Frankenpire86: Do you even realize how ignorant you sound right now?420gerbilsinmyass: Oh, sure, I’M the ignorant one here. Come over here and say that in front of my doctorate you punk ass bitch. Frankenpire86: A doctorate in what? Eating ass? Being a whiny baby bitch boy? 420gerbilsinmyass: HAHAHA sour grapes much?? I bet the only time you’ve seen the inside of a college is when they brought you in for experiments. Frankenpire86: I HAVE TWO MASTERS DEGREES FUCKFACE. I’m just not using them to weasel out of fights I know I can’t win. 420gerbilsinmyass: You wanna fucking go? Where the fuck do you live? Frankepire86: lololol I live outside Des Moines nice try asshole. 420gerbilsinmyass: Guess what u fucking chode, I live in Ames. Frankenpire86: GREAT!!!!! GUESS WE’RE FUCKING DOING THIS. YOURS OR MINE? 420gerbilsinmyass: 525 Kellogg Avenue Frankenpire86: I can be there in an hour and a half. 420gerbilsinmyass: When you get there ask for Ronin. Frankenpire86: Ronin? 420gerbilsinmyass: RONIN DEEZ NUTS ACROSS YOUR FACE
The green sign above said their exit was in a mile. Samantha checked her mirrors before switching over to the right lane, then checked the time. Quarter past eight on a Tuesday. The remaining day was nothing more than a thin line of light to the west. Most of the light came from the headlights of the other cars. And, of course, the soft glow of the phone screen lighting up Kevin’s face.
“Stop looking at it, babe. You’re going to work yourself up.”
“I need to be worked up,” Kevin said, not looking away from his phone. “I need to maintain this energy. How much farther?”
“Getting off the highway now.” Samantha sighed. “I should be sitting on the couch watching The Bachelor with a glass of wine…”
“This is the first time this has ever happened to me, Sam. I couldn’t turn this down. I have to stand up for myself.”
“Why couldn’t you stand up for yourself online? You know, where all this started?”
Still with his eyes on the screen, Kevin reached out and placed a hand on her knee.
“I need to do this,” he said again, softly. “And I’m so glad you came.”
Samantha sighed again. She put her hand on his and gave it a squeeze.
“I’m always here for you. Even when you’re acting like an idiot.”
Kevin shrugged. “That’s most of the time.”
Her GPS took them through Ames to the center of the city. Samantha took thin breaths through gritted teeth, waiting until the GPS lady said ‘you had arrived!’ only to find themselves in front of some rundown apartment or shady looking park. When they passed a twenty-four urgent care Samantha took note of the address. She had heard these internet-based fights usually didn’t end up in hospital trips. Usually.
The GPS lady told them to take a left and then the destination would be on the right. Samantha’s eyes grazed the right side of the street, her heart pounding, until she found it.
Ames Police Department.
Her next sigh was one of relief.
“Thank Christ,” she muttered as she pulled into an empty spot in the parking lot.
“Oh, fuck, did I not mention Ames has an IDER program?” Kevin asked, finally looking up from his phone.
“No! Are you kidding me? I’ve spent this whole…” she glanced at the clock. “Hour and twenty-minute drive thinking we were going to somebody’s house or something.”
Kevin squeezed her hand again. “I am so sorry, I should have mentioned. I looked up the address before we left. I never would have come up here otherwise.”
Samantha gripped the steering wheel. Maybe she should leave. Put the car in drive and gun it down the road before Kevin could even start objecting. He could tell 420-whoever the fuck that his girlfriend had taken him away against his will.
Yeah. And wake up in the morning to find out Kevin had gone up on his own.
“Fine. It’s fine. Whatever. Let’s get this over with, I have to be at work early tomorrow.”
She’d never been in a police department before, and didn’t relish breaking that streak. She wasn’t there as a criminal. She could tell herself going through the metal detector and getting wanded was just like going through TSA at the airport. Still, her heart was in her throat. Like they were going to scan her purse and find the gun she had totally forgot was there. She didn’t even own a gun.
