The pie has been baking in the oven. A nice, humble one, and you’re gonna get your slice. I promise you that. I had to let that ‘euphanizing’ smell permeate through the house some. Intoxicate your senses, and starve you into talking about R-E-S-P-E-C-T and finding out what it means to me.
It won’t be that easy.
You got to do the work, Mr. Working Class Hero, if you want to know if I turned down your room at the top of the hill.
That said, I’m glad you’re back from vacation. Tell me, how was the beach? Did you wind up proposing? What’s that? You didn’t go on vacation? You were busy working you say. How ethical of you, Champ. I’m sure all the guys in the back you’ve been butchering for the past year really appreciate your attention to diligence. Maybe one day you can pick up the flag for them and wave it against yourself.
Such a fucking jerk off.
Yeah, you’re a true, if you want to be a hero well just follow me, story.
Did you know the Earth is flat?
The sky is purple?
And you care about someone not named Mike Best?
Give me a break. I’m not buying it, Mike. I bet you even had to write all those names down on your hand, you fucking crumb. Tell me I’m wrong.
“This is for the Conor Zion’s and Clay Freeman’s of the world. After this week though I will forget who you are.” — Mike Best, probably
You want to talk about wasting the other’s time? Don’t waste mine with the “I don’t think I will” routine. I only know one Capitan, and he’s as merciless as they come.
How’s that for some friendly advice?
Special Studio Edition
Voice Over: The Cracking News Network interrupts your lover’s quarrel for this special news bulletin.
Cut to newly cast for the occasion lead anchor, Katy Pizmo. She sits behind a news desk wearing an egg shell colored dress, and has long, straight brown hair. Her yolk yellow eyes jump off the screen, and she smiles like the type of girl you’d bring home to meet Mom. Behind her, a portrait of better times. Said portrait is an arm and arm picture of the Bandits. Jiles’ face is oblivion scratched out, but the rest of the gang is pearly.
Okay, so maybe not to meet Mom.
Katy Pizmo: Can you believe the nerve of the Maestro? Dooming us to the archives! Just who does he think he is! We didn’t agree to any of this! I just started here!
Off screen a man calls out, “Uh, Katy. We are live.”
Katy Pizmo: Hello, and welcome. I’m Katy Pizmo with the Cracking News Network. Earlier in the week it was made known to the public that Bobby Dean had been taken hostage aboard the USS Octane by long time scumbag, soon to be shelved, and stoner shit for brains, Cancer Jiles. There are reports of towel whippings, ritual waterboarding, four AM wakeups, incessant scrubbing, peanut galleries, mental anguish, and much, much more coming from the ship.
Side by side mugshots of Jiles and Dean appear on screen. Jiles is of course puckered for his, while Bob’s is him crying with a random vegetable hanging from his mouth. It was an old mugshot of Bob from after an altercation during happy hour at Applebee’s.
Katy Pizmo: As such, we’re interrupting your programming to bring you a special, studio edition of Cracking News. My colleague, Carton Yolks, is up in the sky aboard C.N. Chopper One to provide us with exclusive aerial coverage of the USS Octane. Carton, are you there? Can you hear me?
Cut to a black screen.
Carton Yolks: Yes Katy, I can hear you. The massive vessel has just entered New York Harbor and will soon be docking in front of Lady Liberty. Then, in a few days time, the decommished battleship will host the main event of High Octane’s annual Pay Per View, March To Glory.
Cut to a photoshopped picture of Dan Ryan and Mike Best having soup (for their family) aboard the USS Octane.
Katy Pizmo: Say Carton, would that be the same main event and once in a lifetime opportunity that the former leader of the eGG Bandits, Cancer Jiles, fumbled away?
Cut back to a black screen.
Carton Yolks: Same one.
And then a quick cut back to Pizmo and her straight shooting brown hair.
Katy Pizmo: Carton, we seem to be having some trouble with the live feed. We can hear you, but due to a blackout from our subsidiary studio, HOTv, we can’t see you. Tell us, how is Doozer doing?
