G.W. Carver Elementary School by far had the most illustrious playground in all of Salem Virginia. Chain-link enveloped the entirety of the expanse to keep the ill-intent away from the children as well as the kickass slides and swing sets too. All of the equipment was fairly new—so no splinters just yet from the wooden seesaws—but yet they still had the character and history to be expected; every child who came through the school for the next two decades would know that at some point Susie hearted Bill, as evident in the carved out section of the wooden playset in the center of the playground. And beside it?
El Trébol was here
The green luchador stood a little bit away from the playset, his eyes fixed upward on every child’s first fear on the playground: the monkey bars. Three rungs was all that was needed to put the kids higher up than they had ever been in their life. But that was the easy part, to climb those rungs. It was the next part that was the hard bit. Pulling yourself out there into the nothingness, with only your strength to keep you up there, with all of your peers watching, hoping. Maybe it was your success, maybe it was your failure, maybe these just wanted you to get out of there way and give them their shot. It was always a lot more weight on the shoulders of the people who hung in this balance.
The crunch of week-old snow could be heard as El Trébol shifts on his feet, his eyes fixated on the obstacle before him. “My parents had been informed by the doctors shortly after my birth about the difficulties I would face as I got older. They didn’t tell me of course; who wanted to be the parent who told a six year old child he would never be looked upon as an adult ever in his life.” El Trébol’s back to the camera, but the tension was obvious in his body language. “As you can imagine, I figured it out on my own and was none too pleased to find out that my parents had kept me uninformed for so long. But in retrospect, I’m thankful now that they didn’t.”
The camera circles around to El Trébol’s front, framing his body between the monkey bars. He reaches out and pats the top most rung with his gloved hand, knocking aside the snow clinging so desperately to it.
“I’m thankful because it gave me a chance to, at least for a little while, be like everyone else.”
El Trébol points to the first rung hanging in the air, the leap of faith as many kids considered it all across the country.
“And like everyone else, I thought it wise to throw my body into the abyss on the grounds that everyone else was doing it. The cool kids, the nerdy kids, the normal kids. Big kids, small kids all tried their hand at making it to the other side.” A pause. “If my parents had told me who I would be as I got older, I don’t think I would’ve even attempted these monkey bars; I would’ve been too discouraged. But they spared me and through that mercy I learned something that I have held to my heart forever since.”
El Trébol finds looks into the camera.
“We’re all the same size when we’re dangling in the air.”
The little man nods.
“And as I stand here, mere days away from one of the biggest matches of my career to date, I cannot help but reflect on such a profound concept. Strength didn’t matter; all it took was a single person on the ground to take you by the ankles to negate that. It wasn’t about technique; all it took was a strong wind, a slippery rung, or a well-timed joke. No, at the end of the day, only one thing was going to carry you over to the other side.”
El Trébol places his snow-covered glove over his chest, a familiar gesture to anyone who had ever watched a video of the little guy.
“Heart. It is the one thing I can claim possession of without a shadow of a doubt in my mind. My will and desire to succeed carried me across those rungs over a decade ago and it’s the thing that will carry me forward in the Ace in the Hole Match at Victory XLVII.” He grips the fabric, holding this statement close to his, well, heart. “I don’t have the ability that Kendrix or CBR have. I’m not as experienced as Scott Stevens or Ron Hall. I won’t even say I have the shock factor that Cecilworth brings into this match. But I will always make the claim of having the most heart and it will stop beating before I ever say otherwise.”
El Trébol gestures to the rungs again, running his extended finger up and down their trajectory.
“Because come Monday night, six men will all be clambering on rungs very much like these before me trying to make their way across the other side. There is no organized queue where every man gets his chance to succeed.” El Trébol shakes his head. “No, the six of us will be playing some next level, king-of-the-rock shit Monday night. You clamber high, knowing that any moment something will be grabbing at your ankles, looking to turn your world upside down. It will be chaotic. It will be amazing.”
El Trébol gestures to his body.
“And as per usual, I will probably be overlooked in this match; I’m just the little kid who has been clinging on that first rung seemingly too afraid to go any further. I’m young, I’m small, and I’m untested in a match such as this. But, in the whole scheme of things, am I actually the man who is not fit to be in this match?”
El Trébol points with both hands around either side of the monkey bars, to the other side.
“Ron Hall and Cecilworth are the kids who have made the entire journey of these heights without their feet ever having left the ground. If we wish to judge a man on the merits one can find only on paper, what has either of these men done besides look up at the other man moving in the same direction above them? Sure, Ron Hall has that prestigious Hall to retire to whenever he gets around to it, but that’s really just the proverbial participation trophy reminding him that, if he had at least tried, he could’ve been the man everyone else looked up to, not the man people targeted for a soft landing with their hands slipped.”
El Trébol throws his hands up in the air.
“And who knows where Scott Stevens is right now? He’s probably sulking that his mother made him transfer from the other elementary school, where at least he was the popular kid. This playground, though, hasn’t been his friend. Every time he tries to show us the cool tricks he learned on summer vacation, some other kid pops up steals his thunder. There’s no doubt that he has the talent, but he’s going to have to step up his game. You know, eat his vegetables and all of that.” El Trébol gives the slightest hint of a grin. “Easier said than done, of course; I hear he’s been having trouble digesting a particular lima bean that went down the wrong way on him.”
El Trébol chuckles. It’s obvious he’s really getting into this drawn out analogy.
“And let’s not forget the foreign kid clutching his soccer ball on the outskirts, trying so desperately to get other kids to play with him. He’d have better luck if he’d stop talking about the one time he beat one of the older kids, it would really help his image.” El Trébol nods. “I’ve played with you once myself, Kendrix, and I can’t say it was a pleasurable experience. A learning experience, yes, but not pleasurable. But do I honestly believe that if I were to challenge you again to a friendly, I’d feel hopeless? It would be difficult, no doubt, but Cecil has seemed to have done it already and he still seems to think we’re actually competing for a little old briefcase.”
Finally, El Trébol makes the move everyone expected: he climbs those three rungs, pausing with his hand outstretched on the first rung.
“Leaving you, Claude, as the most experienced man when it comes to a match like this. You’ve been with this company for two years now and have given it your all. You didn’t just overcome these obstacles with the crowds around; you were out here every day busting your ass to perfect this crossing for the big moments. If there was ever a time for your hard work to pay off, it would be a match like this one.” El Trébol sighs. “And it pains me to say that, given the opportunity, I would knock you off the top as quickly as I would anyone else. I need this match, CBR, long for it.”
One final, suspenseful moment.
“Monday night, I make that crossing, and for each person who impedes me. . .”
El Trébol launches forward onto the first rung.
Three, four, and the final fifth in quick succession.
“Scott Stevens, Kendrix, CBR.”
One last stretch and El Trébol’s feet find the solid, metal rung on the side of victory.
“All will lie behind me, still trying to figure out how I slipped right past them. . .”
El Trébol drops to the ground and turns to the camera, a single playing card in his hand.
“And in what hole I had hidden this Ace this whole time. Come Monday night, maybe it’ll be a little more apparent. See you all soon.”
And with that magical and cheesy ending, the scene finally comes to a close.