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 19, 2008
Woke up this morning much later than I meant to. Thank God my job doesn’t have a set schedule. I work an eight-hour day just like anyone else, but my day doesn’t start until I decide to clock in.
And while I’m thanking that ancient unseen, unknowable deity I’d like to also praise Him/Her/It for the fact that I’m not having any problems downstairs this morning. Dragging all that extra weight around gives me all sorts of back problems. It’s almost enough to make me long for the times when I am a member of the Ken Doll Club.
The pressure from dear old mother was on once again. This time it was about choosing a college. Wanting to put this torment to an end as soon as I could, I quickly settled on a school in Los Angeles, California. If you asked me the name now, I couldn’t even tell you. Honestly that’s how little I cared about my education. My only concern was escaping my suffocating home life. What better way to do that than pick a college that was on the opposite side of the country?
I coasted by the first two years out there, getting all my general education requirements out of the way. My roommate had a Playstation 2 and an Xbox, and it’s no exaggeration to say that those video games got twice the attention that my studies did. As I’d predicted, my grades slipped. Instead of all A’s I was getting all C’s, but I kept my GPA high enough to avoid flunking out and having to go home.
During the summer, I took as many bullshit courses as I could to avoid the trip back east. When it came to holidays and extended breaks (for example, in December we were given a month off between semesters) I learned the college would close the dorms and expect most students to go home. To remedy that, I made friends with some Japanese students. They were in America only for school, and the administrators certainly weren’t going to make them fly all the way back to Japan every time the school had a day or two off. (To convince them to let me crash at their place, I had to sell them some “hard knock life” story about how I had no family to go home to.)
Aside from being away from the Queen of Stifling Rules, there was one other thing I came to appreciate college for. Simply put, I could learn about the kind of person I truly was when I didn’t have someone oppressing me. I found out there was a different personality inside me that had been buried beneath years of mom’s bullshit. Not to sound arrogant, but I realized I was an easy-going, very likeable person. Once the weight of my mother’s influence was lifted, my social life grew by leaps and bounds.
I’d known what it was like to have friends, but this experience was different. If they called me up to hang out in their rooms and order a pizza or watch a movie, I could go over there without hesitation. On the weekends when these frat guys I knew had a party, they’d call me up and I would gladly go to it. (They tried getting me to pledge, but I never caved in on that issue.) At long last I had the freedom I’d seen my peers enjoy since I was in grade school.
There were still parts of college life I missed. My name was known in just about every dorm on campus. By the end of my freshman year, some of my partying antics had already become the stuff of legend. Yet when it came to the opposite sex, I could not find a single woman that would go to bed with me. This was a hard lesson to learn: an active social life does not necessarily lead to an active love life. No matter how many women I met, I could not break out of “let’s just be friends” territory. It was either that, or they loved me like a brother. The most action I saw was near the tail end of my freshman year when Tracy Corliss (a hottie that every guy in school wanted) put her head on my shoulder and let me put my arm around her all night.
The question one might be inclined to ask: why did she let you do that?
And here is the punch line: earlier that night she’d walked in on her boyfriend getting head from some other girl. She came to me for consolation, and I gave it to her. Just like a good brother would.
It was frustrating to see all those cheating pigs snagging babes like Tracy and then betraying them time and time again. But I knew why they did it: for them, pussy was always readily available. I used to drive myself crazy wondering why women always fell into the same traps. Why did they continually date guys that cheated on them, insulted them, or even hit them?
Years later I realized it was because they just weren’t raised to know any better. After a while they got so accustomed to the abuse that the absence of it seemed strange. Can you imagine a woman who thinks it’s more normal for her boyfriend to call her “bitch” instead of addressing her by her real name? And on those rare occasions when she does find herself dating a so-called nice guy, they wind up dumping him faster than you can say, “Suck my cock, you whore!” Eventually, some of them do grow up and realize you don’t have to be with a guy who smacks you around all the time, but I would have to wait quite a long time before I met a woman like that.
I had become quite the big man on campus, coasting by on my C average and living the kind of social life I’d always wished for at home. This was like living a dream.
But then my advisor threw a bucket of cold water in my face when she told me I had to pick a major before my sophomore year was over. The thought of having to be serious about school again frightened me. Then again, if I didn’t pick a major I would have to quit. And the thought of going home was much less appealing.
As I slid toward the end of year two, I struggled like crazy to decide on a major. It was the most effort I’d put into college up to that point. I figured since the school had (unknowingly) done me the favor of rescuing me from my home life, the least I could do in return was settle on something I’d be interested in.
