Rocky Horror saved my life.

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the film “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. I will be going tonight to see a cast perform (That Type) and shout obscene things at the screen. I have to, because Rocky Horror saved my life.

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon of Rocky Horror, my first question is ,how the hell did you find my site, and what rock have been under for the last forty years. If you’re not familiar, look it up. But how did it save my life? It didn’t do it like it did others, where it gave them a safe space to be who they were, or the freedom to embrace who they really were. It’s done that  for hundreds, if not thousands of gay,lesbian,bisexual and transgender people across the globe. But that’s not my story.

My story begins with my former best friend Brian dragging me to see it one cold ass fall night in 1985. RIP to Lakehurst Mall and General Cinema, I miss you both.It was not the best experience. There were only two guys acting out in front of the stage, and they did not that great a job. Mainly because they were drunk as squids. But I did the Time Warp,and had my Rocky cherry broken. Afterwards,we were talking to the two guys.Both were standoffish,because we were both D & D playing nerds. The shorter one snorted at the mention of D & D, saying “You should meet my brother and sister. They’re always playing that shit”. That was my first introduction to my future brother-in-law, Larry Hund.

I could write volumes about Larry,but I’ll just narrow it down to the part where he became a Rocky legend. He was performing with our local cast (RIP Denton’s Revenge), and had gone grocery shopping beforehand. He was doing crowd participation, and was drunk again. When the time came to throw toilet paper(when Brad says “Great Scott!”) Larry reached for the toilet paper and threw. He didn’t throw that, instead he’d grabbed a Krakus canned ham and thrown it. Tore a six foot gash in the screen. Lakehurst didn’t let Rocky back for a year.

The Rocky part of the story takes a break now ,at least for high school. I ended up meeting my future wife,Lianna, and Brett,now my brother-in-law, at a pool party at the high school. Next came D & D, then proms. I got introduced to Larry Sr. and Jenny, the best in-laws in the world. I also got a Terri, and tried to return her immediately.(Just kidding, Terri!Still the best sister-in-law in the world!)They showed me what real family looked like,compared to the nightmare at home.Somewhere in there, I asked Lianna out, and she turned me down. I don’t blame her. I was a mix of “Waldo” from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video and Leonard from “Big Bang”. I had no money, no car, and no game.

After high school, I was a mess. Community college, parental divorce,a severe dry spell in the ladies department,  and exposure to wider schools of thought had left me a nihilist with serious attitude. I was living with my dad in a two story house, and had gotten tot he point where a noose was always hanging off the stairs. Tried it once, ended up ripping out the lighting fixture. It was fun explaining that away.

It was about this time that Rocky walked back into my life. Brett and Brian had both gotten jobs at Lakehurst Cinema, and told me about the cast and show every Saturday and Friday.I went, and this time it was love.

Most people who wax nostalgic about Rocky are about playing in the cast. For me, it was always about crowd participation. The idea of shouting back at stupidity in movies was so much fun. Combining that with Rocky’s core ideas about pleasure, and “don’t dream it, be it”, sparked an angry “fuck the world” positivity in my skull.

Rocky was also opening my eyes to a bigger world of sexuality. Cast members were all across the spectrum, with the lead actor, Ace, being the first transvestite I’d ever really gotten to know. There were punks and freaks galore. People like Lon,Heath, and Katy, our regular cast. Joey, the gay Jewish racist skinhead.Angel, Ace’s wife, whose one remark”My god, Trevor, you have hips, use them”, may be the only reason I have any dancing ability at all.Chance, head of crowd participation ,and the biggest asshole in the world.

There’s so many memories related to that time. Covering sleeping sailors in toilet paper and popcorn. Our lighting guy having sex with his girl in the second row, which resulted in the best shadow show ever.Hiding Joey after he ran through a showing of “House Party”  yelling “White Power” at the top of his lungs on a bet.And so many late nights at Lakehurst Denny’s,arguing and bullshitting until the sun came up.

