CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper/fiction writer, poet, photographer, painter. CRC Blog is an INCLUSIVE & NON-PROFIT BLOG acknowledging ALL voices, ALL individuals, ALL political views, ALL philosophies, ALL religions including Islamism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Atheism. She has a B.S. in Criminal Justice & completed her workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Louis.
CRC website http://chrisricecooper.com/
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Steven Manchester’s "Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the 80s" is #153 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION
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****Steven Manchester’s "Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the 80s"is #153 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt. All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTIONlinks are at the end of this piece
What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?March 2019; this was a quick write for me
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. At my dining room table, where I do most of my work. No one goes into that part of the house, so there are few distractions.
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day?
Same CD playing over and over, as white noise to drown out other sounds; I started with notes taken in long hand or on my phone, and then pulled them into a Word doc. Once the frame was there, the rest was written on the laptop.
What is the summary of this specific fiction work?It’s the winter of 1984. Twelve-year old Herbie and his two brothers—Wally and Cockroach—are enjoying the mayhem of winter break when a late Nor’easter blows through New England, trapping their quirky family in the house.
The power goes out and playing Space Invaders to AC DC’s Back in Black album is suddenly silenced—forcing them to use their twisted imaginations in beating back the boredom. At a time when the brothers must overcome one fear after the next, they learn that courage is the one character trait that guarantees all others
This hysterical coming-of-age tale is jam-packed with enough nostalgia to satisfy anyone who grew up in the ‘80s or at least had the good fortune to travel through them.
Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as reference. This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.
I awoke from the recurring dream in the middle of a terrible coughing fit. I tried to catch my breath. It took more time than usual. That was awful, I thought. The inability to control my reality was absolutely maddening. Change your mind, I thought. You need to change your... It came to me again. Concentrate on Donna, I told myself.
Although I’d crushed on Abby Gerwitz for a very long time, it was all about Donna Torres now. She’s definitely the one for me, I thought, imagining myself kissing Donna like it was the first time I’d ever kissed anyone—and the last.
Until falling for Donna, the only thing that ever took my breath away was that blue rubber nose sucker that Ma used on us when we were young and stuffed up. I feared that dreadful booga sucker worse than Clarence. It was so bad that I couldn’t go anywhere near a turkey baster for years.
I pictured Donna’s beautiful face. I can’t wait for the next school dance, I thought. With any luck, we’ll be going out together by then. I imagined holding her warm body against mine, as we swayed to Led Zeppelin’ Stairway to Heaven, or another lengthy favorite, Always and Forever. Those slow songs always required great courage to approach a girl and risk rejection. But not if you’re going out with someone, I realized, then it’s just expected.
Clarence’s face popped into my head, his twisted smile dripping with bloody saliva. I shook my head, trying to clear away the monster’s hideous shadow.
Write Donna’s letter, I told myself, getting up to grab a pen and some paper.
I’d started the letter a dozen times, crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash each time. It has to be perfect. Every word has to count, I realized, making me curse myself for not paying closer attention in English class.
Dear Donna, I wrote, coughing a few times, I hope this letter finds you well.
“Ugh,” I sighed, quickly tearing it up. I hope this letter finds you well? I snickered. I just saw her a few days ago. Of course she’s well. She’s fine. I shook my head. Besides, it’s 1984— not 1884.
I started over. Dear Donna, it’s Herbie...
“Ugh,” I repeated, tearing off the sheet of paper, balling it up and missing the overflowing trash can with the free throw.
Dear Donna, I wrote, staring at the white-lined paper until the lines became blurry.
Coughing, I shook my head again. “Maybe it’ll come to me after a big bowl of Cookie Crisp?” I thought aloud, making a beeline for the kitchen.
As we munched through breakfast, Ma announced, “I’m telling you again, you boys aren’t staying in this house all day.”
I coughed in response.
She looked at me. “You’re fine.”
Hiding in our bedroom, we played with Cockroach’s electric racetrack. Both cars traveled at the same speed, round-and-round. It was almost cool for about three minutes.
The plastic door snapped open. “Nice try,” Ma said, “but I want you out of this house now.”
In preparation of heading into the great outdoors, we donned our heavy winter clothing— still damp from a mix of snow and sweat from the day before. With fresh, mismatched socks and a layer of dry bread bags in place, we yanked on the seal skins we called boots and hurried to get out of the warm apartment.
