November 15, 2022
Concern filled Rose’s mind and lived there as she ran through all the strange things surrounding her father she’d noticed. Then, slowly, she remembered the conversation with her father’s doctor at the grocery store.
“It will be, sweetie; I’m sure it will be. Just remind your Dad to look after himself and that he needs to call me when he gets a chance.”
The tone in his voice gave her a bit of concern then, but that concern quickly faded. Instead, it returned with a vengeance now. Then, of course, there were other moments, like the outburst of anger towards Adeline that was chalked up to the concussion and the bad Dad joke he’d told just a few weeks back.
The one that weighed heaviest on her mind was the conversation she’d had with Brian and her father, discussing his farewell tour. She remembered looking into his eyes only to see he wasn’t there–as if he was somewhere else.
On this particular evening, she found herself alone inside his house. Brian went on a daddy-daughter date with Adeline, and her father was in Vegas recording a podcast. This was her chance to try and put the concern in her mind at ease.
She walked through the house, at first gingerly, before she remembered she didn’t have any reason to do so. She knew she could get the information she needed from her father’s office. As she opened the door, Rose found it immaculate, with a sizeable wooden oak desk in the middle of the room. She moved towards the desk and ran her hand over it, remembering the day she picked it out for him.
“Dad, you have to put something in there, and it can’t be a plastic table. I don’t know what you’re going to do at the desk, but at least let it be a nice once. This is a nice one.”
A smile came across her face. A good memory, she told herself.
She walked around the desk until she found the drawers to it. She opened the top drawer and found nothing of interest in there. She kept opening the remaining drawers but found nothing at all.
A sigh escaped her lips.
“Come on,” she spoke to no one. Her eyes scanned the office before deciding to try the closet. She opened it to find a few clothing items, mainly jackets, but nothing noteworthy. She frowned as she grabbed a nearby chair and stood on it to look at the things on the top shelf of the closet.
There she found a blue shoebox and slowly removed it from its place. Then, she stepped off the chair and walked over to the desk, placing the shoebox on it.
A layer of dust lingered on top of the box.
[The following is a portion of a transcript from the November 15th episode of The UndergroundCast, printed with permission.]
Angelica Brooks: My guest tonight needs no introduction. He’s a two-time Intense Champion, is in the process of retiring from the squared circle, and is facing off against Wade Elliott at ReVival 19. He is the Lost Soul and a fan favorite, the man known to the world as Dusk, but I know him behind the scenes as Craig. Thanks for joining us tonight.
Craig Maloof: Thanks for having me, Angie.
AB: So let’s clue the fans in here. You’ve agreed to a three-episode stint to commemorate your final three matches in PRIME. ReVival 19 against Wade Elliott, which should be a doozy. ReVival 20 and Colossos are against unnamed opponents. You know your opponent at ReVival 20, correct?
CM: I do. It will be against someone I respect in the ring, and I can’t wait to see what happens when we enter the ring together.
AB: And then your Colossus opponent?
CM: No idea.
AB: Who would you want to go up against?
CM: That is tough to really say. There are many that I’d like to wrestle with once again. I have a few people in the back of my mind, though.
AB: Care to share as we get started?
CM: Not tonight. Maybe next episode.
AB: [laughs] Okay. As I said, this will be a three-parter as we look at your time in PRIME, your current run and get your thoughts on everything. Before we dive in, though, let’s talk about your victory against Tony Gamble at ReVival 17.
CM: [laughs] I have to say, I’ve experienced and seen many things in my thirty-year career. My opponent, or any opponent for that matter, being dragged to the ring is one I will never forget about.
AB: You know, that’s where I wanted to start at. Tony and you have quite a history against one another. Obviously, he wasn’t keen to repeat history here, but did you think he would be so against another match with you?
CM: My stock answer for you would be I’m not surprised, but I honestly thought Tony would be game for a match. It would be a good match for him as he wants this match against The Anglo Luchador. Still, Tony can sometimes be short-sighted, and he’s always looking out for himself. But, unfortunately, he didn’t see the value in it.
AB: You sure did get poked in the eye a lot in that match, though. Any lingering issues with your vision?
CM: [laughs] Yeah, Tony thought it would be funny to jab me repeatedly, and for some reason, Elvis didn’t throw him out right then and there. I expected it from Tony, but he learned his lesson. Don’t literally poke the bear. Tony used every cheat he could under the sun, but it wasn’t enough at the end of the day.
AB: That superkick got pretty close to Elvis Nixon.
CM: Yeah, I had to make sure I had Gamble lined up, or else, well, Elvis wouldn’t have woken up that night.
AB: That probably would not have been a highlight of Elvis’ night. Alright, we need to take a quick break, let our sponsors do their business, and when we come back we will discuss his opponent at ReVival 19, Wade Elliott. Stay tuned.
Apprehension filled Rose as she looked at the shoebox. She took a deep breath in and blew the layer of dust that had accumulated on the shoebox lid before removing the top itself. In there, she found a stack of envelopes. She pulled a few of them out of the shoebox and saw writing on them.
