01-29-2007 02:38 PM
Rick was just an average ordinary 18-year old, bound for college and whatever bit of brightness the future might hold. He was Nothing Special, and Rick would be first to tell you this; no, it was his bigger, faster, stronger, wiser, braver brother who was 'the Special One' 'Why can't you be more like your brother?' 'Wow! look at how great he is! What are you any good at, Rick? Anything like what your brother can do?'
'Who are you again? Oh, yes, I know your brother! You're his brother, huh? He sure is great, your brother, yes he certainly is great! uhh, what did you say your name was again, little brother of Great One?' Rick was used to this, it was his place, always to be no better than also-ran, second-best, the kid brother to Kid Wonder... The big difference between Rick and his big brother; Rick was content with his mediocrity, while Malcolm was only content with being The Best, even if it only meant besting his younger brother, as long as he was Champion!
so, why did Rick follow Big Brother off to college then? why not branch out, get away, do his own thing, become his own man, in his own way, in his own time?
Easy! Revenge!! or, at very least, some sweet satisfaction of besting his brother on his own terms, and on his brother's Home Field...
Rick wanted to be there, that close, in his face and in the place of his brother's future conquests, to best him at something, whatever it might be, in a place that Big Brother had 'owned' up until that point... Rick just HAD to do it this way, though he barely understood his own reasons well enough to inspire himself, let alone explain it to anyone else. So, Rick followed his brother to college, and further, into the National Guard, to stand side-by-side with his brother, to learn all he had learned, how to become a man, how to kill a man, and how to survive being killed by a man, all in an effort to one day use what he had learned to conquer his unsuspecting, vain, pompous, jerk of a fool bigger, dumber, weaker, sadder brother...
Standing in Rick's way during this quest to best his bigger, faster, stronger, wiser, braver brother:
-the man himself, Malcolm, high-school sports hero, football player, wrestler, cheerleader trophy-girl-of-the-week draped dreamily over one arm, letterman's jacket over the opposite shoulder if not wrapped round the girl's shoulders. Malcolm got all the glory, Rick wrote about it, living vicariously through his brother's exploits, but never truly living himself. Rick had to do something, and soon, or Forever be known as 'the Other Brother of Malcolm the Great'
-Rick's own self-doubt, and self-loathing. As much as he hated his big brother for being so great, over the years, he had come to accept his place as #2 Son, in most every way you could imagine, and had learned to think indifferent of himself, as so many others had already also thought. It's a coming-of-age story really, this man-against-himself ideal; had to be faced and conquered before Rick could truly grow beyond the shadow of his big brother
-the entire campus, who would surely rally around the legendary high-school super jock, now that he had moved on up to the collegiate level athletics and academics. How could Rick rise up against a whole new school of faculty and friends who would hoist Malcolm on their shoulders in victory, while trouncing and trampling Little Rick's dreams and hopes?
-the entire National Guard, and, undoubtedly, every other branch of the United States Armed Forces; surely, they had gathered and shared all the information of these two siblings amongst the chains-of-command up and down the ranks across the board, across the country, and around the world, everyone must know of the conflict, the epic struggle, the battle of wit and wills that was building between the brothers? If not, they surely would know soon, Rick determined!
Acceptance of one's self and one's family, rising up to take on internal challenges as well as challenges of brotherly-love/hate gone on too long would, naturally lead to encounters with forces outside the bonds of one's self, or one's family. Meeting each challenge would lead to greater challenges; conquering one challenge would lead to facing those future obstacles with less trepidation, more inspiration
-not to mention, the terrorists, plotting world domination, starting by invading this very college campus, if not college campuses all across this great United States?
A dozen, 2 dozen, well-armed and well-schooled thugs, carrying out a malevolent plot, with the entire campus as their battleground, the entire student body their hostages
With every Good, there must be an equal balance of Evil, in any grand tale. Malcolm is not truly evil, nor the campus-folk, nor the National Guard, not wholly and completely Evil, any way. The epic battle of Good vs Evil will come to mirror and eclipse the rest of the struggles our young Hero/Heroes come to face. The consequences then become global, as much as personal, which ups the stakes of this tale considerably
all in a day's work, for a super-hero-in-training, I suppose.
And that's the basis for my novel, now nearly 20 years in the making!!
02-21-2007 12:50 AM
I was so disinterested in making a name for myself, so content with the names others would come up with for me, I was essentially a shadow of a man. Most times, I felt as though I was having an out-of- body experience while not actually leaving my body; as if I was merely an observer of the lives of everyone around me, never meant to become a viable member of the society I had been in contact with. Maybe not boring exactly, but not excited or inspired enough by my own life to want to take control and make something of myself, for myself, by myself.
Where did it all begin? And where will it all end? And, why does any of it matter to anyone but me? Those are difficult questions, with troubling answers, I’m afraid… And fear is an incredible motivational tool, I have learned. Fear of being alone, of being swallowed up in the malaise of nothingness that is all-too-readily available when one is first starting out in life. Fear of not fitting in, of never finding my place in life. Just as fearful of making my way in life, finding a place, and laying claim to a life, only to have it blow up in my face and spiral out of control, with nothing to do but crash and burn with it. Fear of failure, fear of success, fears of the costs of both. So much to fear… and so little time…
That’s where my life had been the past 19 years or so. I literally was going nowhere fast, in none too big a hurry to get there; casually coasting through the days, restlessly sleeping through the nights, and deathly afraid of whatever mysteries and hardships lay ahead. Then, somewhere along the desolate road that had been my pathetic existence, something changed. Subtle manipulations began to weave their way through the tapestry of my mediocrity, altering my perceptions, and catapulting my life in a new and not-entirely-welcomed direction. Almost overnight, I became swept up in an unimaginable chain of events, as my fears collided head-on with my desires for a more substantial life, and everything became twisted around on itself, while I remained hopelessly lost amidst the chaos. All of this, to simply arrive where I am to this very day… and, this is probably the most frightening place of all!
Where did it all begin? My story of woe and wonder begins where most great new lives begin; where children become adults, chores become responsibilities, and social gatherings become all-night reveries: College! Where young lives are made or broken over-night; from hard-driven studying by day, to hard-core partying all night; from hard-nosed, harsh-speaking instructors, to soft-spoken, soft-skinned, sweet-smelling sorority girls. A small Midwestern college campus is where all the fears of my life—and all the fears FOR my life—were first invoked from deep within my troubled soul; where I was forced to face those fears, to live or die by the control which such fear would have over me, or which I would wield over those fears….
And, where would it all end? Well, I’m sorry to say, fear of everything in Life can, will, and must only end in death…
02-21-2007 05:48 PM
A younger rejected sibling makes for a relevant character, especially if his jealousy and self-loathing cause him to go over the edge and become a terrorist. You've got the psychology of kids that go nuts and gun down their classmates plus the psychology of organized crime.
Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
"Man, if I actually had to talk to Socrates, I'd be pissed."
02-21-2007 06:45 PM
I'll post a bit more, show the plot build-up from bare bones basic beginning to all-out war, if I can be bothered to dredge up this old story...
02-22-2007 02:35 PM
Afraid? Of whom am I afraid?
Not Death, for who is He?
Who said that? Emily Dickinson, I think. What does it matter who said what and when any way? In a tense situation, when lives are hanging in the balance, there are certain things that should not be running through one’s head--- and Silly Quotes From English 1101 ranks right up near the top of that list! Besides, who’s not afraid of Death? Personally, I’m not too excited by it, that’s for sure! For me, life itself is quite depressing enough as it is without bringing something so morose as death into the picture! I guess that doesn’t make much sense, and maybe I’m rambling a bit, but I AM under quite a bit of stress at the moment, all things considered. What makes Emily Dickinson such and expert on Death any way? She was a poet, not a doctor, or a nurse, or a mortician, or a soldier in the National Guard… and she’s been dead since 1886!! Still, I guess what They say about all that useless information you gather throughout your life is true: you really don’t know when it will come back around inside your head and seem somehow relevant. Although, at this particular moment, I fail to find the relevance of any particular piece of poetry…
Poetry?! Phooey!! I seriously doubt any 19th century poet ever had to worry about anything like what I was presently faced with. I don’t know anyone in the 20th century who has faced anything like what I was dealing with! But, there I go, getting all off track, distracted in the moment by disconnected thoughts, and getting way ahead of myself again…
Whew! It’s hot in here… or maybe it’s cold. Why IS the sky blue any way?? Darn final English exams! Darn all finals, in fact! If it wasn’t for finals of one form or another, I might not be in this mess at all! Darn it all to heck! (Pardon my French!)
It’s funny how the human mind wanders when under pressure; and the pressure I was faced with at the moment was nothing compared to what I’d feel if I slipped up! In truth, 30 or 40 feet really isn’t too far to fall I suppose; and, it’s not really the fall that would bother me so much—it’s the sudden stop at the end! Mind you, I’m no stranger to pain and suffering. I have an older faster stronger brother, and he initiated me into the world of pain and pummeling at quite an early age. I have endured my share of brotherly love-taps over the years and have come out punching on the other side of puberty, so the small inconvenience of a 30-foot fall should be nothing to worry about. A few broken bones might come of it, perhaps some internal injuries, but not death? Of course, there were other issues to consider—A LOT of other issues, in fact! 30 or so, to be more precise. So many issues to deal with, and so little time…
I wonder how I’m going to get out of this one. I wonder if the Twins will make the World Series again in my life time. Frank Viola’s history this year for sure…maybe Kirby Puckett too—not to mention ME!! I wonder if I will live to see another baseball game, or slow-pitch softball game, or another pretty sorority girl from across the aisle in Computer Class…Why do I feel so lost and confused? Why am I so detached from the world around me, like no one would care whether I lived or died… and WHY NOW?! Talk about issues! And to top it all off, now I’m thinking in psycho-babble! Could it be? Was I becoming my older, faster, stronger, smarter brother?? Yikes! Maybe I should just give it all up, maybe I should just let it all go…
NO! I have to hang on! Have to get a grip, or rather, to keep my grip! I’ve just got to get some perspective, take a look around, and get my bearings. Maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem at first sight. Hmmm… one little, two little, three little Communist terrorists… four little, five little… six of the bastages, and all of those innocent people! I was right: things aren’t as bad as I thought at first sight… at second sight, things are much, much worse!! Oh boy, Slickster! You’re really in it deep this time!!
