I won’t fall to The Wayside.

By: Ricky Rodriguez

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 21st Nov 2021

Once again, the Venom experience for Ricky Rodriguez had ended with him on the receiving end of an ass kicking. This time it was at the hands of Paul Montuori and the beating he laid on young Ricky with that baseball bat. Surprisingly enough, Ricky wasn’t even that bothered about how the whole thing went down. The mere thought of that meant something a lot bigger so Ricky shook his head, aiming to push away those thoughts.

 

He had every reason to be pissed. His ribs still throbbed with pain and the bruising had set in within no time. Finding himself in Fight’s five star medical facility, on the ass end of getting his ribs taped up when his companion, Big Ass Bobby, made his presence felt as he entered that room. He took a few steps forward before stopping to stand next to the table Ricky sat upon. The younger man looked up at Bobby, shaking his head.

 

Ricky Rodríguez: ‘I got the shit beat out of me.’

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘But you won.’

 

The brow of Ricky furrowed with confusion at the words coming from Bobby. 

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Did you not see what happened out there? Paul beat me like a dog with a baseball bat. My ribs are so fucked, it hurts to breathe right now. I’ll be lucky to be cleared for next week. The fuck are you on?’

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘But..you won. You and Paul Montuori had a match and you came out with the win. No matter how it happened, the fact is: It happened. There ain’t a whole lot of people who can say that.’

 

Ricky’s eyebrows remained lowered as Bobby talked. After a moment of silence between the two of them, Ricky sighed out with a grimace before shrugging his shoulders with just the slightest amount of effort.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I mean..I guess that makes sense?’

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘Of course it does!’

 

Hopefully unknowingly, Bobby slapped his hand against the back of Ricky, causing him to cringe in pain.

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘Don’t sweat the details. Just be happy with your win. Take that momentum and run with it. They just announced the show for next week. You’re in a Triple Threat against Mario Porter and Ashlynn Cassidy. Take whatever feeling you get from holding onto that win and you use it to get another against those two.’

 

Ricky hung on every word spoken by Bobby. More and more, Ricky felt a bit of confidence growing within him. Nodding his head in agreement, Ricky slid off of that table and onto his feet. But as soon as he did, he wrapped an arm around his wrapped up midsection, groaning out in pain as he did so.

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘Just don’t kill yourself before you get there.’

 

Laughing out, which was accompanied by that pained expression, Ricky was in a visibly better mood than he has been in the past couple of weeks.

 

Ricky Rodríguez: ‘Doc says I should be good to go by time the match comes around. I’ll try to take it easy..ish tho, promise. Ima take it easy next couple of days then I’m gonna slowly get ready and when it’s time for that bell, Ima give’em hell like only I can.’

 

Big Ass Bobby: ‘That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Now come on. Let’s hit up a few spots, drinks on me tonight.’

 

Ricky gave Bobby a firm nod as the two slapped hands. They walked out of that medical room, the door slowly closing behind them. It seemed as if things were starting to look up, even if just a little bit, for Ricky and lord, was it needed.

 

I will not fall by The Wayside.

 

The barely clothed body of Ricky Rodriguez slept peacefully upon that black and red leather couch within his generously provided Fight NYC living space. That peaceful sleep only lasted for so long before young Ricky began to move in his sleep. The features of his face scrunched up at whatever was going through his mind as he drifted deeper and deeper into that dream of his.

 

Ricky found himself in an area completely unknown to him. Though it was a simple hallway that he walked down, it was one he hadn’t been to before. To his left, a plaque was mounted on the wall, revealing that wherever he was, he was on the Nineteenth Story of the building that hallway was in.

 

Despite the unknown, Ricky continued down that hallway until he came across a single door. It had been a few minutes, or at least it  felt that way, and this was the only door Ricky had come across. Despite his gut screaming at him not to, Ricky reached forward and grabbed hold of that door handle. It was cold to the touch, almost to the point of making him want to let go.

 

But despite every bad feeling he had, Ricky twisted that handle before pushing the door open and walking inside. As soon as that door closed behind him, something was different. No longer was it the Fight NYC wrestler Ricky Rodriguez, it was a much..much younger one. In a panic almost, Ricky urgently looked around the room a few times before coming to the realization that he was in an elementary school.

 

Not only was he back in elementary school, the eyes of every student were locked onto him. Just as the nerves began to creep in, the teacher walked up to little Ricky. She was a tall, thin woman with short hair. Although short, it was clear she took care of it as it was rather shiny and silky. The closer she got to Ricky, the stronger the smell of strawberry shampoo radiated off of her hair, calming him somewhat.

