C. Mortgomery Byrnes
Happiness is a temporary condition. This is a lesson Mortimer Knightingale tells himself. Inevitably, the other shoe will drop. His grandfather used to say “You can enjoy a great meal but it alway ends up as shit.” He was a man that also lived in the moment and dealt with the consequences later. It is not surprising that he died of throat cancer after fifty years of smoking cigars and cigarettes.
Mortimer knows the harsh reality of life. Happiness is temporary.
Happiness is usually followed by some level of torment.
When he was nineteen he managed to secure a date with his dream girl, Linda, only to make a stupid decision to help his cousin, Mikey, with a job which ultimately got them both arrested. Mikey got bailed out while Mortimer stayed in Rikers for six months. It was revealed to him, years later, that Uncle Frank left him there to test his loyalty.
Loyalty that, ultimately, was not reciprocated.
Then there was his two year relationship with Clarissa (“C.J.” to those close to her), a single mother with ADHD, that came to an abrupt and heartbreaking end. Another classic Mortimer (technically Rowan at the time) stupid mistake. There was the time he was arrested for beating a degenerate gambler with a baseball bat (there was no evidence so the police could not make a case against him as the alleged witness suddenly recanted) just so he could give C.J. and her daughter a Merry Christmas.
C.J., in her own abrasive and neurotic way, made accusations towards Mortimer’s faithfulness. In response, Mortimer could have lied to her – given her a “cocking bull story” (as he might put it) – but she deserved the truth. Much to his surprise, she forgave him but made him promise to never, under any circumstances, perform any other illegal activity ever again.
One night, about eight months later, the police came to his door and took him into custody — while C.J. and Alanis were there (they had been playing Operation). That was it for C.J.. Three nights later, she ended it with him. He could have pushed back, fought for her, explained the situation. He had almost three years of contentment with her.
“You can enjoy a meal but it always ends up as shit.”
Mortimer met his future wife several years later. He was waiting for the right malignant force to make his life hell for four wonderfully agonizing years of matrimony, at least on a subconscious level.
There was a moment several months ago, “Great American Nightmare”, where there was a split-second of nerves and joy when he had leveled Ria and stood over the unconscious body of the Anglo Luchadore. There was that moment when he felt almost ecstatic that his first victory would be for the Intense Championship. That split-second of joy was shattered with a tap on the shoulder, a chair to the cranium, and attempted disfigurement with barbed wire.
That was in June. Mortimer Knightingale has not had much to feel happy about since joining PRIME ten months ago.
Mortimer should have known better than to engage with Kohime Mori after she began to cry. He allowed himself for a moment to believe that he had made a genuine connection with another human being. The first time in a long time. There was something sweet, almost innocent about Mori. She gave a certain misfit quality that was infatuating. He dared to smile for the rest of the evening.
Mortimer allowed himself to care.
Mortimer let his guard down.
So, it should come to no surprise that forty-five (or so) minutes after witnessing Tony Gamble lose (always a little plus in Mortimer’s eyes), the Grin’s two goons, Domingo Cruz and Frank Pastore, stopped him in the hallway. Mortimer almost regrets not knowing which is which.
DOMINGO CRUZ: He wants to see you.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: He could call me, ya know.
FRANK PASTORE: You never pick up when he calls.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Figured it out, did he?
FRANK PASTORE: Let’s go, smart guy.
Frank Pastore goes to grab Mortimer Knightingale’s arm but the masked wrestler backs away.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Whoa! Back the fuck off! You touch me again and you’ll only be able to count to seven, capice? Isn’t it bad enough that that jerk off has me walkin’ around lookin’ like a human fuckin’ billboard just to saturate his inflamed ego?
Mortimer Knightingale points out to his two G.A.S. “associates” that he is currently wearing coffee stained track suit with “G.A.S.” on the back and a black and teal lucha mask with “G.A.S.” on the back of his head.
DOMINGO CRUZ: Stop being difficult.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: I’m not bein’ difficult.
DOMINGO CRUZ: Yeah, you are.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You know what’s difficult? Math. Algebra, the Triggernometry, Deuteronomy, and the like. Is that what you think? You think I’m math?
FRANK PASTORE: What are you even talking about?
DOMINGO CRUZ: Quit stalling.
The two G.A.S. acolytes escort the reluctant Mortimer Knightingale to the parking lot. With Frank Pastore and Domingo Cruz flanking Mortimer on either side, Tony Gamble flashes a smile as he stands next to the 2023 Cadillac Escalade with Enterprise plates.
