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View Full Version : Round 3: "Arrogance" Joey Melton vs. Showtime



Chad
05-28-12, 11:05 PM
Roleplay begins Thursday and ends next Thursday. 3 RP maximum.

You may submit a card segment for use on the card by private messaging it to the following usernames: Chad; Ford; User Poets Not all segments may be used (i.e. we might only include winners, just depends on the amount of craziness).

Steve
05-31-12, 12:16 AM
(FADEIN – To the media room in CS Enterprises Tower in Greensboro, NC. In front of an ULTRATITLE backdrop stands JOEY MELTON. Melton’s rocking gray designer dress pants and a white dress shirt. His legendary blonde locks are perfectly rustled.)

MELTON: The Internet is all abuzz. Bloggers are asking if “Joey Melton is taking the ULTRATITLE seriously enough?” Apparently when you produce promo videos detailing on opponent’s double life as a porn star it’s deemed “off topic.”

Am I taking the ULTRATITLE seriously? You want Melton unleashed?

The hell with you.

The hell with all you who sent in your little tournament challenge picks and had money on Dan Ryan to win. How’s that working out for you? (Adrian Evans walks in-frame doing the Globo-Gym Purple Cobra dance.)

Or had the great Joey Melton falling to the hands of “Triple X” Sean Stevens.

I know the money has always been on Eli Flair, Troy Windham, or some greasy **** who couldn’t even be bothered to phone in an interview request. This ULTRATITLE is quickly turning into a bit of a farce, where men cut themselves shaving and a handful of marks squeal with about as much furor as they did when Captain American returned from the dead.

You’ve got a laundry list of names most of America has never even heard of and a bunch of old **** ups like myself toiling in misery trying to muster the “it’s for my legacy” card. Well, I think after two rounds we’ve all seen the hands dealt and for those who wanted a harder, stronger Melton… I HAVEN’T HAD TO GET SERIOUS IN THIS **** TOURNAMENT.

Now, there are 32 of us left and they tell me I’m facing a man who’s talked openly about wanting a piece of clothing after our match. Showtime I’m not running a GOODWILL donation center here. I don’t donate outfits I wouldn’t DARE be caught wearing again…no, you know what, forget the Blazer kid, you’re not even fit to sniff, let alone wear my shorts. But if that’s what you want if you want to be dressed up like Joey Melton for a day, fine, we’ll do it, I’ll fly you to my suite in TRUMP TOWERS and we’ll take notes on each piece of clothing as it rotates by in my motorized closet. I’ll personally call my good friend Tommy Hilfiger and we’ll put you in something that’s mine but yet undeniably YOU and parade you around like a star but it’s fair to say such a fantasy comes with a warning. Just because you WANT to be me doesn’t mean you’ll have heat.

That you have to EARN.

But the thing about this tournament is…you can only fall through the cracks for so long. Eventually son, you’ll come across quality and actually have to beat someone who’s sold out something bigger than a high school gym.

At this point in the tournament it’s about what each man has left if they lose. Dan Ryan could have cared less and more power to him, he’s got a company to run and a paper trail tying him to designer steroids to destroy before the FEDS find it first. If you’re Blaine Hollywood there’s always the next Oxford Thinking Campaign to run and Sean Stevens comes home to a kid and the woman most of the boys fell in love with long ago. If you’re Doc Silver, there’s a screw job to be played somewhere in Mexico. The beat drums on…

If you’re Joey Melton…

Well, that’s where this gets a little more interesting. This business has been my life. I’m 48 years old, I didn’t get married, and I don’t have kids. I’ve given everything to this sport whether that’s something to be proud of or not. It’s just me and the next show. Sometimes the big arenas call and sometimes kid I’m back in Korea riding off on a donkey when I’ve gone too far and have too much play from the locales.

The bottom line is I guess I’ve never wanted anything more.

That’s not to say becoming one of the biggest names in the business hasn’t come with its share of hell. I’ve had eight knee surgeries and every day of my life I get up wanting that next drink, but I promised myself I wouldn’t a while ago. But getting there wasn’t easy. There was a time when I loved being the party more than the work itself. Wrestle 30 minutes then close a night club and never have to pay for a drink. Stretch limos, gold watches, a fleet of sports cars, and private jets to take my entourage and I anywhere I wanted on a moment’s notice…I’ve burned through more money than you’ve probably earned in your career. Everything had to be the best. If HORNET bought a gold watch I had to buy one studded with diamonds. The women flowed as easily as the wine. I’m surprised it all didn’t kill me.

I was the catalyst of a major movement in Greensboro and most everyone who worked there had their pocked lined with silver and gold. But every party ends and when it stopped long enough for me to sober up I realized I wasn’t special. Fine things, women, hell any number of us felt like we were entitled to a King’s ransom. The fast lane doesn’t discriminate. A wreck is always around the corner. Men I came into this business with, did big money with, I’ve seen them buried six feet in the ground because of what this sport did to them. I’ve wrestled in front over 50,000 with one of the greatest, if not the greatest this sport has ever seen and I watched him swallow pills from city to city to keep going.

I’m proud of everything I’ve done in my career Showtime, but above all that I survived. I’ve carved out a career path for myself and even today at 48, the phone rings. “Come to our PPV and help get this kid over…”

Marcus Davis shook my hand before our match and said his victory would be the biggest of his career. And that comes to the crux of why I’m here. I don’t mind signing autographs for the boys in the back, but they need to be reminded why Joey Melton WAS THE SHOW.

I’m a 2-time ULTRATITLE winner, though admittedly the wins feel like a lifetime ago. The business has changed over the years. Being a showman turned into spilling a pint of blood every night and driving a stake in someone’s knee. I’ve seen a kid like Troy Windham come along who had more natural talent than half the CSWA’s roster put together but he fell in love with the idea of turning his career into an ad for RED CROSS and look at the man now Showtime…if he farts downwind his neck is gone. And maybe that’s where I saw it all turn away from me. When the numbers and heat I drew just wasn’t enough…how can it be when Windham and Eli break fingers and turn MY LEAGUE, MY LEGACY into ****ing FEAR FACTOR.

Evolution is a fact of life, but sometimes, well, kid they just made’em better back then.

If I don’t win the ULTRATITLE I doubt they’ll take my name out of the record books. The security of being the oldest in the draw is my legacy has been written in stone. But you don’t last as long as I have without healthy insecurities. Even at this stage I have something to prove. I don’t move like I used to, my back takes most of the morning to warm up, but I’m as smart as they come and if I get you on the mat kid, you’re gonna need a new left knee. I know my way around a wrestling ring. It’s the only home I have, really. And the ULTRATITLE has been the only relationship of mine to last. I aim to prove I can still kick any man’s ass that’s left. Truth be told, I wasn’t torn up to see Dan Ryan exit stage left. Without the Incredible Bulk in the picture it sort of evens the odds and I’m a great bet every day of the week.

