Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Second Greatest Victory

I'm sure many of you are aware of my Greatest Victory, but for those of you who don't follow my life as closely as you should, several months back I won a Cake Decorating Contest. I consider this The Greatest Victory in My Life because never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would get to say the words, "I won a Cake Decorating Contest."

Here's how it went down: I was at the wedding of fellow English teachers Liz and Eric, and instead of having the traditional Big Cake, they opted for having many little cakes . . . blank canvas cakes. And each table was given the task of decorating their table's little cake. The winning cake got the privilege of being cut and eaten by the bride and groom. I provided my idea to the table-- a sperm meeting an egg-- and persuaded my team of English teachers to go along with it (actually while they were debating what to draw on the cake, I took matters into my own hands and grabbed the icing and drew a giant sperm, but once I did this they happily jumped on board). We defeated many beautiful cakes, and seeing Liz and Eric cut our cake was a priceless prize.

This Friday, I was at Liz and Eric's house for their Second Annual Scary Story Contest. The contest is simple-- you write a scary story (under three pages) and put it in an envelope. They are distributed randomly, so most likely you are reading a story that is not your own-- and if you draw your own story, then you have to pretend that it's not yours. The stories are read. Then everyone at the party votes and the winner collects the prize money (10 dollars to enter, 5 dollars to vote).

Last year's party was a blast and the stories were really good . . . Eric won, but the competition was stiff. I guess that's what happens when you get a bunch of English teachers together. Nerds! We also guessed who wrote each story, and last year the only story that everyone guessed correctly was mine. I thought I had disguised my voice, but apparently, at the conclusion of my dream-addled tale, when the old lady protagonist gets eaten by a "series of animals," this indicated to everyone present that the story came from the mind of Dave

This year, I forgot about the contest because of the overwhelming force that is Disney, so I had to whip something up at the last minute. Having a theme helped with this; last year the contest was anything goes, but this year the theme was Winter is coming. Spooky right?


I decided not to hide my voice and instead write something I truly thought was scary (although not quite as scary as Fantasyland on a crowded afternoon). The stories were even better than last year-- they were genuinely terrifying. I will ask the authors permission to post them so you can see what I was up against. There were two that had similar plots: women out running who get abducted, there was a Southern Gothic style tale of a corpse that comes alive, and there was the poignant story of an innocent girl who learns the horrible truth about a pleasant spot in her backyard and what her father was doing under there. I read the last one and I was sure it was by Eric and that it would win. I was incorrect on both counts. No one could guess who wrote the stories, except for mine (oddly, the only person who didn't correctly guess that I wrote my story was my wife, who thought I wrote the awesomely scary "Skin and Bones," and so she voted for that, thinking she was voting for me). Despite not soliciting my wife's vote, I won the contest, and I am very proud, especially because I thought I had no chance. I am calling it The Second Greatest Victory in my Life, as I believe it just edges out This Victory.

So here is my Prize Winning Scary Story . . . don't read it alone . . .

Suckers


His mom only had two, and they were inconspicuous. One dangled from her wrist, like a bulbous charm, and the other was on the back of her calf, so she had to wear dresses instead of pants. But he didn’t think his mom minded. She liked dresses.
His dad had it worse. When he was clearing out the brush on the side of the shed, he had stumbled into a nest of them and they got in his clothes. A strip of five hung down his right arm, four on his left. Then there were several on his neck, and one behind his ear. He had to have his work shirts tailored so that the sleeves were extra loose and the neck was extra large. He looked like a ghost, floating inside all that billowing material. And they were bigger on his dad than on his mom. Nearly the size of golf balls, fat with blood, useless little legs barely visible. Tyler knew that men had a faster metabolism than women, they ate more and felt warmer when it was cold. And that’s why the suckers grew larger on men.
He rolled onto his stomach, so he was hanging off the side of his bed and he reached under. Out came the plastic container. He wondered who would be angrier about the contents, his mom or his dad. Probably his sister. Kelly cried and cried after she pulled on a sock with a sucker in it. And it only latched onto her ankle. That was nothing. That girl in his class, Emily Berst, had one smack in the middle of her forehead, pulsing and sucking away for everyone to see. That was bad. You couldn’t to look at her when she talked, and you could almost hear the little tongue lapping at her blood, lapping at her brain. No one was mean enough to make fun of her to her face-- but behind her back they called her cyclops. And she ate lunch alone. No one could face that glistening, translucent thing while they ate.

