This is the seventh in a multi-part series on the subject of the various great and memorable enemies I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years, from the earnest gibbering of schoolyard bullies to the courtly dance of the merely ritualistic antagonist.
In this installment we see how tracking an opponent's efforts can improve one's performance in sport, and how an unsporting response may ultimately raise the stakes higher than some would care to contend with.
Please see also Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI.
The Stork Boys
If there is one thing that battling supervillains has taught me over the years it is that form is more important than content. My friends and I had been the enemies of Paul Ravenblack simply because we took school in French. We were targeted by Hedgie and Garth because we were in special classes. In every case the antagonist was simply seeking opponents, and any device which served to delineate us from them would prove a sufficiently inspiring conceit.
The Stork Boys seized upon a difference even more classic than language or honours: they were comparatively wealthy, and we comparatively weren't.
When I was a teenager I sailed on the youth racing team of the Queen City Yacht Club, a dingy workyard on the industrial side of the Toronto Islands peopled by sailors who couldn't afford the loftier moorings at the esteemed Royal Canadian Yacht Club at the rosier end of the harbour.
(If you want help with the visuals, QCYC was featured in the aquatic climax of the Canadian cinematic classic Police Academy 3: Back in Training. Someone drove a boat into a false part of the main club building, painted blue and white to match. And remember when Sergeant Hooks knocked one of the bad guys down a long stairwell and then pointed a gun at his head and called him a "dirtbag"? My friend Shammy threw up there once when we were drunk.)
QCYC straddled Algonquin Island and Ward's Island, two of several mountains made primarily of landfill pushed out from the city a hundred and fifty years ago to better shelter the harbour. And while Algonquin Island was almost entirely taken over by Queen City, Ward's Island was split between the club and a small neighbourhood of cottage-like houses lived in year-round largely by poor idealists and burnt-out hippies.
Due to proximity it was this neighbourhood that formed a strong contingent of the club's membership, breaking the otherwise nearly uniform ranks of white mid-level lawyers and other reasonably remunerated professionals. It addled a colourful strain that most of the other establishments lacked.
And yes -- our boats were shitty. And it was true that our clubhouse was sinking into the lagoon. And it was also true that we placed poorly in a wide variety of regattas across the province.
But, um, we had heart.
All of the clubs had dinghy racing teams, whom they would pit against each other all summer culminating in the grand races at CORK: the Canadian Olympic-training Regatta at Kingston.
So, we should now have all of the elements necessary for a bad teen summer movie: we have the richies and the scuffies, competing across the harbour in a build-up to the big, official challenge. We have sunshine and water, and I'm soon to introduce pranks and booze.
And, like in Revenge of the Nerds, there will be at least one scene of gratuitous nudity.
It all started when some racers from Texas' Team LYRA offered up one of their boats for sale and I outbid two tall, lanky teenagers with identical crewcuts and saggy lower-lips. As my crewmate Lisa and I loaded the boat on my step-father's trailer I noticed the boys staring us down with twin sneers.
"Are those boys trying to look down my shirt?" asked Lisa.
"No, I think they hate us because they wanted this boat. I'll try to look down your shirt later, if it'll make you feel better."
Our coach, Hugo, was very excited to have a newer boat in the fleet. He expressed himself with characteristic passion and ineloquence. "Holy shit, it's got all new shit! Look at this shit! This is some quality shit, CheeseburgerBrown. Shit!"
We spent the early part of the summer making fibreglass repairs and resealing the ports and instruments while we listened to Hugo's rock favourites, and then moved on to doing dry-land drills during which Hugo would grab our boats by the masts and heave them around while screaming us at to do things and waving a stopwatch around.
"Grab the shit! Uncleat that shit! Douse the fucking chute! Cleat that shit down! Tack! Aw fuck, you guys suck."
