King Blueberry walks through the halls of the MGM Grand like a man sentenced to death. There’s no spring in his step. The usual air of chaotic mischief that surrounds him is nowhere to be found, replaced by a pall of unease. This is a man who knows with absolute certainty that he is about to be poisoned at the wishes of a clay golem with a power donut.
King Blueberry: Is this some elaborate plot to poison us all? Get rid of all the tag weirdos in one shot? Seriously, man, he must have told you something.
Nearby, as always, is Mark. Carrier of mannequins. Babysitter of idiots. First of his name.
Mark the Assistant: Honest, I don’t know anything. Mr. Beauregard doesn’t tell me a lot of things, I imagine. Probably afraid that you’ll find out.
King Blueberry: You know that expression “eat a dick”? You know how it’s not meant to be taken literally? Or at least I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken literally. Anyway, am I walking into that but for real life? Am I about to be fed parts from any number of dick-having creatures? Do you even know how many dick-having creatures there are on this planet? I googled that, Mark. It was a mistake to google that. Don’t google that!
Mark’s eyes go wide.
Mark the Assistant: I, uhhh… no? I mean… what?
King Blueberry: I weep for the death of my immaculate search history.
Mark, now well-trained and battle-hardened against such obvious lies, says nothing.
In its current form, PRIME is a home to some of the stranger and more esoteric characters in professional wrestling. A good number of these folks choose to obscure their faces behind masks. King Blueberry and his mannequin. The Anglo Luchador. The terrifying Balaam. Foster Nackedy in a face shield.
Foster Nackedy, former mentor to PRIME roster member Jonathan Rhine (he also competed on PRIME television a few times a decade ago but even I don’t remember that) slinks up to King Blueberry and Mark, adjusting his facemask as he does. He’s also, for some reason, wearing a brace around his neck and a backpack. He looks around nervously, because he’s definitely not supposed to be here.
Foster Nackedy: Ah, the mighty king of blueberries. I’ve been looking for you.
King Blueberry: Well, good thing you found me while I’m still alive then. They’re going to kill us all soon, is the thing. With poison.
His eyes find the neckbrace. Behind the mask, King Blueberry cocks an eyebrow.
King Blueberry: You okay, Foster? I didn’t realize Jon got you that hard.
Mark the Assistant: (whispering) Phrasing.
Foster Nackedy reaches towards the brace and winces.
Foster Nackedy: Well, you know. He’s a professional wrestler. The kids these days really pack a punch. I’m…managing, but I would say my pride is more wounded than anything.
Blueberry barks out a laugh.
King Blueberry: I wouldn’t know much about the whole pride thing. Will tell you the same thing I told a friend recently – if you see any of mine laying around, will you let me know? Figure most of it’s long gone, but a man can dream. As for the punching…
King Blueberry: Must be a thing with that squad. Paxton got me good last ReVival. Guess he really didn’t like the leaf blower. But what can I do for you? Said you were looking for me, and all.
Foster Nackedy: Right. Well, my brother is here tonight, preparing food for you guys. I got a peek in the kitchen, by the way. It isn’t poison but…it’s almost worse?
Foster Nackedy: Anyway, he got me backstage because I’ve been watching you. And you’re doing a great thing. The mannequin, the challenges, proving that fierce, individual spirit. It’s great. But you’re getting down to the wire. And even if you win this challenge and become tag team champions…how long will that last? The next time you step in a ring and have no one to tag…you’ll be done. So what I’m thinking is you need a partner. And no, I have never been a masked wrestler. But I’ve been in the gym a lot lately, and…
Foster unzips his backpack and pulls out some orange/red tights and a bright orange mask with green trim on top.
Foster Nackedy: I think you could use some help from Prince Persimmon.
Hazel eyes harden behind the blueberry-styled mask, and lock laser-focused on Foster.
King Blueberry: Mark.
To Mark, the tone is surprising, and he fumbles the mannequin he’s carrying.
Mark the Assistant: Y-yeah?
King Blueberry: Meet you there.
Mark says nothing. He simply collects the body of Super Cool Guy and scurries off.
King Blueberry’s posture changes; the hallmark ‘tell’ that things are about to go sideways. His shoulders relax. His thumbs slide into the waistband of his shorts. It’s the slow, easy posture of a gunslinger ready to draw.
King Blueberry: Let me make this abundantly clear. This is not a club you just get to walk into. I understand that not everyone gets it, that to most people I’m an idiot in a fruit costume. Five people, Foster. Five. In fourteen years there have only ever been five of us. And just because two of those people are no longer with us…
The glance he casts to the black band on his arm – the one with the stylized strawberry – is almost imperceptible.
King Blueberry: Does NOT mean there’s a vacancy. There is no Prince Persimmon. You’re mad at Jon? Fine. You want to get even because he took a shot? Made you look bad? Fine. Not at my expense. This might be a joke to you, but if you press me I will show you how VERY serious I take it.
Foster takes a step backward and instinctively grabs at his neck, as if the Blueberry barbs were physical. He slowly puts the wrestling gear back in his backpack and zips it up.
