As as firefighter, I tend to work with men, who, you could say, have twisted, sick, morbid, and dark senses of humors–and I, in no way, exclude myself from this. As a result, we tend to fill our down time at work swapping stories of crazy calls, reminiscing about calls that are memorable, and, also, placing bets–dares for a lack of better terms. For me it first started with a chiclet, forgotten, hidden behind a stocked supply shelf in a Burger King store room. This little square, candy-coated piece of gum rested on the dirty, greasy, reddish-brown tiled floor. A piece of rat shit stuck to it, poison pellets were sprinkled all along the floor around it. My lieutenant picked this piece up between his fingers, and holding it up so nonchalantly said “Eat it.” Five dollars later, I snatched that tainted piece of gum so quickly from his fingertips, and popping it in my mouth, sealed my fate as the man who eagerly takes bets.
Over the years, bets became more and more excessive, and so too did the money which exchanged hands. I graduated from a chiclet to an onion. That horrid, disgusting onion. Like bitter poison, I chewed half that white, rotund, bulb, like an apple in fifteen seconds, and then vomited in my mouth. The bile mixed with that acidic vegetable, burned my throat and turned my stomach. The rest of the night I stank, reeking of B.O., as I sat cramped in the back of the ambulance, my poor patients subjected to my stink. I lost that bet, not having eaten the whole onion in forty-five seconds, one of the few bets I left incomplete.
Just so you know, if you eat a magazine, pieces of articles do not come out in your fences–I know that has been plaguing you for years. So, yeah, they spared me the grief of having to eat the glossy cover, but that was the only quarter I received. Each flimsy, thin, ink printed page of the Northern Tool Catalog was slowly ripped out and crinkled up into a little ball. Chewing slowly, it was like the most dense, thick, bubblegum, I had ever masticated, and with a large gulp, it was gone. One hundred and fifty pages later, only the covers remained.
We like to go out as a crew, drink together, commiserate, party hard. The rock music from the local band pounded the walls of the shit bar. Stale beer wafted in the air as our shoes stuck to the floor, each step walking in wet sand, as our soles pulled on the tacky wood. He wiped the wet table with the two napkins and unscrewed the cap on the salt shaker. Wet napkins become paper maché. They became two liquor soaked spitballs. It was like a slag shot in my mouth, all the liquors combined off the tabletop. It was horrendous, but it was nothing compared to the shaker of salt. My tongue was numb for days. Hell, that sixties dollars paid for my drinks that night.
The Worcestershire Sauce was the worst. It makes my stomach turn, to think about it now years later. The pint glass was dark and salty. It tasted horrible, it wasn’t even genuine, it was generic. Salt, garlic, onion, salt, and more salt. Eighty dollars was a steep price, one I could not avoid. The pint of liquid went down easily, but it tasted disgusting nonetheless. The few minutes after, my tastebuds left me. There was nothing left but a stinging in my mouth. My tongue seemed removed from my body, ripped from my mouth, a lifeless paralyzed appendage. This was not the worst part. An instant perspiration enveloped me, and like an open faucet, sweat soaked my clothing. I had never experienced something so erratic. I sweat like I had just run a marathon mid-July. Stripping, I lay on the tile floor of the bathroom, the cold small squares of ceramic cooling my bare skin. I lay in a puddle of my own salty moisture, while my body excreted thousands, upon thousands, of milligrams of sodium, instinctually protecting itself. But, hey, I made eighty bucks.
There were others, many other bets, some never completed due to the recession. There was the Bisquick, the fan, the matchbox car bus, the letter opener, and many others. Oh, yeah can’t forget about the chili peppers, snorting, not eating. No joke–some guys withdrew bets because of monetary hardship. You can’t make this shit up. I made some money over the years, but I guess, in the end, it wasn’t the money, but the stories that were created, and the pleasure I brought to those guys. And, hey, everyone loves a risk taker, right?