If I were a Tribute

“Confused junk” from District Three

If I lived in Katniss Everdeen’s Panem I know I would be chosen as a Tribute before I turn eighteen. Even if I wasn’t made to sign up for additional tesserae, which would most likely be the case, I am sure of it, because I’ve always been lucky in draw lots. Once I was in this conference of around five hundred people, and they were giving away three SmartBro modems and at the time wireless plug-ins still cost as much as three grand. I badly wanted it. And my name got picked right at the first draw.

I don’t know, however, which District I would most likely be from. Surely it wouldn’t be Katniss’ Twelve, because I know as much about mining coal as I do about conjugating Russian verbs. Eleven, with its fields and vineyards, reminds me a lot of my mother’s hometown. But then I wasn’t born and raised there. It would have to be somewhere industrial, where everything’s drab and treeless. Like my city. District Three perhaps, where they made microchips? We have AmKor right at our doorstep in Alabang.

I’m sure nobody would volunteer to take my place once I am drawn. I am the eldest, so no heroic older siblings would scream and flail as the Peacekeepers take me away.

Who would be my female counterpart? I’m very sure she wouldn’t be as kickass as Katniss. I am also very certain that the first time she steps on the stage in front of our Justice Building would be the first time I ever see her. I am a homebody, and I wouldn’t have spent a lot of time knowing people from my own village. Somehow I know she would be older than me. And that she would already have borne a child. A teenage mom. That surely would drive the pre-Games hype through the roof.

I don’t know if I would also have a childhood friend whom I share a mushy, undefined adolescent yearning with cry and hug me as I board the train to the Capitol. I keep thinking maybe that pretty, bespectacled girl I used to go out with back in high school would show up, hesitantly, and give me her drumsticks. Otherwise, I’m sure a whole bunch of my friends from school would show up.

Who would my mentor be? I have always imagined our neighbor who runs a car repair shop could be a previous Victor. He, like Haymitch, is drunk almost every other day. But he is very adept with mechanical tools. And when he’s donning his welder’s helmet he looks formidable enough, like he could dart a wrench through your gut.

But would he be a good mentor? Would he get me good sponsors? Would he also tell me and my co-Tribute to play up a love story? Make me confess before all of Panem that I love my partner and would take her child as my own?

Somehow I know if we do something like that, I would be the Peeta in our game. The one who always managed to pull things together and get by with words and smiles and well-practiced emphatic expressions. The liar.

I am one hundred percent certain I would love the parade of the Tributes and the interviews, because I am vain. I know I would genuinely enjoy the Capitol feting all of us like that before they send us to our deaths.

It would be interesting to know which image they would play me up by. The “ambiguous artist?” So they could feature my crappy sketches back home? My lousy first attempts at poetry? Maybe it would have something to do with me being Asian. Yes, diversity is definitely good for the Games. I’d be happy with “Confucian junkie.” But then I wouldn’t have learned of Confucius in Panem. And even if I did, I’m not sure I would’ve ascribed to his teachings either. “Confused junk” would be a tad more accurate.

Would I make an impression on the Gamemakers? I wouldn’t know what to do with a bow and arrow anymore than I’d know what to do with feminine wash. I don’t really have any combat skills to speak of. Maybe I would just wildly hack through the air with a sword while making all these grunting noises. I would never be a frontrunner.


If in the books the two arenas were set in a natural environment—forests, lake, sea, mountains—I somehow feel that ours would be more like an abandoned city. Lots of buildings and streets to get lost in. Zombies that lurk out of abandoned buildings at night. Vending machines that churn out poisoned goods. And a horrific flood by the middle of the Games to wipe out those who would have been injured and unable to climb to higher ground.

Because of my build and height, the Careers would maybe try to get me on their side, and that should pretty much set the pace for me in the Games. But I know would never be able to bring myself to trust the Careers completely. In a situation like that I would completely shut myself off. That would actually be my first real strategy, keep away from people. I wouldn’t want them forming alliances with me, growing on me and gaining my trust. If there’s one thing I’m sure I would go at great lengths to avoid in the Games, that would be betrayal.

Besides, I’m pretty sure I would not be dead so soon, at least not in the first four or five days of the Games. I know I’m smart enough to last that long.

Smart enough to hide.

I wouldn’t go into an offensive immediately, with so many people still on the Games. Somehow my co-Tribute—“Fatima” I have a feeling her name would be—wouldn’t be so keen on hunting other Tributes either. And if it boiled down to it she would be the only person I’d speak to. Maybe we’d work something out, go up an abandoned condominium and hole up in a room.

