I was doing a little weekend cleaning when I excavated this 3-ring binder full of short stories I wrote in high school. I haven’t seen or thought about these stories in years, so I spent Sunday afternoon reading through them and saying to myself: “Omigod! I can’t believe I wrote this!”
The majority of these shorts were written when I was 15, and they were written for 10th grade English class. At that time, I thought I was a hot shit writer. The muse spoke to me. I never once revised (who revised anything in high school anyways?). In fact, I considered my first draft so inspired that they were ready to turn in on the spot. My English teachers, bombarded with stacks of student papers that ranged from barely literate to barely legible, loved that my essays and stories were peppered with SAT words and snazzy syntax and they stroked my ego till I thought my head would explode.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t think I’m hot shit anymore (Thank God!) In fact, I’m so embarrassed by some of my high school stories that I thought I’d share an excerpt with you right here.
The following piece is an imitation of those hard-boiled detective pulps popular in the ’30’s and ’40’s. In it, an Al Capone inspired mob boss, Anthony ‘Doc’ Barnes has been gunned down on the dance floor of a NYC speakeasy called Jubilee’s Place. The P.I., Detective Jack Ransome (what a cool name!), has a special interest in the slaying of Doc Barnes. Doc Barnes was Jack Ransome’s childhood friend. They both grew up in the slums of Hell’s Kitchen, but as they got older, Ransome joined the blue and whites while Barnes took arms on the opposite side of the law. A couple of years ago, their paths crossed, and Barnes shot Ransome point-blank in the back. Ransome survived and vowed to send Barnes and his entire bootlegging operation to the slammer. But someone got to Barnes first…
Since Ransome is a by-the-book kind of guy, he questions three suspects: The owner of Jubilee’s, a black man by the name of Jubliee Johnson (glad to see I refrained from stereotyping back then), Doc Barnes’ right hand man, a knuckle-dragger testosterone monster who goes by the street name of Lefty, and Doc’s moll, a sultry blonde jazz singer aptly named Billie. All three suspects have a reason for pumping Doc Barnes full of lead. But which one…
You’re about to find out in the excepts below. I give you the flashback to Doc Barne’s murder. I haven’t edited it for grammar, these excerpts are completely untampered with and is the exact replica of the paper I turned in circa 1999. I’ve also provided my writer’s commentary, wagging my head in shame as I type this out.
Jubilee’s Place. May 25, 1926. Midnight.
Doc knew what was going on behind his back. Did they think he was stupid? Is that it? His girl and his arch nemesis. They’ll pay. Nobody double crosses Anthony ‘Doc’ Barnes and lives to tell the tale!
Commentary: Omigod! Don’t mess with the Doc! Easy on the dramatics.
Billie did not see the hand swinging like a hammer and striking her in the mouth. She did, however, feel the warm blood of her broken lips drizzle down her expensive satin dress. She did feel the rage, the rage of abuse that she knew only too well. Fear. Pain. Her face was on fire. This scene has happened before. A scared twelve-year old shriveled in the corner of a run-down shack as her step-father had his way with her. Men at times are masters of their fate. She was not about to let history repeat itself. She’s too strong now. She’s gone too far to go back.
Commentary: Please don’t tell me I quoted Julius Caeser! Then again, if I had been bitch slapped by the Doc, I would be pissed off enough to quote Shakespeare too!
Doc did not expect the powerful kick to his groin. He did not expect such a small girl to fight back with such vigor. He’s got to admit: she’s strong. But is she strong enough? Doc searched for his gun. Where was it?
Commentary: Anybody who bitch slaps Billie is getting his nuts sent north. Actually, Billie is kinda cool, with or without her “vigor.” You go girl!
“Looking for this?” Billie asked as she pointed his gun at him. She knew that he intended to kill her sooner or later. She’d been informed of Doc’s history from Ransome. She stood by Lefty’s bedside shortly after he woke up that dreadful morning with only one hand. She attened the funeral of Jubilee’s three kids—children who have barely begun to live until their lives were violently cut short by one Doc Barnes.
Commentary: They called him ‘Doc’ because he carries around a bag of surgical equipment and if you get on his bad side, you might be doing one-handed push-ups. Lefty, who is Doc’s right hand man, learned the hard way when he refused to shoot up a factory full of women, so Doc dosed him with cholorform and relieved him of his right hand. Now, he’s got a hook and the stupid handle of Lefty. Was I deep or what?
“What do you think you’re doing?” Doc asked, astounded that such a weak woman would dare turn against him. “You whore! You think you can defeat me? I’m Doc Motherfucking Barnes! You think you can sack up with that rat bastard and get away with it? Who the fuck do you think you are? You think that just because you can sing a few crappy notes that you’re so goddamn high and mighty. You’re nothing but an easy little cunt!”
“I’m Justice in high heels, Doc. And don’t you forget it!”
The bullet sunk slowly into Doc’s belly. A slow painful death. The next hit to the head ended the rule of New York’s greatest criminal.
“See ya later, Doc. It’s been a real slice.”
Commentary: Language, Language! I can’t believe I inserted the c-word into a 10th grade story and actually handed it over to my English teacher. What’s even more unbelieveable was that she didn’t call me out on it. In fact, I don’t even think I knew what the c-word meant at the time. I decided to add that word to the story because as I was writing this scene, the neighbor down the street stormed out of his house and yelled to his wife: “It’s my house too, you cunt!” And then she replied: “You piece of shit! Get out! Get out! Get out!” That’s my inspiration.
Oh yeah, and the “Justice in high heels” part. Omigod. I think I’m going to die of shame. What was I thinking? And you gotta love “I’m Doc Motherfucking Barnes!” Anybody who regards themsleves as “motherfucking” anything deserves to get shot. Does she honestly think she can “defeat” him? What is he? Darth Vadar? You dare to defy him!
It’s been a real slice? She shot him, she didn’t stab him. I should have changed her final line to something pistol related like “That’s a hole in one” or “Bang, Bang motherfucker!” Then again, maybe not. I had to finish up quickly because if I recall, I had to go miniature golfing with my friends, hence the “hole in one.”
Though, I’ve got to admit, a high school story with this much of a cuss count is commendable in itself. I did go to a highly conservative school district after all. You can say, I was sticking it to the man.
My writing is a lot better now (I bet you’re all silently crossing yourselves for that), but this story, despite its obvious shortcomings, was incredibly fun to write and is a personal marker showing how much I’ve matured.
So what about you? Do you have short stories, novels, or poems from the past stashed in the deep recesses of your closet, never to see the light of day? Did you regard them as masterpieces back then and are now absolutely mortified that you wrote them? What were they about? Did they have certain themes? Care to share?