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> A sleeping Fox catches no chicken.
Cat Riley
Posted: February 25, 2019 09:20 pm

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Member No.: 353
Joined: April 09, 2018

She lies on her back, her chest rising and falling rapidly gasping for globules of air, her arms limp at her side and gazes up through blurry blue-green lenses upon the smiling visage of her uncle, Paul Riley. A soft groan huffs out through open lips, carried by the wind of exhaustion. The elder man, decked out in a white track suit extends an open hand, offering to help the wiry framed 19 year old to her feet. Accepting the hand she allows the lean former wrestler sporting a neatly styled blond coif parted at the side and he pulls her up offering his trademark white towel which had been draped over his neck. She takes the towel into quivering hands, her lungs still trying to put out the fire of fatigue with a wheezing wail and pats her small, round face vigorously and dabs at her thin brows before setting the cloth on her glistening shoulder, illuminated by a single overhead lamp powered by an extension cord running to the outside. A deep inhale is followed by a long, yawning exhalation, a by-product of the brain combating the increased body temperature. With her lungs finally satisfied she purses her thin, winter chapped lips closed taking in the saline odor of perspiration permeating the dilapidated wooden shack and ties her long, drenched sunshine yellow mane into a pony tail regarding her uncle, who has taken a seat on a wooden bench alongside his older brother Ernie Riley, a heavyset man draped in a hand knitted red and blue sweater with a cantankerous visage which perfectly complements a leathery complexion. From behind a pair of black framed spectacles he glances at his brother and then to her, his steely blue eyes locking on.

“Alright, tell me what you did wrong”, the elder Riley barks in a raspy tone.

Shifting her feet nervously she uses the sole of her white sneaker to scratch an itch against the black cotton leggings lining her sinewy torso. “I umm.., I failed to bridge when he shifted his weight to the other side”. She replies meekly, in a soft tone counter to the gruff nature of the hardened military veteran, afraid to invoke his notorious temper. Reaching up to scratch the tip of a tiny nose which bears a gentle smattering of freckles she adds, “My neck was tired, he’s too heavy”.

“Oh your neck was tired”? He scoffs. “Then I guess we need to do some more bridges”.

Her shoulders slump at the announcement and her head bows with her lightly angled chin pressing against the soiled black fabric of the long sleeved tee shirt promoting hope in breast cancer awareness, afraid to say anything further. Never mind that she has been training for nearly seven hours now, going by the circular battery powered wall clock, its hands slowly ticking forward deeper into the evening, Ernie Riley has long been known to push the limits and test the endurance of anyone and everyone who sets foot onto the padded blue nylon mat spanning floor on which she now stands. Taking a deep breath she dives into the canals of thought which wind through a memory of her older cousin Cat, who had undertaken the same training and told of how she was often unable to move following sessions and sure enough, she herself has many of the same memories having been training for several years now, undergoing the same torture. Still, she could not help but to wonder how Cat managed to endure for as long as she did. Night after night she spent lying on her bed, her body too weary to move, trapped in the clasp of lassitude debating whether or not to quit. Yet she never did, goaded on by a masochistic murmuring telling her to continue on. Wading further along she comes to realize that she is afraid of letting him down, of letting her mother down who had suggested she train with him to learn the skills to defend herself. But is it worth it? The image of her cousin Cat, her two fisted portrait splashed on the side of a towering Las Vegas hotel provides an emphatic answer and taking another breath she raises her gaze to meet his, ready to meet his demands once more.

“Go inside and relax Fox,” he says with a half-cocked smile. “Your uncle Paul and I need to talk”.

Although she is a fresh 19 years old, her limbs creak and muscles protest the new command compelling her make her way to the door as though she were an octogenarian. Nevertheless Fox Riley does as instructed and slowly makes her way to the rickety wooden panel door, her legs quivering, desperately trying to hold her aloft as she reaches for a white, fur lined parka hanging from the wall. Her arms shakily snake their way through the puffy sleeves, and her body delights in the added warmth of the garment being zipped to her neck. Gratefully she opens the door, allowing for a brief gust of frigid winter air to stab sharply at the tip of her nose and quickly shuts it with a squealing clunk behind it departing to the house.

