Wankmeister’s friends had been piling on the oblique guilt about the soccer matches, the Little League games, and the hovering attention to detail that they paid to the lives of their brilliant, successful, and precocious children while he, Wankmeister, was chatting up single women in bars, or drunkenly staggering home on midnight bike rides from beer bars on Pico, or riding his fucking bicycle at county shitstops like Pearblossom and Boulevard. Although he recognized the validity of their criticism, when faced with the awful reality of trying to understand a modern homework assignment or even to decode the complex symbols and notations on a report card, notations more confounding than any chemical equation, Wankmeister inevitably caved in and drank more beer until he passed out or wrote something execrable on the Internet or both, in that order.
In the world of Palos Verdes where all children are perfect and parents can point to their children’s successes as harbingers of 6-figure paychecks and all the fake boobs money can buy, Wankmeister could only shake his head at his children’s endeavors and wonder at the miracle of parenting that had kept all three of them out of jail, at least until age sixteen. And even though it went against his child-rearing maxims of “They’re not mine,” and “I’m busy,” the time had come when, after all these years, he finally had to engage in a legitimate show of involvement.
It was the Big Annual Westeast High School State Qualifier Debate Tournament, and the letter from junior’s debate club was explicit:
Dear Parent: Your child is participating in the state qualifier next weekend at Westeast High. We must provide twelve parent judges in order to be allowed to enter the tournament. Our records show that you have never volunteered and that no one affiliated with the club could pick you out of a crowd of two. Therefore you may either volunteer at the tournament from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM or you may make a donation to the club of $250.
Wankmeister laughed hysterically at the thought of paying so much as a dollar, and grimly made plans to judge at the tournament. He had debated in high school and endured years of “You must be a master debater, har, har,” jokes from Texas numbnuts who were now ridiculously rich and successful while he was an unemployed blogger in the cheap seats above the PV shopping mall.
When in doubt, banish it
The morning of the big tournament Wankmeister woke up at 5:30 AM with yet another bleeding, screeching, fingernails-on-the-eyeballs hangover. “It’s gonna be a long fuggin’ day,” he moaned as he stumbled to the medicine cabinet and shoved a fistful of Alleve down his throat and chased it with half a bottle of codeine-prescription cough syrup and the remains of a mini-jug of Nyquil.
He lay back down in bed panting, waiting for the drugs to take effect, and once the codeine began to coat his brain with a syrupy film just thick enough to somewhat dull the throbbing headache, he lurched into the kitchen and opened three half-liter bottles of Wipeout I.P.A. After draining the second bottle he felt the combined raw grating of the narcotics and the alcohol begin to roughly put his brain into gear, the kind of low gear filled with fuzz and transmission gunk and grinding that any sane person would need to listen to a day’s worth of high school kids debating whether or not the federal government should condition humanitarian aid on political objectives and chimpanzees. Especially the chimpanzees.
On the road again
By seven o’clock Wankmeister was now fully greased and he raced to the debate tournament across town. Halfway there they passed a donut shop, and it occurred to him that a major infusion of frying oil and sugar might absorb the smell, if not the effect, of the beer and the codeine and the Nyquil. As they walked into Jay’s Donuts an old whore sitting at a plastic table in front of the shop eyed them. Next to her coffee and donut was an empty cigarette box.
“Either one of you boys smoke?” she asked.
“I don’t,” Wankmeister slurred. “But I’m not sure about him.”
Junior shook his head. The whore nodded proudly as she tried to pretend that she hadn’t been artlessly trying to bum a smoke. “Good. Them things’ll kill ya dead as snot.”
They arrived at Westeast High and Wanky headed for the judge’s room. On the way there he breathed deeply the smell of this inner city prison preparatory school, noting the garbage strewn everywhere, the condoms in the grass over by the gym entrance, and even — lucky find! — a pair of blue syringes that had only recently delivered some addictive drug to the veins of some starry-eyed pair of ninth grader just before or after they experienced the raptures of young love followed by the less than rapturous discovery of genital sores.
He signed in to the judge’s roster and curled up in a fetal crouch, jamming himself into one of the tiny desks reeking of early morning beer and donuts. Other parents, all apparently respectable people who kept strictly disciplined rules about showing up to early morning school events blind drunk, chatted with one another and reviewed the printouts that listed the rules for the various types of high school speech and debate events that they would be judging.
Wankmeister scornfully ignored the judging instructions, knowing that the key to properly evaluating frightened high school students was to stare seriously, scribble illegible marks on the ballot, and try to keep from throwing up into his beard.
Over the top!
Wankmeister’s first round was a bitter, hard-fought battle of the wits between two earnest students in the Lincoln-Douglas division. They were articulate, well-dressed, and arguing skillfully about something that, no matter how hard he listened, sounded unmistakably like “Blah blah blah blah blah.”
“How in the fuck am I supposed to decide the winner?” he wondered in a drunken panic. “They’re both saying the same thing.” Sure enough, as the minutes ticked by neither debater said anything that sounded vaguely like human language with the exception of the occasional helping verb like “should” or “ought to.”
Marking it up to the codeine layer that had coated the alcohol now like thick icing on a thin cake, he focused on the second aspect of the debate round, not throwing up. Before long, and it was actually no time at all, he could tell that the round was finishing and he still had no clue what either earnest young scholar had said. He couldn’t give the win to the girl because she was cuter, that would be sexist, so instead he focused all of his energy on not throwing up and counting the words “should” and “ought to,” since they were the only ones he could make out.
Each time heard one of the magic words he put a tick mark in that debater’s column so that by the end of the round he had twelve tick marks for the girl and eleven for the boy. It was close and hard fought, but he was forced to give the victory to the student who had used the greater number of helping verbs. The boy came over to shake his hand. “Thank you for judging,” he said.
“Careful with that hand, sonny, I’ve been known to bite when people try to pet me without letting me sniff their fingers first.” The boy quickly pulled his hand away and awkwardly left the room.