I am in my finest Depression-era clothes despite it being a couple hundred years after the 1930’s, standing with all the other children in the town square. The Capitol ambassador squeaks, “Ladies first!” and plunges her impeccable manicure into the fishbowl of names. She unfolds a slip of paper and starts to read, “Many tidings of happiness are coming your way. Lucky numbers: 4, 12, 37 . . .” before a Peacekeeper politely advises her to read the other slide of the paper.
“Grace Cummings!” she calls out. I walk to the stage. No one volunteers. Seven hundred Facebook friends and not one can be bothered to stop me from going to my death? It’s as if all the witty statuses I wrote mean nothing to them.
She then draws the male name. “Josh Hutcherson!” All the teenage females in the crowd scramble to volunteer for me now, prompting the Capitol ambassador to screech, “Only another male may volunteer for the male tribute!” The men of the crowd don’t quite feel the same pull to volunteer for Josh, but I get the feeling that if I were Jennifer Lawrence, they would feel differently.
As prompted by the Capitol ambassador, Josh and I shake hands. His face is so square. I once tried to caricature his square face, but instead I made him look adorable. I decide not to tell him this. Thank goodness the trains are so fast that the ride will be brief and I won’t feel the need to blurt this out to break that “we’re being herded to our deaths” tension.
Fine, I like this part. I am so fabulous. My dress is like WHOA and my makeup is like WHAT and my hair is like HOLY MOLY and my nails are like HOLD ON, NOW!
Man, am I glad that I got Lupita Nyong’o’s stylist. Josh and I are District 11 (because Kentucky and Georgia, whatup?) so our district is agriculture. I am in a chiffon dress that is peach-colored and the bodice has little applique peach blossoms on it. My makeup is understated but also has peach tones. My hair is in all these weird, complicated braids that must have been the result of extensions, because usually when I try to do one braid in my hair it looks downright pitiful. My nails are coral colored with that “velvet” stuff on them, and while I’m amazed at them, I can’t help but wonder if the average Pinterest user would find them pedestrian. Essentially, my stylist is more obsessed with peach trees than the people who named the streets of Atlanta.
Josh is wearing a dark teal suit to echo Kentucky’s blue grass with a cotton boll boutonniere. But no one ever cares about what the boys are wearing so let’s move on.
I’m glad they waxed my legs because even though I know I shouldn’t worry about this in the arena, smooth legs will give me peace of mind. If I got shot in the leg, I would probably marvel at my lack of stubble before dressing the wound.
I’ve heard that you shouldn’t show off your best skills in training. This is assuming you have skills to begin with. I’m an artist and I can’t even do the camouflage thing that Peeta had supposedly learned from “decorating cakes.” I try archery, but I’m now convinced that the one bullseye I got at summer camp when I was thirteen was a fluke. At the wilderness skills station, I mention that I saw on Reddit once that Doritos make for good kindling, but of course they have not provided Doritos for us.
Katniss’s interview was awkward but charming because it was really performed by Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t have that same quirkiness. For instance, Caesar asks me if there’s a budding relationship between me and Josh. I laugh, “He wishes!” and the audience boos. I am resigned to the notion that I am the Anne Hathaway of tributes.
I then try a new strategy and make sure the answers to all my questions are “Mean Girls” quotes. Caesar asks about how I feel about going into the arena and I answer, “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…I’m sorry, I just have a lot of feelings!” Pure. Interview. Gold. As I walk offstage I yell, “Four for you, Glenn Coco! You go, Glenn Coco!”
I have sponsors wanting to give me parachutes before I even get into the arena. I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me, but I can’t help it that I’m so popular.
The Hunger Games Arena
Nobody ever talks about how awkward the hovercraft ride over to the arena is. People are sizing me up like I’m a piece of meat, and not in a sexy way. One guy, a Career, is sitting with his arms folded, obviously doing that “push my biceps up with my fists” number. Dude, that looked ridiculous when the football team posed in my high school yearbook, it looks ridiculous now.
Other tributes laugh at my squeamish-ness. I should probably also mention that I don’t like gore. There are only two other places that are worse to be if you don’t like gore: in an emergency room in a war zone, and having to sit through “The Red Wedding” again during the zombie apocalypse.
We land and I’m on the podium. The podium pushes you up from the ground, and I’m fairly certain that this feature is what’s going to be the death of me. Hell, sometimes I can’t keep my balance on solid ground despite being as sober as the day I was born. I don’t think there are any rules against sitting on the podium while it takes you up, so I sit cross-legged while it takes me up. Everyone else is already standing and I’m getting up and wobbling like a newborn foal. Everyone laughs. I think my strategy here will be to make people laugh and then shank them while they laugh. Yes. Good plan.
