BEEP BEEP BEEP
“Motherfucker…” The Behemoth groaned as he swatted an enormous hand at his phone. There still wasn’t furniture in the new home. But a pillow and blanket had been acquired. The big man stuffed his face into the pillow for a moment, before rotating over onto his back. He was sore, his body ached. He got to his feet, he adjusted his High Octane Wrestling gym shorts and headed up the hallway. Then down the stairs, this time though a coffee pot had been running for the last few minutes.
The Monster from Plainview grabbed a thermos out of the sink. He rinsed it out before sliding the brown liquid into it. The tub of protein powder was next, two big scoops into the coffee. Every flavor tastes like chalk and shit, might as well mix it with more shit. He shook the thermos as hard as he could for about thirty seconds. He stopped, and began pouring some of the coffee with espresso flavored protein powder into his mouth. He grimaced, the flavor hadn’t grown on him, but it didn’t matter.
He grabbed a black t-shirt from the package on the marble countertop. He threw it on and took the thermos with him to the door. He left the boots in their spot, and grabbed a pair of black and red Nikes. They were on in an instant and The Behemoth was out the front door and off jogging up the sidewalk. He stopped, pulling his hair back into a ponytail before running up the rest of the way up the hill. He came to a slow walk, and came through the front doors of the gym. He waved his way past the counter area and beelined his way back to the short brown haired man.
“Hey Clay!” Brian waved the big man over into an already in progress conversation with a slender graying man in white shorts and a white polo.
“Steve, this is Clay Byrd…” Brain introduced the two men and Clay held his hand out and shook Steve’s. The hand was rough and calloused, like Clay’s own.
Brian continued. “Steve’s our tennis pro here at the club. I was just talking to him about the shoulder exercises we’ve been working on.”
“Clay, you mind showing me what we’re trying to accomplish?” Steve smirked at The Behemoth who nodded back. Clay took a short jog back up the aisle between the machines. He checked his surroundings, making sure nobody was walking up any of the aisles. He lunged forward, three steps and swung his left arm as hard as he possibly could. He stumbled his way to a stop in front of the two men. He grimaced, forcing himself not to start breathing heavily.
“You hit people with that? Jesus Christ…” Steve laughed and turned toward Brian. “You feel that? He stopped what, five feet away and we still got a breeze? That arm is really moving.”
Steve paused and pulled out his phone. He thumbed through it for a moment before finally turning his phone towards Brian and pointing.
“All that power is coming from his shoulder. He’s whipping it forward, but that’s overcompensation. You see it in middle age with professional tennis players. They lose some of that core strength and flexibility. I think you need to stretch him out, and try to add strength to the core instead of the arms. He’s got enough of that to kill a man.” Brian was furiously taking notes on a yellow legal pad. Brian had nodded along the entire time.
“I wanted to make sure that was what I was seeing, thanks Steve,” Brian said patting the slender man on the shoulders. Steve reached out, shaking Brian and Clay’s hands. The goodbye was a nod, and Steve was off down an aisle through another set of double doors. Brian looked up at Clay and smirked.
“You eat yet?” Clay nodded to the Thermos, and Brian shook his head with disappointment.
“You gotta take care of yourself, come on, let’s go get you breakfast and we’ll get to work,” Brian said with a chuckle. He ushered the big man in the same direction Steve had gone.
“So, what’d he say was gonna help?” Clay asked.
“Said you need to eat your breakfast,” Brian re shook his head as the two walked. He’d worked with the big man for a few days, but they were fast friends. Clay liked when Brian gave him a hard time, Brian liked giving Clay one. It worked for the two of them. They turned their way up a hallway and into a small dining area.
“I’ll order, go have a seat,” Brian walked away and The Monster from Plainview nodded. He sat down at one of the nice wooden tables. He sat his big #97RED Thermos down beside a champagne glass. He popped it open and took a swig. The big man looked around at his surroundings. A small meeting was happening in the back of the room, a few elderly men were sitting at a table in golf clothes. A few middle aged women drank mimosas and sat on stools at a bar that overlooked the golf course. Before Clay could gather his thoughts, Brian came carrying two plates. An omelet slid in front of Clay, and the big man started in.
“Got a buddy from school who works in the kitchen,” Brian smiled and sat down to get into his own. Clay finished in a matter of minutes, Brian took a little longer but finished his food a few moments later. The two sat at the table for a moment while Clay took a swig out of the Thermos.
“So what’d he say?” Clay broke the silence, and Brian smiled before issuing his retort.
“What?” Clay asked, his jaw was open, and his beard almost touched his plate.
“He said yoga man, showed me a few things he wants you to try,” Brian washed his food down with a chug of water from a giant gallon bottle.
