It rained that day, as Eddy walked home from school, where he’d suffered yet another embarrassing defeat by his own hands. Upset, Eddy was consumed, fixated in his thoughts, dwelling on the spectacle of a failed performance from just two hours prior. The agony of that moment still so fresh in his mind it showed in pink on his face. In front of the entire student commons — an audience which composed of nearly two-hundred unforgiving witnesses — all of whom were Eddy’s fellow students — it was there, in front of those students, Eddy had attempted to drink an entire Gatorade bottle filled to its brim with hot sauce. As one might imagine, his pursuit of this feat would not be fulfilled.
The rain began falling harder. Cars raced by him on the busy road. A truck drove past him, splashing him with muddy water. He cursed at the truck’s direction, and moved himself farther from the street — off the sidewalks and onto the lawns. There, he continued walking home. He still had a long ways to go. Shortly, it stopped raining. Eddy felt a bit relieved by this. He considered it a good sign. He looked at the sky and he nodded. When Eddy finally reached his neighborhood, he encountered a fallen tree branch, near the edge of a lawn. He picked it up and used it, as his walking stick. Approaching Eddy from behind was a car of four seniors from Eddy’s high school. Eddy was only a sophomore, but he knew all four, from his gym class. When the car reached Eddy it stopped next to him and put into park. Eddy turned and faced the seniors. They looked at him in silence, all of them smiling. Eddy thoughts became they’d maybe offer him a ride home — a smile began to hint itself, slighting in the corner of Eddy’s dimple.
“Nice stick, Gandhi,” yelled one of the seniors. Eddy thrusted his head back, utterly shocked; he looked down at his stick, then back at the seniors. The four of them were all laughing hysterically. The driver then slammed his foot on the gas and the car sped off. Eddy looked down again at his stick, then back out in the distance, at the increasingly decreasing object. The seniors were already out of sight.
“Gandhi?” Eddy exclaimed, “The fuck is that even supposed to mean,” he said, asking no one. Eddy felt even worse than he did while in the rain. He’d used to think the four seniors had liked him, but he guessed now he was wrong to have thought this. He looked down at his stick again. He dropped it to ground. He continued walking home. Eddy just could not catch a break that day.
It all started about two weeks earlier. Since then Eddy had been chugging hot sauce in the commons — somewhat regularly — for the past couple of weeks, and until this fateful day, Eddy had somehow always managed it with astonishing vigor. Rumor would soon have it that Eddy possessed a super-human stomach — just like the famous competitive eater, Kobayashi, said many of the students. When he was asked about this, Eddy didn’t necessarily say it was true but, he never really denied it either — he’d just say, “Maybe,” and leave it at that. But I’d bet, though, that Eddy had wanted to tell them yes.
Eddy was my best friend. And soon he was becoming kind of a lot like a freak show. I wasn’t ever embarrassed by this — far from it was I ever embarrassed — but I truly was a bit concerned for him. Not at first I wasn’t, but soon after I was. When it was just a thing that he did — like, the first time that he ever did it — I simply was far too astounded then to be anything but impressed. But when it became a thing that he’d do — when it became more than a habit — that’s when I got concerned. I had a very strong feeling it was going to backfire on him, that he’d come to eventually regret it immensely. And I’d forewarned of this, too. But Eddy, though, just brushed me off. He said I was just jealous. So I literally laughed in face, and never mentioned it again.
Naturally, people would crowd around Eddy to watch him chug hot sauce. It was very much the sort of thing a dictionary might define as rubbernecking. Eddy wasn’t a freak to do this; just unthinkably bold. The first time that Eddy chugged, he had took down nothing more than just a few fluid ounces of hot sauce — which, relatively speaking, is of course a pretty great amount of hot sauce for someone to — of all things drink — but still, four or five fluid ounces, I feel, is manageable — I’d bet most would be able to drink this much, if they must, that is, which makes for the key difference between Eddy and anyone else: no one ever had put a gun to Eddy’s head and said, “You better drink down this hot sauce” — Eddy would just drink the hot sauce all on his own. It was a styrofoam soup cup — half full — the first time when he drank the sauce. It was during lunch, down in the commons. At the lunch table where Eddy and I would sit, guys there would sometimes play with their food. Like little kids do, I guess. But, so, all the same, when Eddy had sat there one day with a soup cup half full of hot sauce, none of us really thought too much about it. It was nothing to bat an eye at. One of the guys, though, dared Eddy to drink it. I have to admit, I myself had then said, “Yeah, do it.” To the astonishment of us all, Eddy did it. Without any hesitation. He just downed it. Like a shot of whisky. He even made a face, just like whiskey. He’d shot it down clean, too. Every last drop. All down in one big gulp. He even dared to force up a burp, afterwards, just to make a point. We howled. The response from us watching him was nothing short of pure delight.
