Larry Rankin, an experiened writer, enjoys creative writing in all forms, from literary to mainstream.
Meet Andre, Our Narrator:
I'm a big baby. For a person like me it is not good enough that life is so often miserable, that there is a difference between those problems which are real and those which are not. It is a necessity for me that I feel depressed, that I have problems, and where in my life a problem can’t be found, one must be manufactured.
You see, I like to write. Anyway, my writings are a reflection of me—a self-indulgent, self-pitying creature. When I end up writing, I write about things I could never possibly care about, that is if they didn't pertain to me, but they all do in some way reflect on some pain in my life I‘ve been able to brood over and blow all out of proportion.
I’ve been alive a little over twenty years. Not much, but enough. Enough to learn firsthand what it means to really have things to be upset about, yet I still carry a "If my tire goes flat God hates me, and I wish I were dead" mentality. If anything, I am more happy and satisfied with that outlook on life than I have ever been, because a while back a thing happened that helped me learn something about who I am, about the obligation of following one’s passions and being true to them.
Enter Stage Right, Mr. Wade:
I remember my first day in that old fart's class. I saw him walk in with his full beard and mustache carrying his head up high like he was f***ing king, and we were all a bunch of g***amn court jesters, and I thought to myself, “I ain't gonna like this guy.” For starters, what kind of a man wears a full beard and mustache in this day and age? All he needed was a pipe, an ascot, and a sports jacket baring a family crest, and he could be president of a yacht club or some such foolishness.
Then there was the smile. Really! Why? Why do you throw your “Life is wonderful” expression at everyone like that? Why do you make a point of telling everyone you meet, “I'm fine and you,” with the look on your face?
With this Mr. Wade, even on first meeting him, I could feel a presence, a style. There was a methodical quality to his every action and word not unlike that of the seasoned speaker, but not just any speaker. No. This Mr. Wade carried the air of a man of God, which at first sight made this serpent’s tail rattle.
He started this day in the same fashion he would start all others, by saying, “Good afternoon scholars.” Then he would stand behind a black podium in front of the room, plant each arm heavily on either side and begin his sermon, and I stress the word “sermon.” All of a sudden we were in Sunday school and not an essay writing class. And those arms braced on the podium, you’d better believe if those arms came off it was a really important thing that was being said.
He was a real zealot, the kind where church was a way of life and not just some place you kill a couple of hours every Sunday. I half expected a donation plate to be passed around the room.
The Art of Self-Deprecation, Part I:
To further my new found contempt, Mr. Wade kept the class the full fifty minutes the first day, instead of the traditional "Well, it's the first day, and we'll let you out early” approach that most teachers take. When I got back to my apartment, I was p***ed off about having wasted a so important piece of my life and quickly began to make up for lost time by doing what I always do in the evenings.
Like I said, I go on forever with feeling sorry for myself. That