:::SCENE: The Sixth Chapter of the League of Non-Toxic Gentlemen. The locker room is one of exclusivity and secrecy as each member has their own private dressing area. Not like the locker rooms of many gyms and professional sports teams such as hockey where “locker room talk” originated. Here, there will be no body shaming. Here, there will be comments on how capital one’s latest conquest’s “knockers” were. Here, there will be no Neanderthal, testosterone driven rituals such as “the busting of balls”.
A haven of acceptance….where courtesy and proper etiquette rule the day. A place where if one member besmirches another’s family, an apology would be forthcoming.
Simon Sparrow wraps the plush white towel around his waist and looks at himself in the mirror, focusing on the scar on his cheek. The injury he suffered at ICONIC 2020. A year ago, he was a king. LSD Champion and one half of the tag team champions: StarrSek Industries.
And now? Sektor and his relationship is fractured. Sektor is the LSD Champion. After one measly loss, he and Mario are eliminated from the Maurako Cup, losing the opportunity for him to regain the Tag Team Championship. And his daughter….another stroke and another coma….this time, no longer an in-patient resident at that podunk island hospital.
One hundred twenty-four days. That’s how long it has been since Simon Sparrow obtained a victory in the HOW. Clay Byrd got himself and Sektor disqualified, but, as they say, a win’s a win.
One hundred thirty-one days. October 9, 2021. Jatt Starr defeated High Flyer via pinfall. That was his last “earned” victory.
Simon Sparrow takes a breath.
The last several months have been harrowing for him. He’s been distracted. Guilty. If he had not been so insistent on having her at home, maybe she wouldn’t have had that second stroke. Maybe he should not have made an appearance at Refueled to force the Lickspittle to apologize….which he didn’t.
Luckily, Linda was with her. A small consolation.
Simon frowns at himself in the mirror. He feels conflicted. He shouldn’t be here, he should be with her. But he needs to be here because it’s business and she has bills. The thoughts flood into his brain causing his anxiety to build, with seconds he feels a giant weight on his chest, as if he is underwater.
A knock at the personal locker room door snaps Simon out of his self-inflicted anxiety attack. He takes a couple of deep breaths.::::
SIMON SPARROW: One sec!
::::Simon runs his hands through his golden locks and takes one more breath before exiting his personal locker room. He turns the door knob and pulls the door open to find Mario Maurako standing in front of him with printed shorts and white towel over his neck, Mario looks Simon up and down before locking eyes with his fellow Hall of Famer.::::
MARIO: I hope you’re wearing something underneath that towel.
SIMON SPARROW: What? We’re going for a schvitz, aren’t we?
MARIO: There are rules to the steam room, Simon, old pal. The first…or is it the third? No freeballing in the steam room. Showing one’s genitalia to another is offensive. Accidental or otherwise, therefore all league members using the steam room must take steps to prevent their members from offending other members. Hence, shorts or swimsuits. Thongs are acceptable on a case by case basis. And do not use the word “manties”, Silas did once and he was booted back all the way down to Level Four….supervised probation.
SIMON SPARROW: What about you? You’re wearing shorts that say “No Fat Chicks”!
MARIO: Excuse me, Simon, but I am wholeheartedly against corporate factories force feeding chickens for consumption and profit. These are statement shorts.
SIMON SPARROW: Seriously?
MARIO: Simon, it should be noted that my previous statement by no means diminishes your opinion in any way. I still value and respect you and your feelings. I would hug you, but physical contact is prohibited without consent and a signed document notarized by two independent witnesses.
SIMON SPARROW: So…the schvitz?
MARIO: Right this way, but let’s avoid calling it a schvitz, okay?
SIMON SPARROW: Okay….
MARIO: Or Turkish Bath….
SIMON SPARROW: Got it.
MARIO: Or hammam.
SIMON SPARROW: I got it. I understand.
MARIO: Well, you’ll need to get shorts or something on. I can wait.
SIMON SPARROW: I didn’t think I needed special shorts!
MARIO: It’s quite alright. I’ll get the concierge to get you some. Do you prefer cashmere or organza?
SIMON SPARROW: I’m just gonna be sweating in them. Does it matter?
:::Mario starts laughing as Simon Sparrow looks on, slightly confused.::::
MARIO: Does it matter? Here, it matters. I’ll have Armand use his best judgment.