I’m a showman. I’m damn proud of that. I’ve had more MATCH OF THE YEAR candidates than anyone else in this tournament. But every performer has a last show. And the ULTRATITLE will be mine. I’ve had the World titles and Gold Star accolades. But to walk away knowing I won my last match…I can’t think of a better high.

This is the end of the road for Joey Melton and it wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t just a little extra action on the table.

So kid this is the deal.

I’m placing a bounty of $10,000 on my OWN HEAD.

You beat me… I pay you 10k OUT OF POCKET.

That’s probably a year’s salary for you. Maybe you should just save it and buy your mom one of those stair chair lifts so she won’t have to walk to bed in disappointment night after night after seeing you perform.

But let’s be honest, you’re not winning this match. I’ve considered such, so for every round that someone can’t collect I’ll DOUBLE the fee.

$10k Showtime, you’ll be SAVING me money if you man up and beat the great Joey Melton. But let’s just say, I haven’t actually cut the check yet.

(FTB)

scotto
06-02-12, 01:11 AM
Chapter 6: Spoiler Alert

“Showtime is an eccentric one. Although he has one of the most important fights of his career coming up, he seems equally concerned with his French Toast intake, which he maintains by”

Penny Pickett, a reporter by trade, sat in her home office – which was a small desk in the bedroom of her apartment which held a laptop, a printer, and a Doctor Who Disappearing TARDIS Mug, which currently contained a rapidly-cooling tea. She looked at the sentence she had just typed and deleted it furiously, back to “Showtime is an eccen”. Showtime, and his trainer Proteus, had smooth-talked their way into her apartment by with a promise of “adventure.” (http://www.fwrestling.com/showthread.php?22942-Chapter-4.5-The-Lodgers) So far that adventure had been comprised mainly of preparing elaborate breakfasts in her kitchen (http://www.fwrestling.com/showthread.php?23079-Chapter-5-The-French-Toast-Factor&p=91547#post91547) and leaving a mess for her to clean up. If she couldn’t bring herself to kick the two out, she was hoping to at least gather more material for her employer.

The material had been slow in coming. Showtime had put off further interviews between the two rounds in favour of pursuing his own bizarre interests. Penny – once a promising young intern for the BBC – was reduced to reporting on the breakfast habits of a man who referred to himself as an “Unknown Quantity” going into the ULTRATITLE tournament. He was either cultivating an air of mystery, or actively trolling her by straying as far from the topic of “wrestling” as humanly possible. The man was currently sipping Gin & Tonics with her mother on the balcony of the apartment they were now all sharing, and was rapidly overstaying his welcome.

Showtime had pulled off two impressive wins. The crowd response to his match against Jace Gryphon had been markedly more enthusiastic than that of his Round 1 battle against “Daddy” Jared Wells. She wondered whether it was because after her interview with Showtime, she had an interaction with Gryphon that could be described as “impolite.” She wondered if fans had been interested in seeing Showtime defend her honor against the man who propositioned her for a sexual encounter then publicly insulted her interview style, the loutish Jace Gryphon.

“Dear lord,” she shuddered to herself. “You’re part of the show now, aren’t you Penny.”

“It’s not so bad,” Showtime said from behind her. “Beats the hell out of the 9-to-5 lifestyle.”

“That remains to be seen,” said Penny, rubbing her temples. “Listen, whatever you’re doing out there with my mother, I want you to beware she can get quite handsy when drinking.”

“She’s telling stories about your childhood,” Showtime grinned, taking a seat on the edge of her bed.

“Oh, bloody hell!” Penny’s face burned red with embarrassment. “Not the ballet story?” Showtime nodded. She moaned, “I’ll just go throw myself off the top of the building now.”

Half-seriously, she asked, “Why did you do this? Why did you have to come into my life?”

“It seemed like the most sensible option,” Showtime insisted.

“I feel reasonably certain you could afford a night’s stay in a hotel,” Penny insisted.

“But what is there to do there? Hide in my room breathing re-circulated air, get restless, raid the minibar, maybe cut a promo on Joey Melton. Here’s something you might have picked up on by now: I don’t do routine. That’s not me. That’s what I wanted all my opponents to know, and it’s what I want the fans to know so that they can feel certain that when I step in the ring, they’re getting an experience, not a Mad Libs. It’s not just random for the sake of random. I’m a bit out of step with the usual. It’s my way of getting into a headspace other people can’t access. I see things differently. The material in the ring is called a canvas for a reason... it’s where I do my best painting.”

“Oh, so you’re an artist now?”

“Absolutely. I’m Picasso. They’ll still be talking about me long after I’m gone.”

“You’re certainly not lacking for ego,” Penny snickered.

“Can we just agree that I’m pretty good at what I do?” Showtime said.

“So’s Joey Melton,” Penny noted.

“Joey Melton.” Showtime said. “You know, you say that name and a shiver goes up your spine. Go ahead. Say it.”

“Joey Melton.” She repeated, flatly.

“Well not like that,” Showtime rolled his eyes. “Joey. Melton. Woo. Chills. Joey Melton hangs like a black cloud over this tournament. I mean that literally. When you step into the ring you look up and see a giant banner of his face with the words 2-TIME WINNER JOEY MELTON written large. And there he is, under his own replica, showing us all how he does it. It’s terrifying.”

“Ah, so you’re terrified of Joey Melton?”

“Not the man. I’m as good as any wrestler in this tournament and better than so many who are already gone. For two years, Proteus and I were tag team champions in nbW. You know what that means?”

“You beat a lot of wrestlers?”

“No,” Showtime said. “Well, yeah, we did, but it meant we were it. We were the top. Everyone who stepped into the ring with us knew we had our reputation on the line, and they had a chance at being the ones who finally took us down. We weren’t just opponents, we were the end goal. The pressure was on them to step up to our level. And now I’m on the other side of that.

“Those words: 2X ULTRATITLE CHAMPION, that’s more than just a man. That’s an idea. That’s a legacy. Did you notice the common thread in material from Jared Wells and Jace Gryphon? Point One: I don’t know who this Showtime guy is. Point two: I can’t wait to face Joey Melton later. And now they’re both out of the tournament. But they weren’t wrong for looking forward to Melton. The chance to prove yourself against someone with that kind of cred? That’s too good to squander.

“I’ve beaten two guys, two great wrestlers, to get this opportunity, not just to try to beat Joey Melton, but to do it in front of an utterly captive audience who want to know: will anyone beat the man on the banner?”

“But what if it’s not the same Melton?” Penny asked, “Time has marched on, as it does. Melton’s 48 years old now. Surely he’s not the same competitor he was when he won those tournaments.”

