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"Net Drive", excerpt

Wednesday 11/13/19

Want to see something a little different? Just a wee bit.


This is what publishing will not let you see. Because it's by me. What publishing will not feature, celebrate, award. Let's do a little background first. We are up to the 400th blog post now, for this journal which was launched in June 2018.


During that same month, I entered a period of composition and creativity unlike any previously. There was a novel I wrote in a week, the funniest book one would see. There have been dozens of op-eds, arts pieces, essays, personal essays. By dozens, I mean 100. And in that time period, there has now been more than sixty short stories that have been composed.


Let's do a condensed version of the week game.


On a Saturday I created one called "Read the Ice." It's about a woman who is grieving a child she does not wish to have, because she fears her love of this child will take her somewhat afield of other loves. This has put a strain, to put it lightly, on her marriage, and she does something at a pond near the house she shares with her husband and two children, which involves studying what she observes in the ice of this pond. One would not be able to guess what she sees there, how it ends. The story is called "Read the Ice."


On a Sunday, I arose and composed another. It's about a young boy, who thinks he is a kind of super hero, his sister who is a goodly amount older than he is, a child who will be at his school for only three weeks, because she is between families, a super power he believes he has, one he wishes he did but he does not, and a last full day with somebody. It's called "Heroine Man."


On a Monday, I arose and completed a story I had begun a few weeks back, about a man who lives with his family in the house that he grew up in as a child, and how things have always happened on their particular side of the street. A stabbing a few houses down, this giant snapping turtle at the end of the street that proved something of a menace, which his father, along with his Sunday drinking buddies, had to kill. He takes his kids out for Halloween. But each year, he sees a form on the other side of the street that they cannot see. This form has to do with something in his past, and at night, when everyone is tucked away, it's a form with which he annually interacts. The story is called "Authenticate."


Today, as I mentioned to John, who is studded with horror, frustration, that this is happening, all of the daily reports, the torrents of insanity we see, I started screwing around with a little something. I'll put that up too. Next post, or the one after. It's a story that begins with two nine-year-old girls, on the floor beneath their desks at school. The clocks have stopped. Phones do not work. The sun will not rise. Time is becoming hazier. That does not have a title yet. We'll figure it out. The school cannot be left, all is darkness. And there they are, under their desks, as all of the kids are. And we will go from there.


But let's focus on the other day for now. Something I just threw together in an hour. Let's just focus on that. It was a story, a gay hockey story, that unfolds in the space of a single play. It's a story about a sexual awakening, a complex family history, everything interwoven in the fabric, description, drama of that single play, and nowhere in all of sports writing will you find a dissection of a play as exacting, as thorough, as dramatic as this. A player--he is a high school senior--collects a pass, on his backhand, as he approaches the offensive zone. He's near the wall, an All-State defenseman is between him and the net. I'm reading some of it to John on the phone today, and he's saying how twisted it is that a place like Esquire will not even respond, when it is so clear what this is, that there is nothing at this level, and for counterpoint there are other people put forward, their work, and he is turning the car around, because he was going to get something for breakfast but now he will be sick if he eats, so screw it, straight to the job. But that is how it is. That's what's happening.


As it were, this was story is number fifty going back to June 2018. Again, I'm talking just the short fiction. Not this blog. Not those essays. Not that novel. Not the op-eds. Not those reviews. Not that radio work. (Was on the radio yesterday, actually.) This is what somebody is doing, and this is what is happening to them. What do I do? At what point do I sue a place like The Atlantic for discrimination after what happened there, which I will document here? What do I do? What I'm going to do now, is put up part--it is but a piece--of this story. Compare, if you like, with the story by that other person in the last blog post. But here we go. Take a look.


The story is called "Net Drive." Just an excerpt. A tease.


