Speedball was the third Brady Patrick story I created. When I first conceived of Brady Patrick, he was merely going to write Sixth and Slaved. Later, he was going to write Bitterly Bothered Brother and A Mother's Love, but I decided to eventually write both of those on KidVegeta's account. Thereafter, about 16 months after completing Slaved, I created ten ideas for short stories because I wanted to. It was similar to how Legacies worked, with stories fleshing out characters with small roles. However, I didn't want to do anything more with Legacies, and instead thought that they would work (because of how short they would be) with Brady Patrick.
It was originally unintentional that the only two Brady Patrick stories started with the letter S. Then, when I started creating the names for the ten plots I had, and after I had decided to make them Brady Patrick stories, I decided to also make them all begin with S. Speedball was actually #10 out of 10 on the list, though it was written first. This was simply because I had an immediate idea for how to write it, even after creating the list.
So within a few days of creating the list, I posted the page for Speedball without the story, which, when looking back was rather unusual and not something I would do again. Also, I used a song by Gary Jules called Barstool to open the story. I felt the quote I used aptly described what was happening in the story. And when I was writing Speedball - which happened in a few hours on the afternoon of September 1, 2012 - I listened to Barstool the entire time.
The plot came from the fact that people tend to not show their real selves when in public. I felt that the tournament announcer's public personality was so over the top that he had to have some destructive personal habits. I likened him to how, often, comedians are depressed drug users. Originally I had planned on using Roshi as the person to confront the announcer in that bar, but ultimately, when looking at my other ten stories, and realizing that Roshi would be the main character of one, I wanted to get someone less featured. I toyed with the idea of Launch for a small while, but her personality wouldn't really fit, and I had already successfully used her in Spindlerun. So, I found that Nam was going to that tournament and decided to use him. Much like the good doctor in Derelict who is perhaps never used in fanon, my use of Nam in this story is the only instance that I know of him in fanon; though, he may exist elsewhere in fanon, I just haven't read of him being in any. The story ultimately took me one afternoon, as I was highly inspired by the Jules' song, and was in an mental state similar to the tournament announcer.
The televisions buzzed in low, near-white noise. Men groaned and clanked their meager mugs, emptying and refilling them time and time again. Many laughed, a few cursed, and even fewer kept to themselves. The day wore to night, and the baby-faced drifters became sparse. Yet the hapless veterans of the tireless, addictive life remained still. For they were not here to play. This was their life. And over the past few weeks, it had become his.
A slick black suit and a flicker of gold were all that shone from the sultry corner of the bar. There sat in rancorous repose a man; otherwise healthy was he, but he looked it not. His face was sallow, and his eyes burned red. The left sleeve of his fine tuxedo was ripped open, and up, and his pale, heavily pierced arm lay bare on the wooden table he sat at. A needle hung loosely between the fingers of his other hand, with a dozen empty shot glasses of Red Dragon, and a half-empty glass of whiskey regimented around. His face stricken as he watched the television, the rest of his body shaking uncontrollably, no man, drunken or sober, dared get near him.
On flashing, hanging screens was a news reporter, whose droning voice spake of the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament. The man shuddered and snarled, contorting his face into rage and sadness. He thrust his needle back into his arm, having refilled it, and emptied half of its contents into his bloodstream. He slit his teeth, breathing in heavily. It didn’t, couldn’t suffice. He wanted to turn it off. He wanted that channel changed. But the man was too ashamed to get up and ask the bartender. He was a wreck. Sliding further down into the booth he was sitting in, his vision went spotty.
He threw up.
Lurching forward, he slipped in a mixture of his own vomit and spilled drinks, and fell flat onto the floor.
“Annathadrag’n, drag’n,” he moaned, raising his hand upward.
But there was no bartender around to hear his plea. He let his arm fall, and finding the needle still lodged rigidly in his arm, the man pushed out the rest of its substance into his body. And the television was on, ever continuously. He did not want that reminder. It came every five years. Every five years, the world’s greatest martial artists showcased their raw talent in front of millions of fans. It was the greatest combination of euphoria and discipline. Everyone knew Jackie Chun, the last winner. They even knew Goku, the mere runner up. And who remembered him? Nobody.
They didn’t remember him. They didn’t know him. He bowed his head. He had no place in the world. He had no reason to keep going. The other employees of the World Martial Arts Tournament saw him as a joke. That’s all he was. He had no friends and no achievements. He would just stay here and drink away all the pain. There was nothing to go on for. He was nothing like any of those amazing martial artists. He had done nothing with his life. Everyone just looked right through him. They didn’t care, they didn’t respect him. He didn’t respect himself. He hadn’t done anything worthy of history. He hadn’t done one thing to be proud of. He realized, then, he was crying, and he couldn’t even feel it.
Around 1 a.m., when the bats and beards shone with splendor, the far door opened, and slammed against the wall. Furious wind blew inward, displacing the otherwise cozy, musky bar. In came a brown-skinned man, with a face kind and proud. He had brightly exotic orange and magenta robes, and wore a turban. There was a subtle, felt shift of each member sitting at their relative tables or stools to move away from him. But he paid no attention toward those who lay around, and instead made quick strides toward the bartender. After a single breath of ‘water’, to which the congregation around him snickered and cackled over, he took his drink and went toward the far corner. He sat down at the edge of the booth, and took a sip from his glass. He sighed long, and closed his eyes.