Then they were through security and standing in a rather dull-looking front lobby. It looked like it could have been a post office, or the DMV. Those standing barriers created a line that snaked back and forth. A front counter made of cracked wood was split into three windows.
“The movies always make these look so much more…dramatic,” Kevin said, looking around. “Shouldn’t there a bench with a bunch of hookers cuffed to it or something?”
There was no hooker bench. There was just a bored-looking officer in uniform standing at the spot where the line started. Thumbs hooked into his belt, he gave Kevin and Samantha a once over as they approached.
“What’re you here for?” he drawled.
“The, uh, the IDER program,” Kevin said, his voice cracking. His face was flushed. Maybe he was as nervous as Samantha was. Maybe he was finally seeing how stupid this whole thing was and they could leave.
The officer sighed so deeply Samantha thought he might pass out. “Did you call ahead?”
Kevin’s flush grew deeper. “I…uh, I…no, I didn’t know I needed to.”
“This is a college town, sir. Most of the people who wander in here are looking for the IDER program.”
He lazily cocked his head over his shoulder. A large window on the other side of the room looked into another. It was half-filled with a bunch of angry looking people. Mostly dudes, mostly white, and almost all a decade younger than Kevin.
“If you didn’t call ahead, you’re looking at a three hour wait.”
Samantha stepped back and popped out her hip. “I can’t stay that long. I have an important meeting tomorrow at seven.”
“Sam, please. I said I would come, I can’t look like I punked out now.”
“Does this really matter that much? You don’t even know this guy.”
Kevin put his hands gently on her shoulders and lowered his voice.
“He has to know how wrong he was.”
The officer blew out air. “Do you know if the other party called ahead?”
“I don’t,” Kevin said, immediately turning his attention.
The officer made the same over-the-shoulder gesture he did before. “Go to the window at the far left, Officer Macy will tell you if they called.”
“Great. Thank you!” Kevin scurried down through the winding lines. Samantha was tired and annoyed, bordering on pissed off. But it was nice to see Kevin this excited about something. He looked twenty years younger, a kid scuttling down the line for a new ride at the county fair.
“There’s coffee and donuts from the Winchell’s across the street,” the officer said to her. “And at this point the urgent care leaves one of their EMTs here at all times.”
She gave him a wan smile. “Thanks.”
By the time she got to the window at the end of the counter Kevin was smiling broadly, filling out some paperwork.
“He did it! 420gerbilsinmyass called ahead, right after we got off the chat! We’re only second in line!”
“That’s great, babe!” Sam said. Her enthusiasm was obviously fake but Kevin was happily checking off boxes on his sheet, too excited to notice.
Office Macy behind the window noticed, and gave Sam a sisterly smile behind her glasses. She pushed a second form and pen toward Sam.
“You’re Mr. Jackson’s second?”
“I, uh…I guess? What does that mean? I don’t have to fight, do I?”
Officer Macy chuckled in a not-unfriendly way. “No, honey, don’t worry about that. This isn’t quite like an old school duel. You’re more like a chaperone. We need to know someone will be here to drive him home. Or the hospital.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Samantha handed Officer Macy her driver’s license and set about filling out the form. All the usual boring stuff. Address. SSN. Former aliases. Had she ever been found guilty of any crime or misdemeanor? Any known aliases? Will you waive the Ames Police Department of any blah blah blah.
She frowned. “Babe, I don’t even know what this fight is about.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Officer Macy said, holding her hand out for the form. “It only needs to be on his form, we haven’t updated yet.”
Officer Macy went through both forms, making sure every line was filled and box was ticked. Once she was satisfied, she handed them back their IDs with arthritic hands and leaned over the counter.
“Parties are split up into two waiting rooms until their turn. You will be in Waiting Room B, just down the hall there. When it’s time an officer will come get you.”
