Story Go Round 10/25/2009, #3

Good Eatin'

(post-titled by Terry)

The Bisby County Fair was in full swing, and the Entrails Eating Contest was about to begin. The bunting around the stage was nice and the judges respected members of the community, but the only question on the minds of most was: whose entrails were in pan 3 and what was their pedigree?

The provenance of each set of entrails mattered as much in this contest as the speed of the eater. This year had seen a lackluster supply of volunteers, so the sheriff had had to set up a lottery system for the town residents, one that seemed unbiased enough to appease the common man, but would still allow the 'right' people to remain untouched by it.

Sheriff Hogwater's wife had insisted the selection remain a secret, the victim would only be brought in during the night before. A committee of the qualified gathered at the morgue and discussed the dead before them, sometimes in terms so blunt it was like they were nothing but a piece of meat. This year's sample included Old Man Hankie, who used to wander to the hardware store after hours without his pants, and ask for bus fare from strangers. Or Cecilia J. Vanderbilt, who asked everyone she met why they weren't wearing a hat — even the hatted. People no one would miss.

Except, the contest was now in its hundred and seventh year, and what with birth control and the young folk moving to the city, the crazed, the quirky, the odd and the people that people on the committee just didn't like were all but gone. Everyone left had become the best friends, the good neighbors, the friendly loaners and prime customers of the committee members, so that was hard. But there were always vagrants, out-of-town visitors and mail-order brides, and sometimes the random breakdown on the highway Bart Bisby could collect in his tow truck.

So they settled on their donors and the intestines were kept at room temperature so that no one got an ice cream headache or a burnt tongue while gorging. The 3 contestants took their seats. One was a high school honor student who earned his seat with a winning essay on the importance of recycling. Another had written a rock song titled, "You're Dead Meat," that was so popular the phrase had become a sentimental, loving thing to say. The third was just Cledis. He had professed hunger while watching the pig for the feast being slaughtered and the next thing he knew he was sitting at the table, bibbed from head to toe, sharp utensils pressed into each hand. But now with everybody watching him, his stomach churned and he'd lost his appetite.

The bell went off. Suddenly the other two plunged their hands to the wrist in entrails and started devouring — the teen with smooth, sensible slurping starting with a tip and head going to and fro like a typewriter carriage. The rocker clawed his way towards victory, scooping up handfuls. "Look, it's Rose!" one yelled, or "No, it's Cecilia!," pointing at the entrails.

"That's my Harmony for sure," screeched Bart. "I can see the sesame seeds from here, and nobody loved those little seeds like her."

The murmur of the crowd turned quickly into an uproar. Sheriff Hogwater tried to restore order, but it was a blood-curdling shriek that finally brought quiet.

It was Cledis.

He stumbled to his feet, then raised a hand covered in dropping viscera. He stared at it abject horror.

"What is it, Clead?" someone called from among the spectators. "Someone you know," jeered another one. "Loved ones taste the best!" came the old cry from the back, which was echoed by several others nearby.

"No," he whispered hoarsely. "They're mine."

Somehow Cledis has unraveled his belly button while zipping his pants in the bathroom. The entrails were indeed his. He was declared out in a technicality. The other 2 raced to the finish, with the rocker finishing first by a hair. To the crowd's surprise, the teen was proclaimed the winner, because the entrails he ate were from Old Man Hankie, and he was well-liked by the community. They stood out for their grisly, grey-green hue.