Once Upon a Time in Scottywood

Once Upon a Time in Scottywood

Posted on November 25, 2023 at 2:10 pm by Jackson Cooley

“You know, a long time ago crazy meant something. Now everyone’s crazy.” – Charlie Manson

“They call it the whistle, cause it sounds like a train whistle, you know? Like toot tooooot!”

The second hand, electric blue suit on Jackson Cooley wears ill fitting at best. His wrists protrude inches from the coat. The black leather front yokes gleam in the afternoon sun. Under his black cowboy hat, the sides of his head are at a two week growth. Lately he’s always waffling, shaving and growing the sides out. The mullet is back in style. The twenties suck.

“But me, personally, I never hear it. Just sounds like sucking on a crack pipe.”

“I hear the train,” the homeless man Cooley is sharing a joint with states matter-of-factly.

“A comin’! It’s rollin round the bend, but I ain’t seen the sunshine…”

“…since I don’t know when,” they finish the lyrics in unison. Jackson is smiling. The homeless man is not. The words sit heavy in his gut. When was the last time he saw the sunshine?. Cooley, of course, is oblivious to this homeless man’s existential crisis.

“I don’t normally get down like this, but it’s my birthday today. Man, do you know how hard it is to find good rocket fuel these days?”

Panic. Terror. The homeless man’s existential crisis abruptly ends. Also, it isn’t Cooley’s birthday.

“Good what?”

“Sherm. Angel dust. Anyways, man, I gotta go. I was supposed to be training like 4 hours ago. My manager is gonna be fuckin’ livid. It was really great hanging out with you and I hope you figure out who keeps taking your cans. Alaykumā s-salām or whatever.”

The homeless man has never felt more alone than he does watching Cooley dust off and stand to leave. Miles separate them. Cooley casually strolls out from under the bridge as the homeless man feels himself melting.

Probably made that guy’s fuckin day.

____________________________________________________________________________

Nick DiSalvo makes a certain face when he’s upset. Almost like he just ate a surprise pickle on his sandwich. And he hates pickles. Currently he looks like he just ate a pickle sandwich.

“Where the FUCK have you been,” Nick shouts at Cooley as he enters his makeshift office. A giant vein in Nick’s forehead protrudes. It looks dangerous. Susceptible to papercuts.

“I was doing my community service.”

“What.. Jesus Christ, nevermind. Did you watch the fucking videos I sent you?”

Cooley found a falafel stand on the way and is presently enamored with his falafel. Too enamored to be unsettled by Nick’s tirade.

“Sure, I looked at them.”

“You looked at them? What does that even mean? You need to study Scottywood if you’re going to have a chance Monday.”

“Nick, my sweet summer child. Watching videos of Scottywood’s matches to prep for a fight with Scottywood is like watching porn to learn how to fuck. Great way to become a bad memory.”

This is their dance. Nick tries his best to be legitimate, sincere. From his overpriced comb over to the rickety Craigslist furniture in his “office”, Nick believes that you can will things into existence with enough preparation and inspirational quotes. And Cooley is.. Cooley.

“This isn’t a joke, Cooley. He’s a hall of famer.”

“Yeah, exactly, a relic. Hall of fame. How about the hall of farts? This guy is fucking pathetic. His methods are draconian at best. Hardcore is dead, man. Ooooh, so edgy. He wears a leather vest with an anarchy symbol,” insert jerk off hand motion here, “What the fuck is this guy going to do? Draw the middle school S on my locker and start a rumor about me?”

Jackson Cooley wraps a reassuring arm around his oldest friend’s shoulder.

“You need to relax, Nick. You know me, I have a strict training regiment planned for this. Something really, really hardcore. Get your shit, we are WAY late.”

____________________________________________________________________________

Giant picture windows absorb the final minutes of the day’s sun at “Natalia’s”. Pavarotti belts over the PA. Nessun Dorma. Old Luciano is just about to the infamous long B natural.

A lone ballerina glides through the light and shadows. Her body moves loose, yet definite, like a cloud of smoke. Perfect synchronization.

“What the fuck?” Nick’s body language mimics his question.

“Shhhhh. This is it.”

Cooley’s eyes are locked on the woman. He sways softly. The music lives inside him. As the crescendo peaks, his dimpled jaw drops. The music fades and there is only silence. The ballerina holds her final pose in a darkened corner. A single rose appears on the floor in front of her, tossed by Cooley.

“Bravo, Natalia. Bravo.”

“You are late. As always. And I see you brought an extra wheel.”

“Look, I would’ve been here on time but this guy,” Cooley points a thumb toward Nick, “was very concerned about my wellbeing and wanted to share his feelings.”

“What the fuck is going on here,” Nick interjects.

Natalia crosses the room to retrieve her water bottle. She has yet to look at Cooley.

“Yes, Jackson, just what is going on here? You call me out of the blue saying you want to meet me at my studio. Then you show up four hours late with some sawed off Italian sullying my space with his curse words.”

“Ah, my rose, I’m fighting again. High Octane Wrestling. I thought maybe you could work me out to prep for my match. Like we used to.”

“Hm, like we used to, my love?”

A smirk crosses Natalia’s face as she finally makes eye contact with Cooley. Nick still can’t put his finger on the goal to this backwards visit, but the backstory between Cooley and Natalia has been penned clearly in his mind. He had felt uncomfortable before. Which isn’t saying much as Nick lives in a general state of malaise. Now, though, the discomfort was tangible.

“Well then.” Nick clears his throat.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this… not this visit, моя сетка. Today is allбизнес. ”

Natalia clucks and shakes her head with disapproval. But, she understands Cooley in a way Nick never will. Maybe it’s due to their history. Who knows?