“More bridges”? Paul turns to his elder brother with a smirk. “I was bloody impressed that she could do even one with my full weight on top of her”.

“So was I”, Ernie laughs, with his belly rolling gently. “But I can’t let the kid know that, although we may have to”. Leaning back against the wall he removes his glasses and proceeds to polish the lenses with the cuff of his sleeve, his thoughts retreating into a reverie of reflection. “We’ve taken her about as far as we can here.., not much more we can do aside from a bit of polish. What she needs now is seasoning”.

“Seasoning..,” Paul’s voice trails off, brushed aside by images of his daughter Catherine who had left for new pastures in America, and eventually finding them in Las Vegas. Her primary objective was to gain said seasoning as experience working for Sin City Wrestling, a modest, local promotion boasting an impressive roster of talent, a roster she proceeded to tear through as a crocodile would a stray water buffalo calf and going for nearly a year unbeaten until the prey fought back. Crystal Hilton Zdunich would be the one to finally topple to seemingly invincible predator thrusting her into a spiral of depression brought about by a shrouded anxiety and casting her down a well of self-pity, a well she continues to try and climb her way back out of.

“You’re worried about the kitty cat aren’t you”? The elder man astutely observes, slapping a beefy hand on his shoulder as added support. “She’s going to be fine; did you see all of that junk she got for her birthday? They plastered her face on the side of a bloody building”!

“I did” Paul replies softly. “It’s just that.., her mother and I call her almost every day and while she is doing better, not being able to be there for her, to be able to hold her..,” his voice cracks against the relentless weight of frustration and he clenches a fist, slamming it against his knee, “If she weren’t on the other side of the bleeding planet”.

“She’s making progress Paul, and you and Becky are keeping up with her.., did you tell her about the matches you lost”?

Paul nods sullenly. “She thinks I’m lying just to make her feel better”.

“Of course she does”! He cackles obnoxiously. “You’re daddy, you’re invincible”. Reining his laughter in Ernie quickly regains his composure and leans forward, wrapping his arm around the squared, muscular shoulders of his younger brother. “Listen I have an idea.., why not send Fox to the same promotion? At least this way she will have some family to lean on”.

“I’m not sure”, he deadpans, dropping his gaze to the well-worn white sneakers proudly displaying the battle scars of his activities. “Cat thinks of herself as the torch bearer to the family legacy in America. That’s what caused her breakdown; she thought that she had tarnished our name when she lost. I’m worried that she may take it the wrong way”.

“Bollocks”! The older man scoffs, reaching up to rejoin a stray strand of grey hair to the salt and pepper mop adorning his head. “She’s loved Fox since the kid was born, she’s the closest thing to a sister Cat has. Bloody hell, those two are a tag team, you remember some of the shenanigans they used to get into together – a regular Fry and Laurie they are”.

The comparison draws a snort from Paul aerating memories from the effervescent 90’s sketch comedy show to bubble to the surface. “They were quite the pair weren’t they”? He acknowledges, “Like the time Cat forged an excusal for Fox from school so they could go see Star Wars but made it out for January the 33rd”.

“Exactly”, Ernie chimes in sharing a laugh with his sibling. “Those two love each other and the kitty cat would be delighted to have her around”.

“I can give it a try I suppose”, Paul offers, lifting his gaze to his brother. “But I’m not certain that I can get her signed to the same promotion with Cat, then there’s a matter of where she would stay”.

“Why not talk to that yank you made the business deal with? He seems to be a rather well connected sort, I’m sure he can be of some help, especially if he knows she has the same background as Cat”.

“Alright”, relenting to his brother’s reasoning Paul rises to his feet and reaches for his heavy overcoat draped on the bench beside where he sat. “I’ll give him a call tomorrow once I can figure out a time in America that also works for me”. Donning the black wool he grabs a similar coat from the bench and hands it to Ernie, who joins him, preparing to leave, “In the meantime I have to get home for supper and you need to work on those neck bridges with Fox”.

The two share another laugh as they depart the rickety gym, venturing off into the hazy evening, the door slamming shut with a final thud, and their mutual laughter trailing behind.

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