My head hangs low, allowing moisture to gather in the brim of my eye sockets.
This is it.
“Dead crumb crumbling!”
The diabetic voice bellows out, echoing off the steel walls throughout the deserted destroyer.
“Clear way for the soon to be eggsecuted!”
Someone call the mayor of international waters.
“That’ll be the last time you crack the shell.”
The lone diabetic voice continues to torment me as his iron tight grip around my upper biceps tightens any time I fidget. As if he’s worried I’ll make a break for it. It’s an unnecessary worry, for I am a defeated man, accepting the fate before me.
I wrote it after all.
A true crumb, and stain upon the shell. A disgrace who constantly lets those around me down when they need me the most.
Well, no more.
The punishment must fit the crime.
“Keep walking, you cromb.”
The once friendly Honaleean accent that warmed my cool soul has lost its charm. All I can hear now is the shame behind it. Still, I abide by continuing to shuffle forward one step after another.
“Murder She Wrote is on in twenty minutes and I’ll be damned if you ruin another one of my good times.”
But continue to walk.
I guess if there is a sunny side in any of this it’s I won’t have to see the smug look on Doozer’s face, not that I need to see his face to know what I would see. His taunting electric blue eyes looking at me as if to say, “Now you know what I feel every day.”
“Walking, disgraced, no ticket, soon to be meeting Hades, white haired, corpse here!”
His voice calls out yet again as he forces me through the bulkhead and out onto the top deck, finally I feel the sun shining down on me but still refuse to look anywhere but at my feet. I wonder, is there any coming back from this? Can I rise like the mighty phoenix one more time, or is this it? Forever the punchline to the joke that is PRIME? Is this how Stevens felt for all these years? If so why does he even bother getting out of bed?
“Well my friend, looks like we’ve arrived…”
Not the plank.
No, when I finally look up from my shuffling toes I am shocked. Before me lies a nightmare from the depths of Hangman meets medieval times. A full-on wooden monstrosity that only the Amish could have put together: there’s a single noose made of thick hemp, a wooden lever to trigger the release of the trap door, and a set of twelve wooden steps that lead to my eventual demise.
“Come on now, boy, let’s get this over with.”
My friend says with a sad shake of the head. With every step up the stairs I take, I can’t help but think, maybe, just maybe, I can finally be free of the pressure. Free from the weight on my mighty shoulders. Maybe, in my death, I can finally feel alive…
“Anything you’d like to say?”
The man wearing my old hat asks, as he holds the small cloth sack before me, about to lower it over my head.
“Looks like you’re the captain now.”
Famous last words.
Before the sack lowers over my face and I’m teabagged for the last time, my friend offers a sad smile. He also reaches out and gently removes the mirrored T-shades from my face.
Who needs dignity?
With one final nod, The Captain Now lowers the sack and places the heavy hemp rope around my supple neck. For some reason he is out of breath, and I can hear his heavy laboring. Seconds, that seem like years, pass. My life flashes before my unshaded virgin eyes. Then, Bobby Dean, The Beautiful Crown Prince of Honalee, the new Eggsecutioner of the eGG Bandits, and my tormentor, reaches out and removes the hood.
“Just kidding. I still might have a use for you yet. Downstairs you go.”
A fate worse than death.
The punishment must fit the crime.
Please don’t let it be an ace fart sniffer or puckered up ass kisser.
“Blobby? Blobby Clean?” the voice calls out, pulling me from my distracted thoughts. Looking up I notice everyone seated in the share circle are looking at me with expectation. “You want to have a go?” the leader of these meetings gestures towards me with a wave of his wrinkled old hand, offering me the floor.
“Hi, I’m Blobby Clean, and well, I’m a loser.” I start with the traditional greeting, pausing long enough for the obligatory “Hi Blobby’s” to commence. “Well, I’m scheduled for another match. Uhm, this time against someone named Anthony Gambles. I guess his gimmick is that of a poker player? I’m not too sure, as I kind of stopped paying attention to be honest. You know how it goes, one loss after another and eventually they all sort of just blend together.”
A lot of resigned nods.
