on running shorts. She breaks off a piece of the energy bar she’s cracked into early and slips some to Goldie before I even know if I should have told her not to. I guess we’ll find out later. Grace can deal with that.
She flexes the laugh lines, and continues on her way. She’s inspired me more than she’d think, and not in the way you’d think.
I pull the cell out of the zipped belly pouch and dive into the contacts.
“Hey, Sock, I’m buying you a ticket to Rome. You in?”
Posted: March 24, 2020 @ 11:05 AM
The picture on the left is of Redding with Goldie in his arms, with a chain link fence between them and the camera. The pair pose like professionals, Red with that easy grin, and Goldie looking back to the new head of the pack.
Do I need to tell you to buy your tickets for this Saturday? Order the show through whatever reputable PPV provider serviced your region of the globe?
Didn’t think so.
HOW in the Colosseum. And Hell comes with us. The old Amphitheatre won’t have seen this much carnage since before the fall of the old Empire, or last time when HOW was Marching to Glory.
The LBI winner, my good brother, Teddy Palmer steps up to topple old Farty belts; a main event I hope I am right there to witness, up close and personal like.
Thing is, before that, I have a little four-way dance with three of the most destructive men Lee Best has on the payroll. Myself, Kostoff, and Deacon pitted against Max Kael, to take away his title. Lee’s Special Division. Or so the Boss hopes. But, you’re smart enough to know this is going to be bedlam from the opening bell. Oh, and did I mention that we were locked in a twelve foot high, steel mesh cage?
Like animals put in a pit, hungry and agitated. The winner gets to eat. PETA-philes and bleeding hearts probably won’t want to watch this one.
Saturday you’ll watch me step into that cage with a sasquatch, a silverback, and a hamster-operated cyberman. I trust you can guess who’s who. And myself? You’ll probably want to paint me as the underdog, same you are Teddy Palmer.
But Red ain’t Ted. And I ain’t nobody’s dog.
I am the Bad Wolf.
And about your expectations: Do I look like I give a fuck?
Your Willing Villain