TONY GAMBLE: He’s alive! Long time no see, Mortimer.
Mortimer looks down at the Grin stonefaced, a look of contempt in his eyes as if he were gazing upon a cockroach crawling on a ribeye that he painstakingly cooked to perfection.
TONY GAMBLE: Thank you for coming.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: It’s not like I was given a choice in the matter.
TONY GAMBLE: You’re a hard man to reach.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Phone’s been glitchy.
The smile fades from Tony Gamble’s face (or as much as it can considering the large scar on his face. Mortimer looks at the scar and is curious at how it got there but does not care enough about Tony Gamble to ask. He probably deserved it, which is enough for Mortimer to know.
TONY GAMBLE: How long have we known each other? Nine, ten months?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Too long.
TONY GAMBLE: I think I’ve been pretty patient.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You’re gonna be somebody’s patient if you don’t tell me what this is about.
TONY GAMBLE: Funny. Look, for a member of the Gamble Adoration Syndicate, you haven’t been showing a whole lot of adoration.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Gee, maybe you need Columbo to crack that walnut, Cappy.
TONY GAMBLE: I am partly responsible here. It’s not like you chose to join the Gamble Adoration Syndicate. By beating you, I forced you into this position. I had just hoped that as time progressed that you would have, I don’t know, come around.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Sounds like a “you” problem and less of a “me” problem.
TONY GAMBLE: See? That’s where you’re wrong.
The Grin signals with his head for Frank Pastore and Domingo Cruz to lead Mortimer Knightingale towards the back of the luxury SUV. Tony Gamble opens the back of the Escalade revealing two briefcases – one silver and one brown. Mortimer’s curiosity is piqued as he leans slightly forward.
TONY GAMBLE: You a gambling man, Morty?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Not particularly.
TONY GAMBLE: In one of these briefcases, there is a copy of a little movie called “The Trauma of Tricks” featuring Roe Fontaine. Hey, isn’t that you?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: I thought they only released it in Greece.
TONY GAMBLE: Found it on Ebay. Personally, I think it’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen in my life.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: It’s a serious period drama detailing the tragedies of sexual addiction during the late seventies.
TONY GAMBLE: It’s a porno with a budget.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You would think that! You see a couple of boobs and a dong or two and it’s perverse. You can’t see the art of the film.
TONY GAMBLE: The only art in that flick is the Bart Simpson tattoo stamped on the ass of the chick with the implants. Bart Simpson didn’t exist in the seventies!
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: I am not sayin’ there aren’t any issues, it’s not like it won a SAG award.
TONY GAMBLE: You, uh, ever get another acting job after that?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Yeah, it was called “Fuck You” it’s about how you should go fuck yourself.
TONY GAMBLE: I must have missed that one. Did you know that in the good old days, yours truly was involved in a little crew called “FU”? Me, Angelo Devlle, Nova, Sonny Silver, and Rich Rollins. That was a great group even if it was run by a racist prick that the Queen despises. Wonder if Nova still has his number?
Mortimer’s eyes glaze over as his mind wanders, wondering if Kohime Mori has to deal with the same level of bullshit he has to deal with.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: I’m sorry. Were you sayin’ somethin’?
TONY GAMBLE: Jokes aside, along with this video, there is also a dossier detailing certain events of your life. Certain darker events of your life that maybe you would rather not have public.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You ain’t got shit.
TONY GAMBLE: You know your Uncle Frank and I go back? He wasn’t very forthcoming. But his son, Michael? He couldn’t wait to let me in on some of your dirty little secrets. I don’t think he likes you very much.
Mortimer feels his throat drop into his stomach, hell, not even his stomach, his bowels. He can feel his sphincter tighten. He might literally shit himself depending on what his shit cousin told the pocket goombah in front of him.
TONY GAMBLE: Have you been to Silver Ridge lately? In Vermont?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You fuckin’ prick.
Tony Gamble has a smugness to him in this moment, Mortimer wants to crack him across the skull with a heavy blunt object. The mention of the mental institution infuriates Mortimer Knightingale, he feels his face get flush and hot, he begins clenching his fists at his sides.
TONY GAMBLE: But hey! It doesn’t have to come to that. We have the other case. Inside is ten grand and the contract. Free and clear. No longer a member of the Gamble Adoration Syndicate. Well, not a contractually obligated member, anyway.
