The Prize

Adam Schatz
Oct 28, 2016 · 7 min read

“What do you mean look closer? I’m looking closer!”

“Here…”

Fitzsimmons doubled the power of the microscope as Jorgsun pressed his eye and adjusted the focus.

“There…there…I see it! The clause! It’s there. Clear as day…”

“Read it, read it!’

“It says…”

“Louder, louder!!”

There was a small crowd now gathered around the desk, where Bjernsfred Jorgsun was analyzing the Nobel Prize Charter. Though the guidelines largely went untouched since their inception, a few clauses have been added throughout the years. And though the organization surrounding the Nobel Prize has varied from ten to thirty members, amendments can only be exacted by the Prize Watchers, a subcommittee who shall always remain a trio. One must appoint their predecessor when they step down. Why only three may amend the charter has been up for debate, but the general consensus is that the first Prize Watchers were simply bigger than everyone else.

The clause Jorgsun had found was noteworthy because of it’s specificity. There was no other clause quite like it. Most of the clauses related to the Nobel Prize concerned the weather. The committee would not meet if it was raining too hard. The committee would not meet if the snow was too cold. That sort of thing. The first Prize Watchers were also lazy.

Yet the clause Jorgsun had found could not have had less to do with the weather. It was written and committed to stone (the Charter is written in stone, to provide authenticity and deter theft) in 1954, a weird year for the Prize Watchers, a weird year for everyone. That year, Olaf Larsen passed down his PW duties to his son Agnar, thinking it would cheer him up. Agnar had been in a bit of a funk since watching his two older siblings drown in a fjord. They were playing their favorite game, Jump In A Fjord.

Olaf was a bad father. Like many bad father’s he didn’t know he was a bad father. He also didn’t know two out of his three children were missing for a few weeks.

It should be noted that while Agnar and his sister Inga were both playing Jump In A Fjord, their oldest and dumbest brother Erik was playing his own favorite game, Made Ya Drown. It’s when he holds your head under water and says “made ya drown.” And traditionally, the recipient doesn’t actually drown. But 1954 was a weird year. For everyone. And so before Agnar could get ankle deep in fjord fluid, he saw Inga’s body float with a permanent resolve. Erik’s face did show signs of guilt, but as he opened his mouth to say “whoops,” a stenbit jumped out of the water and smacked him square on the forehead with its tail, causing Erik to fall fjordwards and join his sister in the loser’s circle of Made Ya Drown.

A stenbit is often referred to by its less eloquent English name, the wolffish. How this name came to be is up for debate, but as with most cool sounding nicknames, it is assumed the moniker was self-imposed.

Agnar changed that day. It was the first time in his entire existence as a youngest child that he had ever won a game. Soon after, other things started going his way. He found a 20 krone bill on the street. His confidence grew, and he used the money to buy a new hat. Women began to look at him more, with a look that said “I’m sorry you watched your brother and sister drown. Cool hat!”

Agnar was given his father’s his Prize Watcher ring and sash, and he became quite close with the two other Prize Watchers, bonding over their similarities. They were all from Norway, they all owned neat sashes, and they all were the youngest child. By candlelight they protected the sacred Charter and compared horror stories of growing up the youngest. Traumas of being overlooked, devalued. Tales of stretched out hand-me-downs and fish-heads for breakfast, lunch, and yes, dinner. They sympathized with one another. They believed that the youngest child traditionally was the smartest, because they could learn from their siblings’ mistakes. They believed this so strongly that they decided it was time to write a clause in the Charter. They looked through the marble-cut order of operations pamphlet and carried out the amendment ritual as it was dictated by Alfred Nobel on his death-bed. They touched their rings together. They rubbed their hands together. They took turns kissing each other until their lips dried out. Alfred Nobel may have added this last part in as a joke. But he also may not have.

They etched their clause in the tiniest of print, so that bigger, meaner Prize Watchers of the future may hopefully overlook it.

***
Bjernsfred Jorgsun cleared his throat and screamed what he read through the magnified lens.

“SHOULD THE RECIPIENT OF A NOBEL PRIZE REFUSE TO RESPOND TO THE COMMITTEE IN ONE WEEK’S TIME, THE AWARD SHALL BE ASSIGNED TO THE RECIPIENTS YOUNGEST OFFSPRING!!”

Jorgsun’s excited smile shifted towards a puzzled frown. He pulled his head upwards, revealing a hard pressed imprint of the microscope’s eyepiece around his right peeper. The room had fallen silent. Everybody knew what this meant.

