Chapter 12: Rainmaker
‘You know,’ said Aster, ‘for… like, forever, people have been trying to work out the answer to the ultimate question.’
‘Forty-two,’ said TM.
‘That might not actually be that far off, though,’ Aster mused. She was holding a mug of tea TM had made for her, but had been staring into its depths since the moment her hands wrapped around it. TM was beginning to think she might never get around to drinking it. ‘I mean, the whole point of the forty-two thing is that nobody knew what the question was.’
‘I read something by this guy,’ TM piped up, ‘who was saying that the idea that the universe just emerged from nothing out of a big bang, or that life just happened to arise out of matter by accident, was trying to answer the ultimate question by pretending it didn’t exist.’
Aster took a sip of tea. Finally, TM thought. ‘Questions don’t exist unless you ask them,’ she said after a moment. ‘Seems like this phrase – “the ultimate question” – is just shorthand for something to the effect of “a big meaningful thing that must be possible to conceive of, but we don’t really know what it actually is”. It’s sort of lazy.’
‘Well, referring to this so-called ultimate question kind of negates the problem of having to work out what it might actually be. I mean, not all questions make sense. Maybe the ultimate question is “what’s twelve plus fish divided by Nintendo”?’
TM couldn’t help but try to work out what the answer to that question might actually be. He didn’t come up with much.
‘There’s no ultimate question,’ Aster said. ‘Maybe each person has one question that’s the most important one in their life, but you’re never gonna be able to come up with a single question that represents the most meaningful thing any one person could ever possibly ask.’
TM scratched his head. ‘Well, then maybe the ultimate question is “what is your individual ultimate question?” or something like that.’
‘That’s recursive,’ Aster admonished, though not without a slight grin.
‘You’re recursive,’ TM told her.
When TM awoke, Veggie was back on his beanbag and staring intensely at the projected screen on the wall. A Post-It note attached to TM’s forehead told him: ‘Gone to get pick and mix. Back soon. Marty + Derrida + Dom xoxo’. He peeled it off and stretched himself out.
‘Whatcha doin’?’ he asked Veggie, whose response was simply to nod at the screen. ‘Aw,’ TM said, noticing what was on, ‘fuckin’ yes.’
Ziggy stirred from under her blanket, rubbing her eyes and pushing her hair back out of her face. It shone with an iridescent shimmer, settling itself into a sleek wave. ‘What’s going on?’
’We’re watching Wrestle Kingdom 9,’ TM said excitably, settling himself atop a small heap of cushions. ’Okada vs Tanahashi. We’ve got super into puro lately, been binging every NJPW show since, like, 2012. No spoilers, ‘k?’
‘Uh,’ said Ziggy. Her face was the picture of non-comprehension, but nevertheless she scooted over with curiosity.
‘New Japan Pro Wrestling, bro,’ Veggie said, not taking his eyes from the screen.
‘Aha,’ said Ziggy. ‘Cough, fake, cough.’
TM looked at her with something approaching pity. ‘You’re not supposed to actually say “cough”,’ he told her. ‘Also, don’t get Veggie started on –’
Veggie’s eyes flitted away from the screen for the first time, staring right at Ziggy. ‘It’s not fake.’
‘I thought,’ Ziggy said, then yawned.
Veggie sighed and paused the video, kneeling so that he could look Ziggy straight in the face. ‘Pro wrestling is fake in the same way that porn is fake.’
‘Don’t encourage him, for heaven’s sake,’ said TM.
‘Ah, ba-ba-ba,’ Veggie said, holding up a hand. ‘Think about it for a second. It’s performance art.’
TM plucked one of the cushions out of his pile and buried his face in it, removing himself from the conversation.
‘When you watch porn,’ Veggie said, to which Ziggy gave an interested ‘yuh-huh’ – which surprised TM perhaps more than anything else that had happened since meeting her – ’when you watch ‘em going at it, you are aware that there is legit bang occurring.’
‘Legit bang,’ Ziggy repeated, mulling it over. TM let himself go limp, sprawling out over the sides of his cushion bundle in an effort to reiterate that this sort of thing was not to be encouraged. But it was too late: encourage Ziggy had, so Veggie plowed on with renewed voracity.
‘The legit-est of bangs,’ Veggie agreed. ‘There’s no getting around it. I mean, they can dress it all up with the fancy lighting and the camera techniques and shot composition and whatever else they wanna use to present it as some sort of fantasy story, but at the end of the day what it boils down to is that you’re watching two people who are literally just boning.’
Ziggy nodded thoughtfully.
‘Professional wrestling is the same,’ Veggie continued.
’It’s not exactly the same,’ TM felt compelled to interject.
