The Bum Diaries, Chapter 1: Beginnings Sept 11, 2016 16:56:51 GMT -6
Post by Better Call Saul on Sept 11, 2016 16:56:51 GMT -6
At Ease Temporary Housing Facility
Aug 27, 2015 2PM Local Time
I almost drop my cigarette butt as something comes crashing into my ribs, hard. I spin round, combat instincts kicking in, looking around for the assailant...
...only to find her staring up and me and pointing.
To be honest, I'd forgotten she was there. It happens sometimes. She says it's a good thing, though. Says that's how it goes when you're making a documentary. You gotta make the subject forget you're there. And considering the subject, in this case, is me, I'd say she's doing pretty well with that.
(Why anybody would want to make a movie about a bum is a whole 'nother story, but I tried asking her a couple times and she stonewalled me, so there's that.)
I follow her finger, see why she's elbowing me on the sides for. There's a dude standing just a few feet ahead of us, outside the House. And he's making some sort of speech.
'Gather 'round, folks, and let me tell you about an ex-CI-tin' OP-pa-TUH-nah-ty!' He's got a voice like a carnival barker, which I guess goes with the rest of his outfit: big-ass shades, slicked back hair, and the kind of suit I wouldn't be caught dead in even if someone gave it to me. Just 'cause I'm a bum, don't mean I don't have standards, and this dude looks like a fucking clown.
Still, he's talking, and people are listening.
'I know most of you folks are strugglin' to find jobs, strugglin' to make a livin'....well I have the PER-fect SO-lu-TION! I happen to be looking for able bodied young man who might be interested in a LOO-cra-tive career in en-TAH-tain-ment!'
I turn to the kid. 'Let's go see what he's all about.'
She nods, and we walk closer. The guy's already got a couple of people interested, mostly some of the younger guys who haven't been with us long, and still have most of their muscle mass and shit. There's this kid been with us a couple weeks – Matt or Mark or Max, something like that – and his buddy, and then there's UFC, or Utterly Fuckin' Crazy, who says he knows Dana White and is going to get a try out as soon as he gets in shape. He's been saying it since I got here, though, and some of the boys been here longer say he was saying it when they first came in, too, so it looks like ol' UFC's big break might be a load of shit.
And speaking of loads of shit...
'My dear boy! Look at you! What an im-PRES-sive physical SPE-cimen!'
If I hadn't known all along how full of it this guy was, I would have found out right there. Anyone who looks at me and thinks I'm an 'impressive physical specimen' is either high or full of shit – and looking at this guy, I think he might be both.
Still, though, he's offering a job, and I ain't in any position to turn down hard cash.
'Cut the crap, bro,' I tell him. 'What you got goin' on here?'
'What do I have going on?! Why, my dear boy! Nothin' less than the op-PAH-TOO-nah-ty of a lifetime! Sure-fire gua-RAN-TEED to make you a star! I was tellin' these fine boys over here – I can get them to the big time in six months, or your money back!'
Whatever this dude is selling, I still ain't buying.
'Big time of what?! For all I know, you're offerin' an exciting career as a male whore. And if that's what it is, then thanks, but no thanks.'
This makes some of the other guys back away from this dude a step or two, and I see in their faces that they hadn't thought of that at all. Considering who it is, I'm not surprised, but I'm still glad I got here before they signed up for something without asking what it was first.
'Why, my dear boy!' Clown Suit looks offended. 'As if a first-rate promoter like me would ever stoop that low! Why, I...'
'First-rate my ass,' I cut across. 'Now...what you got?'
Clown Suit doesn't reply right away; instead, he pulls out a wad of cards and hands them out to me and the boys.
'Aloysius P. Harrison,' he says, as he does so. 'Sports and entertainment talent management.'
I look down at the card, and find those exact words printed on there, inside a little white square, along with a phone number and e-mail. The background, behind the square, is a photo of two dudes fighting in a ring. I try to figure out what style they're fighting in, and conclude it can't be boxing, 'cause they don't have any gloves. They're not in a cage, either, so it's not UFC. It ain't martial arts, 'cause they're not wearing suits or protection or anything. So I guess it's got to be...
'PRAH-fessional WRASS-lin',' Clown Suit says, answering my question. 'What we in the trade know as grappling. I am offering any en-TER-pri-sin' young men the chance to make a name for themselves IN-side a wrasslin' ring!'
Now this is more my speed. I still don't trust this dude as far as I can throw him, but at least he's speaking my language. Wrestling, I can do. Fighting, I can do. Sure, I'm 160 soaking wet, but I go down to the YMCA gym in town pretty often, and I try to stay in shape. Eating is kind of a different issue, and my skills are all kinds of rusty, but hey – I'm sure if I tried, I could get good at it. Plus, it sure beats scrubbing out toilets or picking up trash.
