Title Writing Prompt Challenge Round 11 — Perry Broxson Submission

This is the Eleventh round of the Title Writing Prompt Challenge. For them unfamiliar with the challenge, a quick summary: three writers offer the fruit of their labor and inspiration based on a given title.

The Round 11 Title — Ode to… — was chosen by Gary. Perry will choose the title for the next round.

The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the G and PG rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Those ratings are guidelines but they are subjective. If you find a story disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, stop reading and move on to the next one. The same goes if you are not interested in finishing a story. It may seem like obvious advice, but these days many people go out of their way to experience outrage (and then complain about it).

This, then, is Perry’s submission.

Here’s the blurb for this story:
Ever wonder who would win in a one-on-one basketball game between Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Well, EverGames Inc. has cracked the code. From DNA, they re-create players and pitch them against one another . . . for the viewing pleasures of the obscenely wealthy.
Charlie Parlay has been tagged to manage a new division at EverGames – Gladiatorial Combat. Watch as he enters the arena to combat his dead stepfather – the man who murdered his mother.

Ode To Motherlove

Copyright 2022 — Perry Broxson

(4,830 words – approx. reading time: about 18 minutes based on 265 WPM)

Charlie Parlay knocked on the speakeasy door. When it creaked opened, he was instantly awash in the scent of whisky and sin.

“Who are you?” a towering, lanky lady asked.

“Charlie. Charlie Parlay . . . I’m supposed to meet a mister . . .” he looked at a business card, holding it up to catch some neon light. “A Mr. Ball.”

“You mean, The Mr. Ball?”

Charlie, abrasive by nature, decided to play along. “Mr. Ball is finicky about his articles, ey?”

“Definitely,” she said, “as in definite articles only.”

He held up his smartphone to cast a little light. “Anyone ever tell you that you look like Babe Didrikson?”

Her adam’s apple bobbed as she chuckled. “Nope. I’d bet there’s not a swingin’ dick in this joint that could pick that dead dyke out of a lineup.”

“I’d take that bet,” he said.

She looked down on him with mild disdain. “Charlie Parlay . . . founder of Bottom Dollar Betting . . . word is, you’d bet on anything.”

“Wanna bet?”

She was finished with his quirky flirtation. “Follow me,” she said, grasping his soft hand in her hard one. “Try not to make eye contact. Some of the clientele are . . . paranoid.”

“Paranoid?” he asked. “Gambling is legal in this district. Why the paranoia?”

She grinned wryly then jerked his wrist. “Let’s just say that our gaming conventions are . . . unconventional. Come with me.” She pulled him into the dark room, winding past oval tables of serious men playing serious games for serious stakes. Some of the men shielded themselves with their collars, some with the bills of ball caps. Others stared at Charlie with their hardcase faces, daring him to dime them out. After a dizzying gallop through an unlit labyrinth, they arrived in a room with nothing but candles and contiguous shelves of books.

“A library,” Charlie asked. “In a house of vice and chance?”

“Pick a book,” she said. “Any book.”

He plucked a random book from a shelf and opened it. There was a color photo that depicted two boxers in a ring buttressed by an ecstatic crowd. “What is this?” Charlie asked the lady. “A joke?”

She peered over his shoulder, craning her neck. “Looks like Rocky Marciano and Ali . . . what’s so funny about that?”

Charlie regarded her incredulously. “C’mon, it’s a joke. Or some shitty Photoshop gag. Marciano retired in ’56. Cassius Clay’s first pro fight was in ’60.”

She nodded wisely. “Tunney Hunsaker. Lasted three rounds. Ali – Clay, rather – caught Hunsaker with an uppercut. Broke his jaw.”

Charlie looked up at the woman that looked like Babe Didrikson. “That’s right. But, but, but that’s not the point. The point is, Marciano and Ali never fought each other. And look . . . look at that crowd. Some of those people have iPhones and Airbuds. That guy there – he’s wearing a Laker’s jersey with LeBron’s name and number on it. Somebody needs to tell The Mr. Ball that this photo is a hoax.”