The shot stays with Pizmo seated behind the news desk. She has a look of concern on her face.
Carton Yolks: Uh… oh. I get it. Good one, Katy. Welcome to the team!
Katy Pizmo: Thank you. But honestly we can’t see anything. What is the status of Bobby Dean? Is he okay?
You can hear the depression in Carton’s voice before he even answers.
Carton Yolks: Well, it doesn’t look good for Bob. He’s hunched over, and vigorously scrubbing the deck of the ship. As for the deck itself, more specifically the area Bob’s located, it is covered in bits and pieces of yolky shell. It’s everywhere, Katy.
Katy’s look of concern grows.
Carton Yolks: It reminds me of that time the Bandits were in Mexico for the Day of the Dead, and they wrestled in honor of legendary referee, Hal Kume.
Pizmo quickly covers her mouth to conceal a gasp.
Katy Pizmo: Oh dear. Not the Banditzuma’s Revenge match! They still aren’t allowed to speak Spanish because of that fiasco. Though, I wonder if that is still in effect since Jiles decided to put himself first and say screw you to everyone else. Nevermind that, what else, Carton?
Carton Yolks: Speaking of that poison pill, I tell you with the hope of brightening your day some that he is without his precious T-Shades. He also has racoon eyes. From here, at first we thought he did have his shades on. Then, once we got a better look at him we realized it was racoon eyes.
Katy nods agreeingly, as if she can see Big C’s cartoon featured face.
Katy Pizmo: Good. What else? Tell me more of his swollen suffering so those just tuning in can enjoy it as much as I am.
Carton Yolks: He’s… well, it’s hard to explain. There’s this massive, chain link fence that stretches from the deck all the way down to the sea floor. It’s like it’s fastened to the side of the ship. Jiles, the crazed, delusional, salty mongoloid that he is, is climbing around on it like he’s playing a life or death game of Frogger. Actually, it’s quite the scene, Katy. There’s also a large man standing over Bobby who keeps pointing at the deck like he’s dropped a quarter.
Genuine, Katy proceeds as if she were talking to a doctor about a prognosis.
Katy Pizmo: Shoot us straight, Carton. What are the chances JJ slips and falls?
Carton Yolks: The way he is moving around I’d say pretty good. He does have his boots on though.
The newly appointed lead anchor quickly points to someone off screen.
Katy Pizmo: We need that feed, now! Tell us more, Carton. I’ve got Boj the producer man trying to reach someone to get this blackout lifted. You’re our eyes.
High in the sky, Yolks audibly sighs at the responsibility cast upon him.
Carton Yolks: I don’t know how long Bobby has been at it for. He was already out here when we showed up. His skin looks wind burnt. His face looks fatigued, like he hasn’t eaten a good meal or slept in a nice bed for a handful of days. His hair is all raggedy, and his what I’m presuming to be a uniform looks to be a few sizes too small. I’d like to add a small portion of the deck that Bob is scrubbing is pristine— could eat a sandwich off of it, Katy.
Briefly forgetting where she is, Katy loses her composure upon receiving the prior news.
Katy Pizmo: Of course it is. He’s Bobby Dean for a reason! And that bastard, Jiles! First the kick. Now this! I don’t care that Bobby cost him the World Championship! This must end! Is there any way you can rescue him, Carton? Swoop in and save the day!
Carton Yolks: Not possible. If we get any closer I’m sure the mega cannon that is pointed at C.N. One would blow us out of the sky.
Distraught, Pizmo leaps from her post; looking like a person who smokes a pack a minute and hasn’t had a cigarette in a few days.
Karen Pizmo: And? Bobby Dean is suffering, Carton! Are you trying to tell me that you are too busy worrying about being blown up!? I thought this was Cracking News! Where is the journalistic integrity!? And what happened to the USS Octane being decommished?
Carton Yolks: It is, but who knows with Lee Best. We can’t take that risk. I’m not that idiot down there climbing fences. Wait! Something’s happening!
