Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I shot my own turkey.

I shot my own turkey.

In elementary school we played a game called “Turkey.” We were each given a bowling pin to guard and a handful of rubber dodgeballs were placed in strategic locations throughout the gymnasium. Since puberty hadn’t set in, with its relentless pursuit of hormonal cynicism, we were all willing to believe that turkeys, like bowling pins, could be kept safe between one’s legs, and muskets, like dodgeballs, were hidden behind the scooter rack.

The more adventurous students were the first to retrieve the dodgeballs and leave their pins unprotected. They had calculated that as long as they returned before anyone else had obtained a ball, their pins would be safe. Most learned a hard lesson, but a few proved fast enough to outrun their negligence. Left unchecked, this is the confidence that grows up and leaves a dryer running with no one in the house. Even at a tender age, I knew I would never harness that type of self-power.

Next were the students who waited for the balls to be thrown at them. Shifting their weight, straddling their pins, their hands partially extended towards their destiny without overreaching. The balls would come.

And the balls did come. The perfectly balanced stances crumbled into a melee of twisting and grasping. Out of this indignity occasionally there was an opportunity to take aim at the unguarded pin of a reckless player, but more often the newly-composed attacker simply threw fruitlessly at another, equally prepared guardian, continuing the chain of contortion like drunken fans doing “The Wave.” The aggressive players would leave their pins to surprise unsuspecting players in quiet corners of the gym. They went on terrific rampages until someone noticed their weakness, the defenseless pin. Never had skills so transferable to Bocce ball been so instrumental in bringing down tyranny.

I envied the waiters. I was bad at waiting, short on noticing and, frankly, embarrassingly lacking in Bocce ball skills for someone with Italian heritage. I should have been eliminated immediately, but I wasn’t popular enough to warrant the attention. Since I was both unable and unwilling to bring attention to myself with physical prowess, I languished in “Turkey Purgatory,” waiting for the bell to toll.

Then one day I saw a guardian slip and knock over his own pin. What cruel fate to have forgone chasing after balls and whipping changeups at the knees of shrieking classmates, only to fall victim to carelessness. And yet, from this ultimate waste, I saw the key to my own deliverance. No more flop sweating while obsessively scanning in all directions like a deer in a clearing. No more ridiculous flailing like an inflatable display at a car lot. No more trying and failing. I just picked a spot in the corner, waited for the ambience to get a little hectic, then tapped my pin with the heel of my Fila high top.

Sorry little bird. We can walk to the losers’ bench together. Better luck next time.

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read to be read at yeahwrite.meThis is the start of yeah write summer. I'm looking forward to changing my usual posts and expanding my range. I can't boss people around all the time.


30 comments:

  1. That's exactly how I got out of spelling bees; I'd misspell the first word and take my seat. Great strategy.

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    1. Ugh! Spelling bees. Terrible. "Let's all stress out and humiliate each other over something that our computers do for us now."

      I'll pass. It's more fun to watch.

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  2. I hated -- absolutely hated -- gym "games" (read: competitions). And now I can't believe I was so unbelievably *dense* as to not sandbag myself. Where were you to advise me mumblemumble years ago?

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    1. If only we had been in class together! We could have arranged to knock each other out.

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  3. I heart your Turkey and Louise sketch so hard! It is the cherry on top of a hilarious post.

    The subtlety of this little gem killed: "Left unchecked, this is the confidence that grows up and leaves a dryer running with no one in the house. Even at a tender age, I knew I would never harness that type of self-power."

    Great post! Ellen

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    1. Thanks! I was afraid that the post was too subtle and people would think I was seriously baring my soul (jokes on them. I'm a lawyer-to-be and have already sold my soul). Then, I thought, if I start off with a picture of me riding into the sunset with Thelma Turkey, no one is going to mistake this for anything other than what it is.

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  4. Funny! "It's relentless pursuit of hormonal cynicism," I love that. Good story. As Ellen mentions above I also like the dryer line. My significant other thinks I'm a bit over the top as I always turn it off if its running when we leave the house. He rolls his eyes and shakes his head each time. So obviously had we played this "game" when I was in school I would have done exactly that, knocked it over myself. Nicely played, nicely written, Liz.

