Private: Buster Gloves
3 weeks ago
Vero Beach, FL
There are two doors to get into Merv’s Burger Joint and Pub. The more commonly used entrance is at the front. It’s decorated with brass trim over carved oak. A set of heavy doors, each with half a burger as a handle, welcome tourists and families looking for a semi casual American dining experience. A sign in the window reads, “Trivia Tuesdays, Smiles are Free!”. The second entrance is around the side of the building. It’s hidden, almost blending in with the storefront glass and anodized trim. A green and white striped canvas awning provides just enough shelter for smokers to sneak a dart.
William Bernard Glover, more commonly known as Buster Gloves, goes in through the door less travelled. It bypasses the dining area and goes right to the lounge. An L-shaped bar directly on the left. The entrance exists for employees to sneak in and out of the building without being seen. Buster wants the same thing.
He touches the rail of the bar, running his fingers down it like he’s been reunited with a classic car. The nostalgia is bittersweet. Once on his stool, he pulls out a cell phone, just to avoid making eye contact with anyone else. It’s mid-afternoon on a Thursday. The slowest part of the day. Only a few other customers, and a bubbly bartender with purple hair tied up in a black bandana.
“Hey there, Sugar. What can I get for you?” She says with hazel eyes and an infectious smile.
Buster looks up for a second, then, stunned by her comeliness, looks away quickly. She places a coaster in front of him as he gathers the confidence to make eye contact with her. He notices the color of her eyes, the shade of her lips. “A lager, whatever’s local, and a whiskey, whatever’s most expensive.”
“Let me see. Most expensive. We still have some Pappy Van Winkle. But there’s a one pour limit.”
“One will be enough.”
“You got it.”
Buster is hypnotized by her backside as she walks away. He’s not interested in her sexually or romantically, it’s just hard not to look. Girls are an unwelcome distraction right now and he has a history of making poor romantic decisions. At this point in his life, he’s just looking to establish himself as a pro wrestler and to keep his kids out of jail.
Buster checks his phone. A bunch of calls and texts. He powers it off and stuffs it in his pocket. They can wait. Nobody knows he’s back in town yet. His flight landed earlier that day, but he doesn’t go right home. Instead, he goes right to a bar. Going home right away just feels wrong. Facing the world after Las Vegas just feels wrong. And in a month, he goes right back to that same tacky building is that same tacky town. A place where everything seems to go wrong.
The bartender comes back with the drinks. “You look familiar. Do I know you?”
“Nah. I don’t think so. I’m nobody.” Replies Buster as he rotates the cold beer bottle with his fingertips, facing the label in front of him.
The girl folds her arms and squints in disbelief. “Are you sure? I’m pretty good with faces.”
“Nope. Just came here for the drink. I’m very thirsty.”
“Yeh. I bet you are.” She looks around to see if any other customers are at the bar. They aren’t. “So, what kind of work do you do?”
Buster half-smiles/half-frowns. “I’m a fighter, I guess.”
Validated, she puts her hands on her hips and puffs out her chest. “I knew it! You’re one of those guys from that gym down the way.”
Unamused. Buster just looks at the label of his beer bottle. The brown diamond on the white label. A dog at the center of the logo. 4.0% alcohol by volume. He doesn’t take a drink. He only studies the bottle. A tumbler of expensive liquor sits next to it on a napkin. Taunting him. “I’m a pro wrestler, actually.”
“Pro wrestling, huh? Are you any good?” she asks.
“I used to be.”
“Think you can pin me?”
“I don’t know, you look pretty tough.”
She takes a good look at his face. His eyes. “You look a little banged up. That from your job?”
“You want to talk about it?”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Fair enough. I’m gonna go burn one. You need anything else right now?”
“Nah. I’m good.”
“My name is Stefani, by the way. With an ‘F’. I’ll be right back to take care of you in a few.”