 

She was decked out in a skirt and blouse combination that was rather neat and trim. A pair of horned rimmed glasses and a big smile completed her look. As a matter of fact, the more Ricky noticed, the more he realized everything about this woman was the definition of orderly. Everything except for one small detail. The fingernail of her right pinky was very much longer than the others, by at least six inches. 

 

Miss Zarves: ‘Oh there you are, I was so worried you would have trouble finding us. I’m Miss Zarves! You must be our new classmate, Ricky!’

 

Parting his lips to speak, Ricky was a bit taken off guard as nothing came out. Instead, he chose to nod his head slightly and muster up his best smile.

 

Miss Zarves: ‘You seem nervous. That’s perfectly understandable, though, when joining a new class. You’re going to do just fine though. We don’t get very many new students so when we do, we make sure they feel the most at home they possibly can. It’ll be no time before you fit right in and become the best of friends with everyone here.’

 

As cheerful as those words sounded, Ricky couldn’t help the feeling of cold washing over him. His smile faded out as he looked up at her, a slightly crooked smile donning her face. That cold feeling grew significantly as he turned to every male and female in that class wearing the exact same expression.

 

Miss Zarves: ‘You may be stupid now, but once you’ve been in my class for a few years, you’ll know the history of everybody. Please go have a seat next to Virginia. She’s my best student and will happily help you with anything you need.’

 

Still finding himself unable to utter a single word, Ricky gave Miss Zarves a nod before walking over and taking the seat next to the much older woman. She turned in her seat, that chilling smile lingering across her features.

 

Virginia: ‘Hi Ricky, I’m Virginia. It’s soo nice to meet you!’

 

It was clear that the only way Virginia belonged in this class would be as a teacher, not as a student. He’d even go as far as to say she looked old enough to be his own mother. Virginia picked up on Ricky’s confusion and spoke up.

 

Virginia: ‘I know what you’re thinking and it’s okay! You’re never too old to learn and Miss Zarves is the best teacher ever. She always gives good grades so you don’t have anything to worry about.’

 

Before Ricky could speak up, Miss Zarves cleared her throat at the front of the class. Everyone, Ricky included, fully turned around to focus their attention solely onto her.

 

Miss Zarves: ‘Luckily for our new best friend Ricky, it will be an easy assignment for today. You all are going to take the numbers from one to a million and alphabetize them.’

 

Excitement radiated from Virgina and the other two students but the confusion felt by Ricky only grew more and more. Sure enough, that confusion turned into something closer to worry as Ricky tried to make sense of it all. Shaking his head, he turned to look at Virginia as Miss Zarves began to collect stacks of paper to pass out for each student. 

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Wait, this ain’t right. None of it is. Do you have any idea how long this is gonna take? I gotta go get ready for a match and there’s Sahara too and just..’

 

Miss Zarves: ‘Ricky! I assure you that you’ll have plenty of time to finish your assignment just in time for the next one. Memorizing every word in the dictionary!’

 

Without another word, she sets that stack of blank sheets of paper on top of Ricky’s desk and a pencil next to it. Looking down at the papers, he turned his attention to Virginia.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I can’t be here. I haven’t been to school in years, I’m an adult.’

 

Virginia: ‘Ricky..so am I. You’re better off here, anyway. Out there?’

 

She motioned her head towards the door.

 

Virginia: ‘You’ll just be forgotten. As if you don’t even exist or if you were made up. But here? You’ll always be surrounded by your best friends and the best teacher ever! By the time we’re done with our assignments here, you’ll never want to leave.’

 

Shaking his head, panic began to swell within the younger Ricky. Getting up from his seat, there were collective gasps from Virginia, Miss Zarves, and the others in that room. He rushed towards the door he came in before reaching down and grabbing the handle.

 

Virginia: ‘Just give it a chance, Ricky. Let go of it all. There’s nothing out there for you anymore. We’re all you need.’

 

Miss Zarves: ‘You’re going to get so far behind on your assignments if you leave.’

 

Even despite their protests, Ricky firmly twisted that handle and opened the door. On the other side of that door, the hallway from before was gone, being replaced by a vast, empty darkness. Without another thought, Ricky stepped into it. With no solid floor beneath him, Ricky just began to fall. Deeper and deeper, he watched as that doorway became smaller and smaller until it was completely gone.

