And we’re back!
“Zeb, you move another fuckin’ muscle and I swear to Kneesus.” I basically bark the words, half annoyed with Martin’s constant squirming and half annoyed with my own incompetence.
After all these years, you’d think I’d know better than to listen to Jiles.
~“Just get in the room.” He said.~
~“It’s bigger than it looks.” He said.~
~“S’what she done said.” Zeb said.~
Truth is, I got so sick of both those idiots, I cracked like the eGG I am.
So here I fucking lie.
Not like how Darin lies to himself. The other use of the verb.
Full of regret while filling a kid-sized bed resembling a coffin, with another full grown man to boot, I wonder how I still seem to get in these most precarious proclivities. Then, the voice that answers the question pipes up.
“One threat adds a minute.” The words from outside the glorified closet stuffed with an oversized, but still way too small for two, casket bed belongs to Cancer Jiles. The Maestro adds on, “And another half a minute for an unprovoked threat.”
“The kid won’t stop slithering around in this god damn whatever it is!” Knowing my plea will fall on deaf ears, I desperately shout. “Might as well be stuck in here with a bunch of snakes.”
Without hesitation, The King of COOL retorts, “That was Plan C.”
“What was Plan B?” As I ask the question, I regret that, too.
“This.” Claims the COOLympian with a cold tone. “Plan A was you feeding Zeb.” The slick git felt my next question coming. “And I think we all know that exercise left you two with plenty of room for growth. You live together. You die together.”
“I just don’t understand this, Jiles.” Each complaint feels more desperate as it leaves my mouth. “There are a hundred other ways the youngster and I could bond, at least. Hell! Let’s give fishing another try, huh?”
“Better be careful, Old Man,” A veiled warning comes from the shaded man outside the door. “I’ll add another minute for back talk. Plus, look on the bright side…”
My face scrunches as I try to think of what could possibly be the bright side to this current endeavour. “What could possibly-?”
“You could have been stuck in an adequately sized bed with Bobby Dean.” Cancer, always anticipating my questions, pipes in with a gleeful response.
I can’t help, but shiver at the thought. As much as I love my chubby, little buddy, sharing the already too small coffin with a man of Bobby’s girth terrifies me. Sadly, the mental image of such frightening entrappings soon invades my mind like Jason Vorhees storming Camp Crystal Lake. The fear is so tangible I try to shake it out so hard I can’t help but physically move.
“See, who’s wigglin’ like a worm now?!” The gitty, rhetorical question nearly jumps from Zeb’s mouth. “Dang hard tuh get in a good spot, ain’t it?”
“Jiles, I swear, man.” Trust me when I say how pointless I know these threats are, but I have nothing else.
Then, in a moment of pure desperation, I abandon the sure-to-fail strategy.
Unlike Matthews and Hollywood, some just know when to change course.
I slowly, and very carefully, sit up in the coffin. Zeb shuffles, trying to avoid my wrath if we touch in the wrong way again, and falls sideways in between the thin gap between the coffin and the wall.
“Hey!” The poor upstart cries out.
“What’s going on in there?” The question comes from Cancer, with a little trepidation in his voice. I’d be lying to say it didn’t make me grin.
“Dooze done disappeared!” Zeb responds anxiously, still engulfed by darkness.
I take the opportunity and inch closer to the closet door. I squint and scan the darkness in front of me until I see it. A glimmer of light shining on the doorknob. Carefully, I move my open hand toward it. What can I say? I’ve watched Home Alone one too many times. Just as I quickly tap it, I sense the heat. I shoot my hand back in an instant.
“You tried the knob, didn’t you?” The question comes from Cancer in the form of sing-song. You’d think me burning my hand was the best thing to ever happen to him; and that includes egging Dan Ryan. “That’s another half hour, buddy!”
I grunt as I retreat. At the same time, Zeb crawls his way back into the oversized coffin. I manage to squeeze back into the bed alongside the youngest Bandit, who struggles to scootch over and give me enough room to get settled. I sigh deeply in defeat.
