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The Nature of Family


Angry Johnny
Jun 7, 2006
New Frontier Wrestling
(PRIME Dual Halo RP; cross posted.)

'The Pub.'

There's one in every neighborhood worth its salt. Sure, they've got names of their own: JR's, Hobgoblin's, Muggsy's. Mine's official name, according to the sign outside, is TC's Bar.

Nobody calls it that. It's just The Pub. Wanna go to the pub for a drink? Sure, I'll meet you there. Nobody has to ask what pub.

It was a weeknight, so I wasn't surprised by the fact that the place was mostly empty. What did surprise me is that, over against the far wall, the makeshift stage where local bands sometimes play was mostly set up. Drums were there, microphones were there, and one guitar was leaning on the amps.

If there was a band scheduled, where are they? If they've already played, why's the equipment still there? Nobody's around, nobody's guarding it.

"Hey, RK, what's been happening?" asked my roommate, Lou, sitting at the bar with his girlfriend Sally.

Not much, I said, just got into town about an hour ago.

As if on cue, the juke flared to life with 'LA Woman.' Okay, I continued, as the two of them exploded in laughter, I swear I didn't plan that.

"Sit down, man," continued Lou, "first round's on me."

Sure, I said, in a second.

I leaned over the bar and tried to see into the pit. The floor was open, which meant that the bartender was getting something from the storeroom. Bartender, I mean Rosie. She worked most weeknights and was something of an unofficial manager to the place.

"We're out of the Blue," she said as she walked up the stairs and kicked the trapdoor closed behind her, "but I've got a bottle of Red label here. That work?"

Rose was talking to an old man at the opposite end of the bar. From here, even in the dim 'mood light' that all pubs seem to enjoy, I could tell she had added the red streaks to her shoulder length brown hair. She was wearing loose cargo shorts and sneakers, which told me she was in the middle of a long shift.

Get me a pint of Brooklyn, I said to Lou, I'll be right back.

The jukebox was one of those internet deals that lets you download any song that isn't on its regular playlist for an extra fee. Fortunately, the owners of the bar, knowing they have a fairly eclectic head bartender, have a backdoor code keyed in so Rose can listen to whatever she wants whenever she wants. And, of course, she told me the code.

There was a hookup behind the bar for a CD player or iPod but they didn't want her to get the screw in case she forgot it. I took a quick look to the left, but Rosie still didn't see me.


I made my selection and typed in the code, and a guitar/drum riff started. Rose didn't notice for a bit.

Best of cruel intentions, binding what they fail to mention. No truth, all pretension, raise your hand to give attention.

"Okay," she said as she came around the front, "who's playing my song?"

That's when her eyes caught mine, and we moved toward each other.

"RK!" she exclaimed as she jumped into my arms, "I missed you!"

I kissed my girl on the lips and spun her around a few times.

"Way to go, Rosie!" shouted one of the regulars. Most of them knew me, but they all knew and loved Rose to death. It's easy to get enchanted by this girl.

"When did you get in?" she asked me.

About an hour ago, I said. You closing tonight?

"Yeah. But I'm off tomorrow."

Good, I told her.

This was the part I hated. This beautiful, sweet girl was going to go back to the bar to do her job, and we were going to talk about what we would do tomorrow since neither of us had to work.

Then I was going to have to tell her about PRIME's Dual Halo.

"Anything else, hon?" asked Rose, of a middle aged man with an empty glass in front of him.

"No, darlin', I think it's about that time," he replied, and put a stack of bills on the bar in front of him, "Keep the change."

"Oh, you're sweet," said Rose. She leaned over and hugged him. "You get home safe."

I watched this guy get up and walk, slowly toward the door and out the bar. Rosie also watched him, but with this weird smile on her face. What's his story, I asked her. He's not a regular.

"Walter Mitzer," said Rose, "He just started coming in about a month ago. His wife died of lung cancer last summer and he's just been sort of drifting around ever since. Breaks my heart, so I look after him."

She's such a good egg. It breaks my heart that she works here when she should be on the road with me. I'm not just being a scumbag, either; she trained for a bit as a wrestler until her lungs couldn't take it anymore, and she knows how the business works.

And I miss her when I'm on the road.

Rosie poured my pint of Brooklyn and I took off my leather jacket and sat down on Sally's other side, so she was between me and Lou. Rose stayed on the other side of the bar so she could do her job but was directly across from us so she could continue on in the conversation.

“Dude,” said Lou, “how’d things go in Detroit?”

Not well, I told him. They tagged me with Steve Knox, which was fine, but then Cojones Mercado clubbed both me and Felix Red with a chair, and Teresa Q pinned me.

