This is him. This is how he goes, the captain of the Red Team. He’s all, “Listen up.” He’s desperate because they’re still choosing sides. Because all the good picks are already taken, the captain says, “We’ll make you a deal.” He folds his arms across his chest, and the captain of the Red Team yells, “We’ll take the fag, the four-eyes and the spic—if you’ll take Cannibal.” Because phys ed is almost over, the Blue Team confers, squeaking the toes of their court shoes against the gym floor. Their captain yells back, “We’ll take the fag and the four-eyes, the spic, the Jew, the cripple, the gimp and the retard—if you’ll take Cannibal.”
Because when this school grades you on Participation they mean: Do you take your share of the social rejects? And when they grade you on Sportsmanship, they mean: Do you marginalize the differently abled? Because of that, the captain of the Red Team shouts, “We’ll spot you 100 points.”
Hearing that, the captain of the Blue Team shouts back, “We’ll spot you a -million.”
Cannibal, he thinks he’s such a stud because he’s just looking at his fingernails, smiling and just smelling his fingers, not even aware of how he’s holding everyone hostage. How this is the opposite of a slave auction. And everybody knows what he’s thinking. Because of what Marcia Sanders told everybody. Because Cannibal is thinking about a movie that’s chopped up in his head, some black-and-white movie he saw on cable TV where hard-boiled waitresses in olden times slung hash in some roadside diner. Because Cannibal’s thinking how they popped their chewing gum, these waitresses. They smacked their chewing gum while they yelled, “Gimme slaughter on the pan and let the blood follow the knife.” They yelled, “Gimme an order of first lady with a side of nervous pudding.”
You knew it was olden times because in diner talk two poached eggs on toast were “Adam and Eve on a raft.” And “first -lady” meant an order of spareribs because of something from the Bible. An order of just “Eve with a lid on” meant apple pie because of the story about the snake. Because nowadays nobody except Pat Robertson knew anything about the Garden of Eden. Around here, when the captain of the baseball team talks about eating a fur burger he’s talking about chowing down on a muff pie, and he’s really bragging about his tongue lapping at a blue waffle. Because girls have their own food too, like when they talked about Marcia -Sanders having a bun in the oven, what they meant was she’d missed her red-letter day.
Otherwise most of what he knew about sex Cannibal learned from the -Playboy channel, where ladies never rode the cotton pony, so when kids whispered about gobbling a bearded clam or snacking on a meat muffin he knew it meant what the Bunnies do to the Playmates, the same way a rattlesnake flickers its tongue to smell something it plans to bite on Animal Planet. Because Cannibal had seen those Centerfolds. You know the ones, of an old Miss America drinking from the furry cup. Those dirty pictures of her being a confirmed clam digger, because it was just those two ladies without a single tube steak or bald-headed yogurt slinger standing there to make it a real marriage. Because that’s how girls do, sometimes, when their crotch cobbler needs gobbling.
Because nobody ever explained otherwise, he was ready to go neck-deep in Marcia Sanders’s jelly hole. Because his dad, old Mr. Cannibal, only ever watched the -Playboy channel, and Mrs. Cannibal only liked The 700 Club, so it wasn’t lost on their boy how sex stuff and Christian stuff looked the same. Because when you turn on cable TV, it never fails. When you tune in and see an almost-beautiful girl almost acting on a set that looks almost realistic, Cannibal knows that her story will end by her being touched by an angel. Either that or she’ll get a heaping helping of hot baby gravy sliding down one side of her face. Because of that, Cannibal was already sporting a Spam javelin when Marcia Sanders looked at him in American Civics one day. No matter how he tries to hide it, his skin is polka dot with goose bumps, because he’d been remembering that hard-boiled diner talk yelled through a little window. The same way Catholics lined up in church to talk dirty through their own little window.
Because no matter how they called it, dirty talk made Cannibal drool. Those words picturing a whisker biscuit like those lunch-meat curtains kids talk about when they really mean a camel toe soufflé. In middle school when they grade you on Community Spirit, they mean: Do you cheer at pep rallies and football games? And when kids joke about Cannibal, they’re talking about the one time when Marcia Sanders was a senior about to graduate. Because she was such a stone fox, she was the most popular and she was the head yell leader and because she was class president and because she was such a dish. Because she had nothing in fourth period she was the TA in American Civics, where she approached Cannibal, because he was still only in seventh grade and because she knew he’d never say no because he was so stoned on puberty.
