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Reno Part One: FUCK.
« on: January 07, 2018, 12:12:15 AM »

Boston MMA fighter Reno Nevada gets an offer he can’t refuse.

SID HAIG           as FATHER TED




Ice cubes and freezing water filled a clawfoot bathtub. A man laid face down beneath the surface. His eyes were closed, as were his lips, and his motionless body seemed frozen in the cold water. Seconds ticked away.

Then, bubbles of air started to leak out of his nostrils, and his eyelids peeled open. His eyes moved and his body followed, twisting beneath the water to look up at the hazy light above. He sat up in the bathtub and all at once the sound of the inner city returned to his ears. Car engines throttled, neighbors argued, and distant sirens wailed.

His face was a tartan of bruises, bumps, and scab-covered lacerations from the previous night. With the cold water dripping off his skin, the numbness retreated and the throbbing ache returned, as did the pounding in his skull. He tilted his head back and with clenched teeth let out a long, raspy growl that morphed into a singular word.


He gripped the sides of the tub and pushed himself out of the water. His body was long and underweight, but there was an awkward athleticism to it. He pulled a towel around his waist and stepped onto the floor. He scooped a handful of ice cubes out of the water and stumbled toward the vanity.

Water ran down his legs and pattered on the tile floor around his feet. The ice went into a rocks glass sitting on the sink. “Siri, play some music,” he said in a mumble as he poured four fingers of whiskey from a bottle of Jameson. When he didn’t hear a response, he let out a long, aggravated sigh.

He shouted, “SIRI.”

From the next room, the digital assistant chimed back.

“Yes, Reno?”

He leaned his head toward the door and yelled, “Play some fucking music, you cunt!”

She answered, “Playing ‘So You Are A Star’ by the Hudson Brothers.”

He snorted at the song choice. “You catty bitch.”

The music made its way into the bathroom as he opened the medicine cabinet to reveal what looked like an in-home narcotics lab. The shelves were lined with pill containers, glass vials, and twist-tied baggies filled with mysterious substances—an impressive stash of pharmaceutical wonders and magical elixirs, able to remedy all manner of assaults on the human condition.

His fingers danced over the assortment, searching for the right cure-all for his current state, until finally he found it: an unlabeled prescription bottle. He plucked it from the shelf, twisted the lid off, and shook two tablets stamped PERCOCET into the palm of his hand.

He chased the painkillers with the glassful of whiskey. When he shut the cabinet, he came face to face with his own reflection in the mirror on the front side. He stared at his bloodshot eyes, going back and forth between them.

He leaned in close and said, “Dumb fucking asshole. What’ve you gotten yahself into now?”

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BOSTON AND DEDHAM, Reno finally cracked in the backseat of the Uber as it cruised down Highway 95. Maybe it was the volcanic air blasting out of the heater infused with the desert sands air freshener. Maybe it was the Christmas music on the radio peddling its manufactured joy and subliminal messages urging people to consume.

Maybe it was the driver. A twenty-something fella of Asian ancestry named Jiang Li. For the twenty minutes Reno had been in the guy’s car, never once did he offer a stick of gum or a water. A bottle of water would have been a god damn blessing with the moisture-sucking wave of searing air blowing out of the vents.

Actually, no, it wasn’t any of that. The moment where his lost the ability to maintain a semblance of social decorum came when he tried to lower the window to let in some fresh air. No movement. He pushed the button again and again, but the glass didn’t budge.

“Hey, man,” he said. “I think your window is broken.”

Jiang answered with an accent. “It’s locked.”

“Locked?” Reno tilted over to see the driver’s face in the rearview. “What for?”

“Safety,” Jiang said while keeping focused on the road.

Reno tried to sit forward, but the seat belt snapped him back. “Safety? What am I, twelve? You think I’m gonna nose dive out the window? Come’on, guy. I just want a bit of fresh air in here. It’s like the fucking Sahara.”

Jiang briefly looked up into the mirror. “No. Stay seated and please watch your language while in my vehicle.”

“What the fuck did you just say?”