You know, sweaty fingertips make it really difficult to get a grip on anything, from a steel girder 30 feet above a dim and crowded gymnasium, to an aluminum baseball bat, 3 feet in front of a dim but cocky umpire, which was closer to where this sordid nightmare actually began…
It might not have been so bad if it wasn’t for the heat. I mean, sure, they had a great pitcher, but we had Malcolm. Of course, they were the members of the football team; ‘Call 911’ was their stupid team name, in reference to the team’s unerring ability to utterly decimate and destroy any supposed competition they might face. Then again, this was softball, not football; SOFTball, not hard-hitting, bone-crunching, growling, spitting, grunting, gridiron warfare. Just a friendly game of intramural softball. And who were we: ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ thanks to our chipper team captain, Teddy ‘Chief’ Henderson. It didn’t matter that Chief was a Chippewa Indian, not a Mohican. Theodore—Teddy—Henderson was a very big Chippewa Indian--- 6-foot, 2 inches, 285 pounds of ‘big-boned’ behemoth, wrapped around the heart of a teddy bear; that was Teddy Henderson--- so who’d argue with his choice of names? What’s in a name? A rose by any other name…
Ha! Everything was definitely not coming up roses!
The important thing was that we had gotten this far; we had made it to the Championship! The final game of the final round of the Mens’ Intramural Spring Softball League, at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and we were there!! For 8 weeks every Spring, from late March through mid-May, groups of amateurish college kids like us would team up for a relaxing season of intramural sportsmanship. Teams ranging from fraternity brothers, to off-season team-sports athletes looking to keep physically fit, to our particular brand of rag-tag party crews gathered for the camaraderie, the escape from everyday rigors of studies, or to hone their skills… and, of course, to get drunk in the post-game celebrations and pick up girls!!
We, The Last of the Mohicans had battled to the last, and stood at the threshold of Ultimate Victory. Sure, we were down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, with 2 outs against us; but bases were loaded, and the winning run was at the plate. I was to be that run; I was to be the savior of our team’s honor and dignity. ME! Rick King, the poster child for pathetic losers! Forever renowned the world over—at least my small, insignificant world over—as The Younger Brother To Malcolm The Great… Rick, The Not So Great. I was the last hope for the Last Mohicans… Why me?
“Pinch hitter! Pinch hitter!” Matt Hess squawked from behind the steel cage 8 feet behind me as I stepped to Home Plate. Matt had always claimed to be Mega-Mound when it came to pitching, ‘the second coming of Christ’ he so often boasted. But, his true position soon came to be known as Left Out. Matt Hess was no softball player. Beady little blue rat-eyes squinted through wire-rimmed spectacles as the Demi-God of Dorks droned from behind the batting cage. Matt’s haystack hairstyle suited his hair-brained hysterics; rusty-brown spikes poked out beneath the brim of his half-cocked baseball cap. The bright red-and-orange embroidered lettering across the face of the black-nylon and plastic cap decried ‘Hey Gals…’ and was another of Matt’s ingenious attention-grabbers. In addition, the cap was always precariously propped atop Matt’s mussed mop ‘for dramatic effect’ he claimed, referring to the way his cap almost methodically flew off his head as he rounded the bases at a full sprint.
It didn’t matter to Matt that, to anyone with a firm grip on reality, it simply appeared as though Matt was holding up the game with his antics. After his every at-bat, the opposing team’s catcher would have to collect his misplaced head gear and usher it to him before the game could commence. In all his glory, Matt would fan his cap and smirk his trademark lop-sided grin and snort with a satisfied sashay toward the smattering of on-lookers who had nothing better to do with their afternoon, and had opted to watch their favorite jocks wreak a particular brand of havoc on opposing softball teams. These were Matt Hess’ ‘fans’ and it didn’t matter that this 20 year old man had the body of a 12 year old girl, and all the coordination and physicality of a 3-legged cat with a ball of string. In his own mind, and nowhere else, Matt Hess was a god!
“Goddammit, Chief!” Matt moaned, pushing his spectacles back into position from the tip of his snooty snout. “I should win this for us, not King!! God!” his holier-than-though huffs had little effect on the big Chief, and I smiled to myself, my confidence bolstered by Teddy’s faith in me. It was a gutsy call permitting me to maintain my position in the batting roster after so many nearly-fatal errs over the course of the past 8 weeks. Maybe Teddy saw something of my bigger, faster, stronger brother in me; maybe I did have some skills after all… or maybe Teddy just forgot to remove my name from the roster list…
“Come on, Slick!” Teddy roared, budging up the waistband of his sagging maroon-and-gold UMM-team colors sweatpants, attempting unsuccessfully to contain some slight portion of his girth. “Don’t **bleep** this up for us!!” So much for Teddy’s faith in me… and so much for my own self-confidence!!
02-22-2007 05:51 PM
If so, it leads me to believe that Rick is in the process of planting some sort of terrorist device, and the retrogression is a part of his internal dialogue that will eventually explain how he got to where he is at the moment. Is that accurate?
It's a nifty device, moving back and forth through time like that. I know it's frequesntly used, but it's not always easy to do. I think you have a great start.
Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
"Man, if I actually had to talk to Socrates, I'd be pissed."
02-22-2007 06:43 PM
to answer your questions, Yes these posts are in order as they appear in the finished product, pages 1 and 2, to be exact...
the first post was just the Exercise post, setting the stage, assigning a protagonist, giving a desire or 2, and introducing a few conflicts as well, and offering some options how the protagonist might proceed. The next 2 posts are the Prologue and Chapter 1, Page 1 respectively...
since it's 150 pages, I probably won't post it all, but just wanted to give a taste to all my 'fans'... maybe a chapter or 2, for the purpose of gathering feedback on character- and plot-development over the course of 20 pages or so of a rookie's work and passion.
we'll see how it goes. Thanks again, for reading and reviewing! hope you enjoy whatever else is yet to come!
02-22-2007 06:46 PM
Being catcher on a softball team was a menial task at best. About one in 30 plays actually brings a run toward Home Plate. Of those few plays, 1 of 50 are actually even going to be played on, with less than 10% of those plays being decided by the athleticism of the players involved over the judgment of the catcher behind the plate. Add to that the fact that, on most every one of the plays at Home Plate, either the 3rd baseman, the 1st baseman, the pitcher, or sometimes ALL 3 players are on hand to cover any plays, and the odds become about one in a gozillion-and-one that I would ever be involved in a game-clinching play at the plate. Being the catcher on The Last of the Mohicans was little more than an excuse to fill the batting roster; and I was happy to be included in any way, as part of a team that was most likely destined for total obscurity.
For the most part, this softball thing was just a way to escape my regular, boring existence; with the unglamorous rigors of the position, with everyone else on hand to cover my mistakes and hold my position in the game-clinching plays, the boredom of being the catcher actually fit right into my already monotonous lifestyle. The fact that I was even on the team was somewhat of a miracle of Fate itself. Once again, I have my bigger, faster, stronger brother to thank for getting me inducted onto the Mohicans. One otherwise-typical afternoon, while waiting for Malcolm to give me a ride to the local Blockbuster to peruse the New Releases, it was mentioned that the group was putting together a softball team. Later that afternoon, as the team gathered for practice, they decided they needed a batter so they might practice their fielding prowess. I was the pinch-hitter--- as well as the tackling dummy, whenever I made the misguided effort to attempt a run toward first base!
After such a worthy trial by fire, I was half-jokingly invited to become a full-fledged member of the rag-tag troupe. Malcolm, Teddy and the others didn’t realize that I had absolutely no life of my own outside of the group, and would therefore be happy to be involved with any other outside activities which made up the typical ‘collegiate experience’. So, I accepted the offer, and the rest, as They say, is history…
Unfortunately, with my un-athletic background, perhaps the team would have played better with ‘Jesus’ Hess behind the plate, or without a catcher altogether. So far this season, I had struck out 7 times, popped out a few dozen, scored maybe 5 or 6 runs, and flubbed more than 3 of those 1-in-a-gozillion close calls at the plate. In fact, my most recent error had placed the Mohicans in the hot-box earlier in this game. We actually had the game all wrapped up in the 8th inning, following a brilliantly executed bunt by Malcolm, which allowed Matt to score. Malcolm gave it his best effort, sprinting at top speed toward first base, but he was thrown out, an all too common experience in slow-pitch soft ball. But his sacrifice had given us the lead, and was only the second out for the inning. I, of course, ended the inning, popping up the first pitch offered me, stranding 2 insurance runs who had been walked by the shaken pitcher following Malcolm’s sacrifice. Of course, no one mentioned Malcolm’s glorious sacrifice bunt, but I was verbally thrashed for ending our run at the bottom of the inning… as always, my bigger, faster, stronger brother was the stud, and I was the dud…
In the top of the 9th inning, our single-run lead was holding out behind the strong arm of Malcolm on the mound. After a weak start which allowed 2 men to walk, and a bobbled hot-box toss when the runner on 2nd attempted to steal 3rd, Malcolm got in the zone, and focused all his athletic prowess on the game. The King-to-King connection brought down one, then 2 consecutive batters as Malcolm managed to land perfectly placed lobs into my glove within the Strike Zone.
Then, Fate stepped in and threw us a curve; the 911 pitcher stepped up to the plate, spouting his usual eloquent poetry: “King, feel my sting!”
I assumed at the time that the burly beast’s comments were directed toward Malcolm on the mound, as the battered bear bore down on my beady-eyed brother, but I couldn’t be certain. I had had dealings with this creep myself, both on and off the softball field, and the bad blood between us was fresher, and stung more than the blood between brothers.
“Hey Jesse!” Malcolm smirked from the mound, “How’s your old lady?” His comment was immediately followed up with a quick-flick lob; and the batter, one Jesse Graham, fired the bat from his shoulder wildly.
“STEEEERIKE!!!” the umpire roared, as the brown and battered softball was collected in my war-torn mitt. And the Mohican’s cheered. One down, one to go…
“**bleep** me!” the batter babbled mostly to himself, and I was happy he didn’t see my wicked smile as he focused on my cock-sure elder on the mound. Cautiously, Malcolm checked the 911 runner on 3rd base, almost daring him to try to make a break for Home. Runners on 1st and 3rd; this was no time to get careless and allow another stolen base, or a walk…
The next pitch came before Jesse was set, or so it seemed, and we all but had the game won, until…
-WHACK!- the bat met the ball, miraculously, and the mushy orb rocketed overhead, deep, deep, deep into the outfield.
“**bleep** you too!” Jesse turned his gaze to me a moment before he charged toward first base. I was so busy screaming into the outfield for my teammates to collect the ball and throw it Home, I barely noticed 2 base-runners breeze past me at the plate. Something drew my mind and eyes back to my immediate proximity, then. Perhaps it was some secret internal instinct or alarm mechanism, or maybe just the way his gargantuan form seemed to block out the sun as he approached; but I was suddenly imminently aware that Jesse Graham was thundering Home, directly toward me!!
“You’re MINE!” the giant’s gaunt gaze seemed to say as he recklessly rounded third base and turned toward Home. From left field, Charley Andrews lofted the ball, but I didn’t see it coming. I was too distracted watching the freight train roaring toward me down the third base line. I was too caught up in the moment of indecision: which way do I jump to avoid the bone-crunching collision that would most surely leave me a mangled bloody puddle across Home Plate?
