Private: Teddy Palmer
June 26th, 2021
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I’ve gently cupped my hands over my nether region in an attempt to console my cracked eggs, but it proves to be pointless. The pain from her punt radiates up through my pelvis into the depths of my stomach. The onset of nausea creates the sudden urge to vomit, yet an underlying concern that I might shit myself has also developed.
“Elise,” I mutter through my grimace, peering into her burning amber eyes. ”It’s been a minute.”
The ferocious Mama Bear spends the next few minutes pacing back and forth on the front porch. I quickly realize I’m the Hugh Glass to her relentless Grizzly, and mercy will only be given at her discretion. She screams with unbridled emotion, slinging broken sentences my way, too many thoughts jockeying to make their point. Her mouth has produced a foam in its corner, and her energy fades as time passes by. She eventually trades her berating barbs for heavy breaths and tears of anger, seemingly trying to collect herself.
Unsure when she’ll catch her second wind, I seize the opportunity.
“So,” I pull myself up from the fetal position, sliding my back against the railing that perimeters the porch. Nestling my head between two of the rails, I let out a painful exhale. “Suppose it’s safe to say he’s mine?”
“You can’t be serious…” her voice trails off as her manicured toes begin dancing along the wooden boards with purpose. She quickly grabs a ceramic planter off the window ledge and hucks it in my direction with complete disregard. I’m lucky enough to avoid the pitch, the planter exploding against the railing to my right. Shards of ceramic spray every which way and a cloud of soil engulfs the right side of my face. “Is this some sort of fucking joke to you!?”
“Can you please calm down,” I don’t ask so much as plead, clawing chunks of dirt out of my ear. “Seriously, Elise. You’ve got this whole thing ass backwards. I mean, if anyone has the right to be losing their shit right now, it’s me.”
Her olive skin runs flush, her red rage fades as her shoulders slump. A smile develops out of the side of her mouth, but by no means is it a happy one. Tears cascade down her flawless cheeks, dripping off the edge of her jaw onto the front of her knitted sweater. She shakes her head in disbelief.
“You can’t be serious,” she struggles to get out.
“Serious as a heart attack,” my eyes widen, locked onto hers. “How do you think it feels to find out you’re a father through an Instagram post? And if I never stumbled across your account, I’d be completely ignorant to the fact. You’ve kept this from me for nearly a year and a half. Felix is….”
“Don’t you dare say his name,” she cuts me off with an aggressive step forward. She digs her tongue into her cheek and broadens her shoulders protectively. “You’ve got some nerve showing up here making a bullshit claim like that. I tried contacting you. So many fucking times. I called you, but you never answered. I sent you text after text, but you ghosted me for months on end. I practically begged you to acknowledge me. And when you finally did,” the break in her voice is gut wrenching. “Well you made it crystal clear where you stood.”
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,”
“Of course you don’t.”
”Seriously,” I place my hand over my chest and speak in my sincerest tone. “I don’t know who you were calling or texting, but I swear it wasn’t me.”
She scoffs at my claim, reaching into her back pocket. She pulls out her iPhone, and begins to swipe away at it’s screen, her nails clicking on the glass as she does so. After a few fleeting moments of mumbling under her breath, she locates what she had been looking for and tosses the phone onto my lap.
“You’re telling me that’s not you?”
Picking up the device, the screen is illuminated with a text thread the two of us supposedly shared. The dates are spread out, and the conversation is completely one sided. She revealed the pregnancy early. She asked that I be involved numerous times. She requested a simple conversation more than once.
She demanded she be given the time of day.
A demand that was eventually met.
The final message in the chain is a photo of me in a button up plaid shirt, a stupid cowboy hat perched atop my flowing locks. My right arm is secured in a sling, having recently had surgery. My other arm is wrapped around a petite blonde, who too wears a western hat fitting of the Nashville nightlife.
Our flirtatious smirks are carefree.
And the caption attached is a dagger.
“Well yeah, obviously that’s me, in the picture. And Layla. Or was her name Lexi? No wait! Lacey. Definitely Lacey,” I argue with myself regarding her name, but soon realize it’s lack of importance when I look up to see a flared set of nostrils. With an uncomfortable gulp, I press the lock button sending the screen to black. “Not that it matters,” I dismiss my faux pas as she snatches the device from my grip. “But as far as sender goes? Not me.”
“I wasn’t born yesterday,” she replies sarcastically, turning to walk towards her front entrance. “Asshole.”
