The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

Posted on May 14, 2024 at 11:50 pm by Darin Zion

Prelude

The clouds hung low and heavy over the Chicago skylines, casting a murky pallor over the already dim streets.  Rain splashed against the windows of Old Orchard Junior High, the rhythmic patter blending with distant rumbles of thunder.  Inside, the hallways, lined with rows of green lockers, framed by the aged brick walls, seem to echo with the mutes sounds of shuffling feet and whispered conversations of the students.

As students roamed the halls, the somber ambiance of the school mirrored the dreariness of the stormy day outside. But upon stepping into the cafeteria, a shift in atmosphere occurred. They were welcomed by the tantalizing aroma of everyone’s beloved lunchtime treat: square pizza. The scent of melted cheese and tangy tomato sauce intertwined in the air, enticing them toward the serving line with eager anticipation. Amidst the clatter of trays and the murmurs of teenage angst, conversations swelled as they shared tales from class and mapped out their plans for the remainder of the day.

Amidst the lively chatter and shared laughter, one figure sat apart, a lone island in a sea of bustling activity.  To him, the sense of exclusion weighed heavy, as if the entire school had turned its back on him. With shoulders slumped and eyes locked onto the pages of his math textbook, he appeared withdrawn, lost in the world of numbers and equations. While life buzzed around him with animated socialization, he sought solace within the confines of his studies, oblivious to the camaraderie unfolding just beyond his reach.

Alone at the corner table, Darin Zion seemed fragile amidst the vibrant chaos of the cafeteria.  His slender form was almost engulfed by his oversized hoodie draped over his narrow shoulders, its fabric worn and tattered with gaping holes revealing it’s age.  As Darin moved, the fabric swayed limply, accentuating his frail limbs.

As time slipped way, a shadow crept over Darin’s solitary sanctuary, shattering the peace he sought.  The heavy footsteps of two mysterious figures echoed ominously, perking up his ears.  Their laughter sliced through the air like shard of glass.  Darin’s heart sank as he peered up, his eyes widening with dread as he recognized the looming silhouettes of the school’s most notorious bullies—Clyde and James.

Darin’s throat tightens with fear as Clyde’s massive fist closed around it.  His slender frame trembles from the overwhelming pressure.  He struggled to utter a plea for help, his voice barely a whisper against the suffocating grip of his assailant.

“Pl-Please, stop! W-What did I do to you, Clyde?” Darin stammers, his legs flailing in a desperate attempt to connect with Clyde’s knees.  Darin’s cheeks turn beet red, his heart pounding in his chest as he desperately clings to the hope of a miracle.

Clyde’s sinister laughter echoes like a haunting melody piercing Darin’s ears.  With a forceful blow, he drives his fists straight into Darin’s face, sending him crashing down to the cold, rigid tile below.  Before Darin can comprehend the pain, James drives his weight straight down against Darin’s chest, amplifying the torment Darin endures.  “Your mother brought you into this world, and that’s enough reason for me to beat your ass, loser.  Now hand over all your lunch money.”

“PL-PL-PLEASE STOP IT!  I CAN’T BREATHE!!!  JAMES’ FAT ASS IS SQUASHING MEEEEEEE!!!!!!” Darin screams at the top of his lungs as James and Clyde continue to beat him.  They both laugh at Zion floundering around, taking pleasure in his plight.

Abruptly, the silhouette of a familiar figure comes into view.  He’s dressed in a blue collared shirt paired with his red tie and brown shoes, a distinctive ensemble.  Atop his head sits an eccentric mullet stolen from the 80s, featuring thin, spaghetti-like strands and a prominent widow’s peak.  Unlike his future self, he’s muscular, exuding a confident, warm sternness.  It’s none other than Big Mack Rossi, also known as Mr. Rossi, the 8th grade science teacher and wrestling coach.

With his fists clenched tightly together, he strides down the halls, eyes fixated on his targets—the bullies who’ve tormented the innocent Zion for too long.  From his vantage point as lunch monitor, he’s silently observed ever moving, biding his time, waiting for the perfect moment to intervene.  He promptly raises his voice, calling out down the halls at full volume.

“SCRAM YOU ANNOYING BRATS!   If you’re still bullying that poor Zion kid by the time I reach you, expect me to get your asses expelled!”

Clyde and James scurry down the halls, steering clear of Mr. Rossi’s path.  Mack stoops down, lifting Zion off the ground.  He gently dusts him off with a touch of compassion.  His gaze falls upon Zion, lighting up with warmth and familiarity.  To Mack, Zion’s more than just a student.  He’s a bright and attentive presence.  Darin’s eyes sparkle with excitement, swiftly enveloping Mr. Rossi in his frail arms, embracing him tightly like a father-figure.