That morning his sister said to their mom: “Fuck it. Maybe I’ll cut my leg off, right below the knee. Just so I can wear jeans again.” It was the first time he ever heard her use the f-- word in front of her parents. Tyler looked from his mom to his dad, but they let it slide. He had heard both his mom, his dad, and several teachers use the f-- word in reference to the suckers. He was going to try it tomorrow, in front of some adults, and see if he got away with it.
“Honey . . . honey, you’re so young,” his mother said to his sister. “They’ll figure out how to get them off. I heard that they might be able to freeze them off.”
“You’re going to let them try? Because I’m not.”
Tyler decided this was a good time to chime in, “We learned at school that they generate the neurotoxin no matter what. If they’re injured or killed or anything. It’s automatic. It’s a perfect defense system, because they have no choice. Mr. Mann said it’s like Mutual Assured Destruction. It’s an instinctual adaptation that forces us to get along, to coexist.”
“Hurray for Mr. Mann,” Kelly said. “I hope one latches to his eye-lid. Or his shriveled little di--”
“Sweetie, it’s not the end of the world, there are plenty of people worse off than you, and they’re not complaining.” She glanced at her husband, and then back at her daughter.
“Winter’s coming, honey, winter’s coming.” Tyler was surprised to hear his father speak. He usually let his mother deal with Kelly when she was in a mood.

Winter was coming for the suckers outside, but not for the ones in the container. The suckers outside would go dormant, some would hop and scramble their way into the mud, some would freeze and remain in stasis, and others would find warm spots in heating ducts and unfinished basements, waiting for a victim. But in general, everyone relaxed with the cold. People were better protected because of all the clothing. And snowfall covered everything, made the world clean and safe again.
So if he was going to do it, it would have to be soon. Otherwise his parents would know. He didn’t want to have that discussion. It would be so much better if it looked like an accident. And his parents would so impressed with his mature attitude, the way he would heroically bear it, the exact opposite of his sister’s whining and complaining. They would be so proud of him. And Kelly would be pissed. She wouldn’t be the center of attention. It’s not so bad, he would say, they’re ugly little fuckers, but if you’re careful, then they’re essentially harmless. And his father wouldn’t feel so ugly. Like father like son.

A musty smell emanated from the holes he had poked in the lid of the container. Hamster shit. He put on his gardening gloves and unlocked the clasps. Two suckers were latched onto the hamster, glistening and warm, and the other three were safe in the plastic bag, barely pulsating, and slightly shrunken, like large raisins with legs. They needed food. They perked up when his arm got near them, like leeches, they sensed his heat. They were awesome. They were perfect. They were from outer space, and they came and they knew what they wanted. Once they got it there was no removing them. He knew if he pulled the sucker off the hamster, his hamster would die in seconds. It was tempting, to grab one of the scrawny newt legs and yank-- and even if the leg popped off without the body-- the hamster would still die. It was a perfect system, a perfect way to live.
He could barely remember the pods exploding over all the land masses, the creatures raining down like a Biblical plague; in fact, he probably only remembered the event because people told him about it.  But still, he had always been fascinated with them, even more so than snakes and bugs. And he knew was lucky that one never latched him, because when he was young, he was always outside, adding to his collections-- his arrays of rocks and bugs and sticks and weeds and flowers and bones that he kept on the concrete walk behind the house.  His mother was more lenient than the other mothers-- because Tyler would have died if he had to stay inside, if he couldn’t play in the dirt-- but she  always made him wear gloves and long shirt and long pants and boots, even in the heat of summer.

After the incident behind the shed, he asked his dad the big question, the question everyone was thinking about: “Why do you think they came here, dad?”
“Buddy, I don’t think these things think ‘why.’ They just are. Like a tick. A super tick from outer space. Space-ticks.”
“That’s what they should call them, Dad. Space-ticks. Sucker is stupid name. And it’s already a fish.”
“I don’t think anybody cares about stealing the sucker-fish's name. They’re about as low as you can get on the fish totem pole.”
“You think space-ticks are low on the alien totem pole?"