“I feel like I’m doing him a disservice though, like I’m not giving him enough credit. I mean, he’s got waaaaay more matches under his belt than I do in PRIME, and I’m definitely not looking too good going into this match,” my eyes kind of glaze over as I can’t help but stop and think of Cancer Jiles and the sad smile he offered me before I lowered the sack over his head. “Why do I have to lose?”
The simple question stuns the circle.
A bunch of familiar faces with unfamiliar names look at one another. Jehovah Hanson looks at his friends Baron Matthews and Ole Bollywood. DICK, the french speaking MILF addict looks at his neighbor James Barga, while the HATEful Skeeter Hudson shares a look with Brandon Youngblood…
No, not THAT Brandon Youngblood, this one is wearing a toupee and a fake mustache. Two completely different guys… I think…
Token Beads looks across the circle at Michael P****y. I know, who knew a guy who won so much could be such a loser, right? And there in the corner is the man who introduced me to this budding group in the first place, Doozer, begging anyone to share a look with him.
“Why do I have to accept the fact that I’m a loser?” I ask rhetorically, standing from my chair with a flourish. “Why can’t I buck expectations and do the unexpected? Why can’t…”
I stop mid sentence, taking a moment to look at each person in the circle, before finishing. “Why can’t I win?”
Laughter emanates from the person running the meeting, causing everyone to shift their attention. Mediocrelee, wiping the tears from his blinding eyes, leans back in his chair struggling for breath as he cannot stop laughing. The time for him to recover is as nerve wracking as it is uncomfortably long.
“You’re all losers!” he shouts out suddenly, as if it weren’t obvious given where we all were at the moment. “Blobby, you’ve been a loser for so long now I don’t think you even comprehend what it would take to win. Every time I tell you what to do to not be a loser, you do the opposite and continue to shit the bed. Almost like you don’t like my ideas for you!”
Slowly rising out of his chair, because he’s old and decrepit, Mediocrelee walks forward and gently places his hand on my shoulder, like a father would his son. “If I had a Hall of Fame for Losers, you would be the #1 inductee.”
The words hurt, because of the unequivocal truth behind them.
“Now remember, what do we always say?” he asks, looking around the room, before he and everyone else begin to recite the group motto.
“I’m a loser, I will never be a winner, and that’s okay. Because there is no one I’d rather be, than the loser that is me.”
I repeat the words out of habit, but half way through I stop. Imagining Cancer Jiles standing there with a burlap sack over his head, his words replaying in my ears. “You’re the captain now.”
Without a word, I turn and head towards the exit. My gait gains confidence with each step I take. Mediocrelee calling out towards my back, “Blobby? Come back! BLOOOOBBY!”
My mind is troubled. I cannot focus. My daughter is seated on the couch next to me forcing me to watch another episode of the Great British Bake Off. I never understood the appeal of watching cooking shows when you can’t eat whatever they’re baking. I mean seriously, how do you get that gig? To eat all that food simply to say if it was good or not?
My troubled mind is getting side tracked, which is often the case when I find myself around food I can’t eat. The nagging thoughts that continue to roll through my mind prove to be too much as I reach towards the remote and hit the pause button.
With a frown she asks, “What the fuck, dad?”
“Do you think I’m a loser?” I ask my kid with hesitation and uncertainty clear in my wavering voice.
Chuckling to herself, as if she just heard the funniest joke, Annabelle answers, “Of course.” As realization sets in, and my face slowly drops, she sees the seriousness of the situation. She can’t help the look of abject confusion as she initially thought the question to be rhetorical. “But, I thought that was your whole thing? You know, your schtick? I thought that’s what you’ve been trying for.”
My downcast eyes peer up at her, with a quirk of the brow, she can guess what I’m about to ask and simply continues, by saying, “Dad, everyone knows you’ve stopped caring a long time ago. You walk around without a care in the world. You go through life with minimal effort and now you ask if I think you’re a loser? Everyone thinks you’re a loser, Dad. But everyone simply thinks it’s your gimmick at this point. You’re the lovable loser.”