“I said, ‘Please watch your language while in my vehicle.’ Don’t be rude or I give bad rating.”

Dumbfounded, Reno’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull. “Did you just threaten me with a one star?”

“No threat,” Jiang said. “It’s my policy. Please respect it.”

“Where are you from, friendo?”

“I’m from Chicago.”

Reno chuckled. “Okay.”

“What so funny?”

“You just told me you’re from Chicago with that accent.”

Jiang’s face soured. “Yes, I have Chicago accent.”

Reno bursted out laughing. “Chicago accent? You’re fucking kidding me, right?”

“Sir, this is last warning.”

Reno tried sitting forward again. He huffed when the seatbelt yanked him back. “I can’t believe you’re threatening me with a one star rating. That’s an Uber death sentence.”

“I do not threaten. I told you it’s my policy. Please stay seated.”

“Well, pal, you give me a one star rating and guess what you’ll get!”

“You threaten me?”

“No threat,” Reno said with a mocking smile. “That’s just my policy.”

“That’s no policy. That’s petty. I am a good driver.”

“I tell you what,” Reno said. “How about a truce? I’ll shut up and you take me where I need to go. I’ll rate you five stars, you rate me five stars, and we go our separate ways, never to see eachother again.”

Jiang thought for a second. “Agreed.”

The rest of the drive was quiet. After exiting the highway, the car drove down an old country road. A few miles later, the GPS alerted Jiang to turn at the big wooden sign for FATHER TED’S ROADHOUSE AND DINER.

Father Ted’s had served as a haven for lowlifes, boozehounds, ne’er do wells, and villainous scum for fifty years. It was found at the end of a winding gravel road, surrounded by miles of dense forest. The Irish blackhouse was long and tall, at least two-stories, with dry-stone walls and an a-frame thatch roof.

The lot was jam packed with old beaters and rusted-out pickup trucks. There were even a couple eighteen wheelers sitting back by the access road. Father Ted’s was always busy, but tonight was special.

Tonight was fight night.

People from all over had come to Father Ted’s to get sloshed and watch men beat the shit out of one another. The monthly tradition went all the way back to when the joint opened in 64’. The bouts were non-sanctioned bare-knuckle fights. Full contact. Minimum rules. Blood for blood by the gallons.

Jiang stopped the Focus in front of the building. “You go now.”

Reno said, “Very well, my good man.” He opened his phone and paid the bill. “And as we agreed, I am leaving you a five star rating. I trust you will uphold our truce.”

“Of course. I am good person, not like you.”

“That hurts, Jiang.” Reno released his seatbelt, grabbed his duffle bag, and stepped out of the car. He shut the door behind him and walked around the rear. Exhaust pumped out of the tailpipe as the car rolled off.

Reno’s phone dinged. He unlocked the screen and clicked the notification. His eyes went wide when he saw it: A one star rating.


He kicked at the air in the direction of the car as it hurried off back down the road, then threw out his middle finger. “FUCK YOU,” He shouted repeatedly, louder and louder, until his anger was swallowed by the December chill.

Music rumbled from inside the tavern. When he pushed through the door, he was slammed with noise from Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey In the Jar banging out of the sound system and the cacophony of hundreds of rabbling drunkards and degenerate gamblers singing and shouting over top one another.

Cigarette smoke swirled in the air and yellowed the light from the rafters. The place smelled like cheap beer, body odor, and dried blood. Most of the patrons were standing around a makeshift cage created out of a ropeless boxing ring wrapped in steel chain-link fencing.

Reno found an empty stool at the bar. Mickey the Bartender saw him and came over.

“Look who it is,” Mickey yelled across the solid wood counter. His scarred, wrinkled face was twisted into a sort of smile. “Yah late, kid, and you know how much Ted hates tahdiness.”

“Not my fault. My driver took his sweet time, and then that motha fucka had the balls to give me a one star.”

“One star,” Mickey said with a snort. “That’s cold blooded, man. Here. On the house.” He poured a double shot of whiskey and slid it to Reno who wasted no time in drinking it down.

“Thanks,” Reno said as he wiped a dribble from his chin. “Let Ted know I’m ready to go. Ima hit the Men’s.”

