The following morning, while the roads were empty except for a few cleaners and people taking their dogs for walks, Felix jogged his way to the gym. The very idea of gym seemed terribly exciting to him and he liked nothing more than overworked lungs popping veins. It made him feel powerful.
It was a basement gym and consequently was dark and a bit damp. The walls were high and the only source of light was the sunlight trickling in from long, rectangular windows as high as rooftops. The owner, and the trainer himself, Jerry, failed to keep adequate lighting. Things would be better in the afternoon, but the early morning enthusiasts had to face dilemmas. But Felix had to manage in order to save money.
Jerry greeted Felix with his toothy smile. His bulging biceps looked ready to tear apart the maroon vest he had put on; Felix suspected the muscles were more to convince people that he was a gym trainer than anything else.
As usual, the gym was empty except for Felix and Jerry.
"So," Jerry said, smiling again. He clapped his hands loudly and rubbed ferociously. "Let's get started."
"Okay, but no weight training today Jerry, I am in the mood for a cardio..."
"A cardio huh? Looks like you have some thinking to do...That's okay...I'll be training on weight sets today."
After a marathon on the treadmill, Felix took a quick shower.
"What's the hurry? Got a photo shoot?" Jerry asked as Felix gulped down an entire bottle of water. His maroon vest had turned burgundy with sweat.
"No photo shoots nowadays Jerry. Today is our wrestling tryouts. With Cornette. Wish me luck."
"Huh? You had tryouts and you didn't tell me!" Jerry blurted before he could stop himself. Felix and Jerry always shared things between them.
Felix paused. The statement hit him in the head. Lately, he had been rather inaccessible and ignorant.
"I got the news only yesterday.Umm...look I am sorry, I should have told you before. I have been rather busy lately," Felix said earnestly.
Jerry gave him a slight hit on his arm. "It's okay man. You know what? This is great news! Felix, you have been thinking a lot about wrestling lately, maybe this is your chance to break out."
"I don't know man, this may be THE thing...or this may not be THE thing. We will get to know today."
Jerry wished him luck and after a bus ride of thirty minutes, Felix found himself standing outside Ovichegan Valley Wrestling. It was big, old and not very momentous overall. The main arena was shut, there were no shows lately. Felix had been called to a hall backstage. As Felix approached the hall, he heard some noise. He wondered how many people had arrived for the tryouts. It would be tougher if there would be one too many. But to Felix's surprise, there were only six guys for the tryout, leaving out Cornette and his assistant. Anthony was already present and he gave Felix a quick smile when he spotted him before reverting his gaze back to Cornette and assuming a somber expression. One thing was clear- it was every man for himself. If Felix did want to get chosen, he couldn't expect any kind of assistance from anyone except for himself. The other guys at the tryouts weren't particularly huge as Felix had imagined. He had always seen monstrous men grapple on TV. But all were focused and raring to go.
Cornette was a large, rounding man with twinkling eyes and spectacles light as air. He had been a good wrestler in his days as Felix had heard, and later he turned into a legendary booker. He could make a young man's life full of money and recognition. His assistant was Alphonso, a semi-bald (he had gray hair which went in a 'U' from one ear to another) man in his fifties. He was scrawny, had a whistle round his neck and was wearing his trademark black t-shirt and jean shorts. He was rather jumpy, a kind of guy who is easily excitable.
Cornette called for attention.
"Hello everyone, I am Cornette. I am a wrestling booker if you don't know. Some of you might not even know what a booker is. I get such kind of guys every year. Not a trace of wrestling or athleticism in their blood and yet they want to try-out. Now, a booker is someone who books matches for his client. You perform for me, and I will book matches for you. Now, I have been associated with Ovichegan Valley Wrestling for twenty years now. And during my first year in OVW, a man named 'Hulk Hector' had recently graduated from training."
There was a buzz among the try-out squad. The legendary Hulk Hector was once a part of OVW.
Cornette raised both of his hands before continuing. "I know its very exciting to know that Hulk Hector graduated from here. But make no mistake, a man one in thousand, no, one in a million makes it to what Hulk Hector did. Performing in front of thousands, having people scream your name until they were sore. Appearing in movies, always travelling with the most beautiful women. But, a big BUT. I said a man one in a million will make it to that mark. Any one of you may exactly be that man. And I assure you, if any one will succeed and achieve greatness in this business, it may be any one of you. Mark my words, don't get any hopes high, give me your best...and sweat it out!"
Cornette subsided to his chair which was kept a few meters away from a temporary ring, albeit it had the best view. The make-shift ring looked fragile and ready to collapse. Alphonso started the try-outs.
The try-out squad wasn't made to wrestle since they weren't trained to do that. But they were given one-fifty push-ups to do in the ring, and run between the ropes about two hundred times. All the guys completed the push-ups but many collapsed during running between the ropes. Felix, who had run the treadmill in the morning touched about 180 and collapsed in a heap in the middle of the ring. His was the highest.
After the short trial, the try-out squad was gathered and Cornette got up to give his thoughts.
"Well," Cornette said as he approached the squad which was huffing and covered in sweat "I must say that I am impressed.All of you are athletic and performed beyond my expectations. What I have decided now is that all six of you will be offered developmental contracts by the OVW. You sign that contract and your training will begin soon. But, think about it. I am giving you three days. This was the first day and all of you look flat out. The coming days will be strenuous and testing on your body. Think whether wrestling is your piece of cake or not. Simply athleticism won't do. What is required is is passion!"
And Cornette said these words emphatically, his eyes glinting. Felix felt charged up. He didn't know how farther he could go. But one thing was certain-he would not stop on any pretext.