“You tell him,” she said, reaching over his head and tilting a book. As she did, a 12-foot shelf slowly rotated, opening, revealing a hidden room. Gesturing as a gentleman to a lady, she offered him first entry.

Cautiously, Charlie Parlay entered. The interior was completely different from the seedy casino and the moldy library. It was a sterile room, sheeted with steel and chrome. It glistened under the high-lux lights, challenging anyone to detect a speck of dust.  

“If it isn’t Charlie Parlay,” a reedy voice called from an unseen speaker.

“It is,” Charlie acknowledged, looking for the source. “Are you The Mr. Ball, definite article intended?”

The voice dismissed his question. “The question is, are you the Charlie Parlay that turned professional basketball on its ear with rudimentary junior high mathematics?”

Charlie nodded. “The 33/66 principle.”

“Exactly,” the voice exclaimed. “A player that can shoot 3-pointers at a 33% rate is the scoring equivalent of a 2-point shooter that shoots 66%.”

“It’s not E = mc2 ,Charlie admitted, “but it did change NBA offensive strategies.”

“And baseball,” the voice asked. “Didn’t you highlight the undervalued OBP statistic?”

“Me and a big-brained pal from MIT,” Charlie said. “On Base Percentage, as it pertains to plate-discipline – walks and base hits – is the primary indicator of success for an MLB club.”

“Excellent,” The Mr. Ball said. “It seems I have The Charlie Parlay that is required for my ambitious enterprise.”

Charlie looked at the statuesque woman quizzically. “Ambitious enterprise?”

She shrugged and smiled in the high-lux light. For the first time, he noticed her skin. It seemed too smooth . . . synthetically smooth . . . inhumanly smooth.

“I’m sorry,” Charlie said. “I’m old school. I don’t talk to disembodied voices. I need to see a man’s eyes, gauge the measure of his character. It’s the gambler in me. Mind if we do this tête-à-tête in person?”    

“Not at all,” the voice acquiesced.

For a full minute nothing happened. Charlie was about to re-engage when he noticed his female escort begin to disrobe.

“Wait, what?” he protested. “Sorry, doll. I’m not in the mood.”

Her breast were perfect and pert, yet un-nippled. Her vulva was hairless and lipless, with no discernable seam of ingress. Indifferent to pain, she gripped her left wrist with her right hand and heaved – as if to de-sleeve herself. The left arm did indeed detach. In its stead, a smaller arm trembled, not unlike a newborn fawn’s leg.

“Holy Goats!” he shouted. “What kind of freakshow is this?”

The woman smiled one last time. She then unscrewed her head like a pickle jar lid. From her ruptured sternum, a bald head popped up, turtle-like, spitting phlegm and quickly blinking its bulging eyes.

“Ball!” Charlie barked, as the man sloughed off the pretensive skin. “Are you Mr. Ball?”

Stepping out of the membranous cowl, the small bald man reached out his moist hand to shake. Instinctively, Charlie grasped it. “The Mr. Ball, at your service,” he greeted.

Charlie shook then wiped his hand on his pants and said, “Quite an entrance. Mind telling me what the hell is going on here?”

The Mr. Ball took the book from Charlie and pressed his wet finger on the anachronistic photo. “Let’s start with Marciano versus Clay, shall we?”


“Wait, wait, wait,” Charlie said, spit-taking his neat gin. “You’re not serious . . . that fight did not – I repeat, did NOT – happen. It couldn’t have. Look at them. The photo shows them both in their prime. It’s chronologically impossible.”

“Agreed,” Ball said, adorned in a gold robe, sipping a steaming mulled wine.

Charlie nodded. “So you agree, it didn’t happen? The photo is a hoax?”

Ball slowly rotated his bald head, signaling no. Then he casually leafed through the book and landed on another photo. He slid the open book across the steel table.

“You’re shitting me,” Charlie snorted. “Ty Cobb, in an Angel’s uniform. Arguably the greatest hitter of all time, to be sure, but Cobb was no angel. Batting against . . . no . . . Bob Gibson? Arguably the greatest black pitcher of the modern era. C’mon.”

Ball slurped and nodded. “Cobb was an inveterate racist – did you know that?”

