HI EVERYONE IT IS ME YOUR FRIEND GREAT SCOTT.
IT IS FINALLY HAPPENING. GREAT SCOTT AND STRONK. STRONK AND GREAT SCOTT. THIS IS BATMAN VS SUPERMAN BUT WITHOUT THE THIRTY SECONDS OF FIGHTING EACHOTHER AND YELLING MARTHA. THIS IS CHICKEN AND WAFFLES WITH LOUD VOICES. THIS IS A THIRD EXAMPLE OF AN ICONIC DUO BECAUSE RULE OF THREE IS A STRONG LITERARY DEVICE.
YOU ASKED FOR IT.
NOW YOU GOT IT.
OH SO THIS PROBABLY GOES WITHOUT SAYING BUT IT TURNS OUT THAT STRONK WAS NOT ACTUALLY DEAD LIKE I KEPT TELLING EVERYONE. HE IS JUST SMALL AND SAD AND HIS LETTERS ARE SMALL NOW WHICH I CAN UNDERSTAND BECAUSE I WAS just scott FOR A FEW WEEKS UNTIL I BEAT BRANDON YOUNGBLOOD AND GAVE HIM A CASE OF THE BIG MAD.
NOW THAT STRONK IS BACK I HAVE SIGNED FULL TIME WITH OCTANE WRESTLING BECAUSE BEING A TAG TEAM WITH HIM IS THE ONLY THING LEFT ON MY BUCKET LIST BESIDES BEING A WORLD CHAMPION AND I THINK WE ALL KNOW THAT WAS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN IN PRIME. I KNOW SOME PEOPLE ARE MAD ABOUT ME GOING FULL NINETY SEVEN RED BUT FUCK YOU DEAL WITH TYLER NOW YOU DORKS.
THIS STORY IS NOT REALLY MY STORY IT IS STRONK’S STORY BECAUSE HE HAS A HERO JOURNEY TO GO ON AND I AM ALREADY A HERO. BUT DO NOT WORRY I WILL BE AROUND SOME TOO. SO NOW I AM GOING TO GO GET READY FOR THE STORY I HAVE TO FIND A FAKE MUSTACHE DO NOT WORRY ABOUT WHY YOU WILL SEE LATER.
LET’S FUCKING GO.
HAVE A GREAT DAY.
Construction workers wail relentlessly on chunks of concrete, pry and rattle metal pipes, shout incomprehensibly back and forth. A low hum of activity perceptible at all times, disrupted once daily by an expedited lunch.
They gather outside his window their first day on the job site, gawking at the sleeping behemoth lying beneath a wilted sheet atop a hospital bed, tubes snaking out from hastily applied bandages. They eat sandwiches and speculate as to the events that led to the man’s unfortunate set of circumstances.
Someone suggests that he failed trying to set a new powerlifting record and dropped the weight on the top of his head, compressing his spine and resulting in a traumatic brain injury. Another proffers an alternative take: the man was stabbed and slashed by a katana-wielding, naked crackhead outside a nearby Gold’s Gym; it was “on the news; I saw it!”
Older Construction Worker: (waving hand dismissively) “No, you got it wrong, all y’all do. He was on some designer HGH shit that caused his brain and his heart to grow five times faster than the rest of his body, and so the poor fella got super smart super quick and I guess came to know too much because he could read a book a minute or something really smart like that, and the damn libs tried to assassinate him with bubble wrap over the face. Lack of oxygen to the brain rendered him a vegetable.
As the construction worker rambles on, a figure can be seen softly lurking in the distance, hiding within the shadows. A snazzy, old-timey detective hat hides the top of his face, with a large fake mustache concealing the rest of his countenance. He would probably be pretty well hidden, if it weren’t for the bright purple and blue singlet covering the rest of his body, right down to the boots.
Absolutely-Not-Scott jots notes on a notepad, nodding feverishly as he writes down all of the information that he’s getting from the construction worker.
Older Construction Worker: Heard they’re just keeping him alive because the subterranean incinerator that Bill Gates funded is currently down for maintenance. Should be back up and running on Tuesday… at which time it’s going to be like this guy never existed. Poof—gone. Sad.”
Younger Construction Worker: “But we saw him, Bill. We see him right now. He does exist.”
