The Four Quart Challenge

The Four Quart Challenge

(Warning! This story contains copious vomiting!)

When I was a Wildland firefighter out on deployment we would often have long evenings of downtime sitting around base camp as we waited for orders. A popular thing to do when several fire crews of twenty people would get together would be to hold a four quart challenge.  The four quart challenge is one of those impossible sucker bets that people sometimes make in bars where one person challenges a person to do something that sounds possible, but in actuality is so physically difficult that they will inevitably fail. 

The four quart challenge is the one where you challenge someone to drink four quarts of water in five minutes and keep it down for ten minutes.  If you called it the gallon challenge people would balk, realizing that there is no way that a stomach can hold a gallon of water.  But because it's four quarts, people start thinking, "hey, I might be able to do it...  When I am really thirsty I can down two quarts of water in like thirty seconds.  That would give me more than four minutes to handle the other two..."  When you throw down enough money, people start lining up to try.

Everyone threw a couple of bucks into the pot which eventually reached $350.  A couple of new guys were persuaded by their crews to try it and we started filling up the water bottles.  This time honored tradition had been going on for years.  Usually it ended with the guy getting the first quart or two down easily and stalling part way through the third quart before realizing too late that it was impossible.  They would vomit up a little bit of water from their bloated stomachs and end up leaving in embarrassed rush while everyone devilishly cheered their defeat.  I can't count the number of times I watched someone limp away from the campfire pausing to occasionally york up a little more water every fifteen feet as they slunk away into the night.

But tonight the challenge was different.  Somewhere along the way the details were accidentally changed, and instead of challenging newcomers to drink four quarts in five minutes and keep it down for ten more minutes, The challenge was issued as "drink 4 quarts of water in ten minutes and keep it down for another five"  It was double the time, a detail that few people noticed.  But someone from my crew had.

John was usually quiet out on the fire line but was the life of the party back at base camp.  He was the guy that was always dared to do or eat something and was usually the center of attention, but when it came to the four quart challenge he was smart enough to stay quiet and not get drawn in so I was surprised when I saw him standing third in line behind two greenhorns to attempt the challenge.  Even with the additional time, the first two guys couldn't get through more than half of the third quart and departed stumbling down the hill one after the other barfing up mouthfuls of water in the moonlight.    

John was different.  Instead of standing, he sat cross legged on the ground with the four water bottles lined up in front of him like has was meditating.  When they started the clock he very carefully and purposefully picked up the bottles one after the other, put them to his lips and tipped them back.  One, two, three bottles in thirty seconds without spilling a drop or sucking a bubble of air with his water.  He was a man on a mission.  The fourth bottle he held in his right hand and took a sip every few seconds.  With every sip our anticipation grew.  He was going to conquer the four quart challenge! He was going to collect the $350!  At the end of ten minutes the bottle was empty, and John turned the bottle upside down to prove that there wasn't a drop left.  The everyone was cheering and high-fiving, but John didn't budge from his cross legged yoga position.  He still had five minutes to hold it. 

Five minutes later we were still cheering and John stood up.  He raised his arms triumphantly over his head and was thanking the crowd for their support.  "Thank you!, Thank you!"  Then he paused, held up his finger to indicate he needed a second, bent over, and vomited a solid three inch column of water, straight down like a helicopter water drop emptying his stomach in one rush.  He stood upright and again raised his arms in triumph. "Thank you!, Thank you!"  The crowd went nuts.

Based on Fluidity css adapted by Dan Delcollo