Deciding on a major became the only thing I thought about. Weeks and weeks of obsessing went by. One morning I woke up, and I just snapped. The waiting drove me to the point where I had to give myself a strict order: I was not going to leave my dorm room until I picked a major.
I sat on the floor in the lotus position, wearing nothing but a pair of tighty whities, my bed head hairdo still in effect. The rising sun shot arrows of light through my window, piercing my retina. I didn’t move. My phone rang ten times or more, but I remained as immobile as a still-life painting. When I felt the urge to move my bowels, I clamped my cheeks down. Mother Nature, you bitch, I’m refusing your call! This body will not move until my mind has been made up!
The only body parts allowed to move was my eyes. Scanning the room of two teenage bachelors. Absorbing the images of abandoned dishes and cups cluttering the floor, dirty clothes thrown into laundry baskets (or near them), the Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana posters hanging over my bed. Not much of interest lay on the other side of the room. All we had there was my little two-shelf refrigerator, which had doubled as a makeshift entertainment center with the Playstation 2 and Xbox sitting on top of it.
And then the answer came to me.
Made by Microsoft.
Computers! Information technology! Network administration! At this point in history, the field was still growing. If I got into it right away, I could graduate and get a job long before the market was saturated. I had my answer!
I untangled myself from the lotus position and took care of the most important thing first, namely dropping the load I’d forced myself to retain several minutes ago. (Getting my sphincter to cooperate with me again was more of a hassle than I cared to deal with. Thank God I wouldn’t have to suffer through this again!) Once that hurdle had been cleared, I called my advisor to tell her the good news. She set up a time for me to meet with her and pick next semester’s classes.
At long last my college career had a purpose other than escaping mom’s grasp. Junior year saw my grades shoot back up to straight A’s. My roommate’s video games started to gather dust as we both buckled down on our studies. There were still tons of emails and phone calls from my two-year-old social life, but I found myself naturally adept at juggling schoolwork and fun.
Despite the livelihood I was enjoying out there on the West Coast, I had this strange feeling of emptiness inside me. Part of it was due to the lack of romance, but that wasn’t the whole picture. Sometimes late at night, after all the lights were out and the only sound filling the air was my roommate’s buzz saw snore, I’d find myself lying in bed wide awake, staring out the window at all the sparkling stars. My mind would start to wander, and I’d ask myself, “I wonder what all the other billions of people out there are doing right now. How are they enjoying their freedom?”
It was a question I asked myself quite often on those lonely, friendless nights when I lived in my mother’s house, and that was when I realized where this emptiness came from: strange as it may sound, I missed my home.
No, change that. I missed my hometown.
Over the course of my last two years at school, this sense of home (town) sickness kept on growing. It got to the point where I started counting down the days to graduation. My plan was to go back to upstate New York and stay in a weekly motel until my newly-earned degree got me an IT job. (The advisor told me that, even though my freshman and sophomore years were full of C’s, it wouldn’t matter because many companies would want to see how well I did in the courses related to the IT field, and I was acing those.)
With the help of my friend the Internet, I researched rates on weekly motels in Albany, NY. Once I’d determined the fairest price, I got myself a part-time job as a movie theater usher and saved every penny. Eventually I had enough cash put away to afford a three-month residency at a placed called Hotel 87, so christened because it was right at the end of Interstate 87.
Lots of people wondered why I would want to go back home when I was living in such a massive, incredible city like Los Angeles. My advisor was shocked when I told her I would be looking for a job on my own back in Albany instead of utilizing the university’s career development center to find local employment. Quite frankly, the West Coast didn’t impress me as much as it does other people. Back home there were streets and neighborhoods I already knew. Once upon a time, I’d had friends in the Capital Region. Now, with my razor-sharp social skills and absolute freedom from my mother’s insanity, I would be able to have them there again. It was time to give my hometown a mother-free try. It wouldn’t be too hard. After all, once I went to college, I didn’t contact her. I did not give her my dorm room, phone number or my school email. She sent me letters the old-fashioned way through the United State Postal Service, but I threw them out without even opening them. She would have no way of knowing I was back in town.
The future seemed so exciting. I thought it was full of endless possibilities. It felt like the world was mine, if only I kicked myself in the ass to put out the effort to take it. That is the wonderful thing about being young. You can get away with being arrogant. Of course, the downside of that is how life likes to slap you down when you are soaring at your most cocky. And I had no idea how vicious of a slap I was in for.
Dammit, I think I just felt something going on down there. Need to check it out. Well, this is probably as good of a spot as any to stop for tonight.
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: 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.