The Beast arched its back and fired retaliation at the Gods who cursed the recent tracks of the wounded; round after round, dripping from cannons atop the Parsons Cruise Liner 2, in defiance of the current run of bad luck striking the once proud company. The aimless jabs were seen by hundreds of bystanders huddled over the Miami port, a collective bored soul desperate to celebrate achievement in any increment. The mob was mostly friends and family, with a spattering of Zachariases scaling trees to see their personal Jesus sail, until the great Ghost ship, carrying the essence of what was once the Mecca of this sport, fell prey to distance and a sleepy dusk.
The turnout was better than Thomas expected. As his company car pulled into port and he caught wind of the swelling crowd, he ordered the production crew to begin filming immediately. People don’t chuck their kids over their shoulders and pack themselves like sardines to see the circus (MMA) head for the next town. So, half were shuttle-launch junkies needing an occasion to congregate until NASA’s next mission. The rhyme or reason was of little concern to Stephen. He hugged babies and asked for Nielsen box families to step forward so they might experience treatment befitting royalty. The goodwill made the man feel warm again, and as he bellowed with a transparent insincerity for the anchors to pull and the PCL 2 to set sail, Thomas carried with him what he one knew was the silly, old romantic notion of hope. A state of mind he passed up since being left for dead by the man he loved most.
The fireworks exploded over the CEO’s head as the orange star faded. Stephen imagined he was a great leader of years gone by, sent to pull off some spectacular feat, such as discovering a new land, or destroying the British Navy. It was such a beautiful reception. My God, the possibilities were endless. Maybe they could really do something inspirational. Maybe, in a week’s time, the name brand CSWA would matter once more.
Of course, the mark of any great businessman is never forgetting the first lesson that paid dividends. He and Chad learned on night one, celebratory explosives make up for a lot of crap.
His folded arms rested atop the guardrail on the tail end of the Cruise Ship. The sounds of the launch party raging on the pool deck played as a bloody whisper to the reality Thomas knew existed. Typically the PoolJam tours were a major moneymaker for the company; and the stories that came out of them, lore with the wrestlers. You’re not anybody in the company until you’ve done a couple tours on one of these beasts. It’s Summer Camp and, for the first-years, Counselors Ivy and Mike Randalls generously await with a decade of wisdom and survival dos and don’ts.
If all went well, the company would replace the finger in the dike with something more permanent, then morale would upswing. But, as the Parsons Cruise Liner pushed further from land, Thomas knew he scheduled the tour so he could run. On solid ground, Stephen had a city, a legacy, loyalty and an impatient network to answer to. On a Cruise, Thomas minimized his problems, boxed himself into a floating corner, taking only what he needed to see the next day in with him and said goodbye to the unflinching end that awaited when he returned. When he came back, this child of his and Chad’s may never be the same.
The sun set, the last daylight of day one of seven left in the CSWA’s domain, history. Theoretically there was always tomorrow, another great escape, or favor to call in, but the journey, the last stretch of which had tired him so, was beginning to take its toll.
This was the end, and there wasn’t a man riding the Beast who didn’t know it. But, alas, Thomas had finally rid the company of its problem. These Cruises, truth be told, at this point in time could practically run themselves.