History of the IDER Program
The Internet Discussion and Emotional Release Program was started in 2007 in New York City and quickly spread to police departments across the country. Currently there are 986 departments with an active IDER program!
As the internet grew in size and began reaching into every facet of our lives, officials were noticing a startling trend: people were bringing their fights ‘offline.’ Calls for aggravated assaults and batteries rose by 200% in a matter of five years across the nation, and the cause was nearly always the same: an internet disagreement that had gotten out of hand. Clearly, something had to be done!
The first IDER program in NYC, then casually referred to as Internet Fight Club, began after an officer lost an eye trying to break up a backyard fist fight about whether Batman could defeat The Flash with only an hour’s prep time. The precinct had been breaking up two or three of these fights a night and even after a PSA push about the dangers of fighting, these calls were not slowing down. They began to wonder if there was a better way – if they could give disgruntled internet users a safe place to vent their frustrations. Thus the first IDER program began!
Benefits of the IDER Program
The IDER program works in multiple ways:
- Make the two aggrieved parties drive to a secondary location, giving them time to cool off.
- Once the two aggrieved parties have arrived, there is an additional obligatory thirty-minute cool off period.
- If both parties still wish to continue, they have a neutral location refereed by a neutral party, usually an available officer.
- Medical attention for any personal damage suffered during the fight is available swiftly.
Rules of the IDER Program
- Parties will remain anonymous – internet ‘handles’ only
- Parties must disclose weight and physical strength status
- Parties must disclose any underlying co-morbidities
- Parties must disclose any mental health history
- Hosts of the IDER Program may deny hosting a fight for any reason
- No weapons
- No boxing gloves
- No rings
- All jewelry must be taken off and left with your second
- All long hair must be pulled back
- No hair pulling
- No kicking
- No biting
- No spitting
- No hits below the belt
- No acrylic nails
- Winner will be declared via tap out or KO
Samantha folded the glossy pamphlet back into its thirds and put it back in the little wooden holder on the table. The plastic chair underneath was starting to dig into her butt and she shifted, keeping an eye on the burnt coffee in her little Styrofoam cup. The last thing she needed after all this was hot coffee spilled down her blouse.
The little room smelled like burnt coffee and sweaty balls. It looked like an old interrogation room had been converted. The walls were cinderblock painted gray. Blue plastic chairs were scattered around, but there were still screw holes in the middle of the floor where presumably a table had been. Posters were hung on the walls. One repeated the list of the rules she had gone through in the pamphlet. Another had a cartoon man sagging behind bars surrounded by the words REMEMBER! FAILURE TO DISCLOSE ANY ATHLETIC OR MILITARY HISTORY CONSTITUTES FRAUD! A third poster across the room was a copy of the second set of pamphlets sitting on the table: a list of local therapists and help line numbers.
Kevin was standing in front of her, shadow boxing. He had only been sitting next to her, staring at the chat on his phone, until one of the others waiting had gotten up and started doing squats. Then another had gotten off his chair to do push-ups. Soon enough it had been obvious who was there to fight and who was there to ‘chaperone.’
Everyone besides the two of them looked like they were barely out of high school. Most were wearing shirts or hoodies with the local college’s name on it.
Children, Samantha thought. I have a budget meeting in the morning and I’m surrounded by children all getting ready to pummel each other. And pummel my stupid, idiot boyfriend.
“I don’t suppose the cool down period has worked it’s magic?” Samantha asked, biting a nail.
Kevin didn’t stop punching the air. Awkwardly. Samantha didn’t know how to throw a punch, but she’d seen enough brawls on television to see Kevin didn’t know what he was doing either.
“He’s wrong, Sam,” Kevin said between pants. “And he needs to know it.”
She sighed. “I don’t think you’re supposed to tuck your thumb in your fist.”