“48 years old. That’s pretty remarkable. In pro wrestling years, that’s nearly at the point of fossilization. I’m in my mid 30’s, and I already feel ancient. 48-year-old Joey Melton, born 1964, the same year the Beatles invaded America. When he was a 20-year-old rookie, Dexy’s Midnight Runners were on the charts. Only two types of guys are still in the ring at that age: Sad sacks on the nostalgia circuit who need to pay the bills, and legends who just keep getting better. Melton’s been through the wars, fought through the pain, and learned the tricks. As a wrestler, a performer, and an athlete, I have the utmost respect for him. I wouldn’t give a damn about wrestling him otherwise.”

“But you feel like you’ve got his number?”

“I feel like, out of everyone he could have faced in round 3, I’m the one who’s going to bring him the fight of his life. No matter what he thinks, he’s not ready for me. The same qualities that brought me here will be the ones he can’t defend against.”

Penny smirked, “You’re referring to your love of breakfast food and tendency to steal clothing?”

“My hatred of the same-old same-old. Because Penny, that’s really all a legend is. And if there’s anything that I can’t stand, it’s a rerun. A sequel with the same plot. A formula. I want to be the twist ending. Spoiler Alert: Showtime Wins.”

There was a breathless pause between the two as Penny tried to come to grips with the determination in Showtime’s voice – a tone she had never before heard from the normally cool-headed competitor. For the first time, Showtime seemed to speak like a future ULTRATITLE champion.

Without a word, Showtime left the room. Penny turned to her computer, returned to her Word document and re-wrote the word “eccentric” then added, “but also intense competitor.”

Showtime stepped out onto the balcony to see distant city lights in the dark sky. Penny’s mother, Colleen, was asleep on the lounge chair. Behind him he heard the door slide open.

“She fell asleep right after you went to talk to Penny,” Proteus said. “I took the opportunity to do the dishes, vacuum, take out the garbage, separate the recycling and shampoo the cat.”

“They don’t have a cat,” Showtime noted.

“Well I shampooed somebody’s cat.” Proteus showed his arm, which was bleeding profusely from scratches. “It wasn’t very appreciative of the gesture.”

“We should get you to a hospital,” Showtime said.

After wrapping Proteus’ arm in a towel, the two headed for the elevator, riding it down to the parking garage.

“I hope this doesn’t take long,” Proteus said as they stepped off the elevator, “We still need to work on some strategy for the Melton match.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Showtime said. “There’s plenty of--”

The two stopped in their tracks. Any doubt that they were targets of a deliberate attack was now gone. It was pretty much confirmed.

There, parked in front of them, was Showtime’s Toyota Corolla, with its windows smashed in, tires slashed, hood on fire, and “SHOWTIME SUCKS” keyed into the side.

“This... is not good,” Showtime said.

Steve
06-04-12, 06:04 PM
Penny Pickett’s life as she knew it was uprooted and replanted as something out of a bad high school play. Prior to the interruption she was the picture of an independent woman who never had more than a bowl of dry cereal for breakfast. Penny had just gotten her dear, sweet mother out of the house and moved into an assisted living center. No more spoon feeding her Mum potato soup and never knowing if her she would remember anything about Penny’s life. The **** stains on the wall and the constant diaper changing was enough to make her cry herself to sleep every night, but her mum’s mental break was a bit of a release. Penny could make herself into anything she wanted to be. One night she’d tell her she was a doctor who was on call and could be summoned to perform open heart surgery at a moment’s notice, only when she faked a cell phone call, Pickett would leave to spend an hour with an old boyfriend she hasn’t quite been able to shed. Sure she felt bad telling her mum she was saving a life, when in reality she was being parted like the Red Sea. But, it’s not like her mum would remember any of it.

Penny tried to be the good daughter as long as she could, but finally she was able to afford to have her moved into assisted living, where she’d let someone else who hated their lives change diapers and fight the urge to beat the **** out of her every morning. Penny’s home was hers again; she could run around naked and do cartwheels. She was a single, career woman trying to make it on her own. My God wasn’t this Mary Tyler Moore’s dream?

Now, look at the mess she’d stepped into. Two retired, has-been wrestlers forced their way into her home, rummaged her ice box for food and made her cook French Toast for breakfast. She’d read about these types of stories in romance novels from her youth. Two handsome strangers charm their way into her home and for the next three hundred pages she’s tied up like a hog and taught the basics of Kama sutra. She used to hate herself for singing along to those cheesy “Hart” songs in the car…

“All I wanna do is make love to you….”

…But now she’s been humming non-stop since the intrusion.

Truth is Penny never fully understood why she read those trashy romance novels or heard alarms sounding in her pants when Nancy McKeon or Mayim Bialik headlined a new Lifetime Sunday Night Movie of the Week. Invariably the plot would be the same. Abused girlfriend or wife turns into a plaything for a socially inept neighbor, and fights to regain control of her life within 120 minutes minus commercial breaks, or if she was really lucky, over two nights. But, by this time in her life all of Lifetime’s movies seemed to run together, and Mayim Bialik had turned into a bit of a freak. Sure it was great to have Blossom back on network television, but Penny’s joy over Mayim’s return has been tempered by the news that Bialik is an attachment parent fanatic. She’s gone from plucky teenage nerd to a mom who breastfeeds until the child decides it’s time to stop.

Penny hated being one of THOSE people, a woman who tells mothers how they raise their children without being a mother on our own, but it doesn’t take more than a little common sense to know you shouldn’t be riding a subway in New York, or London with a six year-old attached to bare nipple, getting nourished because the surrounding homeless and minorities gives the kid the heebie jeebies. No, Penny was quite done with Lifetime movies, which is why she hated her current predicament. Defenseless against two men who parade around in tights for a living and apparently when they think she’s not looking, feed each other chocolate covered strawberries.

The more she thought about it, her current situation was nothing like a second rate romance novel. Not once had Showtime or his life-partner tried to accost her in the hallway, or ask her if she’d ever given a blowjob before.

“It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again…”

Here she had two strapping, if not gay men (not that there’s anything wrong with that) in her home and not ONCE had they made her feel unsafe or even…a little excited. How dare they take over her life and NOT be, well…the type of men she’d always thought Joey Melton to be.

Joey Melton.

Hmm.

Penny cracked open her MacBook and began to type into an open Word Document. Oh, she never imagined herself blogging for the Independent Sports News, but it beat hooking.

“****, **** ****, **** ****…”

An old writer’s block trick…

“Is Joey Melton really a black cloud over this tournament?” Penny wrote. Showtime and his life partner had a healthy fear of Melton she thought. Why? He’s a 48 year-old man who hasn’t been able to stop playing with other men. That’s the sort of thing that got Michael Jackson in trouble. That, and a mole on his penis, but really that’s neither here nor there. Was Joey Melton the man to fear in the ULTRATITLE?

No sooner than she began to type those words, Penny’s instant messenger hijacked the screen.

“I think you should do a profile in your blog of a real man.”