“I can never thank you enough for all the kindness you’ve shown me, Mr. Rossi.  Truly, I appreciate you rescuing me from those troublemakers.  They’ve annoyed me all day.”  Zion timidly expresses before pulling away from his mentor.  “When I grow up, I hope I can be just like you.”

A soft blush tinges Mr. Rossi’s cheeks, pride and warmth intertwining as Zion speaks.  Beneath this moment of satisfaction, he recognizes the opportunity to teach a meaningful lesson.  His desire is to guide and shield Zion from the harsh realities of the world, teaching him the art of self-defense.

“Your appreciation is one thing, but it’s time for you to realize the importance of self-protection” Mr. Rossi kindly lectures Zion, kneeling down to meet him at his level.  “You can’t always rely on hiding behind those books, hoping the world overlooks you.  You’ve got to seize those opportunities and stand up for yourself.  Don’t be afraid to defend yourself when necessary.:

“Oh!” Zion murmurs, suddenly attentive.  His focus is entirely on Mr. Rossi, hinging on every word spoken.

“Call me crazy, but I think you’d be a great addition to our wrestling team,” Mr. Rossi suggests to Zion, who gives him a puzzled look.  Zion shakes his head and quickly responds to Mr. Rossi’s invitation.

“No, thanks!  Wrestling seems rather primitive.” Zion declines, almost snuffing his nose to his mentor.

“Look, I’m not suggesting you need fight.  You’re not exactly my type of wrestler.  You could join as a manager.  We can work on some training to toughen you up.   Plus, I think it’ll boost that confidence of yours and help you find that voice you need.”

Hesitating for a moment, Darin’s mind swirled with uncertainty.  Despite the flicker of doubt gnawing at him, Darin extended his hand out almost as if in a trance, compelled by an unforeseen force.  “You’ve got yourself a manager.” Darin declares with resolve.

==========

As the sun dips below the towering skyline, it casts long shadows over the scene as a group of ominous figures encircle Zion.  Each one brandishes a leather strake, striking him repetitively in the back.  Each lash, the crack of leather against flesh pierces the quiet night sky, painting a brutal tableau of how cruel the world works.

Once a revered wrestling champion, Zion now stands at the twilight of his career.  His recent tag team loss casting a shadow over all his past accomplishments.  The numerous HOW Championships he once cherished now feel like relic of a bygone era.  Truthfully, Zion’s confronting the harsh truth; he’s in the twilight of his career.  His tarnish reputation weighs heavily on him like a giant yoke around his neck.  Tears stream down his face as he replays each misstep.  The weight of his failures bears down on him as each last of the belt strikes his back.

On the flip side, Mr. Rossi’s past paints an equally grim picture.  Big Mack is completely stripped of everything he once held dear:  his beloved wife, his esteemed career, and even his own heart.  The devastating loss of his wife to cancer shattered his world, leaving him a drift in a sea of grief and desperation.  Crippling financial burden caused Mack to fall to the depts of the underground world, here fighting and betting became of means of survival.

The warmth smile that once radiated from Big Mack Rossi’s face is now replaced by a steely scowl, borne from the depths of hid cold, hardened heart.  He jumps out of his chair, reigning his fists upon Darin’s back.  Each blow a manifestation of his own anguish and frustration.   He ensures Zion feels the full force of trauma he’s endured these last 24 years.

Mr. Rossi’s blistering words cut through the air in a more devastating fashion than the whip.  He directs his searing tirade at Zion while dishing out the punishment.  “You think you’re better than me?”  His voice laced with venom.  “Life doesn’t give a damn about any of your pathetic excuses.  I weathered storms that break most men.  I’m still standing here providing for myself.  But you?  You threw a fuckin’ temper tantrum and cost me money in that last match of yours all because you couldn’t get along with your tag partner.  You failed to deliver, now we’re all paying the price of your transgressions.”

WHAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!

With a couple sharp strikes to Zion’s back, Big Mack Rossi’s associates deliver a couple swift kicks to the back of Zion’s knees.  Zion crumples up, dropping straight to the ground.  Undeterred, Mack continues his rant directing his anger squarely face to face with Zion.  “Lee and I think it’s time you got some tough love.” Mr. Rossi asserts while yanking Zion’s face off the concrete floor.  “I’ve pulled some strings to arrange another tag team match with you and Stevens.  It’s about time you swallowed that pride of yours, Mr. Big Shot.  You need to realize where you stand.  Otherwise, you may lose more than just that fancy jacket your daddy gave you.”  As Big Mack Rossi and his cronies depart Zion’s backyard, they leave him alone in the fading light to dwell on his failures.

