How to Make Angry Russians
1- Place 2 Russians in Havana, Cuba
2- Ensure it is a sunny day @ ~31 degrees Celsius
3- Have said Russians be too stubborn to change their typical attire (Black/Red for Ivan and Brown Overcoat for Alexei)
4- Leave said Russians outside to cook
5- Enjoy at your own peril
For extra spicy Russians:
6- Book 1 of them against Cancer Jiles for a shot at the Universal Title at ReVival 21.
After defeating Christopher America, Alexei Ruslan thought it would be nice to spend the last day of “winter break” on vacation. And where better than Cuba? Most people would not have a complaint on their lips in a tropical paradise.
Save for Ivan Stanislav.
“Stupid young people in their sunglasses with their weak eyeballs! Just like Cancer Jiles!”
Ruslan stared at the Havana sidewalk as they passed eclectic teal, yellow, and purple buildings. Stanislav lumbered behind him as his complaining continued. Even a passing Russian Muskvitch 2141 failed to enhance Ivan’s mood.
“I cannot believe that I must wrestle that cукин сын!”
“He loses his match at Colossus and is stripped of title and is given another shot? That idiot only received a chance because his predecessor was beaten into oblivion and they rushed to find match to patch up flagging pay-per-view!”
“But it wasn’t even match at Ultraviolence! It was glorified deathmatch at best! The cancerous idiot won, and then it blew up his overinflated ego even larger! He insults PRIME, my federation, and then after he loses it to that snot-dribbler Hayes Hanlon he gets another shot a few weeks later?!”
Ruslan felt his head throb, “Yes Ivan…”
“What the hell is Troy thinking?! I defend PRIME’s honor and she treats us like outlaws?! Outrageous! Cancer Jiles is not going to stop me from having chance to wring Hayes Hanlon’s skinny little bastard neck! Provided he doesn’t lose to that drug user!”
Alexei’s eyelid twitched, “Yes Ivan…”
Sweat poured from their faces, but Alexei finally found the reprieve they were looking for. He pointed to a gray building next to them, papered with old pamphlets and pictures, many of which were of the wrestling variety.
Above the door was a painted sign: “Victoria Rápida!” Stanislav looked down at Ruslan and despite his fuming and for the first time since landing…
“Victoria Rápida!” was a referee school and its teacher, a born and bred Cuban, was quite famous within wrestling circles. Cigar smoke blanketed the interior while a masked wrestler with too much pudge and another wrestler who could use some pudge squared off in a wrestling ring. Pudgy promptly scooped up Needed-Pudge, slammed him, and went for the pin.
The ref slid expertly next to the men and eyed the cover. He slapped his hand on the canvas.
But “tres” never came. Something, or rather someone, caught his eye from beyond the ropes. The ref rose and adjusted his red and yellow striped top. His voice quivered as tears formed in his eyes.
“Ivan and Alexei.”
“Who names their son ‘Cancer?’” Pedro “Speedy” Riggs asked as he stood in his small living room.
“Moron parents…” Ivan replied. He sat at a table and worked on Speedy’s ceiling fan.
“Maybe it’s a pseudonym?”
“You must have shit first name for ‘Cancer’ to be good pseudonym…” Alexei stared through the barred window at Speedy Riggs’ three children (Alejandro 14, Ramon 10, and Daddy’s girl Luz 5), who played basketball with a hoop that was half hanging off of a wall across the street. Speedy’s wife, a thin Cuban with long dark hair named Rosita, cheered the children and made sure no one got hurt.
“Like Engelbert Humperdink, hm?” Speedy said. The Russians looked up and clearly had no idea who he was talking about, “You know? He is one of the finest middle of the road balladeers? That’s a pseudonym.”
Ivan growled and got back to work, “Jiles is one of finest middle of road wrestlers, at maximum…”
Speedy could hardly believe his old friends had come to visit. After taking them through Havana, he brought them home and once Ivan saw the broken fan he insisted on fixing it. “You really do not have to do that, Praporshchik,” Speedy said.
“Nonsense, comrade, it is least I can do.” Ivan grudgingly pulled out his bifocals and put them on. Outside, the ball hit the backboard and it finally crashed to the ground. Luz began crying.
Ivan didn’t look up from the motor, “Alex, see if you can fix that hoop.”
Alexei blinked, “Me?”
Ruslan sighed and plucked a wrench from the toolbox. Speedy offered him a grateful smile as Alexei threw open the door and barked, “Now who broke what?” He slammed it behind him.
“Does he need a stool?” Riggs asked curiously.
Ivan didn’t look up from the casing and worked a screwdriver, “He has one.”
