On the night I became the Pie Queen, I was drinking rum and Coke out of a 2-liter bottle. At first, I thought I’d be civilized and buy the bottle of Coke and the bottle of rum and politely mix responsible amounts into a glass, like a person who had been places before. But at some point after dinner, when the square dance band started up, my brain sloshed over in its alcohol bath and said to itself this is just stupid, cut the crap and instructed me to just dump all of the remaining alcohol into the liter or so of Coke that was left in the bottle, using my hand as a funnel, one eye closed for, uh, balance? Now you only have to carry ONE bottle instead of TWO, you Smarty von Smartowitz!
The barn party was this thing that happened every year in the field next to the weathered barn and farmhouse owned by some of The Pants’ oldest friends. They lived way out in the flatlands of Indiana in a wasteland of a little town that had nothing but the Lions’ Club Pork Chop Boil and the Sweet Corn Social every few Sundays. Other than that, it was just dirt roads and tulip bulbs and corner stores with no lights on during business hours. So these friends invited all the city folk out to this fart hamlet near Old Dust City for a good old fashioned day and a half of cooking food outside and sleeping on the ground.
I had heard that there was a pie contest that took place sometime after dusk. I researched pie recipes for a week and finally settled on Banana Rum Cream, then set to work producing it and FUCKING NAILED IT. It was basically a graham cracker crust with rum-soaked bananas and a creamy topping that extended about a mile high. I wanted so badly to win the pie contest. It meant a lot to me that my identity as Best Dessert-Making Person was forever cemented in the minds of all of these strangers and acquaintances who happened to be sharing the same field with me for the weekend. I showed up and basically bolted out of the car with only the pie in my hands. “Where do I put the pie?” I frantically asked the hostess. “The pie, though. Where do the pies go??”
(Nowadays I think it’s sort of cheating to bring a pie based on an internet recipe to a pie contest. I mean, all you have to do is find something that looks good and will taste nice and slutty, follow the directions, and show up. Shouldn’t the winning recipe be something you slaved over and perfected and wasted 500 pounds of brown sugar in testing and re-making again and again? How is it fair that you find a recipe in a magazine and say “guess I’ll make this shit” and that wins? Basically it just becomes a contest for who can find the best pie recipe, not who can make the best pie, unless you’re a total baking dumbfuck and can’t follow instructions. If I had it to do over, I’d…probably do the same fucking thing AND STILL WIN.)
I had used about 1/4 cup of rum in the pie, and reserved the rest of the entire bottle for recreational use that weekend. I stashed the bottle in the corner of our tent, which, because only families with small children were allowed to camp in the shade of the few trees in the front yard, sat in a freshly mowed field in full sun. By the afternoon, the rum was heated to boiling, but wasn’t so bad mixed with the Coke and a handful of ice. “I’m just excited about the pie contest,” I kept saying to people I’d just met, because they all had jobs at liberal arts colleges teaching jewelry making or photography, because they all wore carefully curated thrift store wardrobes, because they all had ribbons braided into their hair and did things on the weekend like choreograph acrobatic dances for community theater performances or teach bees to make tiny sustainable pottery. “The pie contest though, right?” I kept saying to these Eames-chair-collecting quasi-hippies and their homemade ginger beer and apple sodas. “I wonder who will win?!”
What else was there to say? “Uh huh, I also like art and things and only eat conflict-free carrots and I clean my piercings with vegan butter because it’s got vitamin E, would you like to chew some of this chicory root and talk about design?” I only had mean things to say, things that are not usually appreciated by people who carry their babies in homemade cotton slings dyed with beet juice. Things like “oh my god, are they seriously all going to square dance now? That sounds like it could only be fun if there were guns pointed at everyone’s feet.”
I was definitely smashed by the time the square dancing started, and sitting it out by planting myself in a lawn chair on the perimeter of the concrete slab dance floor near the barn gave me plenty of time for pouting and swigging out of my 2-liter bottle of sweet burning goodness. Maybe I wasn’t even really pouting? I don’t know. I think my face always looks either concerned or pouty if I’m engaged in my own thoughts and don’t care about what’s going on around me. So I sat there drinking out of boredom and watching the dancers swing their partners round and round and I eventually had to uncross my legs and put both feet on the ground, because my brains were going round and round too. But no matter! Because the PIE CONTEST WINNER WAS ABOUT TO BE ANNOUNCED!!!!
I’m going to go ahead and own up to the fact that I had no idea that the pie contest was being judged behind the scenes during most of the twilight square dancing. I was blissfully unaware of it, and to this day I’m not sure exactly what I was doing that whole time (besides drinking) that allowed this exciting fact to escape my sloshbrains. I guess since I’m a person, I sometimes drink too much, especially in social situations. But this time wasn’t as bad as the time I drank a whole bottle of Skinny Girl Margarita and fell into Lake Michigan. Who DOES THAT? A trash person, that’s who!!
This time wasn’t that bad, I told myself. I wasn’t overdoing it! Not yet, anyway. In hindsight, I was probably stumbling around trying to stay level because the ground was doing that thing where it went up and down real fast and you had to do your best to walk on it and nobody else seemed to be having trouble with it what the fuck. I think someone came to get me specifically to tell me that the pie contest announcement was about to be made, and they pushed me up to the front of the crowd in the barn where the three judges were standing behind the array of sad, store-bought crust pies they’d been asked to judge. They said a bunch of things about honorable mentions and second or third place or whatever, and called out one entry for having tasted great but being in one of those Pillsbury pie crusts you find in the freezer aisle, which was “unfortunate because the filling was so good!” The offending baker threw her arms up and said “Ohhh wellll” as the crowd judged her mercilessly.
