A lot of time writers hate to go back and look at things they did when they were first starting out. I know I do–at least, with some stories. Those stories that I don’t want to see no longer exist, for they truly were masterpieces of shit.
My first real story was some cheap horror I knocked out in a matter of hours. I really wasn’t good and it ended with a couple of the oldest tropes in the book: an Apocalyptic Log with That Was the Last Entry tacked on. It was quite shitty and I believe I just erased it from my hard drive at some point because I never wanted to see it again.
But after I wrote a couple of stories for my creative writing course for adults and joined a writer’s group–which was a big mistake, but that’s another story for another time–I was ready to write. And not just write, but try and write a–gasp!–novel. Why? ‘Cause I determined that I couldn’t write short stories due to the fact I’m a wordy bitch. Everyone commented on the fast that while I seemed pretty good, I couldn’t write a story in 5,000 words if my life depended upon that.
What follows is the first thing I ever wrote for my novel Transporting, making this penned–if you wanna use that word–a some point in 1987. I know that because I worked at Playboy in Chicago in 1988, and while I walked to and from the train station to the office–a distance of about 13 blocks–I used to think about these characters and how they would fit into a multi-story arc. I’d also sit in my office during lunch and work on character building, so this part here had to come before.
Believe it or not, about 98% of what’s below is original. It’s been polished to fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but the words are mostly unchained. What I wrote 30 years ago is still there using the same voice, and I can’t say I’m displeased.
This is done in the form of a first-person diary–as you’ll see–while there are parts of the novel written–as you saw yesterday–in third person limited. There are two clues in this manuscript that indicates that the narrator is from Earth, but it’s probably not our Earth. You’ll figure it out, I’m sure.
So here you go: the 2,500 words that set me on the road to writing.
(Excerpt from Transporting by Cassidy Frazee, Copyright 2018.)
When it comes to finding the right thing to say, I always fall back on a movie for a good quote. Why? Can’t say. Most flicks suck total ass; crappy dialog, shitty plots, characters who disappear when they turn sideways—it’s all there. But when they’re done right, when everything is tight and well crafted and about as perfect as a well-oiled watch, they’re damn near magic.
That’s why when I’m looking for a quote to describe, in twenty-five words or less, my current outlook on any situation, I turned to the movies. Not every time, but I mean, shit, it’s not as if I have a musty corner of my brain filled with a millennium of witty things to fall back on. I got to get my material from somewhere.
Sure, there are good quotes that can be found in any number of books. And most of them were made by people a hell of a lot smarter than me. But I should point out that most of the time those quotes—they don’t always move me. You could blame my intellectual attenuation on bad TV or movies. You could, but you’d be discounting the three thousand or so books I read long before I arrived at this place I call “now” and you’d end up looking more of an asshole than me.
I’m not saying there’s nothing in literature that can compete with the visual medium. That’s complete bullshit. But “Ask not, what your country can do for you,” doesn’t hit home, to me, as much as “Just once, I want to do something right.”
Or maybe it’s the voice behind those words, they who speak the line that sticks in your head and makes it so real. I’ve read the line “There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.” And I’ve also heard a voice, a particular voice, quote that same line. When I hear the voice-over for that scene—the quote always brings a tear to my eye. Always. When I read it… if I don’t put Gandhi’s (or at least Sir Ben’s) voice to that quote, it means nothing.
It’s that magic I enjoy. That’s what I live for.
So why am I talking about quotes? What does this have to do with anything I’m saying right now? Not a goddamn thing, actually. Just thought I’d bring it up because I’m like that. I procrastinate by meandering.
Though in a way it does have something to do with this thing of mine, what I’m trying to put down, here through this electronic medium that can be recalled from about anywhere on the planet.
It has to do with why I’m doing this.
There’s a simple explanation for the why. It’s all Lynette’s doing. No, really. She was the one who had the idea to start a journal. I’d been the one who’d been pissing and moaning about a “lack of history” concerning what’s happened with me, to me, and she finally threw up her hands and yelled, “Dammit, why don’t you write about what’s happened? Stop complaining about a lack there of and do this thing!”
Easier said than done. Even though I’ve written stuff, I’m not sure I’m much of a writer. I can explain things—or can I? I remember, back in my old life, one of my bosses told me I was a “bad influence on others in our department” and that my written instructions were “hard to read.” I remember asking if he would instead say in my annual review that my written work was “incomprehensible to the point of inadvertent obfuscation” as that description was far more clear and precise. I thought the cocksucker was going to stroke out on the spot. That’s a manager for you. Fuck his stupid, monosyllabic butt. What the hell did he know?
