The Ford F250 trudged along the countryside outside of Plainview, Texas. Inside The Behemoth sat, the drive from Dallas had been long and arduous. A small pile of empty energy drinks filled the passenger side cab. Normally the Monster from Plainview could rely on the energy from the crowd for one of Texas’ own. But Lee Best had made sure Clay wouldn’t get an ear splitting welcome. So, the five hour stomach ache was the last one to go. The others had flavor besides the taste of unfiltered Taurine, while the five hour energy was just disgusting.
But it had done its job, Clay’s eyes were open, the radio was on, Willie was singing, all was right with the world. Lee Best be damned. It had been over a year since Clay had last made this journey. This was the first time he’d felt a semblance of joy while making it in almost a decade.
He hadn’t gone back to the house since he’d burned it down last year. Sure, the fire department had called him, sure the police had called him. But what could you do about a man that decided he didn’t want his home anymore? There wasn’t any insurance claims on the home, no nefarious insurance fraud scam. Just a man who had been done with a building that he never wanted to see the inside of again. At least that’s what he thought, the microchip that was implanted in his skull may have had something to do with it, but he’d compartmentalized that, something that was only thought of in passing, never dig too deep, never go too far, you never know what you’ll find in there.
So The Behemoth drove on, each turn grew in familiarity, each bend he’d traveled thousands of times. These were the roads he learned to drive on, where he felt the most comfortable. Small bridges over dry creek beds, fields that stretched to the horizon was all you could see from the road. Clay rode on, straight, flat, embedded chip and seal road continued on for what seemed like forever.
Finally he turned into a driveway that was barely visible through all the high grass. The sign at the end of the road had fallen down, but Clay didn’t need to read his own last name before the word Ranch to know he was home. The driveway was rutted out, nobody caring for it through the winter and the spring rain let the gravel run off to the sides. The divots where tires would normally go had turned into small dry creek beds of their own.
But the old farm truck handled the drive just fine, albeit with more jostling and bumps than normal. Clay didn’t know what to expect as he came over the small ridge at the top of the driveway. A year had passed since he had started the fire. His heart skipped a beat as he looked at the ranch house. The roof had caved in, the front of the house was almost entirely missing. His RV was still embedded in what was left of the living room.
Clay put the truck in park, and stepped out into the driveway. He walked up it, eyes transfixed on the chaos and carnage he had caused. Pieces of the RV were strewn around the area, glass covered everything in sight. He carefully approached what was left of the front of the structure and peered inside. He’d expected to see a burnt couch, a television there, just blackened from soot.
But instead, what he saw was nothing. The absence of everything, his world, gone up in an inferno. The wall that separated the living room from the kitchen had collapsed at some point, and he could vaguely make out a kitchen sink, but the cabinets had fallen in on themselves and the metal piping and fixtures were all that was left. Clay had no desire to look through the rest of the house, or what was left of the RV.
That wasn’t why he was here.
Clay looked turned around behind him.
The barn was gone.
How’s the back Bob?
Did that powerbomb onto the steel steps hurt?
I hope it did.
I’ll tell you, it hurt when four fuckers beat me with batons. The physical pain I can deal with, it’s expected, it’s normal. I live everyday with it. I know, I chose to live with pain. I picked my career, and pain is part of it. That’s why it’s normal, it’s expected, just part of the job. Everytime Kostoff hit me it hurt, everytime Kostoff swung at me, it felt like one of those batons crashing into my body. Like I said, fighting big mother fuckers, experiencing the pain and suffering of a tough match. That’s normal.
I don’t even mind being outnumbered Bob, I pretty much expect it now. It’s just a regular old Sunday. But sitting there, in Oklahoma, getting the fucked kicked out of me by you four? That embarrassed me Bob. It wasn’t the pain, it wasn’t the fact the fans in Oklahoma laughed at a Longhorn getting hit with a fucking club. None of that hurt. It wasn’t the old man standing there with his dick in his hand, jerking off on his Jordans while you four fucks swung those sticks a whole bunch.
What upset me Bob, is where the fuck you four are from.