So it was just a matter of deciding where. It was like when his cousin Samantha was deciding on a tattoo. She wanted to be able to hide it or show it off, depending on her mood. This was the same. He didn’t want one on his forehead, like Emily. She was shunned and friendless because of it. He wanted it-- or them-- somewhere that showed that he was in control. It was like having a loose tooth. Better to pull it out than to wait. And everyone was always impressed when you pulled out the wiggly tooth yourself, impressed and a little scared of you. He definitely wanted it somewhere where it wouldn’t change how he had to dress . . . his wrist was convenient, but his mom’s looked too much like a piece of jewelry, plus he didn’t want to copy. He wanted it somewhere he could watch it feed, suck with that round mouth . . . he wanted to watch the translucent skin turn deep reddish purple as it filled with circulating blood from his body. He couldn’t decide if he wanted one or two or three.
His door flew open. He thought he had locked it. “You little klepto shit, do you have my iPod?” And then his sister saw the container, took it all in. “Holy fuck. Mom and dad are going to kill you What did you do to your hamster? We learned in psychology class if you torture animals, you’re pathological.”
“Don’t tell them. Please?”
“I’m telling them,” she said and turned to leave. Tyler jumped up, holding the box, and tilted it towards her, as menacingly as he could. He said, “I’ll put them in your bed if you tell. I’ll latch one to your forehead."
His sister turned and stared him down. “Tell me right now you didn’t put that one in my sock." 
Oh shit. He looked down at the floor. “No. Jesus, Kelly. I’m kidding. I swear. Just listen, okay, listen for a second. Please?"
She breathed out and stared at him.
“I can’t stop thinking about them. I just want to get it over with. I’m going to put one on me, or maybe two, but I don’t know where.”
“Jesus Christ. Can’t you just cut yourself? Or put a vodka-tampon up your ass like everyone else?”
“Other people are doing it. Not just me. It’s not like I’m crazy.”
She motioned with her hand. “Let me see.”
He held out the container, so she could see them feeding on the hamster, and see how carefully he had stashed the others in the plastic bag.
“Yuck,” she said, and then there was a flash of movement-- a kick-- and he felt pain in his crotch, and then she had the box and was running down the stairs, and he couldn’t follow her because an invisible vice was crushing his testicles and then he heard her yelling for mom and he was glad dad wasn’t home yet. But he would do it anyway, in the spring. And she didn’t know, she didn’t know he put it in her sock, which wasn’t that bad anyway, not as bad as it could be.

His mother was angry, but his father was nothing but understanding.“Winter’s coming son. You won’t have to look at them. And maybe you’ll outgrow this feeling. We know what’s going on-- we heard about some of the high school boys. We didn’t want to talk about, but it’s a compulsion, like getting a tattoo or piercing your tongue. I’m not going to deny what you want to do, and I understand you want to be like us, like everybody, but try to wait it out. Give it to the first snow. You’ll be sledding down the hill at the golf course and you’ll forget all about it.”
But he wouldn’t forget about it, and though he was going to respect his dad’s wishes-- because his dad was being so good about it all-- it still wasn’t going to change the way he felt. Winter wasn’t going to change that. Maybe he would latch one to each bicep, so that when he flexed, they would throb ever so slightly, bulge along with his muscles, and fill with more of his blood. They would grow along with him.

48 comments:

rob said...

i quite enjoyed the story, but it isn't scary in the least. your colleagues are pansies.

zman said...

"Winter is coming" gave it away for all SOD readers and nerd-lit fans.

Dave said...

i didn't think it was scary either, i think it was different from the others and that helped.

what did "winter is coming" give away?

TR said...

Sperm cakes. Yum.

rob said...

i'm starting to think kyle shanahan might not be very good at his job

zman said...

Winter is coming is from game of thrones.

So ... Miami? Carolina?

Dave said...

i know that, zman, but your comment still doesn't make sense. gave what away?

i hate when the giants are on at night.

T.J. said...

Just did some quick math, and since the Bills shut out the Redskins 23-0 in Week 8, Buffalo has been outscored 106-24.

zman said...

It gave away your authorship of the story.

zman said...

Thanks teedge.

zman said...

A bills/jest post is forthcoming. I know you're all waiting with bated breath.

zman said...

That's a nasty knee injury to Williams.

Igor said...

The Redskins hurt me every weekend. Deeply.

rob said...

fortunately, i gave up caring a long time ago

T.J. said...

Skins lost was bad, but Jags loss was pretty brutal too. Jason Hill dropped game winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left

rob said...

tribe game on espn3. not sure that @marcuswm3 really gets the offense yet.

T.J. said...

Kid sure understands twitter, tho

rob said...

revising my opinion. thornton shouldn't be the primary ballhandler, but he's as explosive as anyone we've seen in green and gold.

Danimal said...

Gabbert and the Jags looked like a real football team in 1st qtr.

At least team usa won prez cup. Hahaha Greg Norman! America. Fuck yeah.

Dave said...