::::Mario raises his muscular arm on the air with his index pointed towards the fire sprinkler overhead. Within seconds, a tall, physically fit male late twenties to early thirties with a tan complexing and steely blue eyes arrives wearing a white robe and speaking in a thick French accent.::::
ARMAND: Oui Monsieur M, what can I deu for yeu?
MARIO: My guest, a new member, actually, made the slight error in forgetting his steam shorts, can you help?
ARMAND: Oui, Monsieur M, which type would ze gentleman prefer?
SIMON SPARROW: Um, something that breathes?
ARMAND: Oui, I shall them zem for yeu in no time!
::::Armand exits with purpose and enthusiasm. Simon wonders if Armand goes home, drops the accent and starts chain smoking.::::
MARIO: How was Missouri?
SIMON SPARROW: It was a resounding success, I would say. I sent the Lickspittle a little message.
MARIO: Just don’t go too crazy here. Making things too personal, it can be bad for business.
SIMON SPARROW: He should have just apologized.
MARIO: Agreed. He was in the wrong. He shouldn’t have said what he said.
SIMON SPARROW: He had me looking like a fucking asshole and then had the nerve to claim that my life, my daughter’s condition, is just some high school drama? He’s clearly in the wrong here.
MARIO: At the very least, he owes you an apology. All I’m just saying is let’s not let this thing between you two escalate to a toxic level.
SIMON SPARROW: I didn’t think you liked him.
MARIO: I don’t. But Conor does and Conor is one of us.
SIMON SPARROW: Don’t worry, I’m good.
::::Mario stares suspiciously at the Professor of Sparrowdynamics, questioning how fine he really is. Simon Sparrow is pretty fucking far from good. The stress he’s been going through has been causing frequent panic attacks and his emotions have been all over the place. The last thing he needs is some pissant Lickspittle needling him.
After thirty seconds of silence, Armand returns with the “sweat shorts” and Simon Sparrow retreats into his personalized locker room – Number 631. Moments later he is out and follows Mario into the steam room. Mario sits down and Simon Sparrow sits about a foot and a half to his right.
Simon Sparrow closes his eyes and allows the steam to envelop him. For a brief moment he is perfectly relaxed. More relaxed than he’s been in a long time.:::::
MARIO: How is Gilda doing, by the way?
SIMON SPARROW: We have her at a private facility now. Three thousand a fucking day, if you can believe that.
MARIO: Nothing but the best for her, right?
SIMON SPARROW: There’s a place in upstate New York that’s close to eight grand a day. I can’t afford that, who am I, a Kardashian?
MARIO: You know my money is tied up in…uh….cruelty-free vegan baby oil…
SIMON SPARROW: I don’t need your money, Mario. I’m just saying, these facilities are expensive. Winning the tag team championships, the bonuses that would have come with that, it would have helped.
::::Simon Sparrow shakes his head in disgust.::::
SIMON SPARROW: That way I see it, this Two Man Advantage, they had the opportunity to take down the Lickspittle and Zanzibar McAssypants, and they blew it. And in doing so, sealed our fate, and took money out of my…or our pockets. They’re part of the reason the Lickspittle is strutting around thinking he’s more than he actually is. They’re not blameless.
MARIO: Plus, those two guys, what’s their names? Randolph and Mortimer or something?
SIMON SPARROW: Tanner and Chet.
MARIO: Not exactly the names you’d expect from real bruiser types. Are you sure they are into hockey and not sailing? Which I say without inferring that they are any less masculine than any other human person who has testicles or identifies as such. That being said, those two probably run around with those hockey sticks and all of their teeth, ironically perpetuating this stereotype that hockey players exude this machismo that is worth emulating. When it is the games of skill and strategy that should be applauded.
SIMON SPARROW: Are we talking “Survivor” here?
MARIO: No, I of course refer to the art of curling.
SIMON SPARROW: Are we talking hair or weightlifting….
MARIO: Do you not watch the Olympics?
SIMON SPARROW: I’ve had a lot going on, forgive me.
MARIO: My apologies.