I could do an entire thing on Brett injuries during that era. Headbutting an exit sign. Breaking the wall under the screen duckwalking as Dr. Scott when he didn’t have a wheelchair. Falling off the hood of a car riding it through the parking lot.

Rocky forced me out of my shell in so many ways. I was a total man ho, having more sex during that year than during the next three. It also forced me to rethink all my prejudices, and opened my eyes to so much.

Much like Rocky, my time there ended in tragedy and death. I’d already slowed down going when I got the call. Larry, my not yet brother-in-law, had drowned at a lake in Wisconsin. I went to the funeral. It was first time seeing Lianna since she’d gotten married right out of high school. I hadn’t seen Larry since her wedding, when he’d led us all in the “Time Warp” at the reception. My last memory of Larry alive is of him dancing.

The funeral was surreal. Lon,Heath and Chance were there with some of the cast. Lon had gotten married that morning, so he wins for having a stranger day than me. I saw Lianna for the first time in a year that day, along with Jennifer, my future stepdaughter. The service is a blur,all I can really remember is feeling numb. My biggest memory of the day was getting Brett drunk and watching him dance on the roof of a car at Bowen Park. We all process grief in our own ways.

I left Rocky after that. Chance and Heath’s attitude problems had gone nuclear, and the cast was falling apart. There were brief runs to other casts and locations.I went to Terri I had fun watching Edwin and Gene at Mundelein, and ran into Lon and Katy at Mt. Prospect. But I was older, and had new worlds to conquer.

Flash forward to 2000. I’d returned back to the Waukegan area(Kenowhere), after stays in Minnesota and St. Louis. I’d followed a girl back, but found something else instead: real love.

Lianna was divorced by this time, a single mom with three daughters. To say that this was a boss level in dating  would be an understatement. Dating a single mother is not for the weak of heart, and you have to get your act together.There were fights,breakups, and then a proposal in front of a thousand people onstage at First Avenue.She said yes, and we’re still here eleven years later.

Rocky influenced me as a stepdad. My years of doing crowd participation have left me with what I call “Rocky’s tourettes” because I can’t see scenes from the movie without talking back. My stepdaughters refuse to put it on unless I leave the room.Though I do stop now if little kids are around.

Rocky changed my family life as well. Terri met her husband Andy at Rocky Horror, and I’m sure both of them owe it more than even I do. And they’re both awesome, though I’m glad they don’t have pictures of Andy in lingerie.

Rocky saved my life,because without it, I don’t know if I’d ever had met my wife. Without her and the Hunds, I’d have no idea of what family really is.I’d still be in some dive apartment in Kenosha, alone and not really living.Rocky allowed me to become the open minded person that  could admit that I was broken and try to fix myself enough to try to be a good husband and stepfather. It allowed me to  DJ at gay bars in Minneapolis and have friends across the entire spectrum of humanity,all while wearing a skirt in downtown Atlanta.And its mantra of “Don’t Dream It. Be It.” has kept me up during so many low times. So thank you, Rocky. I’ll be in the Zen room if you need me.

John Hartness: A Tag-Team Novella review

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of John Hartness as an author and person. It amazes me that his work hasn’t broken bigger,because the guy works his stories like a NoDa hooker. He’s a regular at cons and is always working. He pulls no punches, in both his writing and advice. Go look at johnhartness.com and tell me I’m wrong.

John’s latest creation is a series of novellas starring a fellow by the name of Quincy Harker. He’s the son of Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He’s long lived, heals quick,and Vlad calls him nephew.

The first novella,Raising Hell, starts off with the exorcism of a teenager pregnant with a demon, and barrels through the next 106 pages like that last Mad Max movie. The body count is high, but the action never lets up. Our hero has a foil in one Detective Rebecca Flynn, who tends to show up every time things go south for Quincy. Which happens a lot with tracking down the man behind the attempted demon birthing. Villains are stopped, plans are halted, and lots of people die.

This is modern urban fantasy/pulp at its finest. I’m a fan of the Andrew Vachss school of minimal expression in favor action, and this initial outing provides it in spades. Hartness writes with fluid action sequences, and sharp dialogue.If I have any complaint at all about the novella, is that it’s a little too similar in spots to Hartness’s other series, Bubba the Monster Hunter.