 

He wasn’t even sure if he was still falling at this point. Everything was cold and getting more and more so with every moment that passed. It felt as if he was slipping entirely. First thing that went was places. Places he’s been a hundred times. Places he knows like the back of his hand. Gone. Drawing nothing but blanks when he thought about them.

 

Next were the faces. People he had known all his life. People he had formed the tightest of bonds with. People he loved were slipping away from his thoughts until they were no more than faceless figures. And then nothing at all. That feeling of cold engulfed his every nerve ending. It was as if he felt nothing at all. No good. No bad. Just..nothing. And that was the scariest feeling of them all.

 

Back in reality, Ricky shot up into a seated position, woken out of a dead sleep. His bare body was coated with a thin layer of cold sweat. The chest of Ricky raised and fell rapidly, struggling to catch his breath, each one causing the pain to surface in his ribs. As much as they still hurt, it couldn’t even slightly compare to the feeling that still lingered throughout his body.

 

Finally regaining his composure, Ricky looked around that living room for a brief moment before finally deciding to lay back down. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t close his eyes. It was a feeling he wanted to avoid at all costs even if it meant getting up at..he rolled over to check his phone..Three a.m. A low groan rolled free from deep inside Ricky.

 

For a few more minutes, Ricky debated on what to do. Finally, the desire not to risk returning to that kind of dream won out and Ricky pushed himself up to a seated position. Grabbing up the remote and his dab pen, he took a long drag off of it while he booted up and started scrolling through Tubi TV. This usually was his go to for situations like this. Blown out of his mind with shitty Full Moon Pictures movies playing in the background. Usually something like Killer Bong or Jack Frost.

 

With each minute of the movie that passed and every hit taken off of that pen, Ricky grew more and more relaxed, thoughts and feelings brought on about by that dream slowly slipping away. It was a tried and true method of bringing himself back whenever things got to be too much. Within a few minutes, Ricky was totally relaxed and at ease. His mind blank, allowing him to enjoy the rather campy horror on his television to the fullest extent.

 

Keeping with the winning ways.

 

It was the next day and Ricky Rodríguez was in a much better mood than he was the night before. Keeping with doctor’s orders, Ricky had taken it easy, for the most part, with his gym time after the brutal attack at the hands of Paul Montuori. His ribs were still taped up beneath the baggy black cotton material of the plain t-shirt he wore. With his lower half covered by a pair of baggy camouflage patterned cargo pants, the look of Ricky was a comfortable one, to say the least.

 

The building behind him was a new indoor trampoline park that had recently opened and was something Ricky wanted to check out, despite what pain lingered in his ribs. Everything went mostly well, partially due to a pretty good instructor who looked out for him during his time there. Now finished with all of that, Ricky had found himself on the outside of that building where he came down from the experience.

 

The concrete wall did well to support his weight as Ricky leaned against that building. Fully aware of the camera pointed at him, Ricky shot a glance in that direction. A look of deep thought showed as clear as day across the face of Ricky. The words that would follow deepened that expression.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Freddy Krueger once said: Being dead wasn’t a problem, but bein forgotten..now that’s a bitch. Even someone, as damn near immortal and infinitely powerful as he was? Even he was terrified of bein forgotten. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot ever since I was little, actually. The more I think of it, the more terrifyin of a thought it becomes.

 

It’s somethin you see so often in this business. You get someone who’s fuckin white hot. Someone who catches everyone’s attention in all the best ways. But as flashy and loud as that person is, their confidence is as fragile as glass. Hit it in just the right way and it shatters

 

Some people? They can’t take it. They never expected somethin like that to happen. They weren’t ready. Focused too much on the good to be prepared for the bad. Now, I’m totally in no position to talk. I’ve had more than my fair share of bad. But here’s the difference between me and all the flash in the pan come and goes.

 

I’m prepared for the worst. In just a few months, I’ve experienced so much that has hardened me, in a way. I knew, from the beginnin, that this wasn’t gonna be easy. Not by a fuckin long shot. I prepared myself for failure so when it did happen? I managed to fight through it. I took my hits and even tho it took some time, I kept gettin back up. I kept learnin.’

 

Bringing his arms up, he crossed them at his chest. There was a noticeable underlying message to his words. Ricky looked off to the side for a moment only to notice someone approaching before a slight laugh rolled out from behind his lips.

 

???: ‘Talking about anyone in particular? Maybe someone who considers themself an MVP?’

