So I've published just about every short story I've written. Maybe I could've shot higher, but I am happy with where they were placed, especially the ones at the now-defunct Thuglit
, because Todd Robinson, the editor, fucking rocks, is one cool dude, and busted his ass for years giving a voice to the voiceless, my kind of people, the wretched.
But one of the stories that remains homeless, unfortunately, is the very first one I wrote. Not the first first; that would be a story about three people (an alcoholic woman, an unemployed man, and the owner of a shoe-repair shop), living in a very tiny town with only one street, which I wrote when I was backpacking through Europe, and which I saved for a long, long time. Until I became a junkie and lost everything like that. But before I embarked on this ill-fated "career" choice, I wrote a very short story about a fat kid and his puppy named Chuckles.
Chuckles was based on a conversation I had with another junkie in rehab, a bank robber named Russel who had the most amazing set of blue eyes you ever saw. Russel was saying nothing made him cry, so I tried to think of the saddest things I could. And a friendless fat kid's puppy getting run over seemed pretty fucking sad. So I thought it would make a funny story. Y'know, 'cause fat kids are funny. Anyway, no one will publish the fucking thing. I've tried rewriting it over the years, and with each rewrite what little charm there was is lost. So here is the original, which isn't perfect by any stretch, and I'd certainly change things, but like I said every time I do, I like the story less.
(This originally appeared in my first version of the memoir, for those of you wondering if it's true.)
On my twelfth birthday, I received as a gift from my parents a puppy, whom I named Chuckles. Already at this young age, I was grotesquely overweight, though my overbearing mother, so fond of smothering her precious baby boy, assured me, I was merely “big boned.” I had no friends to speak of, and was oft times the subject of sadistic taunting and ridicule at the hands of the older kids in the neighborhood who loitered and smoked cigarettes behind the laundromat. Chuckles and I became inseparable, he a loveable rascal, and I a fat kid. Knapsack packed with Twinkies, we’d steal away those blustery New England afternoons, hiding from the world in an abandoned tree fort I’d stumbled upon that had been gutted by a fire. I taught Chuckles tons of neat tricks, and, for the first time in my chubby life, I didn’t feel so alone. One Saturday morning, a few weeks after my surprise birthday party (at which only my cousin Timmy, a surly lad stricken with male pattern baldness at the tender age of fifteen, showed up), I took my new puppy, Chuckles, out for a walk. As Chuckles frolicked playfully at my side, lapping my thick sausage fingers with his hot puppy tongue, I saw her. I had been in love with Katie Ross since the 1st grade. (She never knew, of course, how many times I had scribbled her initials interwoven with mine, inside pink swirly hearts, on the inside cover of my notebook, lest my secret be detected.) Katie jumped double-dutch, on the basketball court pavement, with some of her girlfriends in the park across the street. She looked radiant, a curly-cued Kewpie doll to whom I would have pledged the remainder of my fragmented adolescent life, in blind obedience. There I stood, face pressed into the mesh of the wire fencing that kept me out, lovelorn and spellbound. I don’t know how long I’d been standing there before the unbelievable happened. Katie Ross, a girl who I thought never even knew I existed, beckoned to me to come over. With lumbering strides, my heavy, sweaty body heaved its massive girth through the swinging iron gate and over to the playground where she stood, giggling enchantment, with her friends on the tarmac. Gingerly outstretching her alabaster, nubile arm, Katie handed me a note. What happened next is still a blur, a rapid fire of images and sounds, but this is the moment indelibly imprinted on my mind: the crinkled unraveling of a perfume-scented piece of Hello Kitty paper, and its one word message: Fatso—the sound of screeching tires, the stench of burning rubber, the shriek of a little puppy who had been left unattended and unloved and forgotten for just a few minutes, the yelping and whimpering of the maimed little guy, and then, the roaring sound of a pervasive and deafening silence. I tore asunder from that chorus of giggling girls and ran as fast as my flabby, wobbly thighs would permit. I thought my brain would explode; my head pounded hard, throbbed, my spongy boy-breasts jiggled, and my stringy hair clung in caked on perspiration, as I made my way to the flattened tiny canine carcass. Behind me, in the park, I could still hear those girls laughing. I lifted Chuckles’s crushed and now lifeless body out from underneath the wheels of that sedan, and carried him home, fighting in vain to hold back the tears that would stain my pudgy, big boned cheeks.