World Made of Steel


'First When There's Nothing'

The sun hadn't even crept above the US Steel Building yet, and Tommy Conlon's alarm clock was already blaring. The covers instantly became fire against his chilling body, and he dug the back of his head deeper into his pillow. The Pittsburgh hills were sadists at four-thirty in the morning, and the autumn breeze was anything but warm. Run. Run, Tommy. Do you want to win this match? Win it all?

His father. Paddy Conlon: the steelworker who had more dedication to the Steel Workers' Union than to his own family. Unless it was wrestling. That was the one time Pop had his eyes on Tommy and Tommy alone. The one time he was proud of his son. Maybe it was the years that had made Paddy rough; or maybe it was the war. Whatever the case, there was no mercy left in the world for Tommy and Brendan Conlon, it seemed. What little mercy there was took form in the sport of wresting. It was the safe haven for the Conlon brothers.

And that is why Tommy arose at four-thirty in the morning to run. At thirteen, he already felt drafted into the army. Paddy Conlon's army. And he was pretty goddamn sure it was worse than anything the United States military could come up with. Sighing, he drug his body out of the warm bed, drearily folding the sheets the way Pop liked it. The Terrible Towel seemed an ultra bright yellow in these wee hours of the morning, and the black letters seemed to taunt him. It wasn't that Tommy didn't love the sport, or tolerate the training. To him, it had become just another aspect of daily life. What got to him was the pressure. His father had a path set for him, and there was no option to explore the distant term 'personality'. What mattered was character; how much a boy could take before he broke. That was all Tommy had ever grown up knowing. So, it was wrestle your way through high school, join the Marines, find a girl, stay close to home, become a steelworker, and maybe go to community college down the road. Plain and simple, that was his life; from teenage years to death. Tommy bit his cheek, turning to look at his brother still fast asleep.

Brendan had learned years ago how to sleep through Tommy's ludicrous alarms, and as the younger brother stared at his roommate's sleeping form, he couldn't help but feel envy. The momentary recognition from Pop was not enough to justify sacrificing his entire life for wrestling. Brendan had the opportunity to find himself, and make his own way. Tommy had never experienced that luxury.

He rubbed his temples as he felt his stomach growl. His first match was in fifty hours, and he was three pounds above his weight class; he couldn't afford to eat this morning. Pop would steam into a frenzy if he even caught Tommy sneaking a hard-boiled egg. To distract himself from the hunger, he grabbed his tennis shoes from beside the bed, slipping them on, not bothering to even retie the laces.

Tom was careful to step down the stairs quietly, but just loud enough so his light sleeper of a father would know he was up and running. The burning desire to please Pop would never fade. No matter how many times he'd let down his sons. Tommy was still determined to make him proud; even if it was on his father's terms.

Homestead was not the easiest of places to run around, but it was doable. Tommy Conlon had proved that many a time. Amongst the smokestacks, though rapidly diminishing and finding themselves being outsourced, the smoke was rough on the lungs. It was like inhaling one hundred cigarettes at once. Industrial cigarettes, full of god knows what. But that didn't stop Tommy from picking up a jog as he went down the massive hill also known as his street. The homes were still sleepy, only one or two lights on amongst all the houses. It was a Sunday, and not a single soul had the intention of starting the day extra early. Tommy as alright with the silence though. Out here, on the Pittsburgh streets this early, it was just him and his thoughts. Yes, the looming reminder of what was expected of him plagued the back of his mind, but he could silence it for a bit. Just long enough to keep him sane. Tommy thought about his brother still sound asleep at home, and picked up his pace. He was striding now, his arms extending to the point where he could feel the pull in the side of his back. His muscles were tight this morning, and his joints cracked groaningly as he continued down the street. Almost by the main street, he thought about picking up an energy bar at the local grocery store. The manager Gary offered him one every single time they crossed paths in the morning and Tommy looked hungry, but the boy always refused it. It wasn't his way, to take charity. No matter how desperately he wanted to. One thing Pop had taught him well was strength.

Passing the grocery store, Tommy looked to see if Gary was opening up shop. But of course he wouldn't be. It was Sunday. Tom kept running, his arches feeling tenderer with each step he took. The sweat was beginning to pour now, as the sun rose higher in the sky, and his sweatshirt felt heavier and heavier. He was almost back to his house now, just one more hill to go. The Conlon's lived right at the tippy top of the mountainous street. It always gave Tommy the illusion there was a very long way to fall.

He sprinted up the street, hoping silently that Pop would be sitting on the steps, or maybe Brendan. Tommy needed some form of recognition for what he was doing. Today, his wish seemed to be granted. Because there, on the highest of the three steps, sat his brother. Elbows resting on his thighs, and hands clasped together, Brendan looked pensive. Tommy slowed down when he reached his house, trying hard to regulate his breathing. He looked to his brother, silently asking what was wrong. The brothers had rarely ever needed words to communicate.

"Mom and Pop are fighting," Brendan said vacantly. "Well, more like Mom is fighting with a human bottle of Yuengling." The fifteen year old was bitter to say the least. These fights were becoming more and more common, and the two brothers were becming more calloused to their affects.

"Oh," Tommy said in low disappointment. His breathing was almost at its normal pace now, and he took a heavy seat to the right of his brother. "What's it about this time?"

"God knows what," Brendan said dryly. "They've been going at it for a while now."

"It's barely even six," Tommy replied distantly, wanting that energy bar more than anything now.

"Yeah, well, it doesn't seem like fighting has a nine to five work day," Brendan said. Tommy smirked at the comment, tapping his foot on the concrete stair. He wished he hadn't come home yet.

"Brendan, do you think we'll be here forever?" Tommy's voice was small, childish whispers more than anything. Brendan looked to his brother confusedly. The boy still stared straight ahead, seeming to see beyond the rows of clustered homes, still partially covered in soot.

"What do you mean?"

"Here; in this town; with Mom and Pop…" Tommy didn't even have to finish his thought. Brendan knew what he was talking about. It was always the brothers' biggest fear to be landlocked in the crossfire of their parents, and everything it implied. Even surrounded by three rivers, the Conlon boys felt so far from water and freedom.

"I don't know, Tommy," Brendan replied. It wasn't a matter of getting out of Pittsburgh; it was the issue of losing the memory of their father. Tommy and Brendan made eye contact, seeing bits and pieces of Pop in each other.

So, for now this will be a one shot unless I get an overwhelming request to expand it. (Or, if I have the desire on my own, haha). But I really love this movie, and feel it is underwritten, so I figured I'd take a stab at it. Please tell me how you think I did!

Reviews are love!