 

There was a sarcastic tone to the newly arrived woman’s words. Pushing off of that wall, he turned to face her as she walked into the picture. Her dark rooted blonde hair was tied back in a messy ponytail. The look she went with was much more done up than Ricky’s was. She wore a sleeveless white top that exposed most of her toned stomach and a pair of torn up denim jeans, with makeup done in a simple manner but was still a good look.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Catherine, do I really seem like the type of guy to say all that as a way to talk shit bout someone?’

 

She shrugged.

 

Catherine: ‘I would.’

 

She laughed out, clearly amused with herself. Ricky laughed as well but it lacked the amusement hers did. But there was a lot more head shaking on his end.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I mean, if the shoe fits then Denzel’s kid can fuckin wear it. Somethin bout that dude just rubs me wrong, y’know? Denzel’s great, don’t get me even a lilbit wrong. But Mario..Mario. Somethin just ain’t right there. Everythin you’ve said thus far has just felt..flat..fake..deceitful. And maybe that’s just me readin things wrong.

 

Or maybe that’s just who you are. Maybe you are that flash in the pan who has no idea what failure feels like. Maybe you are that man who doesn’t know how to learn from your failures. But that just couldn’t be you, right? You don’t fail. You don’t fit the description I’m givin you.

 

I mean, you haven’t even debuted here yet and you already got thirsty ass groupies callin you the MVP of Fight NYC. On what grounds tho? Other than strokin your ego and hopin to get one step closer to that bed? There is nothin that even justifies sucha claim. Which is exactly why I’ve said what I said thus far. I don’t think you’re prepared for failure. And if you’re not prepared for failure then you’ll never move on from it.

 

Oh, and Alice? Makin fuck me eyes at a guy who’s girl ‘died’ like two weeks ago is a pretty cringy thing to do. And before you get all up in arms, I said died like that cause I really don’t know the whole story there and if we’re bein honest? I really don’t care to know.’

 

Once more, Catherine laughed to the point of snorting. She shook herself as to regain her composure before telling Ricky something about her break being over before making her way back inside. With his attention still on the camera, he waved to that woman all the while keeping on task.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘But back to Mario. I can see it now. Coastin along as the son of a really influential man in this business. Must have been pretty easy to get signed wherever you wanted to, yeah? Heyy, we just signed Denzel’s kid. I mean, I know Denzel watches a lot, and I mean a lot, of promotions. But there ain’t no way in hell you can tell me that he wouldn’t watch the promotion that employs his son just a smidge more than he does the other.

 

Starts talkin them up a bit more than he usually would. Surely the promotion that takes a chance on his flesh and blood would be that much better to him, yeah? And we all know what that means. More coverage. More mentions. More sound bytes. Promotion.

 

That’s what you bring to the table, Mario. You bring your dad and the press that surrounds him. And that’s okay. You work with what you’re given. I’d prolly do the same thing if I were in your shoes. But since I’m thankfully not in your shoes, we gotta do this a lilbit differently. I’m gonna hafta take my shoes and use them to kick your fuckin head off your shoulders.

 

The gym hype videos, they’re cool but I mean, c’mon now. That’s bout as fuckin basic as you can get. Gym doesn’t count if there’s no selfies or badly edited video clips, right? None of that matters tho. You can drop all the trainin montages you want but when you step between those ropes and that bell rings? It becomes a whole new story. A story you’re not gonna like the endin of.’

 

With no other distractions, Ricky brought his arms up and crossed them at his chest. There was a very noticeable aura of confidence rolling off of him at this point.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I’m gonna run circles around you in that ring. I’m gonna hit you harder than you’ve ever been hit before, Mario. I’m gonna see just how well tempered that glass is when I kick it in the fuckin head. Gonna see how well that glass can handle catchin a knee to your fuckin forehead.

 

Look at all that fake ass respect you’re tryinta show on Twitter. Like you know the first fuckin thing bout me. Ima take all that and Ima mash it up with that unfounded hype. And then? Ima shove it down your fuckin throat. I’m gonna continue on the path that I’m on at your expense. And while I do that, you can work on that whole bein forgotten thing.

 

Not me. I will not be forgotten. I will not let a few bad spots drive me into seclusion like it’s done to so so many people before me. I’m gonna do..whatever it takes..to make sure I show up each and every week. Week before be damned. I will not be stopped. I will accomplish EVERYTHIN I set out to do, one way..or another. You think you’re ready, Mario. But lemme tell you. You’re not. I ain’t the same bright eyed nobody I was when I got here. I’m Ricky fuckin Rodriguez and I WILL NOT be walked over..not anymore. Never again.’

