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The Freedom Kid


The phone is ringing.

God knows what time it is. I've been passed out on a Steubenville motel bed for some indeterminate amount of time, nursing a bottle of Bacardi and occasionally stealing a glance at the PansyAss title belt.

The thrill of being a champion is not yet quite upon me.

But the incessant ringing of my cell phone is.

"This is Peter," I say into the phone.

"This is Piter," the voice at the other end says.

Oh, shit. What is he going to say when he finds out what happened? Gotta play it cool. "Hey, Piter. What's up?"

"Well," he begins auspiciously, "I ordered Ill Will last night."

It fucking figures. "Look, Piter, I don't know what happened, I-"

"I do," he says matter-of-factly.

"Wait, what?"

""You went in there with a gameplan. Good for you. You wanted to dismantle your opponent. So you worked over his arm. Now, why did you do a thing like that?"

Trick question? "Well, he's bigger than me. I figured I'd-"

"Neutralize his power advantage by gimping his arm, bringing him down to even turf?"

"Well, yeah, if you want to put it that way."

"Good call. That guy is ripped, you never would have been able to match him power for power."

"Um, thanks?"

"Then, though, you started in on his back. What were you thinking?"

"Well, you know, he likes to suplex people, so-"

"So you figured you could neutralize his suplices and maybe keep him from briding them if you hurt his back enough. Am I right?"

"Yeah." Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking.

"Well, good thinking, kid. You really put the hurt on his back, but then you shifted to his head and neck. What was your reasoning behind that?"

"I, uh, I figured I'd soften him up for the-"

"Freedom Rally?"

"Right."

"Excellent decision. If you're the kind of wrestler who wants to put a big emphasis on a finishing maneuver, you've gotta build up to it. So far, so good."

"Hey, thanks. I thought it was a pretty good-"

"Don't interrupt me!" he snaps. "Now, why, when the match was going so well for you, when you had Eddie Williams at your mercy, why in the fuck did you go up top?"

Looks like this is the end of the easy questions. I know why I went up top, but it's kind of embarrassing. Still, it's not like I'm going to get away with it if I lie to him, so... "Because I thought you might be watching." There, it's said, and the warmth in my face isn't just from the rum.

Oddly enough, it sounds like I caught him off his guard. For once. "Because... well, what else was going through your head when you tried to cop the move that I made famous and damn near broke your neck?"

I sigh. "Nothing, Piter. Nothing else."

"Obviously not! C'mon, kid, what'd I tell you about THINKING? Rhetorical question, I remember what I told you, whether you do or not. You went into that match thinking you could fuck around. Well, you fucked around, and what did it get you?"

"I lost." The words struggle to get out of my throat. "I'm the new PansyAss Champion."

"King of the losers," he chimes in.

"Champion of the Loserweight division."

"And now you're going against the Syndicated Champion."

"Yeah. Maybe he'll kill me. Then they can find a new PansyAss Champ."

"Or maybe you'll beat him. Sure, it's a non-title match, you'll still be PansyAss Champ either way, but think how much a win like this could put you on the map!"

"Fuck that noise," I say. "I'm a loser. People have been telling me that all my life, and I did my best not to believe it. I refused to believe it, and I became a wrestler, and now I have a title belt to prove that I am. I was wrong, and everybody else was right. So fuck it." With a sudden burst of energy, I leap from the bed and stalk over to the PansyAss strap. I hold it up to the phone, and Piter can't see it, but maybe he can hear it, that chorus of voices calling me a loser, voices ranging from those of children to the elderly, the kids at school, my mom's boyfriends, my grandmother, everybody, all of them calling me a loser, calling me other names, and this fucking belt proves them RIGHT.

"You there, kid?" he asks, and maybe he won't be able to hear me over the voices, or maybe he will, hear the panic in my voice, but I respond anyway.

"Yeah," I say, "I'm here," I say, "PansyAss Champion," I say.

"You okay?"

"NO!" I'm screaming. Screaming means I'm not okay, because I can't lie, no, not to Piter, never. I punch the title belt as hard as I can. "Hear that?" I punch it again. "Or that?" My knuckles hurt. "That..." This time, when I pull my hand away it's bloody. "Is a sound..." My blood is splattering the carpet and bedsheets. "That means I'm NOT okay!"

"Kid! Hey, kid! Calm down!" I hear a clapping sound from the other end of the phone. "I'd smack your face, kid, but that's the best I can do right now," he explains.

"Why? Why should I calm down?" My hand is really starting to hurt.

"Look, Peter, though it's against my nature to say something like this, you're NOT a loser. Okay? I hope you were paying attention, because I'm not repeating that."

"Why am I not a loser?" The blood surrounding me is starting to make me uncomfortable.

"Kid..." He sighs. "When you figure that out, that's when you'll beat Jayson Child. Look, I gotta go. Catch ya later."

"Later, I say, feeling numb and wondering what's going on on the other end.

On the other end