’It is the same. You’re watching something dressed up to look like a story: a soap opera, an action scene in a thriller movie. Pro wrestling is to fight scenes as porn is to love scenes in… non-porn films. You present it in this way that heightens the drama of it all, but what’s really going on underneath is two people beating the shit out of each other.’
‘Safely, and using techniques designed to ensure they don’t actually injure each other,’ TM added.
Ziggy tapped a finger on her bottom lip, thinking it over. ‘That makes sense,’ she said, after the fifth tap. Veggie fist-pumped ferociously.
‘You’re probably the first person to say that to him about anything ever,’ TM told her. She smiled with pride.
‘Right,’ said Veggie. ’WK9, onwards!’
He pressed play; the two men in the projected ring locked up, grabbing each other in a rough tie-up. ‘So,’ Veggie began to explain, ‘the guy in the shorts is Okada and the dude with the weird half-cornrow undercut thing is Tanahashi. He’s the champion, Okada wants to be the champion real bad, bish bash bosh, they’re fighting about it.’
‘There’s a bit more to it than that,’ TM started to say, but Veggie shushed him.
‘There is,’ Veggie admitted, ‘but the gist of it is that these two have fought each other a whole ton of times, and it’s always awesome, and basically they both just want to prove in this match that they’re the better person.’
Ziggy looked as if she were doing her best to pretend she understood.
‘It’s okay,’ TM told her, ‘you can just enjoy the action.’
‘Much like pornography,’ Veggie said, and TM groaned loudly, ‘in which some people watch the whole thing to get the background and story, and others just skip to the meaty bits.’
‘That’s gross and weirdly insightful,’ Ziggy said.
Early in the match, Okada managed to get Tanahashi strung up outside the ring, draping him over a barricade within inches of the baying crowd. Ziggy stared at the screen, as transfixed as she had been when in the presence of Riegel O’Ryan, as Okada took the champion by the head and fell backwards, driving him face-first into the floor.
‘DDT!’ Veggie hooted.
‘He can do that without hurting him?’ Ziggy asked.
‘Oh, no,’ TM explained, ‘it all hurts like fuck. They just do their best not to properly hurt each other.’
‘Ah,’ said Ziggy, apparently satisfied, and went back to watching the show.
The match went on, each blow and throw sending Ziggy’s eyes and mouth into wider O shapes. The emphatic punctuation of the loud Japanese commentary shook the room. Then Tanahashi pushed Okada down from the top of the ropes surrounding the ring; the challenger fell hard into the squared circle, champion perched above him on the corner of the ropes like a hawk with an unusual haircut.
‘High Fly Flow?’ Veggie said, biting his nails, and Tanahashi obliged: the champion leapt from the top rope, making a frog-like motion with his arms and legs in midair – ‘HIGH FLY FLOW!’ squealed Veggie – but Okada rolled aside as he splashed down, and Tanahashi found himself hitting the mat hard.
Okada stood tall over the fallen champion, turning to face the camera and striking a pose. Veggie mimicked him dutifully as he stood: legs apart, arms thrust out to either side, palms up, throwing his head back to look skyward. The camera made a dramatic zoom out, and the announcers screamed ‘RAINMAKER POSE!’ in enthusiastic, if heavily-accented, English.
‘Rainmakaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!’ screamed Veggie, and Okada hauled Tanahashi to his feet and stood behind him.
He crossed Tanahashi’s arms over his body, holding his wrists from behind, and TM and Veggie drew a collective anticipatory breath. Ziggy looked confused.
‘It’s his finisher,’ TM explained without letting out any breath at all. ‘Nobody’s ever kicked out.’
Okada let go of one of Tanahashi’s hands and pulled hard on the other, sending him spinning away, then yanked on the hand he still held and raised his other arm in a stiff line. Tanahashi found himself pulled rapidly towards Okada, the challenger’s arm shooting through the air towards his face.
‘OH,’ yelled Veggie. Then, ‘oh,’ said Veggie, as Tanahashi ducked under the swinging arm.
‘Nobody’s ever kicked out, but a few have dodged,’ TM amended.
‘What’s kicking out?’ Ziggy asked; Veggie spluttered indignantly.
‘Okay, so to win the match,’ TM explained, ‘you have to either get the other guy to submit to you – if you see someone tapping their hand, it means they’re giving up because they’re hurting too bad to carry on – or you pin their shoulders down on the mat for a three-count. When somebody manages to power their shoulders off the mat and break the pin, that’s called kicking out.’
‘Huh,’ said Ziggy. ‘Wrestling is kind of weird.’
‘It’s the best,’ Veggie said with an air of dreamy elation.
The match wore on: Tanahashi downed Okada with spinning dragon screw leg whips, rained multiple High Fly Flows from the top rope down upon him, all sorts. Okada fought back as hard as he could, but was soon limping, worn down by the champion.