 

Once those last two words poured free with as much fire and intensity Ricky has ever shown, he stopped himself. A slightly embarrassed laugh was followed by Ricky reaching up to slick back the hair atop his head.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Where are my manners? Mario ain’t the only person I gotta fight in this match. Ashlynn Cassidy. I gotta fight Miss Zion herself. I’ve gotta say: I, for one, am super stoked that you’ve managed to find the time for us in your busy ass schedule. It’s so appreciated that we’ve got you on loan this week, specially for a match such as this one. One where you have much more to lose than either me or Mario do.

 

The first ever and current Zion Champion. Imagine how everyone there would look at you if you came back with a loss? Man, they’d prolly never let you live it down. People you never even batted an eye at before? Suddenly they think they can come for your head. It might just be my opinion but that’s really notta good look, Ash.

 

But you’ve already thought of that, haven’t you? I mean, could you imagine it? Goin back to Zion, carryin that heavy ass loss. Then all of a sudden, all those people you know are beneath you. You come back with a loss and now all those people think that they gotta shot. Now you got all those people comin at you..comin for what’s yours. A loss here makes your job that much harder.’

 

Nodding his head, as to agree with himself, Ricky dug his hands into the pockets of those pants and continued on.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘In situations like these, Ash, I’ve learned you really gotta look for the bright sides. Bright side: Even if you lose, you still gonna be makin bank from the combined pays. Bright side: Even if you lose, you still gonna be more talented and better lookin than a whole hell of alottabit of others out there. Bright side: Even if you lose, I’m sure Michelle will still let you get her coffee every mornin, don’t hafta be a winner to get the coffee.

 

But most important of all. Bright side: Even if you lose, you’ll still be Zion Champion and that’s a whole hell of alottabit better than Princess Peach, yeah?’

 

There was a bit of a coy look spread out across the face of Ricky as he shot a wink after that last statement. That playfulness didn’t hang around for long as there was something Ricky needed to address.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Now, before we turn that final corner before this match, I’m gonna address the elephant in the room..’

 

Pulling his hands out of those pockets, Ricky grabbed hold of the bottom of his shirt. He lifted it up and over his head, he dropped it off to the side. Standing there, Ricky’s ribs were still wrapped in those white bandages. Only this time there was a red bullseye drawn onto them.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘As you can clearly see, I gotta big ass bullseye painted on my ribs. And hopefully, even before just now, I hope like hell you two knew that. I know I’m not gonna be a hundred percent goin into this and I’m okay with that. I fully expect you two to come for them. I’m ready for it. I’m ready for everythin you two are gonna throw at me.

 

I know what I hafta do to thrive in the kinda environment of this match. Gotta have my head on a swivel. Never know who’s gonna pop up where. But despite all of that, Ima come in strong. I got that win last time and goddamn if it didn’t feel pretty good. That feelin is somethin I’m gonna push for. That feelin is somethin I need more of. Call it addiction. Call it desperation. Call it whatever the fuck you wanna call it. But when that bell rings and the match is done? You’re gonna call me a winner. 

 

Say whatever you wanna say bout how the ‘match’ with Paul went. Yeah, I got the disqualification win. Is it my fault Paul wanted to throw a bitch fit? Is it my fault he lost whatever grip he had left on reality? No, it’s not. He knew the rules of the match and he broke them. That’s a win. Can’t dispute it. Can’t twist it. Can’t deny it.’

 

The sound of his phone going off caught Ricky’s attention. Holding up a single finger towards the cameraman, Ricky pulled his phone from his pocket and answered the call. Turning his back to the camera, a few inaudible words could be heard from Ricky before he turned back around. Pocketing that phone, he gave a single, firm nod to that man. Taking in a deep breath, the discomfort was plain to see across his face.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘That was just Doc Vincent lettin me know he wants to check out my ribs. Just to see how everythin’s goin before the match. So, Ima go take care of that. But first? Ashlynn. Mario. I want you two to know I hope you two are ready. Cause by hook or crook, I’m takin it all.

 

I won’t fall to The Wayside. I won’t be forgotten like so many. No matter what I hafta do, I’m gonna accomplish every last thing I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. When we step in there at Venom? I won’t just say it. I’ll show it.’

 

Nodding in agreement with himself, Ricky turned his back to the cameraman, slowly walking off as the scene faded away.