ROY WASN’T A BIG GUY. That was the mystery of it. How could something so big come out of a 145 pound guy with a black crew-cut and skinny bird-like hands? Sure, in the duration of his thirty-four years, he’d looked into the stool from time to time, thinking, “Hey? that’s really big,” but he never thought it could take him anywhere. He’d grown to accept his mediocrity, his failures. I mean, after the divorce, being fired from dry-walling and the dishonorable discharge from the army for insubordination, he understood he was the guy that worked the telemarketing job, the one that wanted to leave the mobile homes but would die in them like his father had, regardless.
Until his friend sent him an email. It had a link to a listing of websites of the world’s strangest competitions and there were thousands. How could that be, right? Thousands. But there were the kind-of weird ones: grape-eating, professional videogame playing, and the sadistic ones: finger-cutting, lifting stuff with parts of your body, and the supernatural ones: mind reading, vampire dueling. Towards the bottom, something caught Roy’s eye: 14th Annual International Stooley Tournament. It was hard for Roy to believe at first: an international competition with prize money in the hundreds of thousands where the winner only had to have a stool outweighing all others? Roy’s first thought was there was finally and definitely much too many people on this world. His second thought was maybe . . . just maybe. He found an eight-hundred number at the bottom of the Stooley webpage and dialed.
A grizzled old-hag answered. “Hello, International Stooley Registration.”
“Yah . . . in the competition, you just measure how big they is?”
“We measure the competitor’s stool-weight in ounces. Heftiest wins. It’s that simple buck-o.”
“I makes ‘em big.”
“How big?” she inquired, dubiously.
“You’ll see.” And he hung up the phone right there, merely providing the courtesy of letting them know he was coming.
The single elimination tournament was a grueling fourteen-day undertaking. Each day an Offering was made to the twenty-person judging panel and the ranks of the original four-hundred competitors were thinned considerably. The amount of people that came to see the competition seemed a little strange at first. But people had always worshiped each other for strange reasons, reasons that got stranger all the time. Reality TV celebrities by the dozens, vapid runway models, heiresses and socialites: they all had the ear of the press and the public.
It was all a little intense for most, but not Roy. He’d always eaten as much as he could. Food hated him, refused to stay with him, like oil and water. But he loved food and it was all free. He first met Dr. Vickers in the contestant’s cafeteria. The Doctor sat by himself as usual.
“Anyone sitting here, mister?” Roy asked.
“Clearly there isn’t. And it’s doctor.”
Roy sat. “What you a doctor in?”
The doctor stopped worrying and masticating a barbeque chicken leg and slapped his hand to a thin aluminum box about the size of a TV remote with buttons. He eyed Roy suspiciously, “Quantum Mechanics. You won’t steal my invention!”
“What’s a Quantum for?”
“Oh, you know. Possibilities. Maybe an electron’s here, maybe it’s over there. Maybe your brain is normal and healthy like the rest of us or maybe, perhaps my boy, it’s full of marmalade, about to burst, owing to the pressure.”
“Hey, jerk. I just wanted to talk to you. Ain’t my fault you some freak that sits by hisself every damn day.”
“You won’t defeat me, boy. I’ve watched you advancing through the rounds, watched you like a spider that spins his web and waits. I’ve won the Stooley seven years in a row. And you won’t stand between my rightful place in history. You haven’t the stomach nor the girth. It’s a sport of kings, you see, and I’m sorry.”
* * * *
In the finals Roy was pitted against Dr. Vickers. Both competitors were assigned opposing blue stalls within the amphitheater. Dr. Vickers had emerged a half-hour earlier, weighing in at a confident 565 ounces—a world record. He relaxed in the waiting room, getting a neck massage, posturing, chatting-up reporters. But his eyes flicked occasionally to the TV screen with its image of Roy’s sweat-beaded forehead and that look in his eyes like Roy was going somewhere—somewhere—yes—perhaps never returning.
But Roy emerged from the booth two hours later, pale and disheveled. Vickers pushed his huge bulk through loiterers and spectators back toward the stage. Cameras zoomed in on Roy’s floating birth, projecting it to the huge panoramic grid of screens for the capacity crowd’s eager inspection.
“We’re getting the weight,” the announcer said. “Hold on. It’s coming. 569. 569!”
The crowd cheered. Vickers stopped and hung his head.
“We have ourselves a new International Champion!” the announcer said.
“Hold on,” another announcer said. “Zoom in on it. Zoom in, damnit. Zoom! There. There! It’s—it’s Abe-Lincoln. You see. That top hat. That chin, the eyes. The eyes, man! My God! It’s him . . . It’s him.”
That alone wouldn’t have been enough. No. There was a predestined culmination. Roy stood, tired, swaying, head swimming, he said into his microphone, scanning the oceanic crowd of hushed faces, with such deadpan, such poise, “For score—seven plops ago.” The crowd blazed laughter. And a new star blazed there on that stage. The commissioner rushed the stage and extended with straining arms the Stooley to him. Both men raised the platinum sculpture of a man perched atop a toilet with sculpted chin resting in a tiny hand’s palm—a look of stoic grace in the statue’s chiseled silver features.
Roy knew then he had something. Not a gift or calling but a talent. And it was more than he’d ever asked. No one could take his talent from him. But that didn’t stop some scientists from trying. They claimed the 569 ouncer was impossible for a man his size. They said he had to of brought matter with him into the stall, kept it warm in a tube strapped to his leg—long-legging they called it. These allegations were, of course . . . bullshit.
