The outdoor patio at the Pecan Lodge was packed to the brim. The blue sky overhead with the wispy clouds, the sun out. It was a beautiful spring day in Dallas, with the smell of smoked meat in the air. The Pecan Lodge was the best barbecue restaurant in Dallas, possibly in all of Texas. The Monster from Plainview sat at a table alone. Dallas was one of a very few cities where Clay didn’t stand out like a sore thumb.
The black cowboy hat wasn’t a dead give away, his beard was fashionable currently, Clay was an enormous good old boy enjoying some barbecue. The brisket tasted perfectly as Clay continued to eat. On the outside things couldn’t be better, but on the inside? Clay was fighting a war in his own mind. To say a return to Texas wasn’t a distraction was the understatement of the year.
His iPhone sat on metal table, vibrating every few minutes. He’d only left Dallas a fortnight ago, but to the boys at the school it felt like forever. Clay had been around weekly, returning to the ranch after every match for the better part of the last year. Now? Even being in Dallas he hadn’t even planned a trip to Plainview in his itinerary.
Get to town.
Beat the fuck out of the insignificant piece of trash that Lee put in his path.
Move onto the next town.
Treating Dallas like every other town had been the plan. It was the easiest way to keep himself focused. His phone buzzed again, and the giant rolled his eyes as he looked down at the screen. The current tally was 17 unanswered messages, he swiped the phone to make sure he hadn’t missed anything important.
Claude… The School Group Chat… that was it.
Clay didn’t dare click the messages, he’d make something up later. He was busy doing important things, Best Alliance things. That’d do the trick, at least it would shut the students at the school up.
As he returned to his barbecue sampler his thoughts kept coming back to High Octane Wrestling. Specifically why Lee Best had put him in this match. Was this a punishment? Did the showing that he and Solex had knock him down a peg in the blind eyes of GOD?
It had to of, while he and Steve worked quickly in the corner, they hadn’t followed the plan. They wanted to target Connor, instead they had targeted Zeb, and they paid the price. Specifically, Steve paid the price with a Hook Line ’N Sinker.
All these new members, the Champion of The World Cancer Jiles, Jace Parker Davidson. While getting reinforcements was a necessary evil as Local 214 continued to expand. Adding a hall of famer and the champion was a gigantic statement of intent. At the same time, Clay was no longer the new toy for Lee, and with the last showing?
While having an explosive start in High Octane Wrestling was important, and had put Clay in this position. That explosive start grinding to a halt against Dipshits 214? Lee wouldn’t have that. The purpose of this match was to do one of two things, restore confidence, or humiliate and embarrass. Clay snarled as he finished the food on his plate. He had to destroy the man across from him on Saturday, and he knew it.
The phone buzzed again, and Clay glared at it annoyed before being shocked seeing a message from an unknown number. “Hey Clay, it’s Red, boss wants you to ride a bull to the ring.” Clay threw the phone down, letting it crash to the concrete of the patio.
A fucking bull? Seriously? He can’t even fucking see it.
Lester… have ya ever heard of Restland Memorial Park?
See, that’s one a them cemeteries. Nice one too, got some real fancy people bein’ served up on the earth worm and maggot buffet. Should give them a call, I hear the average plot there is pretty reasonable, it’ll help your family with expenses if ya get put in the dirt right in Dallas. We can make some arrangements fer ya after Refueled. Have the ambulance pick ya up and drive ya right on over. If ya call now, they may let ya get a head start on diggin’, that’ll prolly get ya a discount.
Cause there’s a zero percent chance I walk inta my own state and lose to a fuckin’ maggot like you. Hell, there’s a zero percent chance ya manage ta make it out of Dallas with a fuckin’ pulse. Cause Lester I’m going to fuckin’ embarrass yer ass in there, ya think ya won the golden fuckin’ ticket in that raffle? Naa, what ya won is a real fancy trip to the emergency room. When they come and pick ya up they ain’t gonna be usin’ them lights and sirens, they ain’t gonna have a need. Somethin’ ‘bout men not bein’ able ta walk missin’ part of their skull.
What the fuck were ya thinkin’ buyin’ a fuckin’ raffle ticket for a match in High Octane Wrasslin’ in the first place? Ya understand people get fuckin’ killed here, right? Better men than you haven’t been able ta make it out of this place alive. And yer crazy ass is gonna come in here and walk out after havin’ a wrasslin’ match?
Are you fuckin’ jokin’?
Are you Eddie Murphy?
Larry The Fuckin’ Cable Guy?
Naa, I think I’m onta yer game. This is some elaborate assisted suicide plan. Yer tryin’ ta be that Robin Williams fella. Yer prolly some real depressed individual in need of bein’ relieved of the pain of continued pointless existence. I can help you with that Lester. Just do me a favor, don’t change yer mind in that ring, I hate when they start fuckin’ cryin’ when I start beatin’ the fuck out of them. Really awkward, and don’t scream fer yer Momma either. I’m sure she’s a nice lady and doesn’t need ta be watchin’ any of this.
I’m still rackin’ my noggin’ on why the fuck yer gettin’ inta a High Octane ring. Did ya think ya were gonna end up against Sutler and end up with 97 news articles ‘bout yerself? Did ya think ya’d end up playin’ video games in the back with Conor Fuse? Did Lindz swipe right on ya on tinder? Did ya figure ya needed ta be a wrassler ta have a chance? It’s not a bad assumption if that’s the case.
I know, I figured it the fuck out. Ya wanna write a fuckin’ book! “My Experience In High Octane Wrestling” by Lester Moregrimes. Listen, I appreciate the entrepreneurship. Prolly the best idea ya’d have tryin’ ta make a million dollars. I mean, I’m sure there’s easier ways ta write a book.
