- - - One week ago - - -
The rock bounced across the surface of the water, skimming along once … twice … three times, each gap increasing the distance between leaps, until finally, with a flourish of bubbles, it sank beneath the surface, nothing left but ever decreasing ripples to mark it’s passage, shattering the reflection of the moon and stars of the night sky above him.
Wearing a brown suede jacket, closed right up to the throat, and a pair of blue jeans with yellow Dockers on his feet, the figure who threw the first rock, leant back against the hard surface of a spreading oak tree and reached for another missile, his long auburn hair framing his face as his piercing green eyes searched the ground in front of him, his breath visible in a cloud of white as he exhales.
As his hand closed around a suitable rock, a voice from the darkness interrupts him.
“Only three skims Jay, I am disappointed, when I taught you how to do that you were much better”
Dropping the rock from his hand, the seated figure … Jay Phoenix … looked over his shoulder and around the tree to see his grandfather, the Shaman, standing smiling at him, a calf length red jacket protecting him form the cold night air.
Walking towards his grandson, the Shaman patted his shoulder as he sat down, reaching for a rock of his own as he stared out into the night.
“Let’s see if I still have the gift Jay my boy … do you feel up for a challenge?”
Without waiting for an answer, the Shaman launched the rock out over the water, where it landed evenly and jumped four ... then five ... times across the surface before disappearing to sink out of sight.
“Nice throw grandfather, and as much as it is nice to see you, just what are you doing here at this time of the night?”
Shaking his head slightly, the Shaman laughed lightly to himself.
“It could have been a social visit Jay, but you are right I wanted to talk to you”
The Shaman reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, unfolding it and smoothing it out as he held it up slightly to catch the moonlight.
Phoenix’s face took on a look of shock as he recognised the CSWA logo on the letter that had been delivered a few weeks previously, but before he could open his mouth to speak, the Shaman pre-empted him.
“I know what you are thinking Jay, you are wondering why I have this letter aren’t you?
Well it is simple my son, I found it near the bin in your house, and figured to myself that you had decided that it was rubbish … well I am here to tell you that it is not.
This is your future Jay, this is something that I think … no I know … that you have to do!”
Shaking his head, Jay contradicts his grandfather.
“Grandfather, there was a reason I put that in the trash … because it IS trash.
I never signed up to anything called the Presidential Tournament, it is junk mail … probably like the wrestling version of the Reader’s Digest lottery!”
Holding the paper out of his grandson, the Shaman continues.
“Actually Jay, it isn’t junk mail, and you didn’t need to sign up for it … it is a real tournament, and I signed you up myself, in fact this time next week you will be in the ring facing your competitor in a match to earn your place in the second round”
Looking completely stunned, Phoenix holds the piece of paper loosely in one hand as he stares vacantly into space.
Reaching out a hand to shake him slightly, the Shaman continues.
“Jay, listen to me my child, you may not realise this now, and you may not like it, but what I have done I have done for you.
I know that the last few months have been rough on you, and that you think that you are better off retired from the wrestling business, but I have watched you closely and you do not know what to do with yourself … you are lost my child, and the one thing that you have loved doing for nearly eight years is no longer yours.
You are a wrestler Jay … a great wrestler … but somewhere along the years you have lost your way, you have become despondent, and you have lost the fire that burned so hot inside you.
… this is the time to re-ignite that fire Jay, this is the time to once more find your way.
This tournament can be your starting point Jay, this tournament can be your first step back to peace of mind … you have come full circle you know, from the day when I tried to talk you out of starting to wrestle.
Now I am trying to ensure that you KEEP wrestling my child … and do not give up on yourself in this way.”
Dropping his head so that his hair forms a curtain around his face, hiding it from sight, a small voice ensues.
“I don’t know if I can anymore grandfather … I don’t know what to do … I mean what if I fail, what if I lose?”
Moving so that he is kneeling directly in front of his grandson, the Shaman pulls his head up so that they are facing each other, and then as he stares directly into Phoenix’s eyes he cups his hands on either side of his face, holding him steady.
“The only way that you can fail is if you don’t even try Jay, if I have taught you anything it is that!
If you want to retire then I will not stop you, but I will NOT let you quit … enter this tournament … face Troy Douglas …and face him with all your heart.
If you go into that match against himand lose then so be it … but that is not failing my child, there is no shame in losing at all.
… but to let yourself quit, to slowly fade away like you are doing, I REFUSE to allow that!
Just like the rock that we threw across the water, everything that you have done has caused ripples in the wrestling world, and you are not done yet you know … there is still time to jump across the surface and leave your mark before you sink from sight.
… but only if you want it!”
Jay stares into his grandfather’s face for a few seconds and then drops his head, pulling away from the grip that holds him there as he stands up and walks away.
A look of defeat plays across the Shaman’s face as a sigh of regret escapes him, but the next words from Phoenix ignite the fire of hope in his eyes once more.
“… well I suppose that I had better get ready then hadn’t I?
I mean I can’t cause ripples if I am not even there.
… so, apart from his name, is there anything that you can tell me about this Douglas guy grandfather, like you always taught me, preparation is half the battle, and I have a feeling that I am going to have one Hell of a battle ahead of me …”
The Shaman stands up and joins Phoenix, placing an arm around his shoulder as they walk off into the night towards the house, their voices fading with them.