Buster nods as Stefani (with an ‘F’) skips away. She’s obviously flirting with him. Playing with the pendant bouncing around her chest and brushing her hair around her face. He’s smart enough to recognize that she’s either flirting with him for tips or flirting with him for gold. He waits until she’s out of sight to pick up the whiskey glass.
Alcohol hasn’t touched his lips in over 5 years. But sometimes, you just run out of answers. Buster’s angry and paranoid all the time, and the thought of his kids seeing him like that makes his heart ache. Those boys have been through enough. They don’t have anyone else. It’s just him. Losing to Mortimer Kjederlig via groin strike is a tough pill to swallow. The experts say that he’s protected in the loss and that it’s probably the best thing that could have happened to him, but it feels like he’s being kicked in the yambag every hour on the hour.
His next match, against Jacob Mephisto, is an opportunity to make things right. An opportunity that he’s not really looking forward to. The matchup is unfavorable. Another big man. Another cheater. Another guy desperate for a win. Just thinking about getting back on that plane to Las Vegas is what finally causes Buster to drink the rare bourbon. He swirls the dark liquor around the glass and takes in the sweet aroma, bringing back memories of the good times he spent drinking in the army, with friends who didn’t survive the war. A tiny sip, to break his sobriety. Like cheating on your spouse. Like stealing from your parents.
Whiskey is supposed to be a little harsh. Smooth on the front end. A little fire on the back. Just enough to wake you up and make you want to lay down. He takes a bigger drink, almost chewing it in his mouth, then sucking air through his teeth. It’s a turning point. Things are going to get worse before they get better.
“How’s that Pappy Van Winkle treating you, Big Shoots?” says the lady bartender who sits on a stool next to him. She’s close enough that she could put her hand on his thigh. A tiny tattoo on her left wrist shows an infinity symbol with the word ‘love’ written in cursive. It reminds him of the trashy stripper he railed in the back of a mini-van in a Costco parking lot after his wife died.
He puts the glass back on the bar. “Reminds me of home.”
“Where you from?”
“Here and there. No place worth going back to.”
“You aren’t really very talkative, are you?”
“Just going through some things. You ever feel like just walking away from this job? Doing something else? Like none of this is worth the trouble?”
“Only every day. But it pays the bills. I hate to shatter the fantasy for you, but I have a 6-year-old at home. I’d do just about anything to take care of that munchkin.”
Buster just nods in agreement as he lifts the glass and finishes the rest of his whiskey.
“You got kids?” she asks, as she pulls close enough for him to smell her peach body spray.
“You’d do anything for them too, I guess?”
“Well, just make sure you do something for yourself once in a while too.” She says with a sly look and a devious smile. “To deny our own impulses, is to deny the very thing that makes us human.” She locates a new customer at the bar and walks away with those ‘deep’ words of wisdom still sitting on his lap. Quote the Matrix; nevermore.
Buster gets to work on the bottle of lager as he watches some meaningless baseball game on the wall-mounted flat screen TV. What a terrible game baseball is. Slow. Saturated with failure. With so many games in a season, none of them have any importance at all. Sometimes, as in baseball, a win or a loss doesn’t matter, when you consider the entirety of the season.
Wins and losses DO matter in wrestling though. Buster lost his debut match and he was pinned. He was jumped after the match and ridiculed on social media afterwards. It’s never healthy for someone so serious and intense to become the punchline of a joke. And it’ll be a long road before anyone takes him seriously in the future.
So, he drinks harder. Guzzles the bottle. Disgusted by the situation he put himself into. Ashamed to have broken five years of sobriety over some stupid match that doesn’t mean a thing to anybody. He WAS weak. He IS a mess. And it’s time to go back home and get to work like there’s nothing wrong.
Buster puts up a hand and mimes a check mark in the air. The sexy bartender brings the check over, leans in close, and gives Buster a gratuitous view of the heart shaped necklace resting in her cleavage.
“Leaving me so soon?” she appeals.