Older Construction Worker: “The human memory is a fascinating thing. Easily manipulated if one possesses the right technology. Just you wait. You’ll go to turn on your TV one evening, you’ll see a flash, and the next day we’ll be gathered here, talking about the old Chinese woman with the bad hip who we all, for some inexplicable reason, felt compelled to peep on every day for a week.”
The construction worker turns and looks through the glass, prompting his co-workers to do the same, like a bunch of school children on a field trip peering into a gorilla’s cage at the zoo.
The man in the hospital bed’s face—fully concealed beneath a thick plaster of bandages and gauze—subtly twitches to the rhythmic beating of the heart rate monitor. A disheveled janitor pushes a wide broom down the length of the semi-private hospital room, moving swiftly from one side to the other. He sidles up to a nurse that recently entered the room.
Janitor: “How’s he lookin’, doc?”
Nurse: “I told you, Joe, I’m not a doctor.”
Janitor: “Oh, that makes no difference to Ol’ Joe. You’re college edjumacated. That means ya got smarts in ya. Before Ol’ Joe’s plumbing business went bankrupt a few months back, Ol’ Joe used to snoop around the homes of many college edumacated people. Wanna know something truly humbling?”
The janitor leans in toward the nurse, as if to whisper something in her ear, but ultimately continues to speak at full volume.
Visibly uncomfortable, or at the very least annoyed, the nurse swats the man away upon smelling his putrid breath. She capitulates with an exhausted sigh.
Nurse: “What is it?”
Janitor: “A rich man’s shitter cakes up with brown just the same as a poor man’s. Ain’t no difference. Shit’s shit.”
Nurse: (rolling eyes) “Right. Thanks for that.” She rolled her eyes.”
Nurse: “Women, too. Women can lay mortar on porcelain better than some men. You’d be surprised.”
The nurse ignores the strange ramblings of the recently hired janitor, as she checks the man in the hospital bed’s vitals, noting them down in the chart cradled against her chest.
Janitor: “So…? What about the big guy? He gonna make it?”
Nurse: “He’s been unresponsive for nearly a month.”
Janitor: “The big cocksucker’s in that upside-down world. Comas terrify Ol’ Joe. Think about it: all the chemical warfare Ol Joe’s inflicted on his brain, and all of a sudden Ol’ Joe’s trapped in there with it? The fuck you talkin’ about? Just smash my skull in with the claw side of a hammer and throw me in the trash if I ever wind up in a damn coma.”
Finishing her round of checks, the nurse goes to leave, but momentarily turns round and addresses the janitor one final time. She does not notice the man in the detective hat creep closer, peering against the glass and writing down more notes.
Nurse: “Coma? Mr. Godson’s not in a coma. He sustained serious trauma to his brain, yes, but he’s not technically in a coma. He’s just… sleeping. It’s very peculiar.”
Janitor: “Big fucker needed some shuteye, I gets it.”
Voice: “Yo, young god, you’re finally awake. Name’s Avery, but I’m known professionally as Aston Vulgar. You might know me as the lead singer in the band Prenatal Cunt Punch.”
Stronk groggily sits up in his hospital bed, disoriented and bewildered by his surroundings. He gazes across the room, finding a man with no arms sitting in the corner of the room on a chair, sucking on a vape pinched between his knees.
Stronk: “Why do you have… no arms?”
Vulgar: “Crazed fan I was diggin’ out one night tied me to the bed and chainsawed my arms off at the shoulders. I put her in a choke with my legs—saved my life on god—then walked my stumpy ass to the hospital. Almost bled to death en route but it’s all right.”
Stronk blinks, pawing at the bandages still wrapped around his face.
Stronk: “That is unfortunate.”
Vulgar: (laughs) “Naw, bro, I’m just cappin’. What really happened was, I was doin’ two bills on my Kawasaki down the interstate and tried to squeeze up between two semis, but my hammered-drunk ass be shit at judging distance, and I like holding my arms outstretched when I ride because I’m a fuckin’ rock star, bro, and so here I am talkin’ to you, thankful as fuck I’m a singer and not a guitar player. Shouts out to the homie that invented the mic stand.”
Stronk: “Your bathroom activities must be confusing.”
Vulgar: “Imagine if I had arms like Jax, though? That’d be cool. But I read that we’re five or ten years away from giant metal muscle arms. It’s, like, a supply chain issue brought on by COVID or something? I don’t know.”
