We sat on the stage like fish in a barrel, being picked off one by one by Marshall and his unique blend of prodding and probing that produced maximum embarrassment from the 12 of us and non-stop entertainment for the rest of the student body.
A body, mind you, devoid of sympathy and strung-out on schadenfreude* because once upon a time they themselves were forced to endure this same type of sadistic social abuse.
“What’s a stupid trick you can do?” he asks one of the girls.
“Talk like Donald Duck.” she blurts out, not foreseeing the ramifications an admission like this will bring from Marshall and his merry mob of motley motherfuckers.
“Well Duck me gently!” he cries, tickled pink that he’s hit public persecution pay-dirt. “Why don’t you give us a taste of that disgruntled duck?”
“I’d rather not.” she says, seeing the train of consequences barreling towards her now, realizing too late that she should’ve lied and told him something less combustible.
“You know, honey, sometimes ya just gotta say what the duck? Am I right guys?” Marshall shouts to the blood-thirsty crowd.
“YEAH!!!!” they roar back then start chanting “WHAT-THE-DUCK! WHAT-THE-DUCK!”
“Just get it over with.” one of our classmates screams who’d just been put through the wood-chipper of shame herself by having to get up and twerk in front of 200+ strangers.
“Fine! Fine! What do you want me to say?” she asks Marshall, handing him creative control over what happens next, making this her second mistake of the day.
“Hmmm…” he hums while tapping his teal painted fingertips up against his chin. “How about…your ABC’s?!!”
“YES!!!!” everyone thunders back as Marshall shoves his microphone in her face.
She closes her eyes (to imagine she’s anywhere but here), takes a deep breath…
“Don’t forget the song at the end!” he squeals, upping his antagonistic ante.
…and against her better judgment recites her ABC’s in the voice of Donald Duck.
By the time she gets to the “Next time won’t you sing with me…” part she looks relieved, glad that her torment is over and that she’s made it to the finish line.
“EVERYBODY NOW!!!” Marshall shouts, goading her into doing the whole thing over again while the rest of the school joins in with her.
I look at everyone singing, laughing and shoving pancakes in their mouths and think to myself:
So this is what 23 thousand dollars buys you.
Once Marshall is finished with her he turns his attention to the three of us who have yet to be crucified by his nail gun: Jimbo, Bode and myself.
“Who’s next?” he asks the crowd impishly.
“HIM!!!” they yell, pointing at Bode who sits there with the rugged smile of a cowboy as if to say “give it your best shot, fucker.”
“Ok! Let’s go to the guy who’s been using all the handsome cream!” Marshall says, skipping his way over to Bode.
“What’s your name, Mr. Handsome?”
All the girls let out a long “Woooooooooo.”
“Bode, like Body…like in hot body?” Marshall asks as the girls and the gays whistle and cheer.
“Well tell me hot body Bode, what’s one thing, one HUGE, GINORMOUS thing people would never guess about you?” Marshall asks with a wink and a smirk.
“I like to sew.” Bode tells him matter of factly, making the record skip.
“Wait…you sew?” Marshall asks surprised.
Yeah dude, you sew?
“I do. Have you ever heard of a seamstress?” Bode asks Marshall.
“Hello, I’m Asian, it’s mandatory one person in our family owns a dry cleaning-alteration business.”
“Ok, well I’m the male version of that…I call myself a seamster.” he says with unshakable confidence.
“Well smack me on the ass and call me Monty. This hot homo sapien is quite the homemaker!!!” Marshall exclaims as the audience gives its first legitimate round of applause.
“So when you sew is it to make your pants bigger to hold those great big…thighs of yours?” Marshall asks to a roomful of laughs.
“No, but I do like to rip things apart.” Bode says, leaning in towards Marshall. “And then stitch ‘em back together so they look torn and distressed.” he tells him while looking him square in the eyes to let him know he won’t be razzed.
Realizing he can’t heckle Bode into humiliation Marshall gives him a coy smile then takes a step back.
“Well, Hot Body Bode, I promise you we’ll all be paying attention to what you’re wearing from now on.”