This was another of those fateful moments in life, pivotal instances that at the time don’t seem relevant; moments when that underlying subconscious desire for self-preservation kick in, shutting out all other ‘in the moment’ considerations, such as winning the Big Game, being the hero of the team, succumbing to the fame and fortune of being the true champion of the world… the tying run had scored before the ball had even landed in short-center field, the go-ahead run soon followed as the ball was recovered, and now Jesse Graham was bringing home what might have been the game-clinching run… and only I could stop him… oh, crap!
02-22-2007 06:49 PM
Could I help it that I valued my life and limbs more than some silly softball game? They had to give me some credit, my so called ‘friends,’ didn’t they? After all, I DID manage to somehow come to my senses soon enough to scoop up the half-rolling, half-bouncing ball, as it bobbled in from Left Field Even as I claimed the ball, my self-preservation skills helped me make an amazingly awful pirouette to hopefully side-step the rumbling, rhyming rhino as he dove into the dirt. I made what I would consider an admirable effort to tag the tumbling tower of terror as the dust razed and my eyes hazed over. Unfortunately, I was caught up in the gargantuan’s girth, and dragged down into the dust, slamming to the sideline, dropping the softball as my body reverberated and was rubbed raw.
“You’re outta there!” Jesse joked, dusting himself off, offering his hand to me as I sprawled in the dirt.
“It’s not over…” I hissed under my breath, shrugging off his helping hand with a shudder of familiarity, rising up weakly and stumbling back to my position behind the plate.
‘Not over by a long shot, Mister Graham…’ my mind continued to verbally thrash the garish goon, while my slightly chapped lips stayed closed as I glared at Jesse while he strutted to his team’s dug-out. The 911 benches roared with cheers, chants and chortles of laughter at my crushing downfall, and my confidence wavered as I took stock of my teammates’ postures. I let them down; I WAS out of there!
“Awwwww, Slick…” my ‘friends’ most likely seethed under their breath, “What a loser! He’s totally worthless!”
“He tried…” Malcolm might defend me, in a moment of weakness.
“But FAILED!” would come the reply, as the Monday-morning quarterback critiques continued long after the point was made, much longer than it was even relevant to argue.
“He should have stood in there, should have sacrificed himself, should have been the champion WE all would have been…”
“...or at least, I would have been!” Matt would most likely mention. “ I knew I should have played catcher!!” I was most probably being chastised and chopped into bits by my team mates in the privacy of their own dark minds. I could see the disappointment, along with the hint of possible defeat in their postures all across the outfield as I recovered. I was certain no one would dare chastise Malcolm for his walking 2 base-runners; no one would bother to recollect the err between Matt on 3rd and Justin Carlson on 2nd which allowed the go-ahead run to reach 3rd. How could this be MY fault? How could we have known that Call 911 had a ringer named Jesse, who could channel the likes of Jesse Owens, into the body of Jesse Ventura; a sprinting superstar quarterback-pitcher with a penchant for verse and very large women?
And where were all the boos against Charley and Justin, or Matt, Teddy and Malcolm, who were ALWAYS on hand to cover my bobbling buffoonery at the Plate? Always, except the one time I could have used the assistance? We had gone from a one-run lead to 2-runs down, all thanks to me and my distracted mind. With friends like this, who needs enemies?! And, why did I choose to even call these people my friends? I could not win!! In the Game of Life, I was the Strike-Out Champion!
In the game of softball, as much as in the Game of Life, the biggest heartaches to befall me personally came about from striking out. Beginning with my now-notorious decision to strike out on my own, if only to follow in my bigger, faster, stronger brother’s footsteps; going to His college, meeting and befriending His people, trying so hard to live His great, grand life, all leading up to this fateful day on the softball field… and the many strike-outs that would occur both on and off the field.
As far as softball and striking out is concerned, it was more of a financial deficit than a personal spiritual sort of ruin that affected me most profoundly. In the pre-season, a rule had been established which made each strike-out worth a case of beer from the unfortunate batter. 7 strike-outs later left me owing 168 beers, divided between the 12-man team; that’s more than a case apiece for my ‘friends’… 14 beers each for the post-season reveries, that really takes a bite out of a National Guardsman’s wallet… and I don’t even drink the bitter, nasty beverage!!!
Still, I’d buy it for the guys any way. Anything I could do to help my friends forget their troubles would go a long way toward helping me forget my own problems, most of which revolved around the secondary form of Strike-Outs which had plagued me since cutting Mom’s apron strings and efforting to make a life for myself: Women! One of the Unwritten Rules of the Softball Code, according to the ‘experts’ in all things athletic--- Malcolm, Teddy, Matt, Charley, Justin and Jesse and the rest of the no-necks--- is Never Think About Women. This was one of the rules which Matt seemed to take great pleasure in ignoring, though he would take every opportunity to flaunt the rule to anyone he caught eyeing any of his female ‘fans’… Oh the hypocrisy of the sportsman mentality! But, I digress…
Now, not only did I have that earlier error involving Jesse Graham scoring the go-ahead run weighing as heavily on me as Jesse himself had weighed upon me, now I also found my thoughts veering toward Striking-Out. The Top 4 Thoughts-Never-Thought While In The Batter’s Box, as compiled by those previously named ‘experts’ in the field:
1) No poetry
2) No women
3) No weather
4) No matter how bleak things may look, no thoughts of past errors.
But, of course, what’s the first thing you think of when you’re told what not to think about at any given time? Those very things!! So, with all of those pressures building up inside my gut, all those Unthinkable Thoughts invading my mind, I knew I’d panic when I got up to the plate during our final chance at redemption.
For a quick second, I even considered leaning in and taking a fast ball on the chin, ending it all, finally freeing myself from the torturous Hell which had become of my collegiate existence. Then, I remembered the first of 2 other bits of vital information that swung my swirling thoughts in a whole new direction. Firstly, this was Slow-Pitch Softball; the fastest under-handed, mush-ball toss from the most muscular off-season footballer couldn’t possibly injure, let alone kill, anyone--- unless of course, such a bullet was intentional on the part of the pitcher.
Still, I couldn’t see how the 911 pitcher could possibly be motivated to murder me at this particular point in the game; after all, his team was winning!! My own teammates were probably thinking more murderous thoughts at present than the opposition, led by Matt Hess in their derision, no doubt. Matt was just that kind of person, the guy you loved to hate; he had to know that himself, I was certain—it was so obvious! In his own defense, Matt would use every opportunity to lash out against anyone else, deriding them, insulting them, wearing them down, using their own insecurities against them, and pointing those faults out for all who would listen and join in the degradation. All to avoid dealing with his own lack of self-esteem and self-worth. And Matt had found good company with my bigger, faster stronger brother and the rest of Malcolm’s equally disturbed group of friends. None of this did much to improve my situation or station in life, but who was I to complain? I had found ‘friends’ on-campus, my home away from home; these people were all I had to get me through whatever miseries and mysteries Life would throw my way.
So, there I was, stuck---between a jock and a head-case--- with nothing left to do but play it out. The first pitch came in almost as if in slow motion. I stared at the over-sized orb as it approached on a somewhat flat arc toward me.
“Just the kind of pitch Matt would swing at…” I thought, lowering my gaze as I lowered the bat, watching with hopeful anticipation as the ball floated past. Behind the plate, at least 6-inches beyond the florescent orange square of carpet sample which marked the Strike Zone, the ball met the catcher’s mitt. Whew! No Strike-Out… No Strike-Out…
That’s when the sweating began. For a Spring day in mid-May, the heat seemed intense. I’m not sure if it was from the pressure of the game, or from the incredible afternoon heat, but I found myself suddenly wringing with sweat. The rubber grip at the end of the bat was slickened by the moisture of my palms, and I clenched my fingers, taking a tighter grip on the aluminum club.
“Come on Big-Guy…” I silently urged the muscle-bound goon on the mound, “Send me a lofter.” I secretly hoped the 911 pitcher would launch one of his famous limp-wristed lobs that would float smoothly over the strike zone, allowing me to launch the ball into the stratosphere.
That next pitch came quicker than the first, with just the right arc for my taste.
“’At’s outta here!” I boasted prematurely, mimicking my enigmatic enemy on the mound, Jesse Graham, as I bore down on the ball and rifled the bat from my shoulder.
With such a tight grip on the moist bat handle, I could never have foreseen the following flub. The bat sprang from my grasp unexpectedly, spiraling behind my back, spinning dangerously toward the unsuspecting Call 911 catcher and the game’s umpire, Summer Games Activities Director, Bill Webber.
Only a skillful-though-unchoreographed leap prevented serious bodily harm from befalling both men, as the bat clattered wildly past their prone positions. What prevented the same from befalling me, I can only imagine, but I was simply, though sternly, warned.
“Another move like that, King, and YOU’LL be outta here!! Comprende?!” Webber threatened in a huff as he righted himself and regained his composure behind the plate.
“Way to go, Loverboy!” the 911 pitcher howled from the mound, “Real slick, Slick…”
I hated those 2 cocky base-turners right then; Webber, with his wire-rimmed, mirror-tinted glasses, close-shaven, sun-bleached blond head and idiotic scowl, reminded me of a few of the hard-nose, hard-ass drill instructors I had encountered in my days of Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Worse yet, and more close to home, Webber’s nerdish and awkward appearance immediately brought someone else to mind: Matt Hess with a slightly stylish hair-cut!! And that pitcher, I knew him almost too well, the creep. Unfortunately, to recall the events surrounding my past encounters with the Call 911 pitcher would mean breaking 2 of the 4 Thoughts Never Thought rules of the game, and I really didn’t need any further distractions clouding my already frazzled brain-pan.
“I won’t miss next time…” I thought slyly, slinking from the batter’s box to reclaim the bat behind Bill Webber. Through hyena-like chortles of laughter on both team sidelines, I heard Charley Andrews, our left-fielder moaning.
“Yes, my son?” Matt mugged, bowing in mock-respect before Charley, before angrily doffing his cap and slapping it across Charley’s shoulder, shouting, “I **bleep**ing KNEW I should have batted before King, Teddy!!! I **bleep**ing knew it!!”
From his coaching position behind first base, Team Captain, Teddy ‘Chief’ Henderson guffawed heartily, in his distinctive, deep drone. “HA HA! Call 911, you better call 911! HA HA HEE!”
Something about Teddy’s chuckling chunkiness reminded me of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars, and I smiled at the coincidental comparison. For a quick second, I considered dropping back half-a-step in the batter’s box and letting the bat fly once more, letting the Force be with the business end of the club, most surely connecting with at least one of the unfriendly fiends behind me. Or, perhaps it would relieve some of the tension if I just whacked Matt Hess upside his block-head for the heck of it! Then, that second thought of inspiration struck me, as I remembered the team situation: We had to win! We COULD win this! I could win this for us! Heroic to the end--- though I most often came up the big loser--- I stepped forward in the box, taking my usual firm, slightly off-balance and awkward stance. Strike-Out Champ, HA! I’ll show you all…
“Come on Meat…” I echoed a line from Bull Durham, “Throw me that sorry-assed **bleep** again!”