Just then, a red-headed doctor, mid fifties, storms into the room, compulsively clicking a pen. He’s flanked by a very… peculiar…. looking nurse, wearing a N95 mask over “her” face and a long blonde wig over a brown mullet.
Doctor: “Damn it, Avery, back in bed! No one wants to hear about the time you tried to fuck a rollercoaster.”
Avery scoffs, annoyed.
Vulgar: “I wasn’t even on that tip yet, dad! I was telling him about how, like, wouldn’t it be cool if I had Jax arms?”
Doctor: “Enough about the fucking metal arms! Your stupidity and alcoholism has rendered your poor mother infirm! Infirm, I say! She has a son with no arms! She keeps babbling on about ‘who will hold my grandson?’ She’s taken to the medication well enough, thank Christ. But you, son, are a strain on our family. We entertained the whole rockstar thing, the rumoured pee parties, the drinking, the fights, the constant ODs, the nude photos leaked to the Internet of your splayed fucking asshole, but we have our limits. Your brother is a Harvard educated neuroscientist, for crying out loud!”
Vulgar: “Oh yeah, let’s talk about Doug the good son! Like I don’t hear enough about that dickweed!”
Doctor: “Yeah, let’s talk about him! Wanna know something? He gave me a high five just yesterday! Me and Doug, we looooooove our high fives!”
A second nurse– a real one– pokes her head in through the doorway, interrupting.
Nurse: “Doctor, you’re needed in emerg.”
Doctor: “Right. I’ll be right there.”
The doctor turns and points in his son’s face.
Doctor: “We’ll continue this discussion later. Get well, son. And know when to shut the hell up. Nobody wants to hear your phony jive speak.”
The doctor storms out of the room, headed toward whatever emergency awaits him. The obviously-not-Scott of a nurse lingers around, however, silently holding a tape recorder in one of his… I mean her… hands.
Vulgar: “Love you, too, daddy.”
The armless rocker moves to sit on the corner of his bed, contemplative—or maybe not. Maybe the percs finally kicked.
Stronk: “Your father is a very smart and stern human man.”
Stronk’s voice is deflated, robbed of his signature bombastic inflection. Just an ordinary guy with a TBI uttering surface-level observations in a weak monotone.
Vulgar: “He’s a great doctor. He did your brain. Fixed it. People say the only time he lost a patient is when the guy showed up in two dozen ziplock bags. And even still it was razor-thin.”
Stronk: “Stronk is appreciative of your father’s medical abilities. Yes. Inform your father that Stronk is forever in his debt.”
Vulgar: “Cool, man. Will do.”
Stronk: “Thank you.”
Vulgar: “Wait—did you say your name was Stronk?”
Stronk: “Yes. Stronk is Stronk’s name.”
Vulgär: “Like, the wrestler?”
Stronk: “Yes. Stronk used to be feared by bird men and befriended by flag men alike. Stronk was in a music band as well. Stronk and Stronk’s friends played good music and Papa Best smiled once. It was a happier time for Stronk. Also, Stronk had a best friend that was a bull and the bull’s name was MONGO. MONGO was violently murdered.”
Vulgar: “You look different, bro. I mean, I can’t see your face under all those bandages, but shit, does TV add like sixty pounds of muscle or something? Because if so, I wanna know where mines be at, because I was twig boi at the Grammies last year, y’know?”
Stronk’s confused by the man’s words. Such a lack of deference and fear. An unusual, foreign situation for Stronk. He stands up and walks unsteadily across the hospital room floor, knees trembling, back aching, brain swimming in a vat of painkillers. He notices immediately that his voice is less boisterous and authoritative, but as he lumbers across the recently swept tile floor, he feels weakness in his thighs, a lethargy and ineffectuality he’s never before experienced.
He lurches forward as he nears the mirror, clutching it to keep from toppling over. His eyes gradually rise, allowing him to stare deeply at his own grim reflection, no more than six inches from the glass.
Stronk: (aghast) “Stronk… is small.”
A shell of a man stares back at him: sunken cheeks, darkened, ashy bags under his eyes, paper-thin skin that appears loose in places it should be tight and tight it places it should be loose. The image jars him and he stumbles back a step or two, providing a view of the rest of his body… or what is left of it.
Taken aback, confidence abashed by the state of ruination of his once sculpted, imposing frame, his mouth opens, jaw quivering.