***


I’m about ten feet outside the Prep blue line on the left wing and I let the puck clear my body, which always feels good even though it does not touch you. The pass is from Aaron Steadman, emanating from the right hand side of the center ice circle. He’s a righty shot, so that means he’s on his forehand and the pass is hard but not heavy, the disc flat, settled, always in contact with the ice as it moves across it, not on an edge, back end never up, the energy of the rubber is evenly distributed. The puck goes under the stick of the defender on Aaron’s side, like it’s passing through the bottom of a triangle, where there is a design flaw, an unveiled point of entry. I’m faster than he is—I’m faster than everyone is this year—so he has to hit me before I cross that blue line and put the play offside.


We never beat Prep. Every year I have been here they decimate us, which really means to divide by ten so that it not literally true, but it is not that far off. 12-4, 14-1, 8-2. But this year it is 4-4 late. You’re cognizant when your last rush has come, the final good chance you’ll get get. The flow of a game, multitudes of games, their mosaic-making, teaches you. A new game is like music you haven’t heard before, you can follow the pattern of notes, their progression, you know what the next note might be, they take you there.


My dad yells louder from the stands now, because he views games as some of the time we get together, hence added gusto, making up for absence, lack of control, by reaching for more now, via voice. He used to stand next to Mr. Patricio, an idiot. “Hey, Ref! Nickels, dimes, we got screwed!” Whatever that meant. Metallurgy progression. I’m only at my dad’s one weekend a month. And before games and after them. So he views his stints in the stands as part of our time. I feel like he’s talking to me with people listening in. “Dig deep, Teto,” he’ll yell, which is non-hockey specific enough that I guess you could count it as a kind of life advice, stashed in the General Info category.


I have been calling for the puck. I don’t need to, but I do it, it is part of being fully engaged, present. “A.S! A.S!” My voice is staccato, rapid-fire. I sound like a baritone, not a tenor, there is an echo, a deepening, down at ice level. Just before the puck hits my tape, I provide my stick some give, I move it slightly towards the wall, I let it flow latitudinally. My stick cradles the disc as I receive the pass, it might as well say, “Look, puck, I want to love you, see how gentle I am being? Trust me.” I tape the entire blade in black, but Aaron’s passes usually hit straight in the center, where the curve of my stick bulges out on my backhand.


My mom does not go to the games. It’s not because my dad is here. The stands are big. You can gain separation in them if that is what you wish. They are full. Fuller than usual this year. We’re legit good. Deema my step-sister is here, surely, comes late. She went to a different middle school when we were in eighth grade and her school and my school had a dance. I asked her to dance and she asked me to walk and after that dance we went down a corridor and into a science room. The science room made me feel more like an adult. I sat on a chair and she got up on my knee, her legs on either side, she kissed me, moving herself, sawing I guess you could say. Until she gasped and stopped, shuddered like she was someone else and then was herself again a few seconds after, maybe ten, maybe fifteen, I remember it being really hard to measure time. Then she asked what I wanted her to do and I did not know what to say, so I said “be well,” which was a line I heard in a movie that seemed honorable and mature.


“I meant suck you off,” she said to me later, when we lived together, in the house where my dad had been with me and my mom, though obviously our parents did not know, they thought we were new to each other and hoped we would develop a relationship, and it is not like I had known her in two or three years. Her dad is fine. I am supposed to call him Alex. My dad asks what I call him, and I say, “I call him Alex, dad.” Asks me that a lot, pretends he forgets. I’m onsides and I have the puck, it’s on my backhand, and I am fucking flying. I know exactly what I want to do. I know exactly what I am going to do.


This D-Man is good. Trent Tullo. He’s All-State. He was All-State back when he was a sophomore, then junior year, will be again this year. He has a full-ride to Michigan. But I’m going to toast this fucker is what’s about to go down. I could pause this game, tell him what is about to happen and how—hell, he probably already knows himself—and that’s not going to abet his cause in stopping me from what I am going to do. Toast time, bitch. You’re not supposed to talk like that now. Can you think it like it? During a sport? Aaron and I sat at the back of the bus coming home from away games. His varsity jacket over my lap. Dark, I was sleepy, you were always sleepy after those games, three-hour bus rides back to the school, the snowed-over parking lot, where we would get into our cars, drive home and get into bed, sleep late into Saturday, most of us meet up at the breakfast diner, pretending we we more sore than we really were, like we were men after long days, decades of them. His hand held me, it didn’t move, and that was enough, instantaneous, faster than any time by myself. He kept it there, no one could see. I was glad he kept it there, even though I did not know what to do, how I would move forward, what to say, what to tell, how to be.


