Les and Jes: a parable of sorts

Les and Jes: a parable of sorts

Apr 07
Les and Jes: a parable of sorts

Once upon a time, there were two wrestlers named Les and Jes.  They were a formidable duo – nobody could stop them.  Nobody could defeat them.  This story is the secret of their success.

They only ever competed in “tag team” bouts.  In these matches, only one competitor from each team could be in the ring at any given time.  A competitor could exchange places with a teammate by touching him and “tagging out.”  This would cause the new competitor to enter the ring and the person previously in the ring would then exit.

Les and Jes had this down to a formula.  So much so that every battle went almost exactly the same way.  Each bout would begin with Les in the ring against an opponent.  Les would do his best, but in almost every fight he would get thrashed by one of the opponents.  He would begin to lose and lose badly.

However, all of that would change as soon as Les tagged Jes.

The crowd would go crazy as soon as Jes leapt into the ring.  No matter how many opponents remained, Jes would defeat them all.  It looked effortless.  Jes was a lion and his opponents were powerless before him.  Poor Les would be at the side of the ring, nursing his wounds and watching as Jes saved the day.

This is how every fight would unfold.  Les would take his lumps and then Jes would secure the victory.

This continued until an especially clever opponent hatched a plan.  This opponent went by the name of Snake and he was renowned for being the smartest competitor in the circuit.  Les and Jes had faced Snake and his teammates many times before and had always emerged victorious.  Snake was able to defeat everyone except Jes.

Snake’s plan was simple – since Les started every match and Jes could only come into the fight when he was tagged by Les, all Snake needed to do was ensure that Les never tagged Jes.

The night before their next match, Jes was surrounded by his many adoring fans.  Les didn’t have any fans of his own and was admiring the way everyone adored Jes.  Snake saw his opportunity.

Sliding up quietly next to Les, Snake observed, “Where are your fans, Les?  It isn’t fair that Jes gets all the glory.  I thought the two of you were a team.”

Les replied, “We are a team, but Jes is the one who makes us win.  He deserves the credit.”

Snake commented, “Sure he deserves the credit – Jes can beat anyone out there.  Doesn’t it make you wonder why he has you start every fight?  Why doesn’t he go first and spare you the humiliation?  In fact, why does he even need you at all?”

Les paused.  If he was being honest, he’d silently pondered these questions before, but he’d never voiced them aloud the way Snake had.  While he knew he shouldn’t, Les felt a growing resentment toward Jes.  Les never got to win the battle.  Les never got fans.  Les was the loser who always made Jes look good.  Les always got beat up and humiliated and Jes never stopped it, even though he could.

The more Les thought about it, the angrier he got.

Snake let Les chew on this for a while before he added, “I’ve been thinking.  I know I can’t win against Jes tomorrow – I’ve already written the fight off as a loss.  I’d much rather lose to you than to Jes.  What do you say?  Just me against you, no tag outs?”


The next day, something unprecedented happened – Les won a match without tagging Jes!   Throughout the match, Jes was standing beside the ring, waiting for a tag that never came.  After the match, there were people who wanted Les’s attention rather than Jes’s.  While some hailed this as a victory for Les, others quietly whispered that it looked like Snake wasn’t even trying to win.

Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd.  A battered Snake limped through the crowd to stand before Les.  “Never before have I suffered such a brutal defeat,” said Snake.  Then Snake turned and glared at Jes.  “We were all wrong – you don’t need, Jes.  Rather, Jes needs you.”

“How about a rematch tomorrow?” asked Snake.  “Allow me to get some of my dignity back.”

“Sure, if you can stand to get back in the ring with me!” roared Les, to the cheers of the crowd.

The next day, Les squared-off against Snake again.  This time the disparity was even more noticeable.  Les felt like a god as he threw Snake all over the ring.  As always, Jes was standing beside the ring, waiting for Les to tag him.  Before long, Snake surrendered.  “You are too much for me!” he declared before the gathering.  “Who needs Jes when we have Les?”  The crowd booed Jes as Snake pointed at him.

