Steve Grogan is an ongoing contributor to Writer to Writers. He has published several short stories on the site, which can be found on the main page under the heading “Steve Grogan’s Fiction.” He has had several poems and short stories published over the years, some of which are available on Amazon. (See the announcement at the end of this post.)
He is the writer and creator of the ongoing, zombie, post-apocalyptic, Romero-meets-Dungeons-and-Dragons webcomic REDemption. Alternatively, Steve describes the comic by saying, “It is to zombie fiction what KILL BILL was to kung fu movies: everything I love about the genre housed under one roof and mixed with my voice.”
From the very beginning of my life, I knew what purpose I would serve. Clarity hit me the second my father’s sperm pierced the shell of my mother’s egg. Yes, that is how immediate and obvious the truth was.
Mother gave herself to him that night completely. She wanted his hands, his mouth, his entire body to fuse with her so they could become one. As I got older, I was raised to believe that a woman offering herself in this way to a man was a special occasion, but over time I discovered none of my peers held the same belief. They had hollow caves where their hearts should be. Since they had no idea what it meant to love somebody, they had no problem sharing this treasure with whoever happened to be around. Some would use excuses for this promiscuity (like alcohol or drugs), but I was not blinded to the truth. Mine was a generation of misfits incapable of loving themselves, more prone to loneliness and alienation than even the Beats.
I was unique among my peers because I understood love. Ironically, this meant I was lonely as hell because in their minds I was this weirdo who wanted a serious commitment instead of just empty sex. Over time I came to embrace my individuality. I wore it like a badge of pride. My problem proved to be its own solution.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I was saying, the purpose of my life became clear to me very early on. One might be inclined to think I am exaggerating, but this realization came to me while I was still hovering in the womb. I was meant to fulfill one role: the underdog, the loser, the one who has bad luck or no luck at all.
This was the trajectory my life was supposed to follow. Someone or something had already chosen it for me. Into the fluid of the life-giving sac I screamed inquiries and profanities of all sorts, lashing out with my feet when the lack of answers frustrated me.
Months passed. My development was the same as any other embryo. The physical traits, however, were where my similarities to others ended. I had already gained a realization that I would be different. There would be no one quite like me.
It was this sense of uniqueness that made me dread leaving the womb. I had no way of knowing anything for sure, but I had a feeling that individuality was not a highly-praised quality in the world I was going to enter. The cost of being myself would be an unspoken but clearly felt distance between myself and every other person that surrounded me, a wall that I did not want or put there. I would never have any emotional proximity with anyone else, and any situation that arose in which I thought there was would be false. No matter how real someone’s love might feel, I had to remember it wasn’t; I would have to train my eyes to see through this illusion.
Nine months of thinking in my wet cave were forgotten when I felt movement. Muscles contracted in agony. In minutes I was born. I was screaming already, although at that point I was too young to know why.
I did not take my time growing up. Later in my life Mother would always say I was a quiet baby. Even as a toddler I never displayed the gaiety and outspokenness normal for that age. It has always been more pleasing to me to withdraw into myself. And why wouldn’t it be? Whenever I tried opening up to others, they would respond by withdrawing from me. Why not beat them to the punch?
My suspicions about the life that was in store for me were quickly proven true. None of my classmates would talk to me even though they were constantly gabbing with one another. During play time, I sat alone and entertained myself. I was forced to develop a complex imagination that would fill the gap left by the children that should have been my friends.
My teacher told Mother I was a good boy. She felt sad because I was always alone. At first this fact bothered me. Why was I the only one with whom the children refused to play? What made me so different? All I could ask was why, but I felt no shock when I got no answer.
In grade school, I spent most of my time in my room and had no real friends. There were those who pretended to offer their friendship, asking if they could borrow some change or have some of my lunch. Like a fool, I would always cave in to their demands. I wasn’t alert enough to realize they were fooling me. Well, maybe I slacked off because I wanted to believe that someone could call me their friend.
By junior high school I had fully realized my peers would never give me the acceptance I desired. I didn’t mind being alone all the time, but I wished they would at least accept me so that I could find friends among them if I ever wished to do so.
However, due to the kind of person I was, this just wasn’t meant to be. There was an individual residing in this body of mine, a spirit that wanted to rebel against all the preconceived notions about who and what I was supposed to be.
I was an American middle-class male. This meant I was supposed to be a good church-going Christian boy, attending service every Sunday. I was also a teenager who had just hit puberty, so I was expected to use my testosterone to play sports. However, this surge hit my brain instead of my muscles. Rather than tearing across the football field or the racetrack, I found my mind running through the alternate worlds of a vast collection of literature.
Early on in my reading career I was unbiased. No book was safe from my all-consuming mind. Whether it was true crime, science fiction, poetry, basement-bargain horror, or good old-fashioned Western canon classics, I would read it.
Time spent reading was time not spent exercising. Because of this, I gained weight, which was just one more piece of lumber for my peers to throw on the fire so they could fuel their contempt for me. And believe me, this fire raged STRONG.
No matter how quiet I was in school or how hard I tried to stay out of their way, the anger of every single bully was drawn to me, as if it had nowhere else to go. I would be sitting in a corner reading a book, and out of nowhere I would find myself suddenly assaulted by their verbal abuse. During these confrontations, I would imagine lashing out violently, breaking my assailant’s nose or jaw, yet in reality I merely sat there, hoping the episode would end soon. Then I would cry about it when I got home.
To this day I can still remember one occasion when Mother came across me just as a crying session was coming to an end.
“What’s wrong, honey?” she asked.
“Somebody was picking on me at school,” I said.
Mother’s reply both confounded and upset me. She said, “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” I shouted. “I was just sitting there reading a book before class, and they started making fun of me!”
Mother laughed. With a dismissive wave of her hand she said, “Oh, honey, don’t be silly. You must have done something to make them pick on you.”
Once again I tried explaining to her that I was not the instigator, but she became cross with me and said she didn’t want to hear another word of it.
This was so shocking to me that I went numb. How could she have said something like that? My own mother, insisting that I had been ASKING to be bullied, that I DESERVED IT. This was someone who wasn’t just a family member: she was one of the people who had given me life, and she wouldn’t comfort me. Mommy would not kiss the boo-boo and make it better. She had been given the chance and violently refused.
I thought to myself: is this how my entire family will act toward me?
As I grew older and spent holidays with my relatives, the answer to this inquiry became a clear and painful yes. With every year that passed I could feel them pulling further and further away from me. Never in my wildest nightmares could I have seen this coming. During those lonely years, the one comforting thought I had was, “Maybe nobody will be my friend, but family will always be there.”
At an early age, I had come to accept that I would be a loner, but I never thought I would be an orphan as well.
If you like what you have read and would like to purchase this serialized novel as one complete PDF, then please send $2 to Steve via PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, don’t forget to check out his other writing at the following links below:
Author: Redemption Comics
Steve Grogan was born in the often-filmed city of Troy, NY. He has written in a variety of formats (novels, short stories, poems, screen and stage plays, blogs/articles) and genres (horror, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, drama).
Steve is also a father, a boyfriend, a musician, a fitness fanatic, and a martial artist. He has been studying Wing Chun Kung Fu since 1995, and he maintains a blog/YouTube channel that describe his training habits, epiphanies, and advancement. It also candidly discusses his stumbling blocks, such as his struggle with nutrition and mental health issues.
He is no relation to the New England Patriots quarterback from the 1980’s.