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|“I don’t blame him. Marc’s a good looking guy with a great body”, Peter said, “He’s just using every advantage to get ahead.”
“Whatever. I think it’s just disgusting. I mean could he be any more obvious. Does he really think that kind of behavior is going to help him get a promotion, make him a leader?” Bryan said between bites of his corn dog.
“Of course it will. Good looking people have an advantage over plain ones in business as in every other aspect of life. People want a leader who is attractive. As humans we assume the strongest, the therefore usually the most attractive person, will be the best leader. It goes back to our cave man days, when the strongest man killed the most bison, wooly mammoths or whatever. The strongest man was the best provider.” Peter said calmly as the two friends walked along the fair’s midway avoiding the bustling crowd.
“Wooly mammoths? You’re a crazy man. This is the 21st century. Brains are what matter in a leader now not brawn.” Bryan commented.
“Really? Your telling me you don’t think that in our society a man’s appearance doesn’t impact every single area of his life. His work, his income, how’s he treated by others, and of course who he dates. It’s a proven fact that there is a direct correlation between how tall a man is and how successful he is. That’s why the average height of the American man is 5” 10”, but the average height of American Presidents is 6’ 2”. In our society strength and beauty are rewarded. That’s why mediocre professional athletes get paid millions of dollars more than the best scientists? When was the last time you saw a Noble Prize winner on a box of Wheaties?” Peter asked only half-seriously.
“I guess you make a point, buddy. But I just don’t think being attractive is all that important.” Bryan said nonchalantly stopping to throw away his empty stick. “That was good. Have you seen a funnel cake stand?”
“Of course you wouldn’t think so”, Peter said under his breath.
“What do you mean by that, dude?” Bryan asked.
“Nothing. There’s a couple more food stands up ahead”, Peter answered while starting to walk away. Bryan noticed a group of teenage girls passing by that were looking at him and giggling. He watched them pass, not paying attention to where he was going. His foot hit a ground stake holding a guide wire for one of the concession stands and tumbled to the ground. The girls laughed louder and kept on walking. Peter came back to help his friend back to his feet. “Are you okay?’
“Yes, I’m fine. I just got a distracted for a moment.” Bryan answered while brushing debris from the front of his shirt. “Now what were we talking about. That’s right, what did you mean by the I wouldn’t think so comment” Bryan said looking into his friend’s eyes.
Peter looked down at the ground for a moment before looking up at Bryan’s face. “It’s not important to you because you are an attractive man.” Bryan laughed while shaking his head no. Peter continued, “Those girls weren’t looking at you because of your fancy footwork.” Both men laughed, “I remember the first time I saw you in our dorm room freshman year. I said to myself, great they stuck me with a jock. Of all the roommates the school could have put me with, I got a muscle head. I thought my college years where going to be just like high school, every day a reminder of what I’m not.”
“That was a long time ago, Bro. I’m not a jock anymore. I’m a business man just like you. And that jock turned out to be your best friend. This conversation is nonsense”, Bryan commented
“Once a jock always a jock. No one sees themselves as they truly are. You’re still a good looking guy; you’ve just got a little thicker around the middle over the years. Eating greasy corn dogs and funnel cakes may have something to do with it.” Peter smiled as he began walking again with Bryan by his side. Bryan was a good athlete in High School, but never took it serious enough to really exceed. He was more interested in partying then going to football practice. He worked out to impress the girls more than the coaches. Unlike most of his high school team mates, he didn’t get a scholarship. He worked two jobs while going to college. There was no time for the gym with class, studying and work. He was no longer in prime condition, but he still had a powerful, virile frame and rugged good looks. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It just drives me nuts when an attractive person says looks don’t matter. It’s like when a rich guy says money doesn’t matter. It doesn’t to those that already have it. Try living without it for awhile and you’ll see how much it matters”
“Let’s change the subject.” Bryan said in a happy tone.
