South of Idaho Falls on the interstate towards Salt Lake, you’ll find a community where the hustle and bustle of big city living had passed it by. If you stop into the local Walmart to pick up a few groceries, you won’t see any Chamomile tea or instant cauliflower rice on their shelves. As to the latest fashions? The men had their pick of blue or red flannel, and the women were anxiously anticipating the arrival of those comfortable-looking Juicy Couture tracksuits.
Chubbuck is a place where the locals consider the term “one horse town” a compliment. Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes in the form of city limits. It was a place where you grew up and counted down the seconds until graduation so that you could get one last look at it in your rear view mirror. Unfortunately, it was also a place that seemed to have a strong magnetic pull. Monstrous arms extended from the Dollar Tree or Randy’s Tumbling & Xtreme Fun (real place) to grab your collar and drag you back in.
Was this the case for Tapioca and Muriel Puddings? As two known wrestling personalities still living with their mother, it would be the only logic that made sense. At least Muriel had some incentive, with her whale-sized ego being well-nourished in such a small pond. For her brother though, he was still just a nightcrawler with a hook jammed through his stomach. Spending nearly 14 hours a day underneath the floorboards of Karen’s little slice of heaven, literally anything could have been better.
At present, the red-headed manchild is in his most favorite state of being. Out of the goodness of their hearts, the women of the Puddings household had provided an old Army cot for Tapioca to sleep on in the musty confines of the cellar. A blanket was something that’d have to wait until his next birthday, though, as a giant blob of flattened gray lint was wrapped around him to keep him cozy. It’d taken almost six months for him to gather it from the dryer that sat next to the washing machine in the corner. As for a pillow? Maybe Christmas, but the half-finished loaf of bread underneath his head would do for now.
Other than that, the rest of the amenities in the concrete pour were sparse. A toilet was mounted into the floor to the far right, and a pair of rickety steps led to the only door in the place: a large storm-proof hunk of lumber. Sure, a sudden tornado might have been a welcome houseguest. There was a good chance that his mom and sister wouldn’t have been able to run outside in time to take shelter in his quarters with him. Unfortunately, a trap door located in his ceiling was large enough to squeeze them through for speedier access. It just so happened to be strategically placed right above his cot in case they needed something (or someone) there to break their fall, though.
Today wouldn’t be that day, as a slight hint of sun began to creep through the single window. Not yet enough to wake him from dreaming of better days ahead.
“I’m free! I’m finally free!” Tapioca whines, his head popping up from the opening. Hoisted on his shoulder is a bindle, fashioned out of dryer lint and a broom handle. “And now it’s time to go out there and do what I always wanted to do! That’s right, Starbucks, I’m coming for my very first caramel mochaaaaaaa–oh no.”
Walking in his direction is an unexpected presence. Her ten-inch stilettos somehow glide gracefully over the gravel driveway and through the backyard grass to approach him, likely to stop his escape. But why was she here? Did Muriel hire her as additional security to make sure that he didn’t get out? Or did she just decide that calling him an ugly geek on social media wasn’t quite enough to humiliate him?
Either way, the figure of Genie Carlson was almost spirit-like in her movements as she hurries over to where he’s standing. As she came closer within reach, Tapioca felt confusion. Her expression was not one of anger or satisfaction that she’d caught him mid-escape. No. It was a look of concern.
“Tapioca,” she cries. “You have to hurry. There’s not much time.”
“What do you mean?” he whines. “They just left for lunch and won’t be back for at least thirty minutes. Wendy’s is understaffed right now!”
“Please,” Genie attempts to reason, extending her hand out for him to grab. “Do you trust me?”
The Puddings brother’s eyes grow wide. “I mean, uh…no. You told my sister last week that she should consider getting an electrified cage to keep me in.”
Carlson sighs, shaking her head. “I just had to throw her off my scent, Tapioca. That’s how I got her to trust me so that I could come and rescue you. Now, do you trust me?”
Realizing that he had no other choice, Tapioca nods his head and grabs her hand. It was the first time a woman had actually been willing to hold hands with him since he was a teenager, and it felt amazing. He barely had any time to enjoy it, however, as Genie took off running back toward the driveway with him in tow.