“Ouch!” said Rose, “Are you okay?”

Yeah, I said. He caught me with the flat end so I didn’t bleed, I just hurt. But it’s my own fault, I guess, for calling out Eddie Mayfield like that.

“What were you s’posed to do?” asked Lou, “You said it yourself, Joe the Plumber won the title, he deserves to have the belt. It ain’t in your nature to walk away from something like that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Rose, “you’ve got some time off now so you can rest up until St. Louis. And I can help with that.”

I looked at Lou, and he shrugged his shoulders.

“What?” asked Rose.

This conversation was gonna happen one way or another, I just wished we could be alone for it.

Not exactly, I said.

“I need a smoke,” said Sally, “Join me in the courtyard?”

“You don’t smoke,” said Lou, “and neither do I.”

Sally, ever the subtle one, grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him off his stool. They walked to the opposite side of the bar from the front door, toward the courtyard that’s sectioned off for smokers and people who want to keep drinking while they smoke.

Thanks, guys. I could’ve used the backup.

“What’s the deal?” asked Rose, ‘Why don’t you have a break now?”

Have you ever heard of a company called PRIME, I asked her. She looked at me blankly. I’m not surprised, Rosie went to the gym to train because me and her and Lou were a clique and me and Lou went. Other than that she pays attention to New Frontier Wrestling because I’m there, and that’s about all.

Anyways, I said, there’s this other company called Prime. They’ve been around for a pretty long time, and there’s an invitational match coming up called the Dual Halo, and I threw my mask in the hat for it.

“Hey, two shots Jager?” asked a twentysomething standing next to another twentysomething.

Rose turned around and attended the Jagermeister machine. “If you’re getting hit with chairs in the company you work for, are you sure you want to try it again in a new place? Anyone you know wrestling there, anyway?”

High Flyer wrestles there, I told her. You met him when we were out west for Wrestlestock.

She shrugged.

He was there with Mary Lynn Mayweather.

“Oh yeah, I remember her. She was nice.”

And Lindsay Troy, too. I don’t know if you know who she is.

Rosie put the shotglasses down in front of her customers and did some mental arithmetic. “Um... eleven.”

They looked at each other and paid. I’m not surprised, she usually charges three or four for a shot of Jager. It was my turn to shrug.

She tossed four dollars change at them and returned to me. “They’ve been in here before,” she said, very quietly, “and they always cause trouble. Miss M told me to just charge ‘em what I wanted.”

Solid, I said. Anyways, why don’t you come with me?

Rosie chuckled, like she always does. “I have work, RK. I can take off a day or two here and there to see you when you’re home, but I can’t constantly leave for weeks at a time for a Double Helix.”

Dual Halo.

“Whatever it’s called. What’s this one for, anyways?”

What do you mean?

“Well,” replied Rose, “that battle royal in the desert was for the NFW TV title, the Grand Prix was for a bunch of title shots. What’s this one for?”

Pride, really, I said. They’re offering title shots for winning, and more title shots for eliminating various other people involved.

“Anyone I know?”

No. Oh, wait. Steve Knox and Brock Alyas from NFW are involved, too.

“Oh, cool,” said Rose, “So you’ll have friends there.”

Eh, I said. Knox, sure.

“For obvious reasons?”

Oh, she’s funny. But no, just because he’s another wrestler from NFW. Brock is more of a bouncer. Tough, sure. Skilled, yeah. But I wouldn’t want to have him at my back.

Rosie nodded. “Makes sense.”

Off in the distance, I heard a familiar tune.

”The world is my expense, the cost of my desire. Jesus blessed me with its future, and I protect it with fire”

Lovely, I said. I don’t want to think about work now. Who picked this?

“I did,” said Lou. Apparently he and Sally came back in without letting us know. “Just tryin’ to psyche ya up, kid!”

Thanks, I said. I got up and typed in my own selection. The drum beat and cadence of Queen V’s “Revolution, Baby” filled the bar. Yes, the employees-only code also kills whatever’s currently playing, and I thought it was time for some local flair to fill the place.

I don’t need psyching up, I told Lou, as I sat back down at the bar. Nobody’s made me mad in over a year and I’ve been able to build myself up pretty well.

“No gold,” he reminded me.

You don’t need gold to be built up, I said. Look at what Craig Miles did when he was in the FWO. One belt for one month, but he was still the guy everyone wanted to be. That’s kinda what I’m looking to do at PRIME. Will I win? Who knows. Will people know the name Impulse at the end of the night? If I do my job well, they will.

