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The Column

The Legend of Fat Dead Steve
11/16/03

My mother called me, as mothers often do to their sons, to alert me that she had found a box of mine amongst her belongings. This came as a surprise, since I thought I'd already been using all the boxes I owned as furniture.

Kidding! I don't use furniture! But I was still surprised. I hadn't lived with my mother for six years, and I couldn't think of anything I hadn't used in the last 6 years that I wanted to use now. Well, there was there was that one girl my freshman year of high school…

Kidding! There was no girl my freshman year of high school! If you think being a 24-year-old without furniture makes it tough to date, imagine subtracting ten years and adding 10 zits to the equation. Also, imagine trying to get a date while spending that much time doing equations.

I told my mother that the box couldn't possibly be mine, and even if it had been mine in the past, I was well past the statute of limitation on ownership. You can't claim ownership of something and just leave it sitting there for six years. I know people who don't even respect when you call "fives" during a commercial. But she, as mothers often do to their sons, had the box waiting for me in the hallway when I visited next.

The box turned out to have been mine. Though I hesitate to say "mine" because the me now and the me of this box are two very different people. And this box had the pictures to prove it. I always say I'd dress very well if I had the money. This box was proof that at 16, I was very, very poor.

Wow. Can I say that again? Wow. By the end of this column, I'll probably say it to myself a few more times because I haven't seen this much flannel since Lilith Fair. Not that I've been to Lilith fair, but with this hair and these clothes, I'd have fit right in. It wasn't actual flannel - just pictures of it. Rolls of pictures indicating exactly why there was no girl freshman year. It astounds me that there were any shortly thereafter.

But amongst the pictures of me looking like Tori Amos, I found one of my all-time favorite pictures - Fat Dead Steve. Do not be concerned - I was never fat nor dead, though I was certainly Steve. But one night at camp, my friends and I dressed a dummy like me and hurled it off a roof while people on the porch below us had a heart attack. Maybe even several heart attacks. It was a while ago, so I can't recall exactly.

It was one of those boring camp nights that make you want to dress up a dummy like yourself and hurl it off a roof. And in the perfect coincidence, we'd found a dummy used in a camp play, and realized that it wouldn't be too tough to dress it in flannel.

My friend Mike and I, as friends often do with each other and the cast of Third Rock From the Sun, climbed out my upstairs window and sat on the roof while people talked below us. But this time, we brought Fat Dead Steve and talked very loudly so everyone knew we were up there. After a few minutes, Mike cautioned me to get away from the edge, and I laughed and said I was indestructible. And then we hurled that sucker over our heads like an out of bounds soccer ball. Maybe it was more like a basketball, because that's what doubled as the head. Which was perfect, since it bounced just a bit before settling in a mangled heap.

Mike ran downstairs and burst out the door and yelled, "Oh my God, is Steve okay?!" I followed him close behind and yelled, "Oh my God, am I okay?!" The horrified, yet angry look on everyone's faces was well worth the many slaps on the shoulder we received soon afterwards.

On the last night of camp, we hurled the dummy off the roof again, but this time it was for a picture. And before digital cameras were commonplace (maybe even before they existed), our picture turned out perfectly. Though no one can tell exactly what is going on without the back-story, that picture is certainly worth 1,000 words. Ironic, since I'm only writing 800 about it.

I put the picture away, packed up the box, and, as sons often do to their mothers, left it sitting there to take care of in a few months when I get back to town. There are more pressing matters now - like getting a mannequin for the next time I'm bored.

I'm glad my mother kept that box all these years. But whoever I know with a two-story house won't be.

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