“I think you should have been there, that’s all I’m saying. Would have been good to have you with us.”
Backstage, where we join a conversation already in progress.
For the sake of perspective, the camera is aimed directly at both Justine Calvin and Jared Sykes as they walk through the halls of the PPG Paints Arena, always about eight feet ahead of them and remaining at a constant distance throughout.
Jared Sykes: Was never going to happen. This isn’t the kind of thing I can get behind.
Justine Calvin: Jared, he made a deal to let Savannah Scandal backstage. Helped her get full access to everything except the locker rooms.
Jared Sykes: I know what he did, Cal.
The two turn a corner, seemingly oblivious to what’s happening there. Behind them, Zephram of the Troy Boys has Biff, pro wrestling’s most famous arthritis sufferer, trapped in the Koji Clutch. On one side of the confrontation are the Troy Boys: Lance, Ian, Nevin, Devin, and Taylor. Zephram, their sixth member, is erstwhile occupied. Across from them are the remaining members of the Jimmy Bonafide Dancers. There’s not much shouting, but there is a lot of flamboyant gesticulating until Misty reaches into her purse, at which point all of that stops. Ginny Van Lear isn’t the only person backstage who packs heat.
Justine Calvin: We don’t even know the extent of how many people she terrorized while she was back here, because I guarantee you it’s not just the roster. The ref crew caught shit. Ashley Barlow got absolutely dragged. People’s families, their partners… it’s an absolute clusterfuck. And that’s just what we know about. How many members of the production crew do you think got caught up in all this? I’d bet that number is bigger than zero.
The distraction provided by the conversation is enough to draw the curiosity of both factions, who seem content to leave Biff on the floor.
Poor Biff, no sooner does he get to his feet and take a step is he bowled over by someone rushing through the hallway intersection. You would be forgiven for believing that Chandler Tsonda just trucked this dude, because at this distance the differences between the Doppeltsonda and the man he was hired to portray are hard to make out. Also Biff’s arms are flailing about as he tries to maintain his balance, so it’s chaos ahoy! Just as he manages to get some sure footing, he’s plowed clean over by the genuine article when the actual Chandler Tsonda runs down the corridor in hot pursuit of his body double.
A few members of both the Bonafide and Troy contingents glance at where the commotion came from but see only Biff laying on the ground like a pile of laundry. He mumbles something, but since no one here speaks fluent arthritis it largely goes ignored.
Jared Sykes: You don’t need to convince me that he fucked up. I spent part of the night hiding from the woman, remember? Hell, I legitimately thought about cutting leg holes in a trash can to try and get around that way.
Justine Sykes: Your brain is a scary place sometimes. You know that, right?
Thirteen weirdos all nod in unison, including Biff. Sure, he hasn’t moved from his spot on the floor, but he knows the truth when he hears it. All non-Biff members of this gathering have now begun following Sykes and Calvin as they walk along the hallway, keeping a respectful distance.
Except Biff. Biff might as well be dead, because he’s never getting up.
Jared Sykes: The point is that I’m not oblivious to it. I’ve been in the same press conferences with her that you have. I’ve read the things she’s printed about us. I see what she puts on her socials. Plus, there’s everything that I haven’t told you about.
Justine slams on the brakes, and the gathered mass of Bonafides and Troys all stop with their arms out. It’s all very “high school drama club.”
Justine Calvin: Wait. What don’t I know?
Jared Sykes: I used to get messages from her every so often before I came back, in my time away from everything. Some of it was… pretty horrific.
Justine Calvin: Like what? What’d that bitch say?
The TroyAfides creep a little bit closer, eager to drink up all the tea that’s about to be spilled.
Jared Sykes: Nothing I’m going to repeat here. But if you ever wondered where those “Jared killed a guy” rumors started…
There’s a collective inaudible gasp from the Bonafides, because they’ve been around long enough to know what he’s referring to. Nevin of the Troy Boys straightens up and puts his fingers to his lips in surprise, the only one of his group who gets it. Lance ponders what he would look like as a butterfly prince.
Justine Calvin: Motherfucker. So then what gives? If that’s the case then you should be leading the charge on the “Fuck Nate” campaign.
Jared Sykes: Because something’s up. It’s the only way this makes sense to me. We’ve been around the kid enough to know he’s a good guy. Comes from good people.
Justine Calvin: So…?
Jared Sykes: So I don’t believe he’s going to bring Savannah Scandal here unless he’s got a damn good reason to.
Justine Calvin: I don’t think that reason exists.
Half of the Bonafides – Charlene, Noelle, and Carl if you’re keeping score at home – point at Justine and nod their heads in agreement. Carl nods and mouths the words “On God.”
Jared Sykes: C’mon, Cal. You’ve seen how he’s been lately. Even if I’m not sure of the details, that guy is one hundred percent Going Through It right now. Yeah, everyone is pissed. I get it. They’re right to be. But I also don’t think kicking a guy out of the locker room does anyone any good right now, especially if the dude needs help.
The gathered background morons exchange glances, except for Biff who has managed to roll over into a starfish position about forty feet back.
Jared Sykes: I’ve been on the other side of that door. I know what it’s like to have to find a closet, or a spare room, or to change in your car and hope no one sees you. It was different when it happened to me. There wasn’t one incident, people just didn’t like the guy who ran around whacking people with a garden gnome. They decided early on that I didn’t belong, and let me tell you… that shit stays with you. People wanna be mad at Nate? Great. He brought in a “reporter” that everyone hates. But we let Paxton Ray hang out and he’s the reason why Jon Rhine hasn’t been able to walk in a year. No one’s ever going to convince me those guys deserve the same punishment.
Most of the Troys look genuinely confused, because they legitimately have no idea who any of these people are that were just mentioned.
Jared Sykes: Throwing a guy out of the locker room doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just removes the cause, and those are not the same thing. If someone wants to be an asshole who sends a message, then fine. This works, I guess. But if you’re actually trying to be a leader, then…
Justine Calvin: Then the goal should be solving the problem.
Jared Sykes: Yup. Actions and words, you know? What was it that your buddy said… “When we’re wounded there’s always a place.” It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s fucking hollow when the guy who needs help gets thrown out right after it’s said. The words don’t mean a damn thing at that point, because you might have told the kid one thing, but then everyone showed him something different. That’s the part that sticks.
At last, the movement of the camera comes to a halt, and both Jared and Justine walk out of frame leaving a very confused collection of idiots in their wake. We then cut back to ringside for our next match.