::::At that, Mario leans back against the wall. Simon Sparrow almost mirrors the Marvelous One’s movements. The sweat begins dripping from his hair at an astonishing rate as if he were Ted Striker trying to land a plane. After a couple of beats, Simon Sparrow slightly turns his head towards Mario.::::
SIMON SPARROW: I got a story for you. Once upon a time there were two hockey enthusiasts who lacked the skill to actually play the game. Once day there was a promoter-manager type named Sleazy Wood who promised them fame, money, sex, and all the minor league hockey tickets they could ever want. As it turns out, they sucked and got their talentless asses handed to them week after week after week. They received no fame. They received no money. They received no sex because they would have needed to paid for it with money which they did not receive. And they received no hockey tickets. Instead, Sleazy Wood took one hundred percent of their not-so-hard earned salary (as indicated in the fine print of the three hundred and ninety-four page contract the two hockey enthusiasts signed without reading) purchased a giant cannon once owned by Genghis Khan which he used to defeat his mortal enemy, the Bobadook and whilst he lived happily ever after, the hockey enthusiasts lived crappily ever after. What do you think?
MARIO: Eh. It’s not exactly “The Scarlet Letter” now is it?
SIMON SPARROW: Did you even read that book?
MARIO: No, I saw the movie with Natalie Portman and the guy from the “Matrix”.
SIMON SPARROW: Keanu Reeves?
MARIO: No, the other guy.
SIMON SPARROW: Laurence Fishburne?
MARIO: No. It’s that English guy.
SIMON SPARROW: Gary Oldman!
MARIO: I don’t think so. I’d remember the kid from “Diff’rent Strokes”.
SIMON SPARROW: Not “Coleman”…Oldman! Gary Oldman! He was in “The Scarlet Letter”. And, come to think of it, I am pretty darn sure Natalie Portman wasn’t. I, respectfully and without sarcasm or malice, think you’re thinking of Demi Moore.
MARIO: You’re learning. But I distinctly remember a bald Natalie Portman and a Three Musketeer looking guy in a creepy mask.
SIMON SPARROW: That’s “Dial ‘V’ for Vendetta”!
MARIO: Oh, that’s it! But then, what’s “The Scarlet Letter”?
SIMON SPARROW: It’s some book from the 1960’s about this Pilgrim who has infidel relations with the wife of a guy who paid him a million dollars for one night with his wife but by doing so she was shamed into becoming a stripper who learned to love herself until the ghost of the Pilgrim takes over the body of her psychic.
MARIO: That sounds awesome.
::::Before either can speak the lights in the steam room begin to flicker.::::
MARIO: Time’s up.
::::Mario rises from the bench and proceeds to exit the steam room followed by Simon Sparrow. As Mario pats his face with his towel, Simon Sparrow does the same. As he continues to pat down his lean, fit chest (courtesy of smoothies….a lot of smoothies).::::
SIMON SPARROW: What’s next?
MARIO: We clean up and head up to the commissary for lunch where we will discuss a strategy to get ourselves back into the hunt for the Maurako Cup and the Tag Team Titles.
SIMON SPARROW: It’s about respect. If this were a year ago, the Lickspittle would have been groveling for forgiveness. Lee would have castrated the bastard.
MARIO: In due time. Next, we eat! Today, it’s cruelty free salmon over a lemon kale salad and baked sweet potato wedges.
:::Mario starts heading towards his own personal locker room.::::
SIMON SPARROW: Hey, I really need this one. You know that right?
::::Mario stops for a brief moment before continuing forward and responds without turning around.::::
MARIO: I know.
::::As Mario walks into his personal locker room -622-, Simon Sparrow whether Mario thought he was referring to this spa day or a victory at “Refueled” against the Two Man Advantage. Maybe it was both. As he enters -631-, he cannot help but feel the unforgiving pangs of guilt. For the first time in a long time, he felt good. While Gilda is in her coma, while Linda is looking after her….Simon Sparrow is out and about, relaxing with his best friend, getting steam baths, eating high end meals, perhaps partaking in mango smoothie (he will have to ask Mario if they have some), playing a civil game of badminton or squash.
As the door shuts behind him, he convinces himself that this is just business. More time spent with Mario increases their chemistry in the ring. Increased chemistry leads to increased percentages of winning which leads to regaining the respect of the locker room. And then there’s the championships which leads to more money. More money means less stress when it comes to Gilda’s care.
He continues to tell, nay, convince himself….”It’s just business. It’s just business.”….maybe one day he will actually believe it. END SCENE.:::::