“Voici la partie où tu écoutes enfin putain, gamin.”
Well, this is bleak. He’s already sweating profusely, and it looks like there’s a mouse under his left eye. Split lip, too.
“You work, and you strain, and you fight like I HAVE TAUGHT YOU YOUR WHOLE LIFE, and MAYBE you have the chance.”
We’ve run low on the ways to describe Henri Lavigne’s tyrannical tub-of-goo stylings, but at this moment he’s the angriest bowl of violent Jell-O we’ve caught on camera to date. Someone poured some Jell-O powder in a bowl and also sprinkled in shards of glass before adding the water.
Hell-O! That’s it, we’ve found it. Good job, everyone.
“You’ve been coasting, and no child of mine COASTS. You get this parrainage de conneries and suddenly, you get the ego. You think you are the COOL. And you FORGET-”
Henri slaps FLAMBERGE in the face and uses the element of surprise to grab his son in a standing front facelock. FLAMBERGE is wriggling, looking to find some sort of leverage to escape from his dad who legit might have a hundred pounds on him. Henri is cruelly casual, squeezing tightly around his son’s chin and neck. He leans in and brings his face close to FLAMBERGE’s ear…
“-in a fight, no one gives a DAMN how cool you are, putain d’enfant ignorant.”
Just as easily as he slapped the hold on, Henri releases it. FLAMBERGE pushes his father away to create some space and catch his breath – the gallon of water coming out of every pore and the clock on the wall reading 10:45PM telling us that this has been a long, long day. Henri casually paces into the far corner and grabs a fresh bottle of water for himself from an ice chest. FLAMBERGE glances at the ice chest with an unmistakable primal urge to cool himself off, but catches himself and looks away before his dad catches him. The amount of times in his life this maniac has cited “removing weakness” before doing something horrible…
Henri takes a few deep swigs from his water bottle – God, it looks nice to FLAMBERGE – before dumping the remaining contents over his head. The amount of steam that comes off of his dome is, frankly, alarming. In this moment, we get a fuller view of the space in which these two find themselves on this late night – a dusty wrestling ring, inside a dusty gym, with only a few tiny windows on the far wall. Through those windows we can see a hint of neon spectacle, though Vegas feels miles and miles away from this hellhole.
“Speaking of that sponsorship, with the stupid Brets that the charlatain Darby arranged…where’s my check?”
FLAMBERGE’s head snaps at hearing this question.
“What do you mean, ‘your check’, dad?”
“My cut, of course. I brought you into the world, no? I brought you into your athletics? Into the wrestling? Without the Me, there is no the You. Therefore, your success is MY success. Surely you knew this would be the case. I am owed!”
We hear a faint buzzzzzzz…buzzzzzzz…buzzzzzzz…and we see a faint glowing light coming from a bag near FLAMBERGE’s corner. Gathering his composure after that bombshell request from his father, he steps through the ropes and grabs the ringing iPhone from his bag. The screen reads “D Darby”, and FLAMBEGE just stares at it as his phone continues to ring in his hand.
“Who is it?”
FLAMBERGE lets his phone buzz and buzz until it grows tired and stops. We see three notifications appear on his screen:
“Who is so important that you ignore the lessons I give to you so freely??”
Henri’s eyes are nearly out of their sockets. FLAMBERGE drops his phone back into his bag and makes his way back inside the ring ropes.
“Freely? Didn’t you just ask for a check?”
“Ask? Mais non. Asking implies there is the choice. I expect this cut, and I do not like to wait. Are you done with your little pissy break? Are you ready to get back to the work? I can guarantee this will be your last main event if you continue to be so distracted and so weak at the moment’s notice. Whatever girlfriend just tried to call you into bed can wait, I can tell you from experience that no one sticks with the loser.”
FLAMBERGE has that same look in his face that he had when Mr. Darby told him that the key to professional wrestling was marketing demographic data…so dumbstruck at what’s been said to him that the neurons in his brain are working overtime to try to make the Herculean connections that are necessary to glean any sort of actual truth or meaning from the statement. And then he thinks of his mother, wishing he could talk to her right now. It’s not yet 6:00AM in Strasbourg…better to wait.
“Now. You continue to wrestle with the pretty technique. It is the textbook, yes, but this is not as I have taught you. You will get swallowed ALIVE in the PRIME if you continue to wrestle as such. Remember the debut? The fans, they fawned over you – they gave you the love, the chants, l’adulation, and then the SMARTER wrestler took the advantage of your childlike ignorance and punched you in the FLAMBerries. Idiot.”
The two lock up in a collar-and-elbow. Henri has the weight advantage and presses forward for a moment, but FLAMBERGE does a decent job of standing his ground despite the marks on his face and exhaustion setting in.
“And you will NEVER, and I mean NEVER, MAKE IT here until you REALIZE-”
Henri switches stance behind FLAMBERGE and suddenly has his index and middle finger inside his son’s mouth, pulling HARD at his right cheek with a fish hook. FLAMBO is in obvious pain.
“-no one here cares about you.”
FLAMBERGE closes his eyes for a moment as he grits through this awful position, but when they open – oh. Oh my.
