Pie-Eating

In the 1980s there was a movie version of Stephen King’s book Stand by Me, a dark story of boyhood set in the 1950s. The plot centers on four adolescent boys in their quest to discover the body of another boy who had been struck by a train. The central character, Gordy LaChance appears to be fashioned after a young Stephen King. He is a writer whose stories lean to the dark side, infused with the feelings of the tragic loss of his beloved older brother as well as the emotional abuse and neglect he suffers at the hands of his father and most of the outside world. 

In the movie Gordy tells one of these dark stories to his friends as they sit around a campfire in the woods. Gordy’s story is about an obese teenager nicknamed Lard who is ridiculed by the entire town in which he lives. When he walks by, grandparents and teenagers alike yell, “Boom Baba, boom baba, boom baba,” suggesting that he’s so fat that his footsteps rattle the earth. The incessant bullying pushes Lard to the breaking point and he hatches a plot to seek revenge at the town’s infamous pie-eating contest. 

I can’t tell you how many times that the pie-eating scene from the movie Stand by Me flashes through my mind. It wouldn’t be a gross exaggeration to claim that once a day I think of Lard’s face, covered with blueberry pie filling. I hear him heave out, “Done! Done! Done,” as he plows through pie after pie, the sound of his stomach prophesizing the horror that is to come. 

It’s an odd thing to think about – I know. It’s certainly not an image I delight in. My stomach recoils every time I think about Lard chugging castor oil and a raw egg before the contest commences. I shut my eyes as if I’m watching the movie every time Lard enters my mind, the remains of an astounding number of pies oozing from the folds of his neck fat. The chants of the crowd as they call out, “Lard! Lard! Lard!” and his response, “Done! Done! Done!” are an unwelcome noise in my head. 

But it’s there – a lot. I guess this scene from this movie of my childhood has become part of me. I remember sliding that VHS in the tape player over and over again, consuming that movie the way Lard took in those pies – pausing only to fast forward through the commercials that were an unfortunate side effect of taping the Sunday Night Movie. There was something about Stand by Me that I latched on to – something real and unnerving that was different from the movies that I had watched up until that point. 

Perhaps that younger version of me identified with Gordy, an outsider no matter where he went, even in his own home. I related to the silence he lived in and how he filled it with the stories he wrote in his head. I understood what it felt like to feel inadequate and what it meant to see more of your parents’ backs then their fronts. 

However, this older version of me doesn’t think of Gordy. It’s not Gordy that my mind revisits with uncomfortable frequency. It’s Lard. I suppose that over the years I have come to identify more with Lard, than with Gordy. It’s not his obesity, or his desire for revenge that I can relate to. Nobody shouts Boom baba! Boom baba! Boom baba! when I walk by. But I think I do feel like Lard sometimes as he barrels through pie after pie, not enjoying the process of taking them in but realizing that he will enjoy the outcome if he can see his plan through. 

In the end Lard wins. He forces down every pie that they set before him. He fills his stomach with pie after disgusting pie until the castor oil and egg soup that awaits them in his gut forces them out. He vomits all those pies back up and his vomit triggers, “A complete and utter Barf-O-Rama,” according to Gordy. Everyone in the crowd throws up – throws up all over themselves and on one another and Lard sits back and is content. He has accomplished his goal. He has gotten his revenge. The discomfort that he endured was worth it. 

I think about Lard because so many days feel like that pie-eating contest in Gordy’s story. Pies get placed before me, pies that I don’t want to eat, far too many pies for my stomach to handle but I force each one down. Pie – Done! Pie – Done! Pie – Done! I vow to finish every unwelcome pie because I know that if I stick to the plan one day the pies will stop coming (or at least won’t come so frequently). Someday I will be able to sit back, like Lard, and enjoy the fruits of my labor…which hopefully, won’t be blueberries.