To Be Frank

To Be Frank

Posted on September 15, 2022 at 10:46 pm by Frank Dylan James

Frank Dylan James had certainly never been exposed to the lap of luxury. 

That kind of thing didn’t really matter to a man like Frank. He’d been perfectly happy and content by himself, on his mountain, pissing away his free time tinkering with his Gran’pappy’s still or dozing away in the ancient wooden rocking chair on his front porch. It didn’t matter to ol’ Frank that the porch was close to falling in anymore than it mattered to him that he didn’t have running water inside of the shack that encompassed what was left of the home he’d grown up in.

What he did have, up until very recently, was hot and cold running corn whiskey.

That is, until the United States government decided to get their asses on their shoulders. And for what? Because some pissant middle-of-the-road Homeland Security schmuck got long-dicked by Big Daddy Lee? Because Frank had caused an entire airport to shut down for the better part of an entire day after his little ‘incident?’ Well, to be frank, and to be Frank, the answer to all of the above was a resounding and humbling YES!

Frank’s connection to Lee Best had gotten him out of detainment.

It had also pissed off the wrong shithead in a cheap gray suit.

End of the day, the still was gone, and with it a little piece of Frank’s soul.

Now, how any of this will relate to Frank’s long-term viability as a weapon in Lee Best’s arsenal is still anybody’s best guess. It might be telling that he couldn’t put Great Scott away with either the Smoky Mountain Spike or the Stranglehold. That, or, Great Scott could actually be that goddamn good.

Great fuckin’ Scott, am I right?

Frank probably wouldn’t admit it, but on some level, he appreciated the fight that Scott had given him in their Main Event match. It’d been the first time he’d been able to let loose since that business at the airport. As a matter of fact, those fifteen minutes, thirteen of which he used to beat Scott to within an inch of his life, had been the closest thing to normalcy that he’d been able to muster all week.

And then, just like that, it was gone. 

The acrid artificial meat smell of STRONKUMS had been the beginning of the end.

Frank couldn’t be sure, but he could have sworn he saw that goddamn bear throw something into the ring to Great Scott. Didn’t matter, though, Frank’s momma didn’t raise no snitch and he couldn’t begrudge a man any sort of advantage in a title fight. Especially the first defense of the first title that a fella had ever won. Truth be told, Frank was glad that Scott had had the wherewithal to do whatever it took to get the job done.

It wasn’t Frank’s way, but it had certainly been effective.

And that was that. Scott won the match fair and square as far as Frank was concerned. The whole bear thing was a lot for Frank to wrap his Smoky Mountain mind around, but he chalked it up to Photoshop or CGI or at the very least some sort of advanced animatronics. You know, like the Muppets or the Fraggles.

(OHAI DOOZER!)

But that was then, and this is now. 

The Appalachian Apocalypse knew better than to cry about a loss. He knew how little he gave a shit when other, lesser men, spent their time making excuses. That, and Frank was raised better than to bitch and moan about a loss when he could be doing absolutely anything else in the name of learning from his mistakes and moving on. 

The big brutalizer might have been simple, but he sure as shit wasn’t stupid.

What he was, as noted by his new neighbors in the cheeky high-rise apartment provided by his boss and benefactor, was a man stuck not only in his own ways, but in a time and culture mostly forgotten about by pretty much anybody with better than a 2nd Grade education.

Things had been… difficult.

The doorman couldn’t understand why Frank resolutely refused to wear shoes any more than Frank could understand why in tarnation it mattered to anybody outside of him and his own two feet.

The Karen-looking twat and her pack of raging post-Millenial Gen-Z idiot children from downstairs couldn’t understand why Frank blasted Ted Nugent and Hank Williams, Jr. at the loudest possible decibels at every hour of the night and day. In turn, Frank couldn’t understand why she didn’t take a switch to those disrespectful little turds every time they got uppity with her, him, and everybody else in the building.

And NOBODY could understand how in less than two weeks Frank had managed to attract all manner of wildlife not only to the property but into the building itself.

