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Meltdown

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Meltdown

Eric Lawson

 

“There’s mud in your eye!” Nathan shouted as he pelted Harold square between the eyes with a hard-packed slush ball.

As soon as he had blurted out the idiotic remark, he instantly regretted it. Mud in your eye? How did that apply to a snowball fight? Perhaps he had just gotten caught up in all the action and lost his senses. It was an obvious moment of weakness. How could he have been so foolhardy? Surely, there were other, more appropriate expressions he could have used. But mud in your eye? This wasn’t a dissing contest with Oscar Wilde—this was war! Then again, maybe it was nothing. An oversight. It was entirely possible that no one else had heard the ominous brain fart.

He let the wet, slushy remnants drip from his freezing hand. His eyes darted around the frozen tundra of parking lot. Everyone—long-time friends and first-time winter warriors—were shaking their heads and looking shocked and disgusted. Clearly, they had heard. Clearly, his dim-witted dialogue had brought their fun game to a standstill. Clearly, his foot was going to taste delicious.

Interestingly enough, they were all pointing at him and were growing more anxious by the second.

Great, he thought, here it comes. Soon their comedic barbs will no doubt puncture my weakened defenses and I will be banished from the playing fields and become a social outcast. I’ll be doomed to wander the world in search of soggier climates. I’ll be forced to live in a mud hut, eating mud pies, and wiping mud from my mud filled eyes. Oh, the shame! If only I could have just farted from my ass and got the easy laugh! Instead, I reached higher into the collective cerebellum. From those lofty heights, I fell to earth—a disheveled and disgraced version of a worthless excuse for a human being! Let loose the dogs of war, fair naives! It is my sentence, your right, and our destiny! Let me succumb to my ghastly fate and may God alone have mercy upon my very soul!

His opponents didn’t budge. They merely stood their ground and pointed eagerly at him. Or was it behind him? They seemed to be mouthing the words: “behind you.”

                                                                                                                       

Oh, no. I’m not falling for that old trick, Nathan surmised. Then again, it might be over quickly if I just turn my back and let them gang up on me. Perhaps only then will their morbid fascination and bloodlust be satisfied. But maybe, just maybe—if the planets are aligned today—I suppose I could make a run for it.

He took a step back. They didn’t move. He took another step back. They grew panicky.

Are the fools just going to let me off the hook? Nice!

He turned to run. It was too late, he soon realized as he felt Harold grab his head and jam a huge pile of packed snow into his unsuspecting face.

“How do you like that, funny guy?” Harold bellowed. “There’s snow in your ear!” He then stood back to admire his handy work. He laughed the overly triumphant laugh of a man who has destroyed his enemy but has let him live if only to prolong the agony of his victim. Nevertheless, he had revenged himself. “Man, Nathan, you gotta move around. That was way too easy. You got me good, but then you just stood there like a statue. You think too much, bro.” He began his vile snickering yet again.

“I do not!” Nathan protested. But it was no use. Constipation of the brain had struck again and it was obvious to everyone there. Even the three-legged dog, which up until that very moment had been showering a nearby fire hydrant with his steaming urine, seemed to have been amused by the entire debacle. Until he started pissing again, that is.

“Hey, next time,” Harold offered, “don’t hesitate to see how we react. Just roll with it, okay? You gotta protect yourself. Just go with your instincts, all right?”

“Go with this,” Nathan barked as he flipped his adversary the bird.

“Go with what?” Harold chuckled.

Nathan glanced down at his hand; too late again to realize that he was wearing mittens and Harold would have no idea what he was talking about. Why God? he pleaded to himself.

                                                                                                                       

“What’s up with that?” Harold scoffed. “Go with...your arm? Oh, yeah, that’s funny. Dumbass. Do yourself a favor and go home, Nathan. Lick your wounds and stay with your

own kind, okay?”

The other kids mumbled some sort of group agreement.

Nathan took a step forward. “What’s the matter, Harold? Not up to a dissing contest with Oscar Wilde? Do you even know who that is? No, I bet you don’t because you’re just a goddamn Neanderthal! What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue, jackass?”

Harold began gasping for air and wiping tears from the corners of his eyes. His face was read and his breath was flowing out of his mouth like an overworked steam vent. He finally got it under control. “Whatever you say, man. So are you just going to let that dog piss on you like that? Good God, that’s funny! I’m not feeling this snowball fight anymore. Later, peeps. I’m out.”

He beat his chest twice, flashed a sideways peace sign, turned to head towards the bus stop on the corner, and everyone else followed suit.

The three-legged dog finished pissing on Nathan and hobbled away.

Well, of course, the dog was pissing on me! That’s why Harold was unaffected by my razor-sharp jabs and snappy comebacks.

Oh, give it up, you moron, another voice scolded. The dog was pissing on you because you’re a slow loser that doesn’t think well on his feet.

Am not!

Are too!

Fine. If that’s the way it has to be, then so be it, he surmised. Nathan was determined to show them all what he was made of. He scanned the empty parking lot. There was an abundance of snow, a blustery, biting wind, and not much else, save for the apartment buildings in the distance. No one would be willing to help him achieve greatness. He had to make his mark all by his lonesome, apparently.

He gazed up into the sky and saw the Moon looking larger than life in the setting sunlight. And then it came to him. What better way to showcase his genius than to build the world’s most impressive igloo skyscraper right here in the parking lot? If there were no further interruptions, he reasoned, he could build it all the way to the Moon itself. Space was cold. The ice wouldn’t melt anytime soon.

He knelt down and started pushing the snow around into neat, tightly-packed piles and walls. Clearly, this would be an igloo built for geniuses who thought too much, had no friends, smelled like dog piss and weren’t wearing pants. Clearly, he would need to devise some sort of pulley mechanism to lift the packing snow hundreds, no thousands, of feet into the sky. Clearly, he was going to have to get over his fear of heights.

He started reciting Oscar Wilde poems to himself and imagined how he would utterly destroy him in a dissing contest. The dog had returned and seemed eager to help. Nathan decided he could use the dog as a messenger for supplies and food. Whenever he asked him a question, the dog merely barked and panted happily. This left it up to him as to what way the conversation veered. This warmed Nathan’s heart. The dog pissed on him several more times but Nathan didn’t mind. It worked as an excellent sealant for building.

The higher the igloo became, the colder the gusts of wind became and the slower he had to work. Planes flew past and occasionally tried to convince him from going any further. But Nathan was fiercely determined. He continued to build the tower walls higher and higher into the night sky to keep the stinging wind from piercing his frozen shorts and to protect him and his three-legged, constantly pissing canine companion from the cruel outside world.

Comments (6)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Very well written. It has a nice pace and carries the reader.

Joshua Hennen
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Thanks, Joshua. I hopefully will have people thinking about their childhood and laughing as they do it.

Eric Lawson
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Laughing to start with but then feeling that loneliness of being the outsider...done amazingly well.

grunfruaorshell
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

How insightful you are! I was going for a Shel Silverstein meets A Christmas Story vibe with a sullen undercurrent. You're the first one to bring that up in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Eric Lawson
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Actually I was hoping for the bully beat down to occur like it did in Christmas Story...but it is more memorable and poignant this way. And thanks for the compliment sir.

grunfruaorshell
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I'm glad you liked the left turn towards the end. In the earlier drafts, there was a showdown with the bully but ultimately it felt forced and obvious. I prefer to keep the reader on their toes. Thanks for the lovely comments!

Eric Lawson
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