The tuxedo man had heard someone come near, and in delusional longing, had stood up. “Ehgotamy drag’n?”
The dark-skinned man almost jumped out of seat upon seeing the drunk, high, vomit-covered pathetic man who suddenly popped out from under his table. Being as polite as he could be, he graciously nodded, and stood up. “I am sorry, I did not see anyone here. I will leave.”
He moved away, but the man screamed after him, his voice cracking painfully in the process, “No!! Come’ack. Idontaant you taleave me…”
He broke down, falling onto the table, and began weeping once again. The standing man pondered for a moment, then returned.
“Your voice is familiar. Have we met?” he asked politely, setting his glass back to the wood.
“I… I need annathadrink… Nam…”
The colorful man nearly jumped again. “How do you know my name?”
The drunk laughed himself silly, raising his face to glean with his bloodshot eyes the face of Nam. And as Nam got a better view, he saw who this wretch was.
“You!” he said, eyes wide. “You were the referee from the last tournament!”
The man nodded, and slammed his head down, landing it on several shot glasses and shattering them. His hair caught the table’s candle, and began smoking. He cried out, but it was not from the pain inflicted from the blast. “You remember…”
Nam raised an eyebrow, not sure if he should intervene. “Of course. You were there for my fights.”
“Who you fightin for?!” the tournament announcer suddenly screamed, perhaps unaware of his own vocality.
“My people,” Nam said, solemnly. “As we all should. But, are you okay?”
“I don’t have people, man!”
“I…” Nam stuttered.
“I don’t have people! Where’rthey?!”
The announcer shuddered, then slipped again. This time, Nam sprung to action (no, the others would never do such a thing), and helped the poor man up again. He sat the announcer up into the seat, and kept his hands on the quivering man’s shoulders. For the tournament announcer was shaking ever still, and his face was plastered by two endless streams of self-pity.
Nam righted him, and cleared away the alcohol and needles of speedball, though the delirious man saw none of it. Instead, he ordered another glass of water, and gave it to the announcer. Quieting down the crying man, Nam spoke:
“You are an honorable man and have kept many fights fair. There is no need to cry.”
“I havern’t accomplish-ednythin, I havern’t. Immusselss…” the man stuttered, barely comprehensible.
Nam shook his head, “I do not think that.”
“Who… do… I… fight… for?!” the announcer wheezed, paranoia and impatience ripe in his voice.
“It is your duty to every fighter in the tournament…” Nam began, monotone.
But the man had slacked, and fallen asleep. Thence, Nam with no one’s and no one else’s help cleaned him up, and gave him another glass of water. And as Nam walked out, tired into the night, preparing for his own fight, he saw something on the floor near the sleeping man’s feet. Picking it up, he found it to be none other than the announcer’s prized pair of sunglasses. He set that right on the edge of the wood, and then left, quietly and coolly into the night.
The tournament announcer awoke to blistering pain in his head, and numbness throughout the rest of his body. He sat up, and found himself alone. In front him were but two things – a glass of water, and his trusty pair of sunglasses. He grasped the glasses, so glad, so relieved, they hadn’t been smashed last night. Kami knows he had been. He drank the water at once, being parched beyond thought, and thus did a rush of memories come back to him. The dark-skinned man, Nam, was here last night.
They had talked.
He stood up, and put on his sunglasses. Passing the bartender, he flicked a wad of bills (for, verily did the tournament announcer profession pay well) and staggered out. He remembered what he and Nam had spoken about. There wasn’t any shame in doing what he had done, Nam had said. He was important to the fighters, at least. Considering not his peers, those who dueled respected him. He didn’t know if he believed it.
But, at that moment, the tournament announcer had to go on. He wasn’t doing this for himself. Maybe he would devolve to self-pity again once it was over. But Nam’s nobility had struck with him. He would do this for all of them. The fighters and onlookers alike. He wouldn’t ask for anything more, wouldn’t ask to be anything more. He would make their day. The man raised his shoulders and loosened his jaws.
There was a World Tournament out there, waiting to be commentated.
- The original description of this story was "10. Speedball - a story of the tournament announcer guy's substance abuse and self-destruction prior to the 23rd martial arts tournament, before being saved by a rather familiar friend."
- Speedball's description is the longest of any Brady Patrick story.
- The name of this story was helped reached by Destructivedisk, who gave me some drug names that start with S. And despite being the story's name, the word speedball is only used once in passing in the story.
- With the amount of alcohol and speedball that the announcer took, it shows that he is very experienced with them, and must have a very high tolerance.
- I chose Red Dragon specifically for his drink of choice, as it's delicious.
- While not explicitly stated, the end of this story alludes to this happening after nearly every tournament before this, though probably not so much after this one, as Nam had relieved the announcer's depression.
I feel like Speedball is a very strong story. The emotional turmoil of the tournament announcer is very sad - yet once Nam comes, there is a lot of comedy, such as when the announcer pops up from under the chair, or slams his head into the shot glasses. I really like it when there is a piece of text that is just so hilarious, yet is not the focus of the story. That occurs several times in this piece. Looking back, the only thing I would change is to probably add a paragraph or two to the part after he woke up to expand on his thoughts at that time, but it isn't that big of a deal to me. I'd give Speedball an S-.
<---- Part 14
Part 16 ---->