She thumbed through the remaining envelopes and found one for each year up through 2021.
Rose took the first one, 2001, and slowly lifted the envelope’s flap. It wasn’t sealed, and as she looked inside the envelope, there was a piece of paper. She pulled it out and saw it was her father’s handwriting. She sat down in the chair and began to read it.
December 31, 2001
Los Angeles, California
The minutes counted towards midnight, and Craig was sitting at his dining room table. There was an eerie silence that filled the room. On the couch in the living room adjacent to him, Rose slept. A five-year-old Rose that filled him with joy and asked him an incessant number of questions. As his mind lingered upon her, a smile appeared on his face.
He looked down at the table, though, and that smile evaporated. Before him was a piece of paper, blank. He needed to put something, anything, down on paper. The therapist recommended that this would be his best method for dealing with his daily emotions. Without doing so, he felt like everything in his brain would suddenly explode.
Craig sighed. He picked up the pen and began to write.
It has been a little over a year since your death, since you were ripped away from us. But, things here are much like they were when you were here. Rose is full of energy, talking a hundred words a minute. The road is unkind to us, but I’ve been able to get over that ‘hump’ and am starting to make a name for myself. We sometimes go to the store, and someone asks me for my autograph or wants to get a picture with me. It’s a weird feeling, and sometimes Rose has to remind me of the rule of not speaking to strangers, but it helps knowing I’m providing for her.
As much as everything is the same, though, there is a massive hole where you’re supposed to be, and we feel it every day. We may not say anything about it, but it is always present. You are here every day, and as much as we can feel you, we know you can’t talk to or hold us when we need you the most. And that may hurt the worse.
We’ve settled down in Southern California like you always wanted us to. Rose is excelling at school, though sometimes she has outbursts of anger. Her teacher recommended a therapist would help Rose talk about her feelings. So that’s what I did. I took her to a therapist. And then, somehow, I got roped into talking to a therapist. You can only imagine how hard that is for me to do. Except, with you gone, I have no one to talk to. Before you, I spoke to no one. While I was with you, you were the person I spoke to. Now, I’m back to having no one to talk to, but it’s not the same as before.
At least, that’s what my therapist tells me. I sometimes think she knows what she’s talking about, and other times, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Needless to say, she is exasperated by me and is the person who recommended that I write a letter. She told me to write a letter every year to help process my pain and grief. I thought she was crazy for even suggesting it. She thought I didn’t want to talk to people but that I would like to write a letter to my dead wife?
Yet, here I am writing you this letter. So what do I know?
It hurts every single day that you’re not here, Becks. There is a massive hole in my heart that I can’t find a way to fill. I thought I could fill it with happiness, with Rose, but every time I think I’m doing just that, I can feel the hole growing larger and larger until it feels like it is going to consume me. Some days, after Rose goes to bed, I find myself unable to sleep, and I just look out at the horizon and cry. But, on other days, I’m so angry that you’re not here. You were supposed to be here forever, and you’re not, and I hate that.
I hate every second of it.
What makes things worse is that you should be here. You would be here, I know that, if this didn’t happen. What makes it even worse is that you should be here with our son and getting to enjoy the new adventure in our life. Raising Rose, raising Jameson. Becoming a wrestler with more money than we know what to do with. It hurts because I miss you, I miss him, and I miss the life we were ready to live.
And it hurts doubly because I can only think of what Rose would be like as a big sister, able to take care of her baby brother. I know she would be teaching him, telling him all of the things that she learned at school that day, and it rips that hole in my heart even larger. To be honest, I’m not sure if it can tear any larger. If it does, I may cease to exist.
Except, she keeps me grounded and living in reality. The first few months were hard for her, but she’s far stronger than I ever thought she had to be. She’s far stronger than she should ever have been at this age. Then, she would ask about you and Jameson every day. Not so much now. I wonder if she’s just managed to stuff that deep down or if it has become a sacrifice with age.
I don’t know what else to say. I wonder if this is helping me. But we miss you. We miss you every single day, and we love you. I hope you’re somehow reading this letter and know all of this. Because the grief has nearly taken over, I don’t know how much I have left to give.
Give Jameson hugs for us. I can’t wait to hug you again, hopefully, someday.
He sat there, looking at the letter, and felt the tears as they ran down his cheek and landed upon the letter, desperate to keep the sobs that came with them at a minimum to not wake Rose up.
[The following is a portion of a transcript from the November 15th episode of The UndergroundCast, printed with permission.]
AB: Okay, so at ReVival 19, you’ve got a match with Wade Elliott. The history between you and him isn’t quite as deep as it was with Tony Gamble, but nonetheless, quite rich. You two first teamed at ReVolution 154 against Chandler Tsonda and Tyler Rayne. You two actually picked up the victory against them.
CM: Yeah, because after I hit the superkick on one of those two, Wade came in and stole the pinfall from me.
