“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
The street in front of the church bustled on Wednesday evenings, and tonight was no different than any other. John Wilson had attended services here for fifty seven years. The Calvary Baptist Church was his home, and he knew every parishioner by name. He knew the men that sat outside asking for money, he knew the people at the insurance agency across the street. Anything out of the ordinary set off whistles and alarm bells in his head. And the black Ford F250 that sat across from the church last week watching the congregation walk in had sent chills down his spine.
John parked his car behind the yellow brick building. He stepped out of the car and his eyes began scanning the other end of the alleyway. He parked in the back to leave spots open for the less able bodied brothers and sisters. He carried the word of God in his left hand, his black windbreaker jacket, jeans, and dress shoes completed his weekly ensemble. He approached the end of the alleyway and his eyes gravitated across the street, the normal vehicles were all there.
Mrs. Sellers’ Buick, Mr. Caprito’s Escape, his uncle’s late 90’s sedan, everything was where it should be, besides the black truck parked where Mrs. Mable normally parked. He squinted through the lenses of his glasses trying to make out the figure in the passenger seat of the enormous vehicle. With the way the world was, he could imagine some ANTIFA rapscallion sitting outside their church waiting to turn it into a shooting gallery.
The world was different now, you had to be on guard at all times. Anything suspicious that you didn’t acknowledge and discern could be the end of your life. John checked his leather banded Timex, there was still fifteen minutes until service. He sighed, before checking both ways before walking across the street. The truck bothered him, it ate at him, what if the man inside was following someone from the church? What if he was trying to catch a child straggling away from their parents?
He approached from the passenger side of the vehicle, he knew it would be safer that way. He tried to make out the figure inside, but it was still difficult. It didn’t look empty, but there definitely wasn’t a person sitting in the front seat. He finally got alongside the vehicle and along the windows he could see the condensation that had built up and obscured his vision. The condensation signaled that it was occupied and he knocked on the passenger side window. The truck shook as whoever was inside shifted, the shocks creaked and moaned under whatever was inside’s weight.
John was growing irritated, and reached up to knock on the glass a second time, this time more forcefully. But as he reached up to hit the glass the door latch popped and slowly fell open. John took out his phone, and dialed 911, keeping his thumb hovering above the dial button. He brought the door of the truck the rest of the way open and looked inside.
The first thing that hit him was the smell. Fermenting food, and fermented liquid was an unforgettable combination. Add in the body odor the forty year old three hundred pound man laying across the front seat, and it was horrific. The bearded man’s arm hung from the door frame, a half full can of Budweiser spilling onto the concrete. John’s eyes shot around the cab of the truck, the stack of crushed beer cans and the smashed cardboard of a thirty pack told him what he needed to know.
The enormous man that partly spilled from the truck stared up at him. His beard matted, he was shirtless, his cowboy hat sat on the dash and one of his legs pressed up against the windshield. His enormous body sprawled across the bench seat. John looked down at him, shaking his head.
“Everything alright?” John’s southern drawl had diminished after a career in a telemarketing call center. His accent boarded on classic midwestern, more than western. The big man glared back at him, barely blinking. John crouched down, into the man’s field of vision and snapped his fingers.
“Hey! Buddy! I asked you if everything was alright?!” The Behemoth shook his head and snorted realizing he was being spoken to. His steel blue eyes finally focused on John’s face.
“I’m fine… I’m fine…”
“You don’t look fine buddy, you look like a pile of manure left to sit in the pasture for a week in the middle of the summer,” John tried to make light of the situation. But you could hear the concern in his voice. Finding an enormous drunk asleep in a truck outside of your church wasn’t entirely unheard of in Plainview, but finding a famous enormous drunk. That was something very different.
“Your last name is Byrd right? Played ball for West? Ended up playing at Texas?” Wrestling wasn’t how people in Plainview remembered The Behemoth. He’d made his name on the football field, and was a five star recruit that ended up going down to Austin. If there was anything that was important in Texas, it was football.
The big man blinked, taking a deep breath, his eyes suddenly widened and he sat up. Clay reached down and rummaged on the floor, he threw items across the truck. Before finally grabbing a stained t-shirt. John watched, startled as Clay hurriedly put it on.
“Sorry ‘bout fallin’ asleep out here,” the big man mumbled as he tried to resituate himself on the bench seat. He tried to sit up, but his foot smacked into the empty beer cans and a few more cans spilled out onto the sidewalk.
“What do you think you’re doing?” John quizzed the big man who was trying to find his way into the driver’s seat.
“What’s it look like?”
“Like you’re going to make me call the police when you drive off,” John wasn’t joking anymore. His tone had changed to a more serious demeanour. Clay finally paused his drunken scramble, and looked back at the man and sighed.
