Mobilizing the Troops (Thank U For UR Service)
The MGM Grand’s Arena has settled at a dull chatter an hour before airtime on the ACE Network. Fans are still filing in, some are in line to get beers or other concessions. Others are lining up to buy their memorabilia and wearable merchandise before the action begins. One could be forgiven if they couldn’t conduct a conversation, but eardrums will remain intact for at least another hour before the pyro explodes, Richard Parker and Nick Stuart welcome everyone to the fourth episode of the flagship, and the fans have reason to shriek and shout levels deemed unsafe by OSHA for the human ear without protection.
The focus is on the merchandise area. Most tables are professional, staffed by MGM minimum wage workers, all with state-of-the-art point of sale systems. One table is not. Curiously, no one mans the Puddings’ fort. Piles of Muriel’s Fire Starter Kits are messily strewn on the table, as if they were thrown there and left for someone else to pile into something more enticing to passersby. The only thing behind the table is an unusually large cardboard box. It is here where the show begins, a camera trained on the door where The Anglo Luchador enters the arena, dressed in a gray, pinstriped suit, off-white shirt with no tie, and his lucha mask while carrying a duffel bag. He looks of singular focus, kicking Brandon Youngblood’s butt and advancing to the semifinals of the Seymour Almasy Invitational Tournament, but something catches his eye. It’s the cardboard box.
TAL: Sweet El Traficante De La Sangre, is that box… moving?!? That’s unnatural.
He moves over more closely to the table, dropping his bag and leaning over to get a closer look at the box, rustling and bustling as if something is inside, or is it someone? A muffled voice comes from the inside.
Muffled Voice: *muffled sounds that cannot be made out*
TAL: Egad, someone needs to help whoever’s in there. Ah, anyway, I’m sure the situation will take care of itself.
The old luchador goes to pick up his bag before he stops suddenly with a pensive look on his face underneath his mask.
TAL: No, NO! You’re a tecnico, Anglo Luchador. You must help who or whatever is in that box! It’s your sworn duty to the GODS OF LUCHA LIBRE, lest they cast you into the fires of El Infierno del Deshonrado. Okay, think, how would one open a cardboard box. I haven’t done manual labor since I was in high school… oh, maybe they would know.
The old luchador notices several other wrestlers milling about. “Impulse” Randall Knox and Calico Rose are checking out his latest shirts for one last bit of quality control. King Blueberry, with El Hijo del Super Cool Guy in tow, is walking around the hallway forlornly, as if he’s missing a part of himself. Dusk is pensively checking his phone one last time before heading to the locker room.
TAL: HEY GUYS, everyone over here, I have a major problem and I need several brains in order to solve it.
One by one, each of the mentioned wrestlers mosey over to the old luchador standing over by the Puddings’ ramshackle merch table.
TAL: Okay, folks, here’s the sitch. I think there’s something or someone in that box. Now, do any of you have a machete on you.
King Blueberry: I’m not allowed near the industrial equipment anymore. So, no.
TAL: Chin up, pal, I at least thought it was good harmless fun.
The old luchador turns towards the general vicinity of both Dusk and the dyad of Impulse and Cally.
TAL: What about you two?
Dusk: I was given instructions upon signing my contract that there were to be no more incidents with… street… weapons. There was this time when someone showed up at the arena with a gun and after I finished a match, I was shot.
Everyone looks at Dusk in confusion.
TAL: Were you in Puerto Rico? Because that kind of thing is actually common there and I wouldn’t put that on you. As a matter of fact, there was one time in Puerto Rico where they brought out a bear to eat me if I didn’t leave the ring.
Everyone looks at TAL in shock.
TAL: True story, hand to El Santo. Knox, Cally, what about you two, you two GOTTA have sharp melee weapons I mean, uhh, you have that vibe.
Impulse: Fresh outta machetes over here, my friend.
Cally: Slow your roll, I gotcha covered.
She unzips her backpack and withdraws what looks like a black handle. The collection of wrestlers lean in towards her, then take a sudden step backwards as she presses a button, revealing a five inch switchblade.
TAL: Why would you have that?
Cally: You never know when you’re faced with an emergency steak. Besides, isn’t ‘Be Prepared’ the Girl Scout motto?
Dusk: That’s the Boy Scouts.
Impulse: Never knew you were in scouting, Rosie.
Cally: I wasn’t. Why?
Cally steps to the box and carefully slices at the tape holding it shut. She cuts through almost all of it – leaving just a sliver that looks ready to give way.
Cally: (aside, to Impulse) I’ve seen Alien, let’s step back a bit.
Much to their surprise, the Anglo Luchador’s hunch was absolutely correct. The face of Tapioca Puddings is protruding from boxes upon boxes of the cleverly-labeled Muriel’s Stuff, as he was buried up to his chin in the swag. The masochistic Puddings attempted to speak, but his words were blocked by a long strip of duct tape covering his mouth. Thankfully, the son of Super Cool Guy – yes, the mannequin (his hand is being operated by a blueberry) – leaps quickly into action, grabbing one end of the gag…
Tapioca Puddings: Mmmphhoww–owww-OWWW-OWWWWWWWWW OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!