Speedy peered through the window as Alexei miraculously produced a collapsible stool from his coat and got to work. He turned his eyes back to Ivan. Twenty years had tempered his memory, but Ivan looked as big as ever. Riggs was thankful he never once felt intimidated by Stanislav. So many people were terrorized by the Russian goliath, but he was always a friend to him. The glasses were new, but Riggs wasn’t about to judge. He thought about his own natural poofy hair and the stubborn grays. A wash of fondness overcame him and he blurted, “May 6, 2001.”
With magnified eyes, Ivan looked at him, “Hm?”
“That was the day you both came to PCW.” Riggs said quietly, “I worked for peanuts. Everyone ridiculed me. You protected me and it all stopped.” Speedy words were sincere, “You saved my life, Ivan. I owe it all to you both. I never properly thanked you.”
Ivan looked down at his work, “Your hard work was thanks enough, Speedy.”
Ivan was frequently sincere, both for good or bad, and Speedy knew he talked from the heart. He seemed embarrassed, so Speedy changed the subject, “So the Universal Title? I have been so busy with my school. I have trouble receiving US programming.”
Stanislav smirked and screwed the fan shut, “This Cancer Jiles is former champion. Smartass. Capitalist. He thinks only of himself and has been granted more title shots than anyone and deserves none of them.” He paused, “Alexei thought it would be nice to see you. And it is, yes. But I have been thinking: You should come with us.”
“Me? Go with you?”
“Of course. Like old times, Speedy.”
Speedy sucked air through his teeth, “Sure, uh, sure Ivan.” Ruslan was laboring at the hoop beyond the window and the three children were staring up at him hopefully. Rosita giggled as he cursed to himself in Russian.
Stanislav stood with the fan and looked down at Riggs, “This Jiles is a threat, Speedy. He exemplifies everything I loathe. He is conceited, manipulative, and he mistreats his would-be friends. He is not worthy of such an opportunity.”
Riggs watched Ivan start screwing the fan into the ceiling, “Then you may have shot at the man who beat you, uh, Hanlon?”
Stanislav stopped and shot his gaze down at Riggs, “Who told you Hanlon beat me?”
Speedy stammered, “Erm, I mean Alexei said he had a tainted victory.”
That calmed things as Ivan went back to work, “I have raw footage of match. I want you to review it.”
Ivan had told PRIME that Riggs had already watched the tape months ago. It was a lie. A vain attempt to shield his damaged pride. Riggs smiled, “I would love to watch it, Ivan.”
“And you come with us?” Ivan asked as he finished anchoring the fan.
Speedy’s smile wavered and he dipped his chin, unable to look him in the eyes, “Well, I…”
The crash outside and screams from Alexei interrupted them. Ivan and Speedy turned to see Alexei dangling from the half installed hoop, feet kicking and flailing, while the children laughed. Rosita was moving to pick up the stool.
Ivan rolled his eyes and hung his head, “Lenin’s collective testicles… ALEXEI!!!”
Alexei wailed, “I am sorry, Praporshchik!” Rosita Riggs mercifully set the stool beneath Ruslan and he regained his footing.
Riggs changed the subject, “What of The Red Army?”
Ivan sighed, “There is no Red Army beyond the two of us. It would be good to have a third, Speedy.” Ivan placed his hands on his hips as he stooped. The ceiling was barely six and a half feet tall, “This match means much to me. I need to win it. I need this title. I have to vanquish this capitalist.” He frowned, “We tried to go for PRIME years ago and it failed. Not this time.”
Speedy felt his stomach twist, “I understand, Ivan…”
Stanislav tugged on the chain and the fan whirred to life. Outside, Ruslan chucked his wrench across the street and yelled, “I cannot do this any longer!”
Ivan rolled his eyes and turned, “Alexei Gregorovich! Manual labor builds character!” He thundered outside and left Speedy alone to stare at the whirring Sword of Damocles overhead.
Speedy failed to sleep that night.
Alexei stood impatiently on the Havanan airstrip, “What is taking him so long?” The airplane that would take them to Tampa for ReVival 21 was behind them. All things told, before the two had left the Riggs’ house the night before Ivan had also fixed a crack in the wall and remounted a mirror. Work like that always put him in a good mood.
Ivan shook his head and gazed out along the grassland, “He will be here, patience Alex.” Stanislav gripped the waist of his pants and hefted them up around his stomach, “Now we show PRIME. The Red Army gains strength. Jiles and his cronies will crash against us.” Then, a plume of dust in the distance, “There he is!”
“Good!” Ruslan said excitedly and rushed up the stairs to the plane, “I will make sure the pilot is ready!”
Speedy had the entire family in his faded blue pickup truck. Rosita sat next to him, while his children bounced in the bed. One could see his loud Hawaiian shirt from orbit.