“Yes,” Charlie ejaculated, “but that’s not the point. Their careers did not overlap.”

“”It is the point,” Ball insisted. “At EverGames Incorporated, it’s the only point. At EverGames, timelines and career chronologies are nonissues, Charlie. With a smattering of DNA we can create – rather, re-create – any player of any era and pit them against any opponent. It solves the age-old question: In their prime, who is the best of the best? If Pele played Beckham, who would win? If Dempsey fought Tyson, who would win? If Serena competed against Margaret Court, who would win? Charlie, we’re not even confined to humanity. Last week we raced Man O’ War against Secretariat.”

Charlie literally scratched his head. It wasn’t sinking in. “You make them? In a lab? Humans? Animals? These dead sports’ legends? Then you place them in an arena – for entertainment – and have them compete . . . against some random nemesis?”

“Close,” Ball said. “The nemesis is neither random nor necessarily deceased. It’s whomever the Client selects. Many times it’s race-based. Given that our African American brothers and sisters were barred from professional sports in the 19th century and part of the 20th, it becomes an item of infinite intrigue: Who would prevail, given a level playing field, equivalent nutrition, modern equipment, and peak conditioning? Each Contender that EverGame creates is in his or her prime, for one day, for one event.”

Charlie blinked. “One day? You give them one lousy day? Are they . . . sentient? Are they aware that they’re . . . disposable?”

“They are sentient,” Ball said. “It was necessary to provide them with optimal intelligence, given that athletic competitions are just as cerebral as they are physical. We don’t delight in the disposal, but it wouldn’t do to have a dozen O.J. Simpsons running around, would it?”

“O.J.” Charlie said. “Clients have requested O.J.?”

Ball nodded. “He’s quite popular. Some Clients just want to golf with him. Some Clients have the resources to construct entire NFL teams – like the undefeated ’72 Dolphins – and pit them against all-star teams, of their own selection. A variation on Fantasy Football.”

“For a day?” Charlie reiterated.

Ball smiled serenely, “For an entire day . . . one more than God gave them.”

Charlie swung his head side-to-side. “This is wild! Wild and wacky and . . . and . . . wrong!”

“Wrong?” Ball blanched.

“Wrong! You’re damn right it’s wrong,” Charlie agued. “You’re playing God . . . or worse, Doctor Fuckin’ Frankenstein! For what? To settle Billionaires’ barstool squabbles about who would whup who in their prime? It’s wrong, Ball! It’s ghoulish and cruel and immoral!”

Sulkily, Ball pooched out his lower lip. Charlie observed that it had purpled from the warm wine. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” Ball said. “I asked you here today to discuss a trailblazing proposition.”

Charlie stood up, looking for the door. Feeling for a latch or sensor on the smooth steel wall, he mumbled: “I don’t like this. And I really don’t like you.”

“You see,” Ball continued blithely, “we’ve made advances. EverGames is branching out. I need someone with your acumen for progressive thinking to forge this new frontier.”

“I want out of here, Ball.”

Ball replenished his snifter of mulled wine. “We’re keeping our Sports’ Division, of course. It’s an obscenely lucrative enterprise. But we’re adding a new component – a category that appeals to . . . ahem . . . a less genteel clientele. We’re introducing Gladiatorial Combat to our portfolio. And I’d like for you to midwife it into fruition, Charlie Parlay. I think you’re perfect for the job.”

“Gladiatorial Combat!” Charlie barked. “Men fighting men . . . to the death . . . for amusement?”

“Amusement,” Ball said, “and money. Mountains of money.” Wine dribbled down his chin as he spoke. “Imagine a nemesis. Any nemesis. An ex-wife. A bully in middle-school. A sadistic professor at University. A belittling boss. A brother, a mother, or perhaps a drunken step-father that locked you in the trunk of his ’74 Plymouth Challenger for breaking his bowling trophy. Imagine your avatar fighting his avatar as you watch. Imagine you cheering as you – your disposable genetic clone – smash your bad daddy’s cranium with the same tire iron he used to kill your pregnant mother.”

“What?” Charlie exclaimed, spinning back to Ball. “How’d you know about him? About Marlin? The car? The trophy? Mom? How’d you know?”

