We walked through the curtain to the back, Conor Fuse and Bobbinette Carey turned right, I turned left.
I wonder how long it took them to notice I wasn’t with them.
I wonder if they even noticed at all.
I could feel the blood trickling from the open wound in my forehead into my eye, down the side of my cheek. My neck felt like a glass shard had been driven into it, I could barely move it. Each breath I took became more and more labored, it was like my lungs were filling with smoke from a three alarm fire.
I can’t say I walked as much as shambled down the corridor like a member of the living dead in a George A. Romero film, barely holding onto the LSD Championship, the strap dragging on the concrete floor behind him.
I happened to pass a mirror conveniently located next to a maintenance closet. My blonde hair was streaked in a deep red, my face a blood red mask. I looked like Carrie at the end of that movie.
I could feel the eyes of the arena staff and the HOW employees staring and gawking at me as I passed them, speaking to each other in hushed whispers. I feel like the star attraction at a 1930’s freak show. I can hear the barker now (who somehow sounds like Steve Harrison), standing on a box with a little top hat and waving a cane around screaming…..
“STEP RIGHT UP! STEP RIGHT UP! WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO BEHOLD IS A SIGHT SO HORRIFYING, SO FRIGHTENING, IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! LOOK IF YOU MUST AND TURN AWAY IF YOU DARE!”
And I stumbled down that corridor.
Barely recognizing the maintenance men – Jose and Joe. Cameraman Bob who may or may have been getting a cup of coffee next to that mousy girl from accounting (Katie? Kathy? Caitlyn? Cathy?) who wears prescription sunglasses nearly the size of her face as if she were Jackie Onassis Kennedy indoors.
I was leaving a trail of bloody droplets back to the ring as if this were a disturbing version of “Hansel and Gretel”.
I could hear myself wheezing as I approached the double doors leading to the underground parking lot.
Let them watch, let them gawk at me.
There was only one thought after that bullshit “tag team match”…..
A match where that little wormy prick, Tyler Best, brained me with the ICON Championship not once, but twice….
A match where that lummox, Stronk, choked me out, nearly snapping my neck in the process….
A match where Jace Parker Davidson contributed to the assault….
A match where my “supposed” back up watched as I was nearly strangled to death before coming in like the cavalry. An inept, ineffectual cavalry. Bobbinette Carey was probably getting her rocks off watching Stronk squeeze the life out of me. It was probably Conor Fuse that snapped her out of it to *ahem* “save” me.
Too little too late.
The damage was done.
I could bitch or moan or groan or make excuses that it was a three on one assault, that the match was unfair.
But that is what Jatt Starr would do. But Simon Sparrow? I knew the odds. I knew what I was walking into.
No, in that moment, as I was headed towards the doors, I was singleminded of purpose.
Don’t fall down. Don’t pass out.
Walk on your own volition out of this arena.
If you fall down, if you show any sign of weakness then the Board wins. I can almost imagine them rooting against me, saying to themselves “Come on! Collapse!” I knew that if I did, they would get all excited, drop their trousers, and start jerking each other off before patting each other on the back….
….without the courtesy of watching up afterwards, mind you.
Fuck the Board.
Fuck Lee Best.
Fuck Mike Best.
And fuck Tyler Best.
I am pleased to tell you….
With all the pain I was feeling, all the fatigue…..
….that with whatever strength I had left, I pushed those doors (which might as well have weighed a thousand pounds) open and I tottered outside where I…..
You know what? I’m not going to give them the satisfaction.
TWO DAYS LATER…….
::::SCENE: The Van Buren Recovery Home in Amherst, New York. The small cozy room has a window that overlooks the rose garden on the grounds. The sound of beeping emits from the heart monitor attached to the patient lying motionless in the bed. The rhythmic hissing sounds from the ventilator is all that is heard in the Kubrickian white room (save for a vase with a blue paisley pattern containing two wilting yellow roses and the uncomfortably ergonomically correct black chair next to the bed).
Simon Sparrow has been sitting in that chair for about half an hour, although it feels like hours. He fidgets and shifts, with each movement he winces in pain. With one motion his neck radiates a shooting pain into his head, he thinks his head is about to explode like in “Scanners”. He moves another away and he feels a slight twinge in his back. He would certainly prefer the twinge to the near vomit inducing agony his neck is causing.
The looks the nurses gave him when he entered the facility with his “StarrSek” knapsack over his shoulder (The “T” in “STARR” has been replaced with a “P” in marker). He was positive that someone would have inquired if he wanted to be admitted considering his black eye and the large gauze taped on his forehead. Simon would have emphatically declined. The Board would love that. Lee Best and his fat cat Board buddies, smoking cigars in their designer suits, laughing, oozing the toxic masculinity he once embraced and now abhors, and going on and on at how Simon Sparrow is a weak little man baby, that Jatt Starr wouldn’t have gotten any medical treatment after that match.
Those corrupt, bottomfeeding sons of bitches.
Simon Sparrow looks at his daughter and places his hand on hers. How long has it been since he visited her? A month? Two months? It has been too long.
