"AWESOMEBALLS!" Snotsicles swung from his nostrils as eight-year-old Joey Henderson squeezed the belly of his puffy red snowsuit, jumping up and down in the packed snow.
"Here they COME! Heretheycome!" He waved frantically at the hulking column of contestants slumbering out through the frosty glass doors of Mount Hushmore's Ski Lodge Resort, trying desperately to grab someone's attention. Any one of them would do. All the Big Time Ballers were there, the Top SnoPros. Ice Screamers.
There was Big Johnny McGlone, the monolithic six-foot-eight-inch former college linebacker, and pygmy-sized Stubby Gonzales, failed horse jockey from Honduras via Kentucky. Lucy Kim, the Korean nail artist, weighing in at a svelte 94 lbs. And the Slavic giant Dimo Bakalov, who walked like he'd just swallowed a snowman.
The snow lifts were empty on this particular day. Vacant hangers swung lonely in the brisk mountain breeze. Glittering white slopes loomed, abandoned, devoid of colorful skiers. All had ceased their downhill frenzies, opting instead to witness the newfangled spectacle about to commence before their shivering, huddled masses.
"Places, please!" the Master of Ceremonies called out. He didn't require a loudspeaker at this altitude - the peaks and valleys of the Hushmore Range were a natural echo chamber. On this crispy, clear winter day, thirteen contestants lined up behind the banquet table: eleven men, two women. All badass.
"Welcome to the 5th Annual American Snowball Eating Contest!" the M.C. cheered. His voice boomed with heroic gusto; heads jerked toward the mountaintops fearing he'd triggered an avalanche already. "Take your seats, take your seats, contestants!" The stout, middle-aged man prattled on excitedly. He preened the brown plaid vest under his green parka with one hand, stroked his waxed mustache with the other, waiting for the Ballers to sit.
The eager crowd held its frozen breath En masse.
Joey Henderson squeezed his stepfather's hand through his overstuffed snow mitten. "Other Dad," he beamed up at the man who was currently toadying his mother between the sheets, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a Snowball Eater, too!"
The burly mom-gobbler nodded down at the boy. "Anything's possible, Joey. Even a buck-toothed loser like you might someday achieve mediocrity. Crazier things have happened, son. Crazier things."
Mediocrity! Joey liked the sound of that. His chest swelled with future pride.
The contestants were all seated now, hunched over their serving plates. They removed their gloves. A stiff wind shook the blue pompom topping Lucy Kim's wool hat. Her eyes creased with steely vengeance, tight fists fusing to the icy tabletop. Big Johnny McGlone's eyes squinted like two minus signs, the same temperature as on the ski slopes that afternoon. Bare-chested Dimo Bakalov grimaced, his bloodless blue lips ratcheted like a cubist's rendition of an evil troll. And Stubby Gonzales - he looked like a fifth grader who had snuck into the contest on a dare, impish grin and all.
Thirteen pyramids of snowballs, standard size, shimmered in front of the thirteen professional snowball eaters. The M.C. raised a starting gun into the cool blue winter sky and shot. The piercing echoes startled the audience, who again jerked their heads around, fretful that the inevitable avalanche had been prematurely triggered.
"And they're off!" the M.C. clacked, calling the race with nasal precision. "Big Johnny McGlone takes the lead! He's shoved his first icy one down the shoot! Go Johnny!"
The crowd cheered. Their raucous rabbling flushed winter birds from the trees like fecal backwash bursting from a clogged cinema toilet. Big Johnny was the World Champion and he'd made an impressive start, swallowing a whole snowball in one gulp. Dimo Bakalov crushed a snowball in each hand, reducing them to powder, then inhaled their dust into his mouth like an arctic ShopVac.
"Ooooh!" the M.C. winced warningly, "He'll get points off for that!"
Lucy Kim's sheet of shiny black hair swung like a silk curtain against her jaw as she angrily chomped away on her snowballs, each one dwarfing her puny, clenched hands.
And ex-jockey Stubby Gonzales, nostrils flared, outpaced the rest. Leaning down tight over the table, he raced into his feast with blinding speed, two-fistedly shoveling snowballs into his mouth which opened so wide the resulting abyss obscured half his face.
"Is it coming soon, Other Dad? Is it?" Joey asked, tugging on his stepfather's coat sleeve. "When are their brains gonna freeze?"