“How’d I know he killed your pregnant mother with a tire iron?” Ball asked. “EverGames has a comprehensive research division. We have to know everything about our Contenders to create an authentic experience for our clients. For instance, did you know that Smokin’ Joe Frazier was illiterate? Heaven forbid, we create a scenario wherein that he signs autographs or quotes Shakespeare. Such a faux pas would dispel the illusion.”

“But my mother . . . and her killer,” Charlie said. “Why the fuck did you pry into my past?”

“It’s not prying,” Ball corrected. “It’s vetting. At EverGames Incorporated, we vet all corporate managers.”

“I told you, I’m not interested,” Charlie said.

A disembodied voice spoke from an unseen speaker: “Don’t be so churlish, Charles. Let the man talk.”

“Mom?” he said, spinning. “Mom! Is that you?”

A gentle, tinkling of laughter filled the room. “My churlish Charles . . . always so serious. I suppose one gets churlish when one’s stepfather locks one in one’s car trunk, doesn’t one?”

“I could’ve died!” he screamed.

His mother hummed half a lullaby then said, “I died in your place, Charles. You broke Marlin’s bowling trophy, but I took the brunt of the punishment. Don’t you think I deserve to be avenged, Charles? I gave you life. Then I gave you my life.”

“Mom,” he countered, “I was only six. I couldn’t have known . . . that he’d react like that.”

His mother clucked her tongue. “You’re telling porkies, Charles. You wanted Marlin to react. You wanted to anger him. You broke that trophy on purpose; didn’t you, son?”

Charlie Parlay stood in the steel room, under lux lamps, looking up; the shame of that fated day radiating down upon him.

“I tried to protect you,” Julie Parlay cried. “I unlocked the trunk and saved you . . . and that’s when he . . .”

Charlie dropped his head and closed his eyes. “He killed you.”

Softly, the lullaby continued, uninterrupted by decades of death and decay.


 “I’ll do it,” Charlie Parlay said, “on one condition.”

Ball’s purple smile spread over his pale face. “Let’s toast,” he said, pouring Charlie another gin and himself a third wine. “To EverGames’ newest, brightest, most innovative associate. Long may our collaboration last.”

“The condition,” Charlie repeated, abstaining from the toast.

“Yes,” Ball said. “Let’s address the condition . . . then we’ll toast the future. Please, Mr. Parlay, regale me with your una conditio.”

“No avatar,” Charlie said.

“Pardon,” Ball replied. “Did you say no avatar?”

Charlie nodded. “For Marlin, an avatar, of course. He was shivved in prison twelve years ago. Create his avatar . . . his combat clone. I want him young and mean, the way he was the day he bashed Mom’s head in. But for me, no avatar. I want to fight the fucker, mano a mano.”

Ball violated the toast by slugging back a draught of wine. “You what?”

“I want to do it . . . for my mother,” he explained. “I owe her that.”

Ball shook his head emphatically. “No, no, no. You don’t understand. We designed that synthetic voice in our sound studio. We programmed your mother’s word selection. We dialed up the Guilt Quotient to eleven. That was not your real mother, Charlie.”

“I’m not stupid,” Charlie said. “I know it was a trick. The way you spoke while inside Babe Didrikson. But that doesn’t change anything. I did break that goddamned bowling trophy. I did it because I hated that bastard. Even more, I hated that she loved him and took his name. And now, all these years later, I hate myself for engineering her murder.”


Charlie nodded. “I set the wheels in motion. I tipped the first domino. I am the singularity. The Big Bang. Without me – without my stupid, churlish act – she might be alive.”

“Very well,” Ball ceded. “Let’s kill two birds, as they say. Let’s kick off the Gladiatorial Division of EverGame featuring you, Charlie Parlay. You and your murderous stepfather, Marlin. The inaugural event should take place eighteen days from today, don’t you think?”

Charlie looked up, surprised. “Eighteen days. The 30th anniversary of Mom’s death.”

Ball slid the gin glass toward Charlie. The two men lifted their libations. It was Ball that found the words. He cleared his throat and spoke: “An Ode to Motherlove: Let us raise our glasses, and then imbibe. To the splendid ladies, who found our tribes. There’s none more caring, more dear, or bold. We wouldn’t trade motherlove, for all the world’s gold.”

