Like all good young Catholic boys, I had some semblance of belief drummed into me as I grew up. I took to it for a bit, even indulging the briefest of notions that I would one day become a priest. The years faded that belief, and I left college fully agnostic, leaning toward atheist.
For this particular party, I had been invited by someone with whom I had a passing acquaintance. There's always a risk in going to parties blind to the identity of the participants--you run the risk of experiencing a nightmare scenario. Bondage freaks. Nazi sympathizers. Nudists. Furries. My brother and I were trapped at a gathering once where the following things happened, in no particular order.
- The hostess claimed she wrote editorials for the New York Times, and got testy when I asked her pertinent questions, like what she wrote about, when she published it, and how exactly she had managed to convince the Old Gray Lady to bump William Safire off the page for a week.
- Her boyfriend made a loud and extended farting noise with his hands. He did this in a restaurant. Angry that I didn't find it funny, he decided a second-go-round was in order.
- Fancying herself the arbiter of musical quality, the hostess dismissed my brother's band as one of "those" bands after hearing nothing but the band's name.
This recent party, fortunately, had only the vice of being dull. I suppose it just was, like a million parties before it. People mingled. Music was played. I didn't know anyone there, and I wasn't really feeling the crowd, so I parked myself in front of an NBA playoff game and started drinking. And you know, it wasn't that bad. I had just finished calling Sam Cassell a "worthless sci-fi reject" when the host brought out a microphone and speaker.
"OK, everyone," he said. "It's time for the PIE-EATING contest!"
There are phrases in life whose mere utterance causes fear and anxiety. "We need to have a talk," is one. "I think the condom broke," is another. "Remember how your house USED TO have three stories?" is one I bet you don't hear all that often. "I just injected you with a fast-acting poison, Mr. Bond," is just patently ridiculous. But none of these compares to the sheer terror I experienced at the mere mention of a pie-eating contest.
These things have their place, you see. Were I at, say,, a county fair, or a sock hop*, I doubt I'd have given a pie-eating concept a second thought. There are PERFECTLY APPROPRIATE venues for the rapid and competitive consumption of circular arrangements of fruit and crust.
*What is a sock hop, exactly? Am I using this term correctly?
But we are young, you see. We are young and we live in the state of Connecticut, where one must strangle as much fun as possible out of every night, 'cause the state itself isn't helping one bit. It seemed to me like taking time out of preparing for nuclear Armageddon by...well, having a pie-eating contest.
My horror at spending one of my limited allotted Saturday nights watching a pie-eating contest was compounded rapidly. Two contestants were plucked from the crowd. One was nondescript, someone I had no connection to. The other was a guy whom I had encountered briefly at yet ANOTHER party. He took it upon himself to narrate a Dodgers game in the style of noted announcer Vin Scully. He did this for five minutes. No one was paying attention to him.
But he had the stage now, and he took advantage of it. Have you ever watched a professional wrestling show? Much of it isn't really wrestling--it's buildup, posturing, speechifying, storytelling. The kid must have had a bloody library of that stuff in his head, 'cause he launched into a lengthy diatribe regarding the world of pain his opponent was about to travel. My head started to throb.
The host brought out a belt. Not a real belt. A cardboard facsimile of one of those over-sized championship belts for boxers. A trophy. This had been done before, I realized. The whole point of this party was to provide a venue for pie eating. I sank heavily into a chair, the full Lovecraftian horror of the whole happening attacking the corners of my diminishing sanity. The curtain had been thrown back on the whole charade. But it was far too late.
The two contestants dug in. I felt the sky tremble. A great white light appeared, and out of it stepped God himself. I was dimly ware of the kid I disliked beginning to pull away, his face covered in a purple jam. I stood, gaping in awe--whether of the spectacle, or Yahweh, I cannot say to this day.
God approached me. What do you say in a situation like this? A million questions flew to my mind, but were dismissed, one by one, like so many imperfections. I had only one thing to ask.
"God, why am I, a young man in the prime of my youth, spending my Saturday night watching two people eat pie?"
And He placed His hand on my shoulder, and He smiled. Behind Him, the Vin Scully-wannabe roared in triumph, his entire face a purple mask of victory.
"BECAUSE, MY SON," God said. "BECAUSE, I HATE YOU."
Needless to say, I left immediately afterwards. Pie and the Almighty. Too much excitement for one night.