“Important Moments in History”

Inspired by Jeff’s series of old-school stories and poems in his “Blast From The Past” series, here (unedited and unchanged) is a story I wrote in 2007 when Jeff and I were Creative Writing classmates in college. There’s a lot of cussing, but also earnest introspection. And strippers.

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“Important Moments In History”

A: Wake up, jackass.

B: Ah! What the shit?

C: Wake up.

B: No.

A: No? Fuck you, no. “No.”

B: I’m skipping the day.

A: Skipping the day?

C: He does that sometimes. He either stayed up all night on the internet, or out drinking with his friends.

B: The first one. I’m not even cool enough to go out drinking. I was up all night on the internet. It’s sad, really. Look at me. I didn’t even shave this crazy moustache. Look at this crazy moustache I got. This is ridiculous.

A: Kick him.

C: ‘kay.

Continue reading

Henderson’s Game: The Battle of Black Friday

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Tracy “Gorilla” Gantz was the reason that they did it, her bright shining eyes beneath her bulbous mounds of cheek-flesh holding bravely onto mature dignity when Kevin and Bobby Durtz bumped into her at lunch. “Oops!” yelled Kevin Durtz, the younger brother, his blonde bowl-haircut swinging like curtains as he righted himself. “I must have gotten pulled into your gravitational weight!” Everybody laughed, because that’s what Middle School kids do, and Bobby pantomimed getting away from her with difficulty, shouting, “I’m getting pulled in! I’m getting pulled in!” before he left with their group of friends.

Cal Henderson watched from a corner table, his blank expression never changing, thinking that the sangfroid of her above-it-all dignity was at the same time powerful and weak: an informed maturity born out of necessity, and preempting the simple carefree confidence of those who never have to worry as they go about their lunch that they’ll be singled out at any moment for ridicule and exclusion. Cal admired that sad maturity, Tracy “Gorilla” Gantz’s deep and still eyes perhaps about to feel like crying but of course never getting too close to that edge, at the same time as he felt sorry for it.

“We’re going to do something,” Continue reading

A Matter of Some Gravity: Ender’s Game Book vs. Movie

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I picked up Ender’s Game when I was about 13 years old in a special only-$3.99 paperback edition on a weekend bookstore trip with my dad, who could only agree to buy me low-priced paperback editions. I devoured it probably overnight, and then quickly devoured the rest of the books in the series too. No one can really tell you why certain books are so special, especially in childhood, but I think a major component for me was that Ender was a young child, but a brilliant one who thought like a full-on real human being – instead of being dumbed down to irrelevance like 99% of children – and his ideas and actions really mattered. A lot.

Author Orson Scott Card has been floating around the idea of a movie version since at least back then. The project at that time would star Jake Lloyd, who was 9 and had just played Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I. In the early days of the internet Orson released a full screenplay he had written that began with Mazer Rackham’s battle in the asteroid belt in full space-opera fashion.

At the time I thought an Ender’s Game movie was a terrible idea. Continue reading

Three Scenes in Chicago, Illinois

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Part the First

Warren is on the South-bound Red Line when his phone buzzes in reply.

“I don’t know how I could be sure.”

He stares at it for a while, thinking of what he could say. Luckily, the phone buzzes again.

“I’ll call you in a little bit. I’ll tell you then.”

He looks at it, feeling a tug on a little towing hook from where his lungs don’t meet to the latch on the front of the train car, that says it is unlawful to move between train cars, fragile motion across the fishing wire that might connect them. The train is leaving Belmont, the second to last stop before the track goes underground. The only other person in the car is a disinterested-looking teenager in a red windbreaker staring out the window.

Warren contemplates the sharp, unavoidable dangers of his life. He closes his eyes. What if, he had asked Max that morning, during their cold dawn jog down the Hollywood Avenue curve onto the far North Lake Shore path. What if they just avoided the whole thing. Continue reading

Full Fare

I’m on the outbound train and all the seats are taken, even the sideways ones that face the bathroom door and fold up like little launch pads, so I’m standing in the part of the train car with the doors that open, where I’ll be least intrusive.

Sometimes people sit on the stairs, and then when someone comes to try to go down the stairs, so they can leave the train at their stop, using every aspect of the transportation process the way it was intended, these people, who are stretched out on the stairs with their open newspaper or using their tablet sigh and grumble deeply that they have to get up and let some inconsiderate fool with poor planning skills off the train – because they were sitting on those stairs.

I’d rather stand by the door, even though after work I’m pretty tired and the bright halogen tubes kind of mix with the swaying of the train into this mesmerizing dull that throbs EKG-like beats of headache in a rock-shaped formation on the right side of my forehead.

He gets on at the second stop out from the main station, Continue reading

Syllabus

So what I’m gonna say out loud is about how in English we only have one word for it, love, but somehow this is a mistranslation, or a simplification. A simplification of what? Should I say, “of the idea it tries to express,” or should I say, “of the linguistic sign it seeks to encompass-” no, that’s way pretentious, maybe I could just smile knowingly and simply, and say, “of love,” and then shyly look away-

Lane slides the scrap of paper towards me. I can’t believe it. What is this?

She’s still looking at the instructor, who is looking at a guy on the right side of the room that appears to be Hipster John Turturro in gingham and a mustache now stealing my idea before it was even my turn, talking smugly about how Greeks had agape and eros and other words for different kinds of love, but I don’t care anymore.

I glance again at her in a slightly sudden movement, as if I am randomly just looking in that direction, but she studiedly does not notice. Or actually does not notice. She has this alluring overbite, which kind of gives off the impression that she’s thinking hard about what everyone just said, on this really cute face below too-long dark hair. I came in late and took the closest chair to the door that was open, and it was next to hers. She’d glanced at me – the instructor was already talking – and gave me a tiny kind of wave hello. It’s the first day and when we went around the room introducing, her name was Lane and I about nodded, of course it is. Continue reading

The Gray Skies Playbook

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I loved Matthew Quick’s last novel The Silver Linings Playbook so much I wanted to make it my Facebook background (this means something to my generation). I even settled for a promo of the movie adaptation. The movie was a bland and by-the-numbers distillation that lost much of the weirdness and complex ambiguities which made the book so special, and the book was special indeed.

Now Quick, a former high school teacher, has dropped his next jam: a YA / Teen novel released about two weeks ago with a teenage protagonist planning a murder-suicide. The promise of an adolescent voice with Quick’s narration was enough to get my hopes up; the question is, does Forgive Me Leonard Peacock come through? Continue reading