The King Kobra
“Come on, Dave.”
The gruff voice of Julius Squeezer said from beneath the cobra mask. Dave had slipped a right hook, after his right foot had slipped, but was still able to catch the man around the waist, wriggle down, and roll him up.
Quick jabs to the Jurassic jaws caused him to release the hold. His hand clutching his chin, Dave raised to meet the man on his feet.
“You’re not gonna win my mask with a roll up,” Squeezer said. Once the lord of the underground fight scene, Julius had ruled the ring with his iron fist, snake-like reflexes, and laser focus. That was until Alice came along.
“Maybe try an actual wrestling move?” Roach suggested. He was wearing a homemade referee shirt and had a whistle that could have only been described as ‘shrill’.
“I thought it was a wrestling move?” Dave said. The man in the cobra mask put his hands on his hips. He shook his head towards Roach who just shrugged.
“Wanna try this again?” Squeezer’s impatience could be heard in his voice. Dave adjusted his wristbands and nodded. He took a step in towards the seasoned fighter and just before they could lock up, Alice stepped into the ring.
“Dave,” she said, holding up a small envelope, “there’s a letter here for you…”
Dave the Dinosaur turned to the smaller blonde woman. He pulled the bottom portion of the Head Buck ‘Austin’s Power’ t-shirt he wore to his face, wiping away the sweat. At the shows, he had plenty of fans and friends - everyone wanted a picture. On the internet and in life? He had always been different.
His hands, shaking from the still flowing adrenaline, struggled for a moment before peeling the mask back. Dave ripped the the paper apart hastily. The trio huddled around him, doing their best to read from over his shoulder in the dim lighting, occasionally tugging at the paper to get a better vantage.
I know you probably didn’t expect to hear from me and certainly not so soon. I don’t know if you know what you did that night for me, for my son, or my marriage.
Or for my future.
I have to come clean to you, Dave. It’s important you understand. I had an accident, fifteen years ago. No, not that car, though it’s had its share. I hurt my back Dave; I hurt it real bad. It was on the job, but I was eighteen and smoked a little weed from time to time. Well…
You know how this story goes, right?
These things follow you around. The pain and the pursuit to numb it away. Anyway, you do the best you can, but it’s hard to get a good job and good insurance and…
Here I go…making excuses.
Without someone to foot the bills, you find out pretty quickly that the more and more you do, the more and more it costs and eventually, well…
You find heroins a little cheaper; a little easier to find.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this story before: one thing leads to another. I’m not a bad man, Dave, but I’m not making excuses either. I did what I had to do. Nothing violent - simple crimes. Grab a purse. Return an item I never bought.
Anyway, one thing leads to another.
Well, I had been clean for a few months when I ran into you. I lost my job that morning and used my last paycheck to get us there because - Dave, I’m ashamed to admit it - I knew I probably wouldn’t need it the next day. Either I’d find the money or I’d find a way.
You know: the pain and pursuit to numb it away.
Dave, I want you to understand: I’m not a bad man. I never wanted it to be this way. I wanted to be like you, not a dinosaur, but a man living his dream. When I saw that look on my boy's face, Dave, the pain…
I’m not making excuses. No, and I have you to thank for that. You see, the way you made my boy smile…Dave, I hadn’t seen that in years and you gave me hope to see it again. And the money? It gave me the strength to take the steps I need.
I wish I could say these words to your face, but I checked myself into a rehab center about a week ago. I’m getting better and stronger and I’m gonna see my boy smile, Dave.
Thanks to you.
I can never repay you, I know. You may not even care, but Dave, you saved my life.
And so I just wanted you to know: you’ll always be my hero.
Forever a Fan,
P.S: My boy’s name is actually Jake. He gets nervous and pretends he’s his dinosaur sometimes. I know, you probably think that’s silly.”
Dave felt the note fall from his hands.
Somewhere in his peripheral vision, he saw Alice deftly catch it, but that had been the last thing on his mind. He remembered the man and he remembered the boy: the Jurassic juvenile.
With their schedule, he had met many fans - but he remembered the boy.
And he remembered that look in his father’s face.
Even from a distance, the wrestler had seen the dismay in the man’s eyes as he tried to explain to the boy something that no one knew tore him apart. He saw the pain, even from the distance. And when the boy’s shoulders slumped, he didn’t know how far his father’s heart had dropped - he only knew he had to act.
He had to help.
He moved with the most powerful instinct he knew: his heart.
What bothered Dave wasn’t what he did, but what had crossed his mind after.
“Maybe I was wrong?” he thought. After all, that same amount of money could have gone towards things like food, hotels, maybe even a new pair of sneakers. He looked down at the beat-up pair of Jordan Raptors that had been a gift from his employer, or rather a replacement for his earlier attire.
“Are we going to finish this?” Julius asked. Dave’s shoulders began to shake. “Are you crying?”