She slides the leather check book over to him as he finishes his beer. “It’s been a pleasure serving you. You come on back and see me any time you’re feeling thirsty.” She gives him a wink and wanders away to fill a drink order.
Buster opens the check book to reveal an overpriced bill and a colorful message that reads ‘STEFANI 555-438-2815’. What shocks Buster the most is the cost of the bill. Sure, he expected the bourbon to be pricey, but the cost of a beer is like double what he expected. It didn’t cost this much to get drunk five years ago when he was a violent alcoholic. He pulls out some bills and a coin from his pocket. Then he gets up and leaves.
Stefani, the bartender, picks up the check book and takes it over to her register. She’s surprised by two things when she opens it up. A 50% tip on the bill. Nice. And a blue and gold coin that reads ‘TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE. UNITY. SERVICE. RECOVERY.’ with the roman numeral ‘V’ in the middle.
(ON CAM SHOOT PROMO)
Families are the compass that guides us. They inspire us to grow and achieve. They comfort us when we fall short. Family is forever.
When I’m in the ring, I’m not thinking about championships, or rivalries, or violence. I’m thinking about how this job will help my kids become better people. I just want the same thing that most fathers want; to make their children proud and to provide them with a better life than I had. Sure, I appreciate the athleticism and artistic value of this sport, but the truth is, that I probably wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t have people counting on me back home. That’s my compass. My true north.
Jacob Mephisto knows a thing or two about family. It’s the reason he’s here too. His people back home are counting on him for survival. He shows leadership and charisma. I can respect those qualities about him. But a lot of people throw shade on him because he has a different way of thinking. A different way of living. I say, the hell with that. Let the man choose his own path in life. When people say that Jacob Mephisto has lost his mind, I’ll ask maybe, just maybe, he’s already evolved his mind to a greater state of being. Who am I, who are you, to decide the right and wrong way to live a life?
A month ago, I underestimated an opponent. And paid for it. It was a horrible night. Easily one of the worst professional nights of my career. Some wrestlers would just bail after a night like that. I thought about doing that. I wanted to march into the boss’ office, give the old double-barrel middle finger salute, and walk away from the burning building. I wanted to just find a hole and bury myself in it. But I couldn’t. I’ve been good at suffering, my whole life. I floss. I drive my kids to practice. I cut my own grass. Showing my face in front of coworkers who think I’m a joke is easy. The trick is to just assume that every person on the planet thinks you’re a total loser and somehow that takes the pressure off of you to try to impress anyone at all. So, what if I parked in the boss’ parking space, I ate somebody else’s lunch, I split my pants? I’m back for another day of abuse, because I have a short memory, kids at home and bills to pay.
I was jumped backstage by a bunch of guys in hooded cloaks. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know why they attacked me. I had just lost a match, and they punched down on a guy who was already having a bad day. Whatever message they were trying to send went right over my head. I’ve been beaten up before. The only thing those goons accomplished is that they pissed me off. Prior to that, I actually felt bad about losing my debut match. Like I had let the company down or something. Being attacked just strengthened my resolve. I no longer feel the need to impress anybody. I’m here for me now. And I’m hungry. Who needs friends anyway? I’m here to pick fights because I like getting beat up. I’ll fight any one of those clan members, anywhere they want. Just get me a cameraman and promise me a paycheck and I’ll fight the bastards to death in a Waffle House parking lot at 3am for all I care.
Did that make you laugh out loud? One of the things I learned about this company in my short tenure is that there’s a lot of emphasis on your ability to make people laugh. Like this is improv comedy-hour down at the Chuckle Bucket. It’s not good enough to just be a world class athlete anymore. You also have to be witty and random and hilarious. It also helps if you can drive a forklift. What is that?! I’m not here to play childish games. I’m not a dancing bear in this circus. God put me on this earth to choke people unconscious for money and that’s what I plan on doing.