Lee Best ran out of troops he was willing to sacrifice, ran out of men he was willing to put into a fucking blender, and he called up Marcus Welsh and asked for some more cannon fodder. So you four dumb fucks come out dressed just like the help, because that’s what Lee actually sees you as, the help. So your boss had to send someone over who might be able to hang. He had to find someone on his roster who might be able to step up to the plate and fight the fucking BEHEMOTH of HOW. But he couldn’t really care what happened to the person.
And here you are.
Don’t go on some rant about how Marcus Dickforbrains really likes you, and how you’re an OCW hall of famer or a bunch of other garbage bullshit. Don’t tell me about how you’ve beaten some asshole dressed like a Roman Emperor, or how you fought some wild man from Kentucky. Because I’m not going to give a flying fuck about what you fucking morons do over in Amish country for three hundred people.
This is High Octane Wrestling. This is one of the largest promotions in the world. This is where everyone goes to test their metal, this is where steel sharpens steel. The baddest motherfuckers on the planet walk backstage and cross paths every fucking week here. The best of the fucking best, from Steve Solex, Joe Bergman, and Steve Harrison to Christopher America, STRONK Godson, Conor Fuse, Jatt Starr and Tyler Best.
THE BEST work in High Octane Wrestling.
I don’t even like those other fellers, but I know they’d wrestle fucking circles around every single one of you fucks from OCW. They’d do it with their eyes sewn shut. They’d do it missing a fucking arm, not tied behind their back, if it was fucking lopped off on the way into the arena they’d wipe the fucking floor with the best OCW has to offer without breaking a fucking sweat.
This little invasion though?
This is a fucking joke.
Lee Best isn’t even invested in this shit. You know what kind of match he walked you into, right? You know you’re going to be hooked onto one end of a rope, with a six-foot seven, almost three hundred pound, very angry man at the other end, right? If you didn’t, well, you’re pretty fucking stupid. And if you did know? Well, you’re still pretty fucking stupid for agreeing to it.
I’d have given Lee my entire paycheck back to have someone that fucking mattered at the other end of the rope. I’d have sent him a check if he put his grandson on the end, or STRONK, or Jace. Any of ‘em. ‘Cause see Bob, ropes are for settling scores. I’ve watched men settle scores with ropes my entire life. I watched my old man hook up with a bunch of bad hombres. And never, not ever, not once in my fucking life have I seen a man walk into a promotion and agree to get hooked up to a rope in his first match.
See, you’re supposed to feel something when that rope goes around your wrist. When you feel them tie it, when you have to slide your finger between the fibers and your wrist, just to make sure the circulation doesn’t get cut off. You’re supposed to have butterflies, you’re supposed to be on the very fucking edge of your seat. You should have that murderous feeling running through your veins. The man across from you should be thinking the same thing, he should be feeling the same way. He should be irate, incensed, and wanting revenge.
Instead of settling a score, instead of fighting a fucking war. I’m going to be tied to a rope with you, a guy named fucking Bob.
Lee Best really knows how to kill a guy’s mood.
He’s like the best friend of the hot girl at the bar, always sliding up and making sure she isn’t going home with some guy from the wrong side of the tracks. Sure, Mike has a grudge? Steel cage match. Hell, death match. Whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it. But if I got some unresolved bullshit? He’ll tickle the tip of my dick with the idea of hooking up to a bull rope and then pass the punishment onto some fucking moron who doesn’t know any fucking better; like yourself.
So congratulations, you won the ass beating of the fucking century. Congratulations, you did it. Enjoy the five minutes of fame, because I’m taking the fun out of this invasion before we even get fucking started. This time Lee can sit around with the blue balls.
There’s certain things in life that you grow accustomed to, certain things that you believe without a shadow of a doubt would stand for eternity. For some of us, it’s baseball fields and incredibly tall structures. For others, it’s something personal, like a barn. The high grass all around the house must have caught on fire, and it must have spread to the one thing that Clay could never destroy on his own.
He walked over to the old stone foundation. The sandstone was blackened, stained from the soot and heat of the fire. A tear crept down The Behemoth’s cheek. So many memories had happened in that structure. Sneaking out as a kid to drink with his fathers students, the first time he’d ever wiped his feet off before getting into a ring, it had all happened in that barn. His first win, his first loss. Every single first that someone in wrestling could have, had happened in that barn.