An orphan tear slid into Charlie’s highball glass as he sipped the gin. Eighteen days, he thought. Then thought it again. Eighteen days.


Charlie used his two-and-a-half weeks to train. Immediately, he hired three coaches: a Brazilian jiu-jitsu master; a Muay Thai trainer; and a self-declared bare-knuckle street-fighter, by the name of Syd Monk. After the first week, Charlie fired the former two and went all in with Syd.

One hour before the fight, The Mr. Ball approached the two men in their locker room at the new venue.

“Do you like it?” Ball asked, gesturing the massive stadium. “It officially holds one-hundred thousand, but between you and me and the lamppost, we wedged in another twenty-thousand mooks. We’ve maximized the House, and our Pay-Per-View revenues are through the roof.”

“Great,” Charlie said, sipping electrolytes from a squeeze bottle.

“We got Bruce Buffer to announce the fight,” Ball said. “You know, the Let’s get ready to rumble guy.” 

“I know who he is,” Charlie said. “How’s my opponent?”

“How is he?” Ball asked. “Like emotionally?”

Charlie shook his head. “Dumb question, I guess. What I meant was, did he come out all right? Is he really Marlin Parlay?”

Ball laughed and rubbed Charlie’s bare shoulder. “Fresh out of the oven. The Replication Team tells me that he cooked up quite nicely. Their research indicated that he was 35 years, 1 month, and 27 days old . . . the day he . . . you know.”

“Killed Mom?”

“Yes, that,” Ball said, then added: “Funny. He’s actually a year younger than you are now.”

Syd piped up. “No, that’s not funny. We don’t need no head games, Ball. Me and my boy just want to meditate and go over fight strategies . . . so if you don’t mind . . . .”

“I’ll leave,” Ball said. “After I clarify the rules of engagement.”    

“We know the rules. We fight,” Charlie said, throwing a quick combination.

“Yes,” Ball said. “But you didn’t finish the sentence: You fight . . . to the death.”

Syd moved on Ball, chest to chest. “Don’t you think we know that? Why do you think my guy has been killin’ himself in the gym for the last” –

Charlie pulled Syd back and said, “I’ve been killing myself for the last 30 years. It’s time I stop blaming myself and lay the blame where it belongs. Don’t you worry, The Mr. Ball. You and your mooks will witness a death today. You have my word.” He extended his wrapped hand and the men shook.

“Very well,” Ball said through his smile. “Once we get this necessary nastiness out of the way, we can meet with the Board of Directors and debrief. We’ll discuss where we excelled, and where we failed. Lessons learned, as they say.”

“As they say,” Charlie repeated flatly.

Ball turned abruptly, cupping his ear. “Hear that? It’s your fight song, Charlie. I’ll retire to my ringside seat and let you gentlemen prepare for the rumble.”

“The rumble,” Charlie echoed.

Ball floated a fake jab that kissed Charlie’s chin. “Go get ‘im, tiger.” He then exited.

Syd and Charlie stared at the door, still vibrating in its jamb. Charlie whispered words only God and his trainer could hear. “I really, really hate that man.”


Charlie Parlay, accompanied by an entourage of one, entered the belly of the arena as his fight song, Bohemian Rhapsody, blasted from the rafters. He was amazed by the majesty of the venue. Mr. Ball had an eye for detail. The architecture of the theater resembled the Roman Coliseum. Encircling the cage, clad in pink bikinis, were fifteen ring girls holding their placards modestly over their breasts. Charlie thought he recognized a few of the models: Marylyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcet, Sharon Tate, and Princess Di.   

Snatches of his fight song filled the arena. Mama, just killed a man . . . didn’t mean to make you cryyyyy . . . nothin’ really matters.

As promised, Bruce Buffer paced the cage, wearing a paisley silk Jacquard smoking jacket, bellowing into his mic.

“The ring. It’s not a ring. It’s a cage,” Charlie said to Syd. “For some reason, I envisioned an old-style boxing ring, with ropes.”

