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Jim Morrell III
It’d been two months since Jane and I had started dating and it was time for the
standard family meet and greet. Being 25 and somewhat mature, I had a pretty
good feeling about her, so I wanted to impress her family. Dad’s usually loved
me because I’m big into sports and pretty respectful. Mom’s love me for my
deceptive charm and sense of humor. In general, I’ve never had problems mingling
with the elders.
“I can’t wait for you to meet me my family, Jeremy.” Jane said in the car while
on the way to her parents home. “Benny is going to love you! He loves everyone.”
Then she paused and got serious.
“I don’t want to freak you out, but a lot guys have some weird issue with Benny.
I know you won’t, but I … I just wanted to get it out. I don’t get it, but Todd
dumped me immediately after he met my family last time and he never explained
why. I think a lot of it is how much I love him, and how he’ll always come first
for me. That threatens a lot of guys.”
“Don’t worry about me sweetie, I’m sure me and Benny will get along just fine.
From what you’ve told me, he sounds like a great kid.”
Benny was her 15 year-old disabled brother with Downs Syndrome. But this didn’t
bother me. I was actually happy for this, I’d never spent any time with someone
who was handicapped, I figured it would only broaden my horizons. And Jane told
me he was athletic and smart as a whip.
We walked through the door and both her parents came immediately to greet us.
“You must be Roger.” I said excitedly, shaking her father’s hand.
“And you must be the lovely Paula, unless Jane has another sister?”
Everyone laughed and I knew I was in. I felt the cat come nuzzle up to my leg.
Looking down I asked ‘who’s this?’
“That’s Cleo.” Paula replied. “You won’t meet a nicer cat.”
“Jeremy,” Roger said, “It’s great to have you, come in, please take off your
shoes and let’s relax.
“Benny! Come on down pal! Jane and Jeremy are here.”
I heard the footsteps come trampling from the upstairs and saw Benny come
truckin’ down the stairs.
“Janey!” he yelled giving his older sister a big bear hug. They embraced for
almost a minute.
“Benny, this is Jeremy.” She said pointing him in my direction.
I held out my hand for a good shake and he went right to hug me.
“Hi Jay-wa-mee!” he yelled.
I noticed he was wearing a Randy Moss jersey and I asked him if he liked
football. He nodded with a huge smile and asked if I’d like to throw the ball
around in the backyard.
“Can I Mom?” he asked.
“Sure, but just for a few minutes, dinner is almost ready. I’m making your
favorite tonight, mashed potatoes and turkey.”
Benny jumped up and down and went to the closet to grab a football. Jane looked
at me and smiled, mouthing the words “thank you.”
“No problem whatsoever, it’ll be fun throw the ol’ ball around anyway.”
“Great, and by the way, you will love my Mom’s mashed potatoes, she’s won awards
for them, they are fabulous.”
Not missing a beat, Benny gave me the football, grabbed my arm and drug me out
to the backyard.
I lofted him an easy pass and he brought it in like a natural. Then he drilled a
perfect spiral right into my chest, knocking me back a bit. Figuring it was a
fluke, I lofted another one at him. He caught it, and just like last time,
another bullet right at me. For someone who was handicapped, he had a hell of an
arm. Each pass had been thrown on a rope with a perfect spiral.
“Now put something on it this time.” Benny yelled at me.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
“Throw it harder!”
I wound up and gave him a good solid throw, in turn he put one right back at me.
He was throwing so hard my hands were beginning to sting. We threw a few more
passes before we were called in for dinner.
“Benny sure does have great arm,” I said walking through the door to the
“Yeah, he goes to the Special Olympics every year.” Jane replied.
“That doesn’t surprise me. He seems pretty athletic.”
“You should see his room, it’s filled with awards and trophies.”
Paula showed me to the table and sat me down first. Next she put a heaping plate
of food in front of me. The mashed potatoes looked so good I could barely wait
to dive in.
