Chapter SEVEN by Will Gens
Tyler woke with his head pounding and dry heaving while on all fours with such gut wrenching force. The pounding surf kept time with his pounding headache.
He was so thirsty. He had no clue where he was or even who he was. He tried desperately to gather his thoughts as he lay back down facing the hot sun. A small group of teens walked by and briefly cast their shadows across his way. They paused to look down on him and while they shielded his eyes from the glaring morning sun, they said something in Portuguese and the girls giggled and walked away. Tyler struggled to sit up and the teens looked back at him and whispering kept laughing, a bit embarrassed for him. Tyler looked down at himself and realized he had socks and shoes and a white T-shirt but nothing else.
He noticed the big red raspberry on his leg and suddenly like a jolt remembered the injection. As he turned his head quickly, he knew all too well the after-effects of hallucinogens. He’d taken mushrooms before, even played in a tournament high on ‘shrooms — which he won. He played out-of-his-mind squash, literally. Inside he smiled at that. But the teenagers passing by left traces of themselves, he still heard their distant giggles in his head. He was in Rio, Brazil, the big tournament. Squash, finally an Olympic sport.
He struggled to remember, to piece it together the events. He couldn’t believe his thirst. Shelley, damn, Shelley and the knock at her hotel door. The high-rise, the view of the beach, magnificent view. She opened the door and two policemen and the reporter, Charles Buckler of infamous “smashingballs.com,” was there with his camera. He thought they were there about his lost luggage, but then what was Buckler doing there? They were there to arrest him, something about marijuana in his luggage. That reporter parasite Buckler kept asking him for a comment as the police handcuffed him. Buckler was speaking into a microphone, “Tyler Wolfe ‘Wolfie’ as he’s called, has just been arrested by the Rio de Janeiro police days before the start of what is the biggest week in Squash history.”
“What was he saying”, Tyler thought. Before he could say anything to Shelley they took him away, Shelley yelling after them, “I’ll call Allenby, to get you out.” Shelley thought better about calling Allenby, the promoter of this event, he’d just panic. But she’d have to tell him before Buckler got to him.
The police escorted him side by side into the elevator and when it stopped on the floors to let others on, they flashed their badges,”Assunto de polícia, aguarde o próximo elevador.”
They hurried him through the back entrance to the hotel and stuffed him into a non-descript van, solid panel for windows, and tinted glass for the windows up front. He couldn’t see if there were plates. Buckler tried to get in the van but one of them snapped, “Se perder larva pouco!” and shoved him aside.
Buckler fell on his ass, cursing at them. As he struggled to right himself they jumped in the van and spewed him with dirt and gravel as they sped away. They covered Tyler’s head with a sour-smelling black cloth bag, then this sharp pain in his leg and his leg was on fire as he struggled to free himself before the sweetest feeling on earth took hold of his body and he was suddenly on a bed of clouds, floating across the Rio sky, on his way to meet the pantheon of squash gods.
Shelley had immediately called Allenby’s cell but it went right to voice mail. Damn, he is impossible to get a hold of sometimes. She thought about what to do and Tyler at the same time.
“Fucking Tyler, what did that poor boy get himself into?” she said aloud. Tyler was always in the back of her mind even when they were on a break and she happened to be screwing someone else, she loved Tyler in her own way. He knew her for all her flaws, and accepted her just the same. She did likewise for him.
Tyler was still at this stage the biggest draw in professional squash. If he played any other sport he’d be the McEnroe, the Ali, the Joe Namath, the bad boy of professional squash. The fans love a bad boy, the fans love the player who thrashes the establishment and goes his own way, especially if that player has the look and attitude of a movie star, a Brad Pitt. Women threw themselves at Tyler, but he seemed only interested in Shelly and squash and making money. If she was going to pull this event off, she’d better get him out of jail. This was, after all, the biggest squash event, the first internationally prime time televised tournament since the Olympic Committee voted to include the sport in the 2020 Olympics.