And the smell! Don’t get any of them started on the smell…

Suffice it to say that Frank had already caused a stir when, for reasons known only to him and a few dozen varieties of birds and small woodland creatures, Frank took it on himself to jerry-rig a crude come-along system and somehow managed to pull a tree up the side of the building. Yes, an entire fucking tree. Aside from ruining several people’s day, it was the start of the long process of turning his new space into a living, breathing, BY GAWD home. Someone might have suggested that replacing the furniture in the dining room with the rusted-out frame of what used to be a Ford F-150 that had been on blocks since the Reagan administration was not the greatest of ideas. Lucky for Frank, one look at the Hillbilly Messiah and the even most well-appointed of folks chose to just ignore it as a quirk of his only just coming into a little bit of money.

Frank, much like his pappy before him, swore up and down that the truck would run, and the glory of its questionably legal corn fuel engine would tear up and down the streets of Lincoln Park and show these Yankee bastards how it was done in the real America.

Frank chuckled at the thought, everyone else cringed.

So, with a tree perched precariously on a balcony not rated for nearly that kind of weight, a truck parked where the dining used to be, and a mangy old mutt snoring away on the couch in the living room, Frank could finally find a modicum of hominess at his freshly acquired big city digs. A refrigerator full of craft beer, however, didn’t leave the Barefoot Brawler curious so much as enraged. For Christ’s sake, what the fuck were tasting notes and why did his beer have to have them? 

Seriously.

How in the fuck is beer supposed to taste like a hazy Summer afternoon? And why does that mean yesterday’s cut grass and a fresh coil of dog shit?

They ain’t got no Nattie Light in Chicago?

And what the fuck was a White Claw?

Frank lamented the loss of his Gran’pappy’s still. Worse yet, he hadn’t had so much as a sniff of hooch in going on a week now. Had that little deficiency been the deciding factor in last week’s loss to Great Scott? Would it be better or worse a week on when he steps back into the ring, this time against whatever a Darin Zion was supposed to be?

Frank didn’t know.

Probably didn’t really care.

Though he might not be accustomed to functioning without the dulling effects of homemade corn whiskey coursing through his veins, that certainly didn’t make him any less of a danger inside (and let’s be honest, outside) of the ring. If we’re being honest, it could be the worst possible situation for Zion to find himself in.

Staring down a sober and focused Frank Dylan James.

Jesus, what a frightening proposition.

~

“Lis’sen here, boy.”

The unusually low growl of Frank’s voice was alarming.

“You need to know going into this…” His eyes narrowed. “You ain’t safe.”

The big man cracked his neck, it sounded like the recoil of a shotgun.

“Ain’t nobody safe.”

He snorted.

“The sad truth’a the matter is don’t nobody never believe me when I tell ‘em till it’s too gyatdamn late. Great Scott thought he was safe, but I bled that boy like a stuck hog up one side’a New Yawk City an’ back down the other ‘fore it was all said an’ done with.”

Frank grinned a broken-toothed grin, yellowed bonedaggers gnashing together as the wildman stifled back a belly laugh.

“Scott fucked around and found out, Darin. Is you ready for that?”

Blood-encrusted eyebrows furrowed above darting, twitchy eyes. Frank was well known as being some kind of deranged or another and carries a violent air about him; that he’d taken to speaking calmly and with intent rather than shouting incoherently could easily be construed by insignificant men as outright terrifying. Never you mind that it’s been four days and he hadn’t bothered cleaning the blood out of his facial hair, that wasn’t weird at all.

“You gon’ find out whether you want to or not this Sunday night in Philly.”

The smile fades into a knowing glare.

“Truth be told, I’m pert’near sure that you IS ready! You been takin’ ass-whuppin’s for years right here in High Octane Rasslin, ain’tcha boy! That Scottywood feller prob’ly shoved that hockey stick’a his up yer ass a couple-hundred times by now, am I right? The list don’t stop there either, does it boy?”

“Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeyit, I asked aroun’ about you, boy, an’ ever’body this side of Southy got six or seven hi-friggin-larious stories about you gettin’ yer whole shit kicked in an’ not never havin’ the gumption that God gave a gyatdamn rabid dog to do anything about it! The list’a sum’bitches what done mashed yer taters reads like the longest list of rasslers an’ valets an’ managers an’ referees an’ tag partners an’ ring crew an’ popcorn slingers an’ t-shirt sellers an’ ever’body else what ever been to a High Octane show that you ever did see.”

The Smoky Mountain Mastodon nods, the slightest hint of a grin still visible behind that shock of wiry beard that hasn’t been shaved in the long side of a decade or three.

“I’m tryna take ya seriously here, boy, but best believe it ain’t easy. Seems like you wanna act like some kinda big dick ladies man but you ain’t no ladies man, Darin. Best I can tell yer sorry ass ain’t no man at all, just a scared little boy what thinks suckin’ up to a hunnerd-an’-fiddy-two bullies at the same time an’ rippin’ off whatever some talkin’ head on them there internets done decided was hot shit at any given time ought to get ya to the promised land.”

“How’s that workin’ out for ya, boy?”

“How many’a them Worl’ Title belts you done won in yer eleventy-seven years barkin’ up every kinda wrong tree in the gyatdamn forest? Not a gyatdamn single one. That might ought to tell ya somethin’ boy. Mayhap you ain’t cut out fer this here rasslin’ business. Mayhap you ought to stick to makin’ them fake boner pills an’ carryin’ Steve Harrison’s jockstrap. Hell, mayhap you might wanna sit this one out, son…”

A tense moment passes.

“…er hell, mayhap I’s right after all.”

“Maybe you is ready.”

Frank shrugs. 

“Maybe you’s ready to stand up an’ be a GYATdamn grown ass man. Show all them Mike Best motherfuckers an’ Jace Parker Dickheads of the world what you really made of! Gettin’ in there with me and bringin’ the gyatdamn house down might even be the spark yer sorry ass needs to get up over that one last hump an actually mean something to somebody aroun’ here, know what I mean?”

“An I’m here for it, boy. I’ll dance wit’cha, I’ll pound yer eyeballs outta yer noggin’ for ya an’ then beg you to do the same to me. We can go out there an’ give ‘em the wildest match they ever did see if you got the sack to stand up an DO SOMETHING about it, or I can beat the shit out of ya just like ever’body what ever worked for High Octane Rasslin’, am I right?”

He isn’t.

“Well, ever’body else but that Eric Dane sum’bitch. I heard you put his dick in the dirt real gyatdamn quick back in the day. An’ good on ya fer that, that Dane fella was a sorry sack’a shit in ever’ dealin’ I ever had with him an’ he prob’ly deserved ever’thang he ever got.”

Frank shrugged, indifferent to how true that last statement actually was.

“But I ain’t no Eric Dane, Darin. Ol’ Frank is the real life boogeyman, an’ if you think you gon’ catch me sleepin’ like you did damn near ever’body you ever beat then you got a whole hell of another thing comin’ to ya this Sunday. I sure as shit hope you can figure it out in time, boy, cuz I’d rather fight yer ass all over the building an’ put you on the right path for once but I’m just as ready, willin’, an’ able to tear yer head off an’ shit down yer neck.”

“Live, on GYATdamn HOTv!”

The toothy grin returns, cutting clear across Frank’s gaunt, unshaven face.

~

Frank hadn’t always lived by himself on that mountain.

There had been a time when his kin and their like had inhabited every hidey-hole on that mountain that could be seen with human eyes, and some that couldn’t. They had shacks, tents, single-wides, double-wides, log cabins, and lean-to’s in every direction back in those days.

The Appalachians that had lived on that mountain for damn near as long as giant rocks had reached for the sky had staved off the encroaching modernizing of America for as long as anybody had any reasonable expectation to. Maybe longer. Those were the days, as far as Frank had been concerned. He hadn’t always been able to remember details, what with the crippling moonshine addiction and all, but when he could remember, he did, and he smiled, wistful with nostalgia.

