My Drug Quiz Show Story

by Michael Barthel


We are in school in summer. It is the summer preliminaries for the Drug Quiz Show. It is time to pick a name for our team--our team of the righteous. Pick a name, Wesley!

"The Sharks."

Wrong! Pick a name, Robert!

"The Saminatornators."

Why this name?

"Sam's team is the Saminators, because as you see, Sam is acknowledged to be the brainiest brain around. But were we to cleverly add an extra -nator, that would negate their -nator, rendering the entirety of their name irrelevant."

No, I say, Robert, this is a good idea, but by referencing the name of the supposed champion, we subordonate ourselves to them. No surrender! That is our motto! And as I have just learned, Angela's team has written "Saminatornators" for their name on the official naming sheet, scooping us.

"Mrs. Stevens! Intellectual property theft is hardly a pardonable offense!"

Ha, my men, arranged before me in a neat row behind this trapizoidal table, you surprise me. But in a bad way. We need not appeal to the rule of law for supremacy! We live by our own rules. Gerald! Pick a name!

"Uh, the Fantastic Four."

Wrong! It is almost high school, and comic books are now lame! I must name us.

Our name will be: the Rebels Without a Clue, for it shows humility, and also it is a reference to Tom Petty, who is a fine musician. Do we not agree?

They shrug and nod. I set my jaw and spring up to scrawl our concoction on the official naming register, only to return once again to our trapizoidal home base, where my boys have opened their packets to the studying state. I am Stryman, and I have taken this ragged band of learners on as my own. It is hard, to lead.

---------------------------------------------------

But to participate in this contest of wits called the Drug Quiz Show--that is good.

To wit: my friend Jessica, who I relate to platonically, was trying to test out of Heath class in order to graduate earlier. The exit test which she had chosen to face was based on the information in a packet yet more immense than the one we had been issued in our Drug Quiz Show battle. Be that as it may, some of her immensely immense packet did deal with the same subject as our smaller immense packets, and so in her studying I was a help with my knowledge of stimulants, depressants, and halucinagens. Jessica! Tell me of methamphetamines!

"Stryman. Methamphetamines also known as 'speed' 'uppers' 'crank' 'cheese' 'poppers' 'blue mothers' 'worsteshire sauce' are stimulants found in powder or pill form that result in increased energy hyperactivity tooth loss and death."

Jessica! Tell me of heroin!

"Stryman. Heroin also known as 'junk' 'skank' 'horse' is a stimulant that causes euphoria arteriol collapse and death."

Jessica tested out like the badass park ranger for truth she is, and will now graduate in a manner befitting her station.

---------------------------------------------------

I am practicing with the Equalitator. The Equalitator is a bow and arrow made from a Bic pen, the kind that is a white plastic tube with "BIC" on it in a little logo in raised black letters, and a rubber band cut in half.

The technique used to make this weapon has been passed down since ancient times from warrior to warrior. A warrior who knows the secret of the Equalitator will see another warrior with a certain look in his or her eyes, a look involving a glint or a cold steely glimmer, and will then invite the uninitiated warrior to have a mug of ale at a tavern where, in a series of almost primal gestures, the knowledge-priviledged warrior will relate the technique for constructing the Equaliator. Myself, I learned it on the bus at camp from an older boy named Dwayne. Dwayne saw himself in the eyes of Stryman.

I will now tell you of this technique, but you must keep it in the strictest confidence.

Take a Bic pen and use your warrior's teeth, bared to their strictest purpose, to remove the flat cap and the extending ink tube, embedded as it is in a plastic tip. Place these on the table beside you. Remove the flat cap from another Bic pen that will not be missed. Cut a wide--and by wide I mean at least a quarter inch!--sturdy rubber band and thread each end into opposite ends of the white plastic tube that was formerly a Bic pen. Replace the caps. It is traditional to use the now-orphaned ink tube as an arrow, balanced nicely as it is at one end, but I eschew the traditional. Also, I do not like having ink tubes explode in my hands.

