The Anglo Luchador
On the beer power ranking scale, front porch beers are third after shower beers and beers drunk after mowing the damn lawn. When they moved from their rowhome in Roxborough to a house in the suburbs after Tamara got her executive-level promotion, Tom insisted that the house they bought had a front porch. Back decks were nice and all, but the view was so boring. Malvern doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, but the cars rolling by ten miles per hour faster than the speed limit broke the monotony in ways the wind swaying blades of grass ever so gently or the random squirrel dashing from the neighbor’s eaves to the lone tree in the middle of the field ever could.
They bought a rattan sofa with feather-stuffed cushions to withstand the elements in the dramatic peaks and valleys of the seasons in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Tom sat alone with the neck of a bottle of Negro Modelo dangling precariously in the fingers of his right hand. His eyes were blank, expression dour. Nine months of PRIME were not what he’d expected, but a chapter was closed in the first book of his return series to wrestling. Something was missing, though. The Mask of Malice no longer called Hoyt Williams master. John Kennedy Royko, Jr. and his fiancée Aurora Jennings still had it, although neither were wearing it at least. Where was the epilogue? Where was the denouement? And did it even matter?
He had a mission – remove the mask, return it to Mictlan. It was half-finished, and he didn’t have the heart to bother a man whose body who had done grievous harm to him even as his mind was locked in one of Hoyt’s supernatural steamer chests. Not when he and his fiancée were about to welcome a newborn boy into the world. Especially not after he’d witnessed grievous harm perpetrated from one member of a tag team to another. How the fuck could Paxton Ray do that? When he sat on the rattan sofa, he was alone. As his thoughts raced towards Jon Rhine though, he felt an icy, ashen presence next to him.
“Niltse, Anglo Luchador,” said Mictececihuatl, her milky, ivory face gazing intently at a man whose gaze remained fixed on the road.
“Good day to you too, my lady,” he replied. “Here to harangue me for not finishing the job?”
“Now why would I do that?”
He took a slug of his beer.
“Because you told me to bring you the mask so your partner could be whole again.”
She chuckled again.
“I’m going to level with you,” she started, “The mask itself, my partner never needed it to do his job.”
“So you lied to me?”
“From a certain point of view, no, I was truthful.”
“I take it you get Disney Plus down in Mictlan with that Jedi doublespeak.”
“You can be as belligerent as you want,” she continued, brushing aside his snark, “but the fact is the mask being stolen had less to do with our… predicament, so to speak, than the fact of what it was being used for.”
“There’s a shit-ton of malice in this world without that mask infiltrating it,” he interjected. “I saw a man destroy his tag partner to the point of concussion for no apparent reason. None. You’re telling me the mask caused that? I’m starting to think you’re just a fucking hallucination. All of it was, Stan Chera, Dr. Raptor, my sentient reflection in a fucking mirror.”
He defiantly slugged down his beer.
“What fucking good is it anyway?” he continued. “I failed. The mask is still out there, and even if it wasn’t…”
The pause was pregnant. He slumped back on his porch furniture.
“You can believe me, or you can still sit there and find reasons to feel sorry for yourself.”
Her words stung no matter how little he tried to let on.
“You sit on loading docks and whine at Nova. You whine at your patient wife. The painted referee. The lovely woman you sent yourself into a psychotic break over. You will whine at anyone who listens about how deficient you are because you couldn’t beat the man who, by my count, no one has been able to defeat to the point where they had to sucker punch him to remove him from your roster.”
“Yeah, yeah, buy glue.”
The sugar-skull patterns on her face glowed.
“I’m serious, Anglo Luchador,” she sternly and verbally put her foot down. “When will you believe what you’ve done so far has merit?”
He put the bottle down on the concrete deck and turned to look at Lady Micte.
“Maybe when people stop lying to me.”
“I didn’t lie to you, teyaochiuani,” she replied. “I told you that you had to remove the mask. You did. Who has to tell you that in order for you to believe it?”
He put his head down, forehead touching his steepled fingers.
“Because, let me tell you, Anglo Luchador,” she continued, “Whoever it is you think needs to believe it pales in comparison to you believing it.”
“Yeah, well…” his voice trailed off.
The Lady of the Dead’s gaze still fixed at the luchador’s defeated and exhausted body language. She kept staring until a force inside him compelled his posture to straighten, his legs to lift him out of his seat.
“You’re not the only one who’s told me to do that. El Guapo Grande, Timo, Tam, Caes, even the counter girl at Dixie Picnic. I know what I want to be, what I want for me. I just need to know how to get it.”
“Well,” she started back up, “you can start by believing you can.”
“Easier said than done, lady.”
She shook her head.
“Perhaps, but you won’t do it by finding excuses to bury your head in the ground.”
She too rose to her feet.
“Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. Mictlantehcutli is recovering now that the mask isn’t channeling his life force away to feed someone else. You did a good thing. Be proud.”
He nodded almost reluctantly. Simultaneously, the front door opened from the inside.
“Who the hell were you talking to out here?” asked Tamara.
“Oh,” he replied, noticing a faint wisp gray mist where the Lady of the Dead stood not 30 seconds prior. “I was talking to myself again. You know how that goes.”
“Ah huh,” she replied with wide eyes of disbelief. “Anyway, you should come in. I just got done making some tres leches cake.”
“Ah, the cake of three milks.”
“For some reason, I was in the mood,” she replied, no-selling his attempt at translational humor.
“In the mood, huh?” he asked. “You’re not pregnant again, are you?”
She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the same time.
“You had your vasectomy when?” she snarked. “I’d have to be cheating on you if I were pregnant.”
“I don’t know, hit dog hollering here?”
Tam hauled off and smacked Tom as hard as she could on his shoulder. He laughed and howled at the same time as they walked into the house to have dessert. The front porch beer remained unfinished, sitting lonely on the concrete facing the traffic the old luchador initially came out to watch and get his mind off the swirling chaos that was his career to date.