The young, vibrant, yellow eyed anchor quickly sits back down, and starts to eat a Snickers bar given to her by offscreen producer, Boj the producer man.
Katy Pizmo: Did he fall? Please tell me he fell. Somebody get me this feed! I’ll sleep with Scottywood if I have to! Just get me this feed!
Carton Yolks: Sadly, no. Jiles has finished scaling the fence and is back on the USS Octane ship deck. OH NO! What vermin!
Katy Pizmo: WHAT!?!? What is he doing to our precious, beautiful baby boy?
Carton Yolks: He just dumped a nearby bucket on the pristine area that Bobby had finished scrubbing. It’s possible it was Bob’s shit and drink bucket from the look of its contents.
It’s called an E.M.D.D. aboard the ship. Extra muddy diarrhea death.
Carton Yolks: Good Lord, he just threw the bucket overboard, Katy! Where is Bobby going to shit now? What will he drink from?
There goes the popcorn, random papers, and index cards.
And I think Bob will be fine. At least when it comes to the shitting.
Katy Pizmo: When did humanity cease to exist, Carton? What is today’s date? And where is the live feed?
Carton Yolks: Hold on! Bobby is up in Jiles’ face! OH GOD NO! He shoved him. Jiles shoved him back! The big goofy guy is trying to get in between them. WAIT! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! GOD NO!!!! WHY!?!?!?!?!?
Katy Pizmo: Don’t tell me…
Dead air silence.
Carton Yolks: They both just went overboard! The big guy pushed them!
Katy faints, but is only out for a second. This is Cracking News. The show goes on. She quickly stirs to her post, and almost without missing a beat cries out in agony.
Katy Pizmo: NO! NOT OUR BOBBY!
Carton Yolks: Hey, Katy. Gotcha. He’s fine.
Before Katy and her ‘welcomed to the team’ face can respond, the live feed from Cracking News One suddenly comes to life and takes over the broadcast. It shows a wide smiling Maestro, full of pazazz, doing a pretty good interpretation of a Riverdance atop the broken egg shells that surround his old pal, Bobby Dean.
Carton wasn’t lying, either. The Maestro still doesn’t have his T-Shades. Got to be a record or something.
Maybe it’s the racoon eyes, or maybe he’s finally seeing things differently.
Or he lost them.
I’m sure they’ll turn up eventually.
Katy Pizmo: THE MONSTER! OH! OH! Carton! We see you! The feed is up! Finally! Gosh, I hope I don’t have to sleep with Scottywood now.
Carton Yolks: I thought this was Cracking News, Katy?
The feed quickly cuts back to the studio. Katy Pizmo is nowhere to be found, but an instant replay shows her sprinting off the set and to the nearest airport with the hopes of changing her identity at the first opportunity.
Could be worse.
Could be the other Katy.
My salty feet are quickly springing from off the ground.
My knees sharply bend as if I were getting ready to Termiblast an opponent.
My upper body form could be better, but I am dancing on eggshells here so balance is important.
“Never gonna get it, never gonna get it. Never gonna get it, never gonna get it. Never gonna get it– never get it.” Full of wonder and whimsy I sing to Bob without breaking my graceful stride. I’m in the best shape of my life, even if my nose is still sore. I’ve been climbing that fence for more than a week straight now. Day in, and day out. My hands have calloused three times over from it.
Shit, keeping up with the dancing is easy.
Even after getting done with a nine hour, left handed only climb.
“The Wo Wo World Title! Never get it.”
I repeat the only words I know to the once trendy En Vogue song over and over, until my seven minute dance routine finally concludes with a big, jump stomp. Exhausted, I wipe my face with Bob’s fresh towel, then casually toss it overboard like I did with everything else he owns. While doing so I notice C.N. One in the sky and wave hello to my old buddy, Carton Yolks.