“Okay. Why don’t you tell me what you thought the first time you saw me? We spent four years in college together and two years as housemates since graduation and you’ve never told me.” Peter inquired.
Bryan thought quickly for an answer, but couldn’t find one. Peter definitely wasn’t a jock. During college he had a wiry physique that made him look scrawny. His above average height and large beak-like nose made him look comical. But since graduation he also began gaining weight. He spent most days sitting behind a desk now and a typical dinner at their bachelor pad was a late night pepperoni pizza with a six pack of beer. But unlike most men, Peter gained weight in his ass and thighs, giving him a more feminine pear like shape. Bryan decided to change the subject again. “I came here for the food, what did you want to do, Pete?”
“Oh, I don’t know. How about the side show? Maybe seeing the other freaks and geeks will make me feel better about myself.” Peter said knowing his friend was avoiding his question out of kindness. You can’t live with someone for six years without getting to know their little tricks to avoid conflict.
Bryan just laughed and slapped his friend on the back. The two men walked in silence down the midway. “Good evening gentlemen. May I interest you in a little wager?” A shadowy figure said in a slithering voice.
“Excuse me” Bryan commented.
The figure moved out of the shadows. The cloak of darkness lifted to reveal a lean older man with long stringy hair and goatee. The blackness of his form fitting three piece suit matched his hair color. He stroked his beard with long thin fingers and repeated himself, “May I interest you fine young gentlemen in a wager?”
Peter looked into the man’s eyes and could not distinguish the pupils from the irises, making them appear totally black and menacing. But Peter was more intrigued than frightened by the stranger. “What kind of wager are you talking about?”
“A simple test of my talents kind sir; if I don’t guess your proper age, height and weight you win a valuable prize. And it will only cost you five dollars.” The dark man answered with a slight elongation of each word that contained the letter s.
“Oh, that’s your racket. I don’t think so dude” Bryan answered and turned to walk away.
“Please wait. I see you are intelligent men. I’ll give you a special deal. I’ll do both of you for the price of one. Help me out kind sirs. I’ve had a slow night” the carny pleaded coyly.
“Sure why not. It might be entertaining?” Peter said. Bryan just shook his head.
“Right this way gentlemen”, the dark man turned back toward the shadows and lifted the flap to a tent with blood red walls. A large faded poster promoting the guessing talents of The Great Destino was displayed on an easel and a large old fashioned scale were the only things in the small space. “First things first”, the man said as he held out his hand.
“Of course”, Peter reached for his wallet and gave the man his money.
“Thank you, sir” the man quickly put the money in his vest pocket. “As the poster says, I the Great Destino, will guess your vital statistics. If I am off more than 3 years from your true age, more than 2 inches off your true height, or more than 10 pounds off your true weight you will win the ultimate prize. Bryan gave out a slight laugh of disbelieve. “I’ll start with you”, he said looking at Bryan, “You’re such a strong, handsome man I’m sure you’re used to getting all the attention when the two of you are together”.
“What does that mean?” Bryan asked first looking at Destino than Peter. Both men said nothing, but Peter understood the words all too well.
“I say you are 22 years of age” the man said after looking closely at Bryan’s face.
“Close, 25. That’s one for you” Bryan said as he folded his arms across his chest.
The man circled around Bryan before saying, “You are 6’ 3” and weigh 240 pounds”.
“You came close on my height, I’m 6’ 2”, but you are way off on my weight. I only weigh about 215, 220 tops” Bryan said sucking in his stomach.
“I am sure you are right, sir. Would you be so kind as to step up on the scale to verify my error.” The dark man asked while bowing slightly. Bryan stepped on the scale causing the elaborately designed antique to spin wildly for a moment before the indicator finally settled on a line just past 240.
Bryan patted his stomach, “I guess I had one too many corn dogs today. You’re right. No prize for me”.
