”Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
– Brandon Sanderson
Bourbon Street Honky Tonk
New Orleans, Louisiana
“Guitars, Cadillacs” by Dwight Yoakum plays from the speakers dotting the walls and ceiling of a darkly lit bar. The room is massive, extending over two hundred feet from door to back wall, where a stage was set up for live music. The stage, instead of live music, however, was instead empty.
Deep in the far right rear corner of the room, there is a semicircular booth flush with the wall with a curtain separating it from the rest of the bar.
Craig Massey is walking through the bar. Passing the bartender, he makes eye contact and waves him off when non-verbally offered a drink. He keeps walking, finally approaching the curtain, which he pulls back slightly to peek inside. Recognizing the occupant, he sits down opposite Dan Ryan, who is looking at him without a word.
Massey fidgets nervously.
“I’m sorry. I did everything I could to make this happen, but Clay’s not coming.”
Dan continues to stare. “I figured as much. I assume you paid for everything already.”
Craig stammers. “Y-yeah, I had to. The manager wanted to make sure we covered his costs for clearing out the place.”
“Oh?” Dan’s eyebrows go up. “It seems to have filled back up again.”
Craig looks down at his own hands, again fidgeting.
“Well, I told him to go ahead since Clay wasn’t showing up.”
“It’s alright, Craig. I hadn’t actually expected this to work. It was a shot in the dark. I’ll have to get in contact with him another way. I’ll figure it out when we get to Dallas.”
Dan picks up the Old Fashioned on the table in front of him and takes a big drink. Craig watches as his boss downs the rest of the contents of his glass. Dan sets the glass down with a thump and smirks slightly.
“You want a drink, Craig? It seems I’ve purchased enough whiskey in this place to put their entire year into the black. Someone ought to enjoy it.”
Craig relaxes just a bit, disarmed by the comment, and nods. Dan clicks a button on the wall next to him and an old speaker system on the wall crackles to life. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes,” Dan replies. “Whiskey on the rocks for me…”
Craig nods his head again.
“Two whiskeys on the rocks. Thanks.”
As they wait for the drinks to arrive, Dan begins idly tapping his fingers on the table, never taking his eyes off of his friend and associate, who finally speaks up.
“It was a good win the other night, defending the tag team titles with Jatt.”
“It was. Jace gave up his partner pretty easily. I almost feel sorry for the Kostoff kid. He gets thrown into the fire and he can’t even count on his own partner to save him. The kid’s green as Irish grass. He needs someone guiding him, not someone who ditches at the first sign of trouble. Or maybe I should say, at the first sign of something that doesn’t cater to him.”
A waiter pulls the curtain apart. He holds a tray with two drinks, and he places one each in front of each of the men. Craig leans back, picks up his drink, gives an air toast, and then takes a drink.
“Craig,” Dan says, watching the waiter leave. He leans forward now. “I appreciate all of the work I’m doing. I fully understand what is being asked of you and I know how hard things have been over the last few months. It’s been a long drawn-out process, but in time everything will be better. I just want to make sure things are done right, and I trust that you can handle that. You’ve always gotten the job done, from your days as a wrestler to your days as a referee in Empire Pro, to the interviews.”
Craig smiles. “It’s a lot easier working for you than working for my other… client.”
Dan looks a bit confused.
“Your other client?”
Craig winces just a little bit. “Scott.”
Dan scrunches up his face like he just smelled a fart.
“Scott Hunter? The idiot?”
“Sure, he’s an idiot.” Craig chuckles a little. “He’s a good kid. It’s just… a little challenging sometimes. Plus I promised his family I’d take care of him.”
Dan shakes his head.
“I bet they stopped taking your calls.”
Craig laughs. “It’s not so bad as all that. He’s harmless, basically.”
“Well, I don’t know what you see in that guy.”
“As a matter of fact,” Craig says, now also leaning forward. “I was wondering if I could talk to you about a possible… experiment. I wanted to start bringing Scott around while you go about your HOW business. He can help with your bags, maybe intercept people you don’t feel like talking with, and do other odd jobs when I can’t be around.”
“I’m not a babysitter, Craig…”
“And I was thinking,” Craig continues. “Maybe you could show him a thing or two in the ring? I’ve got him a gig and I want him to be as ready as he can possibly be.”
“Man, come on…” Dan slams a hand palm-down on the table. “I’ve got so much going on right now. I have TWO championships to defend, War Games coming up, PWA 2 coming up. This is the last thing I need.”
Craig shakes his head “No”.
“Actually, you’re kinda making my point. I think if you give him a chance, maybe he can take some of the load off.”
Dan audibly groans and rolls his eyes and he looks back at Craig again and sighs.
“Okay look, if you can get him to Dallas and have him meet me at the arena, I’ll bring him in and see what I can do. But this isn’t a joke, Craig. I have a title defense to be concerned with. I really can’t have any distractions this close to War Games.”