She’s all, “You like my hair, don’t you?” Her head rolls to swing her hair like a spaghetti cape, and she goes, “This is the longest my hair’s ever been.”
The way she says this sounds dirty, because everything sounds dirty when it comes out of a sexy girl’s mouth. And because Cannibal doesn’t know any better, Cannibal agrees to rendezvous with Marcia Sanders at her house because Mr. and Mrs. Sanders are gone to the lake that weekend. She only asks him because she says her boyfriend, the team captain of every sport, won’t put her on like a gas mask. This is her, here’s her, she says this, Marcia Sanders, she says, “You really want to do me, kid?” And because Cannibal has no idea what she means, he says, “Yeah.”
Because then she says to come by her house after dark on Saturday and come to the kitchen door because she has a reputation to uphold. And because Marcia Sanders says he can be her secret boyfriend, Cannibal doesn’t think twice. Because at Jefferson Middle School when they grade you on Good Citizenship, they mean: Do you wash your hands after launching a corn canoe? Because half the time Cannibal doesn’t know what he’s thinking, he goes on Saturday night and Marcia Sanders folds the bedspread back on the king-size waterbed in her parents’ bedroom. She spreads two layers of bath towels across the waterbed and says to make sure his head goes in the middle of them. She says not to take off his clothes, but Cannibal figures that comes later because she unzips her jeans and folds them over the back of a chair, and because he’s looking at her panties so hard she says to shut his eyes. Because Cannibal only pretends not to peek he sees her kneel on the padded rail at the edge of the waterbed, and he can see why it’s called a ham wallet. After that he can’t see jack because she slings one leg over his face and squats down until the room is nothing but fish taco blotting out everything except the underwater sound of Marcia Sanders’s voice telling him what to do next. Cannibal finds himself sunk head-deep in waterbed with sloppy waterbed mattress squeezed up around his ears, hearing the lap of ocean waves. His body rocking from head to toe, hearing his heartbeat, hearing somebody’s heartbeat. Because -Marcia Sanders, out of nowhere her voice tells him, “Suck, already, you stupid dummy,” Cannibal sucks.
Because she says, “Let’s get this over with,” he sucks like giving her insides a big hickey.
Cannibal can’t put up a fight because when kids say his legs are thick as tree trunks, they’re talking about willow trees. And when The 700 Club talks about delightful, inspiring life stories, this ain’t that because the harder Cannibal sucks the harder it gets because the suction is sucking back. Because he’s battling her wet insides in this tug-of-war over nothing. Cannibal is wearing Marcia Sanders like a gas mask, sucking on her like she’s a snakebite, with her thighs so ear-muffed tight to the sides of his head he can’t hear why she’s screaming. Because on the -Playboy channel, screaming is what you strive for. Cannibal’s freaked out because a blue waffle on cable only smells like whatever your mom’s cooking upstairs. Because a ham wallet on television never fights back, Cannibal sucks the way a tornado on the Weather Channel will bust one window and turn your entire house inside out.
Because Cannibal’s never eaten a muff pie, he thinks the waterbed’s sprung a leak because he hears a pop inside his head. It’s like your ears pop when you ride a fast elevator to the top of the Sears Tower. Like when you snap your chewing gum or bite down on a ripe cherry tomato. He figures the mattress is popped because what happens next is he’s coughing water that tastes like tears. Because it’s gallons, like Tammy Faye Bakker’s cried a hundred years inside his mouth, and because Cannibal’s never chowed down on a blue waffle the next thing he knows is that he’s killed her because it’s her insides gushing down his throat. Because she’s hollering like a truck-stop diner. All this happens in not even two heartbeats, but because he’s watched the -Playboy channel the next thing Cannibal knows is that he’s made her gush buckets of lady soup straight into his gullet. Because he’s seen those videos where ladies geyser from jerking off, big spumes like Animal Planet whales spouting or those fire boats hosing down the Statue of Liberty during a Bicentennial Moment. Because he’s seen their big sprays of lady gravy soaking into the orange-cheese--colored shag carpeting they always have in -Playboy movies, Cannibal knows enough about lady juice not to spit it out, because the worst way to insult somebody is not to swallow what she’s serving up.
