December 17, 2020 – 10:37 PM
Five Roses Pub
“What’s your name?” She asks, briefly pulling away.
“Ted.” I reply, panting. “Yours?”
“Erica.” She barely spits out before her lips lock back onto mine.
Erica, as I’ve come to know her, pushes me back first into the wall. The impact rattles the pictures hung neatly in a row, and the maneuver is quite steamy, minus our teeth smashing together. Sure, It’s possible I’ll need a trip to the dentist after this rendezvous, but fuck it, having a smile like Lloyd Christmas for a few days is totally worth tongue wrestling this cigarette flavoured beauty.
To quote the man himself: “I just got that old fashioned romantic feeling where I’d do anything to bone her.”
But just as quickly as that cougar pounced on her unexpecting prey, the whirlwind of action comes to a sudden halt. Brushing the stray blonde strands off to the side, her blue eyes lock with mine. The height difference has her looking up at me, her lips curling into a flirtatious smirk that has me begging for more.
Not aloud, obviously. I only do that during sex…
“Nice to meet ya…Ted…”
She turns and continues her journey to the ladies room, her stride laced with the confidence of a model on the catwalk. Okay, okay…stride might be an exaggeration, my perception swayed by the ambiance “Last Christmas” provided our encounter. Really, she staggers, stumbles, and it’s reasonable to think her momentum has her laying on the ceramic floor behind the restroom’s push door.
Oh Chicago, how I have missed you…
Before departing the forbidden hallway of washroom doors, I take the time to readjust one of the displaced picture frames. Closing my left eye, I tilt my head to the right, my tongue instinctively sticking out the side of my mouth. A little to the left. Bit back to the right. Perfect. The hanging black frame is once again level. A bit of hot breath steams up the glass, and the wrist cuff to my shirt polishes it out.
The photo protected behind its barrier is a special one to this bar: yours truly, standing victorious the night of the LBI finals. Some four hours prior to this sweet victory pose, I was here, The Five Roses Pub, turning over a new leaf. I found the strength and courage I once believed only to be found at the bottom of a bottle. I dedicated a beautiful rendition of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” to Lindsay and Max. I became a local legend, if you will.
No big deal.
I give the priceless collectible a final glance, a night one could never possibly forget, with a burning desire and motivation. To put that moment behind me. To embark on another voyage, creating that next moment. To frame it and hang it with the same sense of fulfillment. Wash, rinse, repeat.
“Ted!” Bin shouts.
My pint-size friend waves both arms in the air like a traffic controller, doing his best to be seen. He was tasked with fetching our table while I rushed to the little boy’s room, and couped the ever desirable front corner by the entrance. His circular motions look like some weird aerobics routine, but really he’s making his personal bubble known, as many drunks circle the location like sharks in the water. Once he has my attention, he safely nestles himself against the wall, leaving me to take perch atop a barstool, my back to the festive horde.
“It’s great to be back here.” I begin, briefly hesitating. “Some real good memories…”
“Great memories. Major growth.”
“I thought I hid it…” I adjust the bulge in the front of my pants, quick to realize he meant personal growth. “Oh yeah, for sure. Life changing…”
Our awkward exchange is briefly interrupted by our curvy waitress. Her smile is that of your typical server, trying to secure that end of service tip, but my attention drifts elsewhere. The haunting aroma that escapes the two mugs she places atop our table climbs through the air, wrapping itself around me like a warm blanket.
“Your peppermint teas. Can I get you anything else?”
“I’m good, thank you.” Bin politely replies.
“I’ll…have…” I say, scouring the menu. “Nothing. Yeah. I’m good.” I decide the risk of food poisoning from bar quality food isn’t worth it this close to my return.
“Okay, well if you need anything, my name’s Heather. Just wave me down.” She says with little enthusiasm, her voice fading as she walks away.
The peppermint that has infiltrated my nostrils has triggered reminders of the finer details of our St. Patrick’s Day visit. Bin encouraging me to trade the bottle in for the mug. His tapping of my left nipple, letting me know all my answers were within. Making a fool of myself, serenading the rowdy Irish honoraries, before absolutely nailing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”. It’s also triggered a sense of…dejavu.
Those two words brought me here that mid afternoon. They defined everything about the Final Four that was hours away. I was the betting underdog against Red in the semi finals. I was the overwhelming underdog in the finals, regardless of who advanced: Lindsay or Max. I’d like to think they were the two words Lee Best cried out over and over again, believing, albeit briefly, that my win bankrupted him and his company.
You can all thank Mike for riding this darkhorse to the bank, by the way.
Tonight though, dejavu floats around the word “Not”. It’s giving me that same feeling I walked into this bar with some nine months earlier.
“I knew the second last years LBI was over that I was NOT going to do that again.” That quote from Lee Best’s press release taking occupancy in my head, that singular word in particular.
