Toronto. Jatt Starr’s home away from home. Although, the saying “Home is Where the Heart is” might be a bit confusing for the Duke of Jattmandu, considering the amount of residences that he maintains. His luxury apartment in Chicago a mere three miles from the Best Arena. The studio apartment outside of Oneonta, New York, the location of the private care facility treating his daughter. The house in Havre, Montana. The house in Toronto wasn’t even his. It was in his wife’s name. But, if home is where the heart is and he considered his wife his heart, would that not make Toronto his home and all others his homes away from home?
Such questions should be left to those more academically sound than the Starrabian Knight: Scientists, mathematicians, patent attorneys.
The Lyft Lexus that picked the Champion of Jattanooga up at the Pearson International Airport, rolled up to the front of his wife’s modern Victorian home just outside of Toronto. Butterflies were fluttering around his gut as if they were on crack as he gave his driver, Youssef, five stars and a ten dollar tip before exiting the vehicle. He placed his duffel bag over his shoulder, took a deep breath, the anticipation of seeing his wife grew greater and greater as he started up the walkway towards the porch.
The Mayor of ManJattan began working out what would happen the second he opened the door. Maybe he would go with the classic “Honey, I’m home!” entrance. Natalie, surprised that he came home early, would run to him, they would embrace. He would bring his bag to the bedroom, take a long, hot shower, relax, discuss what’s been going on while he was out clobbering Charles de Lacey, and then take Natalie to the local seafood restaurant “The Fintimate Tuna” and then a night of crazy, wild, animalistic fornication.
The Savior of Starrkham turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. He opened his mouth to announce his presence but heard something out of place. Laughter. Not the sweet, melodious, girlish giggle of Natalie. This laughter was boisterous. Masculine. Unless Natalie had undergone some massive changes over the last week, someone else was here.
The Baron of Boca Jatton tossed the door closed, not hard enough to slam it but loud enough to signify that he had arrived home.
JATT STARR: I’m hooooooo-ooooooome!
The Sovereign of Starrgentina proceeded down the narrow hallway littered with pictures of Tyler and Conor Fuse throughout their younger years towards the dining room (five short steps). Jatt Starr stopped as he saw a somewhat familiar looking man, probably mid-to-late fifties, good looking in a debonair Old Hollywood kind of way sitting across from Natalie whose golden hair cascaded down to her shoulders at the kitchen table. She turned to look around and instead of excitement, her beat red face read surprise as if she were a toddler caught their hand in a cookie jar.
JATT STARR: Who is this?
NATALIE: You’re back!
Natalie popped up from her chair and gave her husband and HOW Hall of Famer a quick peck on the lips.
NATALIE: I wasn’t expecting you until seven.
JATT STARR: I managed to grab an earlier flight. Who, uh, who is this?
NATALIE: It’s Russell.
“Russell”, the probable cover model of next year’s GQ magazine rose from his chair and made his way towards the Starrson City Icon extending his hand.
RUSSELL: I’m the infamous “Ex”.
There is a moment where the Jattinum Standard could feel his jaw drop. The slight familiarity he felt when he saw Russell became a sledgehammer to the gut, There was a clear resemblance to Conor Fuse. Jatt Starr looked over at Natalie who gave him a pleading look, as if to telepathically tell him to be nice. The Jattlantic City Idol was about grab Natalie’s Ex-Husband’s hand in a vice-like grip but ended up overcompensating to appease his wife’s petitioning blue eyes and gave Russell a very limp wristed, almost foppish handshake. Needless to say, Russell gave Jatt’s hand a rather strong, assertive grip and shake. Jatt Starr locked eyes with Conor Fuse’s daddy and he could swear that there was a twinge of disgust and broke through his perfect facade, as if he were making certain assumptions based solely on the handshake, which was not a true reflection of Jatt Starr’s clear superiority over the aged pretty boy.
RUSSELL: Nice to meet you, friend.
JATT STARR: Right.
RUSSELL: Where did you fly in from?
JATT STARR: Texas.
RUSSELL: Long flight there, eh?
JATT STARR: Yeah, I should get washed up.
RUSSELL: Sure thing, friend.