“Wait,” Mickey hollered. “Dontcha want to know who you’re fighting?”

Reno gave a shrug and called back, “Does it matter?”

He moved through the sea of people walked into the restroom. It smelled rotten and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in an age. He went to the least-dirty sink and plopped his duffle bag on it, then opened the zipper.

First he changed out of his street clothes and put on a pair of boardshorts and slipped his bare feet back into his sneakers. He did this while humming to the bit of Thin Lizzy he could still hear through the wall.

Next came the fabric tape. He started with his left hand, wrapping it as if he were preparing for battle like he had done a thousand times before. By now it was instinctual the way he laid the tape between his fingers and over the knuckles. He had never broken a hand in a fight, and tonight wasn’t going to be any different. He switched to his right and made quick work of the job.

He didn’t notice the change in music thumping through the walls, not until a someone strolled through the restroom door. Lizzy was gone, replaced with some kind of heavy tribal percussion. Must’ve been the entrance music for his opponent. Reno didn’t recognize it.

“Hey,” Reno said to the man taking a leak. “Who’s fighting Reno Nevada tonight?”

The urinal flushed and the fella walked over to the sink next to Reno’s. He was a middle-aged black man in a sharp Armani suit—not exactly part of the usual clientele here. As he washed his hands under the tap, he said, “His name is Mufasa.”

“Mufasa?” Reno thought for a beat, then said, “Who the fuck is Mufasa?”

The other man pulled a couple paper towels from the dispenser and dried his hands. “Your opponent. Six feet seven inches. Four hundred pounds. Some big ass African brother. Kinda looks like the Predator.” He took a step back and looked Reno up and down. “I’m thinking I should put my money on him. What do you think?”

Six-seven? Four hundred pounds? Reno wasn’t sold. He laughed it off as he zipped up his gear. “Bet on him, if you like.” Then he noticed the drums had cut off and a voice was echoing over the public address system. “That’s my cue,” he said, backstepping toward the door. “Good talk. That was some Vince Lombardi shit there.”

Father Ted was ugly as a mud fence, with a scraggly beard and a hefty gut hanging over the front of his pants. He stood in the cage with the microphone clutched in his hand. “Fighting out of South Boston…He stands six feet two inches tall and weighs in at an ASTOUNDIN’ one hunn’ed seventy pounds. He is the reigning, defending, undefeated middleweight bareknuckle boxer in these blessed United States of America. The ONE. The ONLY. The OUTLAW! RENO! NEVADA!”

Reno walked out of the restroom to a roaring mob and Lemmy Kilmister’s trademark growl belting out the chorus to Born To Raise Hell. From the catwalk, a spotlight doused him in white light. All those dirty, riled-up faces turned to him and cleared a path like the goddamn Red Sea.

Now, normally ol’ Renny Red Face would strut like a right bastard all the way to the cage, insulting as many of these chowdaheads as he could along the way. That’s how he got paid. Get as many of the igits to bet against him as possible. The bigger the wagers for the opponent, the bigger the payday when they hit the canvas.

Funny thing is, he didn’t have to try tonight. Every two-bit fuck face was cursing and screaming at him. One of them yelled, “You’re fucking dead, Nevada!” Then another called out, “Payback’s a bitch!”

Reno didn’t get it, not fully, until he arrived at the cage. The first thing he saw was Father Ted, all piss and vinegar with his yellow teeth on full display. Then his eyes focused past the old man, to the giant mountain waiting in the far corner.

Mufasa was one big, round mass of muscle and rage. A towering freak of nature with dense shoulders and arms like tree trunks. He was the biggest son of a bitch Reno had ever seen.

Reno removed his shoes and climbed into the cage. Father Ted was waiting for him. He put a hand on Reno’s shoulder and said, “Sorry, son, but the good lord has called for you.”

Reno didn’t say a thing as the old man left the cage. He knew the deal. All these inbred country skids were tired of seeing their chosen boys getting owned by a kid from Southie. So these racist assholes hired the biggest, blackest man on the planet for one purpose: destroy Reno Nevada.

