Open Mic Night

microphoneOne side of the stage is demanding, demeaning. Exhilarating and exhausting. Humiliating, humbling, ego-boosting. All for the laugh, the clap, the smiles. People giving enough of a shit to heckle.

The other side is cynical. Make me laugh. Tell me something funny monkey boy. Tell me something I haven’t thought of. Tell me about ninja turtles throwing baby turtles and why they wear masks. Just make me laugh.

This is going to bomb. Or not. I’ve got to try it or I’ll never know. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t. It depends on this next joke. Okay, okay, fuck it, here goes…

What was it that guy said? It was dumb, but I guess it was kind of funny. I could be funnier than that guy. Wait, funnier? Is that a word? See, right there, I could talk about that for five minutes, easy. I don’t know, maybe funnier isn’t that funny.

I fucked up the timing, but that one was okay. I gotta finish strong. This is a good closer. Even if everything fails I still have this closer to fall back on. Oh shit, wait, how’s it go? Fuck me, how’s it start? If I start it I’m good. Fuck…

This guy is okay. He had a few moments. Just give me one more good one to go out on and I’ll think you’re funny. Just one good one.

Okay, got it, thank fuck. Now deliver. Make them laugh. Laugh at the things I say. Please.

That was good. I’ll give you that. Pretty funny stuff. Thank you for making me laugh. You held up your end, so I’ll clap for that. In this god forsaken life, thank you for making me laugh.

“Thank you.” Oh thank god they clapped. I’ll sleep well tonight. I’ll sleep tonight.

Two gentlemen meet at the bar moments later, waiting their turn. “Nice job man. That was funny.”

“Thanks man.”

They sip their beers in silence. There’s nothing left to say really.

Boredom and the Pitfalls of the Classroom

desk

Drool drips onto my arm, propping my head up, pulling me out of my reverie. Saliva just fell out of my mouth. Literally fell out of my mouth. When I sit up straight I can’t stop tapping my foot or shifting in my seat. I could be doing something, accomplishing something far more important than this. Or at least playing video games. “Why?”, I want to scream to the sky. We are zoo animals, shackled to our chairs here, force fed information about “famous” books like the Scarlet Pimpernel or the Scarlet Letter. So much scarlet. They must have loved the color red way back when and hated being entertaining because the Scarlet Letter is a terrible book. I’m supposed to be reading some passage from the book now, but I can’t get past the first sentence before my brain starts thinking about girls or sports.

Maybe if I can get up and stretch for a moment Mr. Griffin won’t mind. I need to stretch. It is essential to my existence. How could he possibly deny me from the very thing keeping me awake and alive? I still need to do it quickly and quietly. I don’t actually want to interrupt class. I don’t want to get in trouble. I need to pick my moment and strike. I hold, and hold, and hold, and then go, sliding out swiftly, casually bending as to not disrupt the ecosystem. But he notices. He always notices.

“Stretch your legs with your butt in the seat Mr. Blake.”

I sit down, defeated and look down at the open book on my desk. If I could use the bathroom again I could spread the rest of this class out, but I already used that excuse once. Mr. Griffin probably won’t buy that I have diarrhea. Maybe if I start farting loudly and consecutively, but that’s going to kill my chances with any ladies in this room and possibly in the school. Word gets around. My face slowly begins to melt. It starts from my forehead and attempts to droop all the way into my lap. It pulls my head down towards the desk, pulling, pulling, resting.

“Head up Mr. Blake.”

I pop back upright, defeated again. I touch my face. Everything is where it’s supposed to be. I look to the clock for support. Only five minutes to go, thank god. I watch the second hand quietly tick along, tick, tick …………………………..tick.

Tick.

I have to stop watching. It’s going to start going backwards if I keep my eyes glued to it. I always knew that clock hated me. Okay, I have five minutes to read more than one sentence, four really. Maybe three if I start putting my stuff in my backpack. Be prepared, work ahead, that’s what Mr. Griffin always says. I’m just following his advice. Maybe if I just put my notebook away now I’ll get a jump on things. And my pen is askew, I should really put that away too. Oh, nice, only two minutes to go.