Maybe that last line was a bit egocentric, but the fact remains I went into the Wrestle Stock TV Title Battle Royal without a win to my name, lost the match, but after a hundred and eighteen minutes everyone knew who I was.

“You mean, they knew you as the guy in the mask,” clarified Sally.

Rosie and Lou also laughed at that. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s beside the point.

Regardless, after weeks of being a laughingstock, I was suddenly seen as capable of a lot more, I said. Think about it. I went into the Wrestle Stock battle royal as an also – ran underdog. Six months later, people are surprised and disappointed that I didn’t win the Grand Prix. Nobody to contender in six months. Who does that?

“So by that logic, you’re gonna win this Double Helix match?” asked Rose, still serving drinks.

Dual Halo.


“Course my boy’s gonna win,” said Lou, “He’s the best wrestler in the world.”

You’re exaggerating, I told him.

“You mean to tell me you don’t think you’re the best wrestler in the world?” asked Lou.

That’s not the point, I told him. The best wrestler in the world is rarely the best wrestler in the world.

“I don’t follow,” said Lou, “Either you are or you aren’t.”

Not true, I said. Take, let’s say, Brock Alyas as an example. Now, I’m a better wrestler than Brock Alyas, based on seeing what he can do in the ring compared to what I can do in the ring. In the technical sense, no pun intended, I’m the better wrestler. Agreed?

“Two PBR’s, please,” said another young guy at the bar. Rose reached into the cooler, pulled out a pair of cans, and had the tops popped without missing a beat.

“Six,” she told them, “Go on, RK, we’re listening.”

Okay, I said. So I’m a better wrestler than Brock, but in our respective debut match last year, Brock beat me pretty soundly. Therefore, the better wrestler isn’t always the better wrestler.

“That’s pretty depressing,” said Lou, “and it puts you at a bit of a disadvantage, doesn’t it?”

I disagree, I said. I’m a nobody going into this match. Anonymous, just the way I like. It’s the PRIME Champions and top contenders that think they’re the best wrestlers in the world that’ll find out that the best wrestler isn’t always the best.

“Isn’t that circular reasoning?” asked Sally.

It sure is, I said, but that’s the nature of the business. I’m a small fish, but in New Frontier Wrestling I’m a loud one. In something like a Dual Halo, there’s a lot of bigger fish and a lot of louder fish. My biggest advantage’ll probably be that nobody will see me coming.

‘The Messenger Is Not Important,’” said Lou, reminding me of my first catchphrase.

Exactly, I said.

Rose leaned back against the liquor shelves, and yawned. “Anyone want a refill?”

“Sure,” said Lou, “one for the road. Sally?”

She sat down on one of the barstools and nodded her head, and yawned as well. I looked at the clock above the bar; it was 1:45 in the morning. Somehow I was still wide awake after half a day of traveling. Not bad, not bad at all.

I’ll take another too, I said.

“Night, Rose,” said a thirtysomething woman as she walked out the door with her group.

“Good night,” said Rose. She put the three pints in front of us and filled a glass with club soda from the gun. “I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.”

What don’t you get, I asked.

“You told me on the phone before the Detroit show, things were really cooking for you in New Frontier Wrestling,” said Rose. “You said things were really coming together for you. Sure, you lost in the Grand Prix finals, you said, but with the TV Title vacant you were pretty sure you’d be put into whatever match Craig and Eddie decided to put together to fill it.”

Rose pulled a rag from her back pocket and wiped down part of the bar. She usually only did that when she was trying to figure out the ‘proper’ way to phrase something. It usually meant that she didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

“It’s just, you spent a year trying to build your reputation in New Frontier Wrestling, and now you’re moving on?” she asked. She had a good point.

It’s complicated, I said.

“All that matters is my boy gonna tear it up,” said Lou, as he clapped me on the shoulder and drank his beer. “Those other guys ain’t gonna know what hit ’em.”

“So simplify it,” said Rose.

I thought about that. Is it really as complicated as I think it is?

It’s like this, Rose, I said, this is a really strange business. I’m happy in the NFW and I don’t intend on leaving, but like they said before the last Ultratitle season started, your legend can only grow as long as you can still go.”

“I don’t think that’s what they said,” said Lou.

I’m paraphrasing.


Anyway, I continued, I’m not happy with myself in the sport unless I’m constantly pushing myself. Hey Lou, remember what I told you my goal was when I signed?

“I think you said you wanted to wrestle everyone you’d ever grown up watching to see how you’d do,” said Lou.

Pierre Delacroix is in the Dual Halo.

“The Frenchie?” asked Lou, “Sweet!”

