Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Phoenix’s shrimp diary: I am a shrimp-eating champion

Whenever there are shrimp, there is me
Will Romano

Dear Diary,

November 3, Friday

Whenever there are shrimp, there is me. I am a shrimp-eating champion. 


I don’t know exactly why I like them. Maybe it’s because their curled backs fit perfectly into my mouth — like my mouth is the big spoon and they are the little spoon. Maybe it’s their soft, buttery flesh. Or maybe it’s because they can be both crunchy and tender if you eat them with their shells on, as I do.

The point is, I’m unnaturally good at eating shrimp. I’ve been known to reduce large men to tears when a plate of cocktail shrimp is passed around. Women flock to me during my weekly Tuesday-night shrimp eating sessions. I’ve driven three species of whales and counting to extinction due to me taking all their shrimp. 

There is a certain man named Scott McKirey who may try to tell you that he is better at eating shrimp than me. It’s cute, really. I tried to calmly tell him, “Scott, you have the stomach capacity of a newborn baby. You cannot eat more shrimp than me.” And he always gets frustrated and says, “Phoenix, please put down that knife.” And I say, “What you scared? You scared of a little knife?” And Scott says, “Phoenix I will not have this conversation with you until you put down that knife.”

I always laugh and tell him that I was just joking around. Can’t he take a joke? But then he keeps lying and saying that he can eat more shrimp than me, so then I have to joke around more and try to kill him. 

Anyways. Caroline Crawley, our managing editor, said that things were getting a little tense between me and Scott. Said that the constant knife-wielding was creating a “toxic” workplace environment — whatever that means. So, we had to settle our little rivalry once and for all, or else I would be fired. Something like that. 

I won’t deny that it stings that Caroline would choose to side with Scott when he’s a dirty little liar who can’t take a joke, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to put Scott in his place. I can’t wait to see the shrimp fall out of his little baby mouth because he can’t handle them. I can’t wait to put the shrimp that fell out of his mouth into my mouth, to just totally dominate him. It will be epic.

Our competition will take place Tuesday night at Red Lobster. The Board Chair, Bill Bomano, will serve as our arbitrary, and we will see who can eat more shrimp for Red Lobster’s “Endless Shrimp” bargain. 

Caroline said it would be a good idea if I took notes on my feelings before, during and after the competition. Maybe it would make me realize some things about myself. I don’t really know what she means by that. I will realize that I am a shrimp champion, duh, but I don’t see why I need to gain insight into that. 

But whatever. I’ll do these stupid notes. She said I have to take notes or I’m fired. She threatens me a lot

Monday— Eve of the shrimp off 

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m getting a little antsy for this shrimp off. I was staring at my shrimp collection today — I keep all the tails of the shrimp I eat — and I was like, “Woah. My entire identity is based on how much shrimp I can eat. I literally value myself on how much shrimp I have eaten, which is a lot. I’m worth 2.1 billion shrimp at this point.” But sometimes it feels like no matter how much shrimp I eat, it won’t be enough.

Obviously, I’m going to win this competition. But I can’t help but wonder, if I were to lose, would people still love me? Would I still love me?

Things got so bad that I didn’t actually eat the nightly bowl of shrimp. I wonder what Scott is feeling. 

Tuesday— Morning of shrimp off

Wow, that was so weird last night. I can’t believe I got so scared. Wuss.

I had the strangest dream last night. It was so funny. I was swimming in the gulf, catching shrimp with my bare hands. The sun was high in the sky and the shrimp were so bountiful they basically blanketed the sea. I was in heaven. 

But just as I was eating a particularly well-proportioned shrimp, I noticed something strange— it had my face. I threw it down and then I realized that all the shrimps had my face. I screamed, and then I stared sinking, sinking, down to the bottom of the gulf, where there was an enormous shrimp that looked like all the people I had ever loved. 

It grabbed me with its shrimp leg and pulled me toward its shrimp maw, and then I woke up. 

Isn’t that so funny? It was like I was afraid of eating shrimp, or something. That’s so weird. I’m such a wussy for that, haha. AHAHHAHAHA. 

You are good, Phoenix. You are going to eat more shrimp than Scott and then he won’t be able to make fun of you in the office anymore. Everybody will respect you. You will have so much more friends after this shrimp off. It’s going to be awesome. 

Tuesday — Noon

Ok, I’m feeling like myself again. I ate my customary three pounds of shrimp for lunch and not a single one of them had my face. 

Tuesday — In the car on the way to Red Lobster 

I’m feeling it, I won’t lie I’m feeling it. I think I can put down, two, maybe three thousand shrimp tonight. Scott won’t be ready. He’s wearing a bucket hat to Red Lobster. It looks so stupid, I bet everyone will laugh at him. I’ll say, “Hey look at Scott McKirey in his stupid bucket hat. It’ll come in handy to catch the puke.” And everyone in red Lobster will think I’m so funny and they’ll want to be my friend. 

All three of the higher-ups were at the office to see Scott and me off. Janani, the editor-in-chief, said, “Phoenix, I hope you know that we’re doing this for you.” Audrey, the other managing editor, said that no matter the outcome of the shrimp off, The Badger Herald would still respect me. Caroline patted me down and took my knife. She shook her head in disappointment. 

I think Scott is feeling pretty antsy himself. He is looking even paler than his normally pale skin allows. I hear him muttering to himself that he can beat me.

