The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts April 28, 2006

Good Eats - by Maya Silver

No Way, Jack-ay! -
A saga in some parts

Since the beginning of life itself, animals, humans and microorganisms alike have been pushing the limits of their existences. This striking phenomenon is the basis for improvement, transformation and evolution. Yesterday’s, of downtown Oberlin, is a famous proponent of limit-pushing. This little gem of an ice cream shoppe is home to the No-Way Challenge: nine scoops of ice cream, three toppings, two bananas, nuts, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry in 15 minutes.

Many a confident ice-cream eater has attempted the No-Way, but very few have actually conquered it. With a success rate of about only 31 percent, prospects are pretty grim for even the most expanded of stomachs.

* * *

Sophomore Jackie Bousek, also a lifelong resident of Lorain County, enjoys the finer points of life, most specifically, dining. She is not a girl of seconds or even thirds, but of fourths and fifths. It is not uncommon for her fellow diners to observe her rapacious consumption patterns and remind her that her food is not going anywhere. But fast or slow, “Jack” likes the direction she’s going in.

* * *

William Dougan is the owner of Yesterday’s and the inventor of the No-Way Challenge.

“A bunch of us were just sitting around, talking about ice cream once. Someone mentioned they could eat a lot of ice cream and I said ‘No way!’” Though Dougan recounted this creation narrative casually, it was clear that the moment he was describing contained the birth of something great, no lesser in importance than the dawn of a new era or the genesis of a people.

* * *

On Wednesday, April 26th of this year, Jackie ate dinner. She had a bun, some saffron rice, a few tofu triangles, some salad, sautéed squash and apple pie. Afterward, despite her full stomach, she went to Yesterday’s, sat down at the diner and demanded a No-Way.

She ordered two scoops of Superman, one scoop of Black Cherry, two scoops of Vanilla, one scoop of Cookie Dough, one scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip with blueberry, strawberry and pineapple topping. As Jackie popped lactaid tablets into her mouth, she watched in horror as Kelly, Yesterday’s employee, scraped larger-than-life scoops into the plastic tub that would later become her bete noire.

Kelly placed the tub in front of Jackie. To its right was a timer, a washcloth and a vomit bucket.

“Only a few throw up,” Kelly noted, “but one guy tried to eat with his fingers and got frostbite so you have to use a spoon now.” A chilling, cautionary tale. Indeed.

All eyes were on Jackie as Dougan started the timer at 15 minutes. Like a true professional, Jackie immediately started to shovel spoonfuls of whipped cream and ice cream into her mouth.

“I forgot ice cream is cold!” Jackie exclaimed between bites. Throughout the ordeal, Jackie continued to mumble mostly incoherently:

14:35 Time is flying!
12:54 I’m in bad shape here.
12:40 “You look beautiful,” Kelly comments.
12:30 Brain freeze. Jackie pauses, furrows her brow.
10:12 This ice cream’s pretty frozen, Dougan.
08:44 I think I’m going to throw up.
08:15 “I feel like I’m watching Fear Factor,” exclaims a customer.
07:59 Slow and steady wins the race.
07:03 I feel sick.
05:12 I can’t swallow anymore.
04:35 A little girl sits down next to Jackie. “Yay! Strawberries!” she shouts. “You want ’em?” Jackie asks gruffly. Girl walks away.
04:00 Jackie begins to slow down significantly.
03:03 I’m so sick of ice cream.
02:04 I’m not doing too good, am I?
01:50 Jackie has a coughing fit.
01:24 “I can see clearly now that the rain has gone” by Neil Finn comes on the radio. The verse “I can see all obstacles in our way” resonates eerily well with the situation.
01:10 How am I doing, Dougan?

Dougan: “You’re not gonna be able to do it.”

And indeed, “slow and steady” ate only one out of the three and a half pounds of ice cream in the allotted time. It seems that with the No-Way, “fast and sporadic” may have been a better mantra.

“Once you get a brain freeze...” Dougan said.

“So it’s not my fault, it’s my body’s fault?” Jackie asked.

Whether or not it was her fault or her body’s fault, Jackie championed in her persistence and dogged refusal to let the ice cream win. Though the dairy mush coating her semi-lactose intolerant stomach must have been akin to flesh-burning chemicals glazing one’s naked arm, she endured the pain and kept it down, rendering the evil vomit-bucket useless. We got the rest of the ice cream to go and walked back out onto the avenues of the city.

Jackie looked at Yesterday’s. She looked at Dougan, wiping down the counters within. She looked at the Styrofoam container with the leftover ice cream. She looked at me. And I knew that I would never see Jackie again. She nodded and we went our separate ways.


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