Sixty, maybe seventy, pounds inexplicably gone. His pecs sag, his abs have vanished. He doesn’t even look “sweater big;” he looks frail and diminished. And frail is the absolute worst thing a man can be. Is this how Shelley Greene/Abdullah Choi feels every single day of his sad, pathetic life?
Stronk: “Where did Stronk’s mass go? Who took Stronk’s mass? Where is Stronk’s mass?”
He can’t even muster some ALL CAPS as he’s emotionally breaking down, his world spinning.
Stronk falls to a seated position on the floor. He lifts his arms and flexes… but it does not result in the satisfaction he once knew and could count upon to uplift his spirits. Flexing is depressing when you don’t have anything to flex. Like showing up to a car show and all you have is a one-speed bike stolen off some kid’s front lawn. Stronk does not shed a tear in this moment, because on a deep, almost molecular level it’s been drilled into his head all his life that a man does not show emotion, let alone cry. He doesn’t cry, but he feels every bit the same torrent of emotion building up inside him like a compromised dam on the verge of total failure.
Stronk: “Where’s Stronk’s muscles?”
Vulgar: “Dunno. But yo, I’m supposed to give this to you.”
Vulgar reaches with his foot and pinches an envelope between his toes, hopping round on one foot to pass it to Stronk.
Stronk: “What is this?”
Vulgar: “Some bald-headed dude came by a few times while you were out like a light. Sat in that chair, didn’t say a word. Ordered a rum and Coke from the nurses’ stationn… and they fuckin’ brought it to him. Dunno what he was all about, but he must be some type’a big swingin’ dick, maybe mafia.”
Stronk tears open the letter.
Stronk: “Stronk does not understand this language.”
Vulgar cranes his neck to peer over Stronk’s shoulder, reading the letter. With both men consumed by it’s contents, the fake nurse, who is absolutely not Scott Gratesburgh, hits the stop button on his audio recorder and silently creeps backward out of the room.
Vulgar: “English? You don’t know English? You even get your grade nine, bro? Hey, don’t worry about it, I got’chu.”
Aston reads the letter aloud:
“The hospital staff has been instructed to inform me when you are awake so that I may arrange a car to pick you up and take you home. Home, for the time being, will be a temporary residence near HOW headquarters. I need you close—and I need you one hundred percent. I’ve leased a fully furnished penthouse for you and will have the fridge stocked. There will also be a special surprise waiting for you there upon your arrival. Actually, two surprises.
“Rest up… then let’s get back to fucking work.
Shrunk Stronk ambles off the elevator onto the thirtieth floor of the luxury condo building located in the heart of Chicago. A hospital gown hangs loosely from his body, his bare ass peaks out briefly through the gap in the thin fabric with every lethargic stride he takes.
He walks a few feet and arrives at a door, which he promptly opens.
Entering the fully furnished penthouse, he sets down a bottle of painkillers on a table by the door and walks out into the expansive living space.
This is to be his home as he starts on the road to recovery.
In the middle of the living room, a small cardboard box sits, punctured by a few pencil-sized holes all over. A tape recorder rests atop the box. Stronk pokes the ‘Play’ button with his index finger.
Recording of Lee Best: “STRONK—welcome home. In this box is surprise number one. I hope it’ll act as inspiration as you work to rebuild that which you’ve lost.
“As he grows, you’ll grow.”
Moving the tape recorder off to the floor, he peels back the folds of the box, peering down inside.
A pitbull puppy lies curled up asleep at the bottom of the box, a small log of shit pushed into one corner. It awakens groggily as Stronk reaches down inside and lifts it from the box, holding it at eye level.
The pit’s eyes adjust slowly and fix on the man clutching it.
Stronk: “Stronk does not eat dogs. Papa Best knows this. Stronk only eats things smaller than Stronk that do not smile. Like chickens, pigs, hens, roosters, cows, bears—”
Had he shrunk that much? Was he now no bigger than an above average-sized rooster? What was Papa Best trying to tell him?
The tape recording—which hadn’t stopped playing, but rather given way to dead air for a moment, with Lee likely anticipating how long it’d take Stronk to investigate the mystery box, while also anticipating what Stronk’s first line of thinking might be—continues to finality:
Recording of Lee Best: “It is not food. It is a pet to be nurtured and loved. Like MONGO, but smaller and less vicious. Maybe. Anyway, enjoy. Surprise number two should be arriving shortly.”
