It wasn't about winning. It wasn't about how far they could throw the dishes or how much they would break.

It was about being a man. It was about pride. And Kevin was going to win.

His friends attempted to sway him of his convictions. "Kevin," they said, "come on. This is insane. You're wasting so much money."

His less intelligent friends went so far as to call him stupid, but Kevin quickly showed them the err of their opinions.

Kevin stood at the window of his high-rise apartment in New York City. Nestled deep within the Bronx, he thought the apartment a steal; it was cheap because the view showed not the skyline, but a back alley.

He raised his arm, poised as if to throw a Frisbee. In his hand lay a white china tea saucer. Inhaling deeply and achieving a Zen-like level of concentration, he extended an arm and the saucer flew.

From ten feet above, another saucer careened toward the ground, thrown with less poise than Kevin's, but with more strength. Kevin swore as he watched it land three feet past the point where his now lay, scattered into shards of glass with the remnants of countless other plates that also littered the alley.

"Good one, McCannon," came the caustic voice of the neighbor upstairs, Steven Galleon. Steven had lived upstairs for three months, and a month ago, Kevin saw him throw a dish out of his window.

"What are you doing?" he called up to Steven, leaning his entire torso out of the window.

"Flying saucers," Steven replied cryptically, then wandered back inside.

Steven was tall and dark, possibly a few inches shorter than Kevin; Kevin never saw him face-to-face, only through the window during their nightly competitions. And every time, Steven's saucers flew farther.

Since the first month, Kevin became obsessed. Every night, he sat and racked his brain for ways to force the dish to surpass Steven's. For two hours every day he lifted weights at the gym to strengthen his arm muscles until his best friend and roommate had expressed concern.

"Kevin, it's not healthy," Toby said. Kevin stopped going to the gym in the daytime, and instead went in the late afternoon hours when Toby worked.

He cheated. Shaving off the bottom of dishes did not work. Neither did crudely sawing off the lip on the sides. He'd tried a baseball bat, but, of course, that shattered the saucer, which earned him a knowing and smug look from Steven upstairs.

Once a man of principles, ideals and morals, Kevin now disregarded all three and chose instead to do everything within his power to one time, just one time, throw his dish an inch farther than Steven's.

Unsure of exactly how or why it started, Kevin only found himself drawn to his window at 9:00 every night. In order to achieve a perfect environment, all of the window plants lay strewn around the kitchen table and died from lack of sun. Toby stared at the plants with a sad look now, the same sad look he often fixed upon Kevin, and watered them despite their obvious lack of any life whatsoever.

"Kev, I'm worried about you," Toby said, after Kevin bloodied his knuckles with a forceful punch to the drywall window frame, as Kevin felt no pain over the angry blood rushing through his veins, as Toby watched peroxide bubble the bacteria out of his best friend's hand and stared hard into his best friend's unflinching ice-blue eyes.

"Don't worry," Kevin said tersely.

"You're not yourself-" Toby began.

"Don't tell me who I am! How would you know that, anyway?" Standing in a rage, the peroxide still sat in his wound, though he felt nothing. "I finally find something that makes me happy-"

Toby gave a sad chuckle. "Makes you happy? Kevin, you're throwing plates out of a window. Expensive plates."

With a severe glower, Kevin stalked to where Toby stood. "Don't patronize me and don't pretend you'd get it. You wouldn't."

Toby exhaled in a burst of loud breath. "Try me!"

"If you're like this already-"

"Like what?" Toby screamed, frustrated, livid in fear, hurt and worry. "I'm trying to help!"

"You're not doing a good job!"

"You're not making it easy!"

"Then why don't you just leave." It was a statement, not a question. There was no interrogative involved.

"Because I'm not going to leave you like this." Insistent, Toby pushed on. "I'm not going to let you do this to yourself!"

"I'd like to see you stop me," Kevin said, a challenge evident in his eyes.

"Maybe I will," Toby replied, testosterone gaining over sense in his brain.

Steel-eyed, Kevin stared him down. "You wouldn't."

"I wouldn't." Toby stepped backwards. "But I'm not going anywhere."

"I don't expect you too. Just leave me alone, okay?"

The sad look, the plant look, clouded Toby's green eyes. "I can't do that."

"Try." At that, Kevin grabbed his coat and stormed out of the apartment, ready for a walk on New York's uncouth streets.

That was that. He headed down into the alley to take in inventory of the damage he and Steven inflicted. Plates dented trashcans and blood streaks stood out in sharp relief from where harmless animals tried to cross the debris and come away with bloodied paws. From his point below his apartment, on the twenty-second floor, he saw Toby water a plant, then slump beside it and hold his head in his hands. He looks so confused, thought Kevin. Toby's never confused.

For the first time, a single thought flickered across Kevin's mind. What am I doing?

He quashed it quickly, closing his eyes with the effort and screwing up his face to banish the thought completely. He looked at the ground, at the pure white shells of what were once saucers flying gracefully through the smog-thick air. It came again. What have I done?

He resisted every muscle in his body that wanted to collapse to the ground in defeat. I lost, he thought, I'll never win. He wanted to cry, to bellow into the thin night air, and he tried, but nothing came except the frosty white exhalations of his own breath.

Looking up, searching for anything to which he could cling, he noticed a figure in the window above the one in which Toby sat, head in hands, collapsed over a TV dinner.

"Come on up," said Steven.

Acting not of his own will but of that belonging to something with a deeper power over Kevin's thoughts, he lumbered up twenty-two flights of stairs, pale cheeks rosy and blue eyes bright as the white dishes that cluttered the alley. He knocked on Steven's door.