“You pack light, Speedy.” Ivan said as he motioned for him to get on the plane, “Come, I will fill you in on our plans while we fly.”
Speedy Riggs didn’t move and it wasn’t until Ivan made it up four steps (in one stride), that he looked over his shoulder, “Come on Speedy…”
Ruslan peered out from the interior, past Ivan, and furrowed his brow.
Riggs looked back at Rosita, and then up at his friends, “I cannot go, Ivan.”
Ivan fluttered his eyes and took one step back onto the airstrip and turned. Yet it was Ruslan who spoke while rapidly descending. “What do you mean you can’t go? What sort of talk is that?”
Speedy Riggs shook his head, “I want to go. Of course I do. But I want to stay here more.”
“Stay here more?” Ivan growled. Ruslan walked past Riggs and flanked him. Riggs had never been on the receiving end of this maneuver. The Russians would frequently surround to berate an enemy.
“What sort of bullshit is this?!” Alexei groused as he threw his hat to the ground, “This man has a match against former Universal Champion of PRIME! He asks for your help!”
Speedy turned to Alexei, “I know but…”
“How dare you deny him his request!” Alexei squawked.
Riggs pleaded to Ruslan. “I have a family, Alexei…”
Ruslan barked back dismissively, “They will be here when you return, Speedy! One must make sacrifices for greater things!”
“Greater than my children?!”
Stanislav finally boomed, “We need you, Speedy!” He waggled his finger in his direction and loomed, “You think about what happened when Soviet satellites got cute with mother country, eh?”
Speedy had never felt threatened by Ivan until then. It dawned on him that he was, truly, in peril. Stanislav treated The Red Army with respect and candor, but even those who went against his words, or rejected his requests, were subject to discipline. He thought about an airborne Chris Sloboda from yesteryear.
Stanislav could dash him against the airstrip, or worse yet, drag him up into the bowels of the plane if he wished. But more painful were his words. Speedy converted his fear into strength, and with his heart racing, he yelped up at Stanislav, “Satellites?! Is that what I am to you? To both of you? A satellite to direct as you will!?”
Ivan did not back down, “It is not that…”
Speedy Riggs, somehow, overpowered Ivan’s voice, “I looked them up! Cancer Jiles and his eGG Bandits. You know what?”
“Listen here you…” Ruslan tried to interject.
Riggs rounded on him, “No, you listen, Alexei!” He balled up his fists and stepped to the side, so he could look at both of his friends, “Jiles treats them like garbage. He orders them around! He makes jokes at their expense and he sees them as lessers as… as… satellites that must orbit his overgrown ego!” He snapped his gaze back up to Ivan, “Are you that, Praporshchik? Is that what you have become?”
Ivan growled. Insubordination was a quick ticket to punishment. The stakes were too high. If it was a fight Speedy wanted, former member or not, Ivan would give it. After all, this was The Red Army they were talking about. This was about the subjugation of PRIME. The Universal Title. Ivan’s true legitimacy. “Now you listen to me…”
But Speedy screamed as the tears broke beyond his lower eyelids, “Do you know what my children call you? What they call both of you?”
Ivan and Alexei glanced across at one another, then back at Riggs.
“Uncle. They call you Uncle.”
Stanislav pulled his head back with confusion, “They call me what?”
“They call you ‘Uncle,’ Ivan.” He swallowed, “Do you know why? Because you are kind to them. You are kind to me. Because when I tell them stories of you, they see you as my brother and family, Ivan.”
Alexei exhaled behind Riggs and scooped up his hat.
“Uncle Ivan protected their Daddy when no one else would in PCW! Uncle Alex too,” He shyly looked at Alexei, “Uncle Ivan fixed the fan in our house. Uncle Alex dangled from the basketball hoop and made them laugh! Their Uncles fixed the mirror and the crack in the wall because Daddy needed help! Uncle Ivan helped Daddy become famous enough to afford our home.” He blinked the tears out of his eyes, “Are you an Uncle to them and Brother to me, or are you a Cancer to my family?”
Ivan and Alexei had eschewed family for a life of revolution. Stanislav had no wife or children. The only family he had was his elderly mother. He had never considered that Speedy’s children and family would view him as a member of something so special. The thought that their long relationship had borne such fruit was alien to him, but in his older age it held a greater allure than in the past.
Even more biting? To think he could be so callous, to such a dear friend and comrade, that he might be likened to an egoist bottom dweller like Cancer Jiles was a horrific realization.
Ivan Stanislav said words that rarely exited his mouth, “I was wrong, Pedro.”
Ruslan slowly walked around Speedy and stood next to Ivan. He guiltily placed his hat on his head, and the dirt rained down onto his shoulders, “We… we were out of order, Speedy.”