That notion was immediately destroyed upon reading the next novella, Straight to Hell. If the first book suffered from similarity to other Hartness works, this one steps the game up at least two notches. It’s nearly twice as long, and the extra length gives Hartness time to really show his stuff. What starts off as a simple babysitting assignment turns into a race to save the world. Hartness takes a simple concept, the Lion of Judah, and extrapolates it into a end of the world scenario and our heroes are trying to beat the clock before everything falls apart.

The extra length also allows Hartness to develop the characters, and not just Flynn and Quincy. The dialogue is even better, and background characters such as Dracula’s current Renfield and a mysterious MIB type are fully fleshed out. Hartness is firing on all cylinders, and amidst the action, found time to place scenes that actually moved me.

Both these books are fun,fun reads. But with the quick pace of publishing these(two in six months), it’s interesting to see how both the writing and the characters develop.If I had to to put it in musical terms, Raising Hell would be a track from Metallica’s Kill’em All, and Straight would be from Ride the Lightning. If that means the next is from Master of Puppets, bring it on. Just nothing from St. Anger, Ok?

It’s safe to assume that I like both of these a lot..Hartness’s work has always been entertaining, and sometimes thought provoking. These two continue the trend, and leave me wanting more. Go get them,and tell them Trevor sent you.

Raising Hell:  three and a half Stone Cold Stunners

Straight to Hell:  Four Paul Heyman Promos

 

“Hisses and Wings” review

Team-ups between authors can be an interesting proposition. Sometimes they’re  awesome(King and Straub’s The Talisman), and sometimes they’re dreadful(The sequel, Black House). So it was with curiosity and nerves I approached Hisses and Wings, the first ever novella pairing noted writer Alex Bledsoe and a newer writer, T.Frohock.

In all fairness, I will admit  some serious prejudice when it comes to Mr. Bledsoe. I found his first Eddie Lacrosse book, The Sword Edged Blonde, some years ago in a library. I was amazed, then jealous that no one else had thought to combine a Mickey Spillane style detective with heroic fantasy,then had the nerve to carry it off so well. I lost track of him for a few years, then a magazine pointed me to his Tufa novels, which were the best urban fantasy I’d read since DeLint’s Newford books.

The Tufa are featured in this tale, Fae who live in the Appalachia region of eastern Tennessee. Much like the real life people there, they live in mostly quiet isolation,cut off from much of the world.The story begins with a young Tufa  named Janet,who finds out about a lost song. The Tufa invest much of their magic in song, and this one might get the Tufa back to the world of the Fae.

Janet follows the trail of the song to a group of people known as the Nefilim. According to most Christian accounts, the Nefilim were the offspring of angels and humans. In Frohock’s world, they are the result of mating between both angels and demons. They’re gathered together for the solstice when Janet walks into their camp. They, like the Tufa, put their magic in song. So when Janet asks for the lost song, it comes down to a musical duel, not a violent one.  For what happens, and how it all ends, you’ll just have to read the story.

I enjoyed this novella. It was an interesting introduction for me to Frohock’s work, and I really liked her take on a Hispanic community of Nefilim. I’d like to see more of these characters and world. And I’m always ready for more Tufa. I’m not sure how well a Pagan/ Abrahamic mythology combination would work long term(I’m looking at you, Skyrim), but in the short run, it’s a well written meeting. So go buy it already, and thank me later.

Grade:A

To buy:http://tinyurl.com/k5moc6d

Alex Bledsoe:http://alexbledsoe.com/

T.Frohock:http://www.tfrohock.com/

Autographs

I had a free Saturday evening for once, since the wife and child had prior engagements. I could have cranked out a bestselling novel, but I went to my dealer instead. In other words, the bookstore.

I don’t have a local Independent. The nearest Indy is in Charlotte, and not my usual hangout. Nope, I’m a mall kid at heart, so I traipsed on over to our local,Concord Mills, the biggest mall in North Carolina.