“He wants me to do yoga…” Clay let out a laugh, and looked at Brian waiting for him to start laughing. That moment never came, and Clay slowly stopped laughing and started contemplating. The workouts were nothing like anything he had ever done, but even after a few days he was starting to feel a small difference from Brian’s work. The soreness in the morning, something good was happening.
“Ya think it’ll work?” Clay needed to check to make sure Brian really wasn’t full of shit. Just to make sure. Brian nodded his head and smirked.
“Yeah, yeah I think it will,” Brian nodded his head with confidence as he said it. Clay watched his body language, he was confident, he was relaxed. He wasn’t fucking around.
“Let’s fuckin’ do it then.”
You slimy fuck. You little fucking worm. Look how mad you went and made Danny this week. I thought we were trying to keep the drama between us captains, Evan? I thought you were gonna try to goad me this week. Instead look at what you did to Danny. He was practically frothing at the mouth.
Oh captain, my fellow captain.
What have you gone and done?
You could have used your loss as a rallying cry for The Alliance. You could have set the tone for War Games, or Ward Games, whatever the fuck it is. But instead you decided to go out on a breezy day and piss away into the wind. You are fantastically talented at pissing people off.
It’s a miracle you’ve managed to stay married.
Dan Ryan, the man who’s been Icon champion, who wrestled a 97 minute Iron Man match against Cecilworth Farthington. Your ally, one of the biggest allies you could possibly have in this match, and you went and turned him against you. Dan would have died for you Evan, he would have sacrificed everything. He would have given you his career, he would have beat me into a fucking pulp. He’d have done it for you, if that’s what The Alliance needed. If that’s what helps you all.
Dan owes Lee everything.
Dan Ryan would take a bullet for his fellow Alliance members inside of that War Games cage. He’d put it all on the line to make sure The Alliance walks away with the World Heavyweight Championship. Dan knows his mission, he knows what he’s supposed to do. But you had to go and complicate things for him.
Dan just wanted to make Lee proud, Evan. He just wanted to show Lee how much he appreciates him. Then you went out there, and you had to poke the 300 lb monster in the corner with a fucking stick. If I set my sights on you in that match, if I come for you Evan, do you think Dan’s going to fucking stop me?
What if he has to make a choice, Evan? What if he has to make a decision? What if it’s to save you, or say, save Steve Solex? Who do you think he’s going to pick Evan? Who do you think all of them are going to pick? Look at Solex and STRONK, forging bonds across teams. Look at Dan and Jatt, obeying orders, being the BEST soldiers a Lee could ever ask for. What have you done to endear yourself to them?
You hit Conor Fuse in the head with a knee, congratulations. Half the guys here have done that, and the other half hit him with something else at some point or another. You think that makes them respect you?
I get it Evan, you’re not used to this type of relationship and accountability. This isn’t your band of misfits in Ground Zero, the Alliance is a group of individuals. A mercenary company used by Lee Best to make sure he makes the most amount of money possible. To make sure he has control. You earn your place in a mercenary company, you earn the respect of your peers. They don’t trust you because you wear a jacket Evan, most of them don’t even know who the fuck you are.
And I mean, eating that lariat a month ago?
Probably didn’t go a long way to giving everyone a lot of confidence.
And then there’s the relationship with everyone’s favorite World Heavyweight Champion. Playing with his emotions, showing him how much you want his world title. Are you trying to ignite his anxiety? Have you seen him lately? Christopher America has transcended from having a relationship with the championship to becoming a stage thirty seven clinger. He’s a half step away from wearing a fedora the next time he jumps up to defend the belt’s honor. That thing probably has a GPS tracker in it’s bag by now, and a keycode needed to open it.
And you want him to be worried about you?
Are you fucking nuts? That man has to see a use in you, and if he knows you’re going to stab him in the back, what the fuck do you think he’s going to do with you?
And you’re his captain. If that isn’t going to set him off, I don’t know what is. You’re the only person in this match who is capable of taking that World Heavyweight Championship from his hands while he still draws breath. You, you’re the guy. If the two of you go the distance, you could pluck the world title from his grasp.
He needs you to be eliminated Evan. He actually WANTS you to be unable to finish the match.
And you had to go out and give him another reason? That entire room full of pricks have spent the last year trying to help that son of a bitch stay afloat with the World Championship. That man is the second in command. If Lee Best is the Don, Christopher America is his underboss. You want that guy on your bad side? Christopher America is going to tie you up and dangle you from the War Games cage like the cow at the raptor cage in Jurassic Park. He’ll watch the raptors rip you to shreds, he’ll watch your career get ended and fucking laugh.
And that was before you pissed him off for the last three months.
Good luck bud, you’re going to need it.
And if you somehow make it through Dan and Chris, I’ll be waiting for you.