"Any second, Joey. Any second." his stepdad answered, grinning with wicked anticipation himself.
The first to begin screaming in pain was Lucy Kim. All at once, she dropped both snowballs she'd been devouring, froze in place, eyes bulged with shock. Her mouth gaped into a surprised 'O' shape. For a moment she was paralyzed, silent, as if time itself had stopped. The crowd hushed, leaned forward a little, waiting. The 'O' stretched out into a rectangle, baring her sharp, tiny teeth. Then Lucy Kim emitted a bloodcurdling scream. So sharp and high and supersonic it was that necks rotated, once again, quickly scanning the alpine horizon for signs of an impending snow shelf collapse.
"And we've got brain freeze!" the M.C. announced happily, "Lucy Kim's brain core temperature has just dropped below the thirty-two-degree mark! That's Fahrenheit, folks! And my-o-my can she wail! Am I right, people?"
The crowd roared with glorifying rage.
Snow sifted through pine boughs.
"Uh-oh!" the delighted M.C. pointed at Big Johnny, who's face looked suddenly pixelated with horror, "Looks like we've got another Baller who's about to blow! Let's hear it, Big Johnny! Let one rip!"
Big Johnny McGlone's ice scream sounded like a cross between a wounded hyena howling and a prostitute being murdered. The crowd loved it. They tore off their gloves so the sounds of their naked hands slapping together could reverberate across the mountain range with lustier volume.
"Now, that is a high-quality ice scream!" the M.C. remarked. "Judges, did you record that one? Sounds like a winner to me, alright."
"Boy, oh, boy, Other Dad!" Joey Henderson clapped and jumped in place, "That one's just gotta be the winner, don't you think?"
Other Dad smiled, fist-pumping the champion. "Yes, Joey, I do believe he's done it again. But we won't know for sure until -"
A shrieking wail, so hell-bendingly awful that fans were certain it was made by Satan himself, rose up from the depths of Stubby Gonzales' gut with such vehemence, such perfect pitch, that it broke four of the picture windows in Mount Hushmore's Ski Lodge. Stubby's tears froze in his eyes. Joey thought he'd heard him whimper, "Ole', Mamacita!"
"Now, that's got to be a record-setter, folks!" the M.C. promised, "If ever I heard one so help me God, cross my heart and throw me in jail beat me silly with a lead pipe call my mother tell her I mulched my father with a woodchipper I SWEAR I've never heard a better quality ice scream! The form, the function! Artisanal is the word I think we're looking for here!"
Hard, vigorous clapping mounted into an approving chorus.
The snow-covered tippy top of Mount Hushmore shifted, ever so peevishly, as its undersnow readied to shake hands with gravity.
"Get your cameras ready, folks!" the M.C. hollered, "I think the big one's about to hit." He pointed to Hushmore's white-capped pointy peak. It trembled like a virgin bride on her arranged wedding
Lucy Kim had recovered from her ice-brain injury well enough to launch another attack on her pile of regulation snowballs. She did it with her signature vengeance. There was no mercy in her machinations now. Not even for herself. She shoveled, chomped and gnashed, growled like a ravenous polar bear tearing a seal's raw flesh from its bones. A few bites into this new tirade, and she erupted with another grating cry. She dropped her snowballs. Her chest convulsed. Her outstretched arms thrashed like an electrocuted inmate. With her eyes squeezed closed, she raised her throat to the heavens, screeching the ancient song of her warrior ancestors in hopes of summoning them from the dead to anoint her valiant vocal pilgrimage.
Heads swished nervously from the screeching Lucy Kim to Mt. Hushmore's quivering peak with the breakneck tempo of spectators watching a tennis match; back and forth, back and forth.
"I think she may have just done it, folks!" the M.C. lifted his blue flag to wave, ready to proclaim a winner. "Did you get that on tape?" he asked the recording engineer in the booth beside him, "You got that, right?" The sound engineer nodded, gave the thumbs up. The M.C. checked the game timer. "We've got just fifteen seconds left on the clock, challengers! It's now or never! Let's hear it, Ballers! Eat that snowball! EAT THAT SNOWBALL!" He curried up a chant from the crowd, and the mountains bounced back an echo of their demands -
"EAT THAT SNOWBALL! EAT THAT SNOWBALL!"