Zion lays on the ground, gazing up at the breathtaking purple hues of tonight’s sunset.  In the silence, he reflects upon his life.  A heavy sigh echoes the heaviness weighing on his heart.  He begins to feel disillusionment wash over him.  He tries to find solace in reminiscing to himself about his cherished middle school years and glory days in wrestling.  But tears start escaping his eyes.  He takes a serious of deep breaths to prevent him from hyperventilating.  He tries to find comfort in the beautiful starlit night skies.

As he talks to himself, his voice is tinged with a hint of desperation.  “Maybe I’ve lost all the passion I once had for wrestling.”  He mutters under his breath, his words weighing down the heaviness he feels deep in his soul.  “It’s painfully clear from the constant meltdowns I’ve experienced.  I feel like I’m trapped in neutral, frozen in place.”  Bitterness fills his tone as he begins to scowl, feeling his heart growing colder.  “It’s not like I’ve achieved anything noteworthy in the past three years.  War Games, once a pinnacle of my career, feels like it’s running away from me, slipping further and further into the night sky like everything else has.”

He shuts his eyes, drifting back into the distant memories of his glory days with Sex and Money.   Yet more jealousy seeps into his heart, causing it to harden more in each passing moment, casting a shadow over those once cherished memories.  “I can’t believe that old fucker, Noah Hanson has gotten more spotlight than me.  It kills me to see just how fuckin’ close he came to beating Mike Best last week.  He put down former LSD Champion Teddy Palmer with ease.  But now, I can’t fuckin’ shake the stench of Scott Stevens following my ass around.”

Zion clasps his hands together, his fingers entwining preparing to pray.  He bows his head, leaning into his hard demeanor and bitterness.  Despite the semblance of maturity and growth, Zion’s heart is completely calloused, almost becoming an empty ritual to him.

“GOD, I know you’ve forsaken me, especially lumping my ass with that waste of space Scott Stevens for the second time.  As your son, I understand I’ve let you down.  I’m wallowing with the pigs in the mud because I haven’t not found myself yet.  Maybe I’m not some Deadshot tough guy.  But I realize now I’m your Prodigal Son.  I’m lost, completely squandering the opportunities you’ve given me.  I’ve become some desperate heathen begging for your attention.”

Zion pauses, a tremor shaking from his frame.  He goes to his knees, confidently with his request.  “I’m filled with tumult right now.  I’ve got a bunch of pent-up rage after seeing Noah Hanson get his revenge against us.  I know I need to do better than him.  I know I’ve got to prove myself against your two best men in order to earn favor with you.”

With unwavering resolve, Darin raises his hands to the sky, making a solemn vow.  “This week, Father, I will not squander the platform you’ve given me.  I may hate Scott Stevens with a burning passion.  I promise to resist every temptation to slam my partner’s head into the mat, leaving him in a pool of his own blood.  I will give this my all.  And I’ll…”

“FUCKING SHUT UP AND HIT THE GYM ASSHOLE!”  Big Mack’s voice echoes out as he sits in his limo, exhaling a giant plume of cigar smoke.  The air crackle with tension as Zion locks eyes with the menacing force. “Get some results this week or I promise you, kid.  You’ll fuckin’ pay dearly.  I mean it.  I don’t want to see you squandering time.  Hit the fuckin’ cages and get some damn good reps in before I destroy your fuckin’ pretty face.”

==========

“In our recent tag team defeat against Brian Hollywood and Hugo Scorpio, something within me shattered. It hurled me into a whirlwind of introspection. In the heat of battle, frustration clouded my judgment, veering my focus away from our primary objective: victory. It now stands as a stark reminder and a visible scar of just how far I’ve strayed. It’s no secret that I’ve deviated from the path my Father, the GOD of HOW, laid before me. Each bitter moment serves as a painful echo of my departure from his teachings.

The sting of defeat was amplified by the realization that I was the one to succumb, all due to my reckless actions. As I grapple with the aftermath of my defeat, the looming specter of War Games casts a heavy shadow upon me. The weight is palpable, bearing down on my shoulders with relentless force. This journey transcends mere redemption—it’s about reclaiming my honor and glory. It’s about proving my worthiness of the legacy I carry. Undoubtedly, this is my chance to ascend beyond my flaws and begin to atone for the transgressions I’ve committed against my Father.