Ya could have done somethin’ phenomenal with. Tried ta invent somethin’, ya know, do somethin’ of significance with yer life. Invested a bunch of money in bitcoin ten years ago, won an actual fuckin’ lottery, worked a fuckin’ double at work? Anythin’ other than what the fuck ya decided ta write about.
Hell, ya coulda pretended ta be a wrassler on the internet and decided ta write a book ‘bout yer secondary characters? Ya know, cause they were more interestin’ than yerself. Then ya could run ‘round like a broken record puttin’ #buymybook on a bunch of posts. Lester, how yer story ends doesn’t deserve a full on novel. The ending happens at Refueled LIX, and the only thing yer gonna be needin’ after that fight is a fuckin’ embalmin’.
Ya made the boss laugh last week, I appreciate that. Maybe the thought of me rippin’ yer arms off and beatin’ ya ta death made the boss laugh so much that he decided ta ignore Steve and I gettin’ our asses kicked by Konami Code and Field and Stream’s Most Valued Customer. But as ya found out when ya looked at that card, makin’ the boss laugh doesn’t mean yer gettin’ a free fuckin’ ride. He ain’t runnin’ ya out there against that Cajun kid, he ain’t runnin’ ya out there against Darin Zion.
Naa, he decided ta run ya out inta a real life fuckin’ murderer. An actual fuckin’ body stacker. Lee Best put ya in front of me ‘cause he wants ya fuckin’ buried. So reach out, give Chad Pritchett a call, he’s the Sales Manager. See if he can get ya a nice eternal restin’ spot, maybe near a famous person so when yer family visits they don’t even look at yer tombstone. “HEY WOW! LOOK! UNCLE LESTER GOT BURIED BESIDE TOM CLARK HE WAS A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE!”
That way yer a fuckin’ afterthought in the afterlife, just like ya are here in reality.
The anger had subsided from earlier in the day as Clay walked the streets of Dallas. With the sliver of the quarter moon in the sky, Clay continued walking purposefully through the alleys. He walked with a purpose, finally turning onto another side street and arriving at his destination.
A rusted metal door with a single light bulb illuminating a small dilapidated sign. The white paint had cracked, and had become dirty and grey. The faded blue words read “HEART OF TEXAS WRESTLING CLUB.” Clay knocked twice and waited for the small metal viewing pane to open.
He waited for a few minutes, making sure nobody was coming. Clay checked both directions before unleashing three thudding shots to the rusted door. The alley brightened up as a window above the door illuminated. A dark silhouette peered through the window before the light shut off. After a few minutes the rusted door squeaked open with an awful screech. Clay looked at the man in the doorway, the two looked each other over and squared up.
“What the hell are you doing here so late?” The two began to cackle as they put down their hands and hugged.
“Didn’t wanna run inta anybody I knew… Man this place looks like shit Chuck…” Clay said as he walked through the doorframe.
“Well, you already fucked the seeing someone you knew thing up,” the man that Clay had called Chuck said with a laugh as the two men entered the building. The inside looked similar to the outside, beat up, worn down, exactly how Clay preferred it. This wasn’t the gym at the hotel, this was a place that turned boys into men. You could smell the decades of sweat in the air, and you could see the decades of pain worn across all the equipment.
“Really though… wanted ta work out someplace quiet. Plus the hotel gym ain’t got a heavy bag.” Clay said as he picked up a roll of tape off of a worn bench. He sat down and began taping his hands and wrists.
“Who said you could work out here?” Chuck said with a smirk.
“Ya gonna throw me out?” The sarcasm in the air was thick as the two men once again started laughing.
“I’ll be upstairs, key is by the door. Lock up when you leave.” Chuck’s eye roll to The Behemoth was enough to assure him that he had assumed .
Clay approached the stained white heavy bag, he felt the duct taped middle and made sure it had the right amount of give. After assuring himself that it would do, Clay began striking the bag. Right, Left, knee. Left, Knee, Right. Hook, jab, jab, knee to the body. The combos came fast and furious, and the sweat came just as quickly. There was something about a worn heavy bag that made Clay feel comfortable. He could have went to a Gold’s Gym, or somewhere else fancy, but this place felt familiar to Clay.
Places like this he could still hear exactly what Robert Byrd’s voice sounded like. As he continued on auto pilot, Clay kept striking the bag, listening to Robert make the calls in his head. The bag shook with each thought, but it continued to do its job as Clay repeatedly unloaded on it.
Robert would have called this match a “who the fuck knows?” On the scouting report. The plan would have looked exactly like what Clay had worked against Zeb Martin, work hard, take the punishment, wear him out, and knock him the fuck out. Robert would remind Clay not to take it easy, not to relax, not to be overconfident. Clay continued smashing the bag pondering the thoughts.
He had to step out of Robert’s shadow, his father had been a journeyman across the wrestling territories. He had never been great, he had never been the best. Everyone had known Robert Byrd as a reliable hand, who could do his part, hold his own, and brawl with the best of them. But he never was the best of them. He worked his plans, he worked his style, he never varied, he ground people into dust.
This was a moment for Clay to shine. This was a moment to make an example of someone, show off the skills, and dominate the opposition. This wasn’t a week off, this wasn’t a difficult fight either. What it was, was an opportunity, for Clay to be a showman, to build up the aura of fear. To finally step out of Robert Byrd’s mediocre shadow.
Oh, and he had at least talked Lee into letting him ride a fucking horse.