As they sprint towards the end of the gravel path, Tapioca couldn’t help but wonder exactly where they were heading to. But it was a brief and fleeting thought, as his mind immediately went back to fantasies of a fresh start. Having a beautiful woman like Genie by his side would be more than what he’d ever dreamed of. Maybe they’d have a cottage in a flowery meadow, find buried treasure with a metal detector, and then be able to afford all of the caramel mochas they could drink!
Soon, he would be able to finally look at himself in the mirror and smile instead of cry.
With a powerful pull of his wrist, Tapioca was brought back into the reality of the situation. It was almost as if Genie had given him an Irish whip, as he began to accelerate. He cranes his neck to look back at her while still churning at full speed, wondering if she had actually sacrificed herself to save him.
And then, there it was.
That wicked witch sneer. That pitbull grin. The teeth on Genie’s upper gum line had been replaced with stalactites.
Tapioca tried to scream, but as soon as he turned his head back around to continue his getaway, his mouth was glued shut by a sticky substance.
As a matter of fact, his entire body seemed to be covered in the same goo-like threading. While his hamstrings continued to churn, he began to realize that his efforts were in vain. He thought he was running even harder, but had only managed to make a few feet of progress.
“You’re not going anywhere, ball sack.”
Violently flung backwards and toward the ground, Tapioca felt as though he had landed back-first on a trampoline. He tries once again to progress forward, but it’s no use. He’s stuck, and can only look up.
And that wasn’t the worst problem.
“HHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!” Tapioca whines, lips sewn tight and pupils expanding.
Looming overhead was the gigantic face of his sister. Her eyes were also dilated, but mostly because there were no pupils in her present form. Walking over him with all eight of her enormous spindly legs. At each end were four pairs of Ugg boots. Over her thorax was her latest Mussy T-shirt, and abdomen covered in flannel pajama material.
“I’m Muriel the spider now.”
It was just a nightmare.
Shoving off the lint blanket, Tapioca stares up at the hole in the ceiling and takes a few deep breaths. Ever since taking a Cancer Jiles boot sole to the face, the bad dreams had become more and more frequent. He wasn’t sure if it was because the eGG Bandit had caused permanent damage, or if his mother had been mixing some type of terror drug in his evening porridge.
Either way, relief washed over him. For now, he would not be the victim of the arachnid mutation of his big sister.
“Hey twerp.” The trap door from the house’s floor swings open, and a familiar scratchy voice calls out from above the hole. Staring down at him, the real version of Muriel Puddings grins as if she were about to lower down a bottle of lotion to an abduction victim.
Tapioca glances over at the window, the light now starting to penetrate inside of his “man cave.” It was still pretty early, and it was usually Karen who provided the first greeting of the day. Big shocker, Muriel wasn’t exactly a morning person. However, today she had her hair pulled back in a scrunchie and her makeup done. A pleasant surprise, as her typical just-out-of-bed look could have passed as legitimate evidence of Bigfoot.
Tapioca mutters a half-whining, half-agitated “hey” in response.
“Time to rise and shine, cadet. You’ve got a big day today,” she chirps. Muriel reaches over the opening in the ceiling and proceeds to dump an entire hamper’s-worth of dirty clothes onto him, once again making a great argument for the awful placement of his cot.
He grumbles as he removes a bra off of his face, gripping it with his fingers and dropping it onto the floor. Pushing the rest of the laundry off his body, he sits up and stares into the wall.
Maybe being eaten alive by the spider wouldn’t have been so bad after all.
“That better be washed, folded, and put away by the time we get back,” she commands.
He nods. By now this was a chore that had been pretty much etched into his brain. Which was necessary, as the last time he had forgotten to fold a pair of sweatpants “at the thighs, not the knees,” he was made to spend the night inside of the dryer as a punishment. “Where are you going so early?”
“Sh-were are sh-you going so sh-early?” she mocks, despite Tapioca not having a lisp at all. “Well, nosy, we’re going to the Factory Outlets in Boise. There’s a clearance sale on Lee denim, and I’m getting some new cutoffs for my big ol’ juicy Hershey dispensary.”
“Gross,” Tapioca whines to himself, quickly looking up to make sure that she didn’t hear him say that.
