March 14th, 2020 – Conclusion of LBI
3:07 pm – Five Roses Pub
I’m typically not one for others opinions, but when it comes straight from the mouth of GOD, it’s hard not to listen. I rifled through his press release out of curiosity more than anything, but my interest sure as fuck was captured when those two words jumped off the page. I proceeded to take a head first dive down the rabbit hole, stumbling upon the betting odds for this final four hootenanny in the process. To say I was surprised when I discovered who the oddsmakers pegged as the staggering underdog would be a bit of an undersell. I was absolutely stunned to learn that the Lee Best Invitational’s Rudy was…
Jay Kay. Of course it’s Ted. Surprise Motherfuckers.
But hey, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they usually smell like shit. Am I right or am I right? Those words and odds and whatever other bulletin board material existed out there had no bearing on me, whatsoever. I want you to take every bit of it, roll it up into one big negative ball, and shove it straight up your ass. I’ve got no time for it, and certainly have no fuckin’ use for it.
Funny thing though.
That was Tuesday Ted. Saturday Ted has let those two words burrow into his conscience, gnawing away at his soul with the persistence of a pesky STD. Those betting odds have me doing the math, calculating the chances one has of winning the lottery. Did you know that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning? A better chance of being attacked by a shark? A better chance of being elected President of the United States? How is that even possible? I’M CANADIAN!
For Fuck Sakes.
Stupid people and their words and numbers. Why can’t they just keep them tucked away, all to themselves? Like, just leave well enough alone. Let me live in ignorant bliss…
I should clarify though, this isn’t a case of doubt creeping in. It’s most definitely not the sum of those words plus numbers. Fuck no. Doubt doesn’t exist in the mind of Teddy Palmer. Now getting distracted? I’ve been known to stare at the occasional shiny object or two. But I wouldn’t even say this is a full fledged distraction, not yet anyways. No, this right here is nothing more than frustration.
I’m frustrated that the man who signs my paychecks is looking to make a small fortune off my failures. I’m frustrated that no one is giving me a fighting chance against Red, let alone winning the finals. I’m disappointed that regardless of what has happened outside the ring, no one is respecting what I’ve done inside it.
The glass clinks on the cherry stained tabletop, the brunette waitress playing coy as she continues on with her delivery route. Staring down at the dark liquid, it beckons my name, pleading I open the hatch and let it take residence within the depths of my stomach. The ice cubes slow dance within the glass, begging for me to join them. The condensation rolls down the glass’ exterior, encouraging me to assume the role of Elsa and ‘Let It Go’.
I’m in the midst of another treasure hunt, searching for that always elusive answer at the bottom of a glass. Grabbing onto the cool, wet glass, I hesitate lifting it. My brief struggle is pointless, however, because before I know it, it’s rim is resting on my bottom lip. Fuck it. Bottoms Up.
As soon as my mouth reaches capacity, I eject the drink with punctuated force. I spit twice more on the ground for good measure. The middle aged man sitting at the table beside me, my drink dripping from his face, appreciates the follow up heaves hitting the floor this time. It’s my turn to play coy, handing him the pile of napkins from my table.
“You failed.” Binh says as the stranger swats away my attempts to help dry his face.
“Failed? What are you talking about?”
“In your moment of stress, you drank.”
“No I didn’t.” I protest. “That, my friend, was no alcoholic beverage.”
“I know.” Binh nods. “I told the waitress only coke.”
My beard is collecting dirt from the floor because my jaw has dropped. The fucking nerve of this guy. This is the type of betrayal that could find him on the next red eye back to America’s Armpit, also known as Florida.
“How dare you. Today of all days to pull a stunt like that.”
“What is today?”
Is he for real? I’ve only been talking about it on the hour, every hour for the past week. My whole trip to Florida was because of today. Binh wouldn’t have lost his job, in turn agreed to join team Palmer, and relocate to Chicago if it wasn’t for today.
“What’s today? What’s today?” I stutter in disbelief. “Only the single biggest day of my career. No scratch that. The single biggest day of my LIFE!”