(Can I mention that he’s dead—worms spit the best part of his ass out long ago—and I’m still kicking? If so, just one more time, with feeling—fuck you, dickwad. Thank you.)
I’m being hard on myself. Sue me.
I decided to do this damn thing if, for no other reason, than (1) it keeps me from drinking and/or getting high, and (2) it helps me remember everything that’s went down recently. Believe me, the first reason is good enough, and the second… there’s plenty to remember and talk about.
And I want to talk about it, I really do.
Even if no one other than The Gang of Four reads this shit, at least I’ll get a hell of a lot off my chest. Shit. My chest. You don’t know how fuckin’ silly that sounds, man.
Before coming to “now” I had a lot of baggage. Now—
Now it’s time to fall back on that movie quote.
I should revise that. A “TV quote” is what we’re really shooting for here, gang, but I’m splittin’ fuckin’ hairs, you know?
Once more, a quick diversion. There’s good news and bad news concerning my new home. One, I have access to just about everything recorded during the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. That’s the good. The bad news is just how goddamn bad the majority of this offal was! Christ! Ted Sturgeon was aiming a bit low when he said ninety percent of everything is crap. He should have adjusted his numbers upward based on the last two decades of the Twentieth Century. I mean, after 1980 we definitely started inching into something akin to tau zero numbers. While the overall Craptacular percentage might, after years of trying, hit 99.9999999%, we would never actually reach one hundred percent the Speed of Complete Shit. Because, try as Hollywood might, a gem would always float to the surface of the cesspool that was American Culture I used to know and—ah, hem—love. Sometimes this happened by design, more often by sheer dumb fucking luck. But it did happen.
So while I’ve pissed on a lot of things, I have also managed to dig a few gems out of the shit, and these have, in some way, left a splendid and lasting impression upon my soul.
There was this show that popped up latter half of the Twentieth Century. Strike that. Last years of the Twentieth, first of the Twenty-first. Got it? Good. It was pretty cultish in its day—you know, 150 channels then and nothing on, so there was a great deal of competition to prevent it from getting great viewing numbers, but it had a very loyal following for the five years it was on. It was about alien teenagers growing up in, of all places, Roswell, New Mexico—hey, I hear you snickering out there. Fuck off, bitches. I liked it. It was… I don’t know. Strange. In a good way.
(In a slightly off-the-rails-once-again yet on-subject topic, ‘cause I’m good at that shit: I once asked Tommy about the Roswell Crash. Tommy can be a right bastard when he wants and he hates it when I start grilling him about these old paranormal events because he doesn’t give two damns about them. So the day I got into him about the crash he grew extremely pissy, got red in the face and began spouting the party line: that it was a US military test, no extraterrestrial ship had ever crashed on Earth, that people then wanted to believe something from another world had landed. I remember him saying—screaming, really—”It never occurred, it was all a stupendous fantasy, why do you continue wasting my time with this RUBBISH?” Of course I had to mention that I’d tried using Heather to access a MOS database and discovered that what I was looking for was secured under a 16,384 bit encryption key, so if this was just some fantasy, then what is your government so fuckin’ eager to hide? Tommy got very quiet for about twenty seconds, staring off into space as he normally does when he knows he’s being fucked and doesn’t want to lose face. He finally rubbed his chin and said, “I’m positive it’s nothing important,” then spun on his heel and left in a huff. So maybe there’s nothing in that database. But I’m going to crack that fucker one of these days if it’s the last thing I do.)
Getting back to my story… There was an episode on this show where a couple of the female characters—one human, the other alien—were hanging around after class on the school grounds, BSing and doing their toenails. The subject of relationships comes up. The human asks something about why the alien girl—who’s wildly hot, incidentally—why she doesn’t talk to people, or go out that much, and, gee, is it because you’re like from another world, huh? The alien girl asks the human, “Are you afraid? I mean to let someone in; to let someone see who you really are?” The human girl thinks about it—she’s just started to get a crush on Alien Girl’s brother, first-time love and all that crap, and knows sort of what Sis is asking about—and replies, “Yeah, of course I am.” Alien Girl looks Little Human Girl in the eye and tells her, “Well, multiply that by about a million,” which is meant to give an indication about how worried she is when it comes to people learning about the real her.
