2018 David Sedaris Humor Writing Contest Winners

From numerous entries, our SCA team has selected the three students with the most hilarious anecdotes and stories! We’d like to thank all of our applicants and commend them for their literary prowess and comedic talent. The works of Jonathan Allan, Peyton Austin, and Aubrey Freitas will be published below, as well as on the SCA website. Read on for a good time and guaranteed fits of laughter!

 

Peyton Austin – Voyeur

The gilded, near-naked carving of Jesus Christ that hung from the cross on the classroom walls haunted Lauren more than anything else in this world. Maybe it wasn’t gilded, but bronze. It wouldn’t surprise Lauren since her Catholic school was cheap. They spent all their money on the football program and not on air conditioning, even though the school was in Los Angeles. So maybe the school had purchased bronze Jesus Christs instead of gold, but nevertheless, Jesus Christ suffered in every room of her school.

Lauren always wondered why Jesus had to be near-naked in his loincloth. Historical accuracy, sure—or maybe biblical accuracy—but Lauren hated the way she could make out every line of Jesus’s emaciated ribs. It was weirdly voyeuristic—maybe it was meant to be erotic. There were tons of weird shit like that in the Catholic teachings: Jesus was husband to the church, and nuns were married to him, and all the paintings and sculptures emphasized his naked body. Lauren stared at him in pretty much every class: a tiny, possibly-gold metal Jesus, perpetually suffocating. Perpetually dying.

Lauren tried to convince herself that the fixation was piety. It didn’t work.

And it wasn’t just in school either. During Lauren’s sophomore year she had dated this kid Jeremy from her precalc class. They’d sat next to each other, so he helped her with the math problems whenever she got stuck (which was a lot). Then they started talking, and texting, and they went on a four dates and Lauren had her first official boyfriend. She’d liked him, and with some surprise and a little more pride on Lauren’s part, he liked her in return. Three weeks or so into dating, she went over to his house for the first time. With some surprise and the utmost horror, Jeremy had a wooden crucifix the length of Jeremy’s forearm on his wall—and Jeremy was 5’11’, so Lauren’s horror was deserved. Jeremy had kissed her and they began making out, but Lauren could see Jesus hanging, literally hanging, over Jeremy’s shoulder. And all of a sudden Lauren noticed how bony Jeremy’s fingers were on her neck and waist, and how skinny his neck was, and how thin and prominent his chest seemed when she touched him. She’d broken up with him three days later.

Lauren failed precalc that year. She had to retake it this year, which sucked.

And this year Lauren also had Ms. Cavanaugh.

Ms. Cavanaugh was Lauren’s Sacraments teacher. She always wore bright colors, went over the questions of her tests right before the test, and—most importantly—she framed a picture of Liam Neeson from Star Wars on her desk. Ms. Cavanaugh told the class on more than one occasion, “When I die and Christ comes to take me to Heaven, he better look like Liam Neeson.” The class laughed at this, but it always unsettled Lauren. Because seriously, how is imagining Jesus Christ as Star Wars Liam Neeson anything other than erotic fantasy?

“Well, Jesus was described as handsome,” Isabelle, one of Lauren’s friends, said when Lauren brought the topic up.

Gia, another one of Lauren’s friends, said, “Says who?”

“I’m pretty sure Mr. Ramon said that freshman year,” Isabelle said.

Gia scoffed. “And I’m pretty sure that’s made up. You know, like immaculate conception or Adam and Eve.”

Isabelle rolled her eyes—more often than not Gia’s resentment towards the Catholic Church rubbed up against Isabelle’s piety. “Humans have imagined Jesus as attractive for hundreds of years now,” Isabelle said. “It’s not that weird.”

“It’s a little weird,” Lauren interrupted, hoping to stop an argument before it started. “But ‘Jesus is handsome’ seems to be the norm, while ‘Jesus is Liam Neeson’ is on a whole other level.”

“Just as weird as your obsession with those crucifixes,” Gia said. “I mean, I don’t know if you can really judge Ms. Cavanaugh.”

Lauren wasn’t offended, but she couldn’t help but feel chagrined. Gia was right: Lauren couldn’t take the high ground concerning Ms. Cavanaugh. She just hated that ratty loincloth and His crooked legs and horribly obvious ribs.

Lauren took some Goldfish when Isabelle offered them. Crunching her third Goldfish, however, she had a horrifying thought: Lauren was just as much a voyeur as Ms. Cavanaugh, even though Ms. Cavanaugh was attracted to Jesus and Lauren wasn’t. Lauren focused even more on Jesus’s body than Ms. Cavanaugh did, every last detail of it hung up there on the cross. Her disgust made her on the same level as Ms. Cavanaugh’s desire.