Before I can finish, I feel something crashing into my ribs again. I whirl around, like before, and find the kid glaring at me and shaking her head. I give her this look, with my eyebrow raised, but she just shakes her head again, and walks up to Clown Suit. He sees her coming and puts on this oily, smarmy smile full of too many white teeth.
'Why, look at this li'l lady. Ain't you pretty?! What can Uncle Slick do you for?!'
The kid is having none of it, though. 'Mr. Harrison...'
'Just call me Slick.'
The kid gives him this look, like she's trying really hard not to burst out laughing.
She composes herself, and carries on:
'Slick, can I ask, what are your credentials as a promoter? What stars did you help launch? Who are your connections in the wrestling industry? Do you have protocols with any companies that can get these men sure-fire employment?'
Damn. Forget documentaries – this kid ought'a be a journalist. Or a lawyer.
Her grilling's working, too, 'cause all of a sudden, our old pal Slick is getting real hot and bothered.
'Just as I thought.' The kid nods, and turns back to me. 'C'mon, Saul.'
She starts walking the other way, away from Slick, and I don't want to follow her. I don't want to walk away from a job opportunity. Especially not one I'd actually be decent at. But on the other hand, something about Slick tells me the kid was right to ask all those questions, and that if she's walking off, maybe there's a reason for it.
I fight with my own conscience for a few seconds on this topic, then jog to catch up with her.
'What was that about?!' I'm trying to sound angry, but I don't really mean it.
She shakes her hand and snorts. 'C'mon, Saul Man. That guy was more full of shit than the Los Angeles sewer system.'
'Yeah,' I point out, 'but he had a job. A job I could do.'
She snorts through her nose again. 'His job was about as legit as my mother's rehab certificates. He would have fleeced you, just like he's going to fleece whoever of those guys signs up with him.'
'Yeah, well,' I say, now feeling angrier despite knowing she's right. 'I still just walked out on a job opportunity 'cause of your ass, and it ain't like we get those every day around here...'
At this point, the kid actually stops, and turns around to look up at me. For such a half-pint, she's sure got a personality...
'Saul,' she says. 'You really want to be a wrestler?'
I give this some thought, make sure I still feel the same way I did a few minutes ago. I find nothing's changed, so I nod.
'Yeah. Yeah I do.' Then, letting my anger speak louder, I add: 'But now, 'cause of you, I ain't going to!'
She doesn't seem to care, though, and just keeps her smile on, which really pisses me off. I go to yell at her some more...
...but that's when she throws me off guard.
'That's what you think.'
What I think?! What does she mean, what I think?!
'What do you mean, what I think?! I was gonna sign with that guy, but now 'cause of you, you made me walk away, and now...'
She raises a hand, and somehow words stop flowing out of my mouth. I just stand there, looking at her with my mouth open, like a dope. She notices this, and grins.
'Saul,' she says. 'Just trust me on this. I'll take care of it, 'kay?'
'Saul.' She gives me that look again. 'Just. Trust me. Okay?'
I ain't about to fight this battle. Fuck that.
'Okay. Fine. Whatever. Do your thing.'
She actually gives me a smile then; a real, genuine smile, not the kind of sarcastic smirk she usually does.
'Thanks, Gramps,' she says. Then, she whips out her phone, dials a number, and puts it to her ear. Whoever she's calling picks up almost right away, and as she steps away from me to talk to them, I still manage to catch the first line of the conversation:
'Hello, Miss C? We need to talk.'
Aug 27, 2016 4.45PM Local Time
'C'mon, Miss C!'
'I'll run errands this weekend. All of them.'
'Definitely bloody not!'
'Say no, honey. The last time, she got real burger patties, instead of soy ones!'
'That's 'cause nobody likes soy!'
The kid and her two...moms?! Foster moms?! Whatever they are, I can tell they don't want to help her. Especially not the one with the accent. I mean the way she looked at me when we came in, it's like, I dunno, Saddam or somebody had just walked in. Real 'get-the-fuck-out' type of look. The other one, the one with the shorter hair, is kind of friendlier, and I caught her smiling at me a few times, but so far, she's no-go too. I guess she's saying no out of loyalty to her wife, or whatever she is. All in all, it's looking like the kid's plan is a bust. She's still trying though, bless her soul.
'Come on, Miss C! Why won't you do this one thing for me?!'
'Why should I?'
'Actually, you should, honey,' the short-haired one says. 'Just think, it would keep her out of our hair and away from this place! We wouldn't have to put up with her! We could get freaky in the living room whenever we wanted to!'