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    1. Thanks! Oh and the majority of house fires are caused by dryer lint (according to someone who was trying to sell me a vacuum with a dryer lint attachment, but even so, it just seems risky...) I'm not sure what I would do if my dryer burst into flames, but whatever I did would be a whole lot more useful than what I could do if I wasn't home.

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  5. I would have waited. I'm pretty patient. I probably would have been nailed in the face with a ball too because kids are cruel assholes.

    Great post!

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    1. I think that was the point of having us aim for the pin, which moved the target away from our developing frontal lobes...BUT, you are right. Kids are cruel assholes and beaning someone in the face is much more fun for the budding sociopaths.

      Thanks!

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  6. That's fantastic. It's totally how I would have handled the situation. "Oh gee, oops, I'm out, now can I please just go sit down??"

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    1. We are not alone. I'm starting to wonder how many people were doing the same thing...

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  7. I would have been a waiter, too. Mostly because I was an incredible rule-follower and knocking over my own pin would have breached the game etiquette, which I could never do. But I'm not aggressive, so I'd have been a waiter. Fun post!

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    1. This was a pivotal moment in my life because I was a rule-follower as well, but my pride regarding hiding my lack of physical skills overwhelmed my nature urge to obey rules. If we were forced to take gym as adults, I would probably be robbing banks.

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  8. That is so good! Who can't relate to this. Thanks for sharing this fun story!

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  9. I love the writing here. It's so good! I love the word "melee" and you have excellent imagery. I just love it. Fantastic.

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    1. Who doesn't love a good "melee"? Thanks!

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  10. This post gives me shivers! I hated gym class more than anything when I was young. Neither popular nor a total waste of athleticism, I spent most of my time in purgatory too. I've never heard of this game, but I wouldn't be me if I didn't ask -- why didn't you just run? Leave the pin forever? That's probably what I would have done ;)

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    1. Sigh. Long story short: my mom was the principal, so I had to be "good." Would that I had the freedom to misbehave occasionally like a normal kid, but if I had, I probably wouldn't have as much to write about. :)

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  11. So many things to love here. For me one of the best things about being an adult is not having to go to gym class, also not having to suffer the humiliation of not being picked for playground teams, and never having to throw or catch a ball. Wonderful post.

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    1. Thanks! Whenever I wake up in a bad mood, I try to remind myself that no matter what I have to do today, no one is going to make me change into hideous shorts and run around like a fool for 90 minutes. That's enough to make me get out of bed even if I have to spend the day in meetings.

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  12. Loved this! Hilarious and well written. Especially loved the line about "confidence that grows up and leaves a dryer running with no one in the house."

    My strategy in games like that was usually to be first out of the gate and go down in a blaze of attempted glory. Occasionally I got lucky and won. Mostly I lost spectacularly.

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    1. I think you may have learned the right lesson from this game, as your philosophy is probably more applicable to life than mine. No risk, no reward :)

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  13. Nice! I've never heard of this game but it sounds fun to me. I'm not sure what strategy I would have employed. I love games of all sorts and knowing me I would have done my best to win (though like you, was not necessarily physically gifted).

    Good story, enjoyed it!

    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

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    1. I wish I could have thought of it more as a fun game, rather than a trigger for social anxiety. You have the right mentality!

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  14. You know, I think it takes real talent to make a story out of a childhood game. You did a great job! There were many parts that I liked, and you brought back a lot of memories of my own childhood.
    Awesome.

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    1. Thanks! I haven't written about my childhood much, so this was a new experience for me.

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  15. This is phenomenal - Love this line: "Left unchecked, this is the confidence that grows up and leaves a dryer running with no one in the house." But so many other great lines & descriptions. I hated gym with a passion too. I love where the prompt took you!

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    1. Thanks! Apparently leaving the dryer on in an empty house is a source of concern for many people. I had no idea the nerve I would hit.

      I almost failed gym in 8th grade. I had to write an essay on the importance of gym class. It was a masterpiece of half-truths and double entendres, but I passed.

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