“For fuck sakes!”
20 September 2018
FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
Moments after Jarvis King vs. Kemsey Ramsey
“Jarvis, this was maybe an inevitable setback,” said Elizabeth, her hair in a neat bun as we entered the backstage area through the curtain separating backstage from the ringside area. “Regardless of your feelings on the matter, the history books show a victory for Harley Hodge over Jarvis King. That means that he’s owed another title shot.”
Just moments earlier – seconds before I went out to annihilate that washed-up cowboy – I had been handed a note from the “office” of the “commissioner”, indicating that I would, in fact, be defending the Paramount Championship against Old Man Hodge at Hellbound. The news was still fresh, and I was still none too happy about it as Elizabeth and I made our way to the private locker room of The Glass Ceiling.
I gotta admit – as pissed as I was at her at that moment, it was a good piece of business that Liz had cooked up, getting us our own room. That said, at that moment, I was furious. “What in the fuck,” I said, “do I pay you for, if not to get me out of mindless nonsense like this? I mean, this month was supposed to be about taking the next step. It was supposed to be about bringing the last pieces into the fold. Getting rid of Jace was step one. Freddie bringing home the Impact title was step two…”
“You pay me,” she said, absentmindedly as she tapped out an email on her phone, “to get you out of the avoidable…”
“How the fuck wasn’t this avoidable?” I interrupted.
“For example,” she continued, ignoring me, “your SportsNewsNet dates have been decreased to a quarter of what they once were. Simultaneously, I got you booked this week in a small match that you could have had fun with, rather than having to face off against some rabble who may’ve put up a fight.” She looked up from her phone as we neared the locker room door. “Hodge is a complication, Jarvis, spinning out from Jace Valentine. I promise you, had you hired me sooner, we would have executed on his obsolescence in The Glass Ceiling sooner. I understand that this takes focus away from your goals, but I promise you that you hired the best person for the job. Once we’re past this unexpected speedbump, I will continue to do the work for you that you expect.”
She reached out her hand and took the Paramount title off of my shoulder as I turned the knob and entered the locker room. I nearly walked head-on into Freddie as I entered the room. I could tell that he was wired, and had been pacing.
“Jesus Christ,” he said, taken aback. “You forget something back here or something?”
“Da fuck is it?” said Duce, entering the room from the showers, changed into his gear from the suit that he had been wearing earlier in the night.
“No,” I said. “Match is over. I won.”
“Shit man,” said Duce, a smile crossing his face. “I didn’t even get a chance to turn tha damn thang on. Y’all don’t work by tha hour, huh?”
I laughed to myself a bit. “No,” I said. “No, I do not.”
“Listen,” said Freddie, his hand on the doorknob. “I gotta go take a walk. I’ll see y’all later?”
“Ye man,” said Duce. “We’ll be here.”
Of course, I would be there, but my mind had travelled at that point. I was thinking about our dear commissioner, forcing me to defend my title against an unworthy opponent at Hellbound. See, it’s ridiculous to me that a guy who has a vested interest in the outcomes of different matches and who holds what title is still able to have match-making powers. It’s baffling to me that he’s able to threaten to book me, Duce and Freddie in piddly nothing matches against local yokels till we either run our contracts out, or till we’re in breach, just because he doesn’t like us.
I mean, that last bit is ridiculous to me because, let’s face it, he needs us. Duce, Freddie and I not only represent four of the five potential title holders in this company, but we also are the biggest area of star power in the industry. The CWF loses Jarvis King, Duce Jones, and Freddie Styles – two hall of famers and a future first ballot, representing dozens of title reigns between us – over its commissioner being jealous? I gotta believe that the board would make sure that Ataxia’s burlapped head would roll for that one.
But really, what other choice does that ugly bastard have? He can’t beat us fair and square - that much we don’t even need this week’s Evolution to prove. Sure, Mr. Burlap Breath decided to make it 3-on-3 this time, bringing along Davey Havok’s stunt double – err, I mean, The Shadow – and the guy who has all of the personality of a flat beer and all of the excitement of an AA meeting, Dorian Hawkhurst. Last time, though, I didn’t have Duce and Freddie watching my back. Last time, it was just me against Team Foreskin. Last time, I won, single-handedly.
This time will be a walk in the fucking park.
I gotta admit, the thing that frustrates me most about Ataxia is the loss of potential. Consider his pedigree – a former World Champion in his own right. One of the old guard. The kind of guy who, under different circumstances, would fit into The Glass Ceiling like fingers into a tailored glove. Instead, he’s chosen to surround himself with the sort of rabble that is beneath him. Beneath us. Beneath the CWF.