***
Jakob Dylan’s phone rang. And it rang again and again. The phone was in the backseat and Jakob was in the front seat, talking to a police officer through the driver-side window.

“Yes I know why you pulled me over. Yes I know that it’s like the song. Yes I’ll get it repaired, please just write me the ticket.”

As he drove away, Jakob Dylan listened to the voicemail, and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This was not the type of recognition he ever expected. And he hardly felt he deserved it. But holy moly that is a lot of money. He wondered how the Nobel Prize would look next to his grammy, and next to the honorary Doctor Of Letters Degree he received from Idaho State University in 2011. 2011 was a weird year for Jakob Dylan.

He drove home, brushed his teeth, laid in his bed, and couldn’t sleep. Why wouldn’t his dad just accept the award? Why did his dad have to be so annoying all the time? No matter. It finally paid off. Things were finally going Jakob Dylan’s way.

In the morning he ate a banana, got his headlight repaired, and drove to accept his award.

As he stood in line to approach the podium, Jakob Dylan could feel the stares of the other recipients. From the committee members. From everyone.

“Fuck ‘em,” he thought. “Most of these people didn’t even think my dad deserved the award. What do they care if I get it instead? They love this. They secretly love this. Everyone goes about their days looking for something new to be up in arms about. Well guess what? Now I’m the star of your shit show. Jakob Dylan is gonna get his, and you’re gonna talk about it on the internet. The world just keeps on spinning.”

Jakob Dylan approached the podium. He saw the medal held out to him by six hands. He saw the owners of the six hands kiss each other until their lips dried out. He reached out and grabbed the medal. The Nobel Prize for Literature. His to hold and cherish, ’til death do they part. And then he heard it. That awful sound. The sound that plagued his childhood and haunted him to this day.

*shweeeeeeeee shweeeeeee sheeeeee shashoooooooo*

Though un-amplified, the harmonica sounded louder than the collective gasps of everyone in the auditorium. Bob Dylan took the long way, walking up and down every aisle, blasting his hands-free harmonica and pulling the surviving members of the Traveling Wilburys behind him in a red wagon.

After what felt like six hours of atonal harmonica playing, Bob Dylan took a running start and leapt onto the stage, clearing all six steps. He was covered head to toe in different shades of blue shoelaces. It must have been 300 pairs of shoelaces, running up and down Bob Dylan’s body.

He lumbered up to the microphone, grabbed the Prize from Jakob, and spoke. “Sorry I’m late boys and girls, I got….tangled up in BLUEEEEE”

The crowd gave Bob Dylan a standing ovation and Jakob walked out of the hall feeling unsurprised and sad. “Every single time. He finds a new way to get me. To remind me that I’m not him. This one time, I was gonna get to be him. For real. And he took it away. That maniac. Every. Single. Goddamn. Time”

But what else was new, Jakob thought. Maybe this was actually for the best. When his dad is in the room, everyone is on his side. He lights them ablaze and the people go wild. When he’s not around, people make fun of him. The way he acts. The way he talks. It was not easy being Bob Dylan. It never was, and in a rare moment of parental honesty, one Christmas morning many years back, Bob Dylan confided in his son that he acted so extremely as a way to ensure Jakob Dylan never followed in his footsteps. To guarantee he’d find his own path. Jakob Dylan smiled remembering that moment as he got into his truck. And even though seconds later he unwrapped a big box to find a stack of papers, all classic Bob Dylan I.O.U.’s (I.O.U. 100 noogies, I.O.U. 10 daybreak harmonica solos, etc.), Jakob Dylan knew his dad really loved him. Every year was a weird year for Bob Dylan, and if the Prize helped him get through it, then he deserved it.

Jakob Dylan put his key in the ignition and turned the engine, but the engine wouldn’t turn. In the rear-view mirror he caught a glimpse of his father, flanked by young women and middle aged men, all walking the other direction, taking turns pulling the Wilburys. Dragging behind the wagon was clanking string of assorted pieces of Jakob Dylan’s truck. A few spark plugs, the starter, his M3NC1ND3R311A license plate. Jakob Dylan sighed. And then he laughed. He laughed and laughed, louder and louder.

And some say that if you listen close enough, when the moon is full and the wind is quiet, you can still hear the ominous sound of Jakob Dylan laughing, forever.

Happy Halloween

Adam Schatz

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I write words here for fun.

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