The common room of Retama Elderly Care is nicer than most retirement homes- lots of comfy places to sit, a huge flat screen television, tables for puzzles and cards and board games. These folks obviously don’t want for too much. Parked in front of the television is a painfully hunched over older fella who was probably a beast in his younger days, sitting sullenly in front of the blank television screen in his wheelchair. The only odd part about what we’re seeing is the fact the old guy is wearing what looks to be an old wrestling mask. The old school mask is orange with blue piping and looks very very well used, the threads starting to fray along the edges.
He looks around impatiently-
“WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU YOU OLD GOAT?”
Hustling around the corner, entering the room, a stout little man of around the same age walk-jogs into the room. A big bushy mustache takes up most of the man’s naturally joyful looking face. He’s waggling a video tape out in front of him-
“I got it, I got it just keep yer’ panties on Bill, for cripes sake ya’ impatient son of a- “
The mustachioed old man pops the tape into the VCR sitting on a shelf underneath the TV and takes his seat.
WHIIIIR-click- the VCR threads the tape and away they go.
A banner with bold yellow letters set over a view of a 70’s era crowd- a cloud of cigarette smoke can be seen just sort of hanging over the arena in a thin wispy ribbon.
Ahh- the good ol’ days.
FLORIDA WRESTLING PRESENTS:
THE AMAZING CECIL DOUBLEDAY vs. THE DEADLY MASKED MASHER
An old wrestling match- it might be from decades earlier but we can tell from the mustache and the mask these two old fellas are taking a trip down memory lane. They sit in silence through the introductions. We finally see a small smile on what we can see of Bill “The Masher” Dobrowolski’s masked face as his hulking younger self steps forward to a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance. He shakes his head in disgust when his mustachioed, bare footed opponent is introduced to a thunderous amount of cheers from the packed old school wrestling crowd.
Cecil Doubleday breaks the silence as the bell rings on the tape and their younger selves start circling one another.
“Got some news today- Dabney finally got signed to a contract by a big company.”
“Huh? What now?”
The news barely registers with Masher who’s absorbed by the match playing out on the video.
He’s also deaf as a post.
“Dabney! My Grandson? He got picked up by PRIME- remember the woman that trained him a number of years back? The curly haired woman- we went and watched them train that time, remember? She has that nice gym on the other side of town.”
Masher doesn’t even look away from the television.
“The lady with the abs and the attitude- yeah yeah, I remember. Disrespectful young punks had a couple legends in front of ‘em offerin’ some sage advice and they couldn’t have looked more bored. Goddamn punks.”
Cecil smiles warmly with nostalgia in his eyes.
“Not Dabs. That kid was hangin’ all over every word. He always does. He was so proud to show us off to his fellow trainees. Such a good egg.”
Bill rolls his eyes and shakes his head with a sigh, finally looking over at his former longtime rival and now, somehow, only friend.
“Cecil- your grandson is a damn sweet kid. But that’s the problem, honestly. He’s got all the physical gifts in the world, coordinated, ring smart, athletic- but he’s got the heart of a goddamn kitten, Cecil. I’ve watched some of that PRIME wrasslin’- there’s some killers on that show, pal. Competitors that’re down right ruthless- and not just during matches, ya’ get me? Global stars, people with power and means. He’s been kickin’ around the Florida-Georgia territory for what- six years now? Still living at home with your kid?”
Cecil shifts uncomfortably a little in his chair.
“I mean, yeah, abouts. He- uhhh- he’s been to Europe for a couple tours with ol’- ”
Masher interrupts and waves Cecil off.
“Yeah, yeah he’s traveled a little, that’s great- I’m talkin’ about killer instinct, A.C.- deep down you know I’m right. Now if you could somehow put Douglas’ brain in Dabney’s body, now that- “
It’s Cecil’s turn to interrupt. That comment obviously a bridge too far for Cecil.
“Enough with that malarkey, the boys are perfect just the way they are- and that’s not just a grandpa talking there, that’s the damned truth. What Douglas lacks in physical means he makes up for in pure gumption and brains, by God. He’s got a mouth on him that will serve him and Dabs well in PRIME. I predict ol’ Dougie is going to find more fame for himself than even he realizes. But you’re off-base on Dabney. That kid is unique in ways that this business hasn’t seen in decades. That Troy woman sang the same song as you- he’s soft, he’s too nice, he’s gonna get eaten up, blah blah- he might be nice but that boy has HEART. More heart than most of those PRIME folks put together, by God.”