It’s my chance to become the Prodigal Son of HOW.

Let me use the Bible to illustrate a point, the Parable of two sons.  One son is perfect in every way.  He GOD’s perfect son doing his bidding.  He’s adorned with all the gold in the world and insurmountable opportunities to show-off.

And then we have the brash and bold one.

He was eager to demand his shares, eager to chase after his own desires.  He squandered all those riches and good-will his father gave to him.  He acted foolishly, living wildly until he became destitute and desperate.  But in his darkest hour, he found a way back into his father’s home, humbled and repentant of the sins he committed.  With open arms, his father embraced him with open, loving arms.

The Gospel of Luke is a striking parallel to my journey, highlighting the depths to which I’ve fallen.  I don’t have Lee’s favor.  Hell, this week, I wasn’t acknowledged as part of the Final Alliance.  Despite all my tireless efforts, I’m some lowly henchmen teaming up with Scott Stevens, giving his other children more recognition.

Today, I stand here as a grateful son, cherishing every opportunity my father bestowed upon me throughout the years.  My heart is filled with love and respect for his MACHINE and the dedicated members of the Final Alliance who tireless contribute to HOW’s greatness.

But I can’t deny there’s not some simmering anger and bitterness buried deep down inside me.

Christopher America, you’re failing my father.

You’re quick to point out my sins and question my place in HOW.  But what about you?  You’re the once dominant HOW Champion who set records.  You’d quickly dispatch anyone who stood in your path.  But the last time you competed, you let Brian Hollywood take you to the max.

You couldn’t even dispatch the alleged soul of High Octane Wrestling and break him like you’ve done in many other encounters with them man.

Perhaps your amnesia clouds your memory of the exceptional talent you possess in that right.  Your once fierce killed instincts have died.  You’ve become one of the normies you chastised.  Maybe you should consider retirement and stop judging everyone else of their sins.  Go live a modest live, leaving HOW to the professionals.  Enjoy that modest live akin to the hobos you’ve transformed into since your return.  You’ve become a discount version of Teddy Palmer and quite frankly, sooner than later; you’ll perform like him too.

Maybe you should fuckin’ look in the mirror and try that shit out.  I’d suggest taking Steve Solex’s advice about listening and being a good leader…but he’s also grappling with his own identity crisis.

Remember when Steve Solex was riding high after winning the praise of Mike Best.  He snagged that coveted World Title shot and everyone should have celebrated his crowning achievement.  He had the chance to shine on one of HOW’s biggest stages:  March 2 Glory.  But he’s fallen flat on his face since those days.  Look at what happened when he fought Drew Mitchell and Silent Witness.

Those weren’t just any defeats Solex.  You squandered the golden opportunities Mike gave you.  You let it all slip through your fingers.  I’ve gotten the privilege to watch your career over the course of the last five years Solex.  I’ll admit it hands down; you’ve improved a lot since we fought in the inaugural HOTv Title match.  I didn’t think you’d ever escape Midcard Purgatory.  Not going to lie, I cheered when you did.

But the last few weeks, you look like a fish out of water.  It’s like watching a heavyweight boxer get knocked out by a featherweight contender.  Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe how you’ve let my father down.

You went from being Mike’s chosen golden boy to another washed up has-been like myself.   You’ve earned all the opportunities I’ve craved over my career.  But now you’ve gotten cold.

Now it’s the Prodigal Son’s turn to impart a valuable lesson.  You never squander the opportunities my father gives you.  Both of you understand the importance of what the MACHINE means to GOD.  It’s his greatest gift to the world.  As a Final Alliance member and jacket carrying member of the club; it means you’ve got to perform at your peak night in and night out.

Sure, we might be comrade in arms against the nerds of HOW.  But this week, we stand on opposite sides of the ring.  I damn well know my place at my father’s table is at stake at all times.  Ever since he gifted me that jacket; I haven’t provided him one single win.

This week, that changes.  His Prodigal Son returns home and gets the much-deserved victory GOD needs from me.  Even if I have to carry the worthless carcass of Scott Stevens across the finish line.  I’m not taking another L to you two.

I’m tired of letting the opportunities pass me up.  I don’t care if I have to get ruthless or take short cuts.  This week, I will settle with nothing less than the win.  Even if it means I jeopardize our friendship.

I’ll see you all at my Father’s Arena.  The Prodigal Son promises this time; it’s going to be a real banger.”