“Now wait for the rest of us before you tear into that.” Paula said with a wink,
heading back into the kitchen.
I nodded and told her I’d be patient. Benny came over and sat next to me while
everyone else was in the kitchen.
“Do you like mashed potatoes?” he asked. His breath nearly knocked me out of my
“I sure do Benny, they are one of my favorite things to eat.”
“Me too!” he yelled. “Now close your eyes, I have a surprise for you!”
I complied, leaning back to get some air from his horrendous oral stench, and I
heard him pick up my fork and put some potatoes in his mouth. I opened my eyes
and asked him what he was doing. His mouth was overflowing with potatoes and he
was grinning ear to ear.
“What are you doing Benny” I asked, feeling slightly awkward.
“Mom’s special res-a-pee!”
At that, he spit the potatoes onto my plate then took my fork and mixed them in
with the rest. I looked down in complete disbelief and looked back at him with
my jaw on the floor.
“Enjoy!” he said running to his chair.
I looked at him, looked at my plate, and looked back at him. All I could see
were his teeth from his Cheshire grin. I looked at the potatoes and knew there
was no way I could tell what was tainted and what wasn’t.
Everyone came out to join us. At that point I had no idea what to do. The
thought of even looking at those potatoes made me my stomach turn. How could I
The table filled up and everyone started digging in. I worked my way through the
vegetables and started on the turkey. Jane elbowed me and said aloud “try the
potatoes Jeremy, I know you’ll love ‘em.”
“I will Jane, I, umm, I just like to, uh, I like to save the best for last.”
Then Benny chimed in “What’s wong Jay-wa-mee? Don’t you like mashed po-tay-toes?”
That little shit.
The sneaky bastard set me up, everyone at the table was looking at me. I slowly
put my fork in. I took up a small amount and looked at it for about a minute.
The silence in the room was deafening. It was so quiet you could hear the cat
breathing in the other room. I brought the fork slowly to my mouth and took the
potatoes in. I swallowed as quickly as I could. But it was no use, I could taste
At that point, the burrito I had at lunch quickly made it’s way from my stomach
to my mouth. Not knowing where the bathroom was, I bolted to the backyard where
I threw up pounds of food.
After realizing that I had no more to offer to the grass and patio, I looked up
and could see all the neighbors looking at me from their windows. I turned
around and the four family members scowling at me.
What a great first impression.
I made up a lame excuse to the family saying I’d been feeling ill and apologized
profusely. We said our goodbyes as my “illness” cut the night short. Paula and
Roger didn’t seemed too pissed, but I knew that they thought I was weird. Before
we left, Benny gave me a giant hug and told me to get better fast so we could
“play more football.”
The family gave out a collective ‘ahhh’.
We got in the car and right before we pulled out, Paula came to the window.
“Now as soon as you’re feeling better Jeremy, we’ll have you back. Okay?”
“Sounds great Mom,” Jane replied. “How about next Thursday? I’m sure he’ll be
better by then.”
They both looked at me and I nodded. “That’d be super…let’s make it a date.”
After we got on the road, I cringed trying to get out what I wanted to say. I
now knew why Jane, as gorgeous as she was, was still single. It was that
goddamned brother of hers. I couldn’t say a word, though. How could I? He was
Mr. adorable handicapped kid, the kind you see in commercials. I was just her
latest. She’d dump me in a second if she thought I didn’t like Benny. I had to
wait and play my cards right.
My illness didn’t last long and by next Thursday I found myself back at Jane’s
parent’s place. I kept a real close eye on Benny all night. He didn’t even leave
my sight when I was taking off my shoes as we entered.
Dinner went over fine, no food-mixing incidents. We labored to the living room
where Benny and I played the martial arts video game Mortal Combat. The parents
and Jane chatted about the neighbor’s recent divorce while Benny and I went at
it via Xbox. I thought I might be able to take out some frustrations through a
video game. I’d even played this one a few times before.