Our local big box book dealer is Booksamillion, or BAM as the six million emails they send me a week say. I don’t loathe BAM(I will write it this way because it’s easier) the way I do B&N, and at least this one tries to support local authors.And at least BAM might hire back some day. Though BAM does have its annoying program, “Summer Says”, where a WASP-y woman tells you what she likes. I have no idea who this lady is, but rumor has it she’s married to the CEO of the company.

I went to BAM because their latest missive had promised 20% off to Millionaire’s club members. I am a member, mainly because it helps ease the cost of my current addiction,metal music magazines. I love metal music and journalism, so the things are like crack to me. And the best ones are imports, so it gets pricey.

I’d also gone in to see if they’d price match their 50% off price on Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking. I was going to wait for Yule,but that’s too good a price to last. Well it  had gone up since Friday morning,so it wasn’t that price online anymore(Disappointment #1. Annoyed, I grabbed my mags and headed to the counter, only to find you had to do some magic involving a tote bag and twenty-five dollars to get the extra discount(Disappointment #2).I left feeling angry, and skipped my usual people watching.

What got my attention and spawned this post, is that all of Palmer’s books were signed. The store also offered  signed books by Poehler and Rothfuss, both new releases. It made me wonder, what’s the point of getting signed books anymore?

I’m not against getting books signed. Hell, I have an entire shelf of them. But all  of them are signed to me, because I made the effort to go see these people in person. I had a brief moment with people whose works have given me joy,made me think, and in two cases, changed my life.I can tell you when and where every one of those were signed. So those have meaning.

What I don’t get is getting generic signed items. It’s never been a plus to anything I’ve ever bought, ever. Maybe some of you think”Ooh, the author touched it,shiny.”. But I think the sheer number of signed books cheapens the concept. It’s kind of like the difference between a date that ended, and cheap sex in a nightclub bathroom. One is a memory, the other is forgettable and disposable. I’d rather not have my books become cheap and sleazy. That’s my job, thank you.And honestly, how sure can you be they actually signed it. I checked Palmer’s,they were all different. But Poehler’s all looked identical.Go look up what a “Rapido” device is, folks.

I should mention that there is a big difference between the stuff BAM is doing and what’s called “signed stock”. Those are when an author has stopped in a store, maybe done an event, and signed copies of his/her books. I do think those are different, somehow. I’m sure someone will mock me for my illogic, but as the man once said, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

I do think there’s a market to be made in offering to get books personally signed and shipped. I just wish people would center on connections, and not superficial tokens.There’s enough superficiality in the world, let’s not  let it into books as well.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Dying time is Here”.

I tend to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. My favorite books are never bestsellers or critic’s darlings. I love wrestling biographies, counter culture studies, conspiracy theorists, and genre novels. All of which largely gets ignored by critics or sneered at.

One of my all time favorite books is As Bad As I Wanna Be, the first biography of Dennis Rodman. Yes, hate on him for the cartoon of greatness he’s become, largely due to drug and alcohol issues. But in his prime, especially with the Bulls, he was a thing of beauty.

In his book, he talks about sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the Joe Louis Arena, where he was playing with the Detroit Pistons. He was estranged from his daughter,his  team was falling apart, and life was,to his mind, not worth living. And there was a gun in his lap. To his mind, he died that night. He, in his words,”killed” himself that night. The old Dennis Rodman had to go, he was ready to die. And after that night, Dennis was never the same. He started coloring his hair, wearing earrings and tatting up.He was free,and that freedom cost him friends,family and sponsorships. It also raised his playing to new heights. Go look at his stats, before and after that moment. It’s a night and day difference. All the troubles for him in the NBA were never about how well he played. You don’t get four rings and the HOF by playing badly.

I’m thinking I’m at the same point in my life. I don’t like the current person I am. I’m stressed,fat, cranky and tired every moment of the day. I can’t produce words for shit.I read way too much. I surf the net way too much. I have a YMCA membership and website both gathering dust. My job has gone from bad to worse, with even more stress for less money.

