[A door opens and into the rooms walks a soaking wet John McDonough – perspiration has stained his grey t-shirt almost entirely and his brown, slightly greying hair is stuck to his head. He places his hands on his hips as he walks through the hallway and breathes deeply in an attempt to restore his breathing to a normal rate. Behind him, his protégé, Shane walks in with his jet black hair in a similar state and his blue t-shirt bearing an almost identical perspiration stain.]
[Shane turns to shut the door as the ring of a cell phone becomes audible. John walks into the kitchen area and picks up the ringing phone as Shane faces him across the room. A disappointed look crosses John’s face for a moment and a headshake follows before he hits the answer button.]
John: What’s up, Mikey?
[None of this shows in John’s voice and the moment these words leave his lips, that look has been wiped away as though it were never there at all.]
Mikey: Nada, Johnny, just tryin’ to keep straight all the action we got on you in this tournament.
[Mikey sports a voice which is heavy on the Bronx accent sounds as if he had just chain smoked about five cigars. John smiles at this statement, Shane walks past John and opens the fridge – removing two bottles of water.]
John: Right, glad to hear the gym has turned into an illegal gambling operation.
Mikey: C’mon Johnny, you know half the guys that come here are cops – ain’t nothin’ to worry about.
[John raises his eyebrows to emphasize his comfort level – even though Mikey cannot see it – force of habit.]
John: Yeah, whatever you say. How’s the gym holding up?
Mikey: Runnin’ like clockwork. Hummin’ along. We’re rolling right along – just like you never left.
John: Good, thanks a ton, Mike – really appreciate it.
Mikey: No problem, buddy, when I have my mid-life crisis, I know you’ll be there to help me out.
[John chuckles at this comment and rolls his eyes.]
John: Alright Mikey, go f--- yourself.
Mikey: F--- you, too Johnny.
[A light-hearted exchange of curse words amongst friends.]
John: Thanks for calling with an update– keep in touch – we’ll talk in the next few days. Try not to burn the place down.
Mikey: Ten four, boss. Talk to you soon.
[John takes the phone away from his ear and places it down on the counter, which he leans against. Shane tosses him the bottle of water in his right hand while drinking the other with his left hand. After he removes the bottle from his lips, Shane runs his left arm across the front of his mouth to wipe away any excess water.]
Shane: What was that?
John: A man I am rather ashamed to call my friend.
[John says this dryly as he unscrews the cap of the water bottle and takes a sip.]
Shane: No, I know it was Mikey, you just looked disappointed when you looked at the phone and saw it was him. Why?
John: What? I should love to hear from the gym?
[Shane shakes his head.]
Shane: C’mon John, you know I know you better than that – this was not a “damn, work is calling me look”, this was a “damn, I wish you were someone else.”
[John eyes Shane carefully while taking a drink from his water bottle. He takes it away from his mouth and screws the cap back on.]
John: I was… I was hoping it was Brandon. We haven’t spoken since the whole thing went down with his mother – just got a note saying he was leaving and not to look for him.
His cell is still getting paid though so I call him about once a week – just to provide an update and to ask him to reciprocate, but nothing so far.
[Shane nods understandingly with a look of regret as he is uncertain of how far he wants to broach this subject – knowing how ripe it might be.]
John: But he’s an adult and sometimes, we need to withdraw. Sometimes we need to fight off our demons.
[Shane nods with an awkward, knowing grin crossing his face.]
Shane: Yeah, you know, he said something similar to me one time…
[John looks up with a sense of hope.]
Shane: About you.
[Shane walks across the kitchen area, tapping John on his shoulder as he does so and then exits, leaving John alone. John’s eyes shift down towards the kitchen floor – taking in what he has just heard.]
Shane: I’ve got a meeting with an IWF scout, we can talk more later.
[The waves crash against the sand, push further up the shore and then recede. The sky is a pale blue as the day begins anew, the sounds of gulls can be heard as they skim the top of the water while in flight. To the left, an American flag blows wistfully in what is currently a slight ocean breeze.]
[A man is approaching from the right, dressed in a pair of jeans and black and grey striped hooded sweatshirt. As he approaches, we can tell this is “The Aftermath” John McDonough, as he trudges through the sand, he gazes at the ocean crashing.]
[John moves closer and turns to face the water completely – taking in the view.]