And slowly ripping it off of his face.
Tapioca Puddings: Yeowch! Dang it! There goes the mustache I was trying to grow!
The King glances down at the underside of the tape. Of course, there are no visible strands of facial hair to be found on it, but they toss it to the ground regardless due to its potential ickyness. As they all look down toward the pale face and tuft of red hair still opting to lay flat on his back under the merch pile, The Anglo Luchador opts to ask the million dollar question.
TAL: So, uh…why were you in there, buddy? I don’t know if the news has gotten to Idaho yet, but they have these things called seats now. Where you can sit in and travel, instead of by box.
Tapioca Puddings: Sigh. It’s a long story.
King Blueberry: Did, uhh, did you just say “sigh?” Instead of sighing? You know that’s a thing you can do.
He glances at the rest of the gathered mass.
King Blueberry: Seriously, people do it at me all the time. How long of a story are we talking about here? “I was shipped here in a box” isn’t exactly the most riveting thing I’ve heard. Though, hey, I bet you could sell it to the Lifetime channel.
El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy: …
King Blueberry: No, we are NOT optioning it to Hallmark. I don’t think JC and Vick’ are speaking to me right now.
Tapioca Puddings: FINE! If you must know, my stupid sister spent all of our money on that ridiculous monster truck and to pay expedited shipping from China for all of this stuff I’m covered in! Wait a second…is that a camera man back there?
The gathered party all glance back at the camera man and Puddings cranes his neck to get a better look. Sure enough, there is a camera operator, who gives a friendly wave that we can’t see.
Tapioca Puddings: Please edit that last part out and let me start over.
The cameraman gives a thumbs up to Tapioca, who breathes a sigh of relief.
Tapioca Puddings: Now then. King Blueberry, if you must know, my LOVELY sister was not able to get a plane ticket, as they only had one seat left from Boise. So, she had the SMART recommendation that I just ride along with this stuff.
Cally and Impulse both give each other a puzzled look, with Impulse shrugging his shoulders.
Cally: That’s hexed, we just saw her with your mom like ten minutes ago. Lovely woman, Miss Karen Puddings is. Or is it Misses?
Tapioca Puddings: It’s Misses! My dad accidentally fell into a cage at Fuzzy Ted’s Gentle Jungle & Discount Steaks, but she kept his last name to honor his memory.
TAL: Ted’s? Oh man, love that place! It’s like Ribera Steakhouse, only not as snooty.
King Blueberry: I’m on their mailing list.
Dusk: I think I was there for the grand opening of that place. Cut the ribbon and everything.
Dusk looks around at everyone, who is confused.
Dusk: Look, I’m old. I get it. Don’t judge me for the promotional opportunities I’ve had to endure in my life.
Tapioca, circling back to the fact that Muriel had obviously never intended to allow him to ride on the airplane in lieu of his mother, chooses his words carefully despite his growing anger with the situation.
Tapioca Puddings: But she’s here? Wo–wow, that’s…great…news. I can’t believe they were able to find another plane ticket shortly after I’d already been stuffed in the box and picked up by a FedEx truck!
Meanwhile, as Puddings did a good enough job of masking his disdain, Impulse has taken the initiative to retrieve one of Muriel’s Makeover for Baes units from inside the box. He opens the package to reveal a single pair of rusty salon-grade scissors and a tube of glitter surrounded by enough packing material to choke three bullfrogs.
TAL: THAT’s what she’s selling? My God, El Hijo de la Camarada de Trotsky seems more and more correct about capitalism by the day.
Impulse: I don’t know about any of that, sir, but why didn’t he just use the scissors to get out? It’s… it’s just cardboard.
Dusk: I’ve got an even better question. Tapioca, why are you letting these monsters torture you like this? You’re a part of one of the most prestigious groups of wrestling talent in the world, and you really don’t deserve to be treated like this by anyone, much less your own family.
King Blueberry: Well, to be fair, you saw what she did to Jimmy Bonafide.
Dusk: Yeah, but just because you’ve done one good deed doesn’t exempt you from everything.
Cally: That’s an extra-credit-worthy good deed though, Dusky Doorite.
TAL: Yeah, that guy was about as cool as a week-old burrito left on the counter.
Dusk: Look, the point is, he needs to stand up for himself. This is no way to live your life.
Tapioca, who now decides to clamor to his feet, gingerly steps out of the box and begins to unload the merchandise, stacking it neatly on the table before going back for more.
Tapioca Puddings: Look, I really appreciate the concern, Mr. Dusk, but it’s actually not as bad as you might think. I’m a born actor! All of this is just hamming it up for the cameras, giving fans a little quality entertainment!
The group observes as Puddings gives one of the most disingenuous smiles to the camera that he can muster, adding a thumbs up just in case Muriel might see this later.