And it's true -- we did. But we had a lot of fun. I named my boat Raskolnikov and built special dry-bags which fit inside the buoyancy tanks for keeping goodies at the ready, like Lisa's cigarettes or other items of mischief. We rigged up an ice-sock for stowing beer, for instance. We were proud and pleased the day we set sail for the Outer Harbour Races after Hugo had smashed a bottle of pop against the prow of our noble Laser II.
Lisa and I split a beer and by the third race we were pretty buzzed. We went through the motions of navigating the course by rote as we shot the breeze about this or that. We waved to Hugo as he blazed by in his Boston Whaler, screaming at people about their shit. Lisa lit a cigarette and closed her eyes while I steered us around to the start line again.
"How did we do that time?" she asked.
"We're second last again. We always beat that one boat."
"The guys getting yelled at now."
"Jesus, those guys are from Royal Canadian!"
"Can you imagine how humiliated they must be to be beaten by Queen City boats?"
I chuckled. "Ha ha. Losers."
On the windward leg of the fourth race we crossed close enough to get a good look at the chastised sailors: it was the two gangly fellows with sullen lower lips. They narrowed their eyes and sneered at us as they sailed out of view beneath our foresail. The Enemy!
"It's them!" I whispered.
"Those fucking stork boys," agreed Lisa. "We can't let them beat us."
We redoubled our efforts, and began paying serious attention to our trim. On our next tack we gained a few boatlengths on the Stork Boys. They glanced over their shoulders at us and frowned. They made adjustments to their sails and began to pull ahead again.
Despite our mutual sucking both Raskolnikov and the Stork Boys' Marauder began to catch up with the rest of the pack. We rounded the second marker together, and regained the lead on the reach. The Stork Boys applied themselves with renewed vigour and steered through our wake around the third marker, bringing them dangerously close to our vessel.
"Leeward boat stave off!" I called over the wind, for Raskolnikov held the windward position and thus had the right of way. "Windward!" I added for emphasis.
I dipped the tiller to avoid a collision and in the split-second of depowered sail the Stork Boys threw themselves against their mainstays in tight unison, using their combined inertia to cause Marauder to surge forward. For an instant they were directly abeam of our mast, and the skinniest stork boy veered his craft down and touched my deck just as he cried out his right of way: "Mast abeam!"
"What the fuck?" yelled Lisa as we jerked sideways.
The Stork Boys chanted: "Collision foul! Seven-twenty! Seven-twenty you Queen City cocksuckers!"
"We had windward!" Lisa shouted.
"We got mastabeam, bitch! Don't fuck with me -- I'm going to be a lawyer."
Despite Lisa's protests we were obliged to stop and spin our vessel twice in place while the Stork Boys sailed on, a penalty known as the dreaded Seven-Twenty. Lisa was enraged that the Stork Boys had scooched, which meant throwing their weight forward for an inertial surge, and thus had technically fouled.
"Look, if you want to hang around in the race office filing protest paperwork, go ahead. Myself, I want supper."
"But we can't let them get away with it! I mean, Jesus."
"We won't," I said. "Now we know what kind of game the Stork Boys play. And we can beat them at it. Doesn't Hugo have a copy of the official rule book?"
"No, he burnt it when he was cooking hash."
"Maybe my step-father has one."
As the summer progressed I studied the international racing rules until I could have convinced the race committee itself that a boat which had never sailed had actually won. At every regatta Lisa and I scoped the fleet until we found our nemeses, charting our efforts by the failures we traded with them.
We outfoxed the pupal phase lawyer on more than one occasion and delighted in his morbid countenance, droopy lower lip thrust out defiantly as his spindly frame stretched out with tension. We laughed ourselves stupid again when coaches in matching jumpsuits roared up in matching Boston Whalers to anti-congratulate both Stork Boys on a race well borked.
Occasionally we would come to a race and find no Royal Canadian presence, which was disappointing. On these days Lisa and I placed very poorly even by Queen City standards, and sorely missed our foils.
The pranks began in Peterborough, when the Stork Boys mislaid our rudder and daggerboard under an overturned rowboat so that we missed the first race of the day. We responded in kind by polishing the name Marauder off the back of their boat and replacing it with Mommyfucker in grease-paint, which resulted in the Stork Boys' disqualification from the last race of the day for breaching the yacht club's obscenity code.