Stronk hears the sound of the door opening and foot steps advancing toward him. That’s when a man rounds to corner and enters his view. But not just any man.
A GREAT man.
GREAT SCOTT: HI IT IS ME JERBOI GREAT SCOTT.
Mullet flowing in a breeze that appears to have come from nowhere, the fluorescent lighting creates a faux-angelic haze over the singleted form of Scott Gratesburgh as he makes his way slowly down the corridor. The HOTv Championship is over his shoulder, while the other hand holds a six pack of LIQUID STRONKUMMS.
GREAT SCOTT: I HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOU STRONK. THIS IS MY BIG REVEAL THAT I HAVE BEEN HERE ALL ALONG IN THE BACKGROUND TAKING NOTES AND DOING RESEARCH ON HOW TO HELP YOU GET YOUR MOJO BACK. I AM GOING TO BE YOUR YODA NOW STRONK EXCEPT THAT YOU ARE MUCH TOO SMOL TO CARRY ME ON YOUR BACK. I DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU LOOK LIKE YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME AT A VERY SAD SUMMER CAMP BUT I AM GOING TO HELP YOU GET BIG AND STRONK AND GIVE YOU… A NEW HOPE. I PROMISE YOU MY FRIEND…
The eccentric wrestler, who looks absolutely massive in comparison, places a reassuring hand on Stronk’s shoulder.
GREAT SCOTT: THE EMPIRE WILL STRONK BACK.
HEY ME AGAIN GREAT SCOTT.
IT IS TIME FOR ME TO ADMIT THAT I DO NOT KNOW WHO THE HONOR SOCIETY IS. YOU WOULD THINK THAT I WOULD SINCE I WAS JUST IN PRIMETIME FOR A LONG TIME BUT I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO IS IN THAT TAG TEAM. I COULD LOOK IT UP TOO BUT HONESTLY I DO NOT CARE. THE TRUTH IS THAT PRIMETIME IS FULL OF A BUNCH OF DELUSIONAL JABRONIS WHO TAKE THEMSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY AND WOULD NEVER LET ME CHALLENGE FOR THE IMPULSE CHAMPIONSHIP EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS MY DREAM. THEY WERE SO HELLBENT ON KEEPING ME AWAY FROM THE IMPULSE CHAMPIONSHIP THAT THEY LITERALLY CANCELED IMPULSE JUST TO BE SAFE.
I SEE NO HONOR IN PRIMETIME.
AT PWA ONE GREAT STRONK IS GOING TO FUCKING DISMANTLE HONOR SOCIETY. I MAY NOT KNOW WHO IS INSIDE YOU BUT I KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SINGLE GREATEST DREAM TAG TEAM OF ALL TIME. I DO NOT CARE IF STRONK CURRENTLY HAS SMALLER MUSCLES THAN GREAT SCOTT JUNIOR. I DO NOT CARE THAT YOUR MYSTERY WOULD BE SOLVED LITERALLY BY JUST GOING TO THE PRIMETIME WRESTLING WEBSITE AND DOING NINE POINT SEVEN SECONDS OF RESEARCH. I DO NOT EVEN CARE THAT NINE POINT SEVEN PEOPLE WILL READ THIS PROMO AND THINK IT IS TARGETING THEM EVEN THOUGH I DO NOT THINK ABOUT THEM EXCEPT FOR THE NINE POINT SEVEN SECONDS IT TAKES ME TO WIPE MY BUTT AFTER I POOP.
I DO NOT CARE.
WITH GREAT STRONK COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY AND AT PWA ONE MY RESPONSIBILITY IS TO HELP STRONK GET BIGGER, STRONKER, AND FASTER THAN HE EVER HAS BEFORE. WE START WITH HONOR SOCIETY BUT WE DO NOT STOP UNTIL WE ARE THE PWA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS. WHICH BY THE WAY FUCK YOU FOR NOT PUTTING US IN THE PWA TAG TEAM MATCH. JUST ANOTHER BLUE HAND KEEPING THE MAN DOWN.
KEEP THESE NUTS DOWN.
WE’RE GREAT STRONK.
AND WE’RE GONNA FUCKING KILL EVERYONE.