Shelly started making calls, no one knew anything about where they had taken him. She had to be discreet, Buckler would soon publish his story on his website and everyone would know what happened. She had to call him, no, better direct contact. Maybe she could use her charms if need be….YUK, she thought, never in a million years.
“Damage control, damage control,” she repeatedly said aloud. She’d had a similar experience when she ran the women’s tennis tour and there was a lot more money, millions at stake and scandal could cost a lot of endorsement and promotion money. She once had to pay off photographers who had pictures of some of the young darlings going wild as in lesbian orgy wild. They were all 16 to 19 years old. The one that really cost her was the million-dollar purchase of that damn sex tape Selena Humphries did before she was the cover girl and number 1 player in the world. So she knew money can fix anything and if that doesn’t there’s always sex. And even better money and sex for those tough situation.
She called Victor, head of security at the docks, who days before she had to blow and pay him 10,000 USD to get the portable glass court for the tournament out of customs. She had no choice, he had connections all the way to the top of this damn corrupt country. Victor didn’t pick up his cell, she called his office, she had to get a hold of him, and he was her best bet to help Tyler out of this. The thought of his smug look and his sense of triumph when he spewed all over her face and groaned like a wounded animal, repeating over and over, “Engolir! Engolir…”
A woman picked up. “Do you speak English?”
“Yes, ma’am, we are an international firm, we speak many languages.”
“Victor, please, this is Shelley Anderson, it’s urgent.”
“I’ll see if he’s available, please hold.” He picked up immediately,
“Shelley! Meu otário pau pequeno doce!” and he laughed.
“Fuck you Victor, you sorry prick, I’m sure you said something disgusting.”
“Now, now, business is business, a deal is a deal. But I must say you did get the better end of it,” he laughed so hard. “Sorry, sometimes I am just too funny.”
“Victor, I need your help and nothing else. Our star player, Tyler Wolfe, was taken into police custody, but I have been making calls to local police and no one has heard of him or his arrest. I have no idea where they are holding him. And that press guy was with them.”
“What are the charges? Yes and I know that Buckler fellow, most abrasive and repulsive.”
“Drug possession, marijuana, not a lot. But his bags were lost on his connecting flight here from Santiago and Tyler wouldn’t be so stupid to bring marijuana into Brazil, I know him, he smokes a bit but never before a tournament; usually only at the end of a tournament he’ll kick back with some local stuff. But never transporting it. These pros are always tested, but you know how it goes, if the stars are caught we can cover.”
“This happens here, unfortunately, these kidnappings. I’ll make some calls, but police and criminals are always trying to shake you ‘estrangeiros’ down. It might cost you.”
“Another blow job? Fuck you.”
“I wasn’t thinking of that, these guys only care about money but now that you mention it I might take my own cut.”
“Like I’m sure it wasn’t the first thought in that pig’s head of yours.”
“I will.” Click, they hung up together. She noticed a missed call, Allenby, great. Okay, we’re in this together, he has some responsibility here too, he’s the big bad promoter and he has deep pockets. The Squash Association hasn’t the kind of money to throw around yet at this kind of stuff, but Allenby and his backers do. Shelly looked at the time. Okay, steady, let’s shift this into high gear.
“Yes, yes, I understand, I’m taking care of it, everything will go according to plan, just write the checks, let me worry about this.”
She had to wait for Victor to get back to her. Allenby gave her the green light to do whatever it took to get Tyler on the court and keep this out of the press. She poured out a tall glass of Cabernet, sat back admiring the view and thought of Tyler. She jumped to her feet. Buckler, fucking Buckler.
Tyler made sort of a loin cloth from his T-shirt. He wished he wasn’t so pale white, he wouldn’t seem so out of place even if he were naked. But pale and white with tan lines on his arms and thighs no doubt to the bronze beauties of all kinds made him look ridiculous. He thought of Dudley Moore in “10” wearing grey sweats and white socks on some Mexican beach while the hottest woman on the planet sat sunbathing nearby. He didn’t know why, but he thought of stuff like that.
He walked up to the main highway that followed along the shoreline. He looked for the highest building but the buildings were in a morning haze. To make sure, he asked a deeply tanned, old white-haired and mustachioed man taking his fishing poles towards the water. “Desculpe-me onde é o Clube Copacabano?”