When they denied responsibility it was suggested that they inspect their vessel more carefully before going to water in the future. The Stork Boys glared at Lisa and I across the race committee room. We knew it meant war.
It was a sweet moment. There was comfort in the familiar schema of antagonism. There was a titillating fear in wondering whether they would try to take things too far. There was an anticipatory glee in designing their defeat.
I nodded slightly at them in acknowledgement. Game on.
At CORK we lodged in the unused dormitories of Queen's University. Since the well-oiled machine of the Royal Canadian team prided itself on athleticism and excellence over having fun, we used to begin our evenings by pressing our naked asses against the windows of their dorms. The Royal Canadians were locked in with an early curfew, monitored by same-sex sergeants to ensure the rest they would need for calisthenics at sunrise.
In contrast, Hugo was generally more interested in where the best parties were taking place, and he bought us all our preferred flavours of liquor at the LCBO before abandoning us in some pit of revelry while he hunted for action. Later, he would clean up whichever members of our youth team were puking and carry the unconscious ones into the back of his rusted Hyuandai Pony which featured no trunk because it had been installed with a sound system bigger than God's.
Hugo favoured Hendrix.
On the way home we would stop at the boatyard to pee in the Stork Boys' buoyancy tanks. Occasionally Hugo would take out a screwdriver and remove a particularly nice fitting from one of the Royal Canadian boats. "What?" he'd say if challenged. "Bobert broke this shit off his boat today -- we need this shit. It's a fucking trickle-down economy."
One morning Lisa put on her hiking harness and found it filled with dog excrement. "I think they're on to us," she commented drily.
Each day a fleet of the fastest Laser IIs in North America would fly around the race courses poised on the funneled winds at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, trailed by Lisa and me and the Stork Boys. Over lunch Lisa and I moored up with some Mexican kids and smoked marijuana with them. They spoke very little English but we were able to teach them how to point and laugh while shouting "Stork Boys lick ass!" To the great chagrin of Marauder's crew the Mexicans taught the rest of their fleet this jeer.
The Americans were winning everything. They were always at the front of the pack, so we seldom met them.
Ultimately, the Stork Boys beat us. They sailed harder and sharper, and in the final rankings they placed above us. As I was elbowed out of the way of the lists so that others could see their placing I spotted one of the Stork Boys and offered my hand to shake. "Well done," I said. "The honour of ultimate sucking remains firmly with Queen City."
He did not take my hand. He sniffed and turned away. Our contest had made him bitter.
"Did he just snub you?" asked Lisa, suddenly at my side. I nodded.
"What a fuck!" commented Hugo.
On everyone's final night in Kingston all curfews were lifted, even for the really anally-retentive teams. The university dormitory buildings all housed concurrent parties, spread over all floors, in stairwells, in bushes, on rooftops. Security was going mad trying to keep a handle on it all, but it was too much. We wandered the campus freely, swinging beers from our hands and singing obnoxiously.
Lisa left us to make out with a Californian named Dalton and then somewhere in the next building we lost everyone else until it was just Hugo and I prowling the corridors to find entertaining rooms to sit down and partake in. Once be became sufficiently drunk Hugo developed a game in which we threw open doors at random to expose people having sex, which was good for few larffs until some guy from Illinois with a sheet around his waist chased us down the hall and threatened to do unmentionable things to our dismembered corpses. On another occasion we did get to see a passed out girl's boobs before her roommate shrieked at us to make snappy with the fucking off.
We settled in a common room where two black guys were hallowing out a cigar to make a blunt. Hugo was gregarious and affable, stupid but unpretentious -- he was a shoe-horn into any social situation. In moments we'd made friends. "Where you sail from?" Hugo asked, pitching in.
"Do I look like a sailor to you?" asked one fellow, smiling. "Have you ever seen a brother with a sailboat?"