Our mother was happily smiling, as she watched us go. “Be home before the streetlights come on,” she reminded us.
This routine’s already getting old, I thought, and it’s only Tuesday.
We stood outside for a few minutes to discover that it was easily as cold as the day before, but that the winds had grown much stronger. This isn’t good, I thought. Huddled against the house with my brothers, I asked, “What do you guys want to do today?”
“We could head back to the clubhouse,” Cockroach suggested.
“Nah, it’s too long of a walk,” Wally said. “They might find us frozen to death halfway there.”
“Yeah, once everything thaws out in the spring,” I said.
“Another snowball fight?” I said.
“Okay, but without rocks this time,” Cockroach said.
Rain or shine, my brothers and I usually made up games to stave off the boredom. Sometimes we made each other run a violent gauntlet, testing each other’s mettle like we were going into combat and needed to make sure everyone could hang tough. That was the thing about growing up in New England. The weather was so bad, so often, that it was absolutely necessary to develop creative imaginations. Other days, we’d play king of the mountain or muckle, or even set up ramps, jumping over each other with our bicycles—Evel Knievel-style. But it’s too cold for any of that today, I thought, surrendering to the fact that Mother Nature was a hell of a lot tougher than we were.
“We could build an igloo?” Wally suggested for the second day.
As if scripted, Cockroach shook his hooded head. “No way,” he said, “I’m out!”
Wally and I both laughed.
“This will be different,” Wally said. “No roof this time. We’ll build a snow fort.”
The little guy looked at me for confirmation.
I nodded. “No one’s gonna have to dig you out this year, Alphonse.”
“Better not,” he said, as if he even had a say in the matter.
We worked and worked, gathering snow and packing it into four glistening walls. The higher the walls grew, the more we were inspired to work harder. The constant movement helped us to keep warm—or at least alive. Although the sun was strong, making my eyes strain against the light bouncing off the stark white snow, it didn’t provide much heat.
Victor’s silhouette suddenly appeared out of nowhere, making Cockroach jump at the sight of him.
“Where have you been?” I asked him, squinting to make out his face.
“I had to finish my chores before I could come out and play,” he said.
I looked at Wally and shook my head. Vic didn’t just do chores, he suffered forced labor—without the allowance we received.
“How ‘bout we hang out at your house today,” I suggested. “There’s no way Ma’s letting us back in the house so...”
“Are you nuts?” Vic said, shocked—looking at me like Max Headroom. “That’s never gonna happen, Herbie, and you know it.”
He was right. Mrs. Pavao despised having a stranger in her house, no matter how long she knew the person. The few times Vic had sneaked me in, she was off food shopping—which was the only time she ever really left. I was stunned to see that their furniture was covered in plastic.
“We’re building a snow fort,” Wally told him, “and we could use some more muscle.”
“Sounds like fun,” Vic said.
Wally half-shrugged. “I don’t know how much fun it’ll be, but we definitely need the shelter.”
An hour and a half later, although our red neck ice castle would have been uninsurable by any industry standards, it still broke the wind—just like the clubhouse on the railroad tracks—if you hunkered down low enough in one of the corners.
“Vic was right. This has been a blast,” I said over the howling wind.
Although the shabby igloo lacked a roof, all four walls—constructed of hard-packed snow and ice—created the perfect cover for a heated snowball fight. It’s a life-sized G.I. Joe Command Center, I thought, and took off running to build my arsenal.
“And if you use rocks again,” Wally yelled at Vic, “we’re gonna bury you alive.”
“Yeah, we are!” Cockroach said, making me chuckle.
We played until we could no longer feel the sting on our faces; Mother Nature’s constant backhands. We played until our red cheeks turned ashen and our eyeballs felt frozen. Our fingers, shriveled like raisins from the snow that crept into our cheap cotton gloves, turned a pale blue. We wore double pants; the inside pair becoming soaked, making me wonder, Did I accidentally pee myself? At some point, my body was starting to fail me physically, evidenced by the chattering teeth and involuntary convulsions; my body moving to circulate blood and stay warm.
Normally, these symptoms didn’t matter. There was always one more snowball fight to be had; one more hill to sled down. But not this time. Not today, I thought. I’m gonna get even more sick than I already am. I gave it some thought. Maybe even as bad as last winter. My mind immediately went back to picture every vivid—and nasty—detail.
It was a terrible pulsating pain, almost mind numbing.