02-23-2007 01:38 AM
“Always wait to swing until you have 2 Strikes against you…” I could hear the instruction in my mind plainly enough NOW--- a little late! The reason for that little pearl of wisdom was simple: trying to pitch slow, lofting under-hand pitches wasn’t easy. Most times, the batter could almost count on being walked to First Base, unless the pitcher was a real ace. Even Malcolm’s ace arm couldn’t hold up through 8 or 9 agonizing innings, as was evident in his earlier miscues. So, I shouldn’t be hasty in the box; I should bide my time, watch the ball, wait for my pitch…
Unfortunately though, to me the rule sounded more like: ‘Always wait until things couldn’t possibly get any worse--- then they most likely WILL get worse!’ Why wait? This ball game was getting over! I would win this thing for us, even if it was the last thing I ever did! Bring it on…
Sternly, I hushed the voices in my head with a quick shake. The smooth-talking goon on the mound was so enthralled by my previous swing that his next pitch went wildly off course, and I watched anxiously as the frazzled catcher collected the ball, disappointed that our man on 3rd base couldn’t have sprinted Home as a result of the wild pitch. One run wouldn’t do it for us at this point any way, both the runner and I knew…
“Just bring me Home, bro…” the runner—my bigger, faster, stronger brother—demanded. “I’ll win this thing for us somehow!”
Malcolm was older than me by a year, which made him a ‘bigger’ person, wiser, smarter, more worldly, than me---at least in his own mind. Of course, he was bigger in some respects; the super-star macho athlete, a wrestler by trade, as cocky and self-confident as at least 3 mere mortal men. Still, other than the size of his biceps---and the size of his head when he went off spouting about his Greatness, Malcolm was nothing more than my older brother.
Malcolm wasn’t actually bigger than I, and he weighed probably 10 pounds less—to squeeze into the lower weight brackets on the wrestling squad—and was even a couple inches shorter than I. Sure, he worked out constantly, and as such, could boast more real muscle, whereas I could personally only claim to be body-fat free, with my 98-pound, nearly skeletal body mass. It’s not much of a distinction, unless you are conversing with the Psychology Master, Malcolm rather than less-boisterous Number 2 son, but it’s all I had to bargain with.
Malcolm’s complexion was often flushed, sometimes more like beet-red, from tanning so often, both under the natural sun and from the artificial lighting at the off-campus tanning booths around town. The ‘upkeep up his temple’ as he called his ritualistic trials of a hearty work-out, a vigorous swim, followed by a relaxing cool-down in the sauna or hot tub, and rounded off with a few hours tanning, really paid off on the wrestling mat as much as on the softball diamond. He was Joe Jock Athlete, a superstar in his own mind, and I was nothing compared to him… It wasn’t just his physical stature that towered over me and mine, but a certain subtle charm about him; something in his posture, his constant posing, half-cocked smirk, that devilish twinkle in his eye that hinted at some deep dark secret of grand wisdom that he held close to the vest. Something about the way he carried himself, more than the way he cared for himself, made him seem larger than life. He was a cock-sure, confident, arrogant, slick and shady stud, with an attitude that screamed that he was omnipresent, all-knowing, all-seeing, god-like…
Once upon a time, when he had first gone off to college, I had envisioned my bigger, stronger, faster brother becoming an excellent lawyer, as that was his initial goal. He put on such an air of intelligence and charisma and logic, it was sometimes scary to think of the trouble he could get into---and get out of--- with his particular talents. He began college focusing on Logic and Psychology, laying the foundations for a promising career in the field of Law.
Of course, by the time I had followed in Malcolm’s footsteps, enrolling in the same small college a year and 1 semester later, he had abandoned his lofty dreams of things lawyerly… Apparently, he learned a critical flaw in his plans for the future: Law School was no place to meet babes! Still, to his credit, Malcolm did glean substantial skills from his studies of Logic and Psychology, and used those skills and his particular charms to woo and wow the flocks of females around campus. Ahhhh, higher education!
From 3rd base, Malcolm begged, “Come on, Slick! I gotta wax the Z before I catch some Zzzzzzs!! Damn!!”
“Oh yeah…” I huffed, recalling Malcolm’s strict sleeping schedule: get to bed by 6pm, for a few hours of power napping after his afternoon physical fitness regimen, so he could be wide awake, bright eyed and bushy-whatever by the time the sun set and the real partying began. I also knew that it was only a few short weeks before the Morris National Guard Unit began its 2-week Annual Training period. Malcolm joined the unit when he started college 2 years ago; I joined him at the University of Minnesota, as well as in the National Guard, at the unit stationed in Morris, Minnesota, a year and a semester later. The Annual Training, or AT as it was called by the acronymically-inclined military geniuses, always began in the first few weeks of Summer, so soon after Spring college Finals ended that most Guardsmen, who were using the Army to pay for their schooling, would often start the AT period exhausted from the cram-sessions those precious days earlier…
Malcolm was no exception, and, with the added burden of his extensive and religious work-out regimen, his level of exhaustion was magnified exponentially— at least to hear it from Malcolm himself! He often times had to take ‘time off’ from his responsibilities to the National Guard, the company who paid for his past few years’ failures to establish a sound basis for building a Law practice; even the 2-day weekend drills each month were monotonous and boring rituals Malcolm would most often rather ignore or evade than attend. The Guard served its purposes when they ponied up the cash to front Malcolm’s educational endeavors; his continued connection and cooperation with that company was hardly necessary, by his warped sense of Logic.
This warped sense of logic and priorities was sent further askew by Malcolm’s bizarre spending habits. Three of my brother’s favorite and most-beloved things in this world were his body/his temple, his athletic and argumentative nature, and his automobile. He would spent 80% of his easily-earned National Guard tuition-reimbursement on supplementing or maintaining those three specific things. Since he was often dieting as part of some strange, strict fitness regimen, that left the bulk of his ‘extra’ funds to be put toward his car, a sweet 1985 cherry red Camaro Z-28; Malcolm spent more time and money on that car than he did on most anything else--- including his pursuit of a law degree and women, which I found truly unbelievable.
Almost ritualistically, following his trips to and from the gym and tanning salon, Malcolm could be found in the driveway out front of our humble house, preening over and polishing the hood and chrome to a pristine shine, or whiling away the hours before nap time tuning the engine or upgrading the sound system, because ‘a man’s body is his temple, and his car is his chariot’ he would say, in yet another twisted turn of phrase that left the mind to boggle… That was just Malcolm; that was the way he was, and probably always would be.
And, there he was, over on 3rd base, inspiring me to win this game and get him Home.
Malcolm called me ‘Slick’ as did most of those people I would consider my ‘friends’, though my given name was Richard, Rick. Slick Rick King, the King with No Thing… I was content with that nickname, knowing full-well there were plenty of other less-flattering things I could have been called! Slick Rick, sounds kind of hip and cool, until you realize that I got the name by acting the fool, mimicking the Doctor of Style, Slickster, from Saturday morning WWF Wrestling! Add to that my unerring ability to let the bat fly from my grasp whenever the pressure at the plate built up, and Slick pretty much summed me up! Even though I was not so slick and cool and hip and happening in reality, settling instead for being boring and bookish, quiet and shy, and quite content with all that lot of nothing in life, I would let my nickname create for me a reputation for such coolness as my bigger, faster, stronger brother possessed. So far, that sort of thinking had gotten me exactly nothing. But, hopefully, things were about to change for the better. Hopefully, beginning with winning this game today…
Newly inspired and motivated toward victory, I stepped into the batter’s box, and once again bore down stone-faced at the pitcher, who glared back at me with frightening contempt. The pay-off pitch had almost no-arc at all, but I had to take it; better to hit a short pop-up to end the game, than to suffer the humiliation of yet another strike-out. With my eyes tightly shut, I laid into the approaching ball one last time. Curiously, I didn’t feel the bat connect with the ball at all. I sensed more than heard the eruption of cheers from the stands and dug-out behind the batting cage. Knowing that the Mohicans never drew too big a crowd to these games, I immediately concluded that I had flubbed another one.
“192 bottles of beer on the wall…” I began singing to myself, calculating in my mind if I had enough cash left from my latest Guard paycheck to cover another case of suds for the guys.
Disheartened, I opened my eyes, fully prepared to face the irritated glares from those fine folks who would soon be getting quite buzzed from my failure at the plate. They were all right in their silent insults and accusations; I had no business being a part of their fun, I was too boring, too clumsy, too athletically challenged to compete. The only thing left for me to do was to…
02-23-2007 01:14 PM
I'm going to have to print it up and read it sitting in my Lazy-Boy with a glass of scotch in my hand. I get annoyed having to stare at a computer screen for too long.
I'll get back to you on it tomorrow sometime.
Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
"Man, if I actually had to talk to Socrates, I'd be pissed."
02-23-2007 02:15 PM
02-23-2007 02:18 PM
I was moving it, and I wasn’t about to lose it! From first, Chief sent me on excitedly, patting my back in adulation with one hand, holding up his sagging sweatpants with the other, while he leaped and jumped and cheered me on. Enroute to 2nd I saw the burly 911 center-fielder bobble the beautifully placed ball, as our second runner crossed the plate, tying the score, in the bottom of the 9th inning…
I hit 3rd, and though warned by the entire team--- BOTH teams in fact, and the whole crowd of 10 or 12 bored spectators in the stands, as well as the flock of geese flying overhead and the traffic flowing sporadically down the near-by stretch of blacktop--- to ‘HOLD UP!’ I was in the Zone, and I was zooming…
“No way they’ll get me!” I cheered myself on, charging headlong from 3rd, never looking back. With every ounce of intestinal fortitude within me, I latched on to this new non-boring, exciting superstar who was bursting to escape from within me. I sensed as much as saw the incoming toss from the outfield, and was awed by the speed at which the ball seemed to be moving, almost faster than I was running!
Undaunted, I drove toward the Plate, determined that this would be my defining moment, that from this time forth, I would be a God, hero to all men, desired by all women, freed from the bondage of my past boring and insignificant existence. Sure, I could have held up, allowing Jesus Jr. Hess the opportunity to ‘drive me Home, easily’ as he’d undoubtedly put it. I would still score that winning run, to be mobbed by the 10 or 12 adoring fans who had nothing better to do than watch their favorite footballers crush the competition. Still, Matt would get the glory for driving in that winning run.
No way! I wouldn’t allow anyone, especially Matt Hess, to steal my thunder this time! I was too close! I was too fast! I was too… too clumsy!