This causes the one with the accent to turn and look at her, the same type of look she gave me. Apparently it's for everyone, and not just people she doesn't like.
'Emily, do you listen to yourself sometimes? If she signs up for the company I work with, don't you think we'll see her more often?! As in, every time we're on the road?!'
'Oh, no...! We'll travel on our own. No way we're spending time with the likes of you two if we can avoid it! Right, Saul?!'
I hear my name being called and snap to attention and try to grasp what's going on. The truth is, I was kind of distracted with my new phone. The kid made me go all the way to her house to get it, as soon as she saw mine; it used to be hers, but she said she didn't need it 'cause it was from last year and she'd gotten a better one. Don't know what's so bad about a phone from last year that you need to buy a new one, but I guess that's how society goes these days.
I ain't complaining, though – this thing's got more bells and whistles than a fairground, and the kid even made me an account on this site called Twitter, that I'd heard of from a couple friends. It's pretty cool! There's these two girls I've been kind of chatting with, Zahara and Farrah, and they're real cute. The kind of cute you want to settle down and have a bunch of babies with. And they're real nice, too, and they said they'd cook for me, and try to help me, and I hope they mean it, 'cause---
'Huh?!' I suddenly realize I was daydreaming again. 'Oh...sorry. What was the question?'
The kid points towards the two ladies. 'We wouldn't ride with these two if we could help it, would we?'
'Feeling's mutual, sweetheart,' the one with short hair says, before turning to her wife. 'Constance, don't help her.'
'I wasn't going to.'
'Good.' The short-haired lady shoots the kid, Caitlyn, a real nasty look. 'That's settled, then.'
'No it isn't.' My jaw drops as I hear Caitlyn's voice speak up again. This kid is nothing if not persistent. 'You wish it was. Too bad Miss C owes me, big time.'
The younger woman, Constance, blinks.
'I do?! What for?!'
'For Diaries of a Cynic.'
I can tell by the look on the couple's face that the kid struck a nerve; but judging by how quickly they pull themselves together, I can tell they ain't about to give up, either.
'That's not even out yet.' the younger woman says.
'Yeah, but it will be. And then you'll be famous. And it'll be because of me.'
'I already am famous, Caitlyn. If I wasn't, you wouldn't be here bothering me to help you with this...' She gestures in my direction. '...with your friend.'
Nice save, lady; but as your wife just said, feeling's mutual. I've seriously had enough of this shit, so I turn and make to walk out the door.
'Don't you be goin' to any trouble on account of some bum,' I say, fiddling with the lock on the door, wanting no more of this house or these people, with their judgemental attitudes...
I turn and find the younger, longer-haired woman stepping towards me; and this time, the look in her eyes is far nicer than before. She also makes a point of walking right up to me and looking me in the eyes before she talks again.
'Look,' she says. 'I can get you a meeting with the head office people, but that's about it. I don't have as much clout there as Caitlyn wants you to think.'
'Honey!', the shorter-haired woman gasps. 'You're a Champion!'
'Shut up, Emily,' her wife snaps, glaring. Then, she turns back to me:
'That's all I can do for you. Take it if you want. Otherwise, I'm sorry.'
I nod. 'Appreciate it. Let me know what they said.'
She nods too, and suddenly, I find myself thinking I could like this woman. She seems like a straight shooter, the same as me. Still, it would be kind of out of line to tell her that, so I just give her another nod, then turn to leave – for real, this time.
'You're growing soft, honey,' I hear the second woman say as I follow Caitlyn out of the apartment. What Constance replies to that, though, I never get to hear, as the kid closes the door behind her, drowning out the sound.
From there, everything happens quickly. Another couple of minutes, and we're down the lift, through the gates of the condo these people live at, and back out on the road.
A road that suddenly seems to be leading somewhere good.
St. Paul, Michigan
August 30, 2016 12.45PM Local Time
'So...how'd it go?'
There's a good question. How'd it go. Objectively, it could have gone better. I'd slept for all of four hours after two days on the road, and even if I hadn't, I'd still be 160 pounds of starving bum. Add those two together, plus the fact that I haven't trained in any type of combat in over ten years, and I was getting my ass kicked for the whole first half of the trial. They'd put me against this sixteen or seventeen-year-old kid, a guy the old me might have taken to the ground in a few seconds, and I was struggling. He was faster than me, in better shape, damn sure better fed, and he probably trained every day, for a few hours. It wasn't really a match.
That is, not until my instincts kicked in.