Lauren crushed the Goldfish in her palm and watched the crumbs sprinkle the table in thousands of pieces. She swept them off the table and onto the concrete. Then she slipped her hand under her starchy uniform shirt and pressed her fingers to her ribs. She breathed in so her ribs became more prominent, held her breath, and fit her fingers into the small valleys between her ribs. Her breath shuddered. They did not know which of Jesus’s sides were pierced, but Lauren clutched at her left side. Neither blood nor water ran down her ribs or fingers, but horror still washed over her. “Dude,” Gia said, eyeing Lauren’s lifted shirt, “what the actual fuck are you doing?”

Her heart beat against her fingertips, so Lauren moved her palm to her heart and listened to her own mortality. “Gia, remember what you told me about Angie Moreno’s mother? When you did that history project at Angie’s house and her mother had about a billion crosses on her wall?”

Gia laughed. “Yeah. Like, we’re not the ones you need to convince about your devotion. Leave that to Jesus.”

“But they were just crosses, no body or anything,” Lauren said.

“Okay, so what?”

Lauren removed her hand from her shirt, noting that her skin was possibly just as bronze as Jesus’s. She said, “I think I’m gonna become a Christian.”

 

Aubrey Freitas – Cell Signal From Above

I’m currently saving up all of my allowance money because everybody laughs at my old iPhone 4 when they see it. They tell me that I’m definitely way past my free upgrade time or that I should just buy out my contract or that I might as well start using a flip phone. I get it. It’s old and lame and the camera quality is really, really bad, but it’s my backup phone, and I happen to need it until I save up enough to buy a new one. What those judgmental assholes ask me after hearing my explanation is usually some variation of “what happened to your old phone?” a story I’m always happy to tell.

I was in Argentina over the summer, volunteering with Saintly Children Abroad to help teach underprivileged kids how to read and write in English. Usually I really get people with this opening sentence. They realize that I’m actually a really nice person and that they’re actually an asshole for laughing at my bad phone. They become way more sympathetic after that. I explain how on weekends we had days off, and how the other volunteers and I would go exploring around Cordoba to see all of the sights, tourist traps included. Here, they usually say that they’ve never been to Argentina, and then I get to tell them all about an incredible experience that they’ll never have. It’s my payback for the phone jokes.

I was in Alta Gracia one Sunday, where I lost my phone. I make sure they know that Alta Gracia means ‘higher grace’ in Spanish, because after living there for a month and a half, I’m extremely cultured and my Spanish is muy bueno. I explain how Alta Gracia is a very religious place, if you couldn’t tell by the name, and how there’s a very famous church there with a painting of Mary on a mirror that, legend says, just appeared one day. The locals say it was a sign from God. Here, the snoops either say how incredible that is or tell me that they think that’s a load of bullshit.

Since it was on a Sunday, there was a large mass being held right outside of the church. The church was really small, only like twenty people could fit inside it, so it obviously wasn’t practical for services.

Here, they usually ask, “Why don’t they just expand the church to make room for more people?”

And I tell them, “I don’t know, but stop interrupting me because I’m getting to the good part about how I lost my phone.”

We didn’t attend the mass, because not all volunteers could speak Spanish– not me, of course– but the other volunteers, so we stayed a little bit behind the crowd by this huge basin of holy water that people drank from and would wash their faces in when they left.

I forgot to mention before that the whole trip I was WhatsApp messaging this really cute boy from my hometown back in California. We were talking for about a month, so, yeah, it was pretty serious. He kept telling me that he wanted the two of us to hang out more once I got back to the U.S., but I knew that he was basically asking to be my boyfriend. I would message him “Good morning” every day, keeping in mind the four hour time difference, and he would always reply with “Sup.” He was so cool. Of course I told the other volunteers about him and showed them pictures, but none of them wanted to give him a chance because they thought our conversations were shallow. I thought he was a really nice guy. Like, he had such a way with words. We talked about our favorite mixed drinks and Cotillion—I don’t know how much deeper a conversation can get. Here, the person listening would usually nod, probably so that they feel less uncomfortable about hearing about my love life.

So of course I was messaging David, that’s the guy’s name, while I was at Alta Gracia. The mass ended and people started rushing out to get to the fountain of holy water that me and all the other volunteers were standing by. Obviously I wasn’t paying attention, because I was messaging David, and a woman bumped into me for absolutely no reason. Like, if I’m not paying attention, then she should be paying attention, otherwise that’s how accidents happen, right? So I was shoved forward, and my phone fell into the holy water right after it had buzzed as David sent me another message. He had just sent his daily “Sup”, so I asked him, “what are you doing”, and now I’ll never know the response. At this part the nosy people usually give me a “damn that sucks” face, or a “wow, I can’t believe that happened” face.

