63 - Chew Before You Swallow Your Dreams


You have been training for two months and you decide it is time to test your newfound strength. You take position in front of the table, reach out your left arm, and begin.

Now is the time to see what you’re really made of. Now is the time you find out what kind of man you are. Now is the time you find out how many chicken nuggets you can eat at once.

You down your first dozen nuggets with nary the slightest bit of hesitation or difficulty. You throw your head back and laugh as you toss the box onto the ground.

“More!” you shout!

Your mother, who is sitting on the other end of the table, frowns as she pushes another box across the table toward you. “I told you I’d help you with this, son,” she says, “but you’re out of your mind if you think I’m picking boxes up off the floor.”

You ignore her and tear into the second box. It is delicious. You wash the twenty-fourth nugget down with a swig of Mountain Dew and let out a slight belch. You are proud of yourself for setting a goal and working towards it. You are going to be a fantastic competitive eater.

Your mother winces. “I’m not sure I want you doing this, son. I know that I told you I’d support you no matter what you chose to do, but I think maybe I should have narrowed the scope of my encouragement a little.”

You let out a forceful, frustrated sigh. “It’s fine if you don’t have my back, mom,” you grunt, reaching across the table to grab another box of nuggets. “But I’ll remember who was there and who wasn’t when I make it to the top.”

“The top of what?” she asks.

Again, you don’t bother to answer. You begin to feel the weight of the nuggets around number 28. You wipe the beading sweat from your brow and continue your binge. “I will be the nuggest!” you proclaim.

You mother begins to cry and runs out of the room.

For the next fifteen minutes you down box after box of chicken nuggets. Each time you empty a box, you throw it onto the floor with less and less energy, until you are simply sliding the cardboard to the edge of the table and letting it fall. You are breathing in deep heaves with the occasional wretch in between.

You gaze across the table at a solitary red and white box; it is the last. You struggle to stand, and as you reach over the table, the edge of the tabletop pushes into your stomach. You resist the near-overwhelming urge to vomit and continue to reach for the box.

Just as your fingers graze the box, your welsh corgi, jumps on top of the table and snags the nuggets. He retreats back to the floor and runs into the living room.

You give chase after the dog, shouting angrily. “Rand Pawl, no! Bad dog! Bad d-“ Your throat closes suddenly and you feel a sharp pain in your chest. Your left arm goes numb and you begin to see bright sparkles of light in your vision. You lose your balance and fall forward. You are unconscious before you hit the ground.

You awaken in a hospital bed. Your mother jumps from the couch and runs to your side, crying. She tells you that you had a massive heart attack, then gives you a hug and tells you she loves you.

Later on, after visiting hours are over, a nurse brings you a newspaper. “You made the front page!” she says excitedly.

The headline reads “LOCAL ATHLETE HAS HEART ATTACK DURING TRAINING.” You are always impressed with the journalistic integrity of The Advocate.

A publisher shows up the next day and asks if you would be interested in a ghost-written autobiography. You agree, and several months later, the book is a New York Times best-seller.

The movie adaptation of your story, Fried Courage, wins three Oscars.