He applied the last bit of mascara, the last dab of lipstick, and took a deep breath. Now, he was ready.
How could he not be? He had waited for this moment his entire life. He was finally going to show them. He smiled.
Aviv delicately lifted his gumball jar and stepped outside. Today he would finally claim the record as his own.
He looked around. Flashes were popping off everywhere. And people were screaming, “Aviv! Aviv!” He smiled. But where was Gertrude?
Where was the love of his life on the day he needed her the most? ‘She’ll come.’ he thought. She had to. He couldnt do this w/o her.
Gertrude, though, was glued to the TV. The coverage of the Royal Wedding was so enthralling, she lost all track of time.
She knew Aviv would need her but just this once she wanted 2 live HER life; she was tired of being “Aviv’s GF” never just Gertrude.
Pushing thoughts of Gertie aside, Aviv closed his eyes and put the first gumball in his mouth. The crowd became silent.
At home, Gertrude reflected on their path. They met at Columbia. At the time, she was the “it girl” and he the introverted type.
The last person to attempt the record for most gumballs in mouth at once choked to death. Aviv now tempted a similar fate for fame.
Gertrude suspected Aviv was doing this to prove he could be as “it” as she was when they met – but none of that mattered to her.
Tempting fate with competitive confections consumption seemed somehow so childish to her, she wondered how they would live it down.
And why, she wondered, had he taken to wearing more cosmetics for these gummy stunts? He already ruined her newest lipstick.
Few people knew the stunts had strained the relationship. The role of stuntman’s girlfriend was played with ease, if not pleasure.
She could even overlook the spoiled cosmetics, though it struck her as clownish. It didn’t help that she was unnerved by clowns.
Aviv took the 2nd gumball out of the jar, holding it up to the crowd for dramatic effect. “Put it in!” they chanted. He did. Alone.
W/ a gumball in each cheek, his eyes scanned the crowd, looking for her. With a slow blink, he reached for the third gumball and…
…grimaced as he slipped it in his mouth. Aviv was careful not to smear the lipstick, it may be the closest Gertie would be today.
The record was 13 gumballs. The irony of the death during the previous attempt and the unluckiness of 13 was lost on no one.
Especially not Gertrude. She knew the risks. After all, it was her father, Michael the Magnificent, who held the gumball record.
He’d held the title for most of her life, yet had never talked about it. Not odd, since he was mute after a freak gumball accident.
During the Chicago heat wave of ’95, a gumball machine exploded. Hit in the throat, the doctors couldn’t remove the silencing orb.
It was now a daily reminder of the true dangers of the sport. The gumball: capable of bestowing such fame and such sorrow.
As a bead of sweat slipped down Aviv’s brow, he pressed on toward his goal. 4, 5 and 6 were no problem, but gumball 7…
…proved trickier. He puffed his cheeks out, then slipped it under his lower lip. The crowd gasped, barely able to comprehend this.
But Aviv knew. It was this exact move that, years earlier, transformed little Mikey into Michael the Magnificent.
Gertrude knew too. She and a young Aviv used to watch her father’s exploits on YouTube every day after school. They idolized him.
But after the accident, things changed. Gertrude shut down, but Aviv’s admiration grew stronger. Aviv devoted his life to gumballs.
It was a near obsession to Aviv. He’d loved her since childhood & his drive for a new record would prove it. Little did he know…
that Gertie was home, watching Prince William & Kate exchanging vows..over gumballs! It brought back a flood of memories. Too many.
She turned the TV off and picked up a gumball. Enraged, she whipped it at the ground, but it bounced back up & hit her in the face.
Momentarily shocked, she thought of her father, and her eyes welled up. She got up quickly, dumping the gumballs into the trash.
She pressed her hand to her head and felt a warm, sticky drip….
First, her dad’s gumball accident, & now this? Who was next, Aviv? Gertie couldn’t let that happen. Not w her dad already a mute.
As Gertrude looked at the clock it blinked 11:11. On the other side of town, Aviv was now sweating, on gumball 11.
Picking up the 12th gumball, he quickly scanned the crowd for Gertrude. No luck. Maybe she didn’t care. His hand went to his mouth.