“Your thumb. I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere if you tuck your thumb you might break it.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “I think I know what I’m doing, babe.”
Coffee almost got snorted into her sinuses. She had known Kevin since grad school. He was roughly the same height as her and a little on the chunky side. He was funny, and intelligent, and gentle. Their cat at home, Misty, had been obtained by Kevin stopping on a busy road and rescuing the poor thing from the middle of an intersection. The only fight experience he might have was from video games. She had thought, up until tonight, that they both knew that didn’t translate into the real world. Now her gentle, loving thirty-five-year-old Kevin was going to get his lights punched out by some college kid with rage issues.
She rolled the coffee cup between her hands. Just this once. Let him do it once, and then maybe he’ll know better in the future.
The door to the room opened and everyone stopped. Samantha’s heart jumped into her throat and she almost squeezed her cup into a pulp. A new officer they hadn’t seen before, just as tired as Officer Macy and the one at the door, stepped through with a clipboard.
He led them down the back hallway, through the…well, on television they always called it a bullpen. Was that the word for real life, too?
Across the room against the far wall ran a long bench. Three women in colorful scanty clothes and heavy makeup sat there looking either pissed off or bored.
Oh, my God, it’s a hooker bench, Samantha thought as her eyebrows rose into her hairline. Am I even in real life anymore?
“Let’s just go, babe, please,” she said, tugging on his shirt. “You’ll never see this guy again.”
“We’re in the same chatrooms, babe.”
“Tell him your girlfriend told you to go home! Blame me!”
“Samantha. I have to do this.”
“No, you don’t. What if this guy is huge? What if he has actual training?”
“That’s what the forms are for. They wouldn’t let us fight if it was lopsided.”
She gave up. There was no talking to him when he was like this. All Samantha could do now was start drafting the texts she’d have to send to his mother once they were at the hospital.
“Outside?” she asked as the officer held the door open.
He shrugged. “We don’t exactly have a gym here.”
It was a small back parking lot, fenced in on all sides.
“No one told me this was going to be a cage match,” Samantha muttered.
Kevin giggled a little too enthusiastically while the officer made the face you make when you’ve heard the same joke half a dozen times that day alone.
He instructed them to stand over to one side. Samantha started shivering, and it had nothing to do with the night air which for September was practically balmy. The next guy to come through that door was going to be a monster, she just knew it. Six and a half feet tall, all pecs and biceps and abs layered on top of each other, probably wearing a gold chain necklace and those narrow sunglasses that screamed ‘I harass everybody with a darker skin tone than me on the bus.’ Her boyfriend was about to get his face broken by somebody named Rikk.
The door swung open behind her and she bit her tongue to keep from yelping.
At first, she didn’t understand what she was looking at.
Samantha froze, one arm bent underneath her breasts and the other out, her hand striking a curious pose in the air. Was there even air anymore? She didn’t seem to be breathing, despite her heart skipping along close to crash-and-burn speed.
“I’m sorry…what is this?”
The officer who had accompanied the new couple out to the official IDER area looked down at his clipboard.
“This is 420gerbilsinmyass v. Frankenpire86, right?” he asked the first officer.
The two men standing next to the officer were both fifty-ish, both about five and a half feet tall, and both wearing khakis. One was wearing a t-shirt with the local university on the front over a skinny frame and a pair of sneakers. The other had a decent beer gut and pounced on Samantha with a voracious smile.
“Oh, honey, this must be your first time,” he said. He held his hand out and Samantha flinched. When she was able to think again, she saw the candy on his outstretched palm. “Caramel?”
“I, uh…I think you’re supposed to stay on that side,” Samantha said, pointing to the other side of the fence.
“I’m supposed to, I guess, but we’re here enough Officers MacMillan and Jean know me. Isn’t that right, Gary?”
Officer Gary gave him a look but didn’t try to move him.
Samantha studied the man next to her, trying to figure out what his angle was. Eventually, she gave up – he didn’t seem to have one.