“The last time I spoke to you was that night in Chicago. I gave you my number, but I never heard from you,” I huff in exasperation before pulling myself up to a vertical base. “I just figured we were one and done.”
“Oh,” she cackles. “You made that abundantly clear.”
“For fuck sakes, Elise!” I pull at my hair. “Why would I lie to you? Have I done my share of shitty things? I’m guilty as the day is long. I’ve done shit that makes sleeping at night a damn near impossibility…”
“Oh you don’t have to tell me. Google is a hell of a tool,” she interrupts. “The countless rehab stints. The arrests and legal battles. The history of objectifying women…”
“Yeah and you don’t have to tell me. I’ve lived it,” I cut her off as she regurgitates my history to me. “As I was saying, I’m anything but a saint. But this? I promise you…I would never…I could never…”
With her storm door propped open, she stands on the threshold of the entrance with her back to me.
“Just stop. Stop lying. I don’t know what your angle is. Maybe guilt that brought you here. Maybe your intentions are completely selfish. Truth be told, I don’t care. So please, just stop.”
“When you rejected me. When you rejected us. That was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened. Because wanting anything to do with you was a mistake,” she spits her words like venom. “And if I were to let you into Felix’s life now? Well, that’d be an even bigger mistake.”
“Please,” I cry out as she turns to take a step inside her house. “Please. Can I just meet him? I’m begging you. I don’t know what else I can say at this point. I’m sorry you’ve gone through this alone. I really am. I didn’t know. I didn’t.”
She stands there for what seems like an eternity. I can see she’s struggling with my request, moreso struggling with the implications her choice will yield. Her head bobs rhythmically, and she finally holds up her hand as if to say ‘gimme a second’. She disappears into her residence, as I exhale in relief.
My heart flutters with excitement. I begin to feel light headed, as if I’m floating in place. My palms become unusually sweaty, the good kind of nervous.
“This is actually happening,” I mumble to myself.
Or so I thought.
Elise exits the house, but Felix is nowhere to be seen. I notice that pinched between her thumb and index finger is a wallet sized picture. She hands it over, albeit reluctantly, and I hold it up. It’s a photograph of Felix, sitting upright with a slew of Teddy Bears surrounding him. His smile, intentional or not, is heartwarming and innocent.
“That’s the best I can offer,” her words come from a rigid jaw. “I refuse to let that precious boy live through disappointment and heartache. I won’t risk your influence, because this world doesn’t need another Teddy Palmer. I think we can both agree on that.”
My heart sinks into the pit of my stomach. I can feel a lump develop in my throat. My eyes begin to well, no matter how hard I try not to let them. Snorting in a quick lungful of the night’s air, I wipe the sweat from my brow.
“Turn it over,” she says, turning her back to me for the final time.
Her words were cutting.
Her inscription on the photo is a dagger.
“Goodbye Ted,” I barely hear as the door slams shut behind her.
March 11th, 2022
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Is that Trojan Man?” I point.
“Nah,” Grady says.”That’s Tommy Trojan.”
“So he has a name, does he,” I bitterly quip.
“Ted, that’s not…”
“FUCK YOU TROJAN MAN,” I belt into my megaphone.
The majority of the dense crowd littering Toshiba Plaza outside the T-Mobile Arena turn their attention my way. Grady forcefully pulls the megaphone down from spit slinging range, offering an embarrassed smile to those within our immediate radius. The Trojan riding the white stallion turns his oversized head my way, and I lock onto his lifeless eyes.
I flip him a Bye Bye Birdie.
“That’s USC’s mascot, you idiot,” Grady spits through gritted teeth.
“Wait just a minute. You’re telling me that Trojan didn’t renew our sponsorship in favor of a College? That’s fuckin’ stupid,” my brows initially dance in disbelief, then transition to a jealous optimism. “Or is it actually brilliant?”
“If they truly wanted a successful marketing campaign, they’d have made Jiles the face of their brand,” Red interjects, recklessly waving around the Red & Ted Branded ‘Bleacher Reacher Pro’ T-Shirt Cannon. “Old Cross-eyes’ is a walking testimonial advertising their importance.”
“Yeah, yeah. And his dad could be brought on as the official spokesperson,” I spitball before altering my voice. “In the summer of 1986, my Cum Bandit fertilized a Rotten Egg. If I shot my salt in the rubber, it wouldn’t be on your shoes.”
“Boom!” Red says in unison with pulling the trigger, launching a shirt skyward. “Then Jiles’ Cock-A-Doodle-Dooin’ father clucks into frame and drops an unflattering portrait into the trash.”