"winter is coming' was the theme-- all the stories had some reference to it. the english department went a bit "game of thrones" crazy last year . . . i went along, but then i got stuck int he middle of the third book.

T.J. said...

Zman, don't forget to give the Bills two more points in that tally, via that safety late in the game

zman said...

That makes me feel better.

T.J. said...

Always happy to help

zman said...

If Arkansas beat LSU, do they rematch for the championship? Or does Arkansas play bama?

T.J. said...

LSU is playing in the national title game, basically no matter what happens. Seriously.

T.J. said...

Though I would love to see utter chaos, don't get me wrong. Not sure I can handle another LSU/Bama field goal contest.

TR said...

Love love love the Victor Cruz salsa dance.

Igor said...

Anybody seen The Tillman Story? Ugh. Not uplifting if you enjoy America.

mayhugh said...

Anyone else keep imagining TR's nasal polyps while reading that?

Entertaining Dave. I think you could turn that into a novella.

TR said...

Because you all care, the nasal polyps have come back! Two "baby" polyps have come home to roost. I am on a nasal spray regime to minimize their growth. Good times.

TR said...

Not sure how many of you watched the MLS cup last night, but it turned into a legitimately compelling sporting event. About a million times better than the shit sandwich of a football game in the Meadowlands. Landon scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory, but Houston kept the pressure on until late. At the end of the game, LA had a penalty kick and Donovan and Beckham stood near the corner flag and got PELTED with crap by Houston fans in the corner. Looked like batteries were in the mix, in addition to water bottles. When the game ended, those two guys bro-hugged the hell out of each other. A pretty cool moment for the league.

T.J. said...

People of Houston were channeling their inner Philly, tossing batteries?

Soccer in the U.S., you've finally made it...

Danimal said...

igor. i'm here for ya, and yes, i watched the tillman story. an inspirational dude but a sad and disappointing story. good ole "rummy!"

zman said...

I saw the Tillman documentary. It takes nothing away from what he did, in my opinion, and in fact made me admire him even more. The DOD response was obviously atrocious. Maybe this is why Republicans push for small government?

Danimal said...

z - to make sure you or others didn't read that wrong, the disappointment was in no way aimed at what tillman did or did not do, but in the handling of it by our wonderful leaders.

in other news...ashton kutcher & demi are worth a reported $290M. she received 90M from her settlement with bruce willis...and stands to get another $145M here.

TR said...

Danimal - you sound surprised by AK's fortune. I guess you didn't see "Dude Where's My Car?". I'll describe it one word: opus.

zman said...

Don't forget about Punk'd and his Nikon ads. Groundbreaking work.

Most of the Kutcher/Moore fortune has to be from Moore, right? Does Kutcher even make movies?

Danimal said...

dude....have totally seen it. am surprised by it's meagerness (that may not be a word)

for acting chops, i liken demi to keanu - they should definitely do a movie together. i would be the first in line.

Danimal said...

article estimated that up until recently, demi was actually worth 10M more...the curve ball here is how the 2 1/2 men deal will play into this...he gets 800K an episode and obviously made this deal, which i'm sure includes residuals, when they were living in theire wonderful state of marriage. he should have kicked her to the curb before that. what a doofus.

zman said...

Gift: DBT at 9:30 Club December 29-31.

Igor said...

Yes, Zman, with Lucero opening on the 29th.

As for the Tillman doc, I never knew that much about him, but it seems exponentially more tragic that a guy of his caliber went like that. His last words ("I'm Pat Fucking Tillman") and his brother's eulogy ("he's not in a better place, he's fucking dead") stick out the most.

zman said...

Remember my "guess whose jersey I bought" comment from a few weeks ago? Tillman.

Almighty Yojo said...

i didn't see the tillman doc, but i read the krakauer book (typical of me) and it was quite an indictment of the military and the propaganda it produces, and an awful tragedy about tillman-- who went to war for such honorable and altruistic reasons, and slowly learned the truth of what was going on. a great read, even if you just do the first chapter.

zman said...

Matt Moore is 3-2 in his last 5 starts, completing 67.7% of his passes for 7 TD and 2 INT. The Fins are +60 over this span. Ralph Wilson just offered him a $59 million contract.

TR said...

Krakauer is the tits. I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven and Into the Wild.

rob said...

w&m @ howard on saturday at 2:00. who wants to come with me?

T.J. said...

New post up...

Samantha said...

47 comments and not one mention of "a vodka tampon up your ass"? What the hell are you guys doing up there in Jersey, Dave?