I don’t see anything in the cornucopia that I explicitly need, so when the timer sounds, I run for the woods. In retrospect, screaming while running was probably a bad idea. I climb high into a tree but look away from the carnage because ew, gross.
I start to get parachutes, four of them. Three of them have blank cards, but the fourth one says, “Four for you, Glenn Coco! You go Glenn Coco!” I’m never going to live that down, am I? I have a feeling that my last parachute will say, “Damn, Africa, what happened?” In the parachutes are a knife, a Nalgene bottle, some saltine crackers, and a gift certificate for Outback Steakhouse. I think that last one was a mistake but hey, I’m glad someone thinks I’ll survive long enough to go home and enjoy overpriced chain restaurant food.
Josh Hutcherson walks beneath my tree and I start climbing down. He starts telling me about which tributes from which districts are dead, but his face is so square that it’s distracting. “Blah blah blah most people were killed at the cornucopia blah blah blah my face is square and I look better with my natural dark hair blah blah blah the cannon’s gone off 20 times blah blah blah . . .” I decide that I should make a conscious effort to look at his eyes like a normal person. His eyes are the darkest hazel I’ve ever seen. Like, they should stop trying so hard to be a little bit blue and just go full brown. How does his live with himself?
“ . . . And remember, you’re supposed to be in love with me for the cameras,” he whispers to me. Right, cameras. Probably shouldn’t have picked my nose in that tree. “I love you so much, Joseph Gordon—shit, Hutcherson!” I blurt. I wonder if they bleeped me out on TV. Children are watching, after all.
Joseph Gordon-Hutcherson is less than impressed. “Let’s go find shelter,” he says.
We walk by a cave and Josh wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. It is only after his look turns into horror that I realize I am making a sound like an angry tomcat. It is then that I realize that I am an ungrateful bitch. Loyal to my boyfriend, yes, but first and foremost an ungrateful bitch.
We get in the cave and compare stuff we’ve gotten from sponsors. Josh has gotten several pairs of panties, which we do not discuss further.
I start to give him a couple of packets of saltine crackers when I notice that they say “Wendy’s” on them and smell vaguely of chili. Capitol people are cheap bastards.
Josh lies down and says, “Lay on my chest and I’ll put my arm around you.” The low, rumbly tomcat noise comes back but I comply, because ironically the alternative is going outside and dying and not ever seeing my real boyfriend again. Completely unrelated, I wonder if any of the of-age Career tributes ever bone each other in the arena. It must be super-awkward to not only run into an ex-hookup but to also have to kill them. Though if my observations of tepid college relationships are any indication, that may not be a stretch. I’m certain there are fanfics that deal with this very subject. Furthermore, what do girls do if they get their periods in the arena? Oh my goodness, what if you had your FIRST period in the arena? I guess the reason we never hear about that is because the girls who do are killed due to the combined stress of bleeding out of Never-Neverland for the first time and the carnage of the Hunger Games.
I must have fallen asleep thinking of the aforementioned weird stuff because I wake up to a Career trying to strangle the sleeping Josh with a pair of panties. While I have to admire this dude’s resourcefulness, I pick up my knife that was, like, RIGHT THERE and stab him in the side of the back like I saw Gaston do to the Beast. Disregard the fact that I said “Yoink!” while doing so. The cannon goes off and Josh and I get the hell out of the cave. When we are a safe distance away, I start singing, “So come out of the cave walking on your hands, and see the world hanging upside down, you can understand dependence when you know your Maker’s Mark . . .”
Josh just looks at me incredulously. “Those aren’t even the right lyrics . . . ”
“I saved your butt back there!” I remind him. “I’ll sing Mumford and Sons if I want to!” I mean, if Katniss can loudly sob following Rue’s death and not die, surely I can sing, “And Iiiiiiiii will hold on hope and Iiiiiiiiiiiiii won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck . . .”
The cannon goes off once again and a voice comes from an overhead speaker: “Attention tributes: as all of the other tributes have been decimated—”
“Uh, actually,” I interrupt, “if you mean all the other tributes are gone, ‘decimate’ is the wrong word to use because it means only one out of every ten is gone. So unless you meant that there are, like, 22 tributes left, you probably mean ‘annihilated.’”
The voice pauses, then says, “Attention tributes: We WERE going to save both of you, but seeing as one of you is an insufferable grammar Nazi, we’ll just have to have our snipers take you out.”
I see the red laser line through the trees. By the time that registers and I say, “Snipers? What the—?” I am shot in the forehead. As my spirit descends to heaven, I see Josh reach into my jacket pocket and take my Outback gift card.
So, in a conclusion that would have just as easily been drawn from a Buzzfeed quiz, I would have died in the Hunger Games.