The screen name was the “Sexual All-American.” Penny felt repulsed by the name. Once she’d stumbled on an Adult themed chat room and spent the night being chased through cyberspace by daddy’s who wanted to know if she was willing to role-play as a teenage girl. That she did so was a bit of an embarrassment, but she was pretty sure she had ignored all their screen names. Who was this freak?

“Bug off.”

There. Simple. Direct. Back to her blog and a story about Joey Me—

“That sounds interesting. Is that sort of like auto-erotic asphyxiation?”

“WHAT? Gawd no. Who is this?”

“I’m just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to---

“Do NOT finish that sentence. Look, I’m quite busy at the moment, thank you!”

Good riddance creep! Penny closed out the chat screen and returned to her piece on Joe---

“I see London, I see France, I see your—“

“EXCUSE ME?”

“You look lovely tonight Penny.”

Penny looked around nervously. Finally, she was in a Lifetime movie.

“Who are you? Blimey you can see me?”

“No…but if you have a webcam that can be arranged.”

“I do NOT have a web camera and I will not be play acting as a teenage girl for you tonight, or dressing up in a furry costume and pouring honey over myself. I am quite busy at the moment, thank you, I’m writing a profile piece on, well…Goodbye!”

“What happened to your house guests?”

“Pardon?”

“Queer as folk, what happened to them?”

“I won’t have you talking about them like that. Mind your own business too, please. Thank you.”

“Tell me about Showtime. Who is he? What makes him tick? What size is he?”

Penny became flustered. “I wouldn’t know what size he is! How dare you! He’s been a perfect gentlemen!”

“That’s a shame. I meant, though, good build. Should I be worried? Will he tear me limb from limb? Does he have an animal intensity like a mutated circus monkey released into society?”

“WHAT THE ****?”

“I know you’ve seen pictures of me. I’m Joey Melton. But, I don’t know **** about Showtime. I was hoping you could fill me in on his body before we start talking about mine.”

“JOEY MELTON. How dare you. Honestly. How did you find my information? Never mind. You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re a 48 year-old man…”

“Easy honey, let’s not start with the low blows out of the gate.”

“Did that hurt? A thousand pardons, jerk!”

“Why don’t you come live with me for a week, you know get the other side of the coin. I can’t promise to make you breakfast, but---“

“Don’t finish that thought. Please! And I just got my mother moved out of the house, I’m not spending time with someone old enough to be a parent.”

“That’s just wrong.”

“But deserved, none the less. So, what does all this have to do with wrestling?”

“All what?”

“Private messages, and invitations to be a house guest. Shouldn’t you be focused on the match at hand?”

“I’m quite sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the ULTRATITLE, why? I’m not sure anything you’ve written about your visitors relates to the tournament either, but I was a bit jealous. Showtime’s got game. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this move earlier. Barge into a female reporter’s home and DON’T make a woman out of her. Daring, really.”

“I don’t need to be made a woman of, or…damn you Melton. A legend of this tournament, stooping to this level. Hitting on a woman, much younger and a member of the press! I could do a hatchet job on you and bury you for a lifetime if I so chose!”

“But you won’t.”

“Won’t I?”

“You want to know what makes Joey Melton tick. The man. The legend. The Sexual All-American. An exclusive with me could triple your readership and you know it. Face it Penny, the wrong man broke into your humble abode.”

Penny didn’t say a word, she didn’t have to.

Mainly because Penny is miles away from Adrian Evans’ lap top. Evans, leans back in his chair and smiles. Joey Melton’s put him through so much hell in his life. Specialty matches on cruise ships, and just general embarrassment. Sure, it was wrong of Adrian to set Joey up and supply “Penny Pickett’s” screen name, but Melton deserved this and much more. It’s not often the shoe is on the other foot.

“You’re right Joey. I need you.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”

Adrian bit the end off of a chicken nugget and returned his greasy fingers to the keyboard.

“You’ve seen past my professional mask. I’m just a lonely woman who needs the great Joey Melton in my life. I’ll give you a night you won’t forget if you give me the exclusive interview. Everything anybody’s ever wanted to know about your life.”

“Baby it’s all yours and more….”

“They’ll be home soon. I have to leave. But, meet me in the lobby of the Waldorf Hotel. No, I know someone who works there. Room 245. Wait for me there. See you soon, my sweet.”

Joey Melton logged off of his computer with a smirk plastered on his face. Damn the Internet was a great tool if left in the right hands. Oh, she’d get the exclusive alright, the full Melton package. Champagne on ice, some fresh roses and maybe, if the mood was just so, whipped cream and animal crackers…**** those who hated Ben Affleck in “Armageddon” the man had moves.

“You know, this is incredibly ****ed up,” Poison Ivy’s voice bellowed in Adrian’s ears.

Evans paused before answering, had he gone too far. “Yeah, but he deserves worse.”

“Indeed.”

“And let’s not forget McGinnis, this was your idea.”

“I know nothing…”

“Have a good night. I’ve gotta get those cameras installed in the room.”

Ivy laughs, “You too Adrian.”

scotto
06-06-12, 01:18 AM
Chapter 7: Into the Spider’s Web

There are a few occasions in one’s life that cause you to take a moment and think about everything that brought you there. Your wedding day. The birth of a child. Standing across a wrestling ring from a sweaty psychopath with scars all over his face. For Showtime, this was the third one.

As pleased as he was with his performance in his round 2 match against Jace Gryphon, Showtime’s trainer and tag team partner Proteus noticed several cracks in his game that could be exposed by someone of Joey Melton’s experience and ability. It was time to get serious – at least, as serious as possible for two guys who one challenged an opposing team to a Chuck E. Cheese Ball Pit Death Match.

That’s what brought them to the Spider’s Web (http://www.fwrestling.com/showthread.php?23118-Chapter-7-Prologue), a mostly-empty gym located in the middle of nowhere containing a few weight sets, a heavy bag, and a wrestling ring as well as all the worst bodily odors humanity has to offer. This facility is run by a former wrestler named Spider Murphy. At 6’3 and 250 lbs, Spider was one of the great “could have been” champions in wrestling’s recent history. His unforgiving, no-BS physical style allowed him to mow through competitors who were more technically skilled than he was. He wasn’t exactly a master of Greco-roman takedowns, but he made up for it with a genuine desire to beat his opponents into submission with his fists. His face was criss-crossed with scars, as were his calloused knuckles. He was legendary for the time he suplexed his opponent onto a porcupine.

“F—ker barely even got any quills in him,” Spider sneered, “But then there was the lawsuit from the ASPCA, an’ also people didn’t wanna work with me any more ‘cuz I’m dangerously unstable or whatever.” To hear Spider tell it, reckless endangerment of animals was just a step he was willing to take to succeed, one that other wrestlers didn’t take because they were “big wet pussies.” In any case, antics like that resulted in him being unofficially blackballed from wrestling: hence, “could have been champion.” Since then, he had opened up a school to properly train the next generation of deadly hoodlums. “Hey,” Spider said, “E’ryone wants to leave their mark on the world, right?”