Then I would get to know her, how she got pregnant and who fathered her child—a childhood sweetheart who became a Tribute and died in the last year’s Games? A worker in the microchip factory who got electrocuted? She would tell me how she loves her daughter more than anything, and how she would do anything to win so she could see her again. Fatima would turn out to be the more interesting character, and though annoyed I would be at being second fiddle, I know I would end up admiring her resilience and determination.

I have a bad feeling though that she would not entrust me completely with her plans. And maybe by the time the Games got finally rolling for us, perhaps when the Gamemakers induce earthquakes to bring those of us hiding out, she would have left me, robbed me of any valuables I might have saved up, and taken on her own. And I know wouldn’t have cursed her one bit, because I would totally understand why she did it. It is from her that I would learn that sometimes life really leaves you with no choices.

Vlog before you die

I wouldn’t have anything left but myself and the cameras. And then I would realize the cameras could be a good way to while the time. And to compensate for my lameness as a Tribute, I would turn my waking hours into a running vlog, blabbering being one of the few things I’m naturally good at. I would totally use the reality TV spin to my advantage and slowly dish out things I’ve never told people before. The more Tributes dead at the end of the day, the juicier my revelations get!

Then maybe I would really, finally be able to speculate on the meaning of life, and, like Confucius, somehow come up with tenets of what virtuous living should be. Ha, what a real coup it would be, talking about chastity when I am just about to spill how many people I have kissed and slept with! I would talk to and about every people I have ever known. People would know I have stories to tell.

I would make all the corny jokes I could think of and not care whether anyone finds them funny or not.

I wouldn’t have sponsors until something bizarre happens though, like, say, I catch two Tributes shagging rather sloppily in a deserted alley when I finally come down to look around. Maybe they did really fall for each other, made a promise to stay until the end, and just couldn’t help seizing the moment and doing it. But since I would be bewildered and amused, and feeling pretty bored and hungry for action at the same time or maybe just moved by their unabashed display of love for one another that I couldn’t stand the thought of them falling prey to the Games’ design, I would grab my pen—the only thing I managed to take from the Cornucopia which secretly doubles as a lethal screw—and kill them both.

Then the audience would know I could also be ruthless. Before that night ends a parachute would land before me and I would retrieve my first gifts—a book, chocolate fudge sundae and spare screws for my pen-killer.

A couple of other interesting things would happen, for sure—I would overhear the golden boy from District Two coming out and confessing a crush on the guy from District One, who would lose no time using this information to lure the poor boy and murder him, or witness a sick and starving girl jump off a building in desperation—before it’s announced that the Games are down to the final six or five Tributes and certain areas would be made off-limits immediately to bring us closer and step up the action.

Then I would run into Fatima and a hulky Tribute locked in combat as soon as I set out to pursue the remaining opponents. Fatima, it would turn out, knows taekwondo and judo. I’m sure I would be too enthralled by the action to be of any help, glued hypnotically to their live Tekken bout.

Like in a bad movie everything would happen in a blur and it would be too late before I come to my senses. Fatima would be knocked dead, but not before she gutters the semi-giant with her heels that end with razor-sharp blades.

When that happens I know that would be the only time I might really cry. Tired, frustrated, and sad, I might finally lose it and let go. But no flailing of arms, no wailing, just quiet, dignified crying. And I would put all my hatred against the world, against the Capitol, against the meaninglessness of it all, in my eyes and glower at the sky.

And that’s the closest I would ever get to being a victor. Sometime in the night, after I have grieved myself to sleep over Fatima’s death, one of the surviving Tributes—a female perhaps, who’s got more bile against the Capitol, who’s in direr conditions—would creep up on me and strangle me to death with nylon thread.

Unceremonious, yes. But well, it’s the Hunger Games after all. If I were a Tribute, I would die taking with me a most valuable fact of life: for everyone to have a good show, you can’t always be the star.


2 thoughts on “If I were a Tribute

  1. Happy Australia Day Ralph! Your entry made me realize how rusty my imagination is. March 23 here we come! (I’m just not into the idea having a mother as a tribute — 12-18yo’s pretty young. But, you’re the writer. For a second, I thought Fatima was pregnant. Forgive my sleep-deprived state.)

    • Faitma wouldn’t have been selected if she was pregnant. And thank you for reading this, I’ll admit this turned out to be longer that I had intended. So I’ve finally gotten around to reading the Hunger Games. I can’t wait for the movie!

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