“Hey look, Bob. Cracking News has come to see you jump overboard. Don’t let them down like you’ve let me down.” The Honaleen doesn’t budge. He’s not broken. Stoic, yes. But not broken. Not yet. I continue in a welcoming tone of voice, “Say, how about I have Laser get a hose and I personally wash this mess right off the deck for you. It’s your last shift… you only have one more night aboard. Tomorrow, after we dock, you’re free to leave. Let’s take it easy.”
I further prod, “Come on, Bob. I can hear your stomach growling, and smell the E.M.D.D. dried to your asscheeks. What do you say we clean this up real quick, you get a warm shower, a cooked meal in your belly, a toilet to break, and who knows… maybe you even sleep inside.”
I motion for Laser to go and get the hose. The one I’ve been blasting Bobby with whenever he complains about being thirsty, cold, or tired. I know he hates the taste of water, too, so its purpose serves as a double bonus.
I don’t care if you call me ruthless.
It’s more of a mini fire hose than a water cannon, and trust me, the ship’s got one of them, too. It would blast Carton Yolks right out of the sky if he got any closer.
“You sure, Bob?” I ask him before dangling the only carrot he eats. “There’s even a few dirty magazines in there. Tell me how tired you are. Tell me how cold you are. Tell me how dry your mouth is. I’m listening.”
Diligent and withdrawn, Bob continues to scrub.
Maybe I spent too much time climbing the fence, and not enough time torturing his treacherous soul. Can’t say I blame myself for it. When I step inside the Lion’s Den it will literally be THE BIGGEST MATCH OF MY CAREER. EVER. ALL TIME. AND POSSIBLY MY LAST ONE. BOTH. SAME MATCH. Luckily for me I’ve had Bobby to destress me leading up to it. It was a smart way for me to take my mind off of things… making him suffer. Plus, I’m not going to feel bad for taking it seriously. Not this time. Oh well. I really did want to see Bob jump overboard, though.
“Last chance, Blobby.”
Laser the Mongo hands me the hose. Instead of spraying my old, scrubbing away buddy– who doesn’t even flinch when I open the spout, I clean the deck for him. I wash away all the broken eggs I had Big L bring in for the final breaking point test. “There. It’s done.” I excitedly say. “See, I’m not that bad, Bob. If you weren’t such a fucking idiot you’d know that.” He stops scrubbing, clicks the electric toothbrush off, slowly turns his attention my way, and gazes deep into my eyes. I boom out, “Oh would you look at that!?! Finally! There’s the same guy who deprived me of my greatest accomplishment.”
Things get tense. Fast. I don’t falter. I’m here to break him, like he broke me. “Now that you’re here I wanted to tell you something in particular.” I point at Bob like I’m Laser himself. The hose drops from my grasp and clanks on the ground. “You know, it could have been Cancer Jiles versus Bobby Dean in the main event of March To Glory. Inside the hallowed and famed Madison Square Garden. For the greatest prize there is, the High Octane World Championship.” My head shakes from the mega disappointment. I further add, “But because of you that’s not happening. When you fucked me and make no mistake you fucked me good and hard, you, being the simple, short sighted, peon fuckboy that you are, failed to realize you were also fucking yourself.”
Bob’s lip quivers.
Not from fear.
But from rage.
I’m not done, though, so fear could still be on the table. “I’d have jumped overboard a month ago, let alone the second I stepped foot on this ship if I had done something as stupid as that.”
The Real Bob speaks to me for the first time this trip. Emotionless, he quips, “Worth it.” He then spits at my feet causing me to chuckle. I pick back up the hose, think for a second, and then spray his saliva from the decks.
“Good for you, Bob.” My cordial congratulations come with a single clap. “Well done. I guess I’ll just have to live with the fact that you’ll never be the same person again, and I was the one who did that to you.” I spit back at him. “You’ll be sniffing my salt for the rest of time. See you around. Oh, and you missed a spot.”
HOTv Port-able Studios
Statue of Liberty
The time has come.
The ship is docked. Through a little port window you can see a woman in a white dress. She is running across the top of the water, her long brown hair gusting behind her. Then she is gone, forever lost to the horizon.