Proteus had cooked up the idea that Spider could be Showtime’s new sparring partner. As proud as Showtime was of his in-ring arsenal, he was aware that as the tournament wore on, not only would he expose more of his tricks, but he would encounter tougher and tougher opponents. Nobody Showtime had faced in this entire tournament had the kind of credibility that Joey Melton brought, and he wasn’t about to be taken off guard. Proteus was hoping that he by finding a way to use his flashy, airborne offense against someone as violent and dangerous as Spider Murphy, he could prevent Showtime from creatively stagnating.

Showtime didn’t even know the sparring match had been set up when they arrived that morning, and he got in the ring with some reluctance. As eager as he was to remain at the top of his game, getting in there with someone like Spider Murphy meant risking his well-being. And usually, well-being is something you want when you’re about to have one of the toughest matches of your career.

As the two men warmed up in the ring, Proteus was asked by Penny Pickett, their reporter friend (and current chauffeur): “Why don’t you just train with him?”

“Showtime and I have known each other for a long time,” Proteus answered, “We know each other like the back of a hand you’ve been punched by a lot. He needs to hone his abilities on someone whose every move he can’t anticipate.”

The sparring started innocently enough. Despite his reputation, Spider was a capable training partner. The two locked up, traded a few chain holds, got a feel for each other. Showtime took the opportunity to wipe the cobwebs away on some of his faster-paced opening moves, working Spider over in the corner with a few high kicks followed by a standing huracanrana. With Spider on the ground, Showtime came off the top rope with a split-legged moonsault. There was a referee in the ring to keep up the feel of a real match, and to count falls – in this case, a two.

The pair continued a while, with Showtime constantly pushing the tempo faster and faster in order to see how much he could outpace an opponent, how to cut off attempts to slow the momentum back down. He rebounded off the ropes with high kicks and flipped through back body drops to keep running. When Spider whipped him into the corner, he backflipped off the top turnbuckle to land behind Spider, transitioning quickly into a German suplex for a two count.

Back on his feet, Spider whipped Showtime, Showtime came back with a clothesline, which Spider ducked, catching Showtime on the rebound with a big spinebuster. As things progressed, Spider began to work more and more aggressively on his offence and Showtime found himself fighting him off with even more erratic counters and hasty split-second decisions on how to reverse a suplex into a neckbreaker.

Soon, Spider began to heap on the punishment, cutting Showtime off quicker and quicker on his reversals, grounding him and holding him in rear chin locks and targeting his joints with stomps. Showtime fought back with a few well-timed European uppercuts, but Spider stopped him cold by delivering his finishing move, the Black Widower double underhook DDT.

The referee counted: ONE...


TWO...


Showtime managed to get the shoulder up.

“What the hell is going on?” Penny said, “I thought they were just supposed to spar!”

“Hey, these are top-level wrestlers,” Proteus said, “You don’t get there without pushing yourself. Spider’s doing a good job testing Showtime’s limits.”

Spider rolled out of the ring, apparently frustrated. As Showtime propped himself up in the corner, Spider reached under the apron and pulled out an iron monkey wrench. He banged it against the ring post to hear a satisfying “clangg!”

In the ring, Spider swung the wrench, but Showtime dodged and managed to kick Spider’s hand, knocking the wrench out of the ring.

“Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here? ULTRATITLE isn’t no-DQ. I’m not gonna have to defend against someone trying to brain me with a friggin’ wrench!”

“You dips—t!” Spider snarled, “I don’t wanna be your f—king sparring partner. I should be the one out there kicking the crap outta Melton. I’d rather blow my brains out than let you wrestle that match.”

“First of all, cool it with the swearing,” Showtime said, “There’s a lady present. And she’s British. Second of all, I’m sorry you’re not in ULTRATITLE, but beating me to near-death isn’t going to change anything for you.”

“Thought you might say that. And maybe you’re right,” Spider said, “So I got a deal for you. You and me finish our match right here. I win, I take your place in ULTRATITLE, I get the shot at Joey Melton.”

“And what’s in it for me if I accept the challenge?”

At the entrance to the gym, two of Spider’s largest, most imposing students stepped in front of the doors, wielding baseball bats.

“You win? I let you leave,” Spider offered.

“Well... I guess I don’t have much of a choice.”

The two resumed wrestling. This time, there was no pretense of being a training exercise. The two traded furious blows, blocking and countering whenever possible. Showtime bounced off the ropes, using momentum and gravity, with a heavy dose of panache as always, but Spider Murphy was not playing around either. It was hard for Showtime to put him away long enough to deliver a top rope move like a moonsault or a missile dropkick. The powerful Spider could catch a Showtime crossbody and transform it into a walking backbreaker, before throwing him over his shoulders like a ragdoll for a Samoan drop.

Spider covered. Only a two count. He pulled Showtime up, pinning him into the corner with shoulder thrusts. Showtime leapt over with a sunset flip, but didn’t hold even go for the cover. He transitioned into a low dropkick, then went to the top rope.

Showtime came off the top rope with his finishing move, the corkscrew moonsault known as the Final Curtain... and Spider rolled out of the way.

Spider capitalized by stretching Showtime out with a surfboard. “I’ve been studying up, Show. All these years, I got even better at delivering punishment. Submit and it can all end. You go home and a real deserving champ takes yer place.”

“Eat... my.... shorts.” Showtime said.

Spider released the hold and continued to hold Showtime to the ground, delivering a series of heavy-handed punches. He turned Showtime’s mask sideways to obscure his vision, then held his shoulders down. ONE... TWO...

No, Showtime wriggled free. He escaped to the corner and fixed his mask. Spider rushed in after him, and Showtime tried to catch him off guard with his trademark superkick, the Standing Ovation – but Spider caught the leg, tripping Showtime, and swinging him around the ring with a giant swing.

“See... that’s yer problem,” Spider said to his fallen foe, “Yer a performer. All about the big moves. I saw that kick comin’ a mile away, an’ e’ryone who fights you knows it’s comin’ too. That’s why yer gonna lose. An’ this is why I’m gonna beat you. An’ Joey Melton too.”

Spider pulled Showtime to his feet and hooked his arms, preparing to deliver the Black Widower again.

But in a flash, Showtime reversed the positions of the arms and slipped around to go back-to-back with Spider, pinning his shoulders to the mat using that time-honored roll-up move: A backslide. The ref counted:

ONE...



TWO...



THREE!

The two men both sat up. Spider’s face wore an expression of shock and anger. Showtime, under his mask, wore a grin.

Breathlessly, he said, “Did you like that? Came to me in a dream last night. Calling it the Spoiler Alert.”

“BULLS—T!” Spider cried out, pounding the mat. “You’d never try to win a f—king match with a roll up! You’re all about impressing the audience!”