“Your…” She looked down and saw the ring. “…husband does this a lot?”
He gave her a knowing look. “He’s very passionate.”
“Gentlemen, please step into the center over here,” Officer Gary said, waving them over. Kevin, who had been shadowboxing again as he stared down 420gerbils, stopped and came over to Samantha.
“Kiss for good luck, babe,” he said, jutting his cheek at her. Samantha gave him a peck. She felt like she was in one of those dreams you get in the middle of a bad nap.
“You’re my world, babe!” 420gerbils called to his husband.
“Go get him, hon!” The husband looked back to Samantha. “Don’t worry. This is his…oh, hmm, nineteenth fight?”
“Usually with the same people, all in his field, so it’s nice that he’s getting to fight someone new. Did you two just move here or…?”
Samantha swallowed. “Uh, yeah…two months ago.”
The man clapped once. “I knew it! We’re not supposed to exchange personal information while we’re in the station, but afterwards the four of us should go get a drink together. It’ll be so nice to have some new friends.”
Officer Gary was now standing between Kevin and 420gerbils. The two of them were both hopping up and down, swinging their necks and letting their arms bounce, all while staring at each other.
“This is the last moment to stop this before it starts,” Officer Gary said, sounding like an eighth grader reciting a poem he’d been forced to memorize. “Would either of you like to talk this out, or walk away?”
“Not a chance,” Kevin said.
420gerbils smiled. “Best words I’ve heard all night.”
Officer Gary sighed deeply. “Okay, then. You both have had ample time to read the rules. Any breaking of the rules will end the fight as a victory for the other party and this officer will indicate the fight is over by blowing the whistle. If you do not stop fighting at the whistle, you will be arrested and held for assault. Understood?”
“Under-fucking-stood.” 420gerbils said in a light growl. After a brief pause, he leaned forward a bit. “You have to say ‘understood,’ too.”
“Oh, uh. Sorry. Yes. Understood. Sorry.”
420gerbils waved a hand. “That part’s not very well explained, you’re fine.”
The two men immediately went back to angry like they’d never left it. Both of them shrunk down, tensing on bent knees.
The officer blew the whistle.
Samantha looked away. “Oh, I can’t watch this.”
She expected certain things from a bareknuckle fight. Grunts, or yells of pain. Big, meaty thuds as fists found muscle and abdomen. Maybe, if someone landed a rather lucky hit, the snap of a bone.
None of this was coming to her ears. What she was hearing was…high pitched wheezing and the flat sound of someone hitting a vinyl chair with a fly swatter. Holding her breath, she dared to look back.
“They’re…they’re slapping each other.”
420gerbil’s husband hummed. “Yes, he really likes fighting. He’s not good at it. Oh, dear, you didn’t think this would be, like, a fight fight?”
“No, no, no! Think it through. What sort of people are sitting on their computer, getting mad at a stranger? Mad enough to fight about it?”
Samantha took a breath. For the first time that night, the vice that had been crushing her lungs was gone. “People like my boyfriend.”
“And my husband. The sort of men who would kill our guys with a single punch don’t come down to the police station for any reason, let alone for a fight refereed by police officers.”
In front of them, Kevin and 420gerbils were spinning around each other in a tight circle. Four arms were reaching out and slapping whatever they could get while trying to stop the other arms from connecting. Arms, chest, neck. Obviously, the fight would not be won by KO. It was going to be won whenever one of them got winded. Knowing Kevin, that’s probably only a few more minutes.
“I don’t even know what the fight is about,” Samantha said.
“Of course there was a paleolithic bear cult in Northern Eurasia!” Kevin screamed.
“I’ll kill you in real life!”
“Hey!” Officer Gary said, glancing up from his phone. “Language!”
“Sorry, Officer Gary.”
Samantha looked at 420gerbil’s husband. “So, where did you want to get a drink?”