Tuxedo shirt half-tucked, jacket still on, tie loosened and collar open, bottle of Crown grasped around the neck and at my hip. That’s how I crossed the hotel lobby and that’s how my friends’ wedding weekend began to end for me.
“You look like a villain, the Penguin or something,” commented Brian, another friend in the wedding party.
His observation may have proven to be somewhat prophetic. I would soon journey into personal realms uncharted, or at least step just across the border.
The wedding was beautiful and unique, creatively and lovingly planned by the bride and groom as a representation of themselves and their friends. Baseball motif, a theme song for each member of the wedding party. My friends pulled off an original, sincere occasion they’ll cherish as they grow old together.
As is the nature of these events, family and friends were grown beyond the immediate trees of the bride and groom. Lives were connected and paths crossed.
One of my connections and new friends from the weekend is writer J. Travis Grundon. Travis, whose work includes bold, edgy and sometimes horror-themed fiction, has been a contributor and editor for multiple anthologies.
As we travelled the matrimony periphery of the weekend, Travis and I discussed our writing. He mentioned an anthology he had in the works, a collection of transgressive fiction entitled Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction. I wasn’t familiar with transgressive fiction. Travis explained to me that the genre casts characters who often act contrary, sometimes to the extreme, to social norms and deals with extreme, at times taboo, topics. Then he mentioned he was still looking for stories for the collection and invited me to submit something. I appreciated the suggestion, but wondered if I actually had anything that would be a good fit.
A couple of weeks passed and I settled into the thought that I likely had nothing that would work in Travis’ anthology. Then something funny happened on the way to another weekend of sake-buzzed Facebook status updates.
On a Thursday, I noticed a Facebook post that a story by the recent groom, Todd Theroff, would be appearing in Fracas. Then there was a comment by Todd that he had heard I was going to have a story in the collection. Next, Travis’ sent me a text asking if I would be submitting something. By now, it was Saturday.
“How long do I have?” I asked.
“I’ll do my best.”
I packed up my laptop and headed to one of my favorite sake serving bars. With the Hakutsuru Draft poured, I gathered up a few random, rogue paragraphs, collected overheard bits of conversation and tried to sink into places of my consciousness opened by the sake and general contemplation. It had to be different than my other writing. It had to push the envelope, at least for me.
I’m not exactly a prude. I’m definitely no saint. My optimism is tempered with caution and realism. I like my art, music and film flavored with a bit of darkness. Still, I knew I needed to go at least a little further for this piece.
Three bottles of sake later, I had a solid start on something a little different for me. I also had a direction for the rest of the story. The next two days, around sleep and work on Monday, I finished a first draft to submit to Travis. A first draft that included the first sex scene I’ve ever written. Sort of.
I qualify that last declaration because my first sex scene is pretty tame by today’s standards. But, fact is, believe or not, I had never really gone there in my writing. With the impetus to get together something to submit for the collection, I opened myself up to ideas and scenes outside of my usual writing box. I stretched a bit in my writing. For that, and including me in Fracas, I have Travis to thank.
I have a feeling that, in the context of the finished anthology, my story will seem like Jimmy Olsen stumbled onto the street where Charles Bukowski lives in an apartment over William Burroughs’ garage. Just the same, I’m excited to be included and am very much looking forward to sharing pages with several talented writers creative and courageous enough to write beyond the many still existing social boundaries, challenging us all to examine, from different angles and on multiple levels, our lives, our world and ourselves.