I can’t begin to explain how close the call must have been. The forth-coming ‘slide’ came about more from a trip than a plan on my part, but at that moment, I couldn’t have cared much less. As my vision clouded in the dust from my slip-trip-flop across Home Plate--- the concussion of which left me an unfeeling blob--- I felt only the rubber plate skitter roughly beneath my face while the over-sized leather catcher’s glove crashed into the back of my skull. It never occurred to me that Bill Webber’s call would ultimately decide the final fate of the Last of The Mohicans…
In the commotion which followed, I was just glad that nobody stepped on my immobile form as that decision was made and the last call came. There I lay, sprawled across Home Plate, the Call 911 catcher’s glove planted permanently against my skull, grinding my face further into the dirty rubber square, just to illustrate the point that he had made the tag, while my team mates waited and hoped and argued and seethed in the afternoon heat and haze.
I’ve never been involved in a bench-clearing game-ending brawl, and I wouldn’t have made it to this one either, had it come to that. But it didn’t. There was barely any argument at all in the dusty heat on that softball diamond that mid-May afternoon, as the final call in the final game of the championship was made…
“How do I get myself into these situations?” I asked myself, once again attempting to focus upon the present situation, the terrorists and the hostages. Perhaps a better question at the moment might have been “How do I get OUT?”
Getting Out in the softball game was simple, requiring no effort at all on my part. I’m just glad I was only semi-conscious for the bulk of the time the Mohicans were cooling down while waiting for the ambulance to come for me that afternoon.
“What a waste of life your brother is!” my ‘friends’ were no doubt telling Malcolm as they waited for the paramedics to arrive. “He’ll never amount to anything! He’s so basically inept, so totally clueless about what matters in life!”
And they would be right, for the most part. It was hardly all my fault though. Maybe I should never have signed on to be a member of the Mohicans. Maybe I should have been content with my Nothing-existence, relegated to my position as an observer of the fascinating lives of the wonderful people around me. Maybe I SHOULD have held up at 3rd base, allowing Lord Hess to bat. Then, Matt would have struck out or popped-out and I would have been stranded, and we all could continue hating Matt as a group, rather than everyone turning on me!
‘Oh well…’ I sighed to myself, with resignation. ‘They’ll get over it…’ And most of them did get over it relatively quickly. Everyone knew that the UMM Assistant Athletic Director, Bill Webber, was put into position as the Summer Activities Coordinator. And that, in his position as Assistant Athletic Director Webber was required to be actively involved with the football team; therefore, he had acquired a soft-spot for the musclehead, no-neck jock-straps. So, Webber wouldn’t let ‘his team’ down once they had gotten into the championship. Everyone should have understood that, and most of the Mohicans did. Not to mention the fact that all of my so-called friends knew ME personally, and knew I was in no way, shape or form anywhere near the superstar athlete-hero! They KNEW I would fail, just as much as I knew it; so how could they possibly hold anything against me?!
“It’s OK, Slick…” Chief consoled, from the comfort of my air-conditioned hospital room where I eased out of my concussion for a night. “After all, I’m a footballer myself! And I think it was a helluvan effort you put out out there… you got some hustle…” I was sure he was practicing that ancient Chippewa tradition of blowing smoke up my ass, but I let him try any way. From what I pieced together from the various accounts of those precious moments at the close of the game, Teddy actually had leaped to my defense as I lay in a pool of my own blood, sweat, and tears across Home Plate. He tried to reason with Bill ‘The Geek’ Webber, arguing on my behalf, trying to get his team the victory. Trying, to no avail…
Chief was the center on the football team, and as such should have held some weight in any argument with the Assistant Athletic Director; 285 pounds worth of weight, to be precise! Unfortunately, being the center on a no-name, unranked college football team brought as much prestige and clout, and meant as much in the real world, as being the catcher on a softball team--- unless, of course, you are the quarterback who stands defended behind such a burly behemoth! That would be one safe QB!!
“Jesse’s an **bleep** anyway…” Teddy agreed with my unstated opinion of sentiment toward the 911 pitcher, Jesse Graham, who also happened to be that well-protected quarterback!! It was somehow touching and ironic that Jesse’s by-and-large greatest defender on the football field would go against him, arguing in my favor on the softball diamond, and I was honored in a way to have such consideration. That was just Teddy’s way, and probably always would be; he was a nice guy, like me, and could see the big picture.
“We’ll get ‘em next year for sure!” Teddy laughed later in the hospital room while I recovered from my horrendous injuries. “And, here’s a little token to inspire you for next season…” He shuffled awkwardly as he dug into the pocket of his baggy jeans, fishing for his gift to me; a key-chain, a silver tin baseball bat, ball and glove soldered together and attached to a small chain and ring… a great gift, if only I had a substantial set of keys, like for a car, to collect on said key-chain.
Still, I was content with Teddy’s simple gift, and few kinds few words of encouragement, happy that he was still talking to me at all after the game. And most everyone else had the same opinion in general about the game, and about Webber’s not-so-secret ties to the footballers of Call 911. Everyone except Matt Hess… Matt would have ‘nailed me home easy…’ if I would have just continued being my same old boring, athletically-challenged, unmotivated self, and held up at 3rd. But I didn’t, so he couldn’t, and the game was over…
02-23-2007 02:26 PM
Matt was no longer the problem, I decided, feeling the sweaty fingers of my weaker left arm slip from the girder which spanned the length of the gymnasium.
“Damnable bitches!” I cursed under my breath, my mind reeling to the source of all Mankind’s problems: Women. So close to inevitable death, one might think I’d have more pressing thoughts and concerns on my mind, but not me! Ever since Man gave up that rib in the Garden of Eden, we’ve gotten nothing but heartache, heartbreak and despair to coincide with that ache of loss in our sides. All that from those creatures who owe us their very existence! Women!!
As my gaze drifted down, across the jumbled masses inside the darkened gymnasium, so too my thoughts drifted, down memory lane, to the first woman I ever coerced into accepting my offer of a date. Her name was Katy… Katy Maclintock, and she was a babe. Just-over-the-shoulder waves of luscious chestnut hair caressed her sweet cheeks, complimented by flirtatious creamy-chocolate-brown eyes, and her perky, deep-dimpled smile. Katy’s somewhat harsh siren of a voice could be tolerated, I decided--- if the mood was exactly right, there would be little need for spoken words any way! From the first moment I saw her, I was positive: Katy Maclintock was the woman for me!
Of course, I was desperate, and often felt the same about any new babe who happened to cross my path at any given time. Teddy Henderson was the same way with women; unable to find his perfect match, but so certain she was out there just beyond his reach, always searching, ever-vigilant, and most often left cruelly and viciously hurt and wounded to the core by the less-than-worthy masses. In fact, after suffering through multiple disappointments over our few semesters scouring the campus, Teddy and I formed and founded the UMM Chapter of the He-Man Woman Haters Club, complete with identification cards and our very own, very tried and true club motto.
“We hate women, but we’d love a L’il Debbie!” Teddy would often roar whenever the mood--- or the desire for one of the sweet and tasty Swiss Cake Rolls--- struck him. Amazingly, we were even able to double the club’s membership overnight when 2 members of our softball team suffered similar fates at the hands of the ladies.
After meeting Katy though, I was set to relinquish my position as Vice President of our exclusive club.
“I’m Katy, from Indy…” she chirped cheerfully, casually, in her unique melodious tone. So high-pitched and nasal, so completely distressing in its inflection and acoustic resonance, so… so very beautiful! Like an angel, she spoke to me, and my heart beat in Morse Code that I loved her like no other. Ahhh, Katy! Besides her voice, there was only one other thing I’d have to adjust to before starting something meaningful and long lasting with Katy. She called Independence Hall her place of residence, at least for the remainder of this year, and that would pose a bit of an ethical dilemma in my naïve and simple mind.
‘Indy Hall’ as it was called by most everyone who knew the campus lingo, was home to the most fabulous babes on campus, the upper crust, the cream of the crop. One such cherub had already totally jerked me through the wringer of heartbreak and despair, and I had barely recovered by that fateful night when I met Katy. Angela Williams, the demon lady from Indy Hall, had become the leader of an ever-increasing populace of females who were the arch-enemies of the Woman Haters--- The Fat, Hairy Bitches!
From Day One of my collegiate career, even before the official inception of the Woman Haters, Angela’s presence in my life wore on me, grating on my soul, bending my mind toward thoughts of lustful longing… warping and twisting my psyche to the breaking point! Each day, following our Computers 1101 course, I stalked—uh, walked—Angela across campus, wooing her with my subtle ways. And each time, I was not so subtly rejected, repeatedly, endlessly, religiously…
Still, I persisted, sending flowers and poetry to her upper ‘penthouse’ dormitory floor, hoping to entice her with gentle persuasion. A carpet of shredded poetry and a mouthful of carnation petals was all I would receive in response, however indirectly, from Angela. The response was delivered by 4 football-playing, muscle-heads from her dorm, one of whom bravely and fiercely claimed to be her main monkey man; Jesse Graham, football quarterback, team captain, First Platoon squad god, was also Angela’s lucky love-interest.
Jesse and his fellow footballers were always on the look-out for a good pre-season or post-season work-out, to keep in prime condition for the gridiron greatness. Unfortunately, the intramural softball season came near the end of the year, and this trouble with some geek pestering his girl came to Jesse’s attention early in the year. So, it was decided that even poor pitiful me would fill the need as a cardio-and-bicept workout, until something bigger, badder and meatier came along. Months before that fateful day when I faced Jesse’s fast ball on the field of play, I stomached his balled-fist in my field of No Play, my dorm room, which would not see any ‘action’ in all my time as a resident. After bruising a total of 8 knuckles—none of which were my own—and flossing out the remnants of carnation scum from between my broken teeth, I came to the enlightened conclusion that perhaps Angela Williams and I were not quite compatible.
02-24-2007 02:24 PM - edited 02-24-2007 02:24 PM
The babes came and went, mostly passing me by for the usual gaggle of muscle-bound goons, and at night’s end, as the music died, so too did my hopes of being stomped on by the lonely hearted fat chick who was left behind. Disheartened, I left, alone, crushed by my lack of female companionship as much as by the loss of my ride when Malcolm and his gal-pal decided to depart the festivities early. As I sulked somberly into the night, I was suddenly surprised to be summoned from behind.
“No luck tonight, ‘ey Slickster?” Charley Andrews hooted, stumbling from the exit in all his overweight eagerness, with a not-completely-unattractive female at his side. Charley had become the 3rd member of our exclusive branch of the Woman Haters a scant weekend earlier, after hearing my tales of woe and Teddy’s, and chiming in with his own heartbreaking horror story. He had been Malcolm’s first friend on-campus; they even joined the National Guard together to help defray the costs of the all-night parties and such, attended Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri together, and were room mates for their first year at UMM.
