The Reason I Will Punch Me A Damn Shark
By: Tyler Duckworth

I was drinking from the toilet when I woke up from the floor. Sometime the night preceding I had slipped myself a Mickey just to see. Webster’s defines a Mickey (or a Mickey Finn, which I didn’t know) as “a drink of liquor to which a powerful narcotic or purgative has been added, given to an unsuspecting person”. I added mine to a Diet Mountain Dew, and I have to admit I saw it coming, so I don’t know if it was technically a Mickey, but anyone who wants to refute me on this one can send submissions and letters of gripe directly to GetALifeAndLetMeTellMyStoryAlready.com.

I keep seeing these commercials on TV featuring alien-gorgeous women in slinky sex getups, and every time it enters my head that none of these women are sleeping with me. Which is bad. There’s something so unutterably wrong with this picture that, in order to cope, I continually find myself swallowing self-inflicted pseudo-Mickeys to make the pain go away. Are we all caught up now? Good, moving on.

I met a Latvian when I was seventeen, and in case you’re wondering, that has absolutely nothing to do with the story I’m about to impart. The color of my hair, the color of my eyes, the color of my skin. These things too are unimportant, so don’t bother to ask. What is important, pertinent if you will, is the very nature of a man named Leon Bombaway. As you might well imagine, it’s ridicu-fun to sing “In the Jungle” around this man. As for myself, I have a technical condition, which is known in medical circles as—and pay real close attention to this next part—being crazy. It’s nothing huge, just your standard fear of rejection, storing dirt clods for food during the winter, and wetting myself to show others I love them. Besides that, though, I’m the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet so long as your children weren’t around for me to give them nightmares, but I try not to do that anymore. Not after the Incident. Not after the terrible tragedy of ...

Sorry, I digress. You don’t want to hear about that. Really, it’s part of my ADD. You know, some people don’t believe Attention Deficit Disorder is real, but if there’s one thing I can tell you, my uncle said, “it’s that you should never take an open septic tank as an invite to go swimming, even if it is cold outside and the tank is the only warm place.” Yellow.

I met Leon Bombaway under the bleachers at a high school football game. And before you get the wrong idea, no, it wasn’t that kind of meeting. We were there for sex.

There was a woman known only as Mary So’Hairy, and as it turned out, we were both waiting on her. She double-booked, and probably that’s why she never showed, but after three hours of waiting (and listen, buddy, you’re pathetic, so don’t judge me), we finally began to bond. Leon thought I was a hobo, and when he offered to buy me a cup of coffee, I didn’t bother to tell him otherwise (because yes, I am saying I’m that cheap). Also, I’m a hobo. So we went for coffee, and that’s when he hooked me.

“I’d like to test chemical substances on you,” he said.

That’s all it took, really. “You mean, like, drugs?” I asked eagerly.

“No.” Straight to the point. “Like shampoo and mouthwash and things like that.”

“Oh, that’s good. Because if it had been drugs, I would’ve had to say no. You believe that, right?”

“No. Does that mean yes to the rest of it?” he asked.

“It all depends,” I told him in my shrewdest tone. “What’s in it for me?”

“Well, you’d get paid. Fifty dollars per product we test on you, at up to three products a week.”

“And?”

“That’s pretty much it.”

He didn’t sound so sure of himself, so I thought I would press it a bit more.

“Will I be receiving calls from Barbara Walters?”

He just looked at me then. I can see his face as clearly now as I can still see the snake that bit me in the penis when I was eleven years old. Leon didn’t look any happier than the snake, but much happier than my wang-a-rooney, I must say.

“I don’t think so,” he said. Then he crossed his fingers and held up both hands to show me as he said, “But there’s always hope.”

“That’s right,” I said. “There is always hope. So I will take that as a yes.” For the record, I have not, as yet, heard from Ms. Walters, but it’s only been six years since then, so it’s still too early to know anything yet. “Furthermore,” I queried, “will I be receiving a Cadillac Escalade for my efforts? And if so, will I then be rolling on dubs, or shall I require additional funds to purchase said bad boys myself. Also, assuming that is the case, is there a stipend in contractum for the express purpose of acquiring any amenities deemed substantive for my position, and if so, do the aforementioned dubs fall under the aforementioned substantive amenities clause in my contract?”

I was looked at again. I was pondered. I was almost dissected were it not for my policy of conventional ground rules on first dates, which I supposed this may as well have qualified as, what with the way Leon kept undressing me with his eyes, the bastard.

Finally, though, Mr. Bombaway, as I would later come to know him, answered with, “I’m gonna say no ... to, I think, all of that. I’m also gonna point out that in contractum is not a real phrase and that, well, it doesn’t impress me when you don’t know Latin but can pretend to. And ... yes, I am going to close with your contract, which, frankly, doesn’t exist. If you choose to work for us, all monies will be dispensed under the table—”

“DEAL!”

Never tell people on welfare you’re going to pay them under the table. It makes us get really loud with pleasure. Not like sex; but not unlike sex also.

From that day forward, I was a slave to work. There was a rule about how I could only test so many products a week because it would bias the results if there wasn’t at least some time to check for conclusive evidence. If, after a day or two, I wasn’t festering with boils or combing the hair directly off my head—and boy, were those rare days—the products were then shipped to the legal testers (the guys who got paid above the table and who were, therefore, allowed to get their hospital bills paid for out of company funds).