“Sorry, Z-man.” The words were as sincere as I could speak them. “It’s just. I’ve never… ya know.” I hesitate, wondering in what world I’d ever have to say this to another adult male. “I just. This is kinda. I don’t know. It’s not you or anything.”
“S’alright,” Zeb replies, not bothered in the least.
“Soooo what exactly do we do to bond here?” Relenting to The Maestro’s master plan, I ask. “In the dark? While in a closet? On a bed that is meant for eleven year olds?”
“Well, reckon we play a game?” He offers happily, in a way that leads me to think he was already starting to go down a mental list of potential options.
“Insincerity is another half hour, fellas. SAW, or any other captive horror flick, references are another half hour per!” The evil voice of Cancer Jiles shouts out from beyond the closet.
Fully aware that no one would notice, I shoot a look toward the COOL guy that’d make a kid cry. Then I do my best to distract myself with the task at hand.
“I don’t think he was being insincere, asshole.” I turn to Zeb, or what I assume is Zeb since it’s so damn dark. “So what do you have in mind?” I’m almost afraid to hear Martin’s response.
“How ‘bout,” Zeb drawls out as he comes to a decision. “I spy with my little eye, sumptin dark?”
To be honest, it pissed me off at first. Then, I thought what the fuck. I started to look around our limited space. Engulfed in complete darkness, with absolutely no clue what the kid could be playing at, I hem and haw. “Hmmmmm…”
“Give up?” Antsy for me to call it quits, The Watson Mill Kid asks as he squirms around again in his giddy delight. “This closet!”
Fuck my life. I kept those words a thought. The young one’s got a good heart. Now’s not the time to jade him. I couldn’t hold in the groan, though. Luckily, it made the kid laugh. Unbeknownst to him, or Jiles, I shook my head while smiling.
“Alright, one more.” His energy weirdly starts to make the whole situation suck a little less. “How about, I spy with my little…” The young gun begins again, but before he can finish, a better idea hits me.
“How about we play a different game?” It might sound stupid, but I felt like a kid again.
Zeb piped right up, “You call it, baws!”
I smile another invisible smile, “How about thumb wrestling?”
The gasp said it all. “Ohhh, you dun asked ferrit! Back in Comer I wazza Thumb Rasslin’ King!” Martin offers with pride in his voice. “Summa them girls down there seddit was like I’d three thumbs!”
I heard movement that’d leave me to believe the kid shot up a hand with three fingers up.
At least, I hope he had three fingers up.
Just before we can get in place to determine the one with the strongest thumbs, “Are you two playing nice in there?” A presumably jealous Cancer Jiles pipes in with the unnecessary question.
“Yeeeessssss.” As I answer The Maestro, I hear Zeb’s voice in sync with my own.
“Perfect.” The COOLYPMIAN’s responds with prideful snarkiness. “You guys are talking in unison now! My Plan is working!”
Much to my old friend’s dismay, I no-sell his achievement and ask Zeb, “You know what I think we need more of in our lives?” I can almost sense Martin’s mind wandering. “More fucks. You know? Variations of the word fuck over and over and over.”
“You mean like Matthews and Hollywood?” Z asks innocently enough.
“No, ya dumb fuck. I fucking mean fucking Matthews and that fuck Brian fucking Hollywood. The fucking fucks.” I can’t help but smirk as I spit out one f-bomb after another.
“You fuckin’ know what would have been eben fuckin’ funnier?” A jazzed up Martin adds on, happily playing along.
“Calm the fuck down in there!” Cancer demands, oblivious to the new game the two were playing.
Zeb whispers, “When he pitched this whole plan, we shoulda…”
“Yeah?” I egg him on.
“Told him to sleep on it!”
“Fuck you, Zeb.” It was too soon. “Unlock that fucking door, Jiles!”
It’s me, The Dooze.
Ready to abuse.
I’m right back where I was two weeks ago.
There’s that stupid fern Jiles loves so much.
No Centaur Zion pinning the aforementioned Fern lover painting.
In their place, an off colored square on the wall.
Then there’s me.