“Who wants to see Les beat me again all by himself?” roared Snake.  The cheer of the crowd was like thunder.  “Come back tomorrow to see me face Les, just the two of us.  No teams.  No tags.”

The next night, the match was sold out.  There wasn’t an empty seat to be found.  For the first time, Jes was sitting in a seat on the front row rather than poised ringside to help his friend.  Chanting and cheering erupted as Les entered the ring.  Les bounced around the ring, soaking in the adoration of the crowd.  He spotted Jes on the front row, cheering, although the look on his face looked more like sorrow than encouragement.

Then Snake entered the ring.  He looked as hale and hearty as he ever did.  He moved with a fighter’s grace – all trace of his previous injuries were gone.  He did not look like someone who had been trounced two nights in a row.  Regardless, Les knew he would win as easily as he had the last two fights.

From the moment the fight began, everyone knew Les was in trouble.

Snake easily had Les outclassed.  How had Les ever beaten him before?  Without mercy, Snake humiliated Les in front of the crowd, but his eyes never left Jes.  He wanted Jes to see what was happening to his friend.  Tears streamed silently down Jes’s face, but he never took his eyes off of Les.

Les whimpered as limbs were twisted.  He groaned as he was thrown to the floor.  He screamed as his joints were dislocated.  Over and over he declared his surrender and yet Snake never stopped the brutal onslaught.

Just before he lost consciousness, Les was able to see his friend.  As their eyes met, Jes held out his hand as if to be tagged by Les.  Les reached his hand out to Jes – he seemed so far away – and then darkness claimed him.

When Les awoke, everything was quiet.

He was laying on a table.  Jes was gently seeing to his injuries.  Strangely, Les already felt better – far from perfect, but certainly much better than he expected to feel.

“What happened?” croaked Les.

“Snake cannot beat me.  Never could.  So he used you to hurt me,” was Jes’s soft reply.

“If you can’t lose, then why do I always have to go first?  Why do I always have to get hurt?” sobbed Les.

Jes was quiet for a moment.  Then he said, “It’s true that I cannot lose.  There is no challenge for me.  I’ve only ever wanted to impress you, to see the look on your face when I win.  For that to happen, you have to face the enemy and see how tough he is.  You have to grapple with him and know that he will overcome you.  I live for that moment when you need me, when you reach out to me and I get to be a hero for you.  I love that look of awe you get when you see how I overcome the enemy who seemed invulnerable to you.  But if you never faced the enemy then you could never know the greatness of my victory.  It would seem easy to you and it would diminish me in your eyes.  I’ve always wanted you to look up to me and admire me.”

“By pretending to lose to you, Snake convinced you that you were my equal or perhaps even greater than me.  He made you believe that you couldn’t tag out and that you had to suffer as you did.”

“I’m sorry I lost to Snake,” whispered Les.

Jes looked surprised.  “You didn’t lose to Snake,” he said.  “You suffered, far more than you should have, but you didn’t lose.”

“But I never tagged you,” stated a confused Les.  “I couldn’t reach you.”

Jes hugged his friend gently.  “Les, my wonderful friend, you’ve never been able to reach me.  You’ve never tagged me one time.  Every time you’ve held your hand out, I have tagged you.”

“So what happened to Snake?” asked Les.

“He ran as soon as he saw me put my hand in yours.”

From that day forward, Les never lost another fight – not even to Snake.  He might get tossed around a bit, he might have taken some lumps and even been scared, but every time he’d reach out and Jes would be there.  Les would watch in awe and wonder as Jes would battle back to victory, no matter how dim things might have looked.  For the first time, Les realized that even when the crowds swelled around him, Jes was always looking for him first.

Les couldn’t defeat anyone on his own.  Every enemy, every battle reminded him that he was Les.  That was perfectly okay.  He remained undefeated.

If he hadn’t been Les, he concluded, he’d never have known that there was more.

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