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.”
September 18, 2008
I can’t remember the last time I slept so good. Usually my condition keeps waking me up at random times, but I feel fresh and well-rested this morning. In fact, I feel so good that I am going to leap right back into my autobiography here.
As I said in the previous entry, Mom’s already restrictive rules wound even tighter around me after Dad left. Let me see if I can recall all the changes.
I had to head home immediately after school. This meant I could not participate in any extracurricular activities like sports (which I hated anyway) or theater. My friends had to come to my house to hang out. On those rare occasions when I convinced mom to let me go out, she would insist on a very specific curfew. On top of that, she would pick me up instead of letting me get myself home. And if I wasn’t ready to go by the time she rang my friend’s doorbell, then you better watch out because the woman would stir up such a scene that I’d never wind up being allowed to go over to that person’s house again. Slowly but surely, it got to the point where the number of friends I had could be counted on one hand. Not long after that, I could tally them up by using my thumb and pointer finger to form the shape of a big, fat zero.
At the time, I hated my peers for deserting me. In my book, every single one of them was a disloyal rat bastard. They saw what kind of living hell I was in, being stuck at home with this nightmare of a parent figure. I needed as many friends as I could get. How could they turn their backs on me?
For a while most of them tried engaging me in conversation at school, but that only served to make the fire of my fury burn brighter. I wanted to yell at them, “What good does your friendship do me HERE, you pricks? My mom isn’t in the classroom with us. School is already an escape for me. What I need is friends outside this place, and you all abandoned me!” I drew further and further into my shell, not realizing this self-isolation meant I was doing mom’s work for her.
It wasn’t too far along in my alienation before I picked up writing. Horror stories became my specialty. They were the vehicles I used to vent my anger. When I look back at those writings now, I realize they were pretty much all the same story. Each one was about a bright, cheerful young man who was wronged by those around him. Sometimes this injustice resulted in a disfiguring of some sort; other times it led to his death. Whatever the case, the ending was always the same: the young man would have his revenge. Blood would be spilled.
Even though the main character was the one doing the killing, I made it clear that his so-called victims were the true source of evil in the story. They were the villains because they sucked the joy right out of him for no good reason, other than they wanted to make the protagonist suffer.
I didn’t even mention the amusing part yet, which is that all these characters (killers and victims alike) were thinly disguised versions of my former friends and, of course, myself. For example, one of my traitors was named Richard. In my fictional world, he became Ricky or Dick. (Usually he’d be called the latter, as it was short for his real name, and it also described what I thought of him.)
Before long I lost my bitterness. I matured dramatically, and I could understand why no one asked me to hang out anymore: none of them wanted to see my mother ranting and raving on their doorstep like a lunatic. (And I bet my friends’ parents didn’t want that to happen either. In fact, there’s a good chance that some of them stopped inviting me over because their parents told them to never have me back again.) They were only children. No child wants to deal with something like that. Such maniacal behavior is too much to bear. And I knew that better than all of them because I lived with her! My life was all about living with insanity; I had no other choice.
With that realization, the truth finally hit me. I wasn’t angry at my friends for abandoning me. My rage stemmed from the fact that they had something I didn’t: a choice. If they didn’t want to deal with my mom’s mood swings, they didn’t have to.
I wanted it so bad. Most people have wet dreams about a super-hot classmate or a supermodel. Mine were about simply living on my own. Yes, that was how bad I wanted to escape her clutches.
The only thing fueling my creative drive had been my hatred of my peers. When I found out that wasn’t the real reason I was so mad, the creative juices stopped flowing. Schoolwork became the next diversion from my hellish life. This obsession fit me like a glove because it made my days less stressful. Mom’s frequent tirades all but disappeared. No need to argue with me about where I was going if I stayed in my room studying all the time, right? Yes, it all worked out. At long last she had a son who didn’t send her into neurotic fits by going out all the time and I got to be left alone. Of course, there was one drawback to all of this: not only did mom leave me alone, but so did everyone else. I walked through the hallways of my school like a ghost. But if I kept in mind all the nagging I avoided by having no social life, I found I could tolerate it. In the absence of all the fights and the stress, loneliness seemed like a fair trade.
My name quickly rose to the top of the honor roll. Whenever it was time to see my guidance counselor, I had him load me up on all the honors and advanced placement classes that he could cram into my schedule. (The logic was simple: harder classes meant more studying and more homework, which meant less time spent around mom.) Without even realizing it, I reached a point where I had the option of graduating early. Most kids finish high school at seventeen; I could have it all wrapped up by fifteen.
Naturally mom was ecstatic about her genius son, and she wasted no time in constructing several plans for my future.
I remember coming home from school one day and seeing my bed covered with pamphlets. They were informational brochures about various colleges. Harvard, Yale, Vassar, RPI, Skidmore. You name a college, and I bet one of its pamphlets was on my bed. There were technical schools, law schools, film schools, and even a few schools that were best known for their chemistry and biology departments.
Looking at all the categories in those pamphlets would tell you a lot about the woman who left them there. Simply put, they said that she had absolutely no fucking idea what kind of person her son was, nor did she know what kind of school he’d be interested in attending. And if she had bothered to ask, it would have been no challenge at all for me to give her an answer: NONE OF THE ABOVE. I mean, was she kidding me? The only reason I’d studied so damn hard in high school was to get her off my back. Beyond that, education meant nothing to me. I became a genius by mistake. Now here I was, done with high school two years early and trapped into deciding on a future that I hadn’t even thought about pursuing.
My main reason for diving head-first into my studies was to get away from mom. In other words, if I went to a college that was so far away that I had no choice but to live on campus, then the distance would mean I had already escaped the nightmare. Therefore, the motivation to study would be erased, and I’d probably flunk out after my first semester. Then again, since I was still a minor, flunking out would mean having to move back home to be exposed to her hellish ways again. I didn’t want that to happen, but what else could I do?
There had to be a way to escape my torment.
Less than a day later, a solution hit me: I could work just hard enough to avoid failing. I doubted the motivation would be there to earn the same grades I had received in high school, but that was of no concern to me. The only thing that mattered was staying away from home.
An alternative would have been to go to a college within driving distance. Still living in her house would make me maintain the will to study. But to execute that plan, I would need a vehicle and a driver’s license. Mom had refused to let me take the test. As for a car, she would never buy me one and would burn in hell before she’d let me use hers. No surprised there really. After all, this was the same woman who damn near flew into an epileptic fit if I visited a friend that lived two doors down from us.
This is the part of my narrative where we stumble over a glaring contradiction that I could never resolve. All my life this woman would pester me about going outside, convincing me that some gruesome death would befall me if I took one step beyond our front gate. Yet she insisted that I go to colleges that were as far away as California or Washington! In what alternate universe can these two conflicting attitudes exist side by side in the same person’s mind? To this day, I can’t understand it.
One other goal I had to aim for was to sign up for summer courses so I could avoid home year-round. If I managed to do that, then college would give me four years of complete freedom. Not the kind I’d enjoyed at home, where I lived in mom’s house but avoided her nagging. I’m talking about a clean break. Total escape.
There was only one question that had me worried: since the academics themselves weren’t my main reason for going, I had no idea what courses to take. But this issue would probably resolve itself once I saw what my school of choice had to offer. My primary objective was to get as far away from mom as I possibly could. I chose a college in California because it was far away and had better weather than upstate New York.
Damn. I just looked up at the clock. Didn’t realize it was so late. (11:27PM, to be exact.) Time to pass out. More on this tomorrow.
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.