“9! Come on, one more big guy!” Brian shouted while clapping his hands. He was standing on the metal frame of a machine. On the other side, Clay was hanging by his elbows and pulling his knees up as high as he could. Clay’s arms shook, he grunted and grimaced, pulling his legs up one last time before letting go of the machine and grabbing his stomach.
“Nice work! Nice work!” Brian jumped down off the machine and grabbed a gallon jug of water and took it over to The Behemoth. He twisted the cap off and took a big swig, finally pulling himself up off of his knees and to his feet. Brian slapped him on the back and laughed.
“Let’s take a few minutes, then we’re gonna do five each side with twists just like we talked about,” Clay smiled and rolled his head back as Brian finished speaking. The trainer took note of Clay’s body language and helped him over to a seated machine. He leaned up against the machine, and figured he’d give Clay a few extra moments.
“So, this Steve guy?” Clay went to get up but Brian put his hand on his shoulder and sat him back down.
“Come on, you were saying something about him yesterday when you explained this entire thing to me…” Brian paused for a moment before continuing. “And I still don’t understand the rules of this match, but whatever. I understand people, so hit me with it.”
The two men sat at a standstill, Clay wiped his face with a white towel, and looked back over at Brian hoping he would drop the subject.
“You said he was like your brother?”
“Yeah, like my brother if my brother’s name was Cain,” the kid wasn’t going to give Clay what he wanted, so the big man relented. “He helped me out a lot last year, I lived at his place for awhile. Trained together, you know, some spartan shit. He did what he felt he needed to do, and ended our association together.”
“So he turned on you? That’s the lingo, right?” Brian was doing his best to put himself in his clients world, but it was hard to fathom someone you spent that much time with turning their back.
“Yeah, he fuckin’ turned on us,” the way Clay said the words stunned Brian. He didn’t seem upset, he wasn’t angry. The reaction Clay had was ‘disappointment’ if anything.
“So what are you going to do about it?” He had to pry a little deeper.
Brian turned his head at the response, he had one question for Clay.
“‘Cause it ain’t what’s best fer me,” Clay said very matter-of-factly. He took another swig of water while Brian considered his options.
“That’s a good way of looking at things,” Brian stopped the conversation. He wasn’t going to get anything else out of the big fellow today. “Here, let’s get these done so I can get you over to class.”
I don’t hate you Steve.
I can’t hate you. As much as you try to piss me off, as much as you beat the fuck out of me, and have other people beat the fuck out of me, I can’t hate you. We had it coming. No good thing can go on forever, the Highwaymen weren’t made for the long haul. We had a bunch of great ideas that didn’t work, and we lost. Someone had to do it before we turned into Sex & Money.
I get it.
I always thought it was going to be Harrison. Ever since he made me pay him for those sunglasses I borrowed and accidentally crushed in my hand, I had a weird feeling. Or, it could have been the time I told him I hoped he lost to America. But Harrison stayed the course, he kept his little buckaroo hat on and was a good soldier.
I get it.
You got an offer you couldn’t refuse. Hell, it was probably an offer the rest of us couldn’t refuse either. You got the chance to be a Lee Best guy. You got the chance to get one of those sweet jackets, those jackets are pretty amazing. I’ve been jealous since I saw the photo hit the website. When I ripped Ward out of that locker room and beat the fuck out of him, I should have stolen his. It went through my head, but you know, I don’t want to infringe on the colors or anything.
But Steve, what you did, it hurt my feelings. It broke my poor, soft, little heart. My snowflake melted. It was the worst, I was so mad I almost flew into a fit of rage on the internet. Even now it gets my blood pumping.
Because I understand why you did it, because I don’t hate you for it, doesn’t mean I have to forgive you for it.
And I know, you don’t need my forgiveness. You, The Alpha Male, the MercDad, the World’s Greatest Dad, don’t need my forgiveness to sleep at night. I know that. You curl up in your million dollar ranch, perfectly content, every night. I don’t even cross your thoughts. It wasn’t even a question for you, it wasn’t even difficult.
You just did what was right for you.
And just like when I first got here, I’m watching and learning, Steve. It’s about time I started thinking about what was right for me. It’s about time I started thinking about myself, and stopped worrying about keeping a bunch of psychopaths in line. I don’t need that kind of stress, I don’t need that kind of anxiety.
And if it comes down to the two of us?
Well Steve, remember, I don’t hate you, I’m not mad at you. I just haven’t forgiven you. And what happens to people I haven’t forgiven, well, I’m not responsible for that. So get the pat on the head, go be Christopher America’s guard dog. Be the escape hatch. Be the last resort. That’s what you do best.
And while you’re looking out for him?
I’ll be looking out for myself.
“You ready?” Brian said with a smile as Clay stood on the side of the yoga class with a rolled up mat in his hand. There were probably twenty five women lined up for the night class, and the two of them.