Because I was so mad, and irritated, and just in, like, complete disbelief that that had happened, I yelled out “Fuck!”—like who wouldn’t, honestly? My phone was ruined—and leaned over the water basin, my hands reaching in to see if I could grab it. I know that people in Argentina speak Spanish and all, but they curse in English just like we do. Everybody turned towards me, and some of the old grandmothers covered their mouths with their head scarves. I told them “lo siento and perdon”, then made the sign of the cross so that they knew I was a good Catholic girl. They definitely forgave me after that. That water was really cold, by the way, and people were drinking from it, so I still can’t believe I touched something that unsanitary. That’s just how strong I thought my relationship with David was. So, needless to say, I wasn’t able to message David for the rest of my trip. It sucked, and obviously it still sucks, because I’m now stuck with a the crappiest of crappy iPhones.

I guess it wasn’t all bad, though, because when I came back home after the summer, I found out David actually had two girlfriends already. I was, like, the third one he was trying to add to his trio of three blind mice. What an asshole. If I could go back in time, I’d tell the lady that bumped into me “thank you for saving me”. She really came out of nowhere. It was like a sign or something, for me to stop messaging Douchebag David. Like God really had my back with some guardian angel. I may have a shitty iPhone, but at least I don’t have a shitty boyfriend like Miranda Castillo and Kimberly Wilson. They’re clearly better at sharing than I am. But, anyway, that’s the story of how I lost my phone. Here, whoever is listening usually stops talking to me because I have really long answers to simple questions.

 

Jonathan Allan – I Began to Ask Myself Who Was Really Doing the Wrangling: the Snakes or me, the Snake Wrangler?

After my divorce, life got complicated. But my work wrangling snakes provided an escape from it all. Until one day I asked myself, who was wrangling whom? Me, the snake wrangler? Or the snakes that I was paid to wrangle?

It would seem simple, but life has a funny way of teaching you things. You see, after countless hours with these guys, they actually taught me, the snake wrangler, what it meant to wrangle. The entire time I was hooking with my snake hook and clamping with my snake clamp, the snakes, in retrospect, were really the ones doing the hooking and clamping. And doesn’t that put things into perspective?

Sure, maybe I should’ve been more present with Marsha. But I did my best to get us through the affair. And you know what, now that I’m on the other side of the snake terrarium, and the snakes are roaming the building, I wonder if we were even good for each other.

She always wanted to live in Europe. Of course, my snake-wrangling salary never got us there. But after seeing how much these snakes had to wrangle out of me, I’m glad to be where I am. Where else would I have learned that I’m afraid to be alone? And that this is no way to begin a marriage? How else could I have known that my mother’s toes and Marsha’s toes were very similar, and that this was weird? Who would’ve taught me that these snakes have been studying this building’s floor plans and have seemingly been planning this for generations? If it weren’t for these little devils, where would I be?

One could say, well, you wouldn’t be wrapped in a snake coil while another snake keeps watch. But I regret nothing. Yeah sure, I could have secured the main door at least, so they wouldn’t be able to escape and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting population. And yeah, not all the snakes had something valuable to offer, necessarily. A couple of them were just regular, human-biting snakes. (You know the type.) But you know what they say: you have to break a few eggs.

Oh god, they got to the eggs.

Was engineering these genetically-modified super-snake eggs maybe a reaction to Marsha’s new boyfriend? You see, these are the kind of questions only a group of vengeful snakes could wrangle out of me. It’s funny how the answer to most of our problems can be as simple as a bunch of slimy, scaly monsters and their surprising ability to work basic latches. I mean, these little buggers really are something. A part of me is even proud. However, at this point, most of me is a swollen piece of pus, and the part of me that is proud is about to lose airflow. But ain’t that just how it goes? How else would I learn about my body’s capacity to handle venom, a lack of oxygen, and unhealthy attitudes toward women without these beautiful, otherworldly tentacle beasts known as the snake?

After it’s all said and done, I would like to think we wrangled a little bit out of each other: me, the snake wrangler, and the snakes I was supposed to wrangle. But at this point, it seems safer to recognize the superiority of our Snake Overlords. I guess this is what emotional maturity looks like: as the sun rises over a new world, where the snakes have just taken Manhattan, and all humans tremble in fear, I am finally more capable of dealing with my feelings. If only that Marsha-shaped bulge in that megasnake’s belly could see me now.