“La! La!” he pointed in the opposite direction he was going.
“Obrigado.” Ah, that Portuguese nanny he had did come in handy after all. He knew enough Portuguese to get around.
He started walking towards the direction of the hotel and came across a public water fountain with a long line, he was so thirsty. Right next to the water fountain was: “TIOLETTE DOS HOMENS.” He went in cupped his hands under the faucet and rinsed his mouth with the warm limestone-flavored water. “Disgusting!” he said aloud and spit it out. “Shit, I need some drinkable water,” he rinsed again and again spitting out the water, or whatever it was.
The raspberry on his left leg was throbbing hard again, he knew he wouldn’t have to play at least for a day or two, but then again he lost all track of time, for all he knew the tournament was over. But he didn’t think so, he was piecing together the events and guessed it had been about 18-24 hours since his so called ‘arrest.” This was no ordinary tournament, this one put squash on the international map, a showcase of those established and those up and coming for the first-ever Olympiad with squash.
The qualifiers came out of the woodwork, hungry, very hungry, players who had struggled but with all the new money, were quickly signed by agents, with bonuses to boot, they no longer were the poor stepchildren compared to their rich, spoiled, tennis mega-star siblings. He couldn’t take these qualifiers for granted anymore, big stakes, money, it would be fierce. The sun was hot now, he was so damn thirsty, he saw a half-filled plastic bottle of water in the trash, what the hell he thought, he picked up the bottle, removed a rotten apple peel clinging to it and downed the water in one gulp. He threw the bottle back. No, keep it, he thought, next fountain he’d get it filled.
He remembered that strange dream, was it a dream, it wasn’t real, the alley way, the old man and the school boys playing rackets against the alley walls and the broken window. The old man talking about squash at the Harrow School, where squash was supposedly, one theory has it, born. But the dream was so real. Every detail was in his mind, the boys and their rackets, old rackets like he’d seen in Allenby’s office, the knickers, the thread of the tweed, the old man’s stained teeth, the smell of the damp moss that covered the alley cobblestone. The image hurt, he didn’t know why, it hurt like it felt when he lost his mother as a boy.
He should never have gotten involved with those Russians, throwing some matches, making a lot of money. Why would squash be any different, money is money, betting is all part of sports. The Russians were sending him a message, he was scared for the first time in his life. “La, La” he heard the old man’s voice, and there was the hotel, he had to get to Shelley and some damn good water — he threw the empty bottle into the bushes.
Shelly opened the door thinking it was Allenby. Tyler stood before her head bowed, shaking, she thought he was sobbing.
“Tyler, baby, Tyler” and she reached for him and he looked up.
“You fucker, you absolute fucker, do you have any idea…” Tyler couldn’t stop laughing,
“Shell-,” he burst into laughter again. She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the hotel room.
“What the fuck happened? TYLER! Stop laughing like an idiot, I’ve been up all night trying to track down your sorry ass, and you just show up, dressed like Gandhi.”
“Shel-Shelly,” he gathered himself cleared his throat. “Whoa, what a night, water I need water.”
He went over to the ice bucket, which was filled with water from the ice the night before, and with two hands drank and drank gulping it down, spilling most of it onto his dirty, sandy chest. “Ahhh, god, damn, was that good, much better. I screwed up, big time, Shelley.”
WILL GENS writes the blog SquashDashersbashers.blogspot.com.
He is passionate about poetry and squash. He is pursuing a graduate degree in Poetry at Adelphi University, writes about squash, coaches squash and when not on the court is working on Wall Street in software testing.
He lives with his wife, Shyamala, and his son, Kyle, a semi-professional squash pro and classics student at Hunter college. He also has a daughter, Alexandra, living in Florida and planning to attend medical school.
He would someday in this lifetime love to see both a U.S. born player reach the top 10 on the world squash tour and witness the total elimination of petroleum driven cars.
Next Up: Chapter EIGHT by Framboise Gommendy