Day 789: No Pain, No Game

originally published February 27, 2014

By their very nature, kids are insane.

In grade school my friends and I magnified the potentially face-smushing violence of dodgeball into something we called murderball. In junior high, a number of us gave each other bear hugs to induce unconsciousness (though, to my credit, I knew well enough to hold out for the good drugs later on). In high school we drove like half-crazed grouse, wildly swirling upon ice and packed snow, riding precariously on one another’s car hoods or running boards in a scraggly zoo parking lot that we dubbed “Beggars’ Canyon.” Somehow we all survived to adulthood.

Thanks to a healthy brew of curiosity, consequence-blindness and morbid creativity, kids will find a way to dance as close to the brink of serious injury whenever possible. If they can, they’ll devise a means of elevating their precarious attempts at leisure into a competitive sport. That’s when the blood really starts to flow.

Most kids know better than to mess about with Russian Roulette or other such gun-related idiocy. But knives? Knives are awesome. Hence the invention of Mumblety-peg.

Mumblety-peg is the game for kids who feel that toes are the surplus extras of the human body. Players stand with their feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Each throws a pocket knife hard at the ground so that its blade embeds in the earth. The object is to be the one whose knife lands closer to your own foot. The loser must shamefully admit that they lack the knife-hurling skills, or perhaps the manly machismo of their opponent. If you actually stick your own foot, you win by default. But at a cost.

The name comes from the old-timey tradition of driving a peg two or three inches into the soil, with the loser of the game having to pull the peg out by his (or her, but come on – most girls aren’t dumb enough to play this) teeth. The game has been played for ages, even showing up in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. It’s not as popular as it used to be – and maybe parents should be thanking video games for a change – but if you see your kids playing it, you may want to intervene rather than congratulate them on their awareness of history.

There are variations on mublety-peg, just in case you get tired of the monotony of flinging deadly weapons at your own appendages. You can play a variation on the basketball game Horse, in which you try to out-class your friends in fancy knife-chucking maneuvers like behind-the-back, blindfolded, ricochet-off-the-ceiling-fan-whilst-being-balls-out-swamp-fucked-on-PCP, and so on. The ‘Stretch’ variation has you throwing your knife near the other person’s feet, and if it sticks in the earth they have to stretch out their feet to the point of impact until one player falls down. That way you can include the danger of a pulled groin in the game. Fun!

Then there’s Chicken Mumblety-peg, in which one player bets how many knives the other can throw between his feet. I should mention that these games are best played in a country such as Canada where universal healthcare is available. This is the kind of game in which the appellation of “pussy” is no doubt bumped like a hacky-sack between its players. It’s a game without the potential for ‘fun’, only for ‘relief’ at best. And possible maiming.

Rather than dance around the perimeter of perpetual agony, how about a game where the sole purpose of competition is to endure the most physical pain? The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, held in Anchorage and covering the entire ‘world’ of Alaska and possibly some Yukonians, features a handful of events, including the ear-pull. Had this been featured in Sochi this year, perhaps the Americans might have slipped another gold medal in their pocket; this one is not for the faint of heart. Or ear.

A two-foot length of floss-thin string is looped over both competitors’ ears, at which point both players lean back and see who gives in first. Blood will be shed, pain will be experienced, and more than likely there will be stitches for somebody. In the end, someone wins a medal and presumably some degree of semi-athletic pride.

This would still be more entertaining on TV than curling.

In the realm of the less painful and substantially less tough-looking you have the game known as Are You There, Moriarty?. Two blindfolded players lay facing one another with linked hands, like Sylvester Stallone in Over The Top but with less grunting and more horizontality. Then they try to thwack each other with rolled up newspapers, wrapping paper rolls, unusually large sex toys, whatever. The loser of the game is the first person who realizes just how stupid this game actually is.

I suppose if you want to add the element of lunatic youth into this endeavor you could replace the newspapers with flaming medieval maces or cactus limbs or something. There is a strategy to the game, in which you can roll from side to side to avoid getting hit, but unless you’ve got a third party there to count the landed blows, what’s the point? Just beat the crap out of your buddy for a while and call it fun.

If you’re like me, then violence, mayhem and ear mutilation do not factor into your notion of a fun pastime. Maybe you’d rather cram a bunch of stuff into your yap-hole. Well good news! That can be a dynamic competition too! I’m not talking about snarfing processed tube-meat on Coney Island on July 4 – this is a game anyone can play, so long as they aren’t too possessive of their dignity. It’s called Chubby Bunny, or Pudgy Bunny or Fluffy Bunny or Punchy Monkey or whatever the hell you want it to be called.

The rules are simple: cram marshmallows into your mouth and try to pronounce the game’s title. If you can’t say it because there’s no room left in your mouth, you’re eliminated. If you last till the end then you’re the winner (and probably the most popular girl at the party). Be careful though – a 32-year-old woman died in a Chubby Bunny contest in London, Ontario in 2006, and a 12-year-old girl choked to death at her own school in Chicago in 1999, in what was supposed to be a teacher-supervised event.

In the end, the game with the marshmallows might be the most lethal game on this list. Go figure.

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