AB: Is that where the heat between the two of you starts to build? Or did it begin at ReVolution 147, where you confronted him about his drinking? If I recall correctly, you had to team with Lindsay Troy because he was unavailable.
CM: Something like that. What are you trying to get at here, Angie?
AB: Nothing. Just trying to understand the heat that existed between the two of you. Is it due to Lindsay Troy or due to–
CM: It was due to Wade being a massive asshole back then. Now? Not so much. [beat] Well, maybe a little bit, but we all are to some degree.
AB: And has nothing to do with his friendship with Lindsay Troy back then? Or even now?
CM: [beat] I still don’t know what you’re trying to get to, Ang.
AB: Fair enough. You would face Elliott at ReVolution 158. You had to be escorted in by security because C.P. Cantrell–
CM: The new asshole of the week at the time.
AB: Won’t disagree with you there. Cantrell was afraid of what you two would do to one another because, at ReVolution 156, you tore into one another. I mean, destruction around everywhere.
CM: Yeah, I think I still have some residual pain in my shoulder courtesy of that.
AB: That night, you two put on one hell of a match. I mean, ladders involved. Tables involved. Chairs involved. You all sought to destroy each other that night. So for two men that didn’t really interact with one another leading up to this, there seemed to be some personal feelings involved in this match.
AB: Fine, fine. So then, ReVival 19, it’s been nearly fifteen years since your one-and-only match against each other. There’s no Intense Championship on the line this go around. Why do you think Lindsay Troy put this match together?
CM: Because she lives to see me brutalized.
AB: [laughs] Is that it?
CM: She is in this business to ensure the fans are entertained and that she’s maximizing her business. This is a match that people have come up to me before and told me was one of their favorites. The brutality Wade and I brought to the ring fifteen years ago was real. It was pure, not something you could simply recreate.
AB: And going into this match, where is your head at?
CM: Look, I have no animosity toward Wade. Fifteen years is a long time. We had it out, and as you saw at ReVival 18, we’ve moved on. This time around, it’s about respect. I’m sure Wade wants to get back the victory, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he can do just that. That fucker, he can hit as hard as anyone can, and being Head of Security, he’s gotta stay in shape.
AB: What do you hope to get out of this match?
CM: That’s an interesting question because there’s no feud here. I’m not looking to bash his brains out; I’m not looking to destroy him. Getting back in the ring with him is something I’m actually looking forward to. My body may not, but this is an excellent opportunity to throw punches with someone and see who comes out on top.
I look forward to him showing everyone he’s still got what it takes to be successful in that ring and that he probably should still be wrestling. I look forward most of all to performing in that ring, knowing it’s one of the last times I get to do that and that I get to do it with Wade. I’ve got nothing but respect for Wade, and I can’t wait to see what we do when we get in the ring again.
AB: That’s perfect. Okay, we’re going to let the sponsors do their thing, and we’ll look at Dusk’s past and history in PRIME. Stay tuned.
The dried tears on Craig’s letter were joined by Rose’s.
As she read the letter, she felt a grief she thought she’d buried deep down, as fresh as it could ever be. More so because she saw her father’s suffering and pain and wished she could do something about it.
Then was the reality that she was supposed to have a brother. She went through every memory and couldn’t remember ever knowing she would have a brother. She barely even remembered having a therapist or anything from that time.
It was all like a black hole to her, making her immensely sad. Because there was a piece of her missing that she could never replace, not just the memories from that time, but someone she could share everything with.
Reading this reminded her of the hell her father had gone through and made her immensely sad.
She placed the letter back into the envelope and back into the box, deciding she didn’t want to read anything else.
Rose grabbed the box, placed the lid back on, and walked back to the closet to put the shoebox away when she saw a manilla folder that had sat underneath it. She grabbed it and pulled it out, seeing April 2022 on it.
She grabbed it and thumbed through it before realizing they were medical documents.
She looked through them and began to bite her bottom lip, despair filling every inch of her.
“Oh, Dad,” she breathed before her eyes closed, and fresh tears began streaming down her cheek.
Some Time Later
Craig turned the corner of the hospital, and he wore his emotions on his face, exhausted and sullen. A smattering of blood was on the front of his shirt. There was a slight hitch in his step. People walked around him, going about their business, and didn’t give him more than a glance. At least, most people didn’t.
A hand found its spot on his shoulder. He looked over and saw a male nurse standing there.
Craig nodded. “Yeah, to say the least. Do you know where—?”
The man simply pointed down the hallway. The male nurse knew who he was here to see. Craig mustered a smile and began to walk down the hallway, each step heavier than the last. He did everything possible to put on a brave face, but the energy required felt too much for him.
As he reached the door of the room he was looking for, a female nurse stepped out and looked at him. She feigned a smile and rubbed his arm.
“Can I go in?” he inquired.
“Yeah, you can.”
A slight nod of his head. She began to walk away. “This is the worst time for this, right at the holidays.”
“Shit,” he began. “Christmas eve is tomorrow, right?”
She then walked away, leaving Craig to himself. He took a deep breath and walked into the room, facing his worst fear.