I have Tullo on my hip now. He’s even with me. I’m on his hip, too. What he wants to do at this juncture is ride me into the wall. Separate me from the puck. He could give a rat’s ass about the puck. He wants my body. My chest. That is his sole interest. If he can ride me into the wall, drive his shoulder through my chest, knock me out, concuss me, all the better. I have been fucking flying, but I have another gear. He has no idea. You can watch all the tape you want, but experience remains experience. It’s how I’m going to get him to begin to turn, pivot and panic, I’m going to break his shoulders so they tilt on an axis, they lose their parallelism. My stride, thus far, has been straight-ahead. But now as we are even, me on the left, him on the inside of the ice, I dip my right shoulder, that is how I will start to crest around him, I’m making a corner to turn, even though we both exist in a straight line. I’m altering the form. The geometry. Of our interaction.


***


Excerpt concluded.


That's a little different than what you saw in the last post, isn't it? Tiny bit different. This is worse than criminal what is playing out here, and has been for a long, long, long time.


It's not defensible. Professionally, morally, artistically, entertainment-wise, legally. That the six figure job is going to the person who is demonstrably--it is not close--less qualified, regarding which no counterargument could be mounted, is not defensible. That the person who has published one piece in their career, and not a good piece, on a film (or sports, or music, literature, whatever the subject may be), is given the $150K job writing about film, at a place I long contributed to, on many, many subjects, after being led to believe I would receive one of what ended up being over 100 jobs handed out, is in no way, shape, or form, no theoretical form, defensible, when I have the body of work, the demonstrable, far-surprassing expertise, the armory of achievements, the work whose quality speaks for itself, always, always, always, with any single, and every last, given sentence, clause paragraph. Nothing happening here is defensible. But this has become an island of insanity removed from anyone's view, beyond the concerns of anyone's interests, because it has killed off reading and hence checks and balances and can now operate in as diseased and unobserved a fashion as its rulers see fit, which is to say, in as unfit a manner as possible. It is all for the petty power and insecurity that exists on the island, it is all for the ceaseless buttressing of ego and illusion, it is all cronyism, all skin color, all gender, racebaiting, trading on gender. It has absolutely nothing to do with connecting great work to humans, work they will love, think along with, be entertained by, feel deeply as a result of, which will mean something to them. Will mean a lot more than merely something to quite a few of them.


That's what I'm dealing with here. That's why people are not seeing any of this. That is why I am not getting to market. The work is not the issue. The amount of dollars the work can make, the amount of people the work can reach, thrill, entertain, connect with, is not the problem. What the work can do right now, what it is poised, primed, birthed to do. The stage all set. What it can do for centuries, though that is less my concern right now. The various filmic, television, and digital platforms the work can extend to is not the problem. It is the set-up, the system, the discrimination.


That is the problem to be solved.


I used to think becoming the best artist ever was the problem to be solved. It's not. Or it is not anymore. For me. But that is not the issue. But it definitely makes what is the issue worse. Makes it feel worse. Makes it harder to live under a yoke, a thumb, when what you have, what you have uniquely produced, is going to do so much good in this world when it gets out, a kind of good that only you could do with your work because of its nature, its universes of range, it quality, the size of the body of work, its wisdom, edge, humor, innovation, and, more than anything, capacity to connect; directly, personally, humanly, as if intended specifically for each person partaking of it, the contours of their individualized soul, heart, mind. To even get up. To take another breath. To keep trying. Especially when you keep getting better and better all the time.


But you know what I'm not going to do? I am not going to lose to these people. I am what I am, and I that is no more refutable than what they are doing is defensible. I am getting to market. I just don't know how yet. Maybe it will happen before I even figure out how.