The music died off and all that was left were hate-filled chants and death threats being shouted by the cageside spectators. The referee called the fighters to him. He was a stout little man named Frankie. He had a shaved head and a face like a catcher’s mitt.

Reno swaggered to the center. Mufasa lumbered up to meet him with a heavy, foreboding stride. Reno had to tilt his head his back to meet the crude-oil eyes glaring down at him.

“I want a good, clean fight,” Frankie said and rattled off his usual instructions.

Reno didn’t give two shits about anything coming out of that man’s mouth. He was focused on the human skyscraper scowling down at him. He said, “Hey, big man. How much they paying you?”

Mufasa’s lip lifted in a sneer and he said with a deep bellow, “Just enough, bru.” Then he reached out with his football sized hand and gave Reno a shove that sent him tumbling to the canvas.

Cheers and catcalls boomed out as people jumped to their feet laughing. Reno looked around the cage with a cold glare before climbing to his feet. That temper of his sank its claws into his brain and injected him with the worst of ideas.

“Motha fucka,” he growled with raised fists and stormed across the ring.

Mufasa stomped forward. Each step shook the cage.

What happened next could only be described as a mauling. Mufasa absorbed two body shots and grabbed Reno by the neck. His right reared back and smashed Reno’s face repeatedly. Wham, to the cheek. Wham, to the jaw, just as hard. Wham, knuckles cracked his forehead dead between the eyes like a cattle gun.

Reno slipped from Mufasa’s sweaty gasp and dropped on the ground like a sack of potatoes. The mountain-sized man turned and paraded around cage with his hands raised, hooting and hollering. The applause from the mob was frenetic.

Frankie started the count.

Consciousness quickly returned to Reno, and with it came the pain. He felt like a buzzsaw was having its way with his melon. When his eyes opened, the world was spinning and covered in white lightning. He rolled slowly onto his stomach and pushed himself up on his knees and fists. Blood spilled from his face and splattered on the ground.

He heard Frankie begging him to stay down, but he wasn’t in a listening mood. He got to his feet on nine and raised his fists again.

The crowd turned fierce and violent. Hands beat and pulled the fence and their collective voices sounded like a train derailing.

Mufasa rotated around. He laughed at the scrawny man swaying on his feet. He pointed a fat finger and said, “You a crazy man, bru. Time to die.” He lunged forward like a grizzly bear, leading with his skull-crushing mits.

The static faded from Reno’s eyes and he saw the massive man barreling toward him. He ducked to the side with the grace of a drunk and threw two kidney shots that hit like sledgehammers.

Mufasa broke away as a jolt of electricity surged through him. He staggered forward and his torso buckled to the left, shielding the point of impact with his elbow.

Reno came from behind and threw a stiff kick to the side of Mufasa’s knee. The joint bent sickeningly inward, tearing ligaments from the bone, and folded over itself. The effect was immediate. Mufasa’s four hundred pound frame came crashing down. The entire cage quaked from the impact.

Silence befell the stunned mob as Reno descended on Mufasa. He stood over the other fighter and rained down blow after blow. Mufasa’s cheek caved in. Nose smashed to the side. Lip split open and flooded his mouth with blood. Dull thuds became smacks on wet meat. The next punch broke Mufasa’s jaw. His head snapped to the left and ropes of blood and snot flung from his nose.

Frankie called the fight and fell on top of Mufasa to protect him from any further damage. Reno stepped backward, nearly falling over as he looked up to see the room twirling. His entire body was smeared with blood and sweat, and the lights shined off his slick skin.

He saw a handful of men enter the cage. They huddled with the referee over Mufasa. Father Ted was one of them. He said, “Is the man alive?…Good. Get him out of here. Drop him outside the hospital.”

One of the men looked up. “How? He’s fucking huge, boss.”

Father Ted threw his arms up. “Fucking figure it out.” He then turned his attention to the people. The shock was starting to wear off, replaced by the unavoidable realization that most of them had just lost a lot of money.