I’m pacing behind the 97RED couch.
I’m in my 97RED jumpsuit.
My hair’s the douchiest of spiked-up, died yellow.
Right, Darin? That was sadly your best.
My eyes aren’t electric blue.
“Darin, you have to be the dumbest motherfucker I know.”
No more Mr. Nice Guy.
“You’re that level of special dumb where you think you’re smart.”
I spit to the side. It’s early, but it’s worth it.
“First off, smarty pants, Cardboard Dan.” I pause for a spectacles, testacles, wallet, and watch. “Was TAKEN.” That last word brought my whole body forward with it. Leaning over the blood, red couch, I loom. “If you know something I don’t, which would be impossible mind you, screw you for holding out, pal.”
Darin does have prior backchannel connections.
And let’s be honest. He’d make a great Bruv.
“Second, you still think this is about winning.” I shake my head so hard I risk whiplash. “It was never about winning…” I smirk. “Boy.”
“When we got in that ring two weeks ago, for the first time in my career, I wasn’t trying to win.” I tilt my head slightly. “I just wanted to watch your face hurt.”
I straighten up.
“Because that’s what they want.” I can feel the twinkle in my eye. “All those fans wanted nothing more than to see you beaten to a bloody pulp, Darin.”
My head drops.
“And thirdly… you fail to grasp reality.” I slowly return my gaze to the feed. “You think I won.”
Another, more menacing head shake.
“Sure, I fucked up your shoulder.” I grin a little. “That was fun… BUT!” My pointer finger shoots toward the ceiling. “I didn’t give the fans what they wanted. I didn’t make you bleed ninety-seven red. And for failing them? I lost.”
I push away from the couch and slowly strut around to the front of it. Sitting down, I place each elbow on its respective knee and lean forward.
“But that’s where it gets complicated.” I take a deep breath. “Because your frenemy fucked it all up.”
I suck in my teeth in disgust.
“Brian Hollywood, you fucking coward.” Another loogie projects from my mouth with such ferocity it almost cracks the wood panel it hits.
“What kind of spineless, worthless, insecure piece of shit fast counts a dude who just beat him?” The look on my face is so fucked up I can’t even describe it. “That’s how much your-” Air quotes. “IMAGE-” End air quotes. “Means to you?!”
“You take a hard loss against a cheapskate motherfucker and you decide to react to that by trying to fast count him to a win the week after?” Both my hands raise up and run through my shitty, golden hair. “Are you dumber than Darin?”
I look around the room like I’ll find an answer to that impossible question.
“And if you want to go on and say it’s because Mario Maurako made you do it…” I pause. For suspense. “I’m sorry.”
The flames fade from my eyes.
“I can’t imagine how low you have to be.” I clear my throat in disdain. “Taking orders from one man to prop up another who not only humiliated you, but your god damn family?!”
Look up ‘dumbfounded’ right now. You’ll see my glowing face. And if you’re up for it, go a few words up from there and say hi to Zionwood if you want.
“THEN!” My arms extend into a full spread eagle. “I still pinned the squirrely bastard you couldn’t! And I didn’t even want to! How in the world do you recover from that?”
I shoot my pointer finger forward.
“That goes for you too, Zion.” Scoff. “Matthews. Whatever. You two really are one in the same. You’re both completely and utterly broken. You’re lost. You’re pretending to be something you aren’t.”
I slowly shake my head once again. This time, disappointed.
“I can’t believe I’m the one who has to break this to you two absolute failures.” I stop my head, returning laser focus straight forward.
“Stop wanting wins. You’re not going to get them because you cross your fingers and toes while you make your wishes upon a shooting star.” A small smirk appears. “And you two should know better than any, with ALL your irrelevant success from a tag division that PALES in comparison to what we have now, you don’t see that success without being true to you.”
I pound my chest so hard I nearly send myself a step back.
“I finally know who I am here. And I know what I want.”
The smirk goes full faced.
“I want to give these fans what they want.”
I twist my neck until it cracks.
“You’ll be lucky if that shoulder works when I’m done with you, Darin. And Hollywood… you better hope I let the ref count to three.”