I’m not sitting with a gun, folks. Doing that would hurt the people I care about way too much.I just need to cut off the old me, and become something new. I haven’t had the funeral yet, but I’m trying to tie myself to the longboat. My new prayer is this:

You’re a good guy. Write,eat healthy, exercise, get a new job. 

Punk, Heyman, Marcinko, Morse,Ziglar

You are loved. Write,eat healthy exercise, get a new job

Punk,Heyman,Marcinko,Morse,Ziglar

Now, if you know about Tarot at all, you should know that every time I get read, the Tower shows up. Every. Single. Time. So , by invoking the forces of Change, I invite Chaos as well. I don’t know what’s happening next, but something might fall apart. I’ll keep you posted.

A Lack of Character

I’m trying to start a regular writing program again, using the simple steps laid down by writing mage Chuck Wendig. I’ve racked my brains, finally came up with a  good concept or three or four.But once again, I’ve run into the same problem that has plagued my writing for a good decade.

I can write descriptive prose. I can write witty and concise dialogue. I prefer my work to be tight and punchy, not flowery bile. I can come up with plot threads, and a supporting cast that rivals a good RPG session. What I cannot do, for all the tea in Gaiman’s cupboard, is come up with a main character.

If someone would ever ask me what the main symptom of too much Game Mastering would be, it would be this. I spent years coming up with things for my players to do, and react to. But I was never much for being on the other side of the coin.

It’s very hard for me to admit this problem, and even more embarrassing to admit I have no idea what to do about it. All of my main characters have been mostly Mary Sue pastiches of myself.

So  I am throwing it out to you, writers of the universe. If anyone’s got an idea on how to fix this, please rant at me, smack me with a book ,or anything.

Lighter in the Dark.

There’s an apocryphal story told by John Fogerty,lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival. He tells of playing Woodstock,which most people don’t know about or have forgotten about. They went on about 3 in the morning, he says “right after the Grateful Dead put everyone to sleep”. Fogerty says they played two songs, and got no reaction from the crowd at all. They were debating pulling the plug when John saw a lighter flare in the dark, and a voice call out: “We’re with you,John!”  Fogerty says “We played for the next hour for THAT guy”.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my head.I’m coming up on a year with this website, and I’m debating whether to keep it or not. Granted, my track record of posting has been spotty at best. But I resolved to go along with Story a Day May, and see what happens. I managed to put out 15 stories in a month, a personal record. And what happened? Did people notice or  tell me,”Hey,you suck at this”? Nope. I got one comment from my mother-in-law the  first day.After that, nothing, utter silence. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, so I never enabled any sort of web analytics , so I have to go on comments or twitter reposts.

The bottom line is this: I need a lighter in the dark, folks. Someone to let me know that this thing is even fit for birdcage liner.  Ozzy says that”any reaction is a good reaction”, and he’s right. The worst thing is to have your work put out there, and the universe goes: “eh.”  And that’s what I;m getting right now.

I know my site design sucks. It’s about as fun to look at as Don Knotts naked. But if I’m going to re-enlist in this for another year, I have nowhere to go but up.  Maybe with some TLC, and some HTML lessons, I can get this thing looking better. And actually post more than once a week. But I’m so clueless as to how this is supposed to work for authors. I see how it works for some, and they post word counts, and what they’re working on. But half the time when I work on something, I have no idea if it’s going to be something, or if it’s going to die in a mass delete like so much of my stuff  does.

I’ll even make a deal with you all:If I get this lighter, and in 30 days , the site doesn’t look better, I will personally post video of me eating a hat. Probably a stocking, I hear they fry up real well.So here’s hoping folks. I’ve got six Chuck Wendig books on writing to chew on, and it’s time to put some wheels in motion. All I need is a spark.

PS. Yes I know this sounds whiny and pleading. But damn it, I spent the first decades of my life having my happiness be dependent on other’s happiness. This may be a remnant of that,but I’m also  learning, after decades of silence, to ask the universe for what I want and need, and to go after it. Don’t like it? Good. Tell me so.