“Like so many things in life, weight has a way of sneaking up on us.” The man smiled at Bryan then turned to Peter, “And now you sir”, he encircled Peter twice before stopping directly in front of him. He put his face very close to Peter’s invading his personal space. Bryan laughed slightly and Peter did as well, more out of discomfort than humor. “You are more of a challenge; nature has not been so kind to you”. The smile disappeared from Peter’s face. He started to regret agreeing to this wager. “You are 29 years of age”
“I’m 24” Peter said feeling embarrassed for some reason.
“That’s one for you Petey” Bryan said loudly trying to make it a positive thing.
“Yes”, Destino said then circled Peter once more as if trying to confirm his original estimates. “You are 5’ 9” and weigh 218 pounds”,
“What? I’m over 6’ and weigh less than 200 pounds.” Peter was shocked by Destino’s words. Is that the way the world saw him? Did everyone see an old, short, fat man when they looked at him? He felt humiliated, then angry. He stood more erect and wrapped his jacket around him tightly to show off his soft, but flat stomach. He shouted, “You are pretty lousy at your job, oh Great Destino”. Bryan could see the pain in Peter’s eyes, but didn’t know what to say or how to soften the sting of reality. Like he said earlier, no one sees themselves as they truly are.
“I offer my utmost apologies sir. I knew you would be more difficult”, the dark man said as he bowed and gestured toward the scale. The scale indicated Peter was right. He weighed only 198 pounds. The height stick proofed he was just over 6’ tall when he stood with proper posture. And after showing Destino his driver’s license to proof his age, The dark man apologized again. “I was wrong on all three counts you have won the ultimate prize.” Destino pulled out a card from his breast pocket and handed it to Peter. At first it appeared to be a simple business card, but the more Peter looked at it the more detailed it became. There was an ornate engraved border surrounding script lettering that read One deepest, darkest desire granted to and then a blank line. As Peter held the card trying to read the small print in the dim light, it appeared as if letters were forming on the blank line in red ink. It was his name. Peter looked at Destino.
“What is this?” Peter asked softly.
“Just want it appears to be, sir. Nothing less and nothing more” Destino said with a sly smile.
Bryan finally thought of something to say as he walked up behind Peter and read the card. “Some ultimate prize. My only desire is to get our money back. Let’s go Peter”. Bryan walked to the tent’s flap and raised it over his head. He looked back at Peter who was still staring at the card, “Pete”.
Peter looked at Destino once more than headed toward the opening. Once outside the tent, Peter put the card into the slot in his wallet behind his license.
“Well that was a waste of five dollars” Bryan said then turned to his friend who was still deep in thought. “What do you want to do now, Dude?”
“It’s getting chilly and it’s kind of late. Maybe we should head home” Peter said in a depressed monotone without looking at Bryan.
“You’re always cold just like a wo..” Bryan stopped himself before completing his thought. He knew now wasn’t the time to question Pete’s masculinity. He quickly changed the subject. “I can’t believe I’ve gotten so fat. Why didn’t you tell me, Bro? I’ve got to go on a diet and start exercising again. Will you help me?”
“Sure. Whatever you want”, Pete answered half heartedly.
“Maybe we can work out together. We’ll both shape up and become real studs. We’ll put Marc to shame and have Simmons lusting after us. What’d you think?” Bryan said nudging Pete in the shoulder.
“Sounds good”, Peter’s analytical mind started to clear again. “It’s a proven fact that people stick with diets and work out routines when they do it with some one else.”
“Put it there partner. Here’s to living better”, Bryan held out his hand.
Peter put his hand into Bryan’s and shook it. “Here’s to looking better.” Peter’s mind was racing. He had planned on getting serious about his physical condition soon and had done a lot of research on nutrition and exercise. He was thrilled that Bryan would be doing it with him. As the two walked back to the parking lot, Peter fired a million ideas at Bryan who just smiled and nodded every once in awhile. He was just glad to see Peter back to normal.
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