Ma stuffed a white cotton ball into each of my ears, deadening all sound. “It looks like a double ear infection,” she said, confident in her diagnosis. “We’ll go see Dr. Schwartz tomorrow to get you some penicillin.” She patted my chest. “Try to get some sleep.”
I did, but the throbbing in my ears sounded a lot like pounding footsteps coming down a metal staircase. At first, it was faint. But the harder I tried to sleep, the louder the footsteps became. Being stuck within the dream-like state was terrifying.
Although it took me forever, I finally nodded off.
In what seemed like seconds, I heard a pop in my left ear, immediately followed by the warm sensation of a syrupy flow that brought the first hint of relief. I pulled the sticky cotton ball out of my ear and looked at it. So gross, I thought, but the intense pain on the left side of my throbbing head was all but gone. Not a bad trade off, I thought. Sounds were now amplified.
I lost another five hours of sleep until the right ear popped, saturating the second cotton ball to egg yolk yellow.
The following day, I sat in Dr. Schwartz’s waiting room for two full hours—listening to other kids hack and threatening to make me even more sick—until I was called forward to receive my bottle of pink liquid antibiotics.
“I can pay you half for the office visit today,” Ma whispered to the doctor, “but I’ll have to...”
He placed his wrinkled hand on her forearm. “You’ll pay me when you have the money, Missus,” Dr. Schwarz said with a smile, “that’s fine.”
Too bad Pop just bought his beer for the week, I thought, picturing three cases of shiny gold cans stacked on the side of the fridge, or we’d have the money to pay you.
On our way home, Ma and I made a quick stop at R&S Variety. “Get me three packs of...”
“Carlton 100’s,” I finished for her, jumping out of the car to run up her tab.
She nodded. “Smart boy.”
I was back in the car within minutes, handing over the three packs while concealing the blue bag of Razzles I’d scored for myself. First, it’s candy, I thought, and then it’s gum.
“I’m more stressed than usual,” she explained, half-shrugging.
Sure, Ma, I thought, I have a double ear infection and you’re the one who’s suffering.
I returned to the present to see Cockroach’s sad eyes looking up at me. “I’m starving, Herbie,” he said.
“Me, too,” Vic said.
“We have to eat,” Wally agreed, with the concern of a true leader. “Ma can’t say anything if we go into eat. And if we...”
“Keep quiet,” I said, finishing his thought, “we might be able to hang out in our room.”
“Exactly,” Wally said, preparing to stand.
I looked at all three of them and grinned. Even in the vortex of winter, Cockroach still wore a full Kool-ade mustache. Wally was growing a real mustache; a blonde one, and it looked pretty good if you caught it at just the right angle in the light. And Vic, well, he looked like Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Not me, though, I thought, shaking my head. I was as hairless as a baby piglet, and filled with worry that I might stay that way for the rest of my life.
As we headed for the house, I turned to Vic. “After you take off your boots, sneak right into our bedroom and close the door.”
“Quietly,” Wally added.
“I’ll bring you something to eat,” I told him.
“Good,” he said, “’cause I’m starving.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that already.”
Wally whipped up tuna fish sandwiches, as much as three cans could make, while Ma stayed in the living room. So far, so good, I thought. As long as we stay in our own territories...
We finished lunch, nearly devouring every last bit of the canned fish. Suddenly, I remembered that Vic was waiting patiently in our darkened bedroom. And for almost an hour, I thought, looking at the kitchen clock. He’s probably eaten Wally’s switchblade comb by now.
I whispered my problem to my older brother.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said, shrugging, “we’re out of tuna.”
“Can you make him a couple PBJ’s?” I asked, hoping he wouldn’t laugh at me.
“Nope, but you can,” Wally said. “What am I, everyone’s personal chef?”
After Vic choked down his sandwiches, we agreed to play quietly in our bedroom.
“But it’s gotta be a board game,” Wally whispered. “It’s the only option.”
“No Atari?” Vic whispered, disappointed.
“It makes noise and we don’t want to draw Ma’s attention,” Wally explained.
“Not if you turn down the volume on the TV,” Vic whispered, still haggling.
Cockroach and I looked at each other.
“Board games,” Wally repeated in a tone that announced the final decision had been made.
“Monopoly or Parcheesi?”Cockroach whispered.
“Parcheesi,” Wally said, “we’ll only end up fighting if we play Monopoly.”
