Who does he think he is, Matt Harrigon, with his pants all fancy, and his fancypants dad and that jigsaw and that band saw and the sander saw or whatever he calls it? If my dad did all that wood stuff, then I’d win every year too, no problem, easy-peasy, just like, hey, look at me, I’m Matt Harrigon.
I’m Matt Harrigon. I collect arthropods! Arthropods! I know all the planets (in order! in order!). I will always beat you at checkers. I know all the words to “Magical Mister Mistoffelees.” I talk to myself, by myself, on the playground, about things no one else understands, like Positronics and Parallax. If I’m Matt Harrigon, I don’t watch television, I don’t play kickball, I don’t shower on a regular basis, I don’t get bad grades in math. But, to be sure, if I’m Matt Harrigon, then for one day a year, I’m a hero to all.
Me, Matt Harrigon, and the rest, we’re Cub Scouts for various reasons, but whatever. Webelos, as a group. Webelo, singular.
We blow. Get it?
So when I see his Matt Harrigon grin, his baby/adult Frankenstein teeth all different sizes, I know right away the Pinewood Derby comes early this year. He will build his tiny racecar, and fortune and glory will again be his.
Three weeks go by and we’re walking into the gym at St. Paul’s Church on Foulk Road. All the other Webelos packs are waiting for us, for Pack 49, for Matt Harrigon. Oh, how he will dazzle us! The mayor, the governor, they’re all waiting to see him, to kneel before him, feel the breeze as his tiny car speeds across the finish line, as the official stopwatch explodes because his time does not compute, it is too fast, impossible, but there it is.
My block of wood with wheels, my foray into carpentry, no one would want it, not in a bazillion years. It is junk. It is worthless. It has polio. It is Turbo Graphix 16. It is New Coke. It is the Ford Aerostar.
I want to throw it away, smash it, crush it, go back in time and stop myself from even trying to make it. I want it to be erased from existence like the McFly siblings.
One by one, we drop our cars down the ramp and along the straightaway to the end, where there might as well be a trash can to catch them, an incinerator to swallow them, burn them. One by one, until, at last, at long last, Matt Harrigon approacheth.
He is Pinewood perfection and they love him for it.
We all watch Matt Harrigon, our breath held, our nostrils quivering, our eyes closed—no, eyes open; otherwise, how would we watch him?—and he steps up the ladder, to the top of the ramp, and puts his car on the track. His car is a spaceship, a Saturn V for justice, peace, for America. He even attached little balsa-wood wings.
And we’re all ready for his inevitable triumph, but afterward we’ll all agree that what he does instead makes much more sense, is definitely much more triumphant.
“People of Earth,” Matt Harrigon says, and the mayor smiles. The We-Blows, they smile too. The moms and the dads, all smiling, thinking, My God, he truly is the Cadillac of men, this Matt Harrigon.
“People of Earth! The time for goodbye is now. I thank you for your shelter, your spare parts, and for your Magic Cards, especially the Shivan Dragon. Five-five flying with fire-breathing, and only six mana summoning cost! We have nothing like it on my planet. Now, I must bid you farewell,” says Matt Harrigon.
His body gets all stiff, the top of his head pops open, a cookie jar, his hair is the lid, and out comes a tiny Matt Harrigon, a tiny thing, a mini-Matt, a gremlin, all of 3 inches, and it salutes us, and it gets in the Pinewood Derby car, the rocket—how is this possible?—and then the car points to the window, the engines roar, and the thing flies away, phhht, just like that.
It takes a few moments for the smoke to clear. Silence.
Then my dad puts his hand on my shoulder, his hand that never used a band saw, a jigsaw, a sander saw (or whatever), never touched one in his life, and my dad says, “See? That’s what happens when you touch yourself. Down there.”