What the world needs now is a little bit of honesty and a whole lot of empathy. Jacob Mephisto hasn’t been able to get much momentum in PRIME yet because he’s been a victim of the same games as me. There’s no empathy for him. No one backstage willing to take him under their wing. Regardless of what our statistics look like or what family we come from, we’re at the same spot in our PRIME career. He’s supposed to be a bad guy and I’m supposed to dislike him, but I can’t help but feel like there should be a way that we both win the match. It’s not right that one of us gets over and the other one has to eat out of the garbage can… again.
Does Mephisto want this win? Of course he does. But what he’s been doing so far hasn’t been working and now he has Anna Daniels making him all upsetty spaghetti. She’s one of the top talents in the company, going after one of us bottom feeders. Seems likely that he’s on track to take a couple more losses pretty soon. Beating me is probably his best and only chance of winning a match until Halloween. I admire the fact that he knows who he is and is comfortable with it, even if the rest of the world doesn’t, but if he doesn’t learn how to adapt to his fights, he may never get that capital W. There’s nothing wrong with living in a van in the desert and wearing tinfoil hats align your chakras… if that’s what you’re into. But living off the grid never bought anyone a jet ski… and jet ski’s are awesome.
I, on the other hand, NEED this win. I HAVE to win. There is no other option. For my whole life, I prided myself on being taken seriously. Stoicism is what they call it. I wanted my father to be proud of me. I wanted my country to be proud of me. I wanted my wife to know how much I loved her. And now, as a fighter, I want to be respected for my toughness and resilience. I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I work just as hard as anybody else in that locker room.
I need everyone in the back to understand some things about me. That I can take a joke too. It’s ok to have a laugh at my expense. Just know that I’m not always gonna be the new guy. I’ll remember later on who the guys were that were jerks during my early days. When you’ve gotten bored playing with your new toy, you’re all going to realize that I’m still here, and I’m ornerier than a Canadian Goose on a bike path. If you think that making fun of someone’s dead wife is original and edgy, think again. I was a professional MMA fighter for 8 years and I have 2 teenage boys that play Call of Duty online, nothing you can say to me on a microphone is going to be anywhere near as bad as what I’ve heard already. Your words have no power over me.
I don’t know what Jacob’s been doing to prepare for our match. Maybe he’s been training like he’s about to fight Apollo Creed for the last mozzarella stick. Maybe he’s been drinking snake juice and going on spirit quests. Doesn’t matter. I can guarantee that he hasn’t been working as hard as I have, to prepare for this match. I got grizzly bear muscles and great white teeth right now. I’ve been rolling with monsters. I’ve been dissecting footage. I’ve been watching interviews on repeat, getting inside the mind of a killer. It’s all starting to drive me a little insane in my membrane… and I like it. With Mortimer, I expected a clean contest. This time around, my expectations can’t be any lower. I know Mephisto is going to cheat. I know the Bobbsey twins are going to get in the way. I know the grand dragon of the welcome committee is hanging out backstage ready to commit felony assault on me. Maybe Jacob is the better man and he wins. I’m fine with that. Because at least this time, I have no delusions of receiving appreciation for a job well done. It’s ZFG for the Bull of the North at Revival, and it feels a bit liberating if we’re being honest. I’m going to Vegas to do a dirty job and collect a paycheck. What happens there, can stay there, for all I care.
So, here’s the part in the monologue where I convince the world that I’m going to win. Hard pass. The wrestling gods are the only ones that can decide wins and losses. They bestow blessings of leather and gold on those they deem worthy. The only thing I can guarantee is that when I leave that arena in Las Vegas, I’ll be coming home with my head higher than last time. That’s the direction that my morale compass is pointing. And I’m going to follow it this time. Starting at Revival 14 in Las Vegas, I start believing in myself. I start standing up for myself. ‘To thine own self be true.’ That’s my motto from here on out. I’ll make my family, at home, and around the world, proud of the work that I’m doing. Can you say the same?