Never piss off a writer, for we will pen a story about you and mock you for all the world…
By Casie Blevins
Word Count: 1224
Chance Spangler was a god.
At least in his own mind.
This self-delusional self-confidence was born of years and years of adoration from the world. It had twisted and warped his sense of self and curdled his compassion for others.
Chance, was, understandably, a turd. The world had made him so.
The truth was a little less digestible for him.
Chance ran amok in the lives of his people because they were removed from him. Instead of being at the forefront of their minds, Chance came in a faraway fifth. Not an afterthought, more like a mosquito bite on a hot July evening. A bit of an annoyance, but arguably ignorable.
With a bit of patience and resolve anyways.
His mother, bless her soul, indulged him. It wasn’t for the usual reasons, hers was not an undying love. It was just that in indulging the boy she could be sooner rid of him, and that was easy.
Clara Spangler liked things to be easy.
She wasn’t a neglectful mother, nor an absent one, just a woman bent on seeing through to the end of life in as unspectacular fashion as possible. Clara’s eyes and heart turned upwards, not down to earth, her just reward for life’s troubles a mere lifetime away. For when she died, she knew she could truly live.
But first, the boy. Raising him, his baby bellows frightening and discordant, his father away much of the time, selling vacuums, no less. Or something else, but away most of the time, escaped and leaving her with her bible and her baby and her little blue house with the oak tree in the yard.
As the tree grew, the boy grew. He climbed its many branches and only fell once, breaking his arm in two places. It hadn’t deterred him from climbing the tree again the moment the cast had been removed.
As far as he was concerned, nothing stood in his way not man, god, or injury.
Chance was obstinate in this way all of his childhood and did not change while interacting with his teachers, when he began dating, or when entering the choppy waters of new adulthood.
He still lived at home arguing that his mother needed his company, she needed something to do all day while his father was away. What better way to pass the time than in running his errands and doing his laundry?
He truly thought that he was a godsend.
His coworkers mocked him, out of hearing, their eyes bright with mirth when speaking to him, offering nothing of their own selves, but allowing him plenty of leeway to lay himself out on the line. His voice often filled their afternoons, a near constant drone of self-importance and braggadocio that they largely tuned out.
He was unperceptive. He saw their looks as admiration, their questioning natures, as proof that he was interesting. Their calculated study of him assured him that he was the center of their attention, and all boded well in his life.
All was right.
The change came when he entered the contest.
It was an office contest, or so he thought, a marathon of wits.
It was a trap, of course, only how could he tell?
The email pinged in his inbox and he opened it without any additional thought on his mind. He was at work, email was a part of his work. He was unaware that his was just like his father’s approach to life, a man who also plodded through his work days without thought.
The email was from Terrance:
Battle of Wits and Might: The subject caught his attention right away.
Join us on April 23rd for a Battle of Wits and Might. First a contest of wits, game show style, then a contest of strength and endurance. Come one, come all. Prizes awarded ONLY for the best and brightest. Food will be provided. Fellows Park. 2pm
It was supposed to be a joke, a little mean, maybe, but harmless. A group of them, Terrance, Emily, Frank and Darren gathered at the park, setting up and preparing for the ultimate prank.
A gazebo was set with a stage, chairs all around: a proper audience. Every question, carefully written for Chance, drawing from the things he endlessly spoke of, all of his favorite subjects. Everything just so, meant to encourage him and mock him in one turn.
Of course, he showed up, promptly at 2pm.
How could he resist? Unspecified prizes, an opportunity to showcase all of his skills and food? How could he not?
Chance was near rabid with anticipation.
He saw many faces from work, many he didn’t know at all. It didn’t matter to him, it was more people to see and admire his brilliance.
He joined Terrance on the little makeshift stage.
“Chance! Great that you showed up. I saved a seat just for you. Here.”
Chance took his seat at center stage, smiling broadly. He felt that everyone was already watching him and it made him bolder.
“First a match of wits…”
Chance answered the first three trivia questions without breaking a sweat. The fourth one gave him pause, someone else answered it. The fifth one made him laugh out loud at his cleverness and pound the gong in excitement. The sixth and seventh questions were more serious. The ninth he had to admit he didn’t know. The tenth one made him the clear winner.
“Round one goes to Chance Sprangler!” Terrance called out in his big booming voice and Chance beamed at the small audience who clapped and cheered and pointed at him.
He’d never felt happier. He wondered what his prize would be.
Round two was a battle of mights; an egg and spoon game, followed by tug of war teams, then a race.
Chance was confident that he would win the race, uncontested. None of his co workers or their friends could beat him. It was almost laughable how easy it was going to be for him. He nodded to himself satisfactorily, flexing his shoulders, doing a quick stretch in the grass and then sprinting up to the starting line.
Terrance addressed them all one final time. “Our final contest is an obstacle course. Follow the course and the winner is the first across the finish line. Be careful, this is no ordinary course!”
Someone rang a bell and off they ran, Chance heading in front right away, just like he knew he would. He rounded a corner and saw behind him two of the other runners laughing and clutching at one another. He kept running, clearing logs and hillocks and at each turn of the path he happened to glance behind him and see that the bodies were thinning out. Where once there had been twelve other runners, now there were six, then four. He was literally leaving them in his dust and his heart filled up with pride. It was a great course to run, with tall trees to weave around, and a bubbling creek somewhere on his left. The sun shone through the treetops and warmed his skin. Finally he saw the finish line up ahead. He gave one last push although he knew that everyone had lagged far behind him. At last look, he had seen no one at all. He did not notice that everyone had, in fact, stopped completely, watching him instead from the cover of trees. He threw himself across the line, bursting beyond the finish line and found himself caterwauling to avoid a big muddy hole. He just missed it, angrily bouncing on one leg, turning his ankle painfully, skittering sideways, skidding, shifting in the sandy dirt until he went too far and his momentum took him over the bank of a creek, tumbling downwards, head over heels, hitting fallen tree branches, breaking one wrist and arm, tearing one leg wide open on a particularly sharp stick until finally he landed at the bottom, his head struck a rock and he was still.
Poor Chance. He learned a valuable lesson that day.
Sometimes, even when you win, you lose.
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