Bandana looks at Tooth. “Why is he even telling us this?” Then to me. “Are you just here for some free all-around therapy or something? What does being a hypochondriac have to do with being competitive?”
I stare at the faces around me. They seem united behind Bandana’s dubiousness, or at least as united as a group of detached, silent men can seem. I am not daunted.
“First of all, I would think you guys have been here long enough to have figured out that everything you do is related, in some way, to your competitive fire,” I say.
“Even your interruption, for example, feels to me like a questioning of my manhood, which in and of itself is a form of competitiveness. Second of all, my being a hypochondriac is a function of my wanting to be healthy, which is a function of my wanting to be healthier – better – than everyone else.”
Bandana waves a dismissive hand at me. “Bah, you’re just afraid of death.”
I point an ah-ha! finger in the air, “Right! And death is the great equalizer,” I say, scanning the group with disdain. “I don’t want to be equal to any of you.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Bandana says.
“Just as I would expect it to be,” I say.
Tooth extends his open hands. “This is all very interesting,” he says. “But I think we’re getting a little too high-concept.”
Stache chimes in. “How would you know?” he says. “You’re not a licensed therapist. You’re just like the rest of us.”
For a moment, Tooth wears that concerned expression ship captains in the movies make when they realize their crew is on the verge of mutiny. It doesn’t last long. His gaze aims at me.
“How tall is that doctor of yours?” he says.
I cross my arms over my chest. Everyone in the group is looking at each other, trying to figure out if anyone else knows what’s going on.
“Come on, how tall?” Tooth repeats.
“Why would I know how tall my doctor is?” I say.
“Humor me,” Tooth says. “Take a guess.”
“Six-five,” I say.
Tooth nods slowly. “So…did he agree?” Tooth says.
I keep it stone-faced. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say.
“Of course you do,” Tooth says. “My plumber is six-six. A few years ago, I stuffed a T-shirt into my toilet to get him to come over so I could ask him to anchor my volleyball team.”
I stuff my hands into my pockets. I figure the fabric will absorb the sweat.
“So…?” Tooth says. “Did he agree?”
The room is so silent, the silence almost has a sound to it. All eyes are on me, waiting. My forehead is burning like when I eat the spicy chicken for lunch at work.
The judgmental faces are too much. I break.
“I don’t have any tall friends! Going into a three-on-three basketball tournament with a bunch of shrimps is suicide! I already saw what a disaster it was with my kid’s team!”
The bodies around me unclench. The men look with collective admiration at Tooth. The captain has regained the confidence of his crew.
Tooth looks at the instigator of the uprising, Stache. “Sometimes, it’s not complicated,” he says, then looks to me. “Suicide,” he says. “Life and death. That’s how you just defined winning and losing.”
I fold my hands and look down at the floor.
Because that’s what guys do when they’ve been deconstructed.
Links: Travelling: Intro / Book JacketChapter 1: CribbagegateChapter 2: Two e-mailsChapter 3: PatternChapter 4: Shattered
, Chapter 5: Hilarious PeeChapter 6: SuicideChapter 7/8: Coaching High school, Shark attacks and appetizers
Labels: chapter 6, Evil Ted, traveling