But then, it was Dimo Bakalovs turn to wow the crowd. His black eyes screwed together into an expression of primitive insanity. Tobacco-stained fangs emerged over his blue lips. His blockish head dropped back, forcing open his mouth, and a horrifying, wooly mammoth-level booming trumpet erupted from his bare, hairy chest. It was pure animus, bestial, inarguable proof of his Neanderthal bloodline. His hands clawed at his head, tearing off his snow hat, pulling at his matted clumps of hair.
His brain had fully trans mutated into an ice cube.
"Holy Trolls did you hear that one, folks?" the M.C. pointed at the apparently dying caveman, "Pure, unadulterated awesomeness! We have a serious contender here! He's setting a whole new style mandate!"
A hunk of snowpack broke free from the ski slope west of the ceremonial stage. The wind shook it into pieces, proffering a mini snowstorm. Forebodingly, snowy flakes swept past the gathering in dancing eddies.
Lucy Kim's nerve-frying squeals of brain-pain rose to such a pinnacle of pitch, only dogs could hear it now. Terrified wolves were spotted charging down the mountainside, frightened pups rolling haplessly after them. She held the final note, powered with such velocity it seemed it would never end, until a stifling, clamoring, pounding THUD! turned heads again.
Yes! The mountain was falling!
"She did it, folks! She did it!" the M.C. pointed up to the bread-shaped chunk of snow breaking free from Mount Hushmore's snowcap. "She's done it! She has beckoned the Snow Gods!"
Fists rose into the sky. More clapping, cheers, foot stomping.
The bread-shaped wedge of mountain snowpack slid, slowly at first, down, down, down the side of Mt. Hushmore. Onlookers were dazzled by its wondrous beauty, the sheer awesomeness of nature's majestic power. Many in the crowd had never even seen an avalanche before, except on T.V, and like Joey Henderson knew, that just didn't count. He whipped out his cell phone and began recording the historic event. His Other Dad did the same beside him.
In fact, most everyone had stopped applauding to film the avalanche, many repositioning to include themselves in the money shot. Some were even live streaming, monetizing the hell out of this thing. Fortunes would be made. Weddings planned. Divorce papers filed. College loans paid off. Taxes evaded.
Life looked good.
"Well, folks, I do believe I can declare a winner!" the portly M.C. strutted up to the contestants table, his wind chapped cheeks balling up into a smile. "Sound Engineer tells me that was an 8.98.9 on the Richter/Decibel scale - what a beautiful thing, Miss Kim!" He held up her arm, even though she was still convulsing, her twitching eyes rolled up into her head.
"Our new winner, ladies and gentlemen!" he pumped her arm for her, as Lucy had now retreated into the throes of a full-blown brain freeze seizure. "I give you - the 2022 Snowball Eating CHAMPION of the WORLD!"
Only those few people not holding cameras clapped. The rest were mesmerized by the awesome sight of the mountain falling on top of them, awed by the awesome thunderous sound it made.
"Gee, Other Dad!" Joey's freckles seemed to be skipping joyfully across his flushed nose and cheeks, "Mom will be so jealous of me for seeing this! Boy, I bet she'll wish she didn't tell you don't you dare bring me up here today!"
"Your Mother is a woman." Other Dad explained to his stepson, "Women can't handle awesomeness like this, Joey. They're weak. God made them that way." A wispy veil of snow smattered over them both, like Heavenly confetti.
"Girls aren't strong like us men, are they, Other Dad?"
"Of course not, Joey. What a stupid question."
Joey felt the pang of that reprimand. Yet still, he dared to venture another, more meaningful question.
"Am I a man now, Other Dad?" Joey asked hopefully, his camera still filming as the thundering wall of snow barreled down upon them. "Am I, huh? A real man?"
We'll never know the answer to that question, or whether Joey's stepdad was indeed about to confirm his manhood. They were both swallowed in snow, buried alive - along with all those other witless spectators and contestants - under sixty feet of powder-packed snowflakes, courtesy of basic gravitational forces issued by not-so-weak Mother Nature, no charge, thank you and goodnight, folks.
But online social media and live streaming viewers worldwide agreed, it was hands down the best, most awesome Snowball Eating Contest ever, Golly Gee! And Lucy Kim's record 8.98.9 Rr-dB Brain-Freeze Ice Scream was the new world record for Ballers to beat.
Kim's agent could not be reached for comment.
She, too, was buried alive in awesomeness.