He slowly inserted #12, & the crowd suddenly grew quiet. A young girl’s jaw dropped in disbelief. What was happening to Aviv?
His face was trembling, as he was trying his best to hold on, 12 gumballs stuffed into his mouth. He couldn’t turn back. Not now.
Gertrude was on her way. She knew what this meant to Aviv, but couldn’t shake the weird feeling in the pit of her stomach…
Luckily, she lived less than 11 minutes away. She walked into the dark theater and could see Aviv on stage. Still, a weird feeling.
Aviv didn’t see her. This was to be his moment. He reached for #13 & Gertie cried, “STOP! For the love of all things bubbly!”
But she was too far away and the roar of the crowd was too loud. His forehead was sweaty, his hair oddly tinged green.
Aviv narrowed his eyes & squinted. “Gemewfgfhocxivjkefweiogrfd” He tried to speak. He couldn’t say a word. Gertie ran towards him.
She ran to him. She had seen his reaction and regretted it the moment the words left her mouth.
Throwing her arms around him, Gertie begged Aviv to stop. “You remember what happened to my father, don’t you?!” she pleaded.
Aviv looked at Gertie & held her in his arms. As he put #13 into his mouth, what followed surprised everyone, especially Aviv.
The 13th gumball and all preceeding gumballs burst forth from Aviv’s mouth straight into Gertie’s face.
Aviv paused his chewing for a moment, then, out of nowhere, a bubble started forming from his lips. Gertie watched him, skeptical.
“How do you have more gum?” Gertie asked. “Easy,” said Aviv. “Regurgitation.” He brought up a piece he had swallowed yesterday.
14, 15, 15… 15 – Aviv felt an overwhelming gag reflex he’d never ever felt before. #Huhhhhggggghhhhgnnnughhh
Sixzzz… Nghuh… Teen… He was pushing through…
…Thru the spasms – but there was no air. Just an unyielding bubble. Sealing him off from the world.
The bubble continued to get larger, enveloping Gertrude. Aviv kept going. There was the Bubblicious. And Topps baseball card gum.
Aviv motioned under the bubble for Gertie to get the gum scraper. He didn’t want the same fate as her dad, aka Bubble Boy.
Gertie fought against the bubble’s pull, eventually shaking free. The bubble kept growing, so Gertie didn’t have much time.
Her scraper was never very far, considering both her dad & boyfriend were gumballers. There were plenty of mishaps thru the years.
She went to the car and grabbed it, then came running back. The bubble was even bigger, now that the Big League Chew was out.
She fought her way through the crowd, which was now clamoring for the exits. The bubble was getting bigger by the second, and it…
…knocked over some stage props. This massive bubble of every piece of gum that Aviv ever chewed just kept growing and growing.
Gertie got in position and raised the scraper as the bubble approached her. She needed to save Aviv. And she needed to do it now.
With ferocious might Gertie plunged the scraper into the bubble, popping its contents all over the crowd. But Aviv..
didn’t make it. He had suffocated under the bubble that was congealed over his face.
Gertie rushed to the pink and purple slimed Aviv but resisted the temptation to do CPR. It was just too much.
Gertrude fell to her knees. “Nooooo!” She tried to close his eyelids, but they were already completely sealed by the gum.
After an hour of hearing Gertie’s sobs, the crowd picked up the gum mummy Aviv and carried him to the nearest hill.
A somber ceremony was held while Aviv was buried. However his grave marker would never hold the title of “Gumball Champion.”
It’s now 2021. Gertrude’s son, Aziz, is attempting to break the world gumball record on the exact stage where Aziz died.
Gertrude’s in the 1st row, cheering him on, chewing a mixture of Big League Chew and Bubblicious. Big Aziz would be proud.
Competitive gumballing? Who knew it could be so dangerous? Not me. And definitely not Aziz. But you know who did? Gertrude. What a woman.
Thanks @hiaubs for the photo, and thanks to @vineyardlola, @steeb2er, @melmo3, @nella22, @hiaubs, @hwtibbs, @jsetlak and @thatgirlmari for writing. Good stuff.