“Doesn’t matter if it’s a barroom or a bathroom,” Syd said, “you fight like I taught you and you win.”

“Each man,” Bruce Buffer announced to the raucous crowd, “is allowed to utilize one weapon – any weapon not classified as a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

“Here,” Syd said, handing Charlie his weapon. “Use it like I taught ya, and we’ll celebrate with steaks and cigars tonight. Maybe grab a couple of those ring girls and make the beast with two backs. Eh?”

“Make the beast,” Charlie repeated, trying to control his heartrate.

 Suddenly, there was a tumult in the crowd. Charlie peered through the sea of people, lit dimly by smoky aisle lights, trying to see his opponent, Marlin Parlay, enter the arena.

“Don’t look at ‘im,” Syd said. “Just listen to that godawful song and get mad.”

Marlin’s fight song was an oldie. It took Charlie a minute to fully realize its sadistic significance. “Stand by your maaaaaan,” Tammy Wynette mournfully implored. “Give him two arms to cling to . . . ‘cause after all, he’s just a man.”

Raging, Charlie literally saw his stepfather, Marlin, through a filter of throbbing, strobing red. The man seemed to be carried by a dozen handlers, most wearing lab coats. As Bruce Buffer introduced Marlin The Murderer, his handlers pushed him through the door, into the center of the cage.

“You,” Charlie seethed. “This is all your fault. Tonight, you die.”

The crowd quieted, as if trying to eavesdrop upon the oedipal saga.

“Charlie?” Marlin asked, truly bewildered. “Is that you? Grown up? What’s going on?” Marlin looked around, dizzied by the din, panicked and frightened.

“We fight tonight,” Charlie growled. “We fight to the death.”

“But, but, but,” Marlin stammered, “I thought I was already dead. Last I remember, I was in the shower in Folsom and two guys” –

The referee, Big Rusty Warner, pulled them into a huddle and gave them the breakdown. “I want a dirty fight. Eye gouging, hair pulling, dick twisting. There’s only one rule – that being, there ain’t no fuckin’ rules. The fight is over when someone’s dead. Are we clear?”

“Clear,” Charlie grunted.

“No, wait,” Marlin cried. “I don’t want to fight . . . anyone . . . especially my own son.”

“Stepson,” Charlie corrected.

Just then, a peculiar ring girl pranced the perimeter, holding up a placard that read “Round #1”. Charlie was too focused to acknowledge her, but Marlin seemed transfixed.

“Julie,” he said, “is that you, Julie?”

The woman was peculiar in that she was not a classic beauty, like her bombshell peers. She was short, chubby, and small-chested. Her hair was mousy brown, pulled into a straining, matronly bun. She looked like a firm-but-fair school teacher, right out of Hollywood’s central casting.

The bell rang and Charlie charged. He struck his opponent with his chosen weapon – the marble base of the broken bowling trophy. Marlin’s left ear exploded. He wobbled, dropped to his knees, listed, then pitched over onto the mat.

Cutting through the thunder of the crowd, Charlie heard a singular reedy voice. “Bravissimo!” it said. He turned and saw The Mr. Ball standing and clapping his fat hands. “Bravissimo!”

“Ball,” Charlie spat, hating the man that had arranged the mayhem.

“Go get ‘im, tiger!” Ball called.

To Charlie’s surprise, Marlin was attempting to rise. He got upon all four, like a wounded beast, and he lifted his face to Charlie. “Go ahead, son,” he said. “Kill me. I deserve as many killins as you got in ya.”

Charlie was amazed by how frail the man seemed. In his mind – his nightmares – he’d made Marlin into a monster. But here he was, broken and bloody and . . . weeping . . . the beast was actually weeping; his blood and tears streaming, staining the pristine mat.

“Finish him,” The Mr. Ball bellowed, jerking his thumb downward. “He killed your beloved mother . . . crush his skull. Crush his skull. Crush his skull.”

The crowd picked up the chant: “Crush his skull! Crush his skull!”

Marlin dipped his head sacrificially, exposing the kill zone.

With two hands, Charlie hoisted the trophy base over his head, glaring at the target of his stepfather’s bald spot. His teeth grinded as adrenaline sluiced through his body, engorging his muscles, making him shake with rage.