“Hi Mike. Checking in from the ship. Let’s chat later.”
Or maybe the time hasn’t come.
“Actually, let’s chat now.”
I ease back, and as candidly as possible address the Champion of Champions.
“Round three. Rule of three. Third time’s a charm. I know you. You know me. Terminal Cancer versus I Kneed a Hero. There must be a winner, and whatever it is that’s between us, Mike, finally comes to an end.”
The gravity of my daunting situation weighs me down. So, I sigh.
“You and I both know that if you stumble out of the blocks, Dan is going to throw your ass through the cage and off the ship in a single motion.”
Talk about a reason to start with your Best foot forward.
“If I stumble, I become another name on your infamous list, join Stevens down in the archives to discuss different table templates, and help him keep track of all your future victories.”
Talk about a reason to put your saltiest foot forward.
“So with that said, Mike, our Grand Finale awaits. Will it be death before dishonor? Or will survivability outweigh accountability? What I mean by that is even with all that is looming, you know what I think about the most?”
I bite the bottom part of my lip, and instantly miss the tacks I had in the soles of my salt shoes from Round 2.
“It’s the damnedest thing, too. I’ve been telling myself not to give a fuck about what you have to say because this is my story now. But, it’s not my story. It’s still yours, no matter the desperate lengths I’ve taken to prove to myself otherwise.”
My head lowers, and my shoulders sag.
“The biggest match in my existence is exactly that because of you, Mike. The Star Maker.” Gut punched, I laugh at the depths of my failure before pressing on. “For the first time ever, and especially when it’s comes to me and you… I feel like it’s not my main event.”
Quickly, I hold my hand out to stop the onslaught before it can occur.
“I know, I know. We aren’t the main event, we’re jerking the curtain. I lost the main event when I dropped the Hammer on my big toe. You’re the GOD King and one of the more desirable selections on Match dot com. Hopefully my point still isn’t lost on you.”
A thoughtful scratch of the chin.
“Like, how the fuck did I become a byline in the biggest match of my career? Me? Of all people? Even if I do the impossible, save my job, grab the brass ring; the narrative going forward will be how do you respond now that you’ve failed to escape the clutches of defeat? Fuck, I’d even bet my name doesn’t get mentioned for the rest of the show.”
I spit. Twice. Back to back, double charcoalies.
“Needless to say that thought just hasn’t been sitting right with me. Matter of fact, I’ve hated every fucking second of my life under the Sun, so to speak. So much so it clouds my better judgement, Mike.”
Disgust oozes from my eyes. Pride, and honor… things I’m not too familiar with start to develop on the surface of my soul. Where are my fucking T-Shades when I need them? Stupid nose. They usually protect me from the inconsequential.
Why fucking now?
“I thought risking it all and torturing Bobby Dean for his past sins would be enough to purge this… need. It was supposed to make my decision easy. It didn’t. It only made things worse.”
I take a deep breath. So deep, a small cloud of smoke trapped in my lungs from who knows when finally escapes.
“So now, Mike, I’m left with a choice. I can either escape the cage like I’ve been training for, or I can try to walk out the exit and reclaim my dignity from the greatest embarasser alive. One way I win, I become champion, I do something I never thought possible, and I live to see another day. The other way is futile, I become a mere feather in your cap, but I think I’d sleep better at night.”
I shake my head. I don’t know what to do. March 2 Glory is knocking on the door.
Fuck these…. emotions.
“I guess what I’m saying is I need to decide if my career is worth having if it’s inside of your shadow. If I don’t choose death by Data, I live in dishonor. If I choose to survive, how do I even begin to hold myself accountable for the things I’ve done?”
Talk about some weight.
My attention quickly goes to my right hand. It seems I was holding my car keys the entire time I was looking for them.
“Hopefully they’re still snug.”
Like a glove fitting poncho.
“Phew. That was a close one. I almost started talking about respect there. Well, seems like an easy enough decision to me.”