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.”
November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m so excited because this year I have not one but two things to be thankful for.
First, I woke up to find out my penis was down to its normal size. Second was the fact that I decided today was the day I would rid myself of my virginity.
Most women would be spending the day with their families, hidden behind doors I have never seen where I couldn’t reach them, but prostitutes weren’t taking the holiday off. They’d still be out there wandering the streets and ready to help me lose this curse of virginity while I was temporarily free of the curse of size.
All I can hope for is that cab companies aren’t on vacation either. After all, I sold my car months ago, and riding the bus would take too long. Fortunately this isn’t a difficult problem to solve. I just need to pick up the phone and find out! In fact, that is what I am doing as I write this.
And like that, one call was enough to put my worries to rest. I called the first Troy cab company that popped up in my Google search (Black and White Cab System). Sure enough, someone answered. While I was on the phone, I had the presence of mind to ask them if their cab drivers accepted debit card payment. They could, so I asked them to send a cab over to my apartment as soon as possible.
Now I’m just waiting, realizing I have no real destination in mind. How stupid of me! And now that I think about it, there might not be any hookers out there. If all their potential customers are somewhere else for the holiday, then why would they freeze their asses off for nothing?
Fuck it. I must try. As for a destination, the best place to start would be downtown Troy. There’s an old restaurant called Manory’s on the corner of Congress Street and 4th Street. A block away, on the corner of Congress and 3rd, there is a bus stop in front of a closed-down Kentucky Fried Chicken. In that neighborhood, you can also find several Indian-owned convenience stores. Half the patrons are crack heads. The other half are college students. That’s the interesting thing about downtown Troy: on one block, you see students from Russell Sage and RPI, and on the next you’ll see strung-out addicts sniffling their crack-cocaine blues. At any rate, I feel confident that area would be a hotbed for some prostitute action, even on a cold Thanksgiving Day like this.
I heard a horn blaring outside just now. It’s the cab. Time to get out of here and finally get laid, even if I do have to pay for it.
She didn’t scream for long, and thank God for that because all the racket would have sent good old Mr. Washington charging up those stairs quicker as ever. This time I’d have no good explanations that would send him away, and I am sure slamming the door in his face would do nothing to deter him from calling the police. In fact, it might inspire him to be even faster about placing that call.
Let me back up a bit here. The last time I jotted something down in these pages, my cab had just arrived. I’ll pick up from there.
I gave the cab driver my destination before I’d even closed the door, and he took off. We reached the corner of Congress and 4th in about three minutes. Knowing I was going to get laid made me feel generous, so I decided to give him a 25% tip.
I started out by taking Congress down toward 3rd Street. There were no signs of life at the bus stop, so I continued to 2nd Street. Not far off to my left was the main branch of Troy Public Library, as well as Russell Sage College. You would be hard pressed to find a prostitute on these blocks, although I’ve heard that most college girls come close to being one after a few beers. Still, this was Thanksgiving Day, and school was not in session. No point in hanging out there.
My mission led me up and down every side street, walking each one from 2nd up to 4th and then back. There was no sign of life at all, prostitute or otherwise, except when a car/truck/SUV carrying people to or from a Thanksgiving Day gathering passed by.
This was getting me nowhere. With all the energy I was spending just looking for a hooker, I would have no drive left to fuck once I found one! I’m only twenty-six, but the cold weather sapped my strength as if I were two or three times my age.
I was on the verge of quitting when a street sign caught my eye: Fulton Avenue. An alarm of recognition went off in my mind. Hey, that was the street the Black and White cab company was on. The coincidence brought a smile to my face, and I relaxed a bit. With the stress of my fruitless hunt partially relieved, my sense of purpose was given a bit of an energy boost. Now I could carry on, and I did.
I realized quitting wasn’t the answer, but what was? Maybe I just needed a break. As far as what kind of break, I had no idea. I stood there at the corner of Fulton Avenue and 4th Street, hoping an answer would come.
My eyes scanned around the environment. For the most part all I saw were deactivated signs for various establishments. Nite Owl News, a nail salon, a hobby store, and many others. But notice I said “for the most part.” There was one sign whose neon letters burned brightly in the dull gray afternoon. It was a Budweiser display. It occurred to me that a beer would hit the spot, not to mention the fact that I’d be drinking it inside a nice warm bar.
As I headed across the empty road, I saw a homeless woman shuffling down Fulton Avenue toward me. Judging by the looks of her, she was bundled up in every article of clothing she owned, which included several scarves wrapped around her head. It was nothing new to see someone like this wandering downtown Troy, so I paid her no mind and turned right toward my destination.
Then the old woman spoke, and it made my heart seize.
“The cows turned blue after we milked them!”
It wasn’t the words themselves that made me spin around, because this was obviously just some nonsense sentence that only a crazy person would utter. No, it was that voice. God, it sounded so familiar, and yet I hoped it wasn’t who I thought. I turned just as the old woman rounded the corner from Fulton on to 4th Street, her face still concealed by the scarves. She spoke again, and this time there was no mistaking that cruel voice.
“Mutton chops are hideous,” she said.
With a noticeable quake in my voice, I uttered a single-syllable question.
The old woman raised her head as if she were waiting for me to say that word. Sure enough, it was her. I was shocked by how much she had changed. Her eyes were iron grey, and her cheeks were mapped with the deep lines of age. There I stood in the middle of the sidewalk, with nowhere to hide. I was directly in her line of sight. All those years spent avoiding her, taking summer courses to skip coming home, throwing out her letters instead of opening them were now all undone. And why? Simply because I’d gotten tired of being a virgin and stepped outside for the first time in years. Giving in to the desires of the flesh had now opened the gates to a nightmare realm that I thought I’d sealed off for good when I was a teenager.