“Alright everyone, start packing your things up.”

I’m ahead of the game. I sit back with a confident grin, watching everyone else put their things up. I’m already done. Yeah, I’m ahead of the game. For once I’m the one that got everything done early. Finally the bell rings, freedom, exhilaration, unadulterated joy. Four minutes to be a human again. Four minutes until the next class. What a beautiful four minutes they are! To own my existence, to break the shackles of boredom, to be free. I’m one of the first to the door as I hear Mr. Griffin call out from his desk:

“Don’t forget our quiz tomorrow over the chapters you read today.”

I slow at the door and only one thing crosses my mind.

…Shit.

The Mascot

mas·cot
ˈmasˌkät,ˈmasˌkət/
noun
  1. a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization.

There were rumblings, Jerry always eventually heard the rumblings. “There’s this new kid, best damn mascot I ever seen.” Jerry had heard it before, but no one had ever lived up to the hype. Since he dawned the horns, there wasn’t one mascot that deserved to hold his jock, let alone carry on the tradition that he had helped forge. But this time the talk was a little more consistent. People were going to the games to see the show, not just the game. The people around Scarborough were saying this kid could be the best. The best since me, Jerry thought, but would never say aloud.

He made it to the hometown games most of the time, but it was basketball season and work was holding him up more often than usual. Work or no work, he decided, I have to see what this kid is all about. He looked at his calendar, there was a home game on Friday. And nothing too big with work. He would make that game.

By Friday afternoon everyone around the office was beginning to ease into the weekend, asking about plans, bragging about plans, deciding on the bar to go to after work. He could just drift off, say a few goodbyes, decline the invite to the bar and be home in time to change before heading to the game.

The gym still smelled the same, even after all these years, Jerry remembered every time he made his way to his seat. It was the only time the thought ever crossed his mind. He still bought season tickets to everything, wanting to support the home town team and his alma mater, but this was his first game of the year. A few familiar faces said hey to him, even his old high school buddy Zeke gave him a high five on his way by. It still felt like home. It probably always would. The best of days, Jerry thought, settling into his seat. His glory days danced through his head, moments set in infamy, before the scene went dark and the crowd grew quiet in anticipation.

Great, introductions, Jerry thought. Saying names loud didn’t make things any more poignant, he continued thinking. And then the music began. Duh-duh duh-duh. It wasn’t a familiar song to Jerry, probably something the football kids worked out to, but it was catchy. The spotlight shined down to center court where his old suit hung on a kid, maybe a little too small to wear it, but the crowd exploded. He’d never seen a crowd go crazy like that for a mascot before, not even when he was doing the worm the entire way across the court. He could feel the hair stand up on the back of his neck. He hadn’t realized it before, but he was nervous. Clammy hands, goosebumps, unsure of how to fold his arms.

The kid let the anticipation reach the pinnacle before beginning, not a moment too soon or too late. That was a good start. And then, he put on a show. The choreography was succinct, the moves in rhythm to the music, the dance had begun. He toyed with the crowd, flirting for a moment before a turn away. Jerry found himself leaning forward, edging to the end of the bleacher seat, pushing his Longhorn seat pad to the ground. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. This kid. This kid was as good as he was. Jerry, the greatest mascot Scarborough High had ever seen. People in the town even referred to him that way. This kid was stealing his title and he was helpless. Here he was, watching this new kid take it to a level he never could and he couldn’t turn away. The kid was better. He never thought he’d think that, never thought he’d see what he was seeing in front of him. It wasn’t old school versus new school, the kid was better. The best ever.

The crowd held its collective breath for a moment as the music stopped, the mascot sprawled on the logo with a spotlight holding tight on him. Before he knew what he was doing Jerry was on his feet, screaming “Yeah!”, leading the charge as the lights came up to normal and the sound of basketballs dribbling took over the gym. Jerry watched the mascot head off to the sidelines, high-fiving a couple players on his way off the court. His cheers settled into a smile, a tear streaked his cheek. He sat back down, more than happy that he got to see that at least once in his life. That kid, Jerry thought, that kid, my god, he has no idea. These are the best days of his life. It never really gets better than this. And Jerry really believed that.