The public adored him. He didn’t train, he didn’t strive or yearn. He wasn’t in-shape or intelligent or passionate. But he was exceptional. The fact couldn’t be contested. He was pure and he was simple. He dropped his pants and did what he was born to do. It was abundantly clear for the first time in history that absolutely anybody could have it all and for no apparent reason. Kids looked up to Roy. Standardized test scores dropped. Parents encouraged their kids to eat like Roy. Graduation rates faltered.
And the endorsements rolled in for Roy. But Roy refused to change his diet, to eat what the science of the sport prescribed. With the fiber-switching and the starches, the purge/binge cycles. He let the companies of the foods he already ate sponsor him. With checks rolling in he could afford to move out of the mobile homes. But he’d grown comfortable. So he bought-out all the residents and had the modules connected in a chain. A coiling chain that from aerial view some said looked just like, well, you know.
Dr. Vickers dropped out of the competitor’s circuit after his defeat and Roy won the Stooley year-after-year. So much so that some wondered if he should even bother to let the platinum statue leave his palace of coiling mobile units.
Roy worked his way into the mainstream of pop culture a little at a time. Television discussion panels invited him on for the simple comedic juxtaposition of him sitting amidst veteran journalists and political pundits. While discussing the nuclear proliferation of second-world countries within the context of an unregulated information age, Roy chimed in, “Reckon if President just close his eyes and sticks to his business, everything comes out fine.” The tone of discussion never recovered. The show was cancelled to make room for one about torturing friends for money.
Roy looked back over his seven-year career and realized he had amassed considerable wealth. He had sufficient funds so that he could sail himself, his entourage and his band of well-wishers comfortably through retirement. This would be his final International Stooley Tournament. Win or lose he would pass the Stooley on to the next generation of feasting competitors. In the weeks prior to the competition, he went about his business fairly calmly, confident in his decision, when the telephone rang.
“Hello,” Roy said.
“I made one bigger than you this morning.”
Roy cringed. “Who is this?”
“I made one bigger than you this morning, as I have every morning. You fool, did you think the spider had stopped spinning his web.” The phone clicked. Roy thought to check his caller ID, but he knew who it was. Dr. Vickers had come out of retirement for one last fight.
Roy paid a member of his entourage to pose as a journalist. The false journalist hid among a cluster of reporters waiting outside the amphitheatre during the commencement ceremony. When Dr. Vickers arrived in his limousine and walked up the red carpet, this spy pushed past the others to ask, “Dr. Vickers! Dr. Vickers! Is it true you came out of retirement for the soul purpose of exacting revenge on Roy?”
Vickers brushed his way through the bustling reporters undaunted.
“My dear lad, I don’t get caught up in the politics. I came here to poop.”
The spy reported back to Roy. Roy glanced up in a daze before hurling his champagne flute against the wall and pulling his ruby embroidered bathrobe close. “Damnit!”
The pedicurist looked down.
“That Doctor’s up to something! He never believed it were real. He never believed in Honest-Abe.” He rubbed his hands over his temples, “I—I just can’t think.” Well-wishers encircled with back-patting and flattery.
But at the competition, the Doctor was eliminated in the third round. Still Roy was not appeased. He had his people try to follow Vickers but it was as if he had vanished.
Roy advanced through the tournament as expected—virtually uncontested. In the finals he sat in his stall beside an Italian opponent of greatly inferior skill.
“Well,” the announcer began, “Do you think we’ll see another Honest-Abe out of Roy tonight.”
“No. I fear we’ll never witness sportsmanship of that caliber again. You know . . . wait a second. What’s happening with Roy?”
“That’s the look. He gets it right before he wins each Stooley.”
“No. It’s something else.”
A woman in the crowd stood and screamed, “He’s dying!”
Roy’s face twitched. He groaned and slumped over before the final plop. A plop echoing over loudspeakers through the silent amphitheater that faded to the sound of Dr. Vickers as he clapped slowly, walking up the empty center aisle. Vickers reached the stage and snatched an idle hand microphone. “Good evening,” he addressed the mute crowd. “I say again, good evening. Has it been so long, my friends, that you don’t recognize your own, Dr. Vickers? Very well, your beloved Roy has died of aneurism. A failing common to the profession. We can add a lack of staying power to his list of crimes, the greatest of which being the forgery of his talents. Roy never birthed Honest-Abe. This is a matter of fact. And this other remaining competitor isn’t a shadow of what I was in my prime.” He scanned over the crowd.
The sound rose up slowly from somewhere in the nosebleed seats, like a soft thrumming, “Roy. Roy. Roy,” growing—reaching its way to the stage.
“And yet you loved him. Despite his false prowess. You stupid, stupid lemmings. No man that size could make something like that.”
“ROY! ROY! ROY! ROY!”
Security guards in gray shirts encircled the stage, encroaching on the doctor.
“Ah, but wait!” the doctor’s eyes flashed bravado, “Wait and see what, with your blessing, I propose.” The doctor stepped toward the center table where the platinum statue rested. His eyes grew. “Simply give me back my prize. And all—all is forgiven.” Guards rushed him, restrained him as his open hands strained toward the stoic face of the gleaming man atop his stool.
“ROY! ROY! ROY!” The crowd stood, pumping arms to the ceiling.
The doctor lurched forward and a guard strangled around his thigh. “Roy, you . . . you long-legging, imposter-ing son-of-a-bitch.”
An elderly woman in the front rows jeered him. He retorted, “You wouldn’t know talent if it sat on your own stool!”