“I’m not crying,” Roach sniffled, rubbing at his eyes. The cobra masked man turned, looking down at the him, his back to the dinosaur.
Dave would regret that moment, that second, that instant of doubt he had in himself, but he would learn. There are lessons in every moment if you choose to learn. He wiped his eyes, turning towards Squeezer. Beneath his mask, he clenched his jaw.
To trust in himself. In his instincts.
And with the help of Thomas, he learned a valuable lesson: Champions fight through the pain.
Dave caught Squeezers leg once more. A jerk of his shoulder caused the cobra-masked man to hit hard against the makeshift mat. This time Dave dropped his hips and clasped a hand around Julius neck for leverage. The startled Roach dropped down into place as Squeezer struggled…
Julius pushed him off, rolling up to his knees. He looked up at the dinosaur who extended his hand down. Squeezer clasped his wrist and rose to his feet, his free hand beginning to peel off the binding of the mask.
“Well I’ll be damned…” he said, pulling it over his head. His face, exposed to the light, showed the scars the sewer battles could leave behind. His left lip was still from the scarring, even as he spoke. “Maybe you are learning.”
“Of course,” Dave said, a determined look on his face as he tugged the King Cobra mask over his head. “That’s why I came to you.”
“Well, well, well…”
The scene opens up.
Alice stands in the middle of the fighting circle that encompasses the center of the Shattered Glass, the underground fighting ring run by her and the Sewer Side Squad, hands clasped behind her back. Behind her, Dave the Dinosaur stands motionless. He has Julius Squeezer’s snake mask pulled on under the torn, red fukioraptor face, worn like a hat.
Her emerald eyes slowly raise towards the frame, as does her smile.
“If it isn’t the Return of the Rikki-Tik-Tik, the Rikki-Tik-Tok.”
Alice speaks slowly at first, placing extra emphasis on rolling the R’s.
“I see you’ve heard that an Ashteroid has hit the garden,” she motions around herself, “and let me guess: you’ve come back to try and claim the crown? Ah yes, my lovely little lemming, once again we hear the birds a-whistling away on the interwebs: ‘It’s the Defeat of Dave: The End is Here’. Then just like clockwork-”
“A-Rikki-Tik,” she rocks her head to the side, opposite the way her finger goes. “A-Rikki-Tok.”
Alice opens her arms wide.
“Here you come: a-clambering back, thinking it’s your time to become the champion. You wish to retell the tale, a-Rikki-Tik-Tik? Run it back? After all, that was the whistles in the wind,” she calls out to the empty room, “It’s your time! The Defeat of Dave!”
Alice clicks her tongue, making a tsking noise as she shakes her head.
“Well, I’m sorry to inform you, my mangy mongoose, the birds have led you astray, like a lamb to the slaughter, and the only thing you’ll find here?”
“Is that your own end is near”
The immobile snake-headed man’s head lifts slightly.
“See someone still stands, not in the shadows, but in the spotlights. The kingdom and the crown?” She steps around it, running her hand along the surprisingly clean plating, “Dusted, to a degree, but nowhere near destroyed like the dragon from your damsels dreams. No. As you can see, the Dinosaur didn't drop off or become extinct: he evolved.”
Alice steps away, holding her arms wide to display the Bronx Champion: “Examine and then extend your ears. Roar champion!”
Dave growls lightly from behind her.
“Roar!” she yells.
This time Dave bellows forth with all his might. The camera shakes for a moment before coming still.
“You know…you do have to wonder, young Rikki-tikki: did you choose him, or did he choose you? You see sometimes the King Cobra gets in your mind, lures you in. His eyes beckon and call….‘Come…would be champions…’” she leans close to the mask, “Where is he looking? Nobody knows.”
“C’mon…” Dave’s muffled voice mumbles from underneath the masks. She giggles and turns back towards the frame.
“So show yourself, young Ricky and show us those lessons that you have learned since last we met. Have you, like a good little boyfriend, learned anything from the comet that crashed and crumbled before our champion as you cradled her crying head?”
Alice makes a pouting face.
“I hope so young Ricky! I hope that you have taken your time and tested yourself! Truly, I do because young Rikki Tik-Tik, a Rikki-Tik-Tik - it is inside you, you know? You showed the world last week when you won your way to the Blood Money Briefcase. You’re in it to win it and to write your name in the history books…But unfortunately, as far as this belt is concerned, he is the story. He’s told the tale and it seems then that the only question that remains is: will we see the triumphant return of the Mongoose warrior, finally with the abilities and wherewithal to back that chirp and chitter, emerge on top?” Her head shakes slightly. “Or will we once again be just closing the cover on this ratty, old Jungle Book.”
Alice smiles, mischievously.
“A rikki-tik-tik,” she purrs, “A Rikki tik tok. I guess we’ll see what happens once again…”
Dave grows low, his fists clenching…
“…when the dust settles.”
Then roars with all his might, his arms flexing and displaying his surprisingly toned physique. The scene fades to black.