FLAMBERGE grabs his father’s right hand and repositions it just enough so that he can chomp on those fingers – Henri’s screams are omnipresent, and FLAMBERGE spits out a glop of blood mixed with his own spit. Henri’s eyes are still buggered open as he looks at the damage done to his hand; he glances up, just in time…
FLAMBERGE’s closed fist has turned his father’s nose into Krakatoa. Henri stumbles and falls to his knees, just in time for his son to give him a roundhouse kick to the temple. Lavigne is flat on his back, blood pouring across his face.
FLAMBERGE presses his advantage gains a mounted position on his prone father’s chest, fist elevated – and he waits. Henri’s eyes are completely closed now, flinching forever at the retribution he is sure awaits him, blood continuing to gush. We see a hint of a tear forming Henri’s eye.
We see one forming in FLAMBERGE’s eye, too. Slowly, his fist unclenches. His father’s eye opens as he rapidly panic-breathes from his back. Seeing that his son won’t finish him off, a hint of a smile comes across Henri’s face.
“See, son? Like I’ve told you ever since you were un enfant…you can NEVER-”
It’s important to think about Smash Mouth (the band, not the fighting style) whenever possible. After all, their fingerprints are all over Shrek, the greatest animated film of a generation. In this moment, we repurpose a lyric to encapsulate FLAMBERGE’s response.
Well, the strikes start coming and they don’t stop coming.
We really shouldn’t be watching this. We really shouldn’t listen to Henri’s screams.
“Should I try again?”
What a mess we find in Daniel Darby’s office. Papers are scattered across his desk, his shirt and tie are unkempt – even the giant framed Brets poster on the wall seems askew. He grabs what appears to be a Starbucks cup and gives a big ol’ swig, and then we finally see the lit cigarette in his hand, from which he takes a deep pull.
“No, no. Let’s give him a few minutes. Maybe he has bad reception.”
Darby paces. He picks up one of the scattered files on his desk and opens it – in bold across the top we see the words BRETS – PRIME JABBER PARTNERSHIP and a variety of large numbers below in smaller text that seem to be deeply concerning to Darby.
“Maybe…no, the Head Office disabled those burners. Ria is a major presence there, maybe she’d be interested. Maybe Timo. The emoji is still there, maybe it will return organically…”
The cigarette is a breath away from reaching the filter, and in a stressed-out huff, Darby scatters the file in his hand and presses his cigarette out in a dish on his desk.
Darby reaches for his phone. As it glows, we see that its battery is deep in the red – ignoring it, he goes to his contacts, presses F, and calls FLAMBERGE one more time.
A gleam of hope enters Darby’s eyes! Finally, after all these attempts!
“FLAMBO! Thank goodness! I hate to call you at this late hour, but we have some important business – hello? Hello??”
Darby looks at his screen.
It’s as dead as every dead animal who has ever died.
Darby pump-fakes throwing his phone into the wall – his pragmatism and sheepishness preventing him from going through with the full act. After a beat, he sheepishly puts his plastic brick into his pocket and slumps into his chair, distraught.
“There’s so much money tied up in this. SO MUCH MONEY, TIED UP IN THIS. I can’t believe this kid. Won’t answer my calls, won’t accept my fruit baskets, won’t go on a date with my niece…we have to fix this. How do we fix this? How. Maybe we – no, we can’t use an alternate social platform. He’s in this main event, and he WON’T let me market him…”
Darby digs into his pockets for his pack of cigs and reaches for one – only to find that it’s completely empty. He tosses it across the room slumps even deeper into his chair, brow deeply furrowed.
We see the type of taupe walls omnipresent in hotel rooms these days. Slightly swollen eye and split lip and all, FLAMBERGE sets up what we presume to be his phone in video recording mode. As he sets up shop at the edge of a bed, ice on his knuckles, he gives out a deep sigh. His moon-cello voice accompanies a face filled with peace.
“I did something big today.”
The video goes fuzzy for a moment – FLAMBERGE wipes across the camera lens and readjusts his phone, and we finally see the kid in 4K.
“I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for months and months, and also for years and years. Two men have been trying to drive me, my life, my career – a sycophant who sees me as a meal ticket, and an abuser who sees me as his chance at redeeming his own failings.”
FLAMBERGE holds up two fingers, one for each sonofabitch.
“This roster can call me the FLAMBurglar or the FLAMB-ergé EGG all they want – the release I feel now surpasses these childish insults. I chose myself tonight. For once in my goddamn life.”
FLAMBERGE checks on his knuckles – they’re grizzly and bloody, but nothing appears broken.
“I did something tonight that I know my opponent at ReVival 10 lacks the guts to do.
I got rid of my dead weight.
The people around me, they fight and scratch and claw, but they don’t do it FOR me – they do it to take ADVANTAGE of me, and my opponent chooses not to understand that the real Cancer is Doozer and Bobby Dean. He coasts. He is the egg, fragile and expendable. A facade of cool riding on the coattails of years of bullshit.. My father told me I coast, and well…”
FLAMBERGE raises his bloodied hands.
“I proved him wrong. And I will prove you ALL, WRONG. At ReVival 10, your foregone conclusions will be turned on their putain de tête. Your esteemed championship contender who loses when the lights are brightest will lose, AGAIN. And these perdants who refuse to acknowledge my ability…are in for a rude. FUCKING. Awakening.”