Humor Fiction posted July 29, 2015


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Don't talk with your mouth full!

The Burden of Extraordinariness

by mfowler

What If? Contest Winner 

The burden of being ordinary can be extraordinarily difficult for a guy of my age.
 
Most of the guys in my year level at St Bede's  have something about them that sets them apart. Brad James, for instance, wins every athletics medal on offer. Toby McAllister hair obeys him. He changes it every week in the coolest, freakiest ways. The girls love him.
 
Me, my greatest claim to fame is I'm the most obese kid in the Year 11. Being fat gets me attention all right, but hardly builds my self-esteem.
 
***
 
'How many French Fries can you fit in your mouth without gagging?' asks Gino. The question poses a serious challenge which I'm about to meet.
 
'One, two, three, four, five...sixty-one, sixty-two!' Gino claps as if the Guinness Book of Records frontier for pigging-out has been broken. Patrick and Vinh seem impressed.
 
As I mash through the starchy mush, I see Gina Klein and her flunkies staring down at me with a look of pure disgust.
 
'Ooooh, no wonder you look like a pregnant beanbag,' says Gina. She looks to the pack of blonde she-wolves who follow her about for approval. 'Stuff some more in, Maurie, and you'll explode like a piñata.'
 
As the Blondes move on to their next kill, Gino says, 'Bitches. If I had X-ray vision I'd set them all on fire.'
 
Vinh corrects him. 'That's laser vision. X-Ray will only let you see their underwear. Maybe more.'
 
'OK. That's good enough. X-Ray vision is what I want.'
 
These are the kind of conversations that keep my friends and me on the outside of the outer circle of extraordinariness which seems to be all around us.
 
'Flying. I wish I could fly freer than a bird. I'd see everything no-one else could. I'd poop on Toby's hair and yeah, the Blondes would be in for a good shampoo too.' Patrick is getting carried away, but they all agree it would be an excellent super-power.
 
Vinh suggests mind-reading. He's convinced he can make very good use of this skill, especially at exam time. 'So, Maurie, what if you could pick a super-power, what would it be?'
 
I've been listening intently as I mulch the fries and I'm keen on the idea of being a great speaker, someone who knows just what to say in any circumstance. I imagine choosing great and eloquent words, speaking to strangers with confidence, and maybe, even making public speeches which change the way people live for the better. I think it may be a bridge too far, but after fifteen years of being too shy to talk to anyone but my family and close friends, I reckon that's a super-power worth having.
 
They wait patiently. I'm excited to share my idea and begin to speak.
 
***
 
The last things I remember are opening my mouth to talk, feeling the potato mush slide back down my throat, and the horrible sensation of choking.
 
'Thank goodness you've come around, Maurice. You passed out, poor child,' says Sister Davey. 'I think your fry eating exploits were a little dangerous. If Brad James hadn't passed by and applied back blows straight away, you'd have been in deep trouble.'
 
Oh, thank you, Brad. There goes another trophy onto your extraordinariness shelf. But.., I am grateful.
 
'Thank you, Sister Davey. Your management of my unfortunate situation was highly professional. With people like you in this school every parent should feel comfortable in the knowledge their children are safe and properly cared for.'
 
Did I really say that?
 
'Why thank you, young man. That's about the kindest remark any of the students have ever made to me. My, aren't you a fine talker?'
 
***
 
Something remarkable's happened. My clumsy, inadequate answers and shy approach to interactions have disappeared. Without  any real effort, I've learnt how to speak like an adult, a very articulate one at that.
 
'Boys, something remarkable has transpired.'
 
We're sharing a Big Mac at Maccas after school. I decide to omit the junk foods after this morning's near calamity. They stop mid chew and gawp at me.
 
'Our discussion this morning about super-powers set into action a chain of responses that far outweighs our wildest expectations.'
 
'You what?' says Patrick.
 
'Before my unfortunate incident with the fries, I'd been thinking I'd like speaking as a super-power. You all saw what happened. I blacked out momentarily and, voila, listen to me. I'm no longer a jabbering moron.'
 
'You what?' says Patrick.
 
Vinh interjects. 'Yeah, guys. Listen to him. He sounds like a professor or something. Weird shit happened here today, Maurie.' They all agree, but no-one, including myself, can imagine what to do with my new found oral skills.
 
I see Brad James emptying his tray. 'Brad,' I say, well knowing I've never said a word to His Extraordinariness in my whole life, 'I wanted to thank you for the selfless act of goodwill you performed on me this morning. It took extraordinary awareness and generosity of spirit to step into the breach.'
 
Brad looks at me and blinks. 'Maurie. Oh, thanks, mate. You were in deep shit. I appreciate what you're saying...You know, that's the first time I've heard you talk.'
 