But I was dead wrong.
Benny did everything but disembowel and castrate me. I chose different players,
different weapons, it didn’t work. He was tossing lightening, grabbing secret
swords and he even killed me using a spoon. No matter how hard I tried, he was
unbeatable. I felt my pride shrivel up as I put down the game controller and
told Jane we needed to leave.
As we put our shoes on I noticed something in them, but in my haste to leave,
threw them on and got in the car.
Halfway, home, Jane came to the undeniable conclusion that something in the car
really, really stunk.
“Did you step in something?” she asked.
“How could I? I had my shoes off the whole night.” Then I remembered there was
something in my shoe. Whatever it was, molded right to my sock and wedged
between my toes and shoe.
I slowly took it off. It was cat shit.
It was as if a stink bomb had gone off in the car. That shriveled pride
retreated even further as Jane and I kept our heads out the window, trying to
avoid the putrid smell in the car. Too bad it was raining.
“Goddamn that fuckin’ cat!” screamed Jane. “That’s the fourth time she’s done
that to someone I’ve brought over!"
“That cat?” I exclaimed in confusion. I gathered myself and changed my tune.
“Ahem, yeah, that cat is real pain in the ass.”
We drove on. I took a slight hiatus from family gatherings over the next few
weeks trying to figure things out. I was distraught and frustrated. I knew I’d
have to spend time with the family, because I loved Jane. But every time I went
there something has happened. I’ve vomited in their backyard, lost my favorite
pair of shoes and had a scalding cup of cocoa spilled all over my pants, which,
I might add, was strategically placed in the genital region. Things were
starting to get tense between Jane and I. And I was starting to run out of
excuses on why I couldn’t go to her family’s house.
Sooner or later I had to face him, and sooner or later, I had to beat him.
The day came where I was asked to go watch the Special Olympics with the family.
I knew Benny was going to kick the shit out everyone there. For someone with
Downs, the kid was extraordinarily athletic. I was the designated cameraman.
“Oh, there he is!” Jane pointed out. “He’s running the 100-yard dash, which he
Benny saw us and waved up to us. He then put his arm around one of his
competitors. The camera was on and so was the little politician. I felt my blood
begin to boil.
I turned to Jane and her family and asked if he knew the kid.
“Oh that’s Teddy.” Jane said. “He’s been coming to these as long as Benny. Turn
the camera back. I don’t want to miss anything.”
I looked over and saw him tying his shoes and muttered under my breath “Yep,
can’t miss the tying of the shoes.”
“What was that?” Jane shot back.
I pointed the camera back while listening to Roger go on about his son’s
achievements, not paying any attention to the pre-race or any of Benny’s
warm-ups. After another race wrapped up, I heard the P.A. announcer telling the
racers to get ready.
A thunderous “go” came from the speakers and they were off.
Benny jumped to the lead, followed closely by Teddy. They were neck in neck,
when all of a sudden, Teddy tripped, scraping up his knee. He looked down at his
injury and began to cry. His shoe had come off. My heart went out to him, I
wanted him to win so bad I wanted to cry. You hate seeing stuff like that. Benny
went on to win, and in front of all his fans, went back down the track and
picked Teddy up, helping him finish the race.
I saw tears well up in everyone around me. The only thing stirring in with me
was my stomach, which was about to wretch at the display.
Then came the awards. An hour of sitting, clapping and watching Benny accept his
medals. I couldn’t believe that I was the only one who’d seen through his
scheme. The afternoon took approximately six weeks to end, and when it did, I
went home. Since I met the family at the stadium, I feigned an excuse and got
out as soon as could, accidentally taking the camera with me.
I brought it back to my apartment and showed it to my roommate Charlie.
“This kid is the bane of my existence.” I told Charlie walking through the door.
“And here he is in living color. Now you don’t have to visualize when I bitch
I rewound the tape and headed to the kitchen for a beer.