My heart pounded so hard that I could hear my pulse in my ears. I made eye contact with her. No! There was no way to avoid her! She was going to convert me from healthy, functional adult to whimpering little boy in the space of a few words! I didn’t want to go back to that way of living!
She kept walking toward me with that slow, awkward shuffle. As she got closer, I realized something wasn’t right. There was something missing, some light of recognition that the sight of me should have ignited in her eyes. Why wasn’t it there?
Mom spoke again: “Burned out the carburetor. Ran out of ham and cheese.”
It took this third bizarre statement to make me realize what was going on.
She was mad.
I remember when I was a senior in high school, Mom told me that my grandmother had suffered from dementia. I didn’t think this condition was hereditary, but it was the only thing that explained this situation. What else could make this woman NOT feel compelled to make me feel like shit once she saw me?
There would be no berating or belittling today, or ever again. No little speeches that started with phrases like, “If you had done what I told you…” No occasions where, if I told her she did something that hurt my feelings, she would deflect and say, “Oh yeah? I didn’t hurt your feelings when I kept you fed and clothed, or when I kept a fucking roof over your head!” No situations where, if she and I were arguing, and we got to a point where she couldn’t argue anymore, she would take a cheap shot at me by saying something like, “Go brush your teeth. Your breath stinks.”
My limbs were trembling with fear, but as the reality of the situation hit home, that emotion dissolved. She was less than arm’s length from me, but there was nothing to worry about because verbal abuse originated with words, words originated in the mind, and her mind was shot.
I looked upon this woman stumbling toward me not as some hideous monster who broke free from a nightmare to torment my waking life, but as a sad, pathetic, shell of a human being. There was nothing about her to be feared, only pitied, or maybe even mocked, if one were inclined to do so, turning her into the butt of countless jokes as she hobbled along making her nonsense statements. She was on the same block as me, but she may as well have been a million miles away.
Once Mom passed me, she no longer looked my way. In her mind, it must have been like she had just walked past a sign post. I watched this pathetic figure from behind, and I laughed. Why had this woman ever scared me? How could I have ever let her dictate how I felt about myself? God, I’d wasted my childhood being concerned on whether she was proud of me or not! However, I wasn’t going to beat myself up over that lost time. It was done, and I was free of her control.
With a smirk on my lips, I approached dear old Mom. As I passed her, I looked at her and said, “Not so tough without your wits about you, huh?”
I laughed and kept on walking toward the bar. It couldn’t have been any higher than forty degrees out, but my pride burned so strongly that it was like I had the sun trapped inside my chest.
Then another sentence from the mad woman drifted over my shoulder, and that glow was extinguished immediately.
“I always knew you would grow up to be worthless.”
My pace slowed and stopped. The corners of my mouth dropped. Suddenly I felt the cold winter air piercing me right to the core. What a shock to the system, to find out she wasn’t as out of it as I’d thought.
I turned back around, ready to fight this woman. I had come too far, put in too much effort to build up my self-esteem, to let her tear it down with just one lousy sentence. It wasn’t going to happen!
“What did you say, you crazy old bitch?” I screamed, drawing the attention of two men who rounded the corner behind her.
“Hey, man, that ain’t right!” one of them said. “What do you think you’re doing, yelling at an old woman like that?”
I opened my mouth for a reply, but I stopped when I looked at Mom. She had turned and walked in the opposite direction. Now she stood on the street corner, aimlessly walking in circles and muttering nonsensical things again. All I caught was one sentence, “Marmaduke should have it so good!”
Good Lord, she was back to her demented phrases, and it was less than ten seconds after she’d said that degrading statement to cut me down.
Or had she? Looking at her now, I had to wonder if she’d really said it, or if it had just been in my mind.
The two gentlemen got closer. My lack of an answer angered them.
“So you were rude to her, and now you’re gonna ignore us?” the shorter of the two said. “I suggest you get movin’ before you get hurt.”
I couldn’t fully compute what he was saying, but I knew I didn’t want to get my ass kicked. I answered him with a nod, turned away, and continued toward my initial destination. Although it was only a few yards away, it seemed like I had to walk from one end of the city to the other.
And in that short space, my mind was flooded by a barrage of unwanted inquiries. I once again revisited the question, “Had she made that statement or not?” This was followed by new curiosities, and I found myself wondering if this meant I was going crazy too. However, more importantly than that was the question: even if she DID say it, why had it bothered me enough to cause such an emotional response? After all, hadn’t my time in college away from her freed me from her grasp? Hadn’t I spent the last several years finding out who I was when I wasn’t under her influence, coming to believe that I was a good, valuable person who deserved to be proud of themselves? Hadn’t I fought like a madman to overcome the restrictions she had placed on my life, to abolish the fear she had instilled in me?
I thought I’d accomplished all this and more, but if she could undo all that hard work with one lousy sentence, then had I ever achieved anything at all? Did this mean the last decade of my life had been an illusion?
I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on it. No, not today of all days. I left my house despite this godforsaken size curse hanging over my conscience. If THAT couldn’t terrify me, then I’d be damned if I was going to allow this basket case to occupy any more of my day than she already had.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
If you like what you have read and would like to purchase this serialized novel as one complete PDF, then please send $3.50 to Steve via PayPal: email@example.com
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.