I was spending the weekend with my friend Wes in 8th grade. On Friday, we went to a fair at the local elementary school and won copious amounts of soda in the ring toss. When we first started playing, we'd win 3 giant bottles of carbonated sugar-water with each game played. Later in the evening, they revised the rules so that even though you got to throw 3 rings each time you played, you were only allowed to walk away with one more bottle. Still, we ended up with obscene amounts of cheap soda, and had to keep going outside to drop it off in his mom's car.
Armed with incredible amounts of sugar and caffeine, we spent basically the entire rest of the weekend playing Super Mario Kart in his basement with his brother, Alex, who was a couple of years younger than we were. That, and getting sticky spilling soda all over ourselves while trying to chug it at a maniacal rate.
We were betting on the races, and I kept acquiring more soda and an assortment of little knick knacks. Somewhere, I still have a small donkey carved from stone that Wes bought on a trip to some caves in Kentucky. I lost some soda and little knick knacks, too, but the game play was pretty even. Even though I didn't have a Super Nintendo at home, we all seemed to have roughly the same skill level.
I had a comic book that I had recently purchased on a trip to visit relatives in California. Comic books were a rare enough commodity in Indiana, where the comic book stores were all far away, but this comic was an even bigger treasure than most. In it were depictions of a smiling dinosaur being butchered to death and mutilated in various ways. On the cover, written in big, bloody letters were the words "KILL BARNEY." Alex had been trying to get me to bet it on races all day, but I had resisted. No, I may have been a decent Mario Kart driver, but I wasn't willing to risk something so precious.
Until I got cocky.
Wes was sitting on the sidelines, guzzling flat root beer (his beverage of choice), and Alex and I kept racing. I was on a winning streak. I won race after race, and was amassing a pile of junk that used to belong to Alex. He kept bringing me up to his room and finding unwanted trinkets to win from him. At some point, towards the end of my winning streak, he offered up some valuable object, but only if I was willing to put my comic book down as my bet. Having been winning repeatedly, I figured I could win without any trouble.
And then Alex promptly left my kart in the dust. It became obvious by the second lap that he had been losing intentionally, and was now about to own my comic book.
"Oh, you got hustled!" Wes yelled. Alex grinned.
I spent the rest of the weekend trying to win back my comic book, but Alex now treated it as I had, and wouldn't risk losing it.