Jeff sat at his desk staring at a stack of applications that he had to go through. He hated this part of his job, but he knew it had to be done. Jeff started a unique service years ago to help people coming out of the military get used to normal everyday life. He got the idea from having to help his brother David assimilate back into society after years of service. When you're in the military for that long you get used to how things work. They had to follow a strict routine everyday, and sometimes they couldn’t even use the bathroom without approval.
David had a very hard time doing things without that sound structure he was used to. Jeff worked side by side with him and pretty soon Jeff had developed a system that worked for him. He quickly realized that his brother was not the only one with this problem, and decided to start a service to those trying to leave an old life behind them and start a new one. Jeff’s idea caught on and he soon had a contract to work with dozens of military personnel who needed his help. Jeff worked for years getting people of all ages back into regular lives but he had a big problem. Jeff was starting to get bored. Sure the job pays really well, but it’s the same situation over and over again.
Looking through the applications on his desk, he came upon something that was unexpected. He read through the file of Bubba Ray Smith and yes he was in the military, but only for a short while. He had been discharged for fighting his commanding officers, and with no other options available to him he joined up with a professional wrestling organization called FFW (Fighting Force Wrestling). Bubba had wrestled for decades and on one unlucky night he broke his leg in half by trying to do a straight legged kick from the top rope. This was a career ending injury, and Bubba’s application stated he needed help getting back to normal.
Intrigued, Jeff decided to give old Bubba a call to see if he still wanted his help. The phone rang for a while before Bubba had answered,
“Hello! Who is this dude? You better be quick I got eggs on the stove. I gotta keep my protein levels high you know!”
“This is Jeff Stienburg, from Assimilation Services Inc. I was calling to let you know I was available to take your case if you were still interested in our services.”
“Ooooo Eeeee! Hot diggity dog! Hey dude, hold on while I get those eggs off the stove.”
Jeff listened through the phone, and heard what sounded like pots and pans being thrown everywhere. His eyes grew wider as he heard a couple of cats scream in the background.
“Sorry bout’ that, my eggs were a burning dude! Yes I’m still interested in your services!” Bubba had a way of yelling when he talked, and he called everyone dude. He was also always confrontational by nature and with his muscular size he was very intimidating.
Jeff had to hold the phone a few inches away from his ear as he listened to Bubba yell, “I tell you what dude, you will meet me tomorrow at 10am at the Eggs and Bacon Dinner, where you’ll find me eating eggs by the plateful. I need my protein and you will not disturb me while I’m eating! We can talk business after I’m done. You got that dude?”
Jeff was getting ready to tell him that he made the appointments as far as the date and time were concerned. Before he could say anything Bubba said, “Great I’ll be there, see you then dude!” The next sound Jeff heard was the dial tone. He hung the phone up and said, “What have I gotten myself into?” Just then a delightful smile appeared on his face.
The Next morning Jeff arrived promptly at the Dinner to find Bubba eating his eggs. He counted no less than twenty plates stacked up in the middle of the table. “Hello, I’m Jeff you must be Bubba,” he said while taking a seat on the opposite side of the table.
“I’m eating dude! I told you not to disturb me while I have my feast!” Jeff smiled and yelled, “Your lesson starts right here right now! You don’t talk to people like that you overgrown pile of meat! If you want a new life you need to start acting like a normal person.” Jeff was starting to feel a bit nervous at what he had just said to Bubba. He didn’t feel like getting beat up. To his surprise, Bubba started to laugh and said, “You no what little man, I think we are going to get along just fine.”
The rest of the conversation that morning was about laying down the ground rules for what Bubba needed to do so he could change his life. Jeff told him to stop acting like his wrestling character, and that life was not about confrontations. He gave him a journal to write down his thoughts whenever he felt like he needed to act out. He also suggested some group therapy with some of his other clients. Lastly, he gave him some good advice about cleaning himself up with a new wardrobe. Bubba didn’t like that because he loved to wear his muscle shirts and shorts.
The following months became a thing of beauty for Jeff as he watched Bubba make significant progress. Sure there were some bumps in the road, like the therapy sessions. Bubba didn’t like to talk about his feelings. “I challenge you all to a steel cage match and then we can talk about feelings! What do you say to that dudes!” This was his favorite thing to say at the meetings, with some variations to the type of match it was going to be.
Bubba was making some real progress despite his challenges at group therapy. Jeff thought he was having fun making everyone nervous, like it was some kind of game. He changed his wardrobe and started wearing suits. He started to act like a normal person should act, and Jeff was very proud of him. Along the way Jeff and Bubba had become good friends. They spent a lot of time together and became like brothers.
A few months later, Bubba’s transition was complete. He got a new job working with Jeff at Assimilation Services Inc. He was like a new man altogether, and the change did not stop with him. Jeff also had changed. In all the time he spent with Bubba listening to his stories of wrestling, Jeff had caught the wrestling bug. He started to wrestle part time on the weekends, and had put on a tone of muscle. Bubba thought it was funny to hear Jeff say, “I’m gonna be the next Heavyweight Champion of the world dude!” Both of their lives had changed.
Daniel R. Hayes