“And wondering what’s underneath it!!!” some random girl screams from the masses.
“Amen to that.” Marshall says as he waltzes over to Jimbo who’s perspiring as much as she’s hyperventilating.
She’d been stewing in a soup of trepidation throughout this entire process, watching her fellow classmates get struck down around her and dreading the moment the executioner would come calling on her.
“Sooooooo….what’s your name?” he asks, slithering up next to her and twisting the tension tighter than a Boy Scout knot.
I remember she’d warned us that she throws up, passes out or soils herself when faced with social anxiety so I’m wondering which one will happen and if Marshall knows he’s in the ‘splash zone’.
“Jim…Jimbo.” She tells him with a shaky voice, putting the scent of fear in the air.
Marshall circles around her like a vulture getting ready to swoop in and feed on a carcass.
“Did your parents give you that name or did you get it in county?” he asks as the audience giggles.
“I…I named myself that because I don’t like my real name.” she says, avoiding eye contact with him.
“Really? What’s your real name?”
“Why don’t you like the name Jamie?” he asks.
“Because…because…” she stammers.
“Because?” Marshall asks, positioning himself to go in for the kill.
And then something clicks inside her the same way a gun does when it’s locked and loaded and she goes from fearing the reaper to facing him.
“Because it didn’t sound butch enough and I’m the biggest, baddest butch there is!” she says, firing away at Marshall point-blank as the crowd explodes into hoots and hollers.
“And if anyone has a problem with that then I’ll happily stick my fist so far up their-“
“Ok, ok! You’re one hardcore honey!” Marshall says, trying to reel in this minnow that has suddenly become a mako. “Any special talent you have?” he asks in an attempt to steer the conversation away from fist-fucking.
She takes a second to plot her next move, knowing that whatever she tells him has to work in her favor not his.
“There is a special talent I have, Marshmallow.” she says, riding her wave of unexpected boldness and making the crowd howl with laughter.
“Aren’t you a feisty one!” he volleys back. “What can you do?”
“I can do 10 push-ups, in a row, like a man.”
“Where did you learn to do such a thing?”
Jimbo looks at him while cracking her tattooed knuckles. “In county.”
“And you can make it all the way to 10?”
“Start counting.” she says as she drops onstage and starts doing push-ups up like a soldier while Marshall and the rest of the school count aloud.
“8…9…10!!!!” the crowd yells in unison as Jimbo hits her mark and the entire room blows the fuck up in wails and cheers.
“Give it up for the biggest, baddest butch around!!!” Marshall screams into his mic.
Jimbo gets to her feet and raises her hands like a triumphant gladiator relishing in her moment of glory.
And then as quick as her bravery came, it went.
She gazed around the room at everyone cheering for her then started to wobble and sway as the wave of boldness she’d been riding came crashing up against the shore of her social anxiety.
Without warning she bolted offstage and out the side door, no doubt fleeing to the restroom where she could throw-up, soil herself and then pass out in peace.
And then there was one.
Marshall pated his forehead with a towel like a minister preaching a sermon that was about to hit its climax.
“What’s your name, mister?” Marshall asks me, leaning his elbow up against the long table I and the rest of the damned have been sitting at.
“Well, Stuke I saved you for last.”
“No, thank you because you look like a treasure-trove of stories.”
“I’ve done a couple things in my life.”
“Ever do a couple things at the same time?” he asks with a school-girl snicker.
“When I was drunk.”
You would think that after sitting here for an hour and watching most of my classmates getting tripped up in Marshall’s traps that I would have learned to be careful with what I told him so I could avoid the same fate.
“And what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done while being drunk?”
But no, I hadn’t learned at all and because of that I’d totally just fucked myself.
*Schadenfreude comes from two words in the German language; Schaden, meaning damage or harm and Freude, meaning joy.
Schadenfreude is the act of getting pleasure from another person’s pain, something uniquely human because there’s a part in our brain that gets turned on when we’re rewarded at someone else’s expense.
This best way for you to experience Schadenfreude right now would be to read about this asshole.