But sitting here, in this room, he finds a certain level of peace. He doesn’t have to hear radio spots promoting “LSD Champion Jatt Starr versus ICON Champion Tyler Adrian Best. He doesn’t have to read the promotional garbage online promoting “Jace Parker Davidson versus LSD Champion Jatt Starr for the LSD Championship”.
It has gotten to the point that the fans are calling him Jatt Starr again thanks to this Anti-Sparrow propaganda. “Hey Jatt Starr! Can I get an autograph?” and when he signs it “LSD Champ Simon Sparrow”, they get all pissy with him. Almost as much as he gets pissy with them when they take a selfie with him and post they took a photo with Jatt Starr (or one of his nicknames, the most popular being “The Ruler of Jattlanta”….have they not been listening for these past nineteen years???? It’s “The Ruler of JATTLANTIS” and “The Hero of JATTLANTA”, they can’t combine two nicknames! Not that he cares. He is Simon Sparrow!).
He leans back in the chair, or rather he sits up very straight. He can feel his posture correcting in the most distressing of ways. He ends up sliding down the chair into a comfortable slump. He begins to speak in a comforting voice.::::
SIMON SPARROW: Hey Gildie. Can you hear me?
::::The Professor of Sparrowdynamics stares at Gilda, looking for some kind of acknowledgement. But not eye fluttering. That is something that can happen with coma patients as he was told when he was running up down the hallways claiming she had awakened. He was channeling his inner Steve Harrison claiming he is the Miracle Man. It was a disappointing moment. Right now, there is nothing. An idea pops in his head and he picks up the knapsack next to his chair, opens it, and pulls out the LSD Championship. He looks at it, admires it for a moment before gently placing over Gilda’s waist.:::
SIMON SPARROW: I’m learning to play the guitar, you know like Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, the singing fast food cowboy.
::::The silence becomes more awkward as Simon looks out the window. A cloud that Simon believes is shaped like a cloud of smoke seems to slowly move to the right. After about twenty seconds he turns his head (and grimaces as he does so).::::
SIMON SPARROW: I have a story though. It is about the rise and fall of an Old West Cowboy known as Jace Parker the Perv. Wanted in several states for multiple counts of assault, public masturbation, beastiality, necrophilia, necromancy, and outstanding parking tickets. You had to park your horse and tie it to a post in those days. Certain ordinances had to be followed such as “Thy horse shalt not crap in the drinking water”, “Thy horse shalt not kick pedestrians”, and “Thine horse’s erection canst exceed six inches”. Penis envy was a huge thing back then. The bigger the gun and all that. But I am getting ahead of the story. We must first begin with the origin story of how Jace Parker Davidson became the hossiest perverted deviant of the Old West. It all began when his mother married the preacher that knocked her up. Being the God fearing man that he was, when it came to—-
::::The door opens and Linda, Gilda’s mother, enters carrying a bag of “Pan’s Flute Chicken and Burgers” (It’s Pan-tastic!), she is in mid soda sip when she notices Simon slumped in the chair at Gilda’s bedside.::::
SIMON SPARROW: I thought you weren’t coming today.
::::Linda swallows her fizzy, carbonated gulp and walks in. The five foot four forty-three year old (although to Simon, she doesn’t look a day over thirty-nine) places her bagged fast food and cup on the pristine white table near the window. She is wearing black yoga pants, red, white, and blue sneakers that even Christopher America would approve of, and a white ABBA t-shirt. Her long light brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail, she looks at Simon with her big, Disney amber colored eyes.::::
LINDA: I changed my mind. What’s that?
::::Linda points with a flick of her finger towards the LSD Championship adorned on her comatose daughter.::::
SIMON SPARROW: You don’t need to be here. Do something for yourself.
LINDA: What am I gonna do? Watch the Pol Pot docuseries? I finished it last night. I stayed up til three to finish it. What is that?
::::Linda points towards the belt on top of Gilda and Simon Sparrow has a recollection of Gilda Starr defeating Bobby Dean in her one and only singles match in the HOW.::::
SIMON SPARROW: What could have been.
LINDA: Are we gonna go there again?
SIMON SPARROW: I didn’t— We’re not—- No. I’m just saying, you need some time to yourself.
LINDA: And miss my baby wake up?
SIMON SPARROW: By that logic, you should have a day off so she would wake up.
LINDA: Oh fuck off. You look like crap by the way. It must’ve been a tough one?
SIMON SPARROW: You should see the other guys.
LINDA: Hm. What are you doing here, anyway? Can you….?
:::::Simon Sparrow lifts the LSD Championship off of his daughter and places it in his lap.::::
SIMON SPARROW: Do you want the chair?
LINDA: No. I’m good. I usually bring in the one from next door. Mrs. Lippenschmidt doesn’t mind. Why are you here?
SIMON SPARROW: I can’t visit my daughter?
LINDA: We haven’t seen you in weeks. Why are you really here?
SIMON SPARROW: I just needed to remind myself of who I am supposed to be.
