Skip to content

The Former Yo-Yo World Champion Plans His Day

by Cathy Ulrich

He’s going to kill himself.

But first, he’ll make pancakes while he watches the morning news. He likes the local anchor, who hasn’t changed his tie in twelve weeks, and is developing an obvious shadow of missed stubble on his jawline.

Good morning, the local anchor will say, and the Former Yo-Yo World Champion will say good morning back. Sometimes he pretends he and the local anchor are having a conversation. Their imaginary exchanges are always superficial. He would never dream of saying, for example: Why haven’t you changed your tie in so long?

This morning, he’ll skip the make-believe conversation. He’s got pancakes to make. He’ll break the eggs on the edge of the counter and drop their shells into the garbage disposal. The downstairs neighbor will pound on the ceiling with a broomstick when he hears the garbage disposal. He’s always pounding on the ceiling with a broomstick when it runs. Sometimes, the Former Yo-Yo World Champion runs the garbage disposal even when he’s got nothing to dispose of, just so the downstairs neighbor can pound on the ceiling with a broomstick. It’s the only time they ever communicate.

After running the garbage disposal, he’ll cook his pancakes on the griddle. He’ll burn the first pancake—he always burns the first pancake—and scrape it into the trash before starting over with a second, which will form a perfect circle, like a yo-yo. The leftover batter will be stored in the refrigerator. He’ll make pancakes for lunch, and again for dinner.

After that, he’ll hang himself.

Later this morning, he’ll go to the corner grocer’s for a slice of fresh melon. The Former Yo-Yo World Champion lives alone, and could never finish an entire melon on his own. The corner grocer makes this concession for him, and sells the leftover melon to the Thai lady from round the block, who spits the seeds, with unerring accuracy, onto a canvas coated in glue. She sells them as one-of-a-kind originals at the weekend market. Sometimes, the Former Yo-Yo World Champion attends the market too and performs a routine with his yo-yo.

This is how you go round the world, he says. This is how you walk the dog.

He isn’t planning to go to the market this weekend. He’ll be dead by then.

There’s just no room in this world for yo-yo champions anymore, he plans to write in his suicide note.

He’ll say the same thing to the corner grocer when he buys his slice of melon today, to see if it’s a suitable farewell. He suspects the corner grocer will only nod, or maybe say hmm, the same as always. He’s begun to think the corner grocer might not even speak English, since the only person the corner grocer ever speaks to is the Thai lady from round the block who is, oddly enough, fluent in Ukrainian.

On the way back from the grocer’s, he’ll take the long way home, and keep an eye out for any children on the street with a yo-yo. The Former Yo-Yo World Champion still remembers his first and the promise it held.

Be careful you don’t break a lamp with that thing, his mother always said. His mother loved her lamps. She kept at least three in every room of the house. She would have never gotten him a yo-yo to play with, but he’d won it during a yo-yo demonstration at school.

You’ve got a real talent for yo-yoing, kid, said the yo-yo champion who gave it to him. You’ll go far.

When he told his mother he was leaving for the city to become a yo-yo champion, she shook his hand and sent him on his way. The last thing he saw as he headed down the road was the lamps in the house going out, one by one.

That was a long time ago. Kids nowadays don’t play with yo-yos. They’ve got other things to occupy their time. The Former Yo-Yo World Champion will bring his yo-yo to the corner market when he goes for his slice of melon. He’ll give it to one of the kids on the street.

Here, kid, he’ll say. Let me show you how it’s done.

The only trick Cathy Ulrich ever managed with her childhood yo-yo was tangling the string. Her work has recently appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Maudlin House, and Cheap Pop.

Lead image: “Pancakes” (via Flickr user Jo)


  1. It’s sad! Write me something happy, Cathy?

  2. Kids nowadays don’t play with yo-yos. They’ve got other things to occupy their time. Or:
    Kids nowadays don’t play with yo-yos. They’ve got other ways to kill themselves.

  3. clayfulghum clayfulghum

    I don’t want this kid to kill himself.. The writer was able, without sentimental over-telling, to make the reader (this reader, anyway) care. Good ending, too. We are not given gruesome dtails of the suicide scene and thus can harbor hope. Ambiguity is powerful.

Comments are closed.