He’s right, I thought, we’ve never finished a game of Monopoly in our lives. The board usually gets flipped over before we’re done.
As we played the safer game, Wally turned to me, smiled and then farted. “I feel like I just lost the best part of me,” he said, trying not to laugh.
“That’s so gross,” I told him.
“At least I didn’t blame the dog,” he said.
“We don’t even have a dog,” Cockroach reminded him.
He smiled. “Exactly.”
We were three games in when Cockroach complained, “This sucks!” It was what everyone else was thinking.
“Do you want to go back outside and freeze?” Wally whispered, farting again.
Vic stood. “I do,” he said at a normal volume.
“I don’t think I can take this anymore,” Vic whispered.
“You’re leaving?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Chew and screw, huh?” Wally said.
Vic ignored the comment. “I’m sure somebody’s out playing in the neighborhood.”
He shrugged. “Whatever,” he said, “anything’s better than hiding in this stinky room like those poor refugees on T.V.”
“Go freeze then,” Wally told him.
As my friend reached for the door, I whispered, “You’d better tiptoe out of here, Vic, and put your boots on once you’re out of the house.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, I’m serious. If Ma catches you here, then we’re busted, too.”
“Whatever,” he whispered, tiptoeing out of the room.
Wally quietly slipped away to use the bathroom when I told Cockroach, “We might have to hang out in the cellar tomorrow, if this weather doesn’t break.”
He automatically shook his head. “I don’t like it down there, Herbie,” he whispered, with real fear in his voice.
“Why?” I asked him. “What’s there to be afraid of.”
Shrugging, he broke eye contact.
I shook my head, thinking, Cockroach is afraid of everything...puddles he thinks might be over his head...monsters...
“Monsters living in the basement,” he admitted, matching my thoughts.
I couldn’t understand why. “With the condition our cellar’s in, don’t you think a monster could find a much better place to live?”
“You never know, Herbie,” he said, looking at me again like one of the puppets from Fraggle Rock.
“Alphonse, you’re afraid of everything.”
“Nah, ah,” he said, “not everything.” He thought about it. “Just sharks, the dark, rats, snakes, tunnels...” He stopped.
“Keep going,” I told him, “sometimes it helps to talk about it.”
He searched my eyes before making his decision. “Sometimes I’m afraid of someone looking into our bedroom window,” he reluctantly admitted.
“But our bedroom’s on the second floor.”
“I know that,” he said, shaking his head, “but I’m still afraid that if I look out our window, an old person’s face will be looking back at me.”
As I laughed, I saw his face change—with him going inward. I stopped. “What else?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he snapped back, defensively.
“How ‘bout I go next and tell you something stupid that I’m afraid of?” I suggested. Although I was older and a little more practical—fearing that Wally would use my toothbrush and clean the toilet with it, like he’d threatened a hundred times—I still carried around my fair share of illogical phobias.
As his eyes came to life again, he nodded.
“I’m still terrified of the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” I admitted. “Augustus Gloop going up the chocolate pipe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory freaks me out. And the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz are pretty bad, too. But that long-nosed kidnapper in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a whole different level of scary for me.” I couldn’t believe it, but it actually felt good to tell someone about it. I never had. “You’re next,” I told him.
This time, he couldn’t talk fast enough. “I always think there’s someone hiding in our bathtub. Every time I’m in there, it takes everything I have to look into the tub.” He shook his head. “And after I take a bath, I hate looking into the mirror when I’m stepping out of the tub. I’m afraid that the steamy face in the mirror won’t be mine.”
“Wow,” I said, nodding, “I...”
“And I’m scared of being left behind,” he quickly continued. “How do you mean?”
“Like when I get home from school, I’m afraid I’ll find that no one’s home and the whole family’s left me.”
I felt bad about that one. “I’m sure Wally and I teasing you all the time about being adopted doesn’t help with that one.” We constantly tried to convince Cockroach that it was a real possibility.
“It doesn’t,” he agreed, without a hint of anger or judgment.
I thought about it. And Ma doesn’t help with that one, either. Whenever we were misbehaving—which was always—Ma threatened that she and Pop were going to drop us off at the orphan's home. “Let’s see if they can do something with you animals,” she’d tell us, “cause God knows I’m at the end of my rope.” Sometimes, she’d even picked up the kitchen phone and pretend to call the home, requesting that they come pick us up right away. Although this never worked on me and Wally, it straightened Cockroach out every time. To stop his crying so we could sleep, we’d always tell him that it was never going to happen.