"I'm Portugese," offered Hugo.
"Shit," said the second fellow. "Portugese are alright."
"We're just here to party," added the first fellow. I missed their names, but one of them had a golden tooth like the Muppets' bandleader.
The room filled with drunken youths as the blunt was passed around, its smell attracting explorers. Somebody put on Bob Marley. There was a lot of giggling. I can't remember who I talked to or what it was about, but I do remember when the Stork Boys showed up.
"Hey! This is our common room!"
The babble quieted. All eyes turned to the two tall, spindly teenagers hovering in the doorway. The Stork Boys shoved out their lower lips defiantly. "If you trash this place we're going to get blamed, so get your drug-smoking ghetto asses out of here right now."
Another pause. The second Stork Boy started to look a little nervous.
"Shit. Did Honky just call my ass ghetto?"
"I think he was talking to us, actually," said Hugo. "Let's not get excited. They're just RC snobs."
Hugo was right -- the Stork Boys called us "ghetto" all the time because our club wasn't as wealthy as theirs. They said it without thinking about it. They weren't used to being in the same room as actual black people.
"I'll get excited if I want to get excited," insisted the golden toothed man.
I was drunk and I didn't want to seem like a pussy in front of Hugo so I stood up and put my arm around the Stork Boys. They were my toy Enemies, and I didn't want them hurt. Because I am a racist I thought the black guys might shoot the Stork Boys in the face with the glocks they probably had stowed in the waistbands of their rebelliously baggy pants.
"Never you mind these Stork Boys, they're alright," I slurred. "They're the Stork Boys," I explained. "They're the worst of the best Royal Canadian has to offer, and we can cut them some slack. Look at them. They're adorable. I've always loved birds."
"Don't touch me, QC scum!" objected the closest Stork Boy, casting off my arm.
I stepped back and shrugged to Hugo. The crowded room murmured in disdain. "Jou're fugging rude, mang!" called one of the Mexicans.
Hugo held out his hands, imploring the Stork Boys like Captain Kirk. "Look guys, shit's going on everywhere. Forget about it. Why don't you come relax your shit and just party with us?"
"You're a coach," said the second Stork Boy. "We're going to report you to our coaches. You'll be fired."
Golden Tooth stood up and sauntered over to the Stork Boys. "They've got a bad attitude if you ask me." Hugo looked at him and nodded. He wasn't smiling anymore.
"If you do anything to me my father will own you," promised the first Stork Boy hotly. He tried to turn around to leave but discovered, with a little startled grunt, that the way was blocked with frowning people. The second Stork Boy did not even try to turn around -- he stood expressionless, as if hypnotized by the flashing golden tooth.
I worried that something bad was going to happen.
"These boys talk too much," declared the non golden-toothed fellow with a grin. He patted his angry friend on the shoulder to make him relax. "It's time for a gag order. You're all sailing people; who's got the tape?"
A roll of ever-sailor-ready duct-tape was passed forward and a strip was applied to the important son's mouth while he was pinioned from behind by a tattooed Texan. The second stork was done next. "Jou lick ass, Stork Boys!" jeered the Mexicans.
The spirit of violence was quickly defused by hilarity, encouraged by Hugo. Somewhere in there we opted to use more duct-tape to attach the Stork Boys to the wall of the dormitory's elevator, and then send them on a journey to visit every floor. Lisa arrived at the last moment and decided that they should have their pants down around their ankles for this experience, and so she and the besmitten Dalton made it so.
"Happy Trails, Stork Boys!" I said as the doors closed and their naked journey began. Everyone cracked up a moment later when we heard the laughter on the floor above, and then a more muffled report from the floor above that one.
Lisa leaned against me and burped. "Is there a lesson we can take from this?"
I nodded. "It pays to be a good sport, lest you end up taped to an elevator."
"Okay, on to my next problem then," she whispered. "How the fuck do I get rid of Dalton?"
I held up the roll of duct-tape and raised one eyebrow.
Posted by Cheeseburger Brown at 10:33