This is a story about a hero.
The Skybox Lounge at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Slots has a long, unwieldy name. It is also the home of The Beast, which is a two-pound hamburger, topped with a full pound of bacon, a whole head of lettuce, countless tomatoes and onions and an untold number of cheese slices. The Beast comes with a huge pickle, quartered for convenience sake, and a bowl containing one pound of French fries.
If you finish The Beast in one hour -sides included - you get a free shirt and free meal. Over 90 people have tried, according to the chef that makes The Beast, but only three have succeeded.
This is the story of Nicky C, a name I will use not to conceal identity but because I think it's funny. I was there the night Nicky C took on The Beast. I talked to him, encouraged him and offered sage advice like, "Wrap all the bacon around the French fries and eat it that way," which was ignored.
The following actually happened, more or less.
When someone orders The Beast, the servers make it a point to let everyone know about it. People will come up to the table and say helpful things like "Good luck! You're gonna need it!" and "That's a huge burger!" and "Only three people have ever eaten the whole thing."
Nicky C told me he had been training for this confrontation. Of the eight people at our table, only Nicky C was confident. Everyone else was guardedly supportive and said things like, "It's just for fun. You don't have to eat the whole thing," and "That's a huge burger!" (that saying was common enough to become the evening's mantra) and "They barely put any whiskey in this whiskey sour" (that was me, and it was a legitimate complaint).
They make you wait because The Beast takes a long time to prepare. When it comes, great fanfare arrives with it.
Once again, in case you missed it, The Beast is a two-pound hamburger with a pound of bacon and several salads worth of vegetables on top. Looking over that description, it still seems to me that I'm not conveying just how BIG The Beast is, so I will use an analogy: it's as if someone raided McDonaldland and decapitated Mayor McCheese and served his head on a platter John the Baptist-style.
I talked to The Beast before the fight started. For being a beast, it was actually a very pleasant conversationalist.
"Is The Beast your real name?" I asked.
"No. Our name is Legion."
"Is that because you're a combination of many cows and pigs?"
"No, we only come from one pig and one cow. Before we were slaughtered, we had a stage show. We were 'Moo and Oink' for a while, then we were 'Moink,' which was easier to fit on a marquee."
"So why'd you change it to Legion?"
"Because it sounds cool. Why else?"
I halted the interview as the fight started. Nicky C valiantly went after the creature that once was Moink, stripping off the bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion and attacking the core, which was the two-pound beef patty. Since describing someone eating gets old quickly, unless they do it in some unique way (like the science teacher I once had who did a headstand against the wall and ate an Egg McMuffin to show how swallowing is not affected by gravity), I will skip ahead.
"Is that all you've got, hero? There's at least two-and-a-half pounds of me left," The Beast said.
Nicky C, overdosing on bacon and sweating steadily, said nothing.
"Leave him alone," I said. "He actually is a hero - he pulled people out of a burning car."
"Is that true?"
"It was smoking," Nicky C said. "It wasn't on fire yet."
"Still, it's not like The Beast ever pulled somebody out of smoking wreckage before."
"No, I never have," The Beast said. "And I never will. I'm not in the business of saving lives, fellas."
Nicky C reached a peace accord with The Beast well before the hour was up. We all said supportive things to him like, "That's way more than I could've done!" and "That's a huge burger!" and "Don't feel bad - this isn't going to be the last time you'll completely fail at something. It's going to happen again and again in life" (that was me, and it was a legitimate complaint).
The Beast may not have been slain that night, but it was clearly crippled; its bacon tendrils drooped lazily on the soggy bun, and its core was effectively dismantled. The rest of The Beast was placed in a very large box that needed a rubber band around it to close. It took two people two days to finish.
It was a huge burger; it was more than I could've eaten.