Shaking her head in disbelief she continues, “You can hang out with Uncle Cancer, who is the absolute biggest piece of shit in the industry and the people will still cheer you on. Sure he wins, some, but the people despise him.” She chuckles again as she thinks about the dynamics of the Bandits. “At the same time, it seems like no matter what you do the people will still shower you with support. They cheer you on, as if hoping one day they’ll see the unthinkable. Like watching a phoenix rise from the ashes.
“Instead of wondering if you’re a loser or not, you should be wondering why the people care about you so much!” She rises off the sofa and comes around the couch and wraps her arms around my neck hugging me with warmth and love. With a kiss on my pudgy cheek and a gentle pat on the shoulder she says, “I love you as the big loveable loser that you are, Dad.”
Watching her walk down the hall towards her room I can’t help but sit back on the couch with a heavy thud. Reaching down beside me I lift the broken mirror shades up once more, looking at the image of myself reflecting back. The constant thought of, “Why can’t I win?” running through my mind.
I’m not sure how much time passed before I suddenly jumped off the couch, looking frantically around the room before spotting exactly what I was searching for. With a look of pure determination on my face I call out, “Dooze! Find me Tony Gamble.”
Dooze tilts his head and responds, “Really? The short guy you’re up against at ReVival 39?”
“No. Not him. Silly me. I was getting my meals confused. Speaking of, Doozer, get me Comet Fews on the phone, pronto!”
Doozer, standing in the corner in a full on black three piece butler outfit looks with broom in hand and asks, “You mean Coral Avalon right?”
“Him too!” I demand.
“You got it boss!” What? The man has a debt to pay, and I never throw away my toys. Remember, once a Bandit, always a Bandit.
A plan begins to formulate in my mind as I stand there looking down at one of the broken pieces of the sunglasses.
Darkness envelops me as I enter the vast room. The smell of stale sweat permeates and reminds me why I hate coming to places like these in the first place. You can just smell the work people have put in, and it’s upsetting to my stomach as it is to my nose. But, the things we must do…
The door to the building opens behind me, causing me to turn around. The lights suddenly turn on and a smiling Coral Avalon stands before me in a tank top and shorts, holding a massive gallon of water, looking like he’s about to work out.
“You came.” I stated the obvious, but with surprise in my voice, causing him to smile even wider.
“My Captain asks me for help, I’m here to help.” Coral offers amicably. “Captain.”
“I’m sorry for dragging you away, I know you got a lot going on with Farthead and all.” I offer, sheepishly.
“Helping you still helps me prepare, Cap’.” Avalon offers, before simply adding, “Plus, we’re Bandits.”
Looking around with the lights on, I can’t help but cringe at the sights around me. Treadmills, stationary bikes, leg press machines, water rowers, yoga mats, big bouncy balls, and weights or all sizes in a myriad of medieval torture like contraptions. I’m dreading the thought of what I’m about to do, but then the recurring thought of “Why am I a loser?” strikes once more, and suddenly my back straightens, my shoulders push back, my chest puffs out, and I remember what I’m here to do.
Why can’t I win?
“Let’s get to work.” I say before taking my first step towards torment, only to stop and look back at Coral with a look of confusion. “Uhm, where do I start?”
With a friendly pat on the back, Coral Avalon steps up and leads me towards the open floor where we’ll start stretching before the real work begins.
Filled with somber determination I stand before the empty dirt hole of my dear friend. Looking down, I smile, remembering the good times we had after all these years. The time he and Doozer argued over my bed while I pretended to be in a coma, just so I could get out of work for a month. The time he and Doozer argued in the eGG Den when Doozer and I were eliminated from the Tag Team Survival. The time he and Doozer argued when Doozer decided to try going back to that one place I can’t remember the name of. HOW cannot I not remember? Oh and that one time he and Doozer argued because Cancer couldn’t spell.
“We truly had some fun together, didn’t we Cee Jay.” I say with a soft voice. “I suppose, if we’re going to do this thing, I should at least look the part, right?” With that I place the newest addition to my face with a bit of flair and panache. A single mirror t-shaded monocle sits perched over my right eye. “I only hope I can do you justice, brother. But, I promise, this time I will give it my all.”
Why couldn’t I win? Why shouldn’t I win?