Charley was the typical college student/National Guardsman; nothing special, slightly overweight, heavy drinking hard-charging, foolish-fun-having slightly-less-than-average Joe. Not smart enough for Air Force, not tough enough for Marines, and not quite in touch with enough of his feminine side for Navy, a perfect recruit for the Army National Guard; an under-achiever who could be molded to perform endless hours of menial labor and heavy lifting in the name of ‘national defense’. Party animals, each of us, in our own right, with the attitude that if it aint broke, don’t fix it; and if it is broke, don’t worry about that either---just PARTY! That was Charley Andrews.
Approaching casually, Charley pulled me aside, slipping a small square of paper into my palm with a sly smile. “I won’t be needing your services any more VP!” he gushed drunkenly, as I pondered the palmed paper, perplexed; it was his customized He-Man Woman Haters Identification Card, complete with Li’l Debbie Snack Cake chocolate smudge finger-print and official stamp of authenticity!! I was speechless!
“Need a lift?” Charley continued, ignoring my awestruck stammer as he slid back to his cute companion. Normally, seeing Charley or anyone with a date implied they were a couple, and three’s a crowd; especially if this was to be his first foray away from the Woman Haters, he wouldn’t need the Vice President in charge of Insults and Sarcastic Remarks invading his space, would he? Of course, this being his first foray away from the group in all of 7 long days, Charley might be reaching out, asking for a helping hand from the Comfort Zone that we Women Haters had created for ourselves. Or, maybe in his stupor, he had spoken without thinking, as his expression immediately explained. Even as he flinched and cringed and subtly shook off his invitation, I smiled, beamed in fact, and insinuated myself between him and his chosen charmer.
“Drive on, Alfonse…” I laughed, wrapping an arm around Charley’s ‘date’ and walking away from him, leaving him gawking as I had gawked at his approach, in a classic twist of irony. I gruff, but loving whack upside the back of my head sent me reeling away from his girl, and Charley once again regained his composure, and his place at her side, while we laughed it off and wandered the parking lot in search of his ride.
Upon reaching Charley’s vehicle, a vintage classic, two-tone, 1976 Oldsmobile station wagon, we were greeted by the 4th and final member of the Woman Haters, next to whom stood another glowing specimen of womanhood! Unbelievable!
“Hey Jas!” Charley greeted. “What’s up?!”
“Yo Carlson!” I interjected stepping from Charley and his decent-looking date to the vision at Justin’s side. “And, who might this angel be?” I inquired coolly.
Justin and Charley could have been brothers, or at least close cousins, by the looks of them. Similar build, both slightly paunchy, beer-bellies protruding over their belts, red cheeks aglow from endless weekends of heavily-imbibing in an number of alcohol-induced antics, each of Norse decent, dirty-blond to reddish-brown hair and beefy, chunky body-type to match their burly, boisterous demeanor; and both of them were imbued with a sadistic and sarcastic penchant toward mischief. Normally, the women who would fall for Justin or Charley’s charms weren’t so special at all. But, this night everything seemed to be going their way… especially for Justin!
“I’m Katy, from Indy…” she smiled at my heavenly accurate description of her beauty, while I hid my disdain for her place of residence.
“My name is King… Rick King…” I bowed slightly, my eyebrows fluttering, “My friends call me ‘Slick’ but you can call me Anytime…” Katy giggled, exposing the cutest set of deep-dimpled cheeks I had ever seen, at least in the last few hours; it was then I knew, I had to have this woman, had to feel the pain and ache as she dug her stiletto-heeled hooves into my spine, pushing and stomping until she shattered my spine and pierced my heart, destroying me for yet another weekend of wasted wanton wanting…
Unfortunately, with Justin next to her on one side for the 10 minute trip back to campus, and me on the other with my hard-luck history, everything working against me, hampering my every move, I knew my chances were slim to none. I did manage to mention my prior experiences with the debutantes of Indy Hall, as well as my steadily growing hatred for the queens and jocks who resided within those hallowed halls.
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way…” Katy began to shoot me down, as most every other woman had. “But, I live on the first floor…the debs don’t come down from their penthouses to see us dungeon-dwellers, except on their way out the door… so, you’re OK with me…” OK…Better than OK, if you ask me, my dear. And, she WAS asking me!
“You’re not so bad yourself…” I admitted as we pulled into the parking lot at Independence Hall. Again, Katy smiled and blushed at my remark, but the ride had come to an end, and she left. With little more than a ‘Goodnight Guys…’ the Girl of My Dreams was gone. Oh well, now that I know where she lives, I’d have to give her a call sometime. It wasn’t until we had returned to our own off-campus house that I realized: I didn’t know Katy’s last name, or anything about her, for that matter! Anxiously, I questioned Carlson.
“Well…” Justin began with an airy inflection in his tone . “She’s a Virgo, but not for long… She like water-polo, wet T-shirt contests, and moonlit barefoot walks on the beach… in the future, she hopes to save the world from injustice and corruption… How the Hell should I know anything about her?!” he finally confessed. “Did you see the size of those hooters?!”
“What about her last name?” I continued impatiently.
“Her LAST name?! What was her first name?! Who cares!”
“You mean, you don’t even know her?” I was stunned.
“Know her?” Carlson cackled, “Who wants to know her?! I just want to f—“
“FINE!” I understood completely. Maybe Katy could be mine.
“What about Whale O’Williams??” Justin laughed heartily. Justin, along with everyone else at the Morris National Guard armory, had heard all the sordid details of my encounters with the Fat, Hairy Bitches and their evil queen, from all the angles, and through legends spawned by the stories of all sides. There were about 4 sides to this triangle, and that added up to nothing but chaos; my side, the lonely loser; Angela’s side, the vexing vixen; Jesse Graham’s side, the jealous juggernaut; and the truth, some twisted amalgamation of each angle; and the legend which had over-shadowed any of the ‘true’ tales, becoming something incredibly convincing in itself.
“Forget about Sergeant Graham!” Charley chimed in. “We know Jesse real well, we’ll take care of him! Angela is alllll yours, Slick! Ha! Ha!”
“No thanks…” I laughed slightly, declining their assistance, setting my sights on the future.
Though I had little doubt that the combine efforts of Malcolm, Justin, and Charley could easily match, if not completely decimate Jesse’s strengths and smarts, rendering his relationship with Angela an utter waste, I had moved on from my past failures. I was gearing up for an all-new failure of epic proportions; Katy be thy name! But what was her LAST name? And how could I stalk her successfully without letting her know that I WAS in fact, stalking her? I couldn’t just wander the halls of Indy aimlessly, for fear of another hurtful, hateful encounter with any of the enemy football freaks. There had to be a safer, less painful way of finding this girl!
Days past, and I used all my resources to track down the vision I had met in Katy. Most productive was the UMM Student Directory, which listed every registered student by name and address; in all, I uncovered a total of 9 girls in Independence Hall with some variation of the name Katy…Kay, Katherine… 9 girls; 9 times the nervous anxiety, 9 times the fear of rejection. Getting crushed by the girl of my dreams would be rough enough, but to offer myself up to that sort of heartbreak from complete strangers seemed sadistic, even for me. I should just forget about Katy, forget about my future, and just maintain my regular, boring lifestyle. Excitement and love is so over-rated in real-life…
Still, there was something missing in my life, and I HAD to take a chance, even if it killed me. So, finally, I found some ounce of courage and picked up the phone. After only 3 awkward and embarrassing failures, I was shocked and surprised to once again be voice-to-voice with Katy… Katy Maclintock… Katy from Indy, the Katy of my dreams! More amazing still, was that I actually managed to ask her out! Her response was something along the lines of: 'I’m sorry, but I’m busy that night and I plan on being busy for the rest of my life, you miserable excuse for a human being. So leave me alone and never talk to me again!'
OK, so maybe that wasn’t word-for-word…
“Maybe some other time…” she offered. Maybe? How cruel, to toy with me, to throw me a bone and hope that would be enough to satisfy my carnal needs, as if I had nothing better to do than wait idly for that mysterious ‘other time.’ Maybe?? Yeah, right. Maybe I’LL call you again, if you’re lucky, Katy from Indy, Queen of the Fat Hairy Bitches… Needless to say, I was perturbed, but more than a bit relieved; at least I was now free to continue my quest for the elusive Girl of My Dreams.
But, something in Katy’s sweet siren sounded sincere, and left me thinking that maybe she really was interested in me. Maybe she really was busy that night, or had a headache, or something simple like that. She DID say 'maybe…’ Maybe… I decided then and there to give Ms. Maclintock the benefit of my doubts, and maybe call her again later. In a week or 3, maybe her schedule would have cleared up a bit… her, or perhaps one of the other 8 Katys in the Student Directory. HMMMMMM…
Message Edited by crAZRick on 02-24-200701:26 PM
02-24-2007 02:29 PM
After being released from the hospital, my horrendous softball injuries bandaged and behind me, all thoughts of softball and Spring-time, of loves, lusts, and lost championships, faded like the setting sun. The glorious images of Spring, of freshness and rebirth, were replaced by the hellacious nightmare known as Finals Week. At least, for most college students, all thoughts turned to Finals, and cramming for those last few days of torture before being released back into the world for a scant 12-week respite. For me though, it was just another long week of essential nothingness, broken up by the occasional stream of witty banter or outlandish, awesomely odd behavior from my friends and room mates…
“Awesome!!” I muttered to myself as I collected the daily junk mail from the box outside our home, noting a particularly intriguing scrap of paper. It was a lavender-hued flyer from the local movie theater in down-town Morris, detailing the showing of 2 movies that had been in wide-release long enough to filter down to the small-town theaters. “Die Hard’s playing this weekend!!” Oddly, though there were 2 movies promoted on the flyer, only Die Hard captured my attention; perhaps because it was an excellent movie which I had seen twice already, or maybe because I realized it would be a great movie to take a certain special someone to some evening. Or, just maybe it was the bright pink highlighter ink that surrounded the Die Hard ad that set it all apart. Awesomely odd antics indeed…
“Big deal…” my not-so-enthused brother sassed from behind a thick book of Logic
“Maybe Katy will go with me!” I cheerfully explained to deaf ears. My mind wandered to the conversation I’d had with Katy following our all-too-brief night on the town. A small portion of our conversation enlightened me; after, we made our initial introductions, and just before Justin Carlson stole the show, I managed to mention my experiences with Angela Williams.
“She said she wasn’t ready for anything romantical at this point in her life…” I whined somberly, as Katy at least pretended to pay attention. “ So, I told her that we didn’t have to become anything like Moonlighting or anything, although her Cybill Shepherd would have been so perfect against my Bruce Willis…”
“I LOVE Bruce Willis!!” Katy cheered excitedly at the mention of his name. I agreed with her, much to her surprise. “Really? You really watch Moonlighting?”