Story a Day May 14

Yeah, I don’t know what part of my skull this leaked out of,either.

I look just like everyone else in this bar. Except where his brown is dirt, or Joe’s is tar, mine is dried blood. And no one even notices. I sip my cup of decaf, which I tell everyone is because my wife wants my weight down. Like she ever complains about anything anymore.

The coffee has cooled, enough time for my alibi. Not that I really need one. But you do as the Plan tells you, or you don’t do it at all. That’s why it’s the Plan. I tuck my hair under my John Deere hat and wave to Joe. He waves back, smiling.

It will be his last smile. His precious Avril will be on the news tonight, leaving him behind, just vanished. Not worried about them finding Avril,though. Amazing what ten gallons of lye, bleach and a local animal processing plant job will do for your body disposal needs.

My name? I don’t have one. I have masks, people I put on and off like you change clothes. The one guy who suspected me in Topeka called me 8-372, my case file number. They weren’t sure if I was one,two or three people. Not telling you,either.

One of my prey called me the Cuckoo. She said I was like the egg left in place of the regular bird. It was a clever idea, so as a reward, I did her quick. Still raped her, though. A body does have needs.

Why am I talking to you? Boredom. Plus the fact that you’re already dead. That shot I gave you is the best anesthesia money can buy. Keeps your mind going while rendering you as useless as a Cubs bullpen.

Or maybe, because I’m done. I’ve been at this for four decades now. Been all over with work, loved to travel. Got prey on six continents. Would have seven, if not for the damn military changing its mind. I sure changed my commanding officer’s mind. Like it was an air filter.

Sorry bout the dip. Picked it up to disguise myself, now I can’t stop. Becky’s told me I have to stop once I retire. Only thing she’s asked for when I retire.

Getting back to why I’m done. When I started, the thrill was so good. But then I got bored, and careless. Almost got caught. That’s when the Plan became law. And the Plan is simple. Don’t kill the same way twice. Don’t take trophies. Don’t hunt where you eat.

And it’s worked,as you can see. I’ve watched you for about a week now. Like most folks, you don’t pay attention to what’s around you. Thank God for cellphones. It’s made my hunts so much easier. One girl I just took down with a simple nudge of the bumper. Never saw it coming.

So now here we are. You’re fading now. Damn this bra hurts. You never saw that, did you? Especially since I have a wife. And you just thought we were roommates. Hopefully she’s making chicken…

Hey, is that a siren?

 

Story a Day May 13

Looking on track to be about 50 percent on this thing. That sucks.

Traci held her guitar,nervously practicing her chords over and over again. Why did the show have to be today, she wondered? She wondered why she’d even bothered signing up for this thing. Nobody at this school liked her kind of music. Unless you could shake your ass to it, bang your head, or drive a truck to it, her fellow students could care less about it. Lyrics were what ever you could shout along to in the chorus.

Things had been different in Charlotte. At least there, some folks had taste. Her last talent show had been a stew of jazz, classical, and other musical styles. So far, she was up against rappers and comedians.

She looked in the mirror, seeing her mother’s face and red hair in her reflection. It was the last place she’d ever see it. Exactly one year ago today, a drunk had taken her out as she was out getting the mail. Traci had been busy rebelling at the time her mother died, and things were hostile, so her death poleaxed Traci.

As bad as it was for her, for her father, it was worse. He had never quite recovered, and just seemed to be surviving, and nothing else. Traci knew he wasn’t going to make this, despite what he’d said. There wasn’t anyone to care about her performance tonight, least ways herself. But she’d muddle through, that’s one thing her mom had given her. As bad as it gets, once you say you’re going to, do it.

Lorne shuffled through the crowd, taking a seat near the back. His boss hadn’t minded when he asked for the night off. Lorne figured he owed Traci this much at least. The gun felt heavy in his coat pocket. One last night before he went away for good, to join her mother. Lorne had tried, but he was already dead. Nothing felt like anything. Ever since Mari’s death, he’d been going on autopilot.

