As it turns out, Rick was around.
At this point in their relationship, Zeb had not quite yet picked up the gift that the rest of the Bandits had in the ability to translate the three words that the big burly baldy used to communicate. Thankfully, the wonderful gift of text messaging allowed for his question of “Home?” to be answered with a single thumbs up emoji: all of the banter they needed in order for Rick to expect his friend to soon show up at his doorstep.
Even though the two resided on opposite ends of the city, Zeb had been to Rick’s place several times since the Canadian became a part of the group. Of all of the members of the Bandits, the Watson Mill Kid enjoyed working out with Rick the most. Mainly due to the fact that his regiment involved going out to wooded areas and simply using various-sized logs in place of free weights. Zeb enjoyed the muscle-building exercise outside of the confines of an indoor gym. Plus, Rick was just fucking ungodly strong. Awesome pics. Great size. Thick. Solid. Tight. He couldn’t help but aspire to and admire the way that his buddy could take what looked like half of a black walnut tree and press it over his head with ease.
Of course, who better to recruit to lift a sofa?
Secondary to that, the speech that Jiles had given him still resonated after he’d left the Den. At this point, Zeb had coasted in the background of the clique, doing just what he needed to in order to keep in good standing with the rest of the boys. Looking after Bobby’s well-being was the first time that he’d actually been given a real task, and (to him) he’d dropped the ball. Going forward, he needed to shift his focus on becoming one within the shell.
A good start would be to strengthen his bond with Rick.
“Hey bo,” Zeb greets with a warm smile, extending a baby blue T-shirt the size of a parachute towards his favorite fitness buddy. “Santy Claus dun broughtya a present.”
Rick returns the gesture with a wide-eyed grin of his own. Unfolding the laundry, he chuckles as he reads the words aloud.
“Qui a pété?”
“Yeah man, ‘who farted,’ purty funny, huh? Hey, hold on,” Zeb pauses, almost letting the most shocking thing he’s come across in weeks (yes, even after the longest acid trip ever recorded by mankind) slip him by.
“Rick! Dang man! YOU DUN SAID OTHER WORDS!” Comer’s Favorite Boy had to cover his mouth to stifle an extremely stereotypical “yeeeeeeeeee HA!” from escaping it.
“What the heck dun happened? How you able tuh talk more now?”
Rick desperately wanted to explain the entire chain of events to his partner for the upcoming match at Refueled. He wanted to go into exquisite detail as to the aftermath of his battle with at Alcatraz, and the spellbinding revelation in the prison’s medical unit that a few brain synapses had been rocked into function by way of Freeman’s fist. However, there was something way more important that needed to be addressed first.
“Attendez,” Rick gasps, “vous comprenez le Français?”
“Oh,” Zeb replies, as if he were surprised that Rick would ask him if he knew how to interpret French. “Well, ev’er since we dun got back from War Games, I figg’red it’d be cool tuh learn it. Might not never git back over there, but shoot: I’ll prolly go tuh Quebec sometime, it’d come in handy tryna eat me some poutine.”
“Attendre.” Once again, Rick still was unable to comprehend. “War Games était il y a seulement un mois. Comment l’avez-vous appris si vite?”
It was as clear as a bell to Martin that Rick had just asked him how in the fuck he learned an entire language pretty fluently in only a month and a half. The struggle was trying to explain it in a way that made clear and logical sense, mainly because there was no clear and logical explanation for it.
So, he went with the truth.
“Uh, I mean, tuh be honest with ya,” he mumbles, “I really only got down a coupla phrases up until two weeks ago. ‘How y’all doin’ an’ ‘I like tuh fish’ and stuff like ‘at. But then after y’all dun found me and Bob in the alleyway? I picked the book back up a coupla days after and I ain’t even need it! It’s like I been speakin’ it since I was a young’un. It’s plum crazy. Makes it even more weird that this here newfound skill’s already comin’ in handy right here in this very moment.”
The two simply stood in silence for a minute, casting wistful gazes towards nothing in particular — almost as if they were on a Netflix show and the stream had temporarily frozen.
“Anyway, you ‘n me? We go’n go find us a new couch!”
What resulted in an afternoon filled with Ikea, Value City, Ethan Allen, Ashley, and Bob’s Discount Furniture and Mattress, a pair of incredibly gifted men who had been able to rapidly transition their brains into understanding and speaking two languages had come to experience a starting revelation.
You cannot buy a new couch with $20. You cannot even buy a new couch with $200.
Zeb had left several irritating text messages left unanswered. As if he had programmed it into his phone, every fifteen minutes a notification from “COOL Man” would illuminate his iPhone. Where’s the couch. Where’s the couch. Did you get the couch yet? Couch. Sure would love to sit down, wish I had something to do that on.
The Watson Mill Kid took several deep breaths, trying to withhold a panic attack. This was Plan Z all over again. Even the simple task of buying a sofa was proving to be too much for him to handle.
Rick sat with Zeb on the bed of the Toyota Tundra, both still sporting the same matching Who Farted T-shirts from that same day. Their attire did not necessarily aid in negotiations at some of the finer furniture outlets, although one employee from the Discount store gave the two a high-five for the choice before asking them to leave.