Tapioca Puddings: I hate to pull back the curtain, but my family and I have a perfectly healthy and loving relationship! Three squares of Sam’s Choice Mush ‘n Gruel a day, a big ol’ twin-size bed to sleep in, an hour of fresh air and my very own bar of soap…on a rope! Yeah, life is good for your pal T.P. if I do say so myself.
Although he had just literally described prison, no one felt the need to address this as a wave of utter pity had washed away any light that they (even Blueberry) could make of it. This was a man who had either had his brain rinsed with a fire hose on a daily basis, or was simply just too scared of facing the consequences at the hands of a two-time convicted felon and his “lovely” mother.
Tapioca Puddings: Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to try to sell as much of this as I can before my match in a couple of hours. Thanks again for getting me out of there well before I needed to get my ring gear on and head down the aisle, you guys. Otherwise there’d be no way I’d hit my quota!
The surrounding party all exchange looks before The Anglo Luchador glances down at the watch on his wrist.
TAL: Uh, well…um…I hate to break it to ya, but it’s 6:57. You… got two minutes.
Impulse: I’ve got 6:58.
Puddings’ fake grin immediately drops to a look of absolute terror, and as if the responsibility of selling merchandise were no longer a concern, he performs a Dukes of Hazzard over the gloss of the merch table. Of course, it doesn’t look as cool as the TV show slide when you fall directly on your rear end as a result, but this does not deter him.
Tapioca Puddings: She’s gonna make me eat a cow patty again if I’m late for this freakin match!
The rest of the group all exchange looks with one another as they watch the waif dart off toward the locker room area on the opposite side of the MGM Grand. Finally, Dusk breaks the silence.
Dusk: Alright guys. Who’s going to help me try to sell some of this merch?
Not surprisingly, no one volunteers.
Dusk: Look, that guy obviously needs help. Not just to peddle these awful souvenirs, but I mean, serious psychological help. And the only way he’s going to get it is if he knows there are other people who can protect him from what that lunatic and his mother are doing to him. Let’s earn his trust.
King Blueberry looks to the Anglo Luchador, who looks to Impulse, who then looks to Cally. And almost as if it were part of a rehearsal, they all reply in unison.
Everyone Else But Dusk: Nah.
Dusk sighs and smacks his forehead.
Dusk: What if I buy everyone a hot dog for their troubles?
For whatever reason, the promise of a footlong frank is actually intriguing to every party. TAL gathers everyone over into a huddle so that they can discuss the proposition, and after about a half minute of debate, he breaks free and acts as the spokesman of the rest of the tribe.
TAL: Deal. But we want the hot dogs NOW as a show of good faith. And either chili or queso, our choice.
Cally: And mustard. Dijon, please, as I’m a classy broad.
Impulse: And relish. Or slaw..
King Blueberry: Can I have my body weight in Orbeez?
He looks directly at Dusk.
King Blueberry: Or cake. Preferably someone else’s.
Dusk: Jesus, why do I put myself through this? Fine, all toppings on the table, but you’re on your own with the Orbeez, Blueberry. And don’t let Troy hear about it if you put any ketchup on it. She’ll never forgive you. [beat] Let’s go.
The party of the Anglo Luchador, Cally, Impulse, and Dusk all walk through the opening between the tables and make their way toward the concession area. Leaving a dejected King Blueberry behind to sulk and watch over the goods until they return, which is really a great idea considering the events of last week. Also, now Garbage Bag Johnny is there for some reason.
Patron: Say, I hear this is the spot you can get one of those sexy lady lighters I saw on the TV.
King Blueberry: Hey. That depends. Do you have any Orbeez?
The sudden appearance of the bushy-faced Dumpster Doobster does not seem to provide any sort of surprise to King Blueberry, as it’s now apparently natural for all of the talent to just walk around in the front area of the arena literally a minute before showtime.
Garbage Bag Johnny: The roast beef place? I’m not sure how that’d even work, but I got some expandable polymers if you’re into that type of thing.
Reaching into the inside breast pocket of his flimsy weathered brown bathrobe, Johnny pulls out a fist filled with a couple of Halls cough drops, a green paper clip, and about six pieces of the sought-after children’s’ toy. He extends his arm over the table and hands Blueberry all of its contents aside from one of the cough drops and smiles. King Blueberry, elated at the gesture, picks up one of Muriel’s Fire Starter Kits and hands it to him in return. Johnny proceeds to open the package and nod his head.
Garbage Bag Johnny: Oh, yeah! You’re even more breathtaking in person…and it comes with lint, too?
GBJ takes a sniff.
Garbage Bag Johnny: Oh, that’s fresh from the belly button. I’ve died and gone to Heaven.
Finally, GBJ notices that not only is King Blueberry staring at him, but that he’s dead center in the crosshairs of a PRIME cameraman’s shot. Johnny looks dead into the lens.
Garbage Bag Johnny: Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!