He’d tried, he really had, to feel something, anything. But he couldn’t even cry. He’d seen a shrink, a priest, even tried talking to an escort. Hell, he’d tried having a domme beat some feeling into him. But nothing was there.

And he was so tired. Every day stretched forward, an unending streak of gray. He’d wondered for weeks if death would be better. He’d find out later, he hoped.

Traci stepped out on the stage, her eyes scanning the crowd. The little girl she’d been before the accident had hoped her daddy would be here. Deflated, she started the song, the words coming from somewhere else:

 

Where’ve you been?

I’ve looked for you forever and a day.

I’m just not myself when I’m away.

 

Lorne stared,open mouthed. He knew the voice coming out of Traci’s mouth, and it wasn’t hers. Mari had sung it to Traci, all that first year. It had been a hard birth, and it was touch and go that first year. But Mari loved that little girl, and had up until that last damned day.

 

Traci sang on, tears in her eyes. She’d found the tape in an envelope her mom had left with their lawyer. She’d wanted to play it for her dad, but anything to do with Mom, and he suddenly had work to do. This was the last piece of her mom she had, and she was going to let her Mom know that she cared that she was gone, even if Dad didn’t. She finished the song,then stopped.

There was no noise form the crowd, not one peep. But above that silence cam a cry of anguish and pain, a howl of loss and sadness.. And there he stood, his face in his hands, her father. She jumped off the stage, words failing, running into his arms, hugging.

 

 

 

Story A Day May 12

Johnny could hear the crowd as he walked to the stage. More importantly, he could feel them. Over the years, he’d gotten very rich off of being able to read a crowd, even from this far away. He stopped just short of the curtain, adjusting and primping. When you’re going to change the world, it was always good to look your best. After one final check in the mirror, he parted the curtain.

It was the air he liked best. Th feel of ten thousand people shouting at once, as he walked out. Flashes went off like shots, women screaming his name. Once again, Wiccan Warrior was headed to the ring.

It hadn’t always been like this. There had been lots of late nights in dingy gyms and freezing legion halls. All part of the price you paid to get to the top. The pian was there as he walked, he noted. After so many years, it was as normal a part of his day as twice getting up at night to piss. Pain was his only constant friend now. He could feel his joints pop as he parted the ropes, the twinge in his back reminding him why he was here, and what he had to do today.

Johnny had been courted to the big leagues after about five years in the ring. He’d gotten a reputation as a man who could put asses in seats, and show up on time. Both were a big plus in a business caring only about the show, and not how you got there, or what shape you left it in. So he’d gotten on a plane to New York, and waited for his life to change.

Wrestling was huge then, and kayfabe was still in effect. Johnny hid his wife and kids the first two years in the majors. He rose through the ranks, going from jobbing to mid-card. He put in his work, and worked on getting better. He expected his success to be rewarded, like all hard workers do.

Except it wasn’t. He got to a certain point, and just stalled. There were a few world title shots, but the big Pay per view money eluded him,as well as the spotlight. He was smaller than the other guys, and wrestling was meant to play large. He couldn’t juice due to a congenital kidney defect, and he watched his career start to fade.

Johnny snapped back to reality, the crowd gone silent now, waiting for him to speak, to say the words they loved to say back to him. His bosses were hoping his return would spur some merchandise sales, and judging by the WW logos in the audience, he’d done so. Good gods, had they put his face on a foam finger now? He bit back the bile as Rodney, the long time ring announcer handed him a mike.

Johnny thought he was looking sharp today. Lincoln green suit, silver pinstripes, with an embroidered pentagram on back. He wondered what his mother would have thought of this. He’d never gotten to say goodbye, her death coming while he was in Europe, after the creation of Reverend Terrorist.

It was supposed to be another TV taping. Another stop on the grind his life had become. They were running eight shows a week, 300 days a year. He had enough airline miles to fly him,Jenny and Maureen anywhere. If he could only go home for longer than two days. He’d already missed so much of their lives,he felt like a stranger. Tonight he was close to home,though. Madison was only 90 minutes from Milwaukee. He was a native, a Packer Backer before he could walk. And he still knew what a bubbler was. He had three days off after tonight, and he intended to not sleep through all of them.