“Exactly” He grins and nods. ” And you failed.”
“No I didn’t! You got it all twisted. I was just going to have one drink, let loose and relax. You know, clear my mind. Get in the fuckin’ zone for tonight.”
Binh shakes his head in what I’m assuming is disappointment. It’s around this time that a second waitress approaches our table. Her servers’ tray has two mugs resting atop it, both with steam rising from its opening. The smell is familiar, tickling my senses. I can’t quite identify it, but what i do know is that it doesn’t belong in a bar, that’s for sure.
“You don’t need alcohol to clear your mind.” Binh says, pulling one of the mugs towards him, pushing the other towards me. “Drink this.”
“Yes I do.” I reply, looking into the mug with the foreign substance. “And what the fuck is this?”
“No, you don’t.” Binh keeps the ball in play before saying “Peppermint Tea.”
I can play this game all day. Well, not all day, I have somewhere to be later. But I can play for like four hours. Also, Tea? Just when I think my new roommate doesn’t have anymore cards up those sleeves of his, he orders tea in a bar. A bar that just so happens to be a member of today’s ‘St Paddy’s Day Bar Crawl’. Come on, Binh.
“Shit’s been building up.” I push the mug towards Binh. “I just want one drink. It helps me, I swear.”
“Did it help last time?” He slides the mug back my way. “How did your ladder match end, remind me again?”
“…Not so well.”
Touché you insightful little bastard. That one drink…okay two drinks…okay okay, calm ‘er down. That afternoon twenty sixer eliminated all coordination in my thumbs, well past the evening, into the early morning. Do you know how hard it is trying to break free of a zip tie without the use of your thumbs? I can confirm for you it is impossible.
“The answers you seek aren’t here.” He says, tapping on the virgin rum and coke. “They are here.” He continues, tapping on my left nipple. I’m pretty sure he means heart though.
“Fine. Let’s try things your way.” I say, embracing the warm mug in my mits. “I’m frustrated. I have to fight my best friend. We say everything will be okay, but there will be unavoidable resentment towards the winner. Now, say I put old Red down behind the barn, something tells me I’m not just fighting one rapscallion in the finals, but a whole gangbang of ‘em.” I sigh, letting my…feelings…out. Gross. “And no one has any faith in me to boot! My placement in this tournament is and has been a joke. The Embosser Group was given little love, and viewed as nothing more than bracket filler. Not many people are picking Ted, Binh. Not many.”
I pull the mug towards my face, the steam blanketing my mustache. Unlike the 2.3 second downing of my usual mixed drink, I take a sip from the ceramic. It’s…minty. Unusual, but not terrible. I would almost say refreshing. That first sip hooks you, and the mug is held tighter than ever.
“Peppermint is soothing.” Binh sips from his. “It sounds as if you are beginning to doubt yourself.”
“Nah, that’s where you’re wrong Binner. It’s okay though, batting a thousand isn’t realistic.” My baseball analogy flies over his head. “Disappointed is more accurate. Frustration is hitting the nail on the head. Doubt couldn’t be more wrong. I know what I’m doing between those ropes, I have zero doubt in my abilities.”
“You don’t doubt your abilities. That’s good.” Binh grins. “So why then do you hinder them?”
Binh takes a sip of his tea, a smile spreading across his face that if you weren’t privy to it’s context, you’d guess to be an arrogant one. Taking more of a gulp this time, I ponder if the wisdom of my infinite fortune cookie is a blessing or slowly becoming a curse.
“Ted, you are only responsible for how you think and react. You don’t need the faith of others. You need to have faith in yourself. Opinions are unique and out of your control, but you do have the power to dictate the truth. You, my boy, are the only person capable of determining whether or not you are a ‘joke’.”
You know, it’s weird to say, but Binh is the closest thing I’ve had that’s resembled a father. Larry tried his best as big brother, trying to play man of the house, but it was just that, playing man of the house. Most the men my mother brought around couldn’t be bothered to learn my name, and prefered I just fuck right off. Grady hasn’t been so much invested in me as a person, rather a performer and how big his bank account can grow off Red and my hard work. And speaking of Red, well Red is two months younger than me, so that would just be strange.