I'm not sure how it happened, or when. All I know is, one minute I was having a hard time even matching up to this kid, and the next, I had Seargeant Wilkes' voice in my ear.
'In a combat situation, the enemy's gonna want to have control', he was saying. 'He's gonna want to be on top. Call the shots. You can't let him. He doesn't get to call the shots. You're U. S. Marines. YOU call the shots!!'
From that point on, everything was different. I actually focused and started trying to take this kid to the ground; he wasn't expecting it, wasn't prepared for it, and so it didn't take long for me to have him on the ground with me calling the shots.
At that moment, I knew I had a job.
That confidence kept on riding high as I tapped out the kid and rolled out to shake the Boss's hand. It wasn't until he said they'd be in touch that the doubts came back, and suddenly I wasn't so sure I had a job. Still ain't.
Still, though, even if I don't get this gig, I got nothing to be ashamed of. A bum tried out for a big-time sports company and didn't do too bad. I mean at least I didn't get beat in ten seconds. That's something, right?
'Saul? How did it go?'
The kid snaps me back to reality again, and I realize I ain't answered her question yet. I ain't even got an answer for it. What do you call a trial like mine?! Half okay, half totally hopeless?
I stall another couple seconds, as I try to answer my own question, then decide to play it safe.
'Fine. It went fine.'
'You think you got it?!'
I shrug. 'Dunno. They said they'd be in touch. Guess all we can do is wait, right?'
Caitlyn nods. 'Right. Wait. Right.'
'Yeah,' I say. 'Wait. And I'll tell you what...I ain't waitin' on an empty stomach. Is there some place we can eat around here?!'
I don't even wait for her answer; for once, it's me calling the shots, as I head back to the car and get into the driver's seat.
'HEY!' Caitlyn is suddenly in a hurry. 'No way. I'm not listening to that shoutfest you call music. I'm driving.'
I don't put up a fight; on the contrary. I scoot on over to the passenger seat and let the girl take the reins, a huge grin on my face.
I love it when a plan comes together.
And I'm pretty sure this one just did.
Sept 8, 2016 11.23AM Local Time
'Who am I? Are you sure you wanna know? The story of my life isn't for the faint of heart. If somebody told you I was just an average guy, not a care in the world...someone lied.'
I stop talking as I hear Caitlyn yell, and turn to look at her
'Seriously?!' She's giving me one of those looks. 'You're seriously going with that as the intro to your first video?!'
'Hey, what's wrong with that?! Spider-Man was an awesome movie! Way better than the new ones!'
'...thanks for reminding me you're a thousand years old. Anyway, it's tacky.'
'So what?!' I'm starting to bristle a little, even if I'm trying not to. 'Remember when we agreed to do this thing, this movie or whatever?! Remember what you said?' She goes to argue, but I cut her off. 'You said not to act. You said to be myself. And now you're telling me I can't do what I want to do because it doesn't look good on camera?!'
'Be yourself doesn't mean be lame. Don't be lame. Never be lame. And right now...you're being all kinds of lame.'
I can tell this is a battle I ain't about to win, so I just sigh.
'Fine. Whatever. Start over.'
'Thank you, Mr. Director,' she says, all sarcastic-like. 'And no more quotes from movies from a hundred years ago. Capisce?'
She nods, knowing she's won, and gets back behind the camera.
'Action!,' she shouts.
And just like that, we're rolling again.
'I know what you're all thinking. Who the hell even is this guy? What's his deal? Why should I care?
Well, lemme lay it out for ya.'
I pause to take out my cigarette pack and light one, before continuing,
'Name's Saul. Saul Morgan. And I'm a bum. I don't mean like a lazy guy – I mean an actual bum. Sleeping in the homeless shelter and living off of charity and all that shit.
As to what I'm doing here...well, I got a job opportunity doing something I'm maybe kind'a good at, and a dude's gotta make a living, y'know? Wrestling sure beats doing odd jobs for a couple bucks at a time...'
I pause again, to take a drag on my cigarette.
'Speaking of which, there's a couple people I wanna thank, before I forget.
Ryan Omega...appreciate the opportunity, chief.'
I give Ryan a salute, then go on down the list.
'Zahara, Farrah, Gwen...I'm gonna be waiting for that grub y'all promised me. Don't think I forgot.'
A wink for the ladies, and onto the next one.
'And finally, Miss Constance...I know you don't like me or Caitlyn...that's my camerawoman, by the way...'
Caitlyn puts her hand in front of the camera for a thumbs up, and I nearly crack up. I catch myself just in time to continue:
'...anyhow, I know you and you missus don't like us...but thanks for trying to help anyway.'
I give Constance a grin – I think she won't mind that – then get down to business.