Ha, you bitch, I thought. You don’t bring a Pillsbu–hic–a Pillsurrby, a Pilsuh..hurby..to a pie fight.
Surprise, surprise: the winner was the entirely made-from-scratch Banana Rum Cream pie, brought by Yours Truly and shared with this crowd of Crystal-deodorant-wearing bing bongs out of the goodness of my own heart and in the interest of my own ego. The girl who announced the winner, who spoke for her two fellow judges, hollered at me to come down front, where I already was. I was jumping around, pretty sure that my shirt was going over my head but not really caring because I didn’t like anybody, anyway. Also I might have been a little bit drunk on sugar fire water. I couldn’t tell you. So anyway, I was down front in a 100-year-old barn in the middle of Whatthefuck, Indiana, high-kicking my way back and forth in front of a table built out of two sawhorses and a slab of wood, on top of which sat 9 sad pies and one AMAZING pie, and do you know what announcer bitch did? I guess she felt like she needed to take me down a peg. As she leaned in to slip the PIE QUEEN sash over my head and arm, she leaned in close and said, “Just wanted to let you know: next time? Bake the graham cracker crust a little bit longer, okay? It kind of fell apart a little bit and if you bake it longer it won’t do that.”
I can’t think of another time in my life when I have gone from so triumphant to so face-meltingly enraged in so little time. I wanted to rip that bitch’s fucking face off and staple it to a dog’s ass. If the title of Pie Queen had come with actual royal privileges, my first order would have been to roll this skank through the blackberry bushes and into the gravel parking lot, then pour vodka all over her, then strap her to a pyre and set her ablaze and cook pie crusts on her flames. I’d make everyone else stand back while I toasted bits of crust under her nose, screeching “IS IT DONE YET??? IS THE CRUST CRUUUUSTY ENOUGH FOR YOU NOW?! AHAHHAHAHAHHA!” We’d torch her until her black heart stopped, then we’d all pee on her to put her out and toss her in the pond and let the bluegill have her. But since I often let people say annoying things to me and don’t do anything about it in the moment, except swallow a big gulp of heartburn and use all of the muscles in my face to make Something That Looks Like A Smile until I can get away somewhere to complain about it, I did just that: weak thing that looked like a smile, then I said “Uhhh huh, okay.”
Anyhow, it didn’t matter what this oily cunt thought of my crust. This was the winning crust. How dare she continue to judge it after awarding it Best Pie of the Year?? Was there an even higher prize it could have won? Well, I didn’t see any other desserts hanging around among the power tools and sawdust piles, waiting to be judged against the winning pie, so you tell me. So basically she was saying, “This was good enough to win, but it could have been better.” Which is impossible. Because all a pie has to do is be good enough to fucking eat. Good enough to win is just one more notch above that. There is no higher notch than WINNER.
Someone had quickly set about slicing the pies into taster slices so that the enormous crowd of guests could all have dessert. I snagged a slice of the WINNING PIE which was MADE BY ME before descending back into the crowd and somehow finding my lawn chair and my Rumsoda bottle. I couldn’t tell you what the pie tasted like (probably bananas and rum) because by then I was busted drunk and owning it and just shoving pie in my face because it was something to do besides talking to anyone, washing it down with sticky hot goo juice from Hell and hoping I wouldn’t die.
Here is another brief interlude during which I am not sure what happened. I somehow made it from the lawn chair to the end of the field where the circle of guest tents sat in the dark near the pond. That’s the next place I remember being. Specifically, behind our tent, clutching the empty soda bottle and barfing gallons of rum and Coke and pie into the grass, struggling to keep my Pie Queen sash from falling into the fast growing puddle expanding in front of my grass-stained knees. I would have fallen face-first into the puddle of Piebarf if not for The Pants grabbing me and getting me back into the tent. I barely remember groaning at the sound of the partygoers who had paced themselves, splashing around in the pond on pool toys by the light of the moon. They were having too much goddamn fun and keeping me awake and I had to pee a little bit and wondered if I would wander outside and end up peeing on top of the barf and oh god.
The next morning, I woke to the dismal feeling of the noon sun baking me like a dead body in a sealed apartment, and a headache that felt like a dog barking broken glass into both ears. The hippie commune was busy cooking enough pancakes for 75 people on a massive outdoor griddle that someone had built out of scrap. I pouted and stomped my feet and insisted that we leave ASAP because everything was awful and I wanted to puke again and also wanted a cheeseburger and I was QUEEN didn’t that count for anything?! Do as I say and pack the shit and start the car! In the driveway, I made a comment about the asshole with the ukulele who had kept me up all night, in between bouts of drunken unconsciousness, crooning Bob Dylan songs by the pond. A bunch of CSA-subscription NPR listeners scowled at me in a way that made me think the ukulelist was either among us or poly-married to at least one of the audience members.
In the side mirror, I watched the dust of the gravel road create a brown cloud behind us as we finally tore away from the unwashed, unshaven madness of dancing in a field with a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t know a good graham cracker crust if it chewed up their rope sandals. I spit on a Culver’s napkin and wiped a crust of dried brown vomit off my right cheek and declared that I was going to sleep all the way home, so deal with it. The Pie Queen tilted her royal car seat into the supine position and complained once more about the temperature in the vehicle before passing out again.
As far as I know, the title has not been revoked or reassigned. I am the Last Pie Queen.