“Anyway, remember you got a quota on the Fire Starter Kits. Those babies are gonna sell like hot tamales, so you better get your thumb out of your mouth and get to stuffin’,” she barks. The “buzz” around her commercial from ReVival 3 had apparently gone straight to her head, as she was under the delusion that the cheap souvenirs she’d peddled exploiting child actors would be a big hit at the next show. The “products” in question were surely making Melvin Beauregard’s PR life a living hell right now with the mothers of young wrestling fans.
The hole dweller raises an index finger and glances up at his sister. “But I already told you, we’re all out of dryer lint! The Fire Starter Kits can’t just come with a lighter!”
Muriel lifts her eyebrows and points down at Tapioca’s discarded blanket.
“But I’ll freeze to death!” he whines.
The blond Crush Limbaugh does not acknowledge the complaint with any real response, other than to close the trap door and walk away.
Stewing in his misery and upset that his bedding would now have to be torn apart and used for kindling, Tapioca rises to his feet and fumes. He bends down to pick up a pair of her lime green underwear off of the floor. It is lined with fringe and displays the word “Foxy” across the butt in cursive silver sequins. He tosses the dirty drawers into the air, and with a “hrummmmph,” attempts to punt them across the room.
Of course, he misses the kick by a mile, comically flailing and nearly tripping over his cot in the process. This doesn’t seem to deter his rage, though.
“Stupid bitch,” he whines, “I’ll show her a thing or two!”
Picking the tacky underwear back up off the floor, he brings them over to the commode at the far side of the cellar. He peers down into the bowl with a big grin on his face. Making sure to glance back up at the ceiling just in case she were to reappear, Tapioca proceeds to dip them into the toilet.
“Here’s a special pre-rinse for your stanky panties, Muriel! Now you’re gonna wear potty water!”
What would normally be a pretty decent prank had a couple of flaws attached to it that he failed to consider. As he then immediately carried the underwear over to the washing machine and put them in, the detergent and fabric softener would quickly negate his revenge efforts. That, and considering they were Muriel Puddings’ panties, toilet water was the cleanest thing that had hit the fabric since she’d put them on.
After loading the rest of the laundry and starting the Heavy Duty cycle, Tapioca sighs and drags a large cardboard box from beside the dryer over to his cot. About half-full, it contains the grotesque lighters and packaging for the do-it-yourself pyromania toys. It was best that he got started now, as he was certain that either Muriel or his mom would barge in through the storm door to make sure he wasn’t slacking before they left.
“One day, Mary-Katherine, you and me are busting out of this joint.”
The only decor in the dungeon was appropriate for his situation. Glued to the wall just below the window was a theater poster of the 1999 comedy Superstar, starring Molly Shannon. His biggest celebrity crush. “They’ll both be sorry then,” he adds, beginning to tear pieces off of his lint blanket to stuff the boxes.
Tapioca manages to package and seal around four of the kits when he finally hears the sound of his family go out of the front door above his head. Anxiety quickly surfaces, as he was sure that whoever came to check on him would think he had not been working fast enough. Thinking on his feet, he begins to stack some of the empty boxes underneath the finished products to give the illusion that he’d been busy. But the cacophony of Muriel’s monster truck engine indicated that they’d either forgotten their routine goodbye, or that they were both really excited about that sale.
It was his lucky day! They would be gone for at least eight hours, and he could easily get through the six other boxes of Muriel’s Stuff that he had to wrap by then. “Oh boy!” he whines, a happier whine than usual.
“It’s leisure time!”
Reaching underneath the cot, Tapioca grabs his cell phone and lies back down on his bread pillow for a little R&R. As Karen and Muriel had recently agreed to reinstate his Twitter privileges, he opens the app and scrolls through the latest posts from his wrestling colleagues. The first thing that caught his eye was the VERY HELPFUL POST about the next ReVival event. He clicks the link to the EASY TO NAVIGATE WEBSITE, and is surprised to see his NICE PICTURE featured on the card.
Despite the conveniences, Tapioca was not very appreciative of what he saw next. While he knew that being at the MGM Grand was inevitable to help push her shitty merchandise, Muriel had not yet informed him that he’d also be competing.
“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no no,” he whines, looking at the opening booking. “This can’t be right. A fatal four-way?”