Cecil pauses for emphasis.
“Toughness and kindness aren’t mutually exclusive, Masher.”
Masher waves a dismissive hand at Cecil and turns back to the video.
“Feh- I think he’s fucked, personally.“
The old masked wrestler chuckles under his breath having obviously gotten under his old rivals skin. Cecil just shakes his head and settles in silently and watches the video.
We focus on the television too and fade out to the image of a young Amazing Cecil Doubleday getting absolutely waffled by a short arm lariat from the much bigger Masked Masher.
The announcer’s garbled voice from the VHS is the last thing we hear before we’re gone.
“Doubleday is in big trouble here, folks- “
New Orleans, Louisiana
The little room is filled with bags overflowing with bright multi-colored clothing- during it’s regular life it’s the stock room of this particular little VA post. But tonight? It’s a professional wrestling locker room.
Sitting on a folding chair unlacing his worn looking red wrestling boots is a tall drink of water with medium length blond hair and striking blue eyes. Slung over the back of his chair is a satin ring jacket with “Fair Play” embroidered in friendly letters on the breast. As the young man finishes kicking off his boots another grappler strolls into the room- a curly white guy fro, denim vest covered in patches and pins, a large cartoon duck on the front of his singlet.
He saunters over and claps the blond wrestler on the shoulder-
“DOUBLEDAY! How’s it hangin’ you goddamn handsome dork, you? You looked great out there tonight, man. Where’s my buddy Dougie this fine evening?”
Dabney Doubleday looks up with a smile and greets the man with a respectful handshake.
“Hey Walter. Thanks man. Since we got signed by PRIME he hasn’t been making every one of these little indie shows- I’m here on my lonesome tonight. I want to stay limber for my debut.”
“The Bird Man” Walter Levy chuckles under his breath as he too starts the process of shucking his wrestling boots.
“Still can’t believe you boys got snagged by PRIME- should have figured, you having Lindsay Troy’s fingerprints all over you. You know if you hit a wall over there the offer still stands, we can slot you into the next few BRAZEN showcases. DEFIANCE is always looking for- “
Doubleday holds out a hand accompanied by a warm, respectful smile.
“I don’t plan on hitting any sort of wall. Starting next month, I fully plan on taking advantage of this opportunity- I appreciate you and the boys looking out for me, honestly I do. But I have my sights set- this right here is my dreams realized. I can’t settle for anything less than being- “
“The champ- yeah, I know. Dabs- I don’t want to rain on your parade, buddy. You’re like the nicest guy I’ve ever met- and that’s sort of the point, ain’t it? Look at their champ man- you go on and stack yourself up against a guy like that snarky FLAMBURGER motherfucker. He’s got the money, the breeding, the connections, the best trainers, the deadliest crew, looks like he stepped out of Hollywood’s asscrack- he’s a killer, Dabney. And he’s not the only one. You’re like- I don’t know, the fittest, nicest, most handsome manager at the Panera Bread down the street. Know what I’m layin’ down?”
Confused and possibly a little insulted (though you’d never know it) Dabney raises a silent eyebrow- Walter continues.
“Alright, I’ll cut right to the chase- this is hard-learned advice that I’ve passed down to more than a few cats in the BRAZEN system. All these old timer sons of bitches saying ‘if you’re not here to be the world champion GTFO?’ Naw, son- look at me Dabs, there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a schtick that pays your bills and settling into a nice long career in the midcard. A lot of some of the very best at this took that route- there’s no shame in it.”
Dabney processes Walter’s words. His mind instantly thinks of the 2-11 record of his first opponent in PRIME, Darin Zion. He’d never throw advice from a veteran back in their face. He’s known Walter Levy and his clique of weirdo wrestler friends for a number of years. Every time he and Douglas would find themselves a booking near the New Orleans area they’d all hang after shows and cut up. Dabs knows Walter means well, he’s just being kind and looking out for him- in his own sort of low-key insulting way. It’s on brand.
Dabs looks up at Walter with a warm smile.
“I know you had a hell of a time breaking into the business when you were my age, Walter. You’ve told me as much. But I think I’m on a very different path than you, man. Honestly, thank you- but I promise you, one day? You’ll see me hoisting that Universal title over my head.”
Walter shakes his head with a sigh.
“You’ve got chutzpah, Doubleday- I’ll give you that. But at a certain point, kid- you have to be realistic.”
Levy puts a supportive hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Man, from where I’m sittin’? I’m sorry- but you just ain’t that guy, Dabs.”