'And speaking of people I need to talk about...Jamo and Jacob Cass. How's it going, fellas?'
I give these two a salute too, as I continue:
'Now, listen...I ain't even gonna pretend like I can hang with you guys. I mean, you two got real careers. You did a bunch of stuff. You won a bunch of shit. Me? This is my first time inside a ring. Ever. I ain't got a snowball's chance in hell of hanging against two guys who can do everything I can, and then some.
But that doesn't mean I ain't important in this match...'
I can feel myself grinning as I go on:
'No, no, no. Far from it. I'm probably the most important guy in this match. You guys wanna know why?'
I lean forward, that grin growing bigger.
'...it's 'cause I'm the one with nothing to lose.'
I take another drag of my cigarette, to let them chew on that, before I continue:
'See...out of the three of us, I'm the one nobody would bet on unless they were drunk, or high, or both. I'm a bum, for Pete's sake! 160 pounds, eat once a day if I'm lucky...one of you two throws me once, I'm probably out cold!
This grin won't freaking stop growing!
'...but I'm also the only one with nothing riding on this match. Sure, it's my first, and I want to look good...but I'm not kidding myself. I ain't aiming for anything fancy. I'm just looking to get some money so I can buy some food and cigarettes. And I'm getting that no matter what happens. Win, lose or draw, I'm still getting paid. And that's all I really want.'
I hear Caitlyn give a little groan – might be 'cause I mentioned buying cigarettes with the paycheck – but I ignore her. I'm keeping it real here – and real means real. One hundred percent.
Speaking of which...
'You two, on the other hand...you're not just after a paycheck. You got shit to prove. To yourselves, to the fans, to management, to your rivals...to everybody. To you, this match ain't just about a paycheck.'
I take another drag of my cigarette – almost over now – before moving on.
'Jamo...heard you just got your first win. Congratulations, dude. I mean it. That's probably one more win than I'm ever gonna get in this place...!'
I have a good laugh at myself for a hot sec, but then get serious again.
'But here's the think, bro... I was reading your file on the website or whatever...and you've been here a while, man. You've been here a while, and you just got your first win, and then you went right back to losing again. That's gotta suck, man. I mean that. If I was you, I'd be real frustrated. And if somebody put some lousy bum in front of me...well, I sure wouldn't wanna lose to him.'
I lean forward again.
'Can you imagine that, Jamo? A veteran, an MMA guy, a guy who won a bunch of belts, a guy who wants to prove his one win wasn't a fluke...and he loses to some skin-and-bones bum who isn't even trained to wrestle?! How's that gonna look on your resume, dude? Oh, sure, you think people ain't gonna remember it...trust me, dude. The minute you get beef with someone...that's the first thing they're gonna wanna throw in your face. Now, I know I wouldn't like that...and I'm sure you wouldn't neither.'
Another pause, another drag. This shit ain't so hard.
'Same goes for you, Jacob. I saw you on that Twitter thing. This may be your first match for VoW, but you ain't no rookie. You're a big deal someplace else. And you're gonna want to come in here and prove you can be a big deal in this company, too. And ain't no better way to do that than by beating on some bum.
But if you lose to the bum, Jacob...if you let a guy who was sleeping in a halfway house a week ago come in and steal your thunder on your debut...how's that gonna look? What are your fans gonna think?!'
'See, that's another thing. You two got fans. You don't wanna let them down. Me? If I lose, the only people I'm lettin' down is myself, and that kid behind the camera. And we'll get over it. Your fans, though...'
I shrug again, and take one last toke on my cigarette before I crush it under my foot. There is another groan from Caitlyn, that I ignore, just like the last one.
'So you see, boys...what you gotta remember is this...no matter what happens in there on Thursday...no matter how hard you beat me...no matter who wins the match...I'm still gonna get what I want. I'm still gonna get my 50 or 100 dollars and go buy myself a great big bucket of Popeye's, or some ribs or something. And then I'm gonna go find a place to sleep that isn't a total dump. And my life will continue. But you guys? You guys are gonna have to live with the fact that you got beaten by a 160lb bum.'
I lean into the camera one last time.
'And you boys don't want that...
I'm already standing up as Caitlyn shouts out, and by the time I meet up with her, she's stepped out from behind the camera, and she's smiling.
'How was that?', I ask, suddenly noticing I'm sweating like a pig. 'Okay?'
Caitlyn doesn't reply right away, and I'm just starting to get nervous when she finally looks back up, her smile even wider than before.
'You know, Saul,'she says. 'I think you might be good at this wrestling thing after all.'
'So do I, kid,' I admit, a grin breaking across my flushed red face. 'So do I.'