“We have a winner, gents,” Father Ted said into the microphone as he waddled on his bad hips toward Reno. He took the fighter’s arm by the wrist and hoisted it into the air. Dismayed faces glared through the chainlink and grabbed on it with their crusty fingers.

Reno smiled, blood exuding through the spaces between his teeth. He looked over to Ted and muttered. “Arentcha mad? I won.”

Ted shook his head. “Fuck nah. Most of these dumbasses bet the farm against you. I just made a fucking killin, son.” He squeezed Reno’s shoulder and let out a horse laugh. “Now we just gotta get you outta here without them murderin’ you.”

Reno said, “I got an idea.”

“What’s that?”

Reno’s eyes suddenly got very heavy and his throat went dry. He said, “How bout I play dead and….” His words trailed off and his legs turned into spaghetti. He flopped forward and landed like a cold fish on the canvas. His eyes fluttered shut and he sank into the ground.

Father Ted looked down at him and said, “That’ll work.”

RENO CAME TO IN THE front seat of a fast-moving sedan. How long had he been out, he wondered, as he lifted his head to see the road rushing toward the car. He heard someone say, “How are you feeling?”

Reno held up his hand and looked over at the driver. It took him a second to recognize the man as the black fella from the restroom. “I’m good. You’re an Uber driver?”

“No, I’m not,” the man said with an insulted glare. “I heard the bartender trying to order you an Uber but no one would accept you because of your rating.”

Reno clenched a fist. “God damn Jiang Li.”

“Who is Jiang Li?”

Reno waived it off. “Doesn’t matter. Who are you and why am I in your car?”

“My name is Rodney,” the man answered. “Rodney Prentice. And to answer your second question—” Rodney touched the dashboard’s LED display. After a series of quick taps, a video screen expanded to fill the screen.

A mysterious figure came into view, a silhouette whose identity was shielded in darkness. “Mr. Nevada,” it said with garbled, computerized voice. “If you are seeing this, then you survived your battle against Mufasa. Congratulations, you passed.”

Reno looked confused. “What the fuck is this?”

Rodney said, “It’s pre-recorded. Just watch.”

The mysterious figure continued, “I am sure you are wondering what this is. Allow me to explain. The man whom you defeated tonight was nothing more than a test. I needed to know what you were capable of. You see, Mr. Nevada, I am in search of a man with a particular set of skills acquired over a long career. I believe you are that man.”

Reno blinked. “Where have I heard that line before?”

“Taken,” Rodney answered. “2008 action movie starring Liam Neeson.”

The recording continued. “Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to join Fight 2 Win as a competitor. Scrap your way to the top and earn the favor of the current ownership. Meanwhile, you’ll serve as my double agent: a spy master able to break into secure locations and assassinate high profile targets with improvised weapons such as paperclips or phone books.”

Reno had to laugh. “Okay, I don’t accept.” He turned to Rodney. “You can drop me off at the next gas station.”

Rodney only smiled.

“Splendid,” the mysterious figure said. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Nevada. Of course, I do not doubt your loyalty or your courage, but reliable help is rather hard to find these days. In order to discourage second thoughts and guarantee your cooperation, Rodney has injected you with an insurance policy.”

Reno looked crosswise at Rodney.

The voice on the recording said, “A miniature capsule filled with an explosive, no larger than a pinhead, has been embedded in your neck.”

Rodney said to Reno, “Escape from New York. 1981.”

Reno’s hand went to his neck and started to poke and prod. “You’re bullshitting me. There’s nothing there.”

Rodney’s hand came up from his coat pocket holding a small metal device the size of a car’s remote control. He pushed one of the two buttons.

Reno felt something—a warm sensation just under the skin. He sucked in a panic of air. “You motha fucka.” He reached for Rodney, ready to claw the man’s eyes out, but stopped when his finger slid over the other button.

The recording said, “Rodney will serve as your point of contact. Goodnight, Mr. Nevada. Sleep well and dream of large women. Tomorrow, we storm the castle that is Fight 2 Win.”

The display went black. Rodney disengaged the remote and said, “Princess Bride. 1987.”

Reno turned forward and slumped in his seat. He let out a long, whispering word.