“Right. And then…” I pause for a second, before giddily snapping my fingers. “He holds up a box of Trojans!” I exclaim. Excitedly, I turn to halt Red, Grady and Sheldon to pantomime the tagline in the stars. “Trojan Condoms: Put All Your Eggs In One Basket.”
“Honestly,” Sheldon pipes up. “It’s not terrible. Mean? Very. But catchy.”
“Are we marketing geniuses?” I ask Red.
“A second or third career…”
“ENOUGH!” Grady yells, turning first to Sheldon. “Don’t encourage these two,” he’s stern in his order before turning towards the two of us. “Trojan Condoms is not affiliated with USC!”
“We know,” Red looks down at Grady in annoyance. “We’re not complete dunces. We’re just having some fun.”
“Pshhht, yeah,” I chime in as if I too knew.
“Fun? We have an extremely small window to work with,” his itty bitty fingers are pinched together. “Do you know how much this cost?”
“Does it matter?” Red asks.
“Does it…” Grady huffs, putting his fist in his mouth.
“Fuckin’ relax already. You’re bound to stroke out one of these days.” I lower my hands in front of my chest while breathing slowly, hoping the Irishman will follow suit. “I’m in the Final Four, ain’t I? So loosen the reins a bit, and enjoy yourself a bit, will ya?”
Before Grady can negatively retort, his phone begins to vibrate in his front pocket, the accompanying chime interrupting our swaray. Like a father in the middle of lecturing his children, he wiggles an ‘I’m not done with you’ finger in our direction before pulling out his phone and looking at the screen.
Not being one for attention to details, I’m surprised I notice the unfamiliar device in his palm.
“A Blackberry?” I ask. “I thought they stopped servicing those?”
“This is my business phone,” he replies, not looking up from his screen. “Some things need not be traced,” he tucks the phone back into the front of his slacks.
“Like what?” Red asks, curious.
“How do you two think you escape consequences so easily?”
“Our loveable personalities?” I’m genuine.
“Wrong,” he shakes his head, pointing back at himself.
“Guys,” Sheldon interrupts, his nose buried in his phone. “Any second now.”
All four of us look beyond Toshiba Plaza towards the T-Mobile Arena, specifically its state of the art exterior LED display. The current graphic advertises the pending PAC-12 semi final matchup between USC and UCLA.
On cue, it fades to black, drawing the attention of many.
“Hope you like the changes,” I smirk.
“What changes?” Grady’s voice dips.
The screen illuminates, engulfing the crowd with its magnificent glow. ‘PRIME Presents:’ scrolls from the right of the display to the left, the resurging logo receiving a more than favorable crowd response. Cancer’s face soon splashes into frame, the audience wasting little time revolting in jeers. Their rollercoaster of emotions soon comes full circle though, as my face materializes to brighten their mood.
Then, it appears…
The Prey Becomes The Hunter
PRIME Universal Championship
Palmer vs Jiles II
Coming Spring 2022
“What the fuck…” Grady’s jaw is agape.
“Ladies and Gentleman!” my voice echoes through the megaphone. “Tune into ReVolution 5, this Saturday Night and bear witness to the First Chapter of what will soon be revered as PRIME’s premier rivalry.”
“No, no, no…” I can hear Grady spiraling.
“And if you leave the MGM Grand thirsty for more, prepare to be spoiled. Thee soon to be first Universal Champion of this resurrection from the dead, Teddy Palmer, will lay down the gauntlet, and welcome the Bounty Hunter, Cancer Jiles, into his Kingdom! This next fabled chapter comes to you, Spring 2022!”
“And This Time, It’s No Yolk,” Red latches onto the megaphone to throw some spice on it. “Now, who wants some free merch!?”
The mention of free merchandise receives the loudest pop from the crowd yet.
Free merchandise always receives the loudest pop.
“What were you thinking?” Grady latches onto my shoulder, his nails digging into my skin.
“It’s good, eh.” I swat his hand, speaking with pride.
“No, it’s not,” he digs his pointer into my sternum. “This is the very definition of ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’.”
“Marketing Genius,” I tap the side of my noggin.
“Far from it!”
Interrupting our minor domestic, the crowd has fallen into a frenzy, pulling our attention from one another. The hoofs of a horse can be heard galloping off into the distance, towards the main strip. Tommy Trojan is laying face down, concerned bystanders surrounding him. I look to Red for answers, who has disappeared. Where he once stood lies the ‘Bleacher Reacher Pro’, it’s barrel smoking with suspicion.
