And now: the noble arrival vignette.
Webster’s defines “arrival” as the emergence or appearance of a new—
Webster’s defines “ape shit” as the sound you hear coming across your TV screen.
The Tsound, if you will. Of the Numbers Don’t Lie champion strutting and tutting. All black. Athleisurely. Chanel sunglasses. You know the drill.
Chandler Tsonda has entered the building.
Nick Stuart: We have an Almasy quarterfinalist in the building.
Richard Parker: Yeah, we’ve got eight of them.
Nick Stuart: (always ignoring Richard) Chandler Tsonda had made some headlines by noting that every other quarterfinalist has support in their corner except for him. I expect we’ll hear a bit about—
Tsonda removes the sunglasses, clearly looking at and continuing to address someone off-screen.
Chandler Tsonda: You and me get here at the same time. Of all the arenas, in all the Nashvilles, in all the world, and you putz in here on the same timeline as yours truly.
Webster’s defines “loser” as… well, shit, just look at him. He comes swaggering into frame, rhinestones and fringe for days, a smug expression on his face, and a bottle of the cheapest beer money can buy in his hand.
Yeah, yeah. Get the booing over with. It’s Daytona Diamonds.
Daytona Diamonds: Downright serendipitous, ain’t it?
That smugness evaporates into a pained expression, pursed lips and narrowed eyes. He takes a sip of beer and then a sigh comes pouring out from his throat, his free hand reaching out towards Tsonda for a shake.
Daytona Diamonds: Come on then. Put ‘er there, Chandy. Best man won, fair n’ square. I’m big enough to admit it.
Tsonda’s not the type of lawful good that walks into a handshake offer without checking his six. He looks over both shoulders, and while he’s there, he pats the Numbers Don’t Lie title for good measure.
Chandler Tsonda: (wryly smiling) Can’t be too careful when it comes to coincidence, can we?
And with sufficient evidence that he’s not about to be blindsided, and maybe a bit of hubris that if Diamonds tries any funny business, Chandler can handle his own, he reaches forward.
The handshake heard ‘round the West. Or at least around this part of Tennessee (if you can hear anything over the goddamn bachelor/bachelorette parties).
Chandler Tsonda: Well, this (gesturing to the two of them) heartwarming shit is certainly the stuff dreams are made of, but ol’ Chan’s intuition here suggests you didn’t meet me on the way into the arena just for backslaps and flattery. Whaddya want?
And here we are: the crux, the core, the rub. Daytona’s best poker face can’t hide the little grin curling at the edges of his lips, that nudge and a wink that’s attached to every word that pours out of his mouth. Another sip of beer and then a nod.
Daytona Diamonds: Well, y’see, I been doin’ just a lil bit-a thinkin’, Chandy. Ain’t got no match this week, thanks in no small part to yourself, so you’s can imagine just how god dang bored I’ve been. So, thinkin’, thinkin’, thinkin’… and then I realized somethin’: ain’t nobody got your back, do they?
Have you ever seen a used car salesman in his element? You know the type: slick as pig shit, willing to say anything and everything just to make a deal with you. In this moment, Daytona Diamonds embodies all of those worst possible elements, one hand reaching out to pat Tsonda’s shoulder.
Daytona Diamonds: Hell, just think ‘bout it. You ain’t just fightin’ ol’ Coral Avalon tonight, are ya? He’s gonna have Cancer and that fat fuck I beat a couple-a months ago on his side. And shit fire, let’s say you get lucky, what about after that? Hanlon or Farthington, either way you cut it, you’re gonna have to deal with Elmer Glue’s favorite sons eventually, ain’tcha? So… I figured you and me, we could make a lil arrangement, Chandy. Who better to watch your back than the man you done went and beat? I ain’t got no horse left in the Almasy race. You get to look like a million bucks with The Rhinestone Cowboy by your side and me? Well, I get to prove I gone and turned over a new leaf. Sounds about nice, don’t it?
Chandler Tsonda: (looks Daytona up and down) Ambitious, aren’t you?
The Model Citizen looks down at the shoulder that the Rhinestone Cowboy just gave a pat. He gives it a bit of a shrug, as if ridding himself of something.
Chandler Tsonda: I won’t lie to you, Tex. You’ve got me pegged dead to rights. Nobody’s got my back, I’m going up against a whole ass cartel of goobers tonight, and if I were looking for a dangerous knives-out sonofoabitch, I could do far worse than you in my corner.
Tsonda raises an eyebrow in the direction of his round of 16 opponent.
Chandler Tsonda: But I’m sure a ranch hand like you knows the phrase “don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” And I’m getting a big whiff of stank on this one.
Diamonds sneers, shaking his head.
Daytona Diamonds: Ain’t no bullshit ‘bout it, buddy! I’m just tryna be what you’d call a good sah-mare-et-an. C’mon now. Knives out, baby. You don’t wanna lose, do ya?
The Model Citizen, for his part, merely offers up that grin. You know the one. There’s a picture of it up in the MOMA.
Chandler Tsonda: (grins) C’mon, Tex. Nobody knows better than you how hard it is to put a loss on Chan. I’ll take my chances.
Ever the showman, Tsonda does double finger guns at Daytona, and steps past him to continue on his way into the arena. Though he’s got one more thought before he goes.
Chandler Tsonda: I’ll be seein’ ya, slick. Try not to lose any more of those pretty hats.
And then the Sultan of Style, without a plus-one, but also without the threat of a double cross, is off into the night. Daytona stands staring after him as he walks away, the camera panning in closer until he rolls his eyes and lets out an audible ‘ugh’.
Daytona Diamonds: Aw, sonuvabitch… Alright, alright. Backup plan. Guess I’m gettin’ drunk instead.
Daytona looks directly into the camera, takes one last sip of beer, grins wide, and winks.
Fade to shenanigans.