Craig holds up both hands. “Not a problem. I’ll take care of the arrangements. And I have your place held downtown as well.”
“Good,” Dan nods. “As for Clay, I’ll make my own arrangements this time. I’ll get him to talk to me one way or another. After all… we’re gonna be home.”
With a smile, he raises his drink one more time, then takes another big drink.
”What is man? He’s just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur.”
– Ayn Rand
I already know what you’re going to say, Carey.
You don’t actually want the HOTv title.
A convenient attitude for when you inevitably lose.
You don’t actually care if you win or not.
A convenient attitude for when you inevitably lose.
You just want to steal my varsity letter jacket.
A convenient attitude for…
Seriously, that’s the word on the street. Some lady with a cane told me about it. Apparently, your goal this week is to not win the HOTv title or even win the match because that would mean you have to defend it every week. No, your goal is to steal a jacket.
Let me repeat that.
You don’t want to win the title this week… because you don’t want to have to defend it every week.
Uhhhh…. I’ll take “things that weren’t gonna happen anyway” for $1,000, Alex.
I’m very sad and very irritated to say that this isn’t really that much of a surprise. You’ve spent so little effort since coming back that you’ve developed multiple personalities so you can take more naps. It’s always nice to have a spare around for the messy work, isn’t it?
None of this would normally matter to me at all, except for the fact that we’re on the same team at War Games. It annoys the ever-living fuck out of me that you don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about winning. Not this week, not next week, not at War Games, not ever. You’re wasting everybody’s time so you can relive the camaraderie that being a washed-up wrestler didn’t bring you. You’re a goddamn Hall of Famer, but you’re a shadow of what you used to be. I want more from you. You’re affecting me now. I fucking insist you give more, and if you don’t, I’ll beat the fucking shit out of you. Especially if you try and pull the same shit you’ve pulled in the past, fucking over your own team, I will rip your fucking eyes out of their sockets. That’s my version of a Bottom Line, and I’ve got a whole drawer full of eye patches for you to borrow.
I want to know what it’s like, truly, to have a career, to be a known figure in the public square, to be on television every single week, and yet have absolutely no pride in your work whatsoever. You float through this phase of your life like an adrift dumpster fire floats down a murky flooded street. You might as well be human waste floating through the sewer pipes. You don’t care at all how you look in the ring, whether you win or lose, or any of that. Why is that? Do you think it’s some sort of badge of honor like you’ve evolved past the need for validation, and therefore you don’t give anyone anything worth validating?
Is that it?
Do you think it’s possible if, for just the next couple weeks, you could try really hard to give a fuck about something other than your ring gear and whether or not the next show is near a Waffle House? Can you stop trying to play dominatrix footsie with every man you come across? Sexuality is not a character trait, ma’am. I know you’re trying awfully hard to sleep your way to the middle, but there is a hell of a lot more to life than that. It’s unbecoming and ridiculous. How old are you? I only ask because you act like you’re 15 years old.
The rest of us are moving forward while you sit there like a fucking lump on a log content with the success of the past and the mediocrity of the present.
And your laziness is the ultimate excuse for your failures. It’s a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for your own life and your own actions. Instead of putting in the hard work necessary to achieve success, you choose to make excuses and blame other people for your shortcomings. You’re content to live this mediocre existence, never striving for greatness or pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself, and it makes me sick.
You’re like a parasite, leeching off of the hard work and effort of others. You expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter without putting in any effort of your own. You’re one of the ones who are always looking for shortcuts and taking the easy way out, never willing to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve any goals, assuming you even have goals, to begin with.
You have become the epitome of weakness. You lack the discipline and willpower necessary to achieve greatness again. You’re like a sheep, following the herd and never daring to break free from the pack. I’m trying to win some shit. I want to be great. I want to excel and become the best version of myself that I can be. And you? You are the enemy of progress. You are the antithesis of innovation and growth. You are a poison that infects the mind and saps the spirit, leaving nothing but lethargy and despair in your wake.
What it boils down to is this, Bob. You and your laziness are a disease that must be eradicated. You are the enemy of progress and a threat to everything I give a damn about. Either get your fucking shit together, put in some goddamn work, and work with us to win that fucking War Games match, or I’ll just put you out of your misery this week. Take the fucking jacket if you want it. It’s embarrassing that you give a shit.
Find your fucking fire in that ring with me this week, or do us all a favor and fade the fuck away and make room for people who actually want to win. You’re sucking the life out of this company with your mediocre bullshit. So do something. ANYTHING. That’s it. That’s all I’m asking. It’s sad I have to ask for “effort” as a big challenge to you, but that’s the way things are.
I hope that’s not just the way things have to be. I hope you can find it within yourself to give a damn, but if you can’t, hell, I might as well have some fun pounding your face into mush. I’m sorry. You might have to start pulling dudes with your personality.
Maybe they’ll like your new jacket.