“And like I said, I hate going down into the cellar,” he said. “There’s so many places for monsters to hide and...”
“Monsters?” I said, stopping myself again so he could go on.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m going to crap my pants, so I run up the stairs as fast as I can, hoping that something won’t grab me by the ankles and drag me back down.”
“Hmmm,” I said, “that sucks.” I placed my hand on his shoulder. “What about under the bed?” I realized he wasn’t halfway through his fear list and I was starting to feel bad for him— really bad. It wasn’t that long ago when I was afraid of everything, too, I thought.
He nodded. “Still afraid of it.”
Cockroach was convinced that something, or someone, had moved under our bunkbed— although they were only there at night. He would shut off the light switch on the wall before making a running leap into his top bunk, throwing the covers over his head on the way. For years, he refused to get up until morning. Given that I slept directly under him, I always asked him, “You peed already, right?”
Although I sometimes laughed at my brother’s child-like fears, I understood where he was coming from. When I stirred in the middle of the night and found that my hand or foot was hanging off the edge of the bed, I immediately pull it back and stuffed it under the covers—a feeling of panic welling up inside me.
“I can understand that one,” I told him, “you’re not alone there.”
His eyes brightened even more. “And let’s not even talk about our bedroom closet.”
This time, when I laughed, he laughed with me.
My little brother always made sure the closet door was open before turning in for the night. Although the door was right in front of Wally’s bed, Cockroach still needed to see that there was nothing hiding behind it, or could sneak up on him in the dark.
I can relate to that one, too, I thought. Our bedroom also had a tiny wooden door that led to a pink-insulated crawl space behind the wall. On more than one occasion, I wondered what might live inside that mysterious space. Then I’d have the worst, most detailed nightmares about a short, deformed creature with sharp teeth sneaking into our room through that door. I’d always open my eyes within the dream and see this hideous monster, silently beckoning me to come to him. Sometimes, I’d even wonder if that monster sneaked under our bunkbed when the light went out at night, putting my brothers and I in terrible danger.
Although I hated to admit it to myself, I thought, And there’s far worse than that. I was still afraid of the tree beside Ma and Pop’s bedroom window, its shadow dancing like some deranged woman. I feared dead relatives standing at the foot of my bed when I was sleeping. Some nights, I had to leave a light on. I absolutely hated waking up and not knowing who I was and where I was. Nothing freaked me out more than being disoriented, or feeling that lack of control. I also feared spiders crawling into my mouth while I slept. Wak ing up with morning breath, maybe that’s not so far-fetched. And I hated watching horror movies. I’d obsess over them like they were completely real. I still hate to leave the house when it’s foggy out, I reminded myself, but nothing compares to the man with the lisp driving that white van. It had become my recurring nightmare; Clarence in the same white van that supposedly drove around looking for children to abduct. That one’s a bad one.
“I can’t help it,” Cockroach said, interrupting my own litany of fears. “I guess I am afraid of everything.”
I looked him in the eye. “No more than anyone else your age, Alphonse,” I told him, “trust me.”
He nodded his appreciation.
“And it’ll get better,” I told him.
“It will?” His grin was filled with hope.
I nodded. “You’ll grow out of it. I did,” I fibbed.
As soon as Wally returned to the room, we went silent.
Pop brought home pizza for supper, answering some long-awaited prayers.
“You must have gotten a raise at work today,” Ma said, sarcastically.
“What’s that?” he asked, opening the first box and releasing the heavenly smell.
“Why are we celebrating?” Cockroach asked, innocently covering our mother’s back.
“We’re not celebrating anything,” Pop said. “What’s the big deal? I stopped by Nick’s on the way home from work. It’s just dinner.”
“Can we not celebrate anything again tomorrow for supper?” Cockroach asked, getting up from his chair and starting to gyrate his narrow hips.
Although Wally and I both laughed, I couldn’t tell whether he was dancing or having a seizure. “Go easy, Deney Terrio, before you hurt yourself,” I told him.
“Looks like someone’s caught the dance fever,” Wally added.
“If my cooking’s that bad,” Ma began to say, “then maybe you...”
“Not at all, Ma,” Wally said. “You’re a great cook.”
“The best, Ma,” I added, joining in on the exaggeration.