John: I’ve come here the last few mornings – just something so serene about it. It’s like the calm before the storm.
Feel the same way about this tournament, from afar the idea of a return sounds wonderful – the idea of winning the thing sounds fulfilling – a lifetime of work and I could finally take my place amongst the all-time greats…
[He turns slightly and focuses his eyes hidden in the shadow of his hood on the camera.]
But the storm is coming – I will have to face the demons, the ghosts that haunt me and fight them off… Just like my opponents – one by one. I will have to fight them off. It’s a long journey – and it starts with Felicia Hart…
[He removes the hood from his sweatshirt and musses the brown hair atop his head. His eyes narrow and focus at the screen.]
John: And her half-assed homage to Adam West Batman with douche-repellant batspray… Really?
[John looks defeated.]
John: So pissed… I wanted an Urkel cameo in the worst way!
[He smiles after snapping his fingers in mock frustration.]
John: Essentially, your little yoga exhibition confirmed that you cannot wrestle and you do not care about winning this tournament – only allowing your half brother’s stepsister’s cousin to move on by falling on top of you…
[John shakes his head, unable to remove the smile. For a second, he turns away from the camera taking in a deep breath. Following this moment, he turns towards the camera with a changed demeanor – the joking, mocking look has been washed away, pulled out to sea.]
John: I just… Don’t think you know quite what you’ve gotten yourself into here…
You are talking about a career-defining tournament – an opportunity for some of the best athletes in the business to take their place amongst the all-time greats. And you have no desire to win the tournament, no desire to compete beyond allowing Shawn Jessica Hart to beat you, you have no discernible wrestling skill and you believe I am going to allow this mockery, charade to occur.
Please. Get that s--- out of here.
[He swipes at the air front of him – a disgusted look upon his face.]
John: Against a different person, you might catch them looking past you – you might be able to catch them overconfident and unprepared… Not me, not here, no how.
You see, I am going to approach this match with the utmost urgency – it only takes three seconds and you’re out. It is possible, through any series of events, to be pinned for three seconds. And if you let up for even a split second, it could be enough to put you down for those three seconds.
Over. Dream over.
Once again - not me, not here, no how.
I will not allow myself to look at these half-hearted shenanigans of yours and say “this is a cakewalk.” I am approaching this match with as much fervor as if you were a three hundred and fifty pound block of muscle.
[His blue eyes matching the scene in the sky behind him - filling with intensity.]
John: I have worked too hard to allow you or your little cronies or my promo stalker or anyone else for that matter to intervene and to shatter my hopes.
I have come too far as a professional in this business, as a person in understanding how to channel my aggression – to let down my guard. I am going to come at you full force Felicia – without hesitation.
And we’ll see just how flexible you are, how limber those bones are and how much pressure they can take until they break.
[He makes a snapping motion with his arms.]
Once this match ends, you’re going to regret this whole thing.
You’re going to understand that you can’t just walk into a ring without any training. All your and Shawn’s little pop culture nods are going to become the bane of your existence because you’re going to ache every time you even think to laugh.
And, in the grand scheme of this tournament, you are going to be the one, who is left as an afterthought… In the aftermath.
[The view from a window is obstructed by the water pouring down the sky above. The rain is steady and falling in droves. A silhouette of a man can be seen, he is standing outside of a blue two-story home. He is dressed all in black and not moving – not towards the home or rushing away from it despite the punishing rain.]
[Panning to the right, we peer in between the front seats of the vehicle and see “3:00 AM” on the clock. Panning back the man is still standing there as if he were stuck.]
To live and breathe freely… To enjoy true freedom.
[The monotone, disguised voice rings out from offscreen.]
One must not just be willing to weather the storm – intention is meaningless, but actually have the wherewithal to do it.
To stand in front of, amongst and in between the things that have shaped them – the fears, the memories that confine them. Every man, woman and child wants to be free, but it takes courage you cannot teach.
Freedom as they so eloquently say is not free.
There is a price to pay.
How much are you willing to give? How much are you willing to sacrifice?
Are you prepared to do the impossible? Face the insurmountable?
The funny thing is…
[The silhouette of the man moves away from in front of the house – slowly, deliberately.]
Even if you are ready, what if the things that bind you are not ready to release you… What if they have not decided to let you go? What if they want to stand in your way?
Things are so much easier when there’s no chaos, no calamity. When there’s no storm…