The Sting of Betting

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

6 comments

Fiction Funny

“You sure?” Landon looked concerned. “You really don’t have to go through with this.” He scanned the tables and shook his head.

“Yes, a bet is a bet!” Alvin bellowed, but he had a fairly worried look, too. Who bets on that? He was beginning to believe his mother. Maybe he was a degenerate gambler. He adjusted the beer on the table and took a deep breath.

The crowd of about two hundred on the hill was getting restless. They wanted action. A man wearing a fur hat and a Speedo yelled, “Get on with it! Let’s see some eating!” Everyone cheered. A woman held up a ferret with its fur dyed green. Another cheer. A contestant arrived wearing a Viking hat. That elicited a near roar from the spectators.

Alvin was having second thoughts, actually more like ninth thoughts, about this. Which one will take a dump first? That was the bet. Yesterday, Landon pointed to two dogs on the side of the road and said, “Which one will take a dump first?” That led to this moment. I can smell it. Alvin looked at the piles on each table. I can’t believe people eat this! His stomach already hurt.

The contest official exited the tavern and made his way to the patio tables. The crowd hushed with anticipation. He waved and tipped his top hat to them. “Welcome everyone! We have eleven fine competitors here today. They will have one hour to consume as much as possible.” He turned to the contestants, “Is everyone ready?” The all nodded or gave a thumbs up. The crowd cheered them on. He nodded, turned to the crowd and held an air horn above his head. “Let the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship begin!” The air horn shrieked, onlookers cheered, and Alvin groaned.

The nettle was two feet long and covered with stinging needles. How do I even pick this up? He looked to the left. The guy in the Viking hat pulled leaves from the stalk and shoved them in his mouth at warp speed. He looked to the right. A woman with gigantic sunglasses and a blue beehive hairdo delicately plucked leaves and rolled them up into a tight ball. She dunked the leaf ball into her wine before popping it in her mouth. Each competitor seemed to have a unique style. There were rippers, rollers, dunkers, pickers, pullers, and pluckers. He decided to employ the roll and dunk method. He picked up a nettle and immediately felt the burning sting. He jerked back and glared and Landon.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” he laughed. “I gave you a chance to back out.”

Alvin gritted his teeth and grabbed the evil stalk again. He pulled four leaves, stacked them, and rolled them lengthwise together. This looks like something you smoke, not eat. He held the leaf roll to his mouth like he was taking a puff. Everyone cheered and laughed. Speedo Guy yelled, “Quit stalling and light this fire! Take a bite!” A chant started up. “TAKE A BITE! TAKE A BITE! TAKE A BITE!” Alvin basked in the glow of attention. He held the leaves up high and got a little more encouragement from the crowd.

“You gonna eat or just wave it around all day?” Viking Hat grinned. His green-stained teeth had pieces of nettle leaf stuck between them, and his beard looked like a moldy garden. Alvin decided he would never eat spinach again.

Alvin dunked the leaves in his beer and took a bite. His eyes rolled up in their sockets. He fought the urge to spit it back out. Half of the roll was in his mouth, but he could not force himself to chew. The horrid taste assaulted his senses. Fowl green slime coated his tongue and confused his taste buds with something no one should experience. He could smell the awful greenness mixed with what was probably bile trying to surge up. The tiny stinging hairs poked at his tongue and the inside of his cheeks. His mouth and lips began to numb. His fingers were burning from holding the leaves. He was trying his best not to throw up.

He looked to the side. Blue Beehive patted him on the back, “You can do it. Chew and swallow.” Alvin nodded and started chewing. Oh God, this is so much worse! He reached for his beer, knocked it over and watched in horror as it spilled out onto the patio. He looked at Landon, who just shrugged his shoulders. Alvin tried to swallow the half-chewed mass of leaves, but he could not. The slimy mess was in the back of his throat, the stinging hairs grabbing at his uvula. His gag reflex started to take over, but all he could do was dry heave. He coughed so hard his eyes were watering. He wiped away tears, then fell howling onto the patio. The nettle hairs stuck to his fingers attacked his eyeballs with a fury he had never known.

He fought his way to a sitting position. Someone handed him a mug of beer. Alvin leaned his head back and chugged the cooling liquid. Suddenly, he was on fire. The beer had a nettle garnish, like a celery stalk in a Bloody Mary, with a full compliment of leaves still attached. It flopped across his face and wrapped him in a fiery hug. He reached to tear the horrible thing away, grabbing the stalk with both hands. He screamed, jumping to his feet, and started running. The crowd parted like the Red Sea as he frantically charged up the hill. Near the top, he ran head-on into a flagpole, possibly due to his eyes being swollen. He dropped to his knees, swaying back and forth like a nettle in the wind, then fell on his side and tumbled back down the hill.

Alvin pulled himself into a tight ball as he rolled back toward the crowd. He clutched at the soft ground, pulling up grass and weeds as he went. He began to resemble the leaf balls that Blue Beehive rolled up when she ate her nettles. He barreled through the spectators, taking at least a half dozen out. He crashed to a stop right on top of the nettle pile for the contest. It was said later that the screams were heard for almost two miles.

Landon ran to Alvin. “Hey man, are you all right?”

Alvin nodded weakly. “Yea, never better. Is the contest over?”

“No, you still have fifty-one minutes left.”

Alvin plucked a nettle leaf from the pile, “I bet I can eat more than you.”

“You already have. I’m not taking even one bite.”

Alvin lay on the bed of nettles and smiled. That’s right! I’m a winner!

March 26, 2021 16:41

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6 comments

Michael Boquet
17:34 Mar 26, 2021

Hahahaha! This story is hysterical! It's like something out of a sitcom. Great pacing. Awesome balance between wit and slapstick. Just perfect, no notes! Amazing story my friend!

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Redd Herring
17:43 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks Michael. When I saw that there actually is a Nettle Eating Championship, I had to go for it. NOTE: No Flashback this time! :)

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Beth Connor
17:28 Mar 31, 2021

Hilarious- and UGH! I saw in your contest that there is an actual Nettle Eating Championship?! Great story!

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Redd Herring
17:47 Mar 31, 2021

YES! I can't even imagine. I used to get stung by them in the summer when I was a kid. How anyone can EAT one of them is beyond me. They cut them into 2-foot lengths and the winner is determined by how many "feet" of nettle you eat (leaves only - not the stalk). The current champ is OVER 100 feet in an hour!

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Redd Herring
11:48 May 20, 2021

My story "The Book of Choices" is now on Beth Connor's Crossroads Cantina Podcast: https://crossroadscantina.captivate.fm/episode/the-book-of-choices

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Philia S
10:29 Apr 11, 2021

Hey Redd! I loved the story and the way you portrayed the MC's determination to win the eating contest! I had only one suggestion that you might want to make the beginning a bit clear, like the part you explain why Alvin was in the contest.

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