I step up and put my hand over the video feed.
A video shoots up in place of the live feed.
Sitting inside a classroom, with painting easels scattered about, are a variety of artisans working their craft. With two sore thumbs sticking out; yours truly, and HOW Hall of Famer Chris Kostoff.
“The hell’s this all about, anyway?” I could tell Kostoff wasn’t thrilled about the setting, so the question didn’t exactly surprise me. Also, he refused to pick up his paintbrush. That was a solid tell.
“You said no coffee.” I smirk, knowing he’d appreciate, and hate the response. “Never said nothin’ about art.” I take a couple swipes across my canvas.
“Well no more art.” The Beast barks.
I nod. “There’s a reason.” After applying a different color of paint, I continue to work.
“For your sake, there better be.” Despite his threatening tone, I’ve become accustomed to Kostoff’s communication style and it doesn’t throw me off my vision. “What’re you even on about over there anyway? You gonna tell me you already know how to handle that tag match you got coming up?”
My focus remains forward as I answer my new friend / mentor, “Nothing to know.”
The grizzled vet bellows, “Surefire way to get beat.”
I snap my head away from my painting for the first time, connecting eyes with The Beast.
“It’s not about winning.”
The half smile growing across his face said it all.
“I got all the motivation I need.” I return to my work of art. “Hollywood ruined everything I had in store for Darin. And that dumb fuck Darin, like him or not, showed a lot of Brian’s weaknesses before he needed Meredith to get him over, at least.”
Kostoff nods in silence, taking in every word, as I continue.
“This youngin I’m teaming with…” I pause for a second before the next brushstroke, admiring Zeb’s recent work in the ring. “He’s got what it takes, man. He knows the game. Beyond his years. And he takes orders well. If I tell him not to pin these punks, he won’t.”
Kostoff grows a sinister smile.
“And when it comes to Darin? I put a hurt on his shoulder so good two weeks ago, he’s still feeling it.” I feel a similar smile cover my own face. “When I’m done, he’s going to wish he couldn’’t.”
A hearty chuckle from the Beast catches the attention of the instructor. She slowly approaches the two above-average sized men. The lady looks cross at Kostoff’s blank sheet, then smiles noticing Doozer’s actually has paint on it.
The smile quickly fades.
“Uh-uhmm…” She tries her best to stay professional. “What do we have here, Mr..?”
“Dooze is fine.” I clarify. “And this was my vision, I guess. I dreamt of it last night and knew I had to get to one of these classes so I could make it real.”
The woman’s eyes nearly pop out of her head. “Ohhhhkay, so the centaur…”
Kostoff can’t contain a chucklefit.
“The dead centaur.” I don’t know. The clarification felt warranted.
“Yes.” She hesitates. “The dead… centaur… is?”
“Oh.” To be honest, I was a bit caught off guard by her pursuit. So I figured I’d respect that with honesty. “That’s my opponent from two weeks ago, and two days from now, Darin. He already changed his last name once, and after I’m done with him he’ll have to change it again, so no point going further than Darin.”
The instructor’s laugh was so fake I wondered how much she paid for it. “That’s.. Nice.” She clears her throat. “And the, uh?”
“The Beast?” I figure it’s best to just help her along at this point. Kostoff approved, anyway.
“Yeah?” She asks in a way that implies the answer isn’t actually wanted.
“Yeah, that’s me.” The words couldn’t have come out more nonchalant.
Kostoff releases an even louder bellow than before, “You found your colors.” He states while throwing a closed fist my way.
I just smile and throw out my own to hit it.
“Uh, Mister Dooze?”
“I don’t think we can keep this.” She stutters.
I turn and look at her cross, “Thought I was supposed to express my feelings?”
“Yeahh…” She starts sheepishly. “We just noticed the guy hanging with a fish hook in his mouth in the background.”
“Hollywood?” Realizing the potential misunderstanding, I elaborate, “That’s Darin’s partner…”
She doesn’t seem to get it.
“Mine’s a fisherman.”