Because his only experience with lady sauce is from cable TV, Cannibal doesn’t realize there’s a chunk of something solid mixed in. Not right away. Because bumping between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, right now, is this salt-flavored jelly bean. It’s a kidney bean that tastes like the water in a jar of pickles. It’s knocking around like the last green olive in a jar of boiling-hot olive water. And because it’s so small Cannibal just gulps it down.
Because half the time Cannibal doesn’t know what he’s thinking, he says, “You did it.”
Marcia Sanders is fishing a fresh cotton pony out from her purse and goes, “I swear to you I didn’t know.” She never even takes off her top, and already she’s zipping up her jeans.
And Cannibal goes, “I made you come.”
She opens her mouth but doesn’t say anything because then the doorbell rings, and it’s her real boyfriend. Because Cannibal makes Marcia Sanders geyser so hard she has to take a Tylenol and strap on a pussy plug, Cannibal knows he’s a stud. Because Marcia Sanders must brag to Linda Reynolds because Linda Reynolds sidles up next to him outside the chemistry modules and asks if he can be her secret boyfriend too. Because Cannibal gobbles meat muffin so good Patty Watson wants a piece of his action because he makes every fur burger spout heaping helpings of special sauce. Because the quickest way to a woman’s heart is through a man’s stomach.
Because how far would a high schooler go to get back the rest of her life? And because Cannibal is giving everybody another shot at being virgins. He’s everybody’s dirty little secret, except he’s not so secret. Because he’s not so little, not anymore. Because Cannibal’s getting fat on the mistakes high schoolers make, it’s Marcia Sanders who says they have to shut him up. -Linda Reynolds campaigns to meet Cannibal out behind the Vocational Building with a swift tire iron to the head some Friday night because Cannibal’s strutting around, too smart for his own good but too dumb to know he’s total evil. Because now when Cannibal belches, it’s your poor choice he’s tasting. And when Cannibal farts that’s the smell of your parents’ dead grandbaby.
Because if you believe Pat Robertson, The 700 Club says that Jesus, one time, bade a legion of unclean spirits leave an afflicted man, and those demons went into a herd of swine. Because then those swine had to throw themselves off a cliff into the Sea of Galilee, that’s how come Cannibal has to die. It’s the only decent path to take. Because even the priests who eat sins through the kitchen window at Catholic church, when they’re filled full even they need to be destroyed. That’s why a scapegoat goes to slaughter. Because if you believe in evolution the world is just everybody prancing down a -yellow-brick road in Technicolor singing, “Because, because, because, because, because.…” When the real truth is in the Old Testament, where the seven tribes wander around, lost, always saying, “Begat, begat, begat, begat, begat.…”
Because the upside is that maybe Cannibal will go to heaven since except for his mouth he’s still a virgin.
Because at this school no matter who the team captains pick now it’s always not Cannibal, who personifies that thing that eventually comes for us all so we say, “Give us seat belts and give us pap smears and we’ll take poverty and we’ll take old age, just don’t let Cannibal come stand next to us. Don’t let Cannibal’s shadow fall over our house.”
Choosing sides, the captain of the Red Team says, “We’ll give you our best -pitcher.…”
And we’ll take the kid who picks his nose and eats it. And we’ll take the kid who smells like piss. We’ll take the leper and the left-handed Satanist and the HIV-infected hemophiliac and the hermaphrodite and the pedophile. We’ll take drug addiction and we’ll take JPEGs of the world instead of the world, MP3s instead of music, and we’ll trade real life for sitting at a keyboard. We’ll spot you happiness and we’ll spot you humanity, and we’ll sacrifice mercy just so long as you keep Cannibal at bay.
Because Marcia Sanders doesn’t begat anything, her real boyfriend graduates and gets to go to Michigan State for an accounting degree, because of all this Patty Watson makes a date to meet Cannibal on Friday night behind the Vocational Building and Linda Reynolds says she’ll get a crowbar. And they all agree to wear latex gloves. Because maybe they can all go back to playing games once Cannibal’s gone.