Tapioca gulps and feels the perspiration begin to build up in the palms of his hands. To add to the horror of the possibility of three other people stomping him into mush, none of them seemed like the type of person willing to be sympathetic to his weaknesses.
Jacob Mephisto had already revealed to the PRIMEates that he cared very little about the consequences of his actions. Tapioca could not fathom what he may do to him when they were within the well-sanctioned ropes of the ring! And Larry Tact? For a man with such a pleasant last name, he certainly didn’t display a whole lot of it in his words and actions.
“Just what I need,” Tapioca whines as he rubs the back of his neck. “Someone to belittle me while they put me in a jujitsu hold! Like I don’t get enough of that here at home! And Jonathan-Christopher Hall? I THOUGHT HE WAS LEAVING!”
While Tapioca thought Jonathan-Christopher may be the only person on the roster people wanted to beat up more than him, it was a glimmer of saving grace that was snubbed out with the nuclear weapon that Hall had at his disposal.
His Amazing Life Partner. A woman who might be even more possessive and domineering than his sister. And if they were contractually obligated to be there, he knew that she would be angrier than usual. Tapioca’s strict obedience to the laws of the Puddings house had generally kept his family in good spirits, but he had seen them pissed off enough times to know the fury of feminine wrath. Out of everyone who would be involved in this match, Vickie was the person he feared the most.
“I can’t do this,” he whines. “I’m finished. I’m freaking dead meat. Why didn’t that spider just finish the job?”
“You don’t have to do it, Tapioca.”
The ominous voice had come from the poster on his wall. I mean, it didn’t actually come from that, but Tapioca’s frequent panic attacks and torment had taken quite a toll on his psychological well-being. The baritone voice of Molly Shannon’s popular character was all in his head, but it was still as clear as could be.
“You don’t have to wrestle. You don’t have to be here,” she repeats. “There’s a way out of all of this, and you and I can be together forever.”
“But how, Molly?” Tapioca whines, shaking his head. “If I escape, they’ll just come after me.”
“Not if they’re preoccupied with finding a new place to live,” Molly responds.
Tapioca looks down at the floor and begins to realize exactly what she’s trying to insinuate.
The Muriel Fire Starter Kit.
“You want me to set the house on fire?” he whines. “We could get in big trouble for that.”
Molly scoffs, either at the idea that there’d be any consequences or at the notion that “both” of them would be in big trouble. “Fine. Don’t do it then. I guess you just aren’t man enough to be with me after all.”
“Yes I am! I am man enough!”
“Then prove it,” she coaxes. “Turn this hellhole into a pile of ash. If you really love me, you would.”
Tapioca stands up to his feet and pokes what little chest he has out in defiance. “You’re right! It’s time to put an end to my misery once and for all! I’m gonna burn this place to the ground, Molly! Hand me that lighter!”
Of course, the Molly Shannon poster cannot physically hand him a lighter, but Tapioca is still polite enough to thank her like she did as he picks it up himself. Putting the opening of the miniature Muriel’s butt hole next to a piece of the lint, the once-meek coward now has the look of a lion in his eyes.
And flicks again.
And flicks again.
“This one must be broken,” he whines, tossing it to the floor and retrieving a new one.
And flicks again.
And flicks again.
“Third time’s the charm, I guess,” Tapioca whines whimsically, picking up a third one.
TEN MINUTES LATER
“WHY WON’T ANY OF THESE FUCKING WORK?” Tapioca whines loudly, as he kicks at dozens of defunct novelty lighters strewn across the floor. “Leave it to that conniving bitch to try to pass off bunk merchandise to the unsuspecting public. No wonder she wants me to be the one to package and sell this! That way she can blame ME when the complaints start rolling in, and of course I’ll be the one working the customer service hotline! 1-877-MURIEL’S STUFF ISN’T EVEN A NUMBER THAT’S POSSIBLE TO HAVE!”
“Don’t get frustrated, Tapioca,” Molly interrupts, “as there’s another way.”
Tapioca grins, casting a knowing glance toward the poster on his wall. “Oh, I know exactly what to do, my sweet. I think I have a foolproof plan to end this once and for all now.”
“Oh,” she responds. “I was just going to say to use the stove burner upstairs to light it. But what else did you have in mind?”