I can’t know whether I really am the best wrestler in the world unless I leave my comfort zone and see how other promotions go, I said. The Dual Halo came along and I just knew I needed to see if I had the chops to make a dent in it. If I win, cool. If I don’t, that’s still cool.

Rosie leaned on the bar with that half smirk that I fell in love with. “I’m just selfish,” she said. “The more you wrestle, the less you’re here.”

Sally looked at Lou, and Lou looked at Sally, and they both went ‘Awwwh,’ to each other. I did what anyone in my position would do, and punched Lou in the arm.

“I think we should go,” said Sally, “it’s getting late and I’ve got work in the morning.”

Sally’s always been good about maintaining tact. Her and Lou have been together for what, six years now? Since some point in high school at least. I can’t remember anymore. It’s always been Sally and Lou.

Okay, I said, as I gave Sally a hug. Dinner at the apartment tomorrow?

“Sure,” said Sally, “I’m off at four, so as long as this one remembers to pick me up.”

She backhanded Lou on the stomach. He’s a pretty well built guy so I doubt he felt it. The fact that he gave her a half – hug, half – headlock was a telling sign.

Alright, I said, I’m gonna hang out and help Rosie close when it’s time. I shook Lou’s hand and we did the one – armed ‘guy hug.’ Goodnight, dear, I said to Sally as I kissed her on the cheek.

“Good night, guys,” said Rosie. She leaned over the bar and hugged them both, “Thanks for hanging out.”

“Any time, honey,” said Sally. She and Lou each took another long drink from their pint glasses, and headed out the door.

A small rush of customers flocked the bar, and I moved to the side to give Rosie room to work. She slid from person to person and filled their orders quickly and efficiently. I couldn’t help but think – again – how good she’d be in my arena. She listens to people, she remembers things, and she always knows exactly what to say.

It’s not like Lou. I tell him I could get him a job, but we both know he’s out of fighting shape and is in a completely different place in his life. It’s not like when we were in high school and college, wrestling weekends for the IWB because we couldn’t afford to do anything else on a Saturday night; for him to tag with me again he’d have to put in a lot of work that I don’t think he’s ready to do.

Rose, on the other hand, would be an asset anywhere.

My thoughts were broken up by the heart – wrenchingly familiar wet hacking sound.

“Excuse me, young man,” said one of the people at the bar, but I was already working on instinct. I put my hands on the bar and effortlessly vaulted over it to the other side. Whoever said professional wrestling didn’t have practical real world application never had a bartender girlfriend with bad lungs.

I leaned down next to Rose. She was on her knees with a bar rag over her mouth, and she continued to cough.

Let me see, I said. She took the rag away from her mouth and we both looked. There was no blood, so I kissed her on the forehead and told her to move off, and I’ll take care of the rest of the drink orders.

Rose nodded between coughs. I wasn’t a hundred percent on where everything was, but fortunately, the rest of their order was a Jack and Coke and two bottles of Bud Light. Quick and easy, and I was on my way to the corner where Rose sat, her mouth covered, and her face flushed.

At least she stopped coughing.

Hey, I said. I rubbed her back and she leaned her head on my shoulder. How’ve you been, I asked.

“Mostly okay,” said Rose. “A few incidents but nothing major.”

Oh, yeah?

“Yeah,” said Rose. She showed me her right arm with three hospital bracelets attached, “No new additions.”

Weeks ago, Rosie told me, half – jokingly, that her goal was to have a whole family of hospital bracelets by the end of 2009. It’s her way of coping with the fact that she had three already before the end of January.

Why don’t you take it easy, I said. I’ll finish up the rest of your shift and close, then we’ll go home.

“No,” said Rose. “This is my job.” She kissed me. “I’d love for you to stay and help me close, but until then, my place is behind the bar and yours is on the other side.”

She kissed me again.

I hugged her tightly and helped her to her feet. A few of the regulars asked if she was okay, and she brushed them off with another half – joke.

Coming and going like this is tough sometimes. I love being here with her, but I love what I do. If she would agree to hit the road with me I think the sky’d be the limit for what I could achieve, but she’s too proud to accept something like that.

I guess I can understand what she’s saying. She refuses to leave the bar because it’s a job she got on her own and keeps under her own power. She’s earned ridiculous amounts of trust and enjoys the respect of her bosses and clientele because of it. I wrestle under a mask because I don’t want people favoring me or targeting me for things I can’t control. Anonymously, I’m judged solely on my skills in the ring.

The Message can get through without being clouded by the Messenger.

Still, watching her work the customers, noticing her quick glance in my direction and the wink and smirk that she sends me, I can’t help thinking about what the future might hold.

Dual Halo first, I reminded myself. Then the future.

Then, the future.
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