‘He looks really tired,’ Ziggy said with concern.
‘He probably is really tired, but he’ll also be selling a little bit – putting it on for dramatic effect,’ TM told her. ‘They’ve got to make it look as if they’re really fighting, which includes acting as if they’re really hurt. But he probably is legit super worn out, it’s not easy.’
‘How do you know?’
‘We filmed ourselves having a few matches around the flat a couple of times,’ Veggie explained. ‘TM’s pretty good. Probably cos he’s so inexplicably good at actual fighting.’
Okada slipped, and found himself with his back to Tanahashi. The champion grabbed him from behind and held him by the wrists.
‘Tanahashi’s gonna Rainmaker him?’ TM wondered.
Tanahashi went for the move; Veggie gasped, but Okada slipped around it, took the champion firmly by the wrists, spun him away and pulled him back into a lariat right to the face.
‘RAINMAKER!’ yelled Veggie, pointing at the enormous projection as if it were possible to have missed it. ‘RAINMAKER!’
Tanahashi went down. Okada dropped on top of him, pinning him to the mat, and the red-shoed referee threw himself across the ring and slapped his hand against the canvas: one, two, thr-
‘HOLY FUCK,’ Veggie yelled, as Tanahashi kicked out.
‘OH MY SHIT,’ said TM, having accidentally got just as invested as Veggie.
‘Okada’s lost,’ said Veggie dejectedly.
After a few more moves, Okada tried for the Rainmaker again; Tanahashi countered into a bridging dragon suplex – or so Veggie said, although TM had never known the names of all the moves quite that well – that slammed the challenger’s neck and shoulders down; Okada went for it again but found himself flying head over heels in Tanahashi’s grasp; a final attempt saw Okada land hard on his back, staring up at a High Fly Flow soaring down upon him.
‘One! Two! Three!’ cried the referee, announcers, and audience in unison.
‘That’s a shame,’ said Veggie.
’That was amazing,’ Ziggy breathed; Veggie gave a sad smile.
‘Yeah, it was.’
There was a knock at the trapdoor; TM pulled it open.
‘Can we come in yet?’ asked Marty’s hair, which was all that was visible of him from TM’s vantage point. ‘We heard you guys yelling, figured maybe we should stay down here for a bit.’
‘Oh, yeah, sorry,’ said TM abashedly. ‘We were all getting way too into NJPW.’
‘New Japan Pro Wrestling!’ chirped Ziggy.
‘Is that the one where Okada won the title?’ Derrida asked, coming into view and examining the screen, which was playing the aftermath of the match. Marty and Dominika hopped up into the attic ahead of him.
‘No, it is not,’ TM said, as Veggie sniffled.
‘Whoops,’ said Derrida; Dominika held out a cup of pick and mix to Veggie, which seemed to cheer him up.
‘Aww,’ he said. ‘You got me fudge.’
Dominika nodded, opening her own cup and tipping it up to pour a colourful stream of jelly beans into her mouth. Derrida tossed a cup to TM; Marty handed Ziggy hers. She took it, shook it a couple of times, then hugged him hard. He patted her awkwardly on the back, his own cup in his other hand.
‘Thanks, super bros,’ said TM; Derrida, a foam banana stuffed into his mouth, started nodding vigorously and bouncing about. ‘What?’ said TM, and Derrida swallowed with difficulty.
’Super Mario Bros. 3 speedrun!’ he twittered, rifling around in Marty’s desk and holding up a Game Boy Advance triumphantly.
‘Ahh, we should get back,’ TM said. ‘Cats to feed, business to run.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ said Marty, as Derrida put the console back in the drawer with a grumble. ‘You’ve had one jackpot idea, gotta keep that ball rolling.’
Dominika held up the carrier bag in which she had brought the pick and mix, showing off the Veggie Ziggy TM Puncture Repair Kit holding it together.
‘Niiiiice,’ Ziggy drawled.
‘We’re on it,’ TM said.’ Business meeting scheduled for this afternoon, in fact.’
‘There is?’ Ziggy asked.
‘Yeah, why not.’
Marty grinned. ‘Good luck,’ he said. ‘May your ideas be ever useless, and therefore insanely profitable.’
‘I’ll try,’ Ziggy promised.
Dominika waved as Ziggy slid down the ladder, followed by Veggie and TM; Marty stuck his head out after them, clicking his tongue in farewell, and closed the trapdoor.
‘I really like those guys,’ Ziggy said, a strawberry lace vanishing into her mouth.
‘Yeah, they’re pretty cool,’ Veggie said. ‘Let’s head back? I gotta buy cat food on the way home.’
‘Let’s go home,’ Ziggy said happily.