“Does the honey bee? Does the butter fly?” I mocked Bruce Willis’ David Addison as best I could, which wasn’t great at all. “ That’s the best show on terra-firma, and the firma the terra, the bettah! Heh!” Katy’s laughter almost had me convinced that she was hooked. So, I went in for the kill, reeling her in with all the style and grace of Babe Winkelman. “So, what’s a babe like you doing with a couple bums like these two?”
Katy giggled again, squirming slightly away from Justin Carlson’s groping paw, and rubbing against me subtly. “I’m not WITH anyone! I’m my own woman!” she smirked strongly… and so cutely! “I’m just enjoying life, until I find my place in it… make sense?” Oh, did it ever!
“Who you callin’ a bum, **bleep**-nuts!” Justin Carlson slobbered, taking over the brunt of the conversation, in a stuttering, muttering nonsensical rant. Oh please, Justin, just---
“Give it up!” Malcolm’s supportive bark brought me back to harsh reality. I was staring dreamily at the telephone on the wall, torn between settling this thing with Katy once and for all, or living with the fantasies I would conjure if I never made the call. ‘Goodnight guys…’ and ‘Maybe some other time…’ burned in my mind like a nightmare, though I knew those words were for real. Still, Bruce Willis starred in Die Hard, and Katy loved Bruce Willis, and she did say ‘Maybe’
Maybe she would agree to go see the movie with me, just for her love of Bruce Willis, of course. It wouldn’t even have to be labeled a ‘date’--- just 2 people who happened to meet up at the same dark theater, sit in the same row next to each other, to watch the same movie and eat some popcorn from the same container, make out and share a little heavy petting, leave the theater together, park somewhere together, and have mad, passionate, meaningless sex for 3 or 4 days or until they got arrested or something. Nothing serious…
“Get serious!!” Malcolm snapped, slamming closed the book on Logic, as I had done in my mind when I launched my little fantasy. “You met this chick at a bar?”
“Dance club…” I corrected.
“And, she was slumming it with Carlson?” Couldn’t argue there.
“And, she didn’t put out?” Again, he had her pegged.
“Oh, Slick! Don’t be so naïve!! She’s hardly interested, or interesting, for that matter!”
Then, Malcolm made another attempt at reaching a point. “What about Finals?!”
“No problem…” I shrugged nonchalantly, inspired by my fantasy. “It says here that the movie starts this WEEKEND! Who studies on Saturday?!”
“Give me that!” Malcolm raved, snatching the flyer from my fingers. I gave up the poster, stepping toward the phone, once again eyeing the device, lost in my thoughts. Strangely, though the room was quite cool, I found my brow suddenly speckled with sweat.
“Come on, Slick…” I told myself. “This is a piece of cake. Just take a deep breath, and—“
“---lift your hand back up to the beam!” Almost unconsciously, my body responded to my mind’s request, as my arm rose back to the cold steel girder. In the dark gym below, I searched for Katy, my reason for being in that predicament in the first place, perhaps my reason for being at all… but I did not find her in the crowd. The darkness made it tough to see anything, from the love of my life to the terrorists themselves. I thought I’d isolated a few of them, from their postures and actions apart from the crowd, but there may have been more around the room, or across campus that I had not yet seen. The advantage to the darkness was I was as obscured from the terrorists’ positions as they were to me. As long as the gym remained dark, I was safe.
Unfortunately, then, someone down there had a bright idea…
02-24-2007 02:32 PM
“What?!” Malcolm’s question came at me in stereo, echoing in my open ear as well as through the ear against the telephone ear piece. The voice on the phone was somehow familiar as my brother’s, only slightly higher pitched, nasally, though sweeter and warmer.
“Uhh, Katy? Is that you?”
“Rick?” the girl replied with a giggle of confirmation. It was her--- Katy Maclintock, Katy from Indy, calling me at the same time I was calling her! Awesomely odd!!
“Great minds think alike, I guess.” I babbled, still confused as to how and why Katy would be calling me just then.
“Did you get my note?” Katy’s voice rose in pitch even more as she spoke in curious concern. “I sent it to you yesterday… in highlighter…”
“Hot pink…” I gasped, the light bulb in my brain flashing to life briefly. Of course!! She was asking me out! Whoa! Was she expecting me to simply accept her offer just like that? After all of the troubles I’d had with women rejecting me in the past? She probably wanted me to pitch her my best lines, stun her with some witty banter, then finally break down and ask her out, just so she could shoot me down. Oh no… I would not make it that easy for her, this time around…
“Uhhh, nope.” I lied with a sly smile. “No note in hot pink on a lavender movie flyer in my mail this morning. Sorry. You probably sent it to some other stallion by mistake.” I had held my ground in our battle of wills for about 2 seconds, before the witty banter began. I couldn’t just NOT go through with the whole rejection set-up; I was such a sucker for the romantic garbage, and it was the most excitement I’d had since the softball season.
“Quit horsing around…” Katy caught on quickly, continuing calmly, “ You’re the only stud I know!” She stopped abruptly then, apparently realizing how over-zealous her compliments had become in this, the initial conversation of our hopefully long-and-glorious dating relationship. I was blushing myself, and could almost feel Katy’s embarrassment, the warmth of her flushed cheeks radiating across the telephone lines and touching my cheek, melting my heart. Could this all be for real? Or was this yet another fantasy created by my bored and weary mind? The note, the phone call at the same time I was calling her, the chit-chat… it was all too good to be true… but it WAS true!
“So…” I continued quietly, defusing the situation as I calmed myself over Katy’s exuberant response. “I read somewhere that there’s a pretty good movie at the theater in town this week---“
“I’d love to go with you!” Katy cut me off in an anxious attempt to have the last word. In shock, I nearly dropped the phone and began dancing Balki Bartakamous’s Myposian Dance of Joy then and there, but I didn’t. Instead, I felt compelled to overwhelm Katy with a touch of my spectacular vernacular, my adept mastery of the English language.
“Neato!” I blurted dumbly, “That’d be swell!”
Neato and swell in the same sentence? Some mastery of the language! Don’t you just hate it when your mouth speaks before your brain can think of just the right thing to say? Over the phone to a girl is one thing; over an open air-duct leading into a gymnasium full of terrorists and hostages, one should probably refrain from such monumental slips as:
“I think I should go first… I’m heavier than you…” Not a wise move on my part. At least my haste over the phone had somewhat more promising results.
“Uhh, fine.” Katy stammered, seemingly choosing her words carefully. She could have been so flustered over her own remarks, or at least over the fact that I had overlooked her excited babble that she had missed my foolish follow-up. She probably didn’t even hear me babble ‘Neato’ or ‘swell’ I bet…
Of course, 60 feet above a slowly brightening, crowded gymnasium complete with a dirty half-dozen or more terrorists toting automatic rifles, all bets are off! From my slowly-enlightening position, the babbling and miscues of a 2-minute telephone conversation didn’t seem nearly as relevant as they had that day last week…
“So, when are you going to pick me up?” I recalled Katy’s closing question.
“Pick YOU up?” my mind raced. “Who’ll pick ME up?!” As I dangled with 70-some feet between myself and a dead-stop against the basketball court, my mind again drifted, from Katy to another awesomely odd connection to this whole nightmare, as another name came into my thoughts: Malcolm!
Malcolm was my bigger, faster, stronger, faster-talking but not always smarter brother. Being the eldest of 6 sons, Malcolm took it upon himself to guide the younger siblings through the trials of every-day life. In short, this meant blaming everything he did wrong on one of his younger brothers, just so he could watch us squirm our way out of the mess. Being second-born and a quick learner, I would pass the buck down the line, until blame was lain upon our youngest brother; the baby of the family never got into any real trouble, which meant that none of us would. The trappings of our misspent youth were flawlessly executed time and time again, and each of us gleaned a different sort of respect and perspective of our eldest brother, Malcolm. It was his honor to revel in such glowing admiration, the slick and silly con artist that he was…
In more ways than one, it was Malcolm’s fault I was in such a precarious situation, hanging helplessly from a steel girder over a crowded gymnasium. Unfortunately, none of our younger siblings were on hand to take the fall this time… only me. So, it would seem that my death, following a head-long plummet 85- feet to the gym floor would be caused, however indirectly, by my loving big brother. I truly do hate that bastage, now more than ever!
02-24-2007 02:34 PM
Malcolm was always on-hand to offer his particular insights into my quest for the Girl of My Dreams. As I scouted the potential mates from the grainy, black-and-white senior-high school pictures from the Freshman Directory, Malcolm would give his thumbs-up/ thumbs-down critique, followed by a usually witty and slanted degradation of the target in question. Being a year older, Malcolm would then proceed to offer me access to the cream of the crop, the upper class women, lending me a look at the sweethearts found in HIS Freshman Directory--- ahhh, upper class, older women… sophomore chicks! Sweet!! Of course, I say ‘lending’ in the most literal sense of the word; Malcolm charged me 25-cents for each look at the pages of his upper-class collection of photographs. A quarter wasn’t that huge an investment when the future Mrs. Girl of My Dreams was the goal… Still, picking out a lone babe from a line-up of fuzzy faded pictures was easy, compared to picking the same girl out of a crowd 2 years later across a crowded campus.
There again, my brother’s highly-trained eye and sharply honed skills came into play, and led to much distress on my part. Malcolm was a self-proclaimed, and quite reliable, babe-spotter, with an almost-mystical ability to judge the features of a young Miss at a hundred paces, in a crowd, in a fog, at night or during an eclipse, with one eye closed. At a glance, Malcolm could tell which cherry-flavored sweethearts were ripe fort he plucking and which were rotten, moldy skanks who should not be taken internally. For the most part, Malcolm’s predictions were right on the money; and, again, I used the term literally, as Malcolm charged me a quarter for each ‘consultation’…
Then, there was the Case of The Slippery Skank, Angela Williams. Where Angela was concerned, Malcolm’s bio-sextronic scanners must have short-circuited or something; maybe the ultimate evil of the beast Angela was so powerful as to disrupt any other mystical energy directed upon her form. In any case, Malcolm was led astray by the babe; for, though she was pleasant to look at, if somewhat pleasingly plump, there was a certain fact about Ms. Williams which Malcolm either failed to notice or just forgot to mention, to once again watch his younger brother worm and wriggle his way from another grossly embarrassing situation. Beneath her always evenly-tanned skin, beyond the bouncy bush of tightly-curled, heavily-hair-sprayed sandy-brown bouffant, behind her silver-specked baby-brown eyes, Angela Williams had a secret which Malcolm had overlooked.