In the first month I worked with Mr. Bombaway, my nose bled daily, my saliva dried up, and my eyebrows curiously turned green. I never told anybody this before, but that last one I did myself just to scare off the other rival product testers so I could sink my teeth into a bigger share of the market. When other companies saw how willing I was to put my body through literally anything, they began hiring me on my days off to test chemicals for them. That’s how I broke the rule about not biasing results. It wasn’t too long before I was the richest man to ever live inside a drain culvert. Bob Bredan, the one-eyed oregano junkie who lived in the other end of my pipe, was always crawling over to my side and biting me in the ass to make me think he was a rat so I would run away and leave my sockful of Ulysses S. Grants for him to take. One time, a rat really did bite me, and I was so convinced that it was Bob, I just laid there and let him nibble away. I got a disease that night, and the doctors at the free clinic still haven’t been able to determine what. But at least it’s not the clap.

After I’d been at work a while longer, I asked for a raise, and they told me I could eat their leftovers after lunch. I was offended, naturally, but I accepted without complaint and went back to work with spinach and straw wrappers in my teeth. That very day, I developed a wart-like protrusion on the inside of my throat, and it swelled up to the point that I had to stick a fork down my windpipe on a weekly basis if I wanted to breathe.

Leon, for his part, saw this as the last straw, and he invited me to stay at his house for a while and sleep in an actual bed. I tried. Really, I tried, but in the end, it didn’t take, and it was only a matter of hours before I found myself sleeping in a sideways trashcan in the crawlspace of Leon’s attic. It just felt more like home.

For about six weeks, I stayed in Leon’s house. He fed me and clothed me and luffaed my toes because it scares me to bend below the knees where those damned a-whoring goblins control all the inflation rates. All in all, it was certainly an experience, not unlike visiting the French Riviera or the World’s Largest Ball of Tuberculosis, I imagine.

Of course, we had our off days as well, when Leon would come home from the office and find me lancing my carbuncles with his turkey baster, or like the day when he woke up and I was standing over him with a knife and calling him “Rafiki, you lecher, don’t throw the Lion Prince off that cliff just because it’s what Michael Jackson would do!!!” But, aside from a few minor setbacks, I’m convinced Leon let me stay because he genuinely liked me and not just because his priest told him he’d go to Hell if he didn’t feed the hungry and clothe the naked in ways besides his usual fifty-bucks-for-drinking-substances-known-to-be-largely-sulfuric-acid-based routine.

I guess, really, that’s what made it so hard to leave when the time came. It was a little easier because I snuck away in the night, and it was a little easier than that because I tied Leon to his girlfriend while they were sleeping so I could be sure they wouldn’t follow me. But in a lot of ways I wanted to be Leon Bombaway, and no amount of getting to touch his girlfriend’s naked eleventh vertebra was going to make it easy-easy to walk out of my friend’s life.

I wrote him a farewell note (on his ceiling, so it would be the first thing he saw when he woke up, which I figured he’d appreciate) that went something like this:

    Leon,
      You are my hero. Sometimes while you were away at work, I would put on your gloves and walk around town hoping people would mistake me for you. One time, I think it worked, but the man who asked me had no tongue, so I can’t be entirely sure that’s what he was saying.
      What I’m getting at is that I mourn more bitterly for the loss of your warm company than I did for my own poor putty-tat Greta von Struebenheimerface XIV when she died in my arms from a self-inflicted overdose of catnip (to which she had a severe allergy, a rather ironic allergy for a cat when you think about it). But in many ways, the two events are similar. Her last words to me were the same words I feel it necessary to make my last words to you: “Stop anthropomorphizing me, stupid.”
                                                                                              Me

I told you in the beginning this was a story about the nature of Leon Bombaway, and I meant that. He was good enough to loan me a bed and food and all the luffaing I mentioned earlier. I want you to know, however, that I repaid him every bit of what he gave me. The bed was mostly unslept-in, the luffa left behind, and I didn’t flush one time in the entire six weeks I stayed there, so all my food got left behind.

Yes, he was good to me, but at times I felt he was too good. I’m sure he intended the best, but you saw how uncomfortable I was in the soft sheets, and it was the same for the house in general. Sure, it’s warm and dry, but where’s the sense of adventure? Where’s the sense that you’re the troll under the bridge in “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”? Call it arrogant bastardy, but I liked my little hole under the street. And I enjoyed evicting Bob from my side of the culvert (the good side) by tossing a bag of cilantro out into the ditch where I knew he’d go for it, thinking it was oregano, even more than I have words to express.

So what can I say? What is it that I have in my life that the rest of the world has never been able to fully provide me?

I guess it’s the small things. There are simple pleasures that “sane” people will never be able to enjoy, you know, but if making out with that giraffe just to see if black tongues taste any different is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

It’s the courage of a man like Leon Bombaway, who has to go through life with these questions unanswered, that gives me strength. That, and he wears the kind of tighty European underwear you have to shave your ass to fit into—awesome.

And that is precisely why I no longer have any fear of living my life to the fullest. That’s why I’d love to write an opera in Farsi. That’s why I dream of untying my shoelaces and riding on escalators. That’s maybe why I touch myself whenever I’ve just recently farted, but I know it’s the reason I will punch me a damn shark.

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