“So, what’s it gonna be?” Clay asked back dejectedly. John looked at the man, the beer cans, he’d been in a position very like this at one point. He’d been down, and a friend had stretched out their hand and offered to pick him up. He looked up at the cross on the front of the church, twenty two years ago he’d stared at it and saw a new beginning for himself.
“Want to go grab a coffee?” John said as he stepped up into the cab, right past the cans and reached over grabbing the keys in The Behemoth’s hand. Clay pulled away but John kept his grip. “And I’ll drive us there.”
You deserve the next one kid, you always have deserved the next one. No matter who it was, whether it was me holding the belt, whether it was America holding the belt. You always deserved to be up next. Hell, I might have been wrestler of the year last year, but you were the only guy holding up a big 0 in the loss column in singles matches. It took War Games to get the belt out of your hands, you went end to end, the first one in, and you were the last one out.
After that, you deserved the time off, you deserved some time to yourself. I’m glad you got to take it, I’m glad you got away from this place. Lord knows I’ve been looking for some time to myself for the last year and a half. Away from the madness, away from the insanity. I’ve been on the front line for two years now, I’ve never walked away, I’ve never walked off. I’ve been the guy in the trench, taking the beatings, fighting away against the worst of them.
I’ve done it for two years, Conor.
But when you came back, you should have had first dibs at a shot at America. You should have been the guy, not Harrison, not Solex, not me. You were the last one of us eliminated, you were the one that went into that War Games with the belt in your hands. I can’t argue it, I can’t tell you anything different. But you sat back and let us go, you watched us run into a red, white, and blue juggernaut over and over again. Maybe because we let you down at War Games, you decided to watch us fall apart? As we crashed against The Board, wave after wave, you sat back and watched.
I’m sure we deserved it, all of the issues we had last year at War Games. All the issues we caused, and you’ve never been wrong about that. The issues that WE caused, more specifically, that I caused. Because I didn’t trust you, and I couldn’t trust you. But see Conor, trust isn’t just given, not in my world. You can’t just walk into a bar and ask to borrow another man’s truck, you can’t just go onto his farm and borrow his skid loader, you can’t just borrow your neighbor’s baler without asking.
And you expected me to just give it to you. You expected me to take you at your word that you weren’t working for them after what happened during our World Championship match at Refueled. After the entire lot of them, from Best all the way to Farthington, even America himself got involved, and they made sure I had the absolute fuck beaten out of me.
I was supposed to know that you weren’t working with them? I was supposed to know that you were someone I could rely on? That you were someone I could trust and believe in? That you were someone I could turn my back to, while I was fighting some giant like STRONK?
And you couldn’t trust me, Conor. You were willing to forgive, but I doubt you were really willing to forget. You don’t forget someone beating the fuck out of you with a cast, you don’t forget someone telling you that they respected you and believed in you, then coming out and going ballistic on you with a cast.
But this match, it’s not about the past Conor. If it was about the past, you’d walk right through me and go to March To Glory. You’d walk through the fire and come out shiny and new. You’d beat me hands down.
But this is about the future Conor.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
“That guy asked me to go get a fuckin’ coffee,” The Behemoth mumbled to himself as he sat in the drivers seat of the F250. The brown liquor store bag concealed his vice for the evening and he tore it off. He added it to the pile of garbage that had become his bed. The church in Plainview was off limits now. He couldn’t sit anywhere in Plainview if the man had called the police like he said he was going to.
It had taken every fiber of Clay’s willpower to not smash the man’s face into a thousand pieces across the dashboard. It wasn’t worth hurting the man though. A few towns over, he sat outside a Methodist church. The bottle of Jack Daniels helped to soothe the intrusive thoughts that permeated themselves through his brain. He stared off at the pale yellow glow of another church’s sign.
He wasn’t a man of the lord by any means, but he was a man of thought. He enjoyed the provocation that scripture played on his thoughts. And as he stared at the illuminated words of Proverbs 28:13 on the sign, his brain raced. Conor Fuse was the white whale, the redemption he thought he always wanted. The man that had robbed him of the World Heavyweight Championship with the help of Lee’s men.
He should be angry, he should feel the fire he felt that night last March. He should feel the rage that fueled him for the months leading into War Games, he should feel the need to destroy Conor Fuse. But it wasn’t there, deep down, nothing was there. It was just emptiness, it was just darkness. He’d beaten Jatt Starr to get to Conor Fuse, he’d fought like a wild animal to make his way to this moment.
Not because he wanted to hurt Jatt, but it was so he could feel something. So he could feel anything again. He thought if the opportunity presented itself, that he’d finally find the man he was underneath all this. But when the three count hit the mat, there wasn’t a sudden overwhelming feeling of purpose. There wasn’t a sudden drive to destroy, the rage, none of it was there.
It was nothing.
He took another pull off the bottle.