The Thane of Starrkarth gave Natalie as he exited the kitchen. There was no emotion behind it but he felt a pang in his gut – Was it jealousy? Was it a twinge of anguish? A combination of both? He proceeded to go upstairs, and into the bedroom HE shared with Natalie. He dropped his bag and debated what he should do. On one hand, he could really use a long shower. On the other hand, there was the Russell Issue. What the hell was he doing here? Why had Natalie seemed cagey about it? Did Russell just drop by? Was it planned? The Grand Overlord of Jatturn felt his hands ball up into fists. He decided the best course of action was to take a shower.
After his shower, the Hero of Jattlanta decided on the tasteful Johnny Cash look – black dress pants, black dress shirt, and black boots – of course, he only had three clean outfits in Toronto, the other two were a “StarrSek Industries” tracksuit, khakis, and a Bob’s Big Boy t-shirt. Oh, Russell would just love, love, LOOOOOOOVE it if the Earl of GlouStarr walked down the stairs with an image of Big Boy prancing, holding a double-deck hamburger over his head.
The Ruler of Jattlantis was about to head down to the kitchen until he heard the faint sounds of laughter. He stared at the door for a moment and then at his duffel bag. Sure, Russell Fuse might have looked like he was cloned using the DNA from George Clooney, Cary Elwes, Paul Newman, and George Raft, but there was one thing he was not…..
Moments later, the HOW Hall of Famer walked the hardwood steps, each step more confident than the last. He entered the kitchen, the HOTv Tag Team Championship around his waist. There was a moment where everything seemed to click into place for the good Mister Fuse as Natalie went to the fridge where she pulled out a bottle of water.
RUSSELL: Natty told me you work with my son.
JATT STARR: Yes, work “with”…..
RUSSELL: I can’t tell you how proud I am of him. Conor, that kid, never coordinated enough for hockey—-
RUSSELL: What? He was awful on the ice. He gets that from your side of the family, by the way. But wrestling? Him finding a physical activity that he excels at more than his Nintendo? Never would have imagined. That’s a nice belt there.
JATT STARR: Co-World Champion, nothing big.
RUSSELL: My son, Conor, he was HOW World Champion, beat that Sutler Kael. Isn’t this “War Games” coming up? I saw it a couple of years ago when he almost won, say, didn’t you injured in that?
JATT STARR: Just a scratch.
RUSSELL: Looked more serious than it was, eh? I wish I was so lucky.
NATALIE: He doesn’t need to hear—
RUSSELL: Tore my ACL and broke my collarbone on the ice when I was with the Belleville Senators back in eighty-nine. I took a nasty hit from Nils Fjoormarsson, couldn’t recover after that. But, I wouldn’t have met Natty….
The mention of Natalie caused Jatt Starr’s stomach acids to churn and burn, as much as he wanted to control himself, he could not stop his eye from twitching as he forced a smile phonier than Barbie’s boobs. The HOTv Co-World Champion leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest as Russell continued.
RUSSELL: …she pushed me to take that job modeling outfits for Montgomery Ward for their catalogs. Did that for a couple of years. It was a real confidence booster. And of course, Tyler and Conor….and I couldn’t be prouder of my two boys. You got any kids, uh, what should I call you? Simon? Jatt?
JATT STARR: You can call me “Jatt” and yeah, I have two. A son I haven’t seen in eleven years and a daughter is in coma after getting shot by some tweaked out meth head about a year and half ago. But please, tell me more about how proud you are of Conor.
RUSSELL: Whoa there, friend! I didn’t mean to offend you. I had no idea.
Jatt could feel Natalie’s eyes on him. When the words came out, he knew he should not have said them, but Russell was either being genuinely conversational or a massive pretentious douchewaffle. The Mayor of ManJattan chooses to believe Russell was being a douchewaffle, oh how he wanted to slap that pretty-especially-considering-his-age fucking face of his. But, his love of Natalie won out and he swallowed his pride and apologized. For her and only her.
JATT STARR: Don’t worry about it. I’m…it’s just a sore subject is all…..I’m sorry.
RUSSELL: No need to apologize. Before this gets even more awkward….
Russell rose from his chair and grabbed a gift bag that was placed on the kitchen counter. Natalie walked by Jatt and gave his arm a comforting squeeze. As Natalie took a seat, half od her water was gone, Russell pulled out a bottle of wine from the bag.