Out of habit, he walked where the front door had been. He couldn’t explain why he hadn’t just stepped over and onto the barn floor, whether it was habit or coincidence he couldn’t decide. The entire structure was gone, what was left were metal pieces. The lockers that were on the far wall had tipped over after losing their supports. He kicked through the metal pieces that were left over from the rest of the barn and walked to where the ring was.
He could feel where it was.
Not in the supernatural, hocus pocus kind of way. As a child, he’d counted how many steps it took to make it to that ring. And everyday, everytime he walked up to that ring in the middle of the barn, he repeated the same process. When he’d first started counting, it had taken twenty-three steps. But once he’d grown? Fourteen. Fourteen careful steps, watching where he stepped each time.
He knew the thing he was here for was gone, but he needed to stand in this spot for one last moment.
I’m sorry Dad.
Yeah, you, my real Dad. Not some figment of a computer chip in my brain, not some weird spectral projection caused by some guy’s robot eye. I’m talking to you. The dead guy, who’s reading this while perched on some fancy cloud where you get to watch HOTv and the ACE Network produce new and original content all day, everyday. The man who loved wrestling with every ounce of his soul.
I know I’ve disappointed you.
And sure, I’m trying to do better, I’m trying to be the man you always wanted me to be. But it’s hard to be that man. And I know you always told me it would be, but I never knew how hard it would really be. Maybe it’s because I never had the wakeup call of being a single father, or even a father of any type. I never had to provide for someone else, I’ve never had to make sure someone was tucked in, and sang a song before bed. I’ve never had someone dependent on me.
I know it was hard, I know it hurt, I know it was miserable. But I like to think that you did really enjoy being my father. When we’d go fishing, and you had to teach me how to tie a knot, or show me how to get a bluegill off of a hook without getting stabbed. Or when we threw football in the yard after eating dinner, and you let me pretend to be Emmit Smith even when you knew I was going to play line that weekend. I like to think those moments made it easier, made it easier to ride the straight and narrow. Made it easier to be on the right side of history instead of the wrong side of history.
But I’m justifying. And we both know what you always said about justifying. ‘Justification is just an excuse you believe in, son.’ You said it to me at least a hundred times throughout my life, and you were never wrong. You never missed the mark, when you threw something out like that, you knew you were giving me something to think about.
That’s what a good father does.
And man, you were a great Dad. Hell, I’d even say you were the best.
Every superman has his twilight though, and I guess watching you go through your twilight so rapidly, so quickly, really tore at me. One day, we were in the ring rolling around and I thought I was finally getting the better of you because you were short of breath. But I wasn’t getting the better of you, it was the emphysema. A few weeks later I had to watch you get hooked to oxygen, wheeling a cart behind you, and you still towered over everyone. The little tubes in your nose that you were embarrassed about, none of us noticed.
We looked through it, but chose not to see it. Hell, I thought you were healthy enough that I could go to Japan for three years and not miss anything. I thought that we still had plenty of time left together. That you’d be there forever, always able to be on the other end of my line whenever I needed something. Whenever I needed direction, advice, a favor, hell, just to talk about the Cowboys.
I wish you were at the other end of the line today.
I’d cut my arm off for one phone call. I’d blind myself just to be able to ask you a few more questions. Hell, if they’d let me I’d just come on up there and sit on the cloud with you and watch a game on whatever television the big man plays the Longhorns on. Just to hear your voice again, just to hear your drawl come through the other end of a speaker, or to see you wink when you tell me I’m an asshole.
Until recently, I hadn’t realized how alone, and how isolated I’ve been. I didn’t understand the importance of having a best friend, of having someone look up to me. I didn’t see the point of having someone just to shoot the shit with, or give me some advice. You were all of those things for me. Every last one of them, and it took four different people to replace you.
And who am I kidding, nobody will ever replace you. But some people can stand in, they can stand in and help me when I need help. They can stand in and guide me, they can be there for me. Since you’ve been gone I’ve been lost. But these men, they pull me to the center, they help me, and not just with wrestling. They help me with my life.
I’m a Highwayman now Dad, you don’t have to worry about me. I have my friends, I have my purpose. Sit there and tell John Madden how you used to hate his commentary and that a turducken is a waste of three fine birds. Kick back and watch a game with Landry, and ask if you can wear the hat. Enjoy it.
I’ll be fine.