“Say it! Say you killed her,” Charlie demanded. “You crushed her skull with a tire iron. The tire iron in the trunk of your baby blue Challenger. The trunk you locked me in. The trunk she saved me from. Say it!”

“It’s true,” he said. “I confess.”

Charlie had all the validation he needed. He double-gripped the brick and roared his battle cry. The crazed crowd held its collective breath, anticipating the sweet coup de grace.

“Wait!” the mousy-brown-haired ring girl shouted.

Charlie paused as she foisted herself between him and his stepfather. She cradled Marlin’s face and kissed his bleeding head. She cooed and calmed him, mixing her tears with his.

            “Julie,” he moaned. “It is you. I knew it was you.”

            Bobby pins rattled onto the mat, as her hair fell, liberated, across his face. “Marlin,” she cried, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

“Mom?” Charlie said, examining the resurrected woman in a costume bikini. “It can’t be . . . unless, Ball.”

Charlie scanned the ringside crowd, finding The Mr. Ball in the throes of a laughing jag. Charlie dropped the trophy onto the canvas mat.

“Ball!” he shouted. “You did this!”

Ball turned, regarding the family tragedy. He then reached under the cage apron and retrieved and angled object of black steel. With disdain, he slung it onto the mat, sliding it over the slick of blood and tears.

Charlie gasped as the tire iron spun and spun and spun, finally stopping, pointing at Julie Parlay, his mother.

She blurted: “I did it, Charles. It wasn’t Marlin . . .”

“Mom,” Charlie said. “Don’t cover for him. You always defended him . . . always.”

She moaned and shook her head. “No, Charles. My churlish, churlish Charles. I’d had a miscarriage. I was out of my mind, depressed, psychotic, suicidal. And Charles, I was also homicidal.”

“Stop it,” Marlin said. “You were sick, darling. You didn’t know what you were” –

“I did,” she snapped. “I knew exactly what I was doing. I hated you for loving that car. And I hated Charles for loving me – so, so completely. So unconditionally. So blindly.”

“Mom,” Charlie said, clapping his hands to his ears, remembering. “No, no, no, no, no, noooooo.”

“Yes, Charles,” she said, in her teacherly voice. “I locked you in the trunk. And I was going to drive us both into Shelly Lake. It was Marlin that stopped me.”

“No,” Charlie protested. “You would never.”

She held out her hand, showing a palm of pills. “It was the Vicodin that killed me, Charles. Marlin – your father – couldn’t allow my godly, Christian reputation to be sullied by the stigma of suicide. So he told the police that he killed me. I was already dead when he used the tire iron. That’s what happened, isn’t it, darling?”

Marlin could not speak. He could only weep and bleed.

The crowd became restless, starting to hiss and jeer. It was then that The Mr. Ball entered the cage, taking the mic from the announcer. “We came to see an old-fashioned killin’,” he hyped. He bent, gripped, and lifted the tire iron. As if he were a king bestowing knighthood, he touched it to Charlie Parlay’s shoulder. “I say you crush both their lying skulls,” he proposed. Then, with lurid showmanship, he spun and pointed to the upper ramparts of the stadium. “What do you say – wanna see a true two-fer tonight?”

The crowd erupted into ugly, lusty howls, cheering the idea of a bonus parricide. 

Charlie took the tire iron, rapping it casually across his palm. He looked down upon his humbled parents. They resembled the pose and posture of Michael Angelo’s Pieta – Mother Mary holding the dying messiah, their love forever chiseled in cold stone.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed. “So very sorry.”

Marlin and Julie looked up at their son. They shared a single, prideful smile. As the chants swelled to a deafening crescendo, and the stadium quaked, and all the mooks’ thumbs turned downward, Charlie Parlay proceeded to kill the one and only person that he really, really wanted to that day. 


If you’ve already read the other two stories and are ready to vote, click HERE<<<Link, and you’ll be taken to the voting poll.

If you’ve not read the other two stories, they can be found at the following links:

E. J. D’Alise submission<<link

R. G. Broxson submission<<link

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