While searching the refrigerator I heard Charlie scream “Holy shit!” several
times followed by crazed laughter.
“Look Chuck, I know they are a little handicapped, but you shouldn’t make fun of
“I’m not, check it out man.”
Charlie rewound the tape, barely containing himself from hysterical laughter.
“Now watch here Jeremy, Benny is looking at the camera with his arm around the
"Yeah, I was there. I remember.” I spat back.
“Now, the camera gets a little tilted and I can tell you’re not paying
“I wasn’t. I was listening to his Dad talk about the glory of Benny.”
“Okay. Now, a starting gun goes off somewhere else on the track and all heads
turn. Watch his right hand”
Benny was kneeling, tying his shoes. As soon as the gun went off for the other
race, he slyly untied Teddy’s shoes, without anyone, even Teddy, noticing.
“Yahtzee!” I screamed at the top my lungs. “Listen to the bell Benny, it tolls
I couldn’t wait to get back to Jane’s parents house, begging and pleading with
her. I had the smoking gun.
“Sure, we could go tomorrow if you want to so bad.” She said over the phone.
“God you sound excited. I usually feel like I have to drag you kicking and
screaming over there. What’s going on?”
“Oh nothing, just want to spend some quality time with Ben.”
I heard her sigh over the phone and fight back tears. “Okay, we’ll go over
around eight then.”
“Eight o’clock it is.”
We walked through the door and I calmly gave the camera back to her parents,
apologizing for my absent-mindedness. We exchanged our pleasantries and I looked
over at Benny.
“Hey Ben, why don’t you show me the awards you won at the race the other day.”
“Sure! They aww up in my woom.”
Benny and I made our way upstairs, with me smiling the whole way. We walked in
and I closed the door behind me. He began pointing out his medals when I cut him
“That’s not why I’m really here, Ben. I wanted to show you this.”
I put the tape in his mini-home theater system and played it for him. I stopped
it at the point of infraction and asked “what are you doing there Benny?”
“Tying my shoes.” he replied nervously.
“Really, then why aren’t you tying your shoes. Looks like you are untying
Teddy’s to me?”
Benny’s face went white. He knew what I knew, and he knew he was dead.
“Your little totalitarian regime here is over Ben! You better leave me be with
Jane or I’ll report you to the International Special Olympics Committee and
they’ll take away all your medals and trophies. Worse yet, I’ll tell Janey!
"If you keep your mouth shut, then we’ll never have a problem. Understand?”
Calmly, Ben walked over to his desk, pulled something out, and went over to his
window. He faced out, took a deep breath, opened the window and lit up a
cigarette. After a moment of reflection, he took a big drag and walked back
toward me. I knew he was up to something, but I wanted him to make the first
move. He picked up the remote to his VCR and looked at me.
“You’ve got me Jeremy, red-handed. I underestimated you. You are a worthy
opponent, and I salute you for it. There is not much I can do, except this.”
He looked at me, smiled and pressed a button on the remote. I heard the tape
crunch inside and saw film come spitting out.
“Tape goes bye-bye.” He said grinning.
I looked down and laughed back.
“Nice try Ben, but you’ll have to do better than that.” I opened up my coat,
revealing two more tapes I had copied.
“You’ll also have to get rid of these, the one hidden in my house, and the one I
buried in my backyard locked in an airtight tool box!”
The cigarette dangled from his gaping mouth and hit the floor.
“You may want to pick that up Ben, before it leaves a burn and evidence that
you’re smoking too. Now are we straight with each other?”
He nodded and I walked out the door. The rest of the evening was perfect. Dinner
was good and Benny didn’t say a word.
Jane and I eventually got married. I know it’s cliché, but I knew we would from
the get-go. I just had a big hurdle to jump, so to speak.
Benny and I got along pretty good after that. He knew I loved his sister a lot
and was good to her. He never told Jane about our conversation in his room and I
never told him that there wasn’t an International Special Olympics Committee.
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