Take The Shadow, for example. It’s the damnedest thing being a shadow, isn’t it? It is a looming thing, casting itself over the light…but it is, of course, little more. A shadow is not a thing, but merely a tag-along to the real deal. A formless thing, with little more detail than the outline of something real. See, a shadow is merely the silhouette of something much more interesting. Without that something more interesting, The Shadow isn’t really even noticeable, is he? It’s hard to think if he’s even there.
I’ve accused you in the past of being little more than a more emo version of a My Chemical Romance cover band’s bassist, Shadow. Turns out, that gives you credit for far more depth than you deserve. When it comes to you, there is no shade of grey; it’s black and white. You’re boring. Simple as that.
Speaking of boring…I mean, Christ, Dorian Hawkhurst is a walking billboard for why temperance is considered to be the dull option. He’s the kind of sober person who’d make me want a drink, y’dig? Standing as the only change since the last time I stepped up against the Foreskins, you’d think that I’d be interested in the different dynamic that he was gonna bring to the match. All I’m actually interested in is making sure that I never have to talk to that guy.
The Forsaken. Formerly the CWF’s most formidable faction, now reduced to a fraction of what they once were. Just because they’re actually being compared to something. Turns out that when mediocrity doesn’t have anything to compare itself to, it starts to think that it’s excellence.
Christ, The Glass Ceiling was overdue.
“Yo,” said Duce after a while. To be honest, I’m not sure how long it had been that we were sitting in silence. He had a blunt rolled and was offering it to me. “You, uh…?” he asked, letting the question linger.
“No,” I said. “I get bad paranoia. By all means though.”
He sparked up, and took a deep drag. “Y’know what?” he said, exhaling. “I ain’t never seen someone get lost in they own thoughts like you, man.”
“Yeah…” I said. “I guess I’ve just had a fair amount to think about.”
“Listen,” he said. “Don’t y’all even worry. Tonight…dis is tha beginnin’ of t’next steo fo’ us. Freddie…man, he gon’ bring the Impact home, then we gon’ get drunk.”
I laughed. It sounded good to me.
“Did you find everything you were looking for today?”
21 September 2018
Kroger Pharmacy, Memphis, Tennessee
The Morning After the Night Before
“Yes,” I croaked as I slammed a bottle of Aspirin on the counter, along with a can of Red Bull. The Aces wanted to celebrate the night before, and celebrate we did. Memphis, as it turns out, has some decent bottles of Scotch in her. And they were then put in me. And then, I was dying.
The overly chipper check-out woman rung me through while humming along with the Garth Brooks song on the oldies station that was blaring through the tinny speakers in the pharmacy. “That’ll be $16.45,” she said with a smile that was too full of warmth for my decaying body. I fumbled around for my wallet, but it was Liz who handed her a 20. The door ker-clunked open, sending a shock through my pounding head.
I didn’t wait for the change; I popped the top off the Aspirin and took more than the recommended dosage and guzzled some Red Bull to wash it down. I could faintly hear the woman making small-talk with Liz as I was leaving the store.
“Was he one of them wrestlers?” she asked Liz. She must have nodded, because the woman continued. “You know, I thought so. My nephew loves the CWF. He especially likes that Dorian fella. Do you think he could get him a Dorian autograph?”
“Mr. King won’t be doing that,” replied Liz. Good girl. Only thing that she could’ve done better is ask why that kid liked, of all people, Dorian Hawkhurst.
I left the store and made my way to our parked rental - an Escalade, black – and plunked myself in the passenger’s seat. The night earlier had been a blur, and my phone was dead and still charging in the center console. I checked it – 65%...just about enough to power it back on – as Liz entered the vehicle and turned the key.
“I understand you probably don’t remember much of last night,” she said after a pregnant pause. She was right, I didn’t, but her tone was foreboding. “We should probably…discuss some of the complications that may have arisen from last night.”
“Shit,” I said, trying to piece together the broken details of the night prior. Freddie, Duce, Liz and I showed up at The 152 after the show. We drank for a while…there was a bottle of Johnnie Blue…then Freddie took off – he had been distant…Duce was talking to Sierra…so Liz and I went to another club….Scene missing, scene missing…
My phone buzzed to life – I had missed texts. Shit – I had definitely taken someone back to my room. “Did I…did I make a pass at you, Liz?”
She shook her head, curtly. “No,” she said. “I left you shortly after we found that after-hours club. You had met someone there, Jarvis. That’s who you’re trying to remember right now; not me.”
I let out a sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like sleeping with Liz would’ve been embarrassing. But like…it’s hard to find good help, isn’t it?
“So, what’s the problem then?” I asked.
My phone buzzed again, reminding me of my unread messages. “I think,” she said, “you should check that.”
I opened my messenger app, and my stomach churned.
Cathy Daniels (UNREAD)
We need to talk about last night.