And that, my friends, sums up everything when it comes to me. That is exactly how I feel.
There’s so much I don’t want people to know, yet so much I’m afraid they’ll discover.
Lynette says that’s another good reason for doing this journal. She tells me it’s “cathartic” to let everything out. My thoughts. My feelings. My fears. All the junk that I’ve hidden for years, kept bottled up like some hundred year old wine I’ve been saving for that special occasion that is never special enough.
She doesn’t realize how much she’s asking from someone who never lets anyone in. How difficult I find it to open up. I feel as segregated from everyone as those aliens. Multiply their fear by a million? That would be start.
Partially that’s true. Partially it’s a cop-out, though. Cy knows all this was my idea. I think—I believe she’s the one that put the idea in Lynette’s head, but she’s hidden that memory away so I can’t see it. I know, what a little bitch. The least she can do is let me see if I was right, you know?
I know I spoke with her about doing something like this when we got back. But she knows that getting me to do instead of say are two very contrasting ideas. When it comes to working on something, like this, let’s say, I’m the biggest lazy ass in the world. I admit it. Mea cupla and all that rot. What can I do?
So Cy told Lynette. Lynette got in my ass. I got the push I needed.
Now I’m down to wondering what should go in here.
Fuck all that, Jack. I know what I should put here: everything. The things I learned. The way I’ve changed. (Should I say instead, “Become a new person?” Oh, my. Now that’s a fuckin’ scream.) The last two years.
That’s a lot of ground.
Actually it’s more than two years, but I’m not in the mood to start tearing down the structure of the universe this very moment to get it straight. Call it two years, dude, and we’re even.
I’ve spent a few days prior to now doing what I normally do. Sitting around and scratching ass. The usual. Then… movie time again. And another quote.
I was watching, for about the sixtieth or seventieth time, The Music Man. Great flick. Saw it the first time when I was about six and fell in love with it. Couldn’t tell you why, but can anyone explain love of anything to me? How it occurs? No? Thought not.
The Music Man is that way for me. The film is a love feast. Corny as all hell, but it still leaves you feeling as if you’ve been a part of something special when it’s over. Shirley Jones. Buddy Hackett. Hermione Gingold. And, in his Academy Award winning role, Robert Preston, the con man who always thinks there’s a band. No one else could play Prof. Harold Hill the way he did and I can’t imagine anyone else walking away with that award that year. (Okay, Peter should have gotten it, but I wasn’t voting. Is it my fault he was British and didn’t have a chance in hell?)
Here’s the scene: Harold’s conned just about everyone in the town about the bogus band that’s never coming and he’s getting ready to scoot with the loot. He’s conned everyone except Marion the Librarian, played by Shirley Jones. Harold finally gets her alone and asks her if she would care to meet up at the bridge in the park, the local Lover’s Lane. “’No, please’,” Marion begs, “’Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow?’”
And Harold looks as her with those sorrowful eyes he owns and tells her, “’Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.’”
I paused the movie—again. And remembered another time that line got me going—
It didn’t take a genius to know I’ve got too goddamn many empty yesterdays and can’t afford to piss away any more.
Harold was right.
So, I’ve finally begun. Jerking along like a car that hasn’t been run in a while, but I’m really doing this goddamn thing.
And trying to do it right.
I’ve got to lay out as much as I can. Tell what I remember. What I know.
Maybe I’ll leave something behind that, when it’s scanned, people will say, “So, that’s how that was done.”
But what I’m really trying to do: I’m trying to make this perfect.
I want to leave behind some magic. But to get to the end, I gotta start at the beginning.
And that’s a mess that, if I could, I’d have bleached from my brain and never miss a moment. But despite how drug and booze soaked my memories of that time are, I do remember how this all started.
October 13, 1986. A Monday. Christ, the day was suck-o. Chilly, about 45, with a low overcast and the wind cutting through your ass like a hot serrated knife. Some rain as well, but not much. Par for Chicago in the middle of October.
The day was shit and I had it off. I took it off. Called in sick. Why, you ask? Were you sick? No. So you wanted it off? Yes. For the love of all that’s good, why?
I knew it wouldn’t be a good day. It wasn’t the sort of day that you’d want to spend outdoor having fun.
About the only thing a fucked up day like that was good for was killing yourself.
Which, incidentally, was what I was planning…