I could see then on Eddy’s face, that he was beyond proud of himself. Eddy had rose to the occasion — he lived the moment for every inch of its worth. Before anyone, including myself, could even see this coming, he then raised his own stakes. He refilled his soup cup — full to its brim this time — then made a quick announcement of it, to ensure we’d all see it, and dumped it down his throat. It was really remarkable. He tilted his head, opened wide and straight dumped it down his throat. We roared. One of us even clapped. I’ll admit it was cool. Eddy played this move off pretty cool. He showed the form of only a professional — he was a natural.
From thereon out, Eddy’s hot sauce dares would become the one single thing in our school that everyone needed watching. He was just so daring with it. He always pushed the limit. Very creative, too. Always finding new ways to shock us all. No one could turn an eye. It was too much to ignore. Soon, even the teachers and staff were watching — “attending events,” as I’d say of it. The mere sight of Eddy’s needless bravery was just far too enthralling for anyone to ever step between it.
In short time Eddy would graduate from soup cups to soup bowls — the spectacle of which was known by all as the “Super Bowl”. Eddy had earned MVP honors in that “Super Bowl.” But as they say, though, nothing lasts forever — even when you are in high school it doesn’t. The very next week, following his semi-legendary big win, Eddy declared his pursuit of the feat which ultimately would end him: the Gatorade bottle.
Most had thought Eddy would be able conquer it, though a few of us were practical enough to question this; after all, the feat would require that Eddy drink nearly two full bottles of hot sauce. That’s an absurd amount of hot sauce. This was a really, really big deal. In the morning on the day — the day of the big day — people were gathering around Eddy, hours before it even started. He’d become really sort of like a celebrity.
When lunch finally came around, as Eddy was preparing the bottle, attendance numbers had reached an all time high. A few of my friends had even skipped their classes that period just to be there — while less ballsy (or, less interested) friends of mine “went to the bathroom.” It felt like everyone I knew was there in the commons. Some of us were disgusted just from watching Eddy filling the bottle. More than a few students and, possibly even a staff member, too, had engaged in chanting Eddy’s name. Super Bowl MVP Eddy was at the pinnacle of his fame. And man did he love it. I really was happy for him.
And then he started chugging. He started off strong, but once he had gotten one-quarter of the way through it he was visibly struggling. Reality had finally set itself in. Eddy, it seemed, really was human after all. His eyes had turned red in pain. It seemed then it was only a matter of time. But Eddy, though, was a fighter. If there was anyone to endure such needlessly self-inflicted pain, then it might as well have been Eddy. But fight as he did, he couldn’t kill the bottle past half. The bottle fell from his grip. Staining his shirt and pants red with sauce on its way crashing to the floor. Worse yet is that no one had seemed at all disappointed to see Eddy fail. Everyone was laughing at him. Reality was sinking through Eddy’s soul like an anvil through paper. Then Eddy started puking — with the cumulative might of all his prior efforts combined, it seemed. It was a very powerful puke. In no time at all the laughs turned to jeers. As quick as a light switch. Eddy’s fans’ needed from him very little to ever provoke their reactions, and in these moments it was showing. Fortunately for Eddy, a trashcan was somewhat nearby him. He did manage to expel most of it into the can, but that’s only because he puked a lot of puke. There was quite the thick trail of red to be found between the can and where he’d started. When all was said and done, Super Bowl MVP Eddy retired defeated.