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The Freedom Kid


I don't know how to ice skate. Not really. Maybe I can keep my balance okay for skating in circles, but that's not going to cut it for a wrestling match.

Yes, even a Greased Penguin match.

But dad wasn't around, and mom couldn't be expected to find time in her busy schedule of work and men who weren't my father to teach me, so it's just another skill I never picked up. It's just like riding a bike: there's nothing to forget if you don't know in the first place.

So it's 6am, and my motel room's alarm clock is going off. I stare at the red LCD through swollen, bloodshot eyes, trying to will the numbers into decreasing with latent psionic powers.

It doesn't work.

Tuesday night I got jumped by those Goddamn gang-banger wanna-be wiggas outside the bar, and they threw me in a fucking dumpster. Just so much trash. Like my grandmother called me that one time, "Trash that doesn't burn."

That old bitch, God rest her soul.

But I got out of that trash receptacle and unleashed the fucking fury, natch. Nothing quite like a shirtless guy covered in blood and organic refuse wearing a luchador mask rushing at you to make you think twice about your life decisions. The fool who tried to cop Piter's kick-fu went down to a flurry of punches, the fat fucker took a little more effort, the dude with the tonfa turned out to be a lilyass without his weapon, and the guy in the pimp suit... shit, I don't remember. By that point I was just seeing red.

Just like now. 6:05. I've gotta get out of bed. Gotta move.

The sheets are in a tangled mess on the floor, presumably from my thrashing around as I slept. Another bad dream, probably, though I can't quite remember what.

My limbs don't quite seem to want to respond to the signals they're getting from my brain. In my half-asleep haze, I picture the conversation.

"Right Leg, this is Central Nervous System. I repeat, this is Central Nervous System. Come in, Right Leg."

"I don't wanna."

"Right Leg, I need you to swing off the bed. That's an arcing motion, Right Leg, do you copy?"

"Ng. Fuck you."

"This is an order, soldier! Do I make myself clear?"

"Fucking hell... here I go."

"Right Leg, I need a report on your current status."

"I'm dealing with some serious tissue damage here, Central Nervous System. I repeat, serious tissue damage. And whose bright fucking idea was it to get us in three fights in as many days?"

"Right Leg, I will not hesitate to write you up for insub-"

"Oh, shit! Central Nervous System, I am coming under heavy fire from pins and needles. I repeat, pins and needles. Oh my God, I'm hit! Game over, man! Game over!"

"Left Leg, this is Central Nervous System..."

Jesus. I'm hoping this is a symptom of sleep deprivation.

I gingerly step to the floor, twin tracers of pain and tingling shooting up each leg. My vision goes momentarily blurry as I get my footing, and I nearly collapse back to the bed. I'm sore all over, with a polka-dot pattern of bruises that goes some distance toward explaining why.

The shower manages to reopen the cut over my left eye, dying the water red as it spirals down the drain. It stings, but it doesn't feel like it'll need stitches. At least, I hope not.

I haven't had to sew my face back together since my time in OWL, and I'm not looking forward to the next time.

Dripping on the bathroom floor, I pull out the scissors and go to work. It's been at least a week since my last haircut, and some of the natural curls are already beginning to show. Maybe I don't need to cut my hair to maximize ring performance, but I need THIS, this ritual, to keep me grounded.

Next come the fingernails and toenails, zinc-spotted and yellowed, respectively. Despite their looks, they're tough.

I shave slowly and carefully. Nice and smooth.

Finally I brush my teeth, battling away the encroaching forces of tooth decay.

I pull on clean boxers, a pair of ankle socks, some jeans, and a Weezer T-shirt, then lace up my red All-Stars. I take a look in the mirror.

I look fucking awful.

This is life on the road. Sometimes I miss home, but I know this is where I belong. This is what I was meant to do, and this is how I'm meant to do it.

First thing you learn's you gotta make it in this world alone