Relief washed over Speedy, not just because he wasn’t about to be sent to Hospital Hermanos Ameijeiras, but also because the two obstinate Russians had listened to him. Ivan frowned and squeezed Speedy’s arm, “Forgive the two of us. We grew too excited…”
Speedy smiled as the big hand squeezed his thin arm, “It is okay, Praporshchik, I understand. Just know we are with you both, all the time, hm?”
Speedy looked over his shoulder and motioned to his family, who quickly hopped out of the truck and surrounded them. Rosita stood next to Speedy and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
“Thank you for fixing our basketball hoop,” ten year old Ramon said, before looking at Speedy, who nodded, “Uncle Ivan.” Ivan blushed.
“You were real siwwy hanging fwum da hoop, Uncle Awex!” Said little Luz. Ruslan rolled his eyes and dusted off his shoulder.
“You have a beautiful family, Mrs. Riggs,” Ivan smiled down at Rosita, “And anyone is fortunate to have him.”
“I know,” she said and brought her arm around her man. As she patted his back, she pulled a VHS tape stashed in the back of his shorts.
Speedy gasped, “Oh! Yes, the Hanlon match.” He took the tape and handed it to Ivan, “You tell Bolamba that when you are making a pin, he counts too slow. When you are being pinned, he is counting too fast. I put a watch to it.” He winked at Ivan, “You should have been the rightful winner, Praporshchik.”
The Riggs’ hugged the two Russians and said their goodbyes.
“Thank Lenin for air conditioning…” Ivan Stanislav said as he sat in his oversized chair with the Collected Works of Lenin on his lap. His glasses once more magnified his eyes. Ruslan sat across from him and they waved to the Riggs family from their windows.
“I do wish Speedy had come,” Alexei sighed, “But, on to Universal Title shot, hm?”
Ivan watched Speedy until he could not see him any longer, and faced his friend. He patted his paw over the cover of the book, “COOLYMPUS will be excavated, and inside one will find fools’ gold and broken sunglasses.” Ivan glanced out his window, “The little man down there, with his family, is more wealthy than anything Cancer Jiles could imagine. A family who loves him, students who respect him,” he paused, “and the heart of a revolutionary who stands up for those he loves.” He looked over at Alexei. “Cancer wishes to be famous? I will make him famous. The cure for Cancer was born in Mother Russia.”
Ivan grinned, “Enough of that though. What about you, Alex, dangling from basketball hoop! Skinny legs kicking! DYAAHAAHAA!!”
Ruslan rolled his eyes, but watched the broad, grinning bespectacled face of Ivan Stanislav. Gone was the sullen, worried man who flew with him in September the prior year. Before him sat not the Ivan of old, but something greater. An Ivan renewed. Together they sat on the precipice of earning a shot at the highest title in PRIME.
Ivan caught him staring, “What is it, Alex?”
“I am proud of you,” said Alexei.
Alexei simply smiled, “Yes.”
Terrestrially, Pedro “Speedy” Riggs stood alone on the airstrip, and continued to wave as the plane disappeared into the azure Havana sky. Tears formed, once more, in his eyes as his greatest friends and champions left. Part of him yearned, dearly, to be with them. Rosita had corralled the children into the truck and returned to his side. She brought her arms around him from behind.
“You could have gone with them…” she said softly.
“No. I don’t need to, Rosie. He has it well in hand. Even if he worries.” He wiped his eyes.
She kissed his cheek, “Oh my love,” and moved to his side while still holding him, “You told me so many stories about him. He was even larger than I could have imagined. Do you think he’ll win?”
Without hesitation, “He always wins, Rosie. No setback slows him. No barricade stops him, or Alexei for that matter. If this Cancer knows what is good for him, he will avoid Tampa and hide somewhere. The furnace still burns in those Russian eyes, Rosie. He has beaten and defeated greater men for far less.”
“And if those Bandits get cute, he will vanquish them all. He has a nation behind him. He has a people behind him. And more than greed or personal betterment, he has an ideology so ingrained in his being that it becomes this singular driving force. An engine, Rosie, that fuels a man whose size and tenacity can only be stopped by the grace of his own mercy.” Speedy chuckled, “I actually feel bad for Jiles.” He looked over at his wife, “He has no idea what he’s getting into at ReVival.” He chuckled, “But I do.”
“You should have been a poet, love,” Rosita said as she stared into his glassy eyes.
Speedy nodded and smiled. From the car, normally aloof Alejandro called out, “Hey Dad! Let’s get home! We wanna shoot on Uncle Ivan’s hoop!”
While Ivan and Alexei flew to make history, the Riggs family played basketball late into the night.