Although she tried to fight it off, the corners of her mouth turned up.
Cockroach sighed heavily. “I don’t know,” he said, “this pizza’s the best thing I’ve eaten since my last school lunch.”
Just then, as though he were trying to save our little brother, Wally farted. “Excuse me,” he said, “I honestly didn’t see that one coming.”
“Damn,” Pop said, “that sounded like a mud flap in an angry rainstorm.”
Ma didn’t think it was funny. “Right at the supper table?” she asked Wally.
“I couldn’t help it, Ma. It felt like something was inside me, fighting to get out.”
I laughed harder.
She wouldn’t let it go. “Are you sick?” she asked. “Do you have diarrhea?”
He nodded. “I don’t know how to spell it, but I’m pretty sure I do.”
“The Hershey squirts,” Cockroach said, giggling.
“That’s enough...all of you,” Ma said, putting a stop to a conversation that would have gone on for far too long.
There was a moment of silence, nothing but the sounds of chewing. “When does gas actually become a liquid?” Wally asked.
Pop looked at him and pointed toward our bedroom. “That’s it,” he said, “you’re done. Clear your plate.”
I choked on my laughter. I was still hungry and there was pizza left. I’ll have Wally’s share, I thought.
“What am I getting for my birthday?” Cockroach asked, out of the blue. “It’s only three weeks away, you know.”
Pop looked at him. “Close your eyes,” her told my baby brother.
Cockroach did as instructed.
“What do you see?” Pop asked.
“Good,” Pop said, “because that’s what you’re getting.”
Even Ma laughed at that one.
That night, while Pop snored away in his recliner—a beer can nestled safely between his legs— we started to watch Mork and Mindy.
“Turn it down,” Ma said, flipping through the TV guide; it was a stark reminder that she controlled the programming in the house. At any point in time and, without a moment’s notice, she could commandeer the television to watch her beloved shows: Knots Landing, Donny and Marie, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Lawrence Welk Show with all its bubbles, and the very funny Carol Burnett Show. The only show we loved that she and Pop also enjoyed was Cheers. “Your dad’s had a hard day,” she added, looking up from the tiny magazine. This stretched truth threatened to become her daily mantra.
What about us? I thought. Do you think trying not to freeze to death is a cake walk?
Wally was a little more vocal. “Sure he has,” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Poor Pop,” Wally said, quickly covering his tracks.
“That’s what I thought,” Ma said, sure to get in the last word.
Pop’s stinky stocking feet spasmed in the recliner.
We all looked at him.
It was impressive. Even when Pop dozed, he never dropped his shiny gold can. The twelve-ounce beer was like an appendage he’d been born with. Occasionally, he’d wake up, guzzle down a generous sip and then nod back off—only to repeat the odd cycle long after the beer had grown warm. But God be with you if you accidentally touch his feet; I thought. You’d face the wrath of an angry bear awakened early from hibernation. Even dazed, Pop was known to launch from his chair and seek out his attacker. There’s nothing more terrifying.
My brothers and I got up, one after another, and headed for our bedroom.
“Good night, boys,” Ma called out after us.
In our darkened bedroom, I called out, “May the force be with you.”
Alas, Wally responded. He farted; it sounded like a wet slap.
“Oh, my God,” Cockroach whispered from above, “I think he just crapped his PJ’s.” “I hope he did,” I whispered back, making them both laugh. At least he answered this time, I thought, stifling a cough. That’s something, anyway.
“I’ll be back,” he muttered in his best Terminator accent.
I gagged on the stink.
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt?This book was written for my dad, who recently passed. Although it’s a comedy based in the 80s, it’s a love letter (and thank you note) to my father (Right) from me and my siblings. It was very emotional from my perspective; a catharsis that helped me heal.
Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt.There were multiple drafts (although I don’t save them). I write the book three times before I put it away for 8 weeks. Came back to it for a final edit, and then it went off to my copy editor. Once those changes were done, three professional proofreaders had at it. It’s a meticulous process.
Other works you have published? Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies, Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; the multi-award winning novel, Goodnight Brian.
Anything you would like to add?I love the writing process!
Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; the multi-award winning novel, Goodnight Brian; and the beloved holiday podcast drama, The Thursday Night Club.
His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is a multi-produced playwright, as well as the winner of the 2017 Los Angeles Book Festival and the 2018 New York Book Festival. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.