RUSSELL: What do you say about Natty opening a bottle of vino? A cabernet sauvignon.
JATT STARR: I can’t drink.
RUSSELL: Can’t or shouldn’t? Natty doesn’t drink very often but when she does, watch out. Remember Cabo San Lucas? What was it we drank?
NATALIE: Cabo? Oh geez!
RUSSELL: Tsunami something?
NATALIE: Tsunami Sunrise, I think?
RUSSELL: That’s it!
NATALIE: That was what?
RUSSELL: Almost twenty-five years. Remember the limbo competition?
NATALIE: First place!
RUSSELL: The trophy is still safe and sound between my humanitarian awards. What were those two—-
NATALIE: Mallory and Otto?
NATALIE: SPACE GHOST—-
RUSSELL: COAST TO COAST!
Natalie and Russell began laughing hysterically, experiencing a shared memory of what could only be assumed much better times. Natalie playfully slaps Russell’s arm as she snorts. Jatt Starr’s eyes narrowed, his lips pursed together, in that moment, he realized he never felt more invisible.
RUSSELL: Remember when that kilo washed up….
NATALIE: The cocaine! I forgot about that!
RUSSELL: I can’t believe Otto wanted to keep it!
NATALIE: What did he call—
RUSSELL: “Operation Snowstorm”.
NATALIE: It could have worked.
RUSSELL: If he wasn’t high ninety percent of the time, I might agree! That was a time, eh?
Russell and Natalie shared a look. An uncomfortable look for the Marquis of MadagaStarr, as it was open to interpretation. He did not know what to make of the entire exchange, Were they just reliving a moment in the past? Were there unresolved feelings between them? Was it becoming increasingly apparent to them that the Rembrandt of Wrestling began to fucking despise Russell Fuse? Was his increasing need to grab Russell by his perfect fucking hair, drag him into the street, and kick the everloving shit out of him coming through? Did they even know he was still here? He decided to make sure they knew that he was by clearing his throat, much louder than he needed to. The sound snapped them both back to the present.
RUSSELL: Shall I open the bottle?
JATT STARR: Um, I told you, I can’t drink.
RUSSELL: Of course, of course!
NATALIE: Simon can’t drink because he’s in recovery.
JATT STARR: Yeah. Hi, I’m Jatt and I’m an alcoholic.
RUSSELL: Wow! I’m looking like a beau cave, aren’t I? Well, good for you! It takes real strength to overcome addiction. Real admirable.
JATT STARR: Uh-huh. Thanks.
RUSSELL: Let me make it up to you.
JATT STARR: No, it’s—
RUSSELL (to Natalie): What time is Conor expected?
NATALIE (to Russell): He said he’d be here tonight but you know Conor….
RUSSELL (to Natalie): Always on Conor Time, I know, I know.
NATALIE (to Russell): I can text him again.
RUSSELL: No, don’t worry about it. Tell you what, Jatt, let me take you and Natty out to dinner. My treat.
JATT STARR: No thanks.
RUSSELL: Come on, it’s the least I can do.
JATT STARR: I’m good, really.
RUSSELL: It’s an Italian place that makes a mean branzino. It’s one of Natty’s favorites.
JATT STARR: No, um, you, uh….
The Ruler of Jattlantis fidgeted with his arms, unclear to as what to do with them as he looked at the earnest, smiling face of that pretentious douchebag Russell Fuse and then Natalie’s eyes, her beautiful, sky blue eyes.
JATT STARR: …yeah, you two, you two go and, uh, have a good time.
JATT STARR: I had a long flight, I should, uh, really, go and get some rest. Had this screaming woman sitting behind me, she kept freaking out when her ears began to get clogged, it’s, um—-
NATALIE: You okay?
Natalie, who had, by this point, risen from her chair and made her way in front of Jatt Starr. She placed her hand gently on his cheek, a look of concern on her face. Part of him wanted to tell her how much he wanted to beat Russell’s face with a lead pipe until he looked like the Elephant Man.
JATT STARR: Me? Yeah. Just tired, that’s all. You…go….have fun with Pussell.
JATT STARR: See? I’m mixing my “R’s” and “P’s”. I’ve got this headache….I should really lie down….
NATALIE: But you got all dressed up, you’re wearing that shirt I like….