Mortimer Knightingale is speechless. No words pass through his lips. His eyes dart from one briefcase to the other. He can feel his heart race. A chance to escape from Gamble. On the other hand, there is his past. Some of it is known, some of it, not so much. One might even say scandalous. Others might even refer to it as life threatening, depending on who someone would ask. After frantically debating in his head what to do, he is reminded of what happens to people who gamble and lose. And those words come running back into his mind: “You can enjoy a great meal, but it always ends up as shit.”
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: What’s the other option?
TONY GAMBLE: What ever do you mean?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: You know I don’t fuckin’ gamble. If there is one thing that my uncle woulda told you is that I fuckin’ hate degenerate gambler fucks. Now, I figure you’re an intelligent guy. You call me out here, you show me some painful shit first just to swing your dick around and establish that you’ve got me by the love biscuits. Then, you show me a way out, maybe hopin’ I stick around with some newfound respect for you and everything’s contraceptic between us. But I’m now thinkin’, you must have a third option, knowin’ how I feel about degenerate gambler fucks, you must have a whaddyacallit, a “sure thing”, as it were. That about sum it up?
Tony Gamble stares at Mortimer Knightingale. His lip twitches as Mortimer looks defiantly at him through his mask. The silence becomes increasingly tense until Tony Gamble bursts out laughing and clapping his hands together. Cruz and Pastore shoot each other a confused glance.
TONY GAMBLE: I LOVE THIS GUY!!!!
The Grin gives a Mortimer a friendly clap on the cheeks, pushing them together until mouth looks like a fish’s. Tony Gamble releases his grip on Morty.
TONY GAMBLE: Frank told me you had a brain in there! That’s why I chose you, Morty! There is a third option. You get five G’s plus some other perks associated with adoring the Grin. I keep the contract, naturally, all you need to do is come on board. Hell, as a good faith gesture, I got you a match in two weeks. A big match. I figure with a name like “Mortimer Knightingale” and your history, you’re a perfect candidate for the Alias Championship! Am I right?
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Why the fuck would you do that?
TONY GAMBLE: A good faith gesture.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: And whatever you got in the other briefcase?
TONY GAMBLE: Doesn’t exist. Unless you screw me over.
Mortimer Knightingale looks down at his shoes, more aptly, his Adidas sneakers, as he ponders his options. The reason he is in this predicament is because he allowed happiness to seep into his life for a brief second. Is it worth it? He could play along, humor Tony Gamble, and who knows, maybe he will grow to maybe even tolerate him. At least he wouldn’t be committing crimes. Maybe he can treat it like a job. People hate their jobs and they get up every day to go to them, right? Before he can make a decision, the Grin speaks.
TONY GAMBLE: Oh! If you beat Kenny Freeman….that’s who your opponent is by the way, there’s an additional five grand for you. What do you say?
Mortimer chooses the path of least resistance and slowly nods.
TONY GAMBLE: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I need to hear you say it.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Fine. Yes.
TONY GAMBLE: Hot damn!
Tony Gamble closes the back of the Caddy and proceeds to the rear passenger.
TONY GAMBLE: I expect the next time I call, you’ll answer.
MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE: Yeah…..
Cruz and Pastore leave Mortimer Knightingale in the parking lot. A cold breeze hits him as the Cadillac drives away. Mortimer, at one point in the evening, had a feeling of hope (and maybe giddiness), he is now left feeling dirty, unclean. He feels the need to take a hot shower and then hop into a vat of bleach. Tony Gamble, a despicable person, has placed Mortimer in a position that he cannot escape.
Mortimer looks up in the somewhat clear sky. Thoughts to turn to Kohime Mori, how she returned his twenty dollars, then ran off. He catches himself smiling. He knows things can’t get much worse than they already are…..so why not enjoy the small victories.
There is, however, a voice in the back of his head saying….it can get worse….
Kenny Freeman can beat you…..
He probably will beat you….
You have not won a match since the Clinton Administration (an exaggeration, but it has been a long time)…..
And him? He probably won something. Who knows? It’s not like Mortimer Knightingale pays any attention to Kenny Freeman. Which is probably a mistake on his part.
But against his better judgment, Mortimer continues smiling, letting out a little chuckle as he does so…..
Mortimer Knightingale cannot help himself. He knows he shouldn’t because at the present, he cannot afford to enjoy another meal…..
…..it always ends up as shit.