“Reckon how come shit kain’t be as easy tuh me as ‘rasslin is?” he inquires. “I ain’t tryin’ tuh say I’m dang near perfect at slappin’ on a leg twister ‘er crankin’ a wrist bender, but at least I kin do it purty good.
“I mean, we all in this business don’t stop learnin’, but I know enough tuh get by alright. An’ the lessons come easy fer me. See, Ricky, check ‘is out,” Zeb recalls, looking over at his partner.
“Last time I’s up thar with Dooze when we was goin’ against Matthews and Hollywood, I up and Gator rolled Darin a coupla times and tried tuh lock the Tangler on ‘em. But man, you feelin’ good ‘bout yer momentum an’ git so caught up in the one man that ya slip. Fer that minute, e’rthang you dun been taught ‘bout tag teamin’ and how submittin’ somebody’s REAL friggin’ difficult when they got a partner close by tuh break it up.
“Don’t nobody tap out in three seconds ‘less you got a knife up against they throat, so a lock’s just givin’ ‘em plenty more time tuh save the loss. And guess what happened? DOOOOOOOOOOOSH, I got one in the jaw from Hollywood when I wasn’t lookin’,” Martin emphasizes, making a punching motion to accompany his use of Southern onomatopoeia.
Using his palms to boost himself off of the tailgate, Zeb’s boots hit the gravel driveway with a crunchy thud. “We ended up winnin’, but it was a goose shit mistake that coulda cost us. Bottom line, though? I ain’t never tryna grab the win with that move in a tag match ever again. Shoulders go’n be mashed against that mat. I learned a lesson, ‘cause it came real easy tuh me as soon as I came to from that Executive Promise: I said, ‘Zeb, you know now not to do that no mo.’ And I stored it in the ol’ noggin’ fer the future.”
“But gawd, ain’t a thang goin’ right fer me lately. Kain’t keep Bobby from talkin’ me inta trouble, kain’t keep wimmin from stealin’ my hat when I’m drankin’, and kain’t even buy a couch. What in the heck was CJ thinkin’ anyway, trustin’ me with this with twenty dollars. You ain’t able to buy nothin’ for no twenty…”
Zeb stops himself in mid-sentence. An imaginary 40 watt bulb begins to slightly flicker above his skull, prompting him to turn to Rick with a renewed enthusiasm. Of course! How could he have been so stupid? His own bed back home in Georgia, his old Schwinn bike he had when he was a child, and his Pawpaw’s favorite recliner. All purchased from the same place.
“Yard sale. A yard sale! Rick! Why ain’t I thank of that before? That’s where we go’n find us a couch: we’ll get up with the rooster and head out early. Somebody’s dang shore go’n have old furniture they tryin’ tuh get rid of!”
Rick nodded. It was certainly worth a shot, and he himself had wondered why he hadn’t thought of that. He’d just been to one that very morning, looking for antique tea sets to add to his ever-growing collection. While that trip was unsuccessful, he did manage to score a near-mint ceramic Winnie the Pooh cookie jar.
Surely they could find a couch.
“Il y en a un.”
No, it wasn’t Rick who’d just pointed out a line of cars parked on the sidewalk for their first stop on the yard sale tour in flawlessly-enunciated French. It was Zeb. Oddly enough, despite his slaughterhouse diction of the English language, his accent could have easily been mistaken for a native of Montreal.
Making a lap around the block and pulling the truck behind a red sedan, the two stepped out onto the sidewalk and made their way towards their target. Their hopes were high, and even if this one didn’t pan out, they still had the entire morning to scavenge around the suburbs of Chicago.
“Thangs are lookin’ up fer us, Rick. I mean, I reckon I was freakin’ out a lil’ bit last night, but ya know what? CJ’s the dang LSD champ, the Bandits finally got the last word in on them Bruvs, and Bobby got his mass-sage ther’py license! An’ if we get this couch thang squared up here quick, me’n you can get busy on puttin’ the plan together tuh beat Brian an’ Darin. Here’t is, man.”
The two stroll up and are pleased to discover that this is not just your average yard sale. With several folding tables lined up crudely in a row in the house’s front yard, it appeared that the neighbors had pooled their efforts in a collective effort to get rid of the bull shit that they didn’t want anymore.
Zeb and Rick did a quick scan of the perimeter. While there seemed to be a nice fur-covered ottoman fashioned to look like a yak over at Table 4, there was not so much as a loveseat in sight.
“Dang,” Martin said. “Well, just the first ‘un. Plenty more tuh go.”
However, Rick’s eyes had already begun to drift over at a table covered in kitchen decor and various other cute little nick-nacks. “Ça vous dérange si nous regardons un peu autour de nous avant de partir?” he asks.
“Yeah bo, we can look around fer a minute. Might as well,” Zeb agrees.
“We’ll prolly find one at the next stop anyway.”
As Rick eagerly power-walks toward the trinket table, Martin took a quick gander at a table full of various children’s toys with intrigue. Scattered across it were a few plastic championship wrestling belts, a baby’s play xylophone from Fisher Price, and several off-brand Barbie dolls. His attention is then caught by a vintage Singalodeon karaoke machine with a microphone accessory attachment: exactly like the one they used to give Double Dare contestants!
“Friggin’ karaoke,” Zeb scoffs. “You gotta be a real dummy tuh thank anyone wants tuh hear you sing.”