What is Lee getting at? He’s NOT giving me the chance to repeat as champion of his namesake? He’s NOT going to doubt me again, nearly finding himself back in Florida bingo halls? He’s NOT going to watch Marathon Man Ted win another grueling tournament in the land of High Octane? Or maybe I’m just being conceited, making this about me when it isn’t.
I pull the mug up to my mouth, having to jockey its ceramic rim around my grown out beard. The only thing better than it’s scent is it’s taste, and the calming effect that accompanies it. Taking a deep breath, I let that feeling that had me spiraling back in March dissipate. I simply let it go.
I’m NOT going to give a flying fuck what anyones opinion is. Good or bad.
“You okay, Ted?” Bin asks.
“Never better.” I reply, taking another soothing sip.
As I place my mug atop the table, a seismic shift causes my drink to spill onto the hardwood. Looking at the source of the force, my framed LBI photo lays atop the table, an ugly hand with hairy knuckles pressing down on the glass. I know this hand. It’s owner is, well, the owner of this establishment and quite frankly, a dick.
“Hey Justin…” I sigh. “Prefer I sign that for you?”
“Asshole.” He warmly greets me. “I’ve told you countless times, you can’t hang your shit on my walls.”
“Are you sure? I mean, this photo has aged very well. You see this guy right here?” I point to Max, laying underneath my victory pose. “He’s dead!” I proclaim, coming off more excited than I should.
“Ted…I know you haven’t been here for what, half a year? Let me make this simple for you. Hang this picture on my wall one more time, and you…” He pauses, leaning in. “will join him…”
Quite rude if you ask me. Also, inaccurate. I’m not a betting man, but say Lee Best was here, I know he’d hedge his funds on me. That being said, his establishment, his rules, and Bin has really harped the importance of respect. It’s my new way of life, really.
“You got it, Justin.” I grab the frame, pulling it in front of me. “I won’t…” And the three hundred pound greasball is well on his way back to the kitchen.
“You handled yourself with class.” Bin says, proudly. “We can hang that up in the garage when we go back to Nashville.”
“You know what? I don’t think so.”
“I don’t need this anymore.” I say. Sitting taller, outstretching my arms. “Or this place. It was nice to come here and reminisce about the good ol’ days, but that chapter is done. Onto bigger and better things.”
I slide the picture towards the tables center, my intention that of leaving it here. Some random can take it. Heather can pleasure herself to it. Justin can shit on it. I’m at peace.
“Ted?” An unfamiliar voice comes from behind.
Turning to my right, a well built man places both hands on our table. His mechanic shirt is oil stained, and the breast nameplate reads ‘Shane’. He smiles, and I know exactly what this is about.
“You heard correctly, my friend. Teddy Palmer.” I pull the picture back towards me. “And yes. You can absolutely have this picture. Got a sharpie? Who would you like me to make it out to?”
“Erica’s Husband…” He slurs.
“Odd, but okay…” I signal for a sharpie, yet he doesn’t break his stare. “Ohhhhhhhh. Erica’s husband…”
8 Minutes Later…
“So strong…” I utter sarcastically. “My safe word is cinnamon…”
“Shut the fuck up!” The officer orders, pinning me against the wall.
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” I try to reason with the man in blue. “He viciously attacked me. Unprovoked, might I add…” I say, my swollen eye evidence of the assault.
“You made out with my wife!” Shane yells from face down on the sidewalk, a second officer restraining the madman.
“I can assure you I did no such thing…” I begin. “She shoved her tongue in my mouth. Also unprovoked…” I say with conviction and a complete belief of innocence.
“I’LL KILL YOU!” He squirms, with little to no success.
“You see! He’s a loose cannon! Perpetrator!” I point towards him. “Victim!” I follow up, pointing towards myself.
Shane is warned numerous times, but his blind rage is deaf to the officers commands. I hear them loud and clear, and can see the pending outcome from a mile away. I almost feel bad for the poor guy. Almost.
His muscles lock up, and he begins to vibrate on the concrete. The squeal that he lets out is definitely not of the masculine variety. I can’t be too certain, as he’s face down, but I speculate he has pissed himself. Judging by the officers reaction, however, I am certain the flailing man has either shit himself, or at the very least sharted. All the while this is going on, an unconcerned Erica, her arm draped around a visibly uncomfortable Bin, stands in front of the crowd, waving my way.
“Oh Chicago….” I say, the slightest smile cracking. “How I have missed you…”
The Battle Royal. The Beginning. My foot edged ever so closely to that starting line, itching for this marathon to begin. That’s right, your ears did not deceive you: marathon. Not some High Octane warm up as some have elected to speculate, so fuck right off with that opinion.
It’s a cute claim though, I must admit. Especially seeing as I’m not deaf. I listen ever so carefully. It’s why I find this scenario laughable, listening to the revealed participants obsess over the wrong aspect of this upcoming gangbang: naming their HOFC grouping.
So why not jump on the bandwagon. Let’s do it. You ready? Here’s mine…
To. Be. Determined. Or T.D.B for short.