I mutter back, “No you can’t Scott.”

Tuesday— In front of Red Lobster

I took my shirt off. I don’t know why but I did, and I tried to attack Scott. It felt right. Bill had to separate us. Tensions are high.

I should probably put my shirt back on before I go into Red Lobster. 

Tuesday — In a booth inside Red Lobster

I feel like I’m home inside this Red Lobster. The smell of brine and shrimp permeates the air here. The waitress, Meredith, is a veteran of shrimp-offs. She recalls one time Richard Nixon and JFK came here to have a shrimp off. She said JFK was a hot, hot man. 

Bill Bomano, ordered biscuits. Scott and I didn’t touch them. I begrudgingly respect him for this: when one is being served shrimp, one should not taint their palate with other, lesser flavors. 

Meredith brings out the first course of our shrimp meal. Just before we dig in, Scott extends me his hand. I flinch and prepare to defend myself, but Bill Bomano calms me down. He tells me that Scott just wants to shake my hand and that I can put down the butter knife. 

It’s been so long since I’ve touched another human being. His hand feels strange in mine. It’s soft yet hard — like a shrimp. Is this how my hands feel?

Before I can ask him, the competition is on. We are competing for speed at this point. But to my utter surprise, the shrimp Meredith gave us is still piping hot from the deep fryer. It actually hurts to put it into my mouth and Scott is moaning in pain. But he is also shoving three shrimp down his throat at once. I have to continue. 

He beats me. The shame is overwhelming. I feel sick. I hear him say, “Who’s the shrimp baby now?”, even though tears are streaming down his face. I can’t even respond. 

“I’ll get you next round,” I stammer. He only snickers and Bill Bomano formally awards him one point.

I’ve never been impaled by a piece of cruelly twisted iron before, but I bet this is what it feels like. My head is spinning. I don’t know who I am. Phoenix, the shrimp God, lost to Scott. It can’t be so. I stumble from the booth and throw up in the bathroom sink. 

I don’t recognize the man staring at me in the mirror. He is pale and trembling. Not me. 

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Please don’t hurt me.” 

“It’s OK, Phoenix.” 

“Who said that?”

“US, down here.” The shrimp I threw up, they’re talking to me. One of them has Scott’s face. 

“We still love you even if you lose.”

“That’s not true!.”

“It is. Eat us, Phoenix, if you don’t believe it. “

Sobbing, I eat my vomited shrimp. Despite their sogginess, I feel replenished. Scott may have won this battle, but he is far from winning the war. Plus I have an ace up my sleeve. 

“Back so soon?” Scott says, “I’d have thought you’d want to cry a bit more.”

“Jesus, Phoenix, you look pale. Are you OK?”  Bill Bomano says. 

“Have some water,” Scott says, his face strangely worried. Nice try, Scott. I know your niceness is all an act. 

“I’m fine. Let’s order the same thing.”

“Phoenix, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You barely finished last time.” Bill says. 

“No, bring me the deep-fried shrimp.”

“Phoenix, I—“

“Bring me the shrimp, dammit!”

Meredith brings us a fresh skilled of fried shrimp. Scott tries to appear brave, but I see a flash of fear in his eyes. I ask him if he’s scared and he laughs nervously. I see that his tongue is blistered from eating the scorching hot shrimp too fast. 

Bill counts us down and it’s game time, baby. Only instead of shoving the shrimp straight into my mouth as Scott does, I dunk each one in the cocktail sauce to cool it somewhat. Then I take one bite from each shrimp to increase its surface area and therefore its cooling rate.

I beat Scott by three shrimps. Scott is coughing up blood and openly crying at this point, but he still puts down his last shrimp like a winner. The longer this competition lasts, the more I find myself respecting this man, whose passion for shrimp eating — if not his ability — rivals my own. 

For the next six rounds, we agree to eat slowly. To savor the shrimp. Even in this simple act of eating, our philosophies could not be more different. Scott prefers to abstract himself from the shrimp, to forget that he is eating. It allows him to ignore the pain from his bulging stomach. 

I, on the other hand, like to get to know my shrimp before and while I’m eating them. I like to imagine that they are somebody I know. Bill says that’s really weird. Why would I want to eat people I know? But surprisingly, Scott understands.

“Eading isth an act of lub,” Scott mumbled, his tongue still swollen and bleeding. “I geth you, Phoenix.”

In the 32 shrimp I eat next, I see my parents, my sisters, and my colleagues at The Badger Herald. Janani, Audrey, Caroline, Bill, Scott. 

In the end, Scott and I eat only 50 shrimp before Red Lobster asks us to leave because they have been closed for the past thirty minutes. The waitress, Meredith, is sad to see us go. 

Outside Red Lobster, Scott and I look at each other. Neither of us has bested the other, and I find that I don’t mind that. In fact, I’m glad that I have found somebody who shares my love for shrimp. We shake hands and this time I make sure to ask him how my hand feels. 

“Ids like a Han,” Scott says.

Not softer than a shrimp’s shell or harder than its plump flesh — my hand is like a hand. Huh. 

“Good game, Scott. We should do this again sometime.”

“I’ll bead you.”

“Take it back you mongrel,” I say, whipping out my knife. Within seconds its blade is touching his throat. Bill is crying, pleading with me to drop the knife. But Scott only laughs. It’s not a knife I hold, it’s a shrimp skewer. 

“Good game, Phoenix.”

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