Sunday, February 11, 2018

The World’s Stupidest Contest

I have always been a competitive sort, so, a number of years ago, my wife and I began competing to see who could find the most change on the ground each time we went out. That led to a few embarrassing moments, like when I reached between a lady’s feet at the grocery store to retrieve a fallen dime … and she scowled at me, maybe even sneered. Nevertheless, we persisted because it was fun, and we met a number of interesting people along the way who laughed with us as we competed in the open chasing pennies. One time my sister even walked ahead of us pitching out change just to watch us scramble for it. We didn’t know she was setting us up, but we figured it out soon enough. She got a good laugh in the interim. There was also the time at an intersection when I spied a bunch of change on the road. I jumped out to get it and my wife’s teenage boys sunk down in the back seat so as not to be seen. We also found a large cash of about 100 pennies and nickels just outside a bar in Canada, and provided a good laugh for the people inside as we competed for the change. The whole game might seem trivial to someone watching from the outside, but we enjoyed it. It was one of those stupid things that couples do just for the heck of it.

Later we met some very good friends who also got into the game. We decided we would see which couple, them or us, could find the most money on the ground over a one-year period. Wishing wells and public venues where people throw money were specifically excluded. The challenge was on. At first, I did not tell them my secret weapon – a yardstick. About six months into the game, however, we were so far ahead that I did reveal my secret. You see, a yardstick is ideal for scraping lost change from beneath vending machines. The most change I ever found under a vending machine was at a Dallas bus stop. I scored $12.43 under that single machine. In any case, the four of us competed all year long, and my wife and I eventually won with a little over $150 in found money over that year. Most was in change. Only a few bills were found.
Our friends sent us an e-mail last week claiming we should still be playing the game because they had found $41 in the Target parking lot. That’s more than we ever found at one time, although we did find a $20 bill once, as well as a $10 and a $5 on different occasions. It’s actually quite common to find $1 bills, or at least it was before the great recession. We have come to realize the health of the economy can be assessed by the amount of change on the ground. There has been an eight year dry spell, but the change is coming back now. Maybe it’s time to compete again.

And speaking of competition, there is always rivalry aplenty in the Miss Havana series. Here’s an excerpt from The Training Bra to show the competition between the devil and his daughter, Lilith. At this point in the story, Lilith has taken control of hell, having overcome both her mother, Miss Havana, and the devil, her father. The devil is grimacing; his thoughts reek:
My daughter sucks. Her weirdwolves suck. My station in death sucks. Everything sucks. I grit my teeth and sit in rigid fear of retribution as the stinking weirdwolf pinches off the last log of its insult on the back of my neck and the warm runny part drips down my spine. The indignity of it all pisses me off. The only sharp thing I have is my wit, or I’d teach the damn thing to growl like a soprano. One quick cut. That’s all it’d take. For the death of me, I don’t understand how a creature that eats only junk food can produce such a huge dump.
I glare at the back of Lilith’s lofty throne, wishing once again I had never lusted after the evil she-devil, Miss Havana. If not for that bitch, I would be sitting on that throne meting out judgments as I had for eternity.
My lust might have been blind, but my daughter has been a real eye-opener. The longer I sit here the less impressed I am with her. Lilith considers herself the underworld’s gift to judgment, but I’ve sent many victims to their ultimate horror with far more flair and greater accolades from the gallery. She reads the files of the accused before pronouncing judgment, and it all comes out the same: “Bla, bla, bla.” Her judgments are like anger without enthusiasm, like reaching a conclusion by getting tired of thinking. I also can’t imagine why she gives any victim the opportunity to respond. The demons screw with the files so much the information in them is of little value, and nothing the judged might utter will alter the outcome one whit.

So much for the world’s stupidest contest.

Thanks for reading,

James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

Your competition sounds like fun, James. I do hope you continue the Miss Havana series. Great books.

James L. Hatch said...

Thanks, Tina. I have another Miss Havana book in planning, called "Sisters." I just need to finish my current book first (the one that follows "Aftermath Horizon"). I also need a break from fighting the insurance company over the damage to our townhouse in Bellaire, TX, following Hurricane Harvey. Never a dull moment.