“Oh, you finally noticed,” he thought to himself as she brushed the shirt at his shoulders with her hands, smiling at him as she did so. He forced a smile back. He hoped that she wouldn’t see through that smile. The last thing he wanted was for Natalie to see the level of which his jealousy had reached.
JATT STARR: Stop. Have a good time.
NATALIE: Are you sure?
JATT STARR: Positive.
RUSSELL: It was a pleasure to meet you, Jatt, my friend. You make sure you keep my boy safe at War Games. Or, as safe as you can, am I right?
JATT STARR: I have already promised Natalie.
Jatt Starr leaned in and gave Natalie a soft, gentle kiss before making his way back up the stairs. For some reason unbeknownst to him, the Sultan of SeaJattle’s eyes welled up with tears. He kept mumbling to himself as he approached the master bedroom that “They’re just friends, they’re co-parenting, he’s here to talk about Conor”. Conor’s fucking blunderbuss of a father. As he closed the bedroom door, he could still hear Russell and Natalie conversing, the only word he could remember hearing was “doggy bag”.
The Baron of Boca Jatton removed the HOTv Tag Team Championship from around his waist and stood at the foot of the bed staring at it. Instead of the Co-World Championship, he saw it for what it was, an accomplishment…but an accomplishment built through teamwork….but not individual merit. Fuck Russell and his limbo trophy and humanitarian awards. He should shove that limbo trophy right up his ass. Russell had the gall to brag about Conor Fuse while his daughter was in a coma? And bringing up those awards and the modeling, clearly he was trying to show up the Duke of Jattmandu.
But what if…..
What if he actually tried to win War Games?
What if he succeeded?
Sure, Clay Byrd was the team captain but as large as he was, he was no better than Darin Zion. Clay Byrd was weak. A man destined to get just close enough to success only to fail time and time again.
But then, if Jatt tried to win War Games, there was the issue of the promise he made to Natalie…..
But that was before he found out Conor was the apple of his dear old dad’s eye.
Still, a promise is a promise.
Jatt Starr tosses the HOTv Tag Team Championship on the bed and pulled out his cell phone from his back pocket. With a swipe here and a couple of taps there, he made his call. The phone on the other end rang once….rang twice…..and just before it rang thrice, the call was picked up. The sound of his HOTv Co-World Champion was unmistakable.
DAN RYAN: What’s up?
JATT STARR: It’s me. It’s Jatt.
DAN RYAN: I know. Your name came up.
JATT STARR: Just letting you know I made it to Toronto.
DAN RYAN: Okay? Is Conor there?
JATT STARR: Conor? Coming to visit his mother? Get out of here. But I met his father.
DAN RYAN: Oh yeah?
JATT STARR: Great, great guy. A pinnacle of society, a real upstanding citizen.
DAN RYAN: You don’t like him, do you?
JATT STARR: I fucking hate him.
DAN RYAN: That sucks.
JATT STARR: I really do not feel like talking about him. I just wanted to call to let you know that I support you if you want to win War Games.
DAN RYAN: Thanks?
JATT STARR: It’s unfair for me to ask you to make certain concessions due to my personal life. The way I see it, if you win, if I win, if we both win….that would be pretty cool. It is all the same to me. But, there is this thought…..the last two War Games? Think about who won and how they won. Sutler Kael beats Conor Fuse and wins War Games. Christopher America beats Conor Fuse and wins War Games.
DAN RYAN: The kid’s a massive threat to win.
JATT STARR: Yeah, tell me about it. But, you know, I gave Natalie my word I would look out for him. If history is any indication, someone would need to go to a dark, dark place, a willingness to cripple a massive threat in order to win.
DAN RYAN (after a pause): Are you giving me the okay to…..Are you saying what I think you’re saying?
JATT STARR: I didn’t say anything. (pause) I have to go. I’ll call you later this week.
The Jattinum Standard, with a press of a button, disconnected the call. Dan Ryan could have been in the middle of something super important and may not have really paid all that much attention to what he was saying, but Jatt knew he could not have this conversation again. He tossed the phone to the side, onto the chair in the corner. He could hear his wife yell “Bye, I love you, we will be back later” through the door before flopping onto the bed. He turned onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, feeling a slight pang of guilt.
But this was War Games.
It’s not personal.
At least, that’s what he told himself.