Journal of Writing & Environment

The world watched the typhoon ooze death over Myanmar and then Vietnam. The storm was so massive and terrifying that its eye alone encircled whole islands. News Channel 11, “News Faster than a Bullet through Your Face,” started referring to the eye as Elvira’s dirty mouth. But then Steve Sherman from Sure Thing Sports uttered on live broadcast one day, “Looks more like Elvira’s asshole.” Everyone on the cast, from co-anchor Della Deal to field analyst Chuck Huxley, laughed riotously, freely. Everyone watching at home laughed. Not a single mother covered a single child’s ear. It was good to laugh at a thing so giant and brutal, calming to hear “asshole” blurted on daytime television. And Typhoon Elvira indeed resembled a butt—two plump, white cloud arcs colliding like a pair of gray-skidded underwear. As Elvira ravaged the city of Taytay, scooping up 1,351 shrieks and dropping them into the Sulu Sea, Weatherman Wade Gaines flashed his chunky veneers and said, “Well, Elvira’s asshole is shitting all over Palawan now.”

The entire crew ran with it. Stew on camera two coughed asshole every time Elvira was mentioned. Director Perry Cabrera found the chorus of laughter so charming—so effervescent and reminiscent of his father’s favorite TV show Taxi’s canned laughter that softened him after tortuous sixteen-hour shifts driving his own taxi—that he let every word stand. Every bouncing, fizzy syllable of giggle and cuss. Channel 11’s FCC monitor Edie Stillman found Weatherman Wade’s teeth so shiny and his delivery so pleasing that she, too, forgave all. The Northern California viewing audience needed a laugh. America needed a chuckle. Here it was.

But Steve Sherman on sports didn’t find it funny, never had, not even when he coined the phrase now parading on bumper stickers to raise typhoon relief money. When he’d first said “asshole” he’d hissed it through his teeth, then bit his lip until he tasted the metallic sting of blood. And his name was not really Steve Sherman. It was Arnel Matapang. His mother, at his birth in the Philippines, had been so pleased at his perfectly spherical head and strong chin, she’d proclaimed with tears in the hospital room that he’d grow up to be an American movie star. His face would be beautiful and giant and gleaming on every movie screen. Steve recorded every one of his sports broadcasts and mailed them to her. He spent a sixth of his paychecks mailing VHS tapes and then CDs and finally flash-drives overseas—though he never told his mother how much it cost.

In Culasi, thirty-nine days and seven hours and twenty-two minutes of Steve Sherman’s Sure Thing Sports floats in the muck near Imelda Matapang’s shredded shanty.