Binh though, he checks all the boxes. He doesn’t boss me around like Larry does. He doesn’t dismiss me like mom’s flavours of the week did. He knows when I need to be lifted, unlike Grady. And he doesn’t patronize me like Red always has, consciously or not.
“Tell me, Ted. What would you be doing at this very moment if you were inebriated?” Binh asks.
Shit man. That’s a door we should probably leave closed and not think about.
“Well…” I say, looking around at the bar that’s getting increasingly more crowded. “I suppose I’d probably end up singing karaoke, making a fool of myself or something.”
“Then do it. Sing.” Binh says, stretching his arms out like it’s that easy.
“Sing, huh? That simple eh? Just sing he says?”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’m dry over here. Nonindulgent, if you will.”
“And the problem?”
“No one sings sober. You need a little bit of that liquid courage.”
“Courage doesn’t come from here…” Binh says, tapping on the coke glass once more. He tries to reach across the table but this time I intercept his little hand.
“Ok there bud, hands off the nip.” He pulls his hand back, shrugging his shoulders. “It comes from right here…” I tap the left side of my chest.
Polishing off what’s left of my new favourite refreshment, I push my chair out and stand up. The bar is clearly beyond capacity at this point, but with the parade having been cancelled and it being the celebration of the Irish, it seems no one is keeping track today. Propping myself up onto the wooden chair, I find my center of balance, and look out into the mass of humanity. Binh simply gives me the approving thumbs up.
Lets Ferris Bueller this motherfucker…
5 Minutes Later…
“Well, shake it, shake it, shake it, baby, now…ah, ah, ah, ah!”
It was a rough start, but boy did I stick the fuckin’ landing. What started off as patrons ignoring the drunkless vocalist on his makeshift stage, ended in a vibrant, drunken mess of mistaken lyrics and off key notes. Arms were linked, glasses were smashed into one another, dancing became contagious and people were united.
It was a beautiful sight.
It might not seem like much, but this was a huge accomplishment. This moment right here was a win I desperately needed. I won over an audience, without the assistance of one of my many vices. I won over an audience by simply being Ted. Fuck, the last time that happened, well, shit I couldn’t even tell you. I wasn’t legal, I know that much.
Binh shoots me the double thumbs up, his smile big enough his eyes are slim slits. This, in a way, was a victory for Binh too. All Binh has ever done is care for people, and this moment, as unusual as it may be, justified his big heart. It took a little bit of that sting away from being fired. It reaffirmed that tossing enough good out in the world does make a difference. Even if it was only for today, he helped a man shake his addiction.
A proud papa he is. A papa who acts out of love, not for money or power…
The few flashing lights that sparkle throughout the bar clue me in that many have pulled their phones out, chronicling the events. Their attention still rests in my lap, and that’s when it hits me. These people aren’t done. And neither am I. They want more. And I’m going to give it to them.
“Say…there any wrestling fans out here this afternoon?” I ask, brow raised.
A few hoots. A couple whistles. Surely some closeted fans embarassed to acknowledge it.
“Well for those of you who know, and more importantly, those who don’t…tonight is a big night for me. Tonight I have an opportunity to have my name penciled beside Cecilworth Farthington. I have the chance to headline one of the biggest sporting events of the year. I have the chance to earn the right to fight for the World Championship.”
The bar has quieted down. I can’t tell whether it’s the flowing alcohol or not, but my story is one they want to hear. They might not all be wrestling fans, but you say World Champion to someone and it instantly screams honor and prestige to them.
“Tonight, I have to fight my best friend.” I say, pausing. “I have to crush my best friend’s dream.”
A few ‘awws’ emerge from the gathering.
“It’s not something I’m comfortable with. But it’s also something that needs to be done.” I put it bluntly, accepting his fate. “Now if you think that’s tough, listen to this. After doing the unthinkable, I have to face one of two of the greatest competitors this industry has ever produced. And ironically enough, they just so happen to be…let’s say newly minted partners.”
