“Come on, we’re almost done!”
We find ourselves watching an encouraging Ken Roddy and a slightly more winded Joe Jitsu wrapping up a nice run on a beautiful spring day on a wooded walking trail. Ken, in a faded yellow tank top and very short gym shorts, is jogging backwards and clapping for his partner Joe, in a robin’s egg blue tracksuit.
“Just a little further, Joe!”, shouts Ken.
Joe, who looks less like he’s running in control and more like he’s falling forward and catching himself at the last moment, tries to lament. “Is our….big debut match….going to include…wind sprints?”
The Black Belts must have reached their destination, as Ken stops running backwards and starts jogging in place instead. Joe places his hands on his knees as he starts taking some very deep breaths. “C’mon, Joe, we’re up against the Foreign Legion on our debut match in Classic Wrestling. They’re former champions! Obviously, we’re masters of the martial arts” – (“Obviously”, adds a muted Joe.) – “so I’m not concerned about our grappling or striking. But these guys could just try to grind us down. You think Mushigihara and Leon Van Zandt aren’t plotting how to trap us in a hold and just wear us down? Yeah, this is our big debut, and a huge opportunity for us, but if we want to win, we’re going to have to earn it.”
Joe has clearly caught his breath, now standing and walking down the path. “True, true. It would just be nice for you to acknowledge that this is harder for me. I’m bigger than you, after all.”
“Psh, yeah, by like ten pounds.”
“I think all ten of them are right on top of my lungs, though,” snarks Joe.
Ken Roddy continues jogging around Joe as they move down the trail. “I think we can do a lot of good in Classic Wrestling, Joe. Help a lot of people, teach a lot of good lessons. I just want us to put ourselves in the best position to win. Do you remember what Master Spreeng told us?”
Ken answers without hesitation. “‘If you’re not paying attention, those boys will knock the highlights out of your hair?’”
“Yes, but I was thinking more ‘You can never be perfect, but you can always be better’. And I haven’t had highlights in my hair for years.”
Jitsu smiles. “Let’s be better, then.”
Just then, a cute little girl in blonde pigtails and overalls runs up to our heroes. “Misters, can you help me? My kitty’s stuck in that tree over there.” The two friends look at each other, and Joe realizes that given their relative attire, the task of scaling the tree is clearly going to him. “Of course, little lady. You stay here with my buddy Ken, and I’ll get your kitty. What’s their name?”
The girl smiles. “He’s Mr. Prettypants!”
“I’ll be back with Mr. Prettypants in a minute, don’t you worry.” Joe grabs the lowest branch, plants a foot on the trunk of the tree, and disappears into the limbs. We can see the shaking, and hear enthusiastic grunting as he undoubtedly does a lot of incredibly impressive acrobatics that we’re unfortunately not capturing on camera to gracefully and expediently climb the tree. We then join Joe about two thirds of the way up.
Joe finds him, but not the pet he was expecting. Instead, on the branch just across from him stands a large ninja, wearing cat ears.
“Meow!”, meows Mr. Prettypants.
“It’s a trap!”, screams Joe.
Ken turns towards the little girl, who is also suddenly an adult male ninja, but still with pigtails coming out of either side of his hood.
“We have you now, Black Belts!”
The tree shakes vigorously, as we clearly hear Joe calling out his attacks.
“Rising knee strike! Twisting leopard blow! Back leg round kick!”
At ground level, Ken and the ninja circle each other. “Vile ninja, we will not let your evil mar this day. Begone! Flying dragon kick!”
Ken leaps into the air with a thrust kick, knocking the ninja into the trunk of the tree, where he mysteriously explodes in a puff of smoke. Immediately after, the cat ninja drops to the ground, landing on his back. “You may have taken the day, but this is far from over. Hiss!” He too disappears in a puff of smoke.
Joe silently descends from the tree, and clasps Ken’s right hand. “Now that’s a workout!”