“I did impress the audience,” Showtime said, gesturing to Proteus and Penny , who looked on in silent elation. “You’re bigger, tougher, meaner than me, and you had all my best moves scouted. And I still got your shoulders to the mat for three count. My world is wide open, more than it’s ever been. Whatever Joey Melton is expecting to get from me, he’s still gonna be surprised. Thanks, Spider.”

As the three made for the door, Spider called out.

“It’s a shame... I coulda used that ten G’s.”

Showtime stopped in his tracks. “What ten G’s?”

“What do you mean What ten g’s? The ten thousand dollar bounty Melton placed on his own head. Whoever beats him gets the money. I got a lotta legal fees... or I could’a bought a lotta beer.”

“I never heard about this bounty,” Showtime said. “I just wanted to fight Melton for the glory of it.”

Spider paused a moment, then began to laugh loudly, “Glory! Ha, hahaha, hahaha! The f—k does that even mean? You fought that hard, an’ you didn’t even know about the money? Holy s—t, brother, you’re even crazier than I thought. Hahahaha, what ten G’s, he sez. All for the glory. Get the f—k outta here.”

The three got back in Penny’s car for the long drive back to civilization. It was night, and the windows were rolled down so a cool desert breeze could blow in and revitalize Showtime’s exhausted body. They didn’t say another word, just bobbed their heads along to the song on the radio. Penny’s love of 90’s rock had brought them a strangely appropriate soundtrack: “If I Had A Million Dollars” by the Barenaked Ladies.

But Showtime still couldn’t focus on the money, now that he knew about it. He couldn’t help but repeat a phrase Spider had said earlier: “Everyone wants to leave their mark on the world, right?”

Steve
06-06-12, 07:32 PM
The lights went dark in Hewson High School in Tampa, Florida and for a moment these poor kids saddled with the failure of public education silenced themselves in anticipation of something greater than their youth. A hush fell over the students and nervous laughs began to break out as a few uncomfortable kids broke the tension building in the auditorium. They were cries for help really, but in the light of day and under peer pressure it’s harder to protest the education presented on a daily basis, instead they’re left to go home and wonder which of them will be strong enough to make it through and solider onto community college. Oh, there are a few good souls who will help a handful reach a university, but the teens alone in the dark except for their insecurities are scared enough to understand the English major making beer runs for parties and doling out oral sex favors in the cafeteria’s dry storage closet probably doesn’t have their best interest at heart. But, it’s an older woman taking the train downtown, never mind the sadness of cumming while your head’s adjacent to the sloppy joe recipe.

As the CS Enterprises logo flashes on the film screen, applause broke out. These kids would sit through anything as long as it was televised. A non-descript teenage boy was shown on screen, sitting in front of a soft gray photography backdrop. The disclaimer read: Ryan Scott, 15.

“I know I’m different,” Ryan stated.

Emily Maple, 14.

“I don’t look the way they want me to.”

Isaiah Washington, 16.

“I don’t dress the way they do.”

“I don’t like the same music.”

“I’m not into sports.”

“I think I like other boys.”

“I’ve never played Settlers of Catan.”

“I’m 14,” Jarrett started to cry, “and I CAN’T RUN.”

In unison the kids spoke.

“What gives you the right to bully me? We are all special people. Speak kindly to us please. Respect us. Befriend us. Uplift us. It’s never ok to be a bully. Be a boss not a bully. Spread love not hate.”

The ever soothing image of Joey Melton comes on screen. He dreamt of doing deodorant or shampoo commercials before he learned of the No-Poo movement taking the hippie community by storm. A human body doesn’t really need shampoo. After six weeks of not shampooing your body cleanses itself. Melton is three weeks in. His hair looks like a bit of a mess, but he’s too far in to reach for the $100 bottle of genius yet. It’s like dating a boring virgin, you’ve come this far, you have to see it through. Instead of the hygiene commercials he’s here giving a PSA.

“Hello, I’m Joey Melton. CS Enterprises and school systems everywhere and working together to put an end to bullying. Bullying is a practice that affects everyone. Help us to change the world and together we can bring peace and understanding to the world. CS Enterprises and I want you to…”

Kids in unison, “BE A BOSS NOT A BULLY!”

The video came to an abrupt end, editing was never Marvin Parsons’ strong suit, certainly not when he bullied his way to the top of the production chain of command over the years. Who hasn’t worked at CS Enterprises and seen Parsons berate a soft spoken employee or degrade the way a woman was dressed, thinking in turn it’d make her dependent on his approval. Point is Marvin mailed in his work here, and as the lights came up it took the kids two seconds before they broke into applause.

At the podium front of the auditorium, School Principal Dr. Jack Mehoffer leaned into the microphone, “Boys and girls, please help in welcoming the great, the one the only, the…” Jack stumbled as he read from the prepared introduction, “sexual All-American, JOEY MELTTTTTTTTTTTTON.”

Uproarious applause as Melton, in dress pants and a “Be a Boss, Not a Bully” white t-shirt strolled onto the stage. Honestly, some kid’s life was given meaning here today – again.

It was eight years ago nearly to the day when Melton working on assignment for the NFW during ULTRATITLE Season 1 was invited to Hewson Elementary across the way for Career Day (http://www.fwrestling.com/showthread.php?5054-Career-Day&highlight=hewson). Joey wrestled Calvin Carlton for the kids and even showed a select few how to apply the Figure Four properly. He fielded questions and during a lunch break surveyed the teacher’s longue for wiling and suitable targets.

Now he was back to implore them not to mentally abuse one another. It was an easy paycheck more or less. He’d promised the man who pins him in the ULTRATITLE 10 grand and this offer rolled in a little before. It seemed easy enough. Cut a video message; pass out a few t-shirts and spread the word, belittling someone for not winning the genetic lottery isn’t socially accepted, even though the very idea of anti-bullying conflicted with how great things are accomplished. Breaking the backs of other men for personal glory is the recipe for success in any language. Who’s building the Nuclear outposts in North Korea? Who gets paid pennies on the dollar to make sure Real Ice cream is used in every Sonic milkshake? Bullying gets **** done. Kids are too sensitive today because they’re told they’re unique and precious. Is Joey Melton really supposed to shed a tear over someone who announces on facebook they’re gonna kill themselves because a meth addict in training called them a vagina blood fart? Melton’s had hundreds of promos cut his way over the years, and plenty of insults thrown his way. Sure he nearly drank himself out of this sport and had a severe problem with sex addiction, but we all have scars. Move on.

Of course he can’t say such things to these kids. He tried to tell the truth to them last time and was nearly brought up on charges. Everybody wants everything to be nice and civil. Well, ok then. Let’s be nice. Let’s…be….civil.

“HELLO HEWSSSSSSSSON HIGH!”

The kids started chanting his name. God it felt good to make a crowd mark out, even if only a few were spelling bee material. Melton grabbed a T-shirt gun from inside the podium stepped to his right and started gunning “Be A Boss, Not A Bully” tees into the crowd like a mad man. He was drilling these mistakes with heavy artillery and it felt great.