Friends might be an overstatement, acquaintances an understatement. If they were on Facebook, I’m sure their relationship status would be listed as ‘It’s Complicated’.
“So whoever wins the war those two wage, will step in the ring with me, surely the other lurking in their corner. But it doesn’t end there…” I say, my tale peaking. “…because the World Champion, he’ll surely be around seeing as both of them are running mates of his, as well.”
What? No way! That’s not fair! The drunken exuberance from these people is appreciated.
“Oh, but there’s more! Two more to be exact!” I say to a gasp from my followers. “So what I’ve billed to you as the biggest night of my life, is shaping up to be a five on one, uphill battle.”
Five on Two if Red can forgive me.
“Simple math tells you that I’m the underdog. The oddsmakers betting line punctuates it.” The reality of the statement is sobering and I briefly begin to feel the pull of distraction before I continue. “But you want to know something? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I can feel a shift in their temperment.
“Tonight I’m going to walk into that arena, the underdog. Tonight, I represent the ninety nine percent of society who are constantly told they are worthless. Tonight, I do the impossible and win this whole fuckin’ thing!”
Nothing is impossible. Binh has shown me as much.
“Lindsay, I looked up to you, believe it or not. I’ll forgive you had you not been aware, given our brief history of interactions, but I did. When I was a 22 year old rookie in GCW, it wasn’t the giants of that land like Andy Murray and Jay Terror I was looking up to. No. I was paying close attention to that fuckin’ trailblazer over in PRIME, admiring from afar. I was hoping, wishing, dreaming of the day I’d be good enough to step foot in the ring with you.”
God knows Sexton Hardon was lightyears behind her.
“Well ten years has brought about plenty of changes. Now that I am good enough to step in the ring with you, that dream simply doesn’t exist anymore. That admiration left when you quit on yourself. My respect for you was lost when you did the very thing that PRIME Lindz would never dream of doing. If I have to step into the ring with you tonight, well, I’m dedicating my victory to her.”
These aren’t words void of emotion. Her recent decision did bring about a certain level of sadness. This industry always finds new ways to surprise me.
“Max, you James Bond villain knockoff. Fuck You.” I begin, a tad more aggressive in addressing the man who has piles of money riding on him. “If you think the Ted you locked horns with during that ladder match was anything close to the Ted you might see tonight, well you’re deeply mistaken.”
That temperament is heating up, the patrons gobbling up every syllable leaving my mouth.
“I’m hoping you make it past Lindsay tonight, I really am. Hell, we know you probably will. I’ve heard it said before that Max Kael will be on HOW’s Mount Rushmore. That’s a very accurate statement in my books. Your longevity and success need no explanation, it speaks for itself.”
How sweet it’d be to end Max’s reign of terror en route to that Championship opportunity.
“Max, I haven’t forgotten the kick to the nuts. Or the donkey punches. Or the fuckin’ zip ties. We have unfinished business, and it just so happens that I plan on going into business for myself tonight. Bring everything in your bag of tricks tonight. You’ll fuckin’ need it.”
Binh’s smile has yet to vacate his face. We lock eyes as I pause in between proclamations. Those tiny eyes of his glisten, and he rocks his head slowly back and forth. ‘Good Job, Son’ he mouths, admittedly choking me up the slightest.
I suppose this is what it feels like to have someone be proud of you.
“Tonight…TEDDY PALMER WINS THE LEE BEST INVITATIONAL!”
Not The Incredible Teddy Palmer. Not The Greatest Showman of the Twenty First Century Teddy Palmer. Not Teddy Fuckin’ Palmer.
Just Teddy Palmer.
My audience erupts. Clapping emerges, drinks are spilled, tonsil hockey is as competitive as ever. That last one, I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with me or anything I said, but I’ll take credit for it. These people have been of great therapy to me, so why end this afternoon here? Fuck it, it was fours hours I had, right? Let’s celebrate this one early!
“Lindsay and Max! This one’s for you!”
Cue Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”
“You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use
And did you think this fool could never win
Well, look at me, I’m a-coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m standing you just fade away
Don’t you know I’m still standing, better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid…”