The Anglo Luchador
“Whose idea was this anyway?” groused Guido Battaglia. The third of the five sons of Lorenzo and Joelle was not happy to be shuttled into the law offices of Gaffney, Adisa, and Bevilacqua. Of those five sons, his build was the only one that featured a stomach that peeked over his belt, with thick thighs and multiple chins.
“Because, Guy,” said his newly widowed mother, “Your father felt he had to give his last wishes himself. A wrestler to the end, that man.”
“I’m sitting right here.”
Tom was the first one in the office, still in the wrinkled khakis and golf shirt he left the Superdome in after changing from his match in the locker room. It was a wonder his mask still wasn’t on his face.
“You don’t respect my profession, why the fuck should I…”
“Oh hush. Now’s not the time for this, Guy.”
Guy was the last one to get there, as was his custom. Tom sat next to Mikey, seated in a wheelchair, at the middle of the boardroom table. On the opposite side, Jimmy sat, face buried in his phone. At the head of the table near the door sat Lou, in his Sunday best, right next to the seat where his mother left her cardigan.
“You know,” she continued. “It’s a shame you five all can only be in the same room after your father passed.”
“Talk to him,” Guy said, pointing at his oldest brother.
“I do,” she said. “Maybe you and Jim should do the same?”
Jimmy still didn’t lift his head up from his phone.
“Guy,” Tom spoke up, “I don’t give a shit what is on your mind. We’re here because of Dad. Just put your issues aside for a minute, and you can go back to ignoring that me and Mike exist like you have for the last decade.”
Guy rolled his eyes as the door opened again. A stately man with slicked-back gray hair and beady eyes walked into the room with a laptop and a briefcase.
“Good morning, Joelle, gentlemen. Tommaso, mi compadre.”
“Mario, good to see you again, mi fratello.”
Guy rolled his eyes again. The older Italian gentleman turned to the rest of the table.
“I’m sorry about your father. He spoke highly of all of you from what I understand. I’m Mario Bevilacqua, partner here at the firm. I am close with your brother Tom, and I was close with your father. He wanted to do a video will because he wanted to speak to you all one last time.”
“Creepy,” Jimmy said not looking up from his phone, at least until his mother smacked the back of his head.
“Ouuuu, why’d you do that, Mom?”
“I taught you better than that,” she said, rolling her eyes. It was clear where Guy got his talent for it.
“Anyway,” Mario said as he adeptly hooked the HDMI cable to the back of the laptop, technical prowess usually not seen in a man his age, “This is a short video. Lorenzo didn’t have a lot to leave his children, but with his wife’s, uh, your mother’s consent, he did leave it all to you.”
“This should be good,” Guy said under his breath.
Mario hit a key on the computer, and the video started playing. It was their father, sitting in the same room as they sat now. Tom saw the image of his father on the screen and his face turned white. He was wearing the same clothes he was when they met in Mikey’s hospital room before Ultraviolence.
“What are you so nervous about,” Guy asked, noticing the complexion on his oldest brother’s face. “Dad ain’t got shit anyway. I was the one who took care of him most, so I know that.”
Mikey’s face contorted like he wanted to rip into him, but Tom jolted to alertness and put his left hand on his arm and his right index finger to his lips, shaking his head.
“Please, settle down,” said the lawyer.
Lorenzo’s voice was feeble as he started on his monologue from the past like an eerily chilling gust from beyond the veil of death.
“If you’re seeing this, I’ve finally done the job for Death.”
The joke landed like a lead balloon. Lorenzo in his glory days never was a joke-teller but a standard whitemeat babyface. HIs words were never his art anyway, at least on the microphone. It was always his fire and conviction. Yet this video portrayed a man, feeble with age, resigned to the fact that his own end was stalking him in the night.
He rattled off meager possessions. A suit for his son Lou, or Luigi, the one who matched him most in size. For Jimmy, Giacamo, he left his collection of religious relics in an attempt for him to “find Jesus.” Jim didn’t look up from his phone. Next, for Mikey, Michele, Lorenzo left his old comforter, his favorite blanket for relaxation after especially difficult days at rehab. Good for recovery.
“Good,” Guy said under his breath. “Now he’s gonna leave me with the house, as his favorite son.”
Mike heard it and rolled his eyes. Tom heard it too and had to glare at his youngest brother not to say anything.
“To my son Guido, I’m proud of you,” Lorenzo said on the video. “Upstanding member of the community. Exemplary on the police force. That’s why I’m leaving you this honorary plaque I got from the Philadelphia Police Department, for my role modelship and support of them over the years. It’s got Frank Rizzo’s signature on it too.”
Guy’s jaw dropped. He mouthed the words “that’s it?” but dared not show ingratitude in front of his mother.
“Before I get to Tommaso,” he continued, “obviously there’s the matter of the house, and I see no reason to make a decision on that now. Your mother, my wife, her name may not be on the deed, but it was for all intents and purposes her house. She can make the decision on what to do with it when the time comes, be it when she’s alive or in her own will. Now, Tommaso…”
Tom sighed deeply. He had no idea what his father would leave him, but in the swirling vortex in his head, still ringing from the chain shots Rose laid on him at Colossus, the only thing he wanted was closure.
“First, I leave you everything else I have, because everything else I have belongs to my career. The title belts. The posters. My boots, robe, tights. Pictures with opponents. All of it. You’re the one who made this a family business. You should have it, whether your sons, my beautiful grandsons, follow in your footsteps or not.”
Tom mouthed the word “first?” as he looked on at his father on the television in front of him.
“Second… I leave you this explanation. I hope I get to tell you in person and then rerecord this, but I really feel like Death is around the corner, and I need to say it before he takes me. I…”
Lorenzo paused on screen. The confusion on Tom’s face was so pronounced the wrinkles of age began forming at that instant, no matter how good the moisturization routine Chandler Tsonda showed him a few weeks back was working.
“I have always been proud of you. I know you of all people would understand this because you’re a wrestler, like I am. You know the fighting we do in the ring is real, but the animosity, well, I’m not sure how it is today. You work with some real lunatics. But a lot of times, feuds I had, we’d beat the crap out of each other and then have drinks with each other. It was a lot of embellishment. Kayfabe. You know the story.”
By now, everyone in the room, even Guy, was staring at him.
“At first, I thought that lucha libre mumbo jumbo bullshit was just that. But you got your first contract. Then toured Japan, and Mexico. And you won the Big One in two companies. And the way you wrestled, it turned my head. I couldn’t stop feeling proud as a father for you, but at first, I had to keep the act up. Once a wrestler, always a wrestler, right? I tried to just do it to motivate you, but once it was clear you didn’t need the motivation… I guess I was just playing a character.”
Tom thought to himself “there’s a word for that,” but he was still too stunned to say anything.
“Well, I’m glad I got this off my chest. But you’ve always been my guy, not just for givin’ me grandkids or always taking care of me and your mother, but for keeping our name alive. I love you, son. I’m gonna miss you until you come up to join me.”
The video went to static after a beat. Tom’s eyes were as wide as saucers. No one knew what to say to him as he rose from his seat.
“I gotta… I gotta go.”
The first one to break their shock was Guy, who scowled and shook his head. He was about to say something, but his mother threw her water bottle at him and mouthed “read the room” at him. Tom scurried out of the room and into the office halls. He inhaled deep, the color drained from his face. He stood there for several moments, as the other partners and junior lawyers passed through. Finally he looked up, out the giant window overlooking Center City Philadelphia, then shut his eyes and muttered something to himself.
“It’s all a lie. It’s all been one big lie.”