As Frank nodded off with his legs and bare feet dangling out of a tree that he’d somehow managed festoon across a couple of formerly very nice balconies he recalled a time from his youth when friends and family has come up to his Gran’pappy’s land for a good ol’ fashioned hootenanny in the hills. It had to be sometime in the late seventies, early eighties maybe.

Frank couldn’t have been a day older than ten.

Did you know that a tire fire burned green? Frank hadn’t until that morning when his Gran’pappy had lit a mountain of tires after soaking them in used motor oil for a couple of decades or so. Suffice it to say, the spectacle that a two-story green flamed bonfire would have caused anywhere else but here is something for more learned men than Frank to contemplate the logistics of.

 

The tire fire wasn’t the main event, either. There was some kind of hillbilly battle of the bands going on with every jug band and banjo picker this side of the Mississippi rotating on and off of a makeshift stage that sat near a congregation of tents and lean-to’s where all sorts of crazy shit was being cooked. There was armadillo stew going in one giant pot and Frank’s crazy Uncle Blue’s red hot chili going in a giant cauldron that somebody had sunk into the trunk of a long-dead Studebaker that sat on concrete blocks out in the back field. There was a hog roasting in the ground and another on a spit over yet another questionably safe fire.

At the center of this fiasco was Roscoe James, Frank’s mother’s father.

That is to say, Frank’s ol’ Gran’pappy hisself.

The family resemblance is uncanny, as Frank is of course the spitting image of the old man. 

Now ol’ Roscoe was something else, an absolute hellraiser in his prime if there ever was one! He was an old-time ‘shiner, and if you ever cared to ask he’d let you know quick, fast, and in a goddamned hurry that he was a train robbin’, gun-totin’, dope smokin’, guitar pickin’ motherfucker an’ if you had a problem with that you had a problem with him.

Now let that one percolate.

Roscoe was an outlaw, and he kept his kin off the grid and out from under the watchful eyes of every kind of outsider. That meant cops, tourists, outdoor enthusiasts and MOST ESPECIALLY the GYATdamn Revenuers that had been trying for years to shut down his operation.

Speaking of his operation, the entire reason for this particular gathering was that he’d finally perfected the family’s hooch recipe. Again. He’d been perfecting it around this time every year for as long as anybody could remember, but who was gonna complain about free whiskey and the biggest ho-down this side of the Mason-Dixon Line?

Nobody, that’s who.

“C’mon over here, boy!” Roscoe called out to his grandson. A rail thin and gangly pre-teen ran up to the patriarch of the James Clan with a goofy look on his face. “Where’s yer Ma?”

Young Frank shrugged.

“I’unno, roun’ here somewheres I reckon.”

Roscoe grinned and took a long pull from a mason jar. After having his fill the elder James passed the jar to the skinny kid with the wiry hair that would grow up to be the Mastadon of these here Smoky Mountains.

“Good! She finds out I give you this an’ I’ll never hear the gyatdamn end of it!”

Frank sniffed at the straight gas in the jar and almost choked. Roscoe got a kick out of that, but he did his best not to embarrass the boy.

“Take you a pull, boy! It’ll put some hair on yer chest!”

Frank did as he was told. He threw back the jar and blasted the back of his throat with the hot fire that was his Gran’pappy’s homemade Mountain Dew for the very first time.

A moment passed.

Then another.

Frank’s head then exploded in a mucousy coughing fit, phlegm and whisky flying out of his nose and bile and this morning’s eggs and bacon on their way back up his esophagus. He damn near hacked up a lung and Roscoe couldn’t help but let loose a deep, hearty chuckle. He patted the boy on the back and reassured him that the whiskey would get better as Frank grew up and acquired a taste for it.

Then Frank threw up on his boots, absolutely ruined them.

And that was the end of Frank’s relationship with boots.