Foster Nackedy: Fine. I get it. I wasn’t even thinking about Jon, but you’re well within your rights to refuse help. Hopefully you won’t ever need it.
Foster starts to walk away, then he turns around.
Foster Nackedy: We came from the same place, Jared.
King Blueberry: If you thought being an NWC alum would help…
Foster Nackedy: That’s not why I bring it up.
Foster adjusts his facemask.
Foster Nackedy: That place was a graveyard. Some people say it’s cursed. The wrestlers who ruled the roost in those days? They’re gone. Dead. Fully paralyzed, like Anton Dufresne. Or they’re down on their luck like me, looking anywhere to get back to the life they had. Wyatt Connors killed the NWC, and no one was able to escape it.
Foster shoots a look at the man under the mask and smiles, throwing the persimmon mask at King Blueberry’s feet.
Foster Nackedy: You’re just prolonging the curse. Good luck.
And with that, the would-be Prince Persimmon walks away. A few moments pass as King Blueberry stares after him before his attention is diverted.
“Was that Foster?”
King Blueberry looks and sees where the voice came from and sighs.
King Blueberry: (low) Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Coming from the other direction is Jonathan Rhine and Paxton Ray of Fighting For Nora. Shweta Kallemullah trails them, her hands folded in front of her waist.
Jonathan Rhine: What’s he doing here?
King Blueberry: Making another in what I can only assume is a string of very bad decisions. Or angling to get punched again. Maybe both.
He closes his eyes and takes a long, slow breath, trying to bleed the venom from his voice. Trying, and failing.
King Blueberry: Yeah. Yeah, definitely that last one.
Jonathan Rhine: I wouldn’t doubt it.
He then looks at the ground at the crumpled orange mask that Foster tossed on the ground.
Jonathan Rhine: What’s that?
He bends over and picks it up, looking over at King Blueberry.
King Blueberry: That is a serious lapse in judgment. Your old pal showed up and gave me some song and dance about what I’m doing, and how long I can go it alone, and then he brought that out. Said he could be ‘Prince Persimmon’. It didn’t go very well. Knew he was full of it when he said he liked the mannequin.
Despite Foster having left, Blueberry’s posture – and all that comes with it – doesn’t abate. It doesn’t take long to lock-on to a new target.
King Blueberry: The arrogance. The condescension. The… The goddamn judgment. Felt familiar. Felt real familiar. Makes me think wrestling’s not all that gets taught down in N’awlins, eh, Jon? Lemme ask you: haven’t really seen you since your Easter shindig. How’d the social experiment go? Did Paxton here pass?
The edge in his voice only gets sharper.
King Blueberry: Did I?
Jonathan Rhine doesn’t answer, perhaps because he’s so taken aback by King Blueberry’s sharpness. Or maybe he’s angry at the assertion, as his fists ball up reflexively. Regardless, Jon doesn’t answer King Blueberry, but Shweta does, stepping to him with a finger to his chest.
Shweta Kallemullah: Excuse me, Jared. I’m not sure what things Foster said to get under your skin, but I assure you there are other places to direct that anger. May I remind you from the incidents at the Foundation Easter party that Jon is not exactly happy with Foster either?
Paxton steps forward.
Paxton Ray: Y’know, I punched a lotta people in my life. Lotta people. Never met one that pretty much asked me to punch ‘im again til now.
Despite the wall of people that now separate them, King Blueberry does not take his focus off Rhine.
King Blueberry: Quite the army you’re building for yourself. Not quite Jason Cruise and Cyrus Raines, or…
The third name dies in his throat.
King Blueberry: Guess it’s not a “New Life” after all, huh? Not if the M.O. never changes.
What he says next is a familiar refrain, both to fans of country music and to the old FUSE faithful.
King Blueberry: I was a highwayman; along the coach roads I did ride; with sword and pistol by my side.
Jonathan slowly nods.
Jonathan Rhine: I won’t apologize for having friends. Having people to depend on is a strength, not a weakness. Not that I’d expect you to know anything about having either.
The king recoils as if struck, the words landing harder than any punch would. He takes a half step back, like he’s trying to regain his balance.
King Blueberry: Okay. Yeah… okay. Thanks for the confirmation. Really, thanks. One less question I’ve got to burn the energy wondering about.
He still never takes eyes gaze away from Rhine, even when it’s Shweta and Paxton that he addresses.
King Blueberry: Hope you two understand what you’re in for. Hope you don’t find yourselves on this side of the argument one day – tossed aside because you just. don’t. measure. Up.
Jonathan wrinkles his brow in confusion. He opens his mouth as if to question King Blueberry’s assertion, but he doesn’t get the chance. His tag team partner continues to walk towards King Blueberry, straightening his posture.
Paxton Ray: I don’t think ya ever hafta worry about me not measurin’ up to anyone. I don’t give a shit ‘bout your past with Jon. I jus’ don’t like you, and I don’t need another reason.
Blueberry grunts a laugh, at last turning his attention to Paxton.
King Blueberry: Welcome to the club.
Immediately he pivots, turning his back on the group before walking away. Paxton turns to Jon, snarling.
Paxton Ray: What the hell is a persimmon?