Today, for instance, I have loaded the Equalitator with heavy steel rods from my Construx construction set. Others may use Lego or Voyetra, but Construx has a simple gray open girder-like wireframe aethetic that makes me feel once again as if I have just eaten the largest pancake ever made. I have discovered that I am not allowed to shoot these heavy metal rods at the furniture anymore, so I am outside. Scream in pain as I pierce you, looseleaf paper! Bow before the Equalitator! Break before Stryman!

Bullseye.

---------------------------------------------------

It is my birthday, and we--by which I mean myself and my two parents--are driving around town, trying to get pulled over by the police. Explain, father!

"Maybe if I let this guy cross...no, he doesn't want to cross..."

I will explain. In our town, the police can pull you over and give you rewards if you are a corteuous driver. This is what we do for fun when the gas prices are low, and also my father is trying to get me free movie passes. Discurse on my birth, mother!

"Oh, it was so hot, but I got a few extra days in the hospital because I could not nurse you quickly enough. In the air conditioning. Oh, I had chili before, I thought it was indigestion, not labor pains! Ha ha ha. We had a birthday party for your grandmother in the hospital. You were so tiny!"

My father in annoyance at a good deed unrewarded knocks the side mirror off a Honda and speeds away. My mother and I argue about whether or not I am white trash.

---------------------------------------------------

The Drug Quiz Show is televised in the later stages, and it is sponsored by a drugstore. The drugstore is named Fay Drugs. It has a yellow logo. Last year Sam's team won. They had a name so lame I cannot commit it to paper. But Sam will not win this year because his supergroup has fractured and graduated; Amanda and Roger have spun off their own teams, and Bryan is in ninth grade now. The politics were intense. This is what comes when you do not develop your team. You must be a leader, like me. That is what competition requires.

But today is just practice. It is still the summer. Get us ready, Robert!

"The lofty moors of yore lie behind us, gentleman; only the harsh, rain-soaked killing fields of today lie ahead. We have nowhere left to turn, and so we must march forward, ever forward, to victory. It follows as the night follows the day."

Snicker at me, Gerald. "Yeah. Besides, we got Stryman. We don't have to do nothin."

Gerald and Wesley laugh. I squint and give them a concise, masculine nod. That's right, boys. Stryman is here.

As the Rebels Without a Clue take their seats across from the Saminators I fire an ink tube to the left of Sam's head with the power of the Equalitator. Sam looks up in shock and I chuckle under my breath. Nerd, I think. Lame nerd.

I take up the Stryman grip on my black plastic box, thumb poised at a thirty-degree angle over the bullet-red button. I am warmed up and I am feeling like a lion tamer, where the lion is the Drug Quiz Show. Yah! Back!

Sam gets two questions, I get three, and Robert, our secret weapon, gets two himself in the first round. The other freeriders on the Saminators get one. Rebels rock. I lean back in my chair during an easy one and let Robert get it. Ah, it's like our steamrolling through the Geography Bee, only to come head-to-head at the end. I need not say who the winner was. Robert picks up the last question in the round and we're up 6-4.

Sam comes out strong on a series of downer questions in the second round and picks up three of the first four. But then I hit my stride, and I get question eight on two words ("This powder"--chances can pay off) to do a clean sweep of 5-8 between me and Robert. I let Sam get the last two because I want to make the final round count. 10-10. I think about Jessica. Talk to me of woodland glades, my ornothologist of love. Kiss me, Jessica! Ha. Not yet.

Round three and it's halucinagens. A subject close to my heart. Five qualities of LSD and I'm in on that buzzer before you even know what's happened like a vigilante for knowledge. "Liquid. Distributed on blotter paper. Stamped with identification. Taken orally. Uh..." I hesitate. Don't worry. Roger doesn't. Gerald sweats. I can smell it. I can smell the fear. Sam smirks like the sad sack he is. The sad, soulless man. Warn me, Mrs. Stevens, referee of this eternal conflict!

"Five seconds, Herman. Five...four...three..." I take the Equalitizer from my pocket and snap the rubber. "Two..."

Originally developed by the CIA for mind control purposes and tested in safe houses on vagrants.

The arbitor of my fate looks doubtful, then peers at her answer key. When she looks up, I know I've won. I knew already. We live in California.

My men are merely relieved, but Robert recognizes the drama and the symbolism, and gives me a hearty handshake. Sam looks sullen. It's going to be a good year.


Back