***
 
Two weeks have passed since my super-power became apparent. I've widened my circle of influence among the extra-ordinaries, and I've been involving myself in class discussions in imaginative and distinguished ways. Brad suggested I join the debating team, and Mr Greenbaum invited me to give a talk on dietary considerations to his junior Science classes. My parents keep asking me questions to see if it's really me. I avoid the topic of super-powers around most people as the whole concept seems preposterous.
 
'Geeze, Maurie. How do you do it, mate? Why couldn't I get X-Ray vision?' Gino's not too happy I can speak properly because I ate too many fries. He's tried it. It turns out potatoes don't have an instant, positive effect on eyesight.
 
'Look away, guys,' says Vinh. 'The Blondes are approaching from the servery.'
 
'So Lard-Bum, I hear you can talk proper now. You must have unstuffed your gob.' Gina Klein has landed. The minions giggle in tune.
 
'Yes, Gina, I can talk. Always could. I'd like to thank you for all the motivation you've provided me since primary school. Listening to your incessant negativity spurred me on. I want to be able to express myself without resorting to expletives, puerile intimidation and downright unpleasantness. You've given me a goal.'
 
The boys are gobsmacked. Gina looks confused. 'Yeah. You can talk. Don't know what you said, but it must have been stupid, Whaleboy.' The Blondes swan off uncertain as to what transpired.
 
'That was awesome, dude,' says Patrick. 'Man you talk the talk all right.'
 
***
 
'Maurice, are you losing weight?' My Dad is a blunt man.
 
'Twenty-six  kilograms, Father. Four months and six days, it's taken. After the French Fries folly I realised junk food wasn't helping me one bit, so I've become a vegetarian.'
 
'I thought you were being picky at the barbeque.'
 
'You are what you eat. I prefer to maximise my potential by exercising choice.'
 
'Daddy, tell Maurie to shut up, will you? I don't understand him.' My little sister, Candy, would prefer us to talk about dancing or puppies. I find it hard to set my mind on such trivialities.
 
***
 
Over the past four months the circles of extraordinariness opened up. Brad's introduced me to his friends and I've been invited to parties. Some of the smarter young women from senior year speak to me now. I enjoy the repartee with these more mature types.
 
Holly Manderson talks about social activities with the Drama Club as if she wishes me to join her. Flattering to say the least. I think my declining weight changed people's vision of who I am.
 
This morning, Vinh's asked me to join my friends in the canteen.
 
'Maurie, the guys took a vote. We don't want you to hang around with us anymore.'
 
'You don't what? I didn't know our group was subject to ballot. Since when did we vote who's good enough to mix with us?' I'm angry, but in control.
 
Patrick speaks up. 'Since you got the super-power you've changed. You talk over us as if we're idiots. You mix with those new friends of yours. You've moved on. And you're too skinny.'
 
That was a lot to take in. Skinny. Talk to them like idiots. Can't they be happy for me?
 
'Forgive me, traitors. I've got friends who wouldn't vote me out. I'm out of here.'
 
'Too skinny,' I hear Patrick mumble as I stalk off.
 
***
 
My super-power didn't change the world. It changed me though. I'm confident, slim and semi-popular, but my best mates from Year 1 dumped me because I don't fit anymore.
 
I need a Big Mac Jumbo meal.
 
I walk into Maccas and see the Blondes harassing Gino and the boys.
 
'You losers. Got nothing to say to a real woman without your friend to stick up for you. Wonder what you fat faces would do if a real woman showed you a bit of this.' She leans forward and sticks her burgeoning teen breasts into Patrick's face. She shakes them around and the poor guy goes redder than a McDonald's label.
 
'Real women,' chant the Blondes.
 
'Piss off,' says Patrick.
 
'Can't you find anyone to look at those?' I ask.
 
Gina spins around, her blouse open and revealing her finest. 'What's it to you?' she hisses.
 
'Promiscuous tarts flaunt their mammary glands in public. Why don't you find some Simple Simons  and show them your wares? Leave my friends in peace.'
 
She blushes. 'Why don't you...? OOH! Get lost!' The girls sashay away and disappear into the car park.
 
'That was cool, dude,' declares Patrick. 'You sure got balls these days.'
 
'Want some of my fries?' asks Vinh. 'I promise we won't mention super-powers.'
 
***
 
In hindsight, I now realise 'my gift' did change lives. I became confident for starters. My mates moved on from Maccas to the Vegie Hut. We're all a lot healthier and the girls are even noticing.
 
I no longer think about zones of extraordinariness. I take people as they come; it seems to work pretty well.
 
I do ponder though, what if I hadn't tried to eat sixty-two fries in one mouthful?
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


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