“You’ve done this before?” Clay looked for assurance and Brian gave it to him.
“All the time, come on, we’ll set up in the back so I can help you out,” Clay shook his head, he still couldn’t believe he was doing this. He rolled the yoga mat out on the floor, and looked up in front of him. He could barely hear the instructor from the back of the class, but he did the best he could to mimic the first pose. Brian looked over, got up and straightened Clay’s position out and went back to his pose.
Clay twisted and contorted his body for a half hour that felt like it lasted three days. He wasn’t anywhere near as flexible as the rest of the class. But he kept trying. Brian kept fixing his positioning, making the stretches hurt that much more. As the instructor called the final pose, Clay’s arms began to shake and wobble. The Behemoth crashed to the yoga mat, and breathed hard. Brian tried to help him up, but the big man waved him off. Clay looked up at the fluorescent lights, he lifted his hands up above his head, begging for air. After a moment the instructor called for a break, and Brian reached down to help the Monster to his feet.
“Harder than you thought?” Brian said through a shit eating grin. Clay slowly lumbered to his feet, and twisted his back to stretch a little.
“Fuck yeah,” Clay said through labored breaths. He stumbled behind the rest of the class, finally making it to the chair he had saved with a towel. He sat down, he still tried to catch his breath. A classmate moved her gym bag off the chair beside him and sat down. She was a tall, leggy blonde woman.
“She’s killing us today! Hopefully the second half is a little easier!” She exclaimed through a labored smile. She grabbed her own towel, and a bottle of Gatorade, Clay looked back at her wide eyed.
“There’s a second half?!” Clay exclaimed, his breathing was still labored. He looked towards Brian for relief, but Brian just nodded and clapped him on the shoulder. Clay reached for the jug of water, but the woman beside him held out a Gatorade.
“Here, this will help,” she said through her own deep breaths. Clay tried to wave the gift off but the woman was assertive.
“I’m a Mom, I always pack more than I need,” her genuine smile bewitched The Behemoth. Clay chuckled and took the Gatorade. He cracked it open and drank it all at once.
“Thank ya Mam,” Clay extended his hand. “My name is Clay.”
“First off, I’m not old enough for you to call me Mam. Second, my name is Jill. Nice to meet you Clay.” She took his hand, and the two shared a laugh. Their eyes met for a moment, and Jill smiled. The instructor’s voice cut through the moment.
“Ladies, let’s get back out there…” she clapped her hands together and looked towards Clay and Brian.
The Behemoth sighed, and as he reached to push himself up out of the chair, Jill’s hand was stretched out along with Brian’s to help the big man up. Clay got to his feet, his body cracked and popped as he stretched himself out back to his full stature. The three walked back over to their mats. Jill took her place towards the front of the class, and Clay took his in the back beside Brian.
The rest of the workout was uneventful. The instructor toned down the lesson, but Clay still struggled through it. Brian constantly helped him, but Clay kept finding his eyes drawn up towards the front of the class. When they’d have to look to the side, Clay would glance up and catch her eyes looking back at him. He smiled and she laughed as Brian helped Clay put one leg across the other.
Finally it was over, and Clay collapsed to the mat. He took a deep breath, before pushing himself up and rolling up the mat. The instructor at the front of the class was giving out the schedule, but most of the pupils were already headed to their bags. Clay moved quickly, trying to catch up with Jill’s head start.
“So what’d you think?” Clay ignored Brian’s question and continued his pursuit.
“Hey!” He shouted as Jill swung her bag over her shoulder. Somewhere, he found it in him, to trot over to the wall to catch up to her. He waved his arm a bit and shouted again.
“Hey!” She turned towards him and beamed.
“Just wanted to say thank ya, again,” Clay smiled as he was finally able to get the tall blonde woman’s attention. He held out his hand, and she took it effortlessly.
“And…” Clay paused, he hadn’t done this in awhile. “I wanted to ask ya if ya wanted ta grab some food some time?”
“Sure! When are you thinking?”
The answer shocked Clay. Brian was finally catching up, but he could tell by the conversation he felt like he should stay back. He watched as Clay nodded and smiled, and Jill followed the same body language.
“Ya free tonight?” Clay asked as he packed his bag. He figured he’d shoot for the moon. She’d counter with a few days from now, and that would work out too. But at least there was a little urgency behind the request.
“Meet at your place?” she asked. For the second time today, the big man’s mouth was agape and he was tongue tied. As he stammered for an answer Brian finally stepped in.
“Yeah! That’ll be fine, we’re done for the day anyway,” Brian once again clapped his friend on the shoulder. He couldn’t believe the big giant athlete needed an assist like this.
“Seven?” He couldn’t answer this one for The Behemoth though, and Clay finally was able to untangle the knot in his tongue and answer.
“Yeah! Seven sounds great!”