“WHO’S NEXT? YEAH!”

He dropped a dumpy freshman to the ground with a perfect shot to the mid-section. As Melton fired rounds into the crowd, his fears about being too old to compete again and anxiety over the match with Showtime vanished. It really did feel good to open up and fire into an unsuspecting crowd. Sure, the politically correct way was still Yoga, a Soy Milk bath and a long hard massage but for a second he understood why some cheat and just go bat ass crazy.

“Ok, thank you, thank You Mr. Melton…” Dr. Mehoffer began to wrestle the cannon from Joey’s arms.

“Hey! Wai—I’ve got a few more roun—“ Mehoffer ripped the gun away as the kids who weren’t in safety position laughed.

“THANK YOU!”

Melton’s senses returned and he pushes his blonde hair back as he stepped behind the podium and cleared his throat.

“How many here today have ever been bullied?” As the words cleared Melton’s lips dozens of hands rose.

“That sucks. I’m here to tell you,” honesty is never the best policy, “it’s going to be ok. Believe it or not, I was bullied too. I was raised by side show parents. I was told I would be a freak just like them. I was made fun of for being poor as a kid and wearing second hand clothes. I was put down because I drank too much. Because I had TOO MUCH sex throughout my career. I was told by the woman of my life that I had to be monogamous. I was told I had to grow up. I was told I was too old to wrestle in the ULTRATITLE tournament. I was told I didn’t pass a drug test. I was told the Green party would never win an election and my vote was being wasted. I was told being a vegan is gay.”

Mehoffer steps in nervously.

“What? Gay? We can’t say gay now? Holy chr—“

“Boys and Girls,” Mehoffer desperately speeds up the program. “Please welcome Mr. Melton’s little friend, ADRIAN EVANS!”

Adrian in jeans and a “Be A Boss, Not A Bully” shirt walks to the podium waving to the crowd. Melton looks at Mehoffer and wants to pounce. “What the ****? You paid me to be here. I’m working, I’m working here.”

As the kids react to Evans’ size, Adrian calls for the mic but Joey pushes him away. “You’re early. I’ve still gone ten pages to blow through.”

“Ten pages? You’re two minutes away from a hate crime.”

Mehoffer gives Evans a handheld mic.

“Kids, it’s great to be here!” How often has he had to save Melton’s skin? You would think age leads to some sort of wisdom but Joey was socially retarded in many ways. He so much more understood when he was drunk as a skunk and consumed red meat. “Joey and I just want to say don’t let other people take you down. Don’t let them define you by words. By being here today and supporting the ‘Be a Boss’ movement you guys are putting an end to bullying.”

Wild applause. Yes, the world is already a better place.

“Do you really believe that bull****?”

Kids laugh.

“Melton you’re live, you fool.”

“Kids if you’re frightened by Adrian’s size, don’t be.” Laughs. “Adrian what grade are you in?”

“What?”

“How many of you here today have been bullied AND are taller than Adrian?”

Laughs.

“The point here today is, no matter what people say to you, your life is probably already better than his. What’s there to be afraid of?”

“You ass. This is an important issue to me.”

“Don’t be such a *****.”

Laughs.

Mehoffer storms the stage, “That’s it, you idiot! Off stage. OFF THE STAGE!”

“Oh calm down Nancy!”

“What! How Dare you! I’m getting security in three seconds.”

“Hey buddy,” Melton turns to the kids, “I hear your wife says that’s not all you can do in three seconds.”

Laughs.

“I hope Showtime destroys you, you horrible creature!”

“You hope what? Look buddy I was performing here. I was improving a scene with Adrian.”

“Yeah, man…really. Kids relate better if they can see it. It’s performance art. Sure we could come out here and give a lecture, but we’ve been performing for years for crowds all over the world. Look at their faces; I think they were getting it.”

“They are horrified!”

“Showtime? REALLY? Look kids, who here thinks Showtime has a snow ball’s chance in hell of beating me? Anyone? I’m Joey Melton. I made this sport what it is today. I’ve held more titles than this man has had pieces of ass. I’ve drawn crowds all over the world. I’m a 2-time ULTRATITLE winner and if anyone thinks Showtime is going to walk into that arena, pin me, end my career and take my 10 grand… you’ve got another ****ing thing coming.”

“I’ve worked too damn hard for my career to NOT end the way I want it to. My legacy has GIRTH yours is making ****ing French Toast for a blog whore. My name is known in run down disco halls in Russia, nobody knows who the **** Showtime is, the sonofa***** has been gone for ten years. What’s he hiding from? Huh? If he thinks letting me into his world and watching him work out is gonna scare me? YOU’RE DEAD WRONG! Showtime I’M JOEY ****ING MELTON! I will write the script! I decide what happens between us! It’s my destiny to be BACK in the FINAL FOUR with a chance to retire with my prize, my true lady at my side, ITS YOUR DESTINY TO BE MY ***** IN THAT RING!

“I RETIRED EDDY LOVE, TROY WINDHAM STOLE MY GIMMICK, I MADE DAN RYAN FEAR A PEE CUP AND IF YOU THINK I GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT YOU WORKING YOUR WAY BACK INTO SHAPE, YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR MIND!”

“The ULTRATITLE,” Melton jumps up and down frantically. “IS MINE, MINE MINE!”

Melton finally stops. A pin drops and it’s faintly heard. Joey cocks his head, opens his eyes and winces into the audience. A new medication he’s taking for blood pressure cautioned it may cause extreme bursts of absurdity.

“Bullying is never okay, kids. If you take anything from this, please…take that.”

Joey eyes a kid in the front row, cell phone out, recording video. All of it will be on Youtube in a matter of minutes. ”Melton Gone Mad” viral by the end of the night. Good Grief.

“Gimme that cellphone you little PISS!”

scotto
06-07-12, 08:21 PM
Chapter 8: Serendipity

Showtime was asleep in Penny Pickett’s bed. He had hardly spoken a word since his impromptu match against Spider Murphy. When they got back to her apartment, he walked straight into her room and collapsed on the bed, instantly falling asleep, and she was too exhausted from driving to try to move him.

“Where have you lot been all day?” Penny’s mother Colleen asked. It was 11 PM and she was already asleep when the three returned. “I couldn’t reach you by mobile!”

“Sorry mum,” Penny said wearily, “We were out in the desert and I couldn’t get any reception. We’ll be quiet.”

Penny looked at her phone. 11 missed calls. Seven were from her mother, the others were from her Editor. She stepped out onto the balcony to check her voicemail. Predictably, they were a series of increasingly frustrated monologues, culminating in a brief message saying: “Pickett, you’re fired.”