The scene fades on Walter’s comment before we can see or hear Dabney’s reply.
It’s the dead of night.
The Doubleday homestead is a quaint little two story suburban home perched in a long row of equally quaint little suburban homes running down either side of the quiet little street. Sitting just outside his bedroom window out on the roof with his knees drawn up close to his chest is Dabney Doubleday. Dressed in an old worn out “Lunatic” Jack Harmen t-shirt and a pair of boxers, the young man looks out over his quiet childhood neighborhood and beyond that the little hamlet of Mayo, Florida at large- but we can see clearly his eyes are looking far beyond even that-
He breathes in and sighs deeply.
So lost in thought, Dabney barely registers his little brother Douglas awkwardly scrambling out the window to join him. Douglas is similarly dressed for bed, his bowl haircut an absolute mess.
“Dabs- what the hell are you doing out here man? It’s like one o’clock.”
Dabney’s gaze doesn’t leave the dark star-filled horizon.
“Just restless I guess. Just got a lot on my mind.”
Douglas awkwardly and very carefully navigates across the slanted roof and plops down next to his brother.
“Excited? That homeless gomer you’re booked against doesn’t even know what’s coming his way, am I right? That hobo is about to nab a ride on the Doubleday Express! Toot toot, son!”
Dabney barely cracks a smile. Douglas’ attempt to cheer his brother up falls flat. Dabney senses this-
“Sorry Dougie- it’s just something Walter said a few weeks ago. Just got under my skin is all.”
Douglas narrows his eyes at that.
“Ok, well spill it- what did he say?”
Dabney goes about reiterating he and The Bird Man’s conversation from before the holidays about there not being any shame in being a midcard act with a “schtick.”
Douglas just rolls his eyes and gives Dabney a little shoulder shove.
“Firstly- Walter Levy has “smoking pot” and “playing Call of Duty all day” under his list of important skills on his job résumé. He’s been employed by DEFIANCE for like a decade and has done precisely dick since then. He’s probably jealous- he’s literally sleeping on the sofa of one of the DEF referees, if I recall correctly. So I’d take anything that falls out of his mouth with a grain of salt.“
Dabney shrugs and nods.
“He also insinuated I only got signed because of my connection to Ms. Troy.”
Douglas looks genuinely amused at that comment.
“I’m pretty sure she likes me more than she likes you, so- bupkis to that. Let people think what they want, broham. When you walk down that aisle at Revival 41 to that awful song you like so damn much all the doubters will eat their goddamn words. I’m glad you got to wrap with that moron Levy- he cuts a similar jib to the sad sack they booked you against.”
Dabney purses his lips and shakes his head.
“No- I’m not going to undercut the guy like that. I know what that feels like. Without you and mom and dad and grandpa, given a little time and the wrong turns in life I could end up just like poor Darin Zion.”
“Not sure you can call him that, bud- “
Dabney just rolls his eyes.
“Yeah yeah, ok- seriously though. His track record is spotty, he’s quite clearly down on his luck- but I refuse to look past even a guy like him. My dream starts with Darin Zion- a desperate Darin Zion.“
“You mean Wrestler X.”
“I mean it, Douglas. A desperate man can be a dangerous opponent. I can’t trip right out of the gate, bud- I just- I just can’t. Not when we’re this close.”
Douglas Doubleday doesn’t have the physical gifts of his brother- not in any way, shape or form.
But if there’s one thing you can bank on? Dougie has his brothers back.
“Listen big man- I’m not going to be like everybody else. I’m not going to tell you to toughen up or growl or cuss or whatever other awful unsolicited advice you might be sifting through the last few weeks- all I’m going to do, Lord help me, is tell you to just be you. Because I know you better than anybody else walkin’ this planet. And I know that inside you is a competitor the likes of which none of these jokers has ever laid eyes on before- you’re something special, Dabs. I wouldn’t be here with my wagon professionally hitched to your adorable keister if you weren’t. I’d be off at college watching you make a fool of yourself on national television, laughing with all my hot coed lady friends- ”
Dabney smiles and narrows his eyes at his little brother.
“What? It’s true. I’m a goddamn chick magnet and you know it.”
Douglas smiles as he looks out over the horizon too.
“You got this, Dabney.”
The Doubleday brothers sit quietly together for a few beats.
As we pull away from the roof and the scene begins to fade-
“Just do me a favor and keep the communists and those pink weirdos away from me.”
“You got it, bud.”