“Well, that is a shame. Come, моя любовь,” Natalia calls to Cooley.

Nick watches in absolute shock as Cooley thoughtfully removes his western wear sports coat, neatly folding it. Cooley slowly unbuttons all five shotgun style fasteners on each wrist. As Cooley rolls his sleeves up just above the elbow, Natalia fumbles with her phone triggering the PA to emit methodical beeps. The monotonic signal counts the seconds it takes Cooley to move toward Natalia.

“Are you ready, моя любовь?” Natalia questions as she steps into a flawless first position stance.

Да

Cooley steps into first position just before the opening notes of “Swan Lake, Act I. Scene 1” kicks off. The two former lovers embrace, the air thick with their sexual tension. They explode into perfectly synchronized movement. Wider and wider Nick’s eyes grow as he watches the two dancers deftly weaving around the room. Cooley moves as nimble as a hummingbird, but with the intensity of a falcon and Natalia is somehow even more complex in her maneuvering. Their eyes are locked throughout the entire exercise. Their bodies connected.

Throughout Act I and Act II, Nick finds himself unable to continue feigning disinterest. He no longer looks at his faux designer wristwatch when the music fades out. He no longer notices the ticking seconds and his to-do list is trivial. Around Act III, Nick finds himself welling up with emotion witnessing Jackson Cooley, this complete riddle of a man, gliding on the air.

Some time later the music fades out and doesn’t come back. One more time, Nick secretly wishes deep inside, one more time the strings or keys or brass would guide him back. But, alas, solitude.

Cooley and Natalia are still intertwined in a final embrace. Both of them are wearing sweat and a smile. Nothing else in the world exists. Not Nick, not the utility bills, and surely not Scottywood. This is their picturesque moment alone.

“Oh, how I have missed you, моя любовь.”

Да, моя сетка. Да.” Cooley softly unties himself from Natalia. “I have to go now.”

They move casually. Unnervingly casually for Nick. These two people who he just witnessed create a spiritual experience continue about their night like Cooley just bought a Craigslist couch from Natalia. He gazes in a near catatonic state as they give an informal la bise. Cooley collects his sports coat, moving into the night air.

“Cooley, what the fuck was that?” Nick calls out, panting and rushing to catch up with Cooley.

“That was hardcore, Nick.”

____________________________________________________________________________

A poor man’s press junket. How Nick pulled this off, Cooley cannot begin to fathom. There are four “reporters” gathered in a conference room at the local Holiday Inn. No, it’s not going to make ESPN, but this is far more than Cooley had expected when Nick said media. Cooley sits at the front of the room behind a folding table. There are only four chairs in front of him. Nick had the hotel staff remove the others.

“Cooley, Jeff Breeze with Pro Wrestling Online. What are your thoughts on Scottywood?” One of the reporters asks Cooley.

“I think Scottywood is a hypocrite. Scottywood wears anarchy patches, but he’s literally the definition of consumerism. Have a beer and curse, leave some blood on the mat to let people know you are really pushing the envelope and giving it your all. Ok, man. Scottywood is The Man’s idea of what anarchy looks like. Give So-and-So wrestling promoter a coloring pad and some construction paper with the prompt to create a badass and mass produce. Pierce some shit, get some tattoos, slap a cool sticker on the Subaru Impreza and you have off-brand carnage… Scottywood.”

The faux wood laminate of the cheap folding table is peeling. Cooley thumbs the flap up and down, listening to the clicking sound.

“This is booked to be a hardcore match. Scottywood’s name is synonymous with hardcore. Are you worried about keeping up with a man credited with engineering what the industry sees as hardcore?”

Cooley smirks, wrinkling his brow.

“Hardcore. What a joke. Like putting a crown over an infected tooth. He’s just a veneer you use to hide the rotten and deteriorating foundation below. The pus and sickness is still there. And some day, that crown will break off to expose the blackened stump below. Hardcore is a mask people use to hide the fact that they don’t have any fucking talent. But, being the professional I am, I meet people where they’re at. You want to roll around in thumbtacks and barbed wire? I’m here for it, bud. Let’s bleed.”

“That seems to conflict with your statements last week about being,” the reporter says, looking at his printed notes. “,carnage. You said you were carnage. A blackhole”

“I am carnage. Man, that’s the fucking problem with you. With Scottywood. With your perfectly spaced Times New Roman notes. The insane mind cannot comprehend sanity. I don’t mean violence for the sake of violence. This isn’t some shock value gimmicky bullshit. I am here to burn the system that stands so tall, whose shadow all of the guys out there dying on the Indy circuit stand in, to the ground. And the pairing for my first match couldn’t be more model. I will take everything Scottywood is and all he stands for and consume it, like the blackhole I am. This will be the watermark moment for HOW.”

“Do you have anything to say to Scottywood?”

“You had a good run, old girl. And I’m sorry that it had to be you. I looked up to you at one point. Back when what you did meant something and it wasn’t just a schtick you were using as a crutch to stay relevant. You’ve lost your way. I hope you find it Monday. I hope you bring the Scottywood I idolized to Denver Monday. When you’re packing your leather vest and skinny jeans, make sure you pack the icon that has something to prove. Come out there Monday and bleed for me with fucking reason just one more time. One more time, with feeling.”

Nick nods to Cooley. It’s time to board the plane. Cooley smiles politely at the reports and gives them a weak salute before pushing himself up to stand. The reporters are left in the buzzing fluorescent lights above, comparing their notes.

FIN