She had to admit she wasn’t taken by surprise. She hadn’t been altogether “present” at her job since this ULTRATITLE insanity had begun. She had hoped to concoct a story out of her interactions with Showtime and Proteus, but they had proven elusive subjects. Rather than sit them down for an interview, she had to stand back and let the events transpire, like a BBC Nature documentary. The process was slow and she certainly did not have the clout to maintain such a project, nor the desire to alleviate the insanity in her life by kicking Showtime and Proteus out. She thought of that old saying: In for a Penny, in for a pound, then rolled her eyes at how trite it was.

She had mixed feelings about having to give up her job because she was becoming part of the “Showtime and Proteus Show” – a “show” that could end with one loss, to Joey Melton. For better or worse, she was part of it, although she couldn’t be sure exactly what part. She certainly didn’t see herself as having anything in common with the surgically-altered, likely-vapid women who normally accompanied wrestlers.

She took a deep breath to disguise the look of disappointment on her face as she went back into the apartment to find Proteus sitting on her couch watching a movie. The sound was off, in deference to Colleen’s wishes for noise reduction.

“What’s this?”

“2012,” he answered, “It’s got John Cusack. Stuff explodes.”

“That’s not 2012,” Penny said, keenly identifying actress Kate Beckinsale. “That’s Serendipity!”

“Hm,” Proteus said, “Well, I’ll keep watching in case anything explodes.”

“I promise you, nothing explodes in this film.”

“I think you’re wrong,” Proteus said. “There can’t be a movie where stuff doesn’t explode. Why would anyone watch that?”

“Hey, if you want to keep watching this romantic comedy, you don’t need to explain yourself,” Penny teased him, going to the kitchen for a pint of ice cream. “I just want you to know what you’re in for.”

She sat next to him on the couch. After a moment, he spoke: “So, I think... if we make it out of this Joey Melton match... we’re gonna head out on our way.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, uh, I feel like maybe we overstayed our welcome here, we could probably find somewhere else to stay if we make it to Round 4.”

“Is this about something my mother said?” Penny asked, “Because I tried to tell her you’re not interested.”

“No, no, it’s fine, she’s a frisky older lady, that’s her way of having fun. I’m cool with that,” Proteus said, “Although I think she stole some of my gear to build some kind of perverse altar in her closet. No, I just mean I realize we’ve probably done a bit too much damage, and we need to let you get back to your real life before something bad happens.”

“Well it’s too late for that,” she said, taking a spoonful of Mint Chocolate Chip, “I just found out I was fired. Apparently Independent Sports News doesn’t look kindly on its reporters taking unannounced leaves of absence to pal around with wrestlers.”

“I’m real sorry about that,” Proteus said. Penny tilted the pint of ice cream toward him. Proteus dug out a chunk with his fingers and ate it out of his hand. “I can’t help but feel like we’re partly responsible.”

“Partly?” she laughed. “You and your charge Showtime are wholly responsible. If you’d never showed up on my doorstep, I’d be going into the office tomorrow to write about the All-County Billiard Championship. The two of you are the most interesting thing that’s happened to me in a long while, there’s no reason for me to show you the door now. So don’t worry about something bad happening. The worst is past.”

“Yeah! I’m sure everything’s gonna be peaches and cupcakes from here on out,” Proteus said in his most chipper voice, trying to disguise the fact they had been the target of two instances of property destruction already.

She asked, “Can I be honest with you?”

“Absolutely,” Proteus said, “We’re all being honest right now, totally.”

“I’ve seen a lot of wrestling in my life, mostly as a journalist. I’m used to being objective and recording what I see happen in the ring, not... for instance, what I personally think about the wrestlers. It never bothered me when one wrestler beat another. But the past few days... things have changed. Please don’t tell Showtime this. I’m not going to deny feeling a twinge of pleasure when he defeated Jace Gryphon, given the way Gryphon conducted himself to me. And when he fought Spider Murphy, I could hardly look, in case Showtime lost. Knowing how much it means to him to fight Joey Melton, I don’t think I could have stood it if Spider backdoored his way into the tournament. I haven’t felt so... involved in a very long time.”

Proteus smiled. “That’s what he does. That’s what we do. We bring you in. This isn’t just two men doing business. This isn’t a day at the office. Every match is life or death, especially in this tournament. Showtime is three seconds away from being obliterated. How does it make you feel?”

“Bloody awful!” she admitted. “And I hate that I feel that way. Confound the lot of you, for making me feel like I have a stake in this. Living and dying for Showtime’s victory, watching from the sidelines, a powerless spectator. I was happier feeling nothing, but the elation I would get from seeing Showtime overcome Joey Melton... it’s so tantalizing, so addicting! I need him to win.”

“Exactly! You’re getting it. You’re in our world now. We never go home after a loss and tell ourselves it was just another match. Every match is all or nothing, and the morning after every loss is when you hit the comeback trail, and every win just prepares you for the next. Showtime knows that better than anybody. And he knows you feel that way. He assumes everyone does, with the same passion he feels. That’s why he’ll win. He can’t stand the thought of letting everyone see him lose. Even to someone like Melton.”

“He’s fuelled by ego... but in a good way,” Penny laughed. “Do you think he can beat Melton?”

“On paper, it’s close...” Proteus said, “There’s no dismissing Melton’s skills. But then I found out about this $10,000 bounty...”

“That certainly indicates confidence.”

“You’d think that,” Proteus said, “But I don’t know. Ten thousand bucks? Showtime and I are scroungers, sure, but to a guy like Melton, that’s pocket change. You know, the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee gets $30,000. So we’re worth 33.3333333333333% of what you get for spelling guetapens. That sounds like a publicity stunt. And I’d know, I’m the guy who paid for a giant billboard of Showtime pinning Jace Gryphon by the side of the 403. This match didn’t need a bonus feature: the chance to beat Joey Melton is an automatic ratings boost. I’m not Siegfried Freud, but I think subconsciously, Melton’s worried he’s not worthy of people’s attention. Even with all his credibility, his name recognition, his chops... he knows there’s a weakness in his game. And I know Showtime will find it, probably in elaborate fashion.”

“It’s Sigmund Freud, actually.”

“Hey, you didn’t know him. Maybe it was really Siegfried. Maybe he had a brother named Siegfried who also did psychic stuff.”

“That’s not really how verification works. And it was psychiatric, not psychic. If he was a psychic, he probably could have analysed people better, and his works wouldn’t be so badly discredited today—I can see I’m rambling, which means it’s time to bed. I mean time to go for bed. I mean go to bed. Bloody hell, how you all exhaust me.”

With Showtime still passed out in her bed, Penny opted to lodge with her mother. Proteus continued to eat ice cream by hand and watch Serendipity intently, in hopes Jeremy Piven would explode at long last.

He was glad Penny was starting to feel involved in the show. He mulled over her probable reaction if she found out they had been the target of two separate arson (or arson-like) attacks, one of which occurred in her very building. As committed as she was to “Team Showtime,” she would probably be less-than-enthused. But like it or not, if this partnership continued, there was a chance she was really going to get to learn what being part of the World of Showtime was really about.