It opened instantly. "I've been wondering when you'd come," he said cryptically before letting Kevin into the apartment.

Standing right before him, Steven appeared anything but threatening. Small, thin and pale, with jet-black hair, black eyes and a prominent nose, Kevin wondered how Steven had ever frightened, threatened, challenged him. The shadows apparently enlarged Steven's image.

"How do you do it?" Kevin murmured before he could process his words and stop himself.

"I throw the Frisbee, Kevin," he replied, and Kevin couldn't ascertain exactly how or when Steven learned his name. Kevin realized, with a visible start, that he also couldn't pinpoint the moment in which Steven's name was made clear to him. "But that's not why you're here."

"It isn't?" Kevin felt as if he were a step behind the rotation of the rest of the world, struggling stupidly to catch up and failing, falling farther behind, about to fly into space and be lost forever.

Steven's black eyes were mesmerizing; Kevin's willpower couldn't force him to look away. Gracefully, Steven sat, and gestured for Kevin to follow.

Kevin remained standing.

"You're not the first to challenge me like this, Kevin," Steven said in a tone void of emotion. "Nor will you, I expect, be the last. You're the first to come see me, though."

"I don't understand," Kevin blurted.

"Let me explain. Do not interrupt." Kevin nodded blindly in agreement.

"It began when I was younger, younger than you are now, only a boy. I was small, but I could throw a Frisbee better than anyone in my elementary school. This was my one talent, my one great source of pride. However, there was no outlet with which I could expose the world to my extraordinary talent.

"I became withdrawn and angry, feeling cheated by the world. I felt I was more important and more gifted than anyone else on the Earth. As you can see, I became quite warped, and I knew this. I wanted revenge against the world that had so cruelly stolen my sanity. And then I met the first one.

"He was like you, competitive, angry, frustrated with the world around him, much as I had been. I saw this young man and drew him out of his shell by throwing the first saucer. He became entranced, obsessed, and he never paused to think about what he did. Eventually, he plunged himself out of the window, feeling, I imagine, completely worthless.

"The power to make someone feel that is addicting, and I did it again, and again. Some were put into mental hospitals; friends dragged some to different cities; others followed the first's example. Never, until now, did any one of them confront the feeling. I suppose you've got strong friendships, right?"

Kevin only nodded.

"Yes. Well, this is only one setback in a series of many wins. You lost the whole time, Kevin, but you've won now. Go, and I will leave tonight; return to your normal life. You've overcome this and shown spectacular strength, Kevin. Goodbye."

In shock, Kevin stumbled clumsily out of the apartment and down to his own. Strength? Kevin allowed this insane competition, this insane, vindictive, evil man to grasp him and hold him, dangle him above the licking flames of insanity that threatened to burn him at the slightest uncontrolled movement.

Maybe, somehow, that was for what Kevin had been searching. A month ago, he was flailing in the wake of his girlfriend's leaving him, and his job reporting music news was particularly exhausting in preparation for the Grammys. He felt as if he were caving in upon himself, falling apart and flying out so that none of his pieces could be found and crazy-glued back together.

Yeah, he'd been sucked in; he'd come out of it in one piece. That needed to count for something.

He let himself into his apartment; he felt no surprise to find the door open. Toby was naïve and forgetful, especially of that fact that they lived in the deep Bronx. Kevin smiled at the thought of his friend and thought, it's going to be okay now.

"Hey, where've you been?" Toby asked, glasses pushed up too far on his nose and paint splattered against one lens. Kevin began to laugh uncontrollably, collapsing onto their fraying couch, fingering a small hole gingerly.

"I'm not crazy!" Kevin shouted as he laughed.

Baffled, Toby answered, "I never said you were."

Kevin sobered and looked straight at his best friend, thought of his sad look and the way he watered the dead plants and the way he refused to walk away. "Thank you, Toby."

"Where were you?" Toby responded, horribly confused.

"I'll tell you sometime. Right now, I'm not crazy." Shaking his head in inexplicable amusement, he repeated, "I'm not crazy."

"I'm starting to doubt that," Toby said, but he looked happy, with glitter in his green eyes and a smile hinting at his lips.

Staring at the ceiling, littered with water spots (their upstairs neighbor, before Steven, had a habit of getting drunk and overflowing the bathtub), he sobered again and looked at Toby.

"Put the plants back and break every saucer in this house," he commanded, and Toby grinned fully. Kevin couldn't remember the last time he'd seen that and felt infinitely glad for it.

He heard crashes from the kitchen and ventured into the small room when he secured that they'd all been broken. To confirm his suspicions, broken china now blanketed the kitchen floor.

"I'll clean it up," Kevin said. "Go watch TV or something."

"Are you sure? I can help you."

"Thanks, but take a break. You got to do the fun part anyway."

Toby trotted out of the kitchen and flopped loudly onto the couch, rendering a scream of protest from the piece of furniture at his added weight.

Retrieving a dustpan and brush from next to the sink, Kevin swept up the dishes and triple-layered them with garbage bags, then throwing them into the trashcan. He then threw away the wilted, brown plants and resolved to buy new ones tomorrow and to take Toby with him.

Then he crossed the kitchen and stood at his familiar perch next to the window. He looked up and saw the omnipresent light in Steven's house dim and fade. He looked down; all of the white, worthless pieces of china were now gone.

He didn't allow the situation a thought by which to consider the peculiarity. A cold breeze came into the window, and Kevin shivered, not completely because of the cold.

With a grand gesture radiating finality, Kevin reached up and slammed the window shut.