LINDA: Excuse me.
::::Linda proceeds to exit the room. Simon Sparrow looks at the LSD Championship resting on his lap. About thirty seconds later Linda wheels an office chair into the room and places it next to the table containing her “Pan’s”.::::
SIMON SPARROW: No problems with the checks clearing?
LINDA: Not yet. I had to be creative on when to pay a couple of the bills but no issues. What’s going on?
::::Linda opens the bag and pulls out a Bacon PAN-tastic Burger and a small box of waffle fries.::::
SIMON SPARROW: It’s this whole thing at work. Yes, I made a career on the name “Jatt Starr” but it also brought out the worst in me. So, here I am trying to be a semi-authentic version of myself, Simon Sparrow, and everywhere I turn I’m being promoted as or being called “Jatt Starr”. At first it was funny then a little annoying and now, it’s-it’s-it’s almost like, you know, maybe-maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m-I’m-I’m a fraud trying to be something I’m not. Where does-does-does Jatt Starr end and Simon Sparrow begin or vice versa?
LINDA: Did you know Pol Pot’s real name was Saloth Sar?
SIMON SPARROW: That’s not helpful!
LINDA: I just found it interesting in the context of what you’re going through. Pol Pot was murderous psychopathic despot, I doubt he had any crisis of conscience of wanting to be called “Saloth Sar” because it might make him a nicer, gentler genocidal dictator.
SIMON SPARROW: By that rationale, you’re saying that I am basically Pol Pot, no matter what name I go by, who I was is who I am and-and-and I should just cave and give these douchewaffles what they want.
LINDA: I am saying I was up late watching a series about a madman who is guilty of crimes against humanity. You are a professional wrestler who made a career sucking up to the boss and did some morally questionable things. Pol Pot – maniac. You – professional wrestler. Not exactly an apples to apples comparison.
SIMON SPARROW: Ever since I smacked around Tantrum Tyler a few weeks ago, they have been pushing me and pushing me. I can feel myself burning out. I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m not the person they want me to be.
LINDA: Don’t you have a girlfriend or something to talk to?
SIMON SPARROW: She’s in New Zealand filming something.
LINDA: Maybe instead of doing whatever….
::::Linda waves her right hand in the general direction of Simon Sparrow.::::
LINDA: ….this is, maybe you should meditate, do some inner reflection, maybe. Focus on the next match.
SIMON SPARROW: Another match, another fucking douchbag.
LINDA: You know I zone out when you start talking to me about your work, don’t you?
SIMON SPARROW: Fucking Jace.
LINDA: Oh, so you’re gonna talk about….okay….
::::Linda begins eating her burger and fries and slurping the Coca-Cola in her cup.::::
SIMON SPARROW: Like seven or eight months ago, we could have come together and been a dominant force in the HOW, you know? “Team Starrley Davidson”! It was working title but, no, he decided he wanted the money and security that the Board afforded. Hell, if it were a year and a half ago, I might have done the same thing. But, he’s a misogynistic fopdoodle. Irrelevant in every sense of the word. So, did Sektor betraying me leave such a void that I would have been friends with basically anyone? It’s not like he’s grown since I’ve first known him. Except he’s divorced now and he’s more of an asshole than ever. Come to think of it, I don’t think he has one redeeming quality. We passed by homeless man once, several months ago, he dropped a twenty dollar bill in a sewer grate and made him try to reach for it. The homeless man did, and, man, his arm was scraped up pretty bad, and Jace took the twenty dollar bill back. All that homeless guy got for his troubles was probably an infection and a swift kick in the ass. “King of Everything”, my ass.
LINDA (not paying attention): Uh-huh
SIMON SPARROW: He doesn’t even donate to charity. Well, he would donate to a stripper or prostitute named Charity. I used to donate to the church, the animal shelter, the food bank, the children’s hospital….until what happened with Gild…
:::Simon Sparrow briefly looks with remorse at his daughter before turning back (with much pain) towards Linda who is shoving a waffle fry into her mouth.::::
SIMON SPARROW: And the fucking fine! You know that he can’t beat me, right? And I don’t mean he “can’t” as in he is incapable of beating me, he’s done it before. I mean he can’t because if he does, if he beats Simon Sparrow, then-then I worry that-that-that what they say might be true. That-that-that Simon Sparrow is inferior to-to Jatt Starr.
LINDA (only half paying attention): You’ll figure something out.
SIMON SPARROW: At least here…I can just be….me….you know?
::::::Simon Sparrow looks at the LSD Championship on his lap, the neck pain shooting through his brain and into his eyes. There is a part of him that knows that Gilda may never wake up. There is a part of him that knows that whatever happens in the match against Jace Parker Davidson, it will change him. He will either be more confident that the path he is on is the correct one or he will fall deeper into his own anxieties and insecurities. And there is a very large part of him that knows he is still Jatt Starr, deep, deep down inside of himself and he is worried that once he goes Jatt, he won’t be able to get back to Simon. END SCENE:::::