- Prologue -
He drew a long, measured drag on his cigarette and watched the smoke snake across the concrete floor of the empty gym. It had been decades since he'd last crossed the threshold of Iron Puma Martial Arts Academy and Martial Arts Equipment Emporium and yet it seemed like he could still smell the stale sweat of those bygone years of training. Eyeing the cart filled with unwashed jock straps that was creating the eye-watering funk assaulting his nostrils, he walked across to the far wall of the gym.
Every inch of the wall was covered, mainly by posters of bands that Iron Puma liked. Ja Rule, Six Pence None the Richer........ all of them were there, framed and freshly dusted. He recalled how his master would insist on playing his preferred music all day long when they trained. It was very loud and many times Iron Puma would insist on playing the same track five to ten times in a row. He'd usually abandon whatever technique he was teaching and begin slowly dancing through the gym, letting his arms float around his head while he muttered to himself "I'm a fucking rock star, I'm a mother fucking rock star". Then he'd go lay down on the couch in his office and fall asleep watching Boy Meets World DVDs. Once they heard Ben Savage's grating voice come through the doorway all the students knew that Iron Puma would teach them no more that day. And probably the next day. More often than not the Boy Meets World viewing sessions would take upwards of a week so it was best to just not plan on coming back for a solid 10 days.
He shook himself out of his reverie. Man, did he fucking hate Ben Savage. But even more than that, he hated Iron Puma. Hated him for the techniques he had denied teaching his greatest pupil. Hated him for his luscious, shining mullet that he wouldn't let anyone else grow (that's why he insisted on giving them all haircuts himself). Hated him for the name Iron Puma, which he had on his vanity license plate, his thumb ring and on the pink foam ball cap that he wore every day without exception. The oils from his mullet had changed most of the color from pink to a dull green tone but every one who ever saw that hat wanted to wear it, if only for a moment. And Iron Puma never took it off, not even in the shower.
He shook himself out his second reverie. He glared at the black and white picture centered in the Wall of Awesome Shit I Like (Iron Puma's name for it, if you were wondering). In the middle, there was Iron Puma, grinning like a stupid jackass. He barely recognized the youth standing to Iron Puma's right, holding up the Central Kansas Youth SAFTA trophy he had won all those years ago. There on the other side of Iron-stupid-Puma-dipshit was that other fuckface, Steve Millman.
Ah, Steve Millman. He started to smile, then thought better of it and turned it into a really mean scowl. Words couldn't describe what he had planned for that punk. He'd actually looked for words, but his Internet was acting weird and Webster.com had kept coming up as "Webpage Unavailable".
"That's right, Millman. You'll be permanently 'unavailable' real soon," he hissed. He held his cigarette up to Millman's face and then laughed as he ground the hot ember into the frozen smile. His laugh was really scary.