Then the road manager had pulled him aside. His title shot was being canceled, and so was his three days off. The boss’s son , with his nose candy problem, was too sick to do a run through Canada. Johnny had drawn the short straw. And something in Johnny broke.

It was the shot heard round the world, they said. Johnny had walked right out through the crowd into the main event. He’d taken the guy fighting the world champion, Kareem Akbar, and thrown him into the crowd. Kareem,whose real name was Shelton Barber, tried to get back in, and that’s when Johnny had knocked him out cold. He’d then run up on the world champion and in defiance of all of his bosses, kicked him right in the temple and pinned him. Then he left and went home, belt in hand.

For two weeks, he sat at home with the belt, while the press and the federation camped at his door. He spoke to them only on radio, and when he was done, the wrestling world was changed again.

Reverend Terrorist, as Johnny now called himself,ticked everyone off, and yet sold tickets like crazy. He’d fight when and where he wanted, and would put up the belt at a moments notice. Fans flocked to the events, never quite sure what was going to happen. His bosses publicly hated it, until his merch and video sales went through the roof. Others tried to be like him, but ailed. Johnny was riding high on a plane of success, matched only by few others, with names like Hogan and Flair.

As Johnny started to speak, flashes of what killed Reverend Terrorist and his career came back at once. The planes hitting the two towers, ending his characters name once and for all. His wife and daughter on the plane in Pennsylvania, ending Johnny Carnecki for once and for all as well.

He’d thrown himself into a chemical coma, but Johnny was raised better. He announced a rehab stint, then vanished for two years. Stories surfaced, but none were true. What Johnny had been up to was going to come out tonight.

The videos had started virally. Brief shots of Johnny’s profile, then a silver pentagram. By the time he got back in the ring, Wiccan Warrior was already a star. The newsheets lauded Johnny’s in-ring ability after two years away, and his promos were Ultimate Warrior level. A year later,he was given the belt, cleanly. He filled arenas for the next five years, when tragedy entered Johnny’s life again.

This time, it was his parents who were gone. Sitting in a theater, they were among those gathered for the movies, blown away by a PTSD crazed soldier. Johnny had quit again, and here he was today.

“Today, I look upon you, the greatest fans a man could have. I could never ask for anything more from you. You have all given me so much.” Johnny paused, letting their cheers wash over him.

“And yet, I think I will ask more from you. Today, I ask you to become what you need to be: real people” The audience murmured,confused.

“When My wife and child were wiped out thirteen years ago, you were told I drank myself into a stupor, and left to clean myself up. That was a lie.”

“What I did was go looking for answers. Why my wife and kid had to die, who did this. What I found broke my heart, then my mind.” Johnny took off his shades, and got right into the camera.

“It was all a lie, just OT make money. Rich assholes who traded our patriotism and spirit for oil and war. And we fell for it, hook line and sinker. When we were most vulnerable, they sold us like whores.”

“What can I do, Johnny?” He took on a whining tone. “ They’re too rich, too powerful,and you can’t prove anything, you nut job.” Johnny pulled out a flash drive”Except I can.”

“Thanks to a fan at the Pentagon, I have it all. The lost gas station footage showing the missile hitting the Pentagon, and the radio calls between the pilots who flew people like my family to a small airfield in Canada and shot them.” Video started playing on all the arena screens, causing gasps of horror and outrage.

“I expect to be dead by morning, but I died thirteen years ago. Wiccan Warrior is now dead, but..” Johnny dropped the mike, and jumped the referee, who’d know about what was going to happen to his wife and child, and not said anything. Johnny grabbed his head, and snapped his neck in one quick motion.

“REVEREND TERRORIST LIVES!” Johnny roared, jumping the ropes and into the crowd.

He ran right out of the arena, jumping into a waiting cab. As the cab sped away, Johnny had him turn on the radio. Riots had broken out in several cities. Johnny smiled, taking out the last picture of him, his wife and child. And for the first time in thirteen years, Johnny Carnecki slept.