That minuscule detail was the hulking form of a 185-pound baby oak with arms named Jesse. Jesse P. Graham; his middle name escapes me, as does much of my short-term memory following the pounding I had received at the hands---and fists--- of Jesse and his cocky cronies. It was probably Peter or Paul, or Prick or Punk, but I will always only think of Pain and Pummeling whenever I think of Jesse Graham! Jesse had the mind, body, and vocabulary of a WWF wrestler, someone who could easily be managed and controlled by the Doctor of Style Slickster, although in the real world in which I lived, Jesse pulled all the strings. He rarely spoke more than 3 words at a time, or 3 syllables, and when he did speak the decibel level was always nearly enough to peel paint from the walls. Jesse was a bruiser, a loser, and most likely, a performance-enhancing drug-abuser, although you’d never hear me say such things aloud. And, he was Angela Williams’s main squeeze--- and I can say from experience, he squeezes HARD! Remember the mouthful of carnation scum and carpet of shredded poetry which had been returned to me first-class? That scene was a personal message to me, from Jesse and his monkeys to stay away from Angela, or else.
“Or else what?” I thought about spouting. Fortunately, common sense and a mouthful of flower petals stopped me. My body had caused the unnecessary bruising of so many fists, there was no further need to add injury to injury, from my point of view. Besides, it was painfully obvious that Jesse’s ‘or else’ simply meant: ‘or else we’ll come back for more when our knuckles have healed, and we’ll keep coming back until you DON’T COME BACK!!”
“Do we have a deal there, lover-boy?” the mighty oak barked, extending his hand in a gracious gesture of assistance, to help me from the floor where I lay wheezing. Something about Jesse’s act didn’t seem right down deep in what was left of my gut. Wasn’t this the guy who had just spent 15 long seconds pounding me repeatedly, and laughing at my pain? Shouldn’t I despise this heartless, cruel, vicious pig and his apish fiends? Looking back on the event, the answer should have been a resounding ‘YES!’ But, should’ve could’ve and would’ve cannot be held in account for what will’ve and did’ve happen to me next…
Maybe it was Jesse’s almost-forgiving pose that got to me. His half-cocked grin as he extended an unclenched paw toward me seemed less cocky than concerned; the glare of anger in his blue-gray eyes contorted into a look of sympathy, of pity, I guess.. his expression seemed to say, ‘I have had enough…’
And, I had for sure had enough!!
Dizzily, I reached out to accept his gracious offer of assistance. Bad move--- the first of many bad moves which would come to plague my body, mind, heart and soul throughout my first year at college. With incredible force, I was vaulted from my position on the floor, my hand buried in the stump at the end of Jesse’s arm. The crushing pain only lasted for an instant before my already-battered body met squarely with the mirror against the wall, just above the 4-drawer bureau full of my wardrobe. I realized later that the dresser stood at least 3-feet high--- that was some leap!! How Jesse had managed to hoist my limp body the 4 or more feet required to slam me into the mirror in a single heave-ho was a mystery of physics I did not wish to have documented for further study! Oof!
“Nice talking with you, Lover-boy!!” the burly behemoth bellowed, cracking every knuckle in his hand musically as I again collapsed to the floor against the bureau, wheezing and gagging uncontrollably. As if on cue, the couple of monkeys Jesse had brought along--- for protection, no doubt ‘in case that King boy gets out of hand’--- each in turn, cracked their knuckles and filed past my crumpled form. For a moment, a veritable testosterone concerto in B-minor crackled before my throbbing, quickly closing eyes. Then, like all true masters of their particular art, each of the players strutted confidently into the hallway and out of my life. Their leader, the Great and Powerful Jesse Graham, brought up the rear. Always the tough guy to the very end, Jesse felt compelled to leave me with the last word, in the form of a small, witty piece of personalized poetry. After a moment of silent thought and composition, he let loose with what was his idea of intelligent conversation.
“Later, Alligator…” Being a bit of a tough-guy-in-my-big-brother’s-shadow myself, I thought about leaping up and dancing in the face of the madman, chanting the typical ‘This aint over! This aint over by a long shot’ routine. Fortunately, my body had other ideas at that instant, including a total and complete shut-down of almost every motor-control muscle within me. In short, I was little more than a helpless blob for the next 11 hours or so. I didn’t care at all that I had just slept through my first class the following morning; it didn’t dawn on me until late in the day, when I met with my instructor, that I had also missed the mid-term exam for that class. All thanks, to Jesse and the monkeys… and Malcolm.
“Thanks, Bro…” I sighed upon recalling Malcolm’s initial comment, which had drawn my attention to Angela Williams: ‘Look at the **bleep** on that bitch!!” From my precarious position in the gym, I scanned the masses below, imagining I could single Angela out with my sex-ray vision with as much precision as my bigger, faster, stronger brother. Malcolm was right on both counts, this one time; Angela did have an incredible set of hooters, and she was indeed a bitch!! Still, even from 90 feet overhead, I could make out all of her shapely curves, at least in my mind, though not even she, in all her bovinian beauty, could be picked out of the shadowy crowd as she was mauled, mashed and otherwise man-handled by the terrorist thugs. Scenes like that, imagining Angela battered around at the hands of a group of muscle-bound meat-heads, much as I had been molested by her own monkey-man, almost made that earlier encounter with Jesse and his goons bearable… almost.
“Damn it!” I seethed quietly as another of the 30 or so florescent bulbs flickered with life. Well, at least I’d have a good excuse for missing my finals! Unlike mid-terms, when minor cuts, scrapes, contusions and abrasions could pass as viable excuses to miss out and retake the tests, missing out on a final exam would require something epic. An earthquake, maybe; a nuclear strike in the area, possibly; or a terrorist siege on the campus! Hmmmm… I wonder where DEATH ranks on the list of viable excuses? A death in the family seems urgent enough--- especially if the deceased is the student and prospective test-taker himself!!
Still, I could almost hear my History professor grunt, in his coarse, gruff gravely-voice:
“That is unacceptable, Mr. King! How far did you fall exactly? 150 feet? Pshaw! Why, in my day, we were expected to be prepared for such vaults, in the event of a Nazi insurrection! We would practice leaping for TWICE that height, and we would laugh after landing with only 2 broken legs and shattered hips!! We’d go back the very next day and do it all again, in the name of patriotism!
“And, what about those so-called Communist insurgents? Only 6 of them?! With 20-round clips of 5.56 ammunition? Why, you should have been there back in ’43 when the Big One was just getting good! The days when 120 bullets flew through this body were considered slow days, indeed… HOLIDAYS, in fact! I remember one time---“ Yeah, sure, Doc! Hey Professor Grump, why are you talking to that poor King boy’s tombstone?! You are as crazy as he was, you old fart!
Dang it! Just one more day… one more day of finals, one test, in fact, and I would have become an upper-classman! If I could have somehow known my final mortal moments would be spent dangling 200 feet over a crowded gymnasium filled with petrified hostages and a handful of communist terrorist creeps, dreaming of Angela Williams and assorted other nightmares as my life slowly fell apart around me, I would have said, “To Hell with Finals! I’m staying at Camp Ripley!!”
02-24-2007 02:35 PM
There’s a lot of great writing in my opinion. I like the idea. I like the flow. I like the language in general.
But therein lies the rub. As I was reading it, I found myself morphing into an editor. You had said that the idea for this novel came to you twenty years ago. Was it also written twenty years ago? The reason I ask the question is that your most recent writings on this forum don’t have the - let’s say - “issues” that this novel happens to have.
I’m sure that if you turned your attention to the book now, you might find a number of revisions to be made.
Also, I have to ask the obvious question: is this story autobiographical? If so, is your name in real life “Rick?” If it is, I would suggest an alter ego in order to create a bit of distance between yourself and the protagonist. Take Hemingway for instance: his alter ego was Nick Adams. Having an alter ego gives you a force field in a way. It allows you to write about the most intimate and painful details of your life without directly incurring the the judgment of the outside world. (Unless of course you WANT to write an autobiography, which is a different kind of project altogether.)
But I get the feeling the the “Rick” of your novel is essentially an hyperbole, in which case he should NOT share your name. (At least I hope that your life hasn’t been as beleaguered as the Rick in the novel, and I certainly hope that you are not a terrorist.)
OK, all that being said, here is a bit of editing on the prologue. I don’t know if you want feedback as tedious as this, and I just have to hope that you don’t think I’m a pompous know-it-all. (I’m really not.) Otherwise, feel free to tell me to go and jump into the proverbial lake.
The trouble with being me is that I was too boring. being + is + was = mixed tenses - the sentence should read “The trouble with me was that I was too boring.” Plain and simple, yep that was me. In my mind, I had no life outside that of my immediate home, school or work place; and I had little desire to achieve a more lofty existence for myself. Too many redundant words - too much fat. Be more direct: “I had no life outside my home, school or workplace, and I had little desire to achieve a more lofty existence.” Also, “workplace” is one word. They say “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans” but for me, it’s more accurate to say “Life is what happens to other people while your at home, not making any plans.” I would hold off on capitalizing “Life” here. That technique is used to abstract and therefore intensify a concept. I’m not sure you need it yet. Also, watch the commas, and “your” should be “you’re.” To whit: “They say, “life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” but for me, it’s more accurate to say, “life is what happens to other people while you’re at home not making any plans.” And who are these They who say that stuff anyway? I like the capitalization of “They” here, and it’s a nice, curt, poetic exclamation, however, I think “And” should be “But.” I have a few ideas on that issue, but that is best saved for another time. I find this totally superfluous. Why not just end the paragraph with the strength of the last sentence?
So by me edit, this much would read:
“The trouble with me was that I was too boring. Plain and simple, yep that was me. I had no life outside my home, school, or workplace, and I had little desire to achieve a more lofty existence. They say, “life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” but for me, it’s more accurate to say, “life is what happens to other people while you’re at home not making any plans.” But who are these They who say that stuff anyway?”
I realize I’m nitpicking you to smithereens, so I’ll just stop now and hope that I haven‘t offended. The only reason I went into so much detail is because I honestly think the novel is good enough to deserve a thorough polishing. I'm going to continue reading everything you've posted without an eye for editing, and just enjoy the story.
Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
"Man, if I actually had to talk to Socrates, I'd be pissed."
02-24-2007 02:38 PM - edited 02-24-2007 02:38 PM
hopefully, what I've posted here can somehow be applied to this book club, the structure, the exercises: Character Building, Conflict and Desire, and Plot-Development.
if I hang around this club long enough to develop the other idea I have started here, I'll probably post more of this. Or, if this is horrid writing and offensive to all y'all, I'll just give up now!!
We'll see how it goes...
Feedback is welcomed, appreciated and encouraged... no offense taken.
Yes, this project is 20-years-old, I wrote it on a dare, on the part of my brother and my softball-playing pals in the college that is described herein. Semi-autobiographical fluff, I suppose; all of it really happened-- everything but the good stuff, I mean!! (you can ponder over what's real and what's fictional, that's part of the game! )
The kind of polish that is needed is exactly the sort that zman has provided!!
Since it's been 20 years now, and I've all but given up on the idea of ever becoming a published author, I figure I may as well share what little I have to offer with a small group of hopefuls.. never know who I might inspire to what great grand future!
Message Edited by crAZRick on 02-24-200701:48 PM