Forgiveness, when people wrong you it’s all you want. It’s all you crave, and people can give you lip service on the way to true forgiveness. They can tell you they forgive you even when they don’t, they can tell you that they know you’ll make it right. There’s things people can do to push you down the path of actual redemption.
But what about when it’s you? What about when it’s you that you wronged?
“I ain’t concealin’ shit from me!” the big man slurred as he took another huge swig of the brown liquor down his throat. His eyes darted across the scripture on the sign again, the scripture was full of shit. He’d confessed, he’d been honest with himself, he’d gotten down on his knees and begged, he’d done it all. There was no crash of lightning, there was no burning bush, there was no magical moment of forgiveness that anyone sent. Had God sent some dickhead to grab his wrist? What was that fucking idiot thinking grabbing his hand and inviting him for coffee? What was that supposed to be? Did he think because Clay had fallen asleep in front of a church that it was some kind of cry from help? That he needed some do-gooder to come to his aide? That he needed someone to help him?
Was that God’s answer?
He didn’t need the forgiveness of other people.
The Monster from Plainview needed to forgive himself.
That type of forgiveness is a lot harder to earn.
I beat Brandon Youngblood because I thought it was going to make me feel something. I beat Jatt Starr because putting you in my sights might fix whatever the hell is wrong with me. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, Conor. I don’t think there’s a magical fix for my life, I don’t think there’s a magical fix for me.
I’m broken, and I think I’m meant to be broken. I think I’m meant to live my life from one disappointment to the next. That I will let people down, over and over again. That I’ll do everything within my power to push myself forward, that I’ll become enveloped, enraptured with a purpose, and I’ll run like nobody else towards that purpose.
Then I’ll trip and fall at the finish line.
Is that my destiny Conor? Is that what I’m supposed to become?
It’s a cruel destiny, the guy who almost was. I was almost an NFL player, I made it a lot further than anyone else. I was almost World Champion, I came a lot closer than a lot of other people. I almost beat Mike Best a few times, I came a lot closer than other people.
Is that my legacy? Almost coming close?
Is that who I’m supposed to be?
Do you know what really scares me, Conor?
What if I beat you, and I’m still not fixed. What if I beat you, and set myself up for this redemption of a second match with Christopher America at March To Glory in Manchester, England. What if I destroy you, and all I want to do is sit in parking lots, drinking, staring at signs and wallowing in my own fucking misery?
What if I can’t muster up the energy to drag myself out of the truck and get myself into a truck stop shower for the fifth day in a row again? What if I keep living in this fucking truck, instead of finding a place to live? What if I keep working out with 12oz curls, instead of taking care of myself?
How long can I keep putting on this show? How long can I keep being The Behemoth, when I’m just a miserable, sad, broken old fucking man? Is my destiny sitting at the end of a bar, and being remembered as the guy that was almost something?
Because that’s all I want to be right now, that’s all I can think to be right now. I barely make it out of the truck to piss, I’ve debated shitting my pants because it’s just too fucking hard to get up and go squat in some alleyway. And I need to find something that’s going to make it better, I need to find something that’s going to fix me.
It wasn’t Jatt, it wasn’t Youngblood.
Maybe it’ll be you? Maybe it’ll be America, maybe when I have the chance at the #97RED leather I’ll find that drive one last time.
You know what else is scary, Conor?
What if I do find it? What if America brings it out of me, what if I find it, I have it in my hands, I can feel it in my veins. I can feel that greater purpose rage through my blood again, I get another taste of what it means to matter. What happens then? What happens if I beat you, and I suddenly find my way, I suddenly find something that’s going to give me a fucking reason to live.
Then what happens if I lose it again? I don’t know if I’ll come back from this one, but I don’t know if I can even imagine coming back from another one.
I have to make a decision, I have to decide if it’s worth opening up that Pandora’s box. Is it worth it to take the chance on myself one last time? Is it worth it, for my own well being to push myself to that breaking point one last time? What’s the price this time? How far down the rabbit hole do I go next time?
What if this isn’t rock bottom? How deep does it go, Conor? How far down does it all go?
What’s the bottom look like?
But underneath it all, I know I need to find out. I can’t keep living like this, I can’t keep functioning like this. I can’t live my life from one bottle to the next one. I can’t keep looking for answers at the bottom, I need to come out. I need to move forward. I need to find my purpose. I need to find something that will make me happy. I need to find something that will make me want to be better, I need to find something that will make me believe in myself. I need to find something that will give me faith in myself.
And I can’t think of anything else Conor. The only thing that I think can fix me, is another shot at him. Is another shot at that strap, is one more chance to ride into battle. One more chance to do it all, and finally climb to the top of the mountain.
And you’re the one thing in my way.
I’m not going to apologize to you this time, Conor. I’m going to beat the fuck out of you at Chaos.
And hopefully I feel something.