Why? Because I refuse to put the cart before the horse. Done that before, hasn’t turned out so well. Ask me about my reign as World Champion. Oh yeah…
But wait! Let me jump in for you eagled eyed viewers, elephant eared listeners. Ted, didn’t you say, and I quote “The DeNucci Cup ends the same way the LBI ended last year: Teddy Palmer standing victorious.” End quote.
You got me. Hypocrite they cry! Party foul! But hold on, just for a second, if you will. I’ve likened this journey towards The DeNucci Cup as a marathon. There are plenty of lead changes during such a race, even I know that. I may be full of piss and vinegar, but I’m not blind, nor am I delusional. That being said, do I believe in my heart of hearts that I’ll be the one crossing that finish line first?
You’re fucking right I do.
How about you? Can you say the same?
You’re genuine, a real rarity in this business. I like that. And you seem like you have nothing but the best of intentions occupying the space between your ears. At least that’s what I’m able to convey based purely on the tone you speak with. Your southern stricken verbiage though? No fucking chance I have or ever will decode the message you’re sending us. I just hope it’s not one brimmed with confidence, because, well. Hmmm. How can I put this in terms you’ll understand? Let’s give this a shot: ‘Gettin my way an Ima boot fuck yer teeth like pawpaw did to Ol’ Yeller when he shat on da rug.’ I really hope you understand.
I don’t know what the fuck you’re smoking, but count me in any day of the week, minus Saturday. I’d love to take a trip to the mystical land of Narnia, and more importantly, trip balls while doing so. I bet you’d make one hell of a tour guide too, just don’t get too caught up in my rugged good looks, deal? But there’s that lingering question, right? What about Saturday? Well it’s quite simple, and try not to take this personally as we hardly know one another. Force my hand and I’ll waste little time stuffing your ass in that wardrobe, never to be seen or heard of again.
You do realize there’s more to honouring someone’s legacy than founding a fan club, right? Sometimes spoken words aren’t enough, you reach a point where you actually have to do something about it. Say, I don’t know, winning a tournament created to honour one’s legacy. That’d be the appropriate time to talk about his impact on this company, wouldn’t you think? Once you learn the appropriate talk/action ratio, you’ll resemble more of a gatekeeper, rather than a doormat. But keep on keeping on you plucky little prick.
Or would you rather be referred to as Mr. Renaissance Man? Kudos to you for finding the silver lining in Best knocking you out cold, or losing the Tag Team Championships. And kudos on the wins you’ve rattled off in the aftermath. But let’s not get it twisted here. Just because you toss your name in the same sentence, repeatedly, with the Bests and Sektors of High Octane, that doesn’t put you on their level. This isn’t high school where popularity can be gained by proxy. Unfortunately for you, now your name is being spoken amongst that of Palmer, and you’ll be scrambling come Sunday morning, trying to find another silver lining.
If this were a shit talking contest, fuck buddy, we’d all be in for a world of hurt. I’m not necessarily talking about combative shit talking either, rather nonsensical, ear piercing, rather slam my nuts in a doorframe shit talking. But hey, some people find that endearing. Trombone Ted, was it? No, tambourine, right? I’ve always been a sucker for creativity, I’ll admit it. I also love to banter, so let me jump at the chance to collaborate with you. I was thinking, since you like talking out of your ass so much, let’s take that tamborine, and shove it straight up there. Then, you can give us a little dance, a jingle if you will, and bestow upon us a beautiful ballad about your latest failure. Might be difficult though, the best of us fall victim to writer’s block when tasked with talking about the same topic over…and over…and over…again.
The trust fund bastard, who I don’t really know much about. Well, I know of your daddy, biological, and knew your daddy, adopted. Rest in…power? I’m still not convinced Cyborg just isn’t in sleep mode right now. Oh, I know you’re a spoiled little dink, but that’s not breaking news. Do I threaten to give you the beating your father should have dished out long before his demise? Or what if he actually used to beat you? Child abuse is no joke, and for that, I am so sorry. It’s a tough line to walk, a hard position to take. But hey, at least you had two dads, am I right? That’s two more than I had. And you have money for coke! That’s not cheap, so, win. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends I’m afraid. Enjoy your inheritance, your riches, and the spoils that come with it. Money and status have their limits, and it’s a tough, but necessary lesson for you to learn at ICONIC. You can’t buy victories, and I’m not in the business of selling them.
Do you even exist at this point? Knowing Lee, I’m sure something is hidden up his sleeve. Does that mean entrants? Maybe. Added stipulations? Possibly. An unspoken reward? Who the fuck knows? And with that, regarding it all, who the fuck cares? I know I don’t. The DeNucci Cup is motivation enough. Any hurdle tossed my way, I plan on jumping. Every curveball, I plan on knocking out of the park. Any bonuses that pop up, just icing on the cake.
The DeNucci Cup.
It’s all that matters. The season is upon us. Get out of your fucking seats, and get excited. Call your friendly neighborhood bookie and place your bets. Most importantly, watch yours truly kick this tournament off the only way it should be…
In ICONIC Fashion.