“I think we should go,” Sheldon chokes out.
Horns from the strip begin to blare. A crash can be heard, and within the commotion, the distressed ‘neighs’ from Tommy’s stallion. The crowd is stunned and silent, and they slowly shift their attention in our direction. Grady pulls his bowler’s cap over his brow. Sheldon slinks into the crowd inauspiciously.
I do what needs to be done and slowly raise the megaphone to my lips.
“Cancer Jiles,” I pause as a short cut of static pierces. With a deep breath, I exhale. “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”
Grady punches me in the arm, biting his bottom lip with fury.
“And, and,” I wave him off to scan my surroundings, eventually spotting UCLA’s mascot off in the distance. “Uh…Go Bruins!”
18 Minutes Later…
“Is that horse dead?” Sheldon asks, still shook from the scene that unfolded outside the T-Mobile Arena.
“Do I look like a Veterinarian?” I dismiss his concern, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding my phone.
“What horse?” Red pleads the fifth.
“Ted, put your phone down.” Grady orders.
“Have you ever heard of multitask…”
The rear end of our SUV collides with the parked car behind us. The force is slightly jarring, rocking all four of us within our seats. I glance at Sheldon in the passenger seat, who’s deer in the headlights gaze I’ve grown accustomed to. In the backseat, Red shrugs his shoulders to maintain his ignorance. Grady has hung his head in an ‘I told you so’ type fashion, staring at his feet.
The next few moments are uncomfortably silent.
“I thought this thing had backup sensors?” I indignantly quip.
Grady begins an incoherent tangent that I immediately disregard and open the driver’s door to exit the vehicle. As I slither out discretely from my seat, I scan the parking garage for possible witnesses, or a trail of evidence I might’ve left behind. Doors closing and horns beeping echo from levels below, but ours has settled into a hush as I tiptoe through the shadows.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Grady yells through a whisper, exiting the rear driver side door.
“That’d be irresponsible of us,”
“Us?” he barks. “There’s no us in this one.”
“And there’s no Ted either,” I wink.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Pulling my wallet from my back pocket, I open the bifold hunk of leather. Rifling through its largest slot, I happen upon one of the business cards I’d tucked away for a rainy day. With a wry smile, I hold it firmly against the pads of my digits for Grady to see.
Troy Combat Systems
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Cell # 775 693 9945
“Got a pen?”
“When…” Grady pats down his blazer, searching for my requested item. Opening his jacket, he reaches into the inner breast pocket and presents a black ballpoint. “When did you run into Larry? And he’s working for Troy?”
“Bumped into him after my pisstest,” I click the end of the pen to reveal it’s tip. Cupping the card in my palm, I write ‘Apologies’ as neatly as possible. “And I know, right? I’m used to his ‘tough love’ approach when he decides to be holier than thou, but that’s just a douche move in my opinion.”
“Yeah,” he scratches his chin in confusion, fumbling his pen as I toss it back. “But why do you have his business card?”
“Cards,” I correct him before continuing. “And I told you. I bumped into him. Dumbass didn’t realize he dropped them.”
Looking at the front end of the sedan I backed into, I’m thoroughly impressed with the damage I was able to inflict.
“Nice,” I titter.
Lifting the nearest windshield wiper, I tuck Larry’s business card underneath the rubber blade, gently releasing it to flex across the windshield. With a tap atop the card and an approving nod, I’m satisfied with my actions .
“You’re no better than Dad,” I mockingly grunt.
“Uh…this…it fell out of your wallet,” Grady sheepishly interrupts.
I turn back to face Grady who does his best to avoid eye contact. Pinched between his fingers is a wallet sized photo, his arm outstretched. His handle trembles the slightest, surely his adrenaline rushing from our fender bender.
“Oh,” I clear my throat. “That, yeah…”
“Not Interested…” he begins with trepidation, his skin seeming more pale than usual.
“That’s just a stock photo,” I blurt out, snatching it from his mits. “It came with the wallet,” I scratch the hair on my chin, briefly looking at the photo of Felix. “Funny story. So I slid this to a girl at the bar I was making eyes with. Instead of jotting her number down, that’s what she wrote. And here I was thinking chicks loved babies?”
“Single dad,” he nods, his chin raised. He forces a slight smile, and lets out a modest laugh. ”Finally, a gimmick Teddy Palmer can’t pull off.”
“Who’d have guessed,” I feign a snicker. “Not Interested,” I briefly hold the photo up before tucking it back into my wallet. “Dagger to the ego, Shady.”
And To The Heart…