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Since this came up today and since yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of my brother’s death, an anecdote: I’ve mentioned my brother’s competitive streak before, but nowhere did it present itself more vividly or more hilariously than in games of chance at carnivals and amusement parks. He knew they were mostly scams, of course, but he was cocky enough to think he could beat them anyway. It wasn’t for the prizes, it was for the satisfaction of knowing he could outsmart or outwork the dude trying to take his money, either through physics or willpower or sheer force. Sometimes he actually did.
Anyway, one time, somewhere — either at a county fair upstate or Adventureland out on Long Island — my sister, my brother and I enter one of the multi-player games in which there’s always a winner. You probably know the one: Every contestant pays a dollar for a water gun on a hose facing a little target, and once the buzzer sounds you spray the target while a mechanical horse that corresponds to your position hops along a track to the finish. The winner gets some stuffed animal that is demonstrably crappier than the stuffed animals you think you’re going to get.
Chris was always an awesome older brother to both of us, but he was never the type to let us win at anything. So my sister and I decided to team up in the water-gun/horse-race thing — again, not for the stuffed animal, but just for the satisfaction of beating him at something.
As soon as the buzzer sounded, my siblings both fired at their targets and I turned and fired at my brother’s face. It was an amazing shot, too — I got him right in the left eye. But — and this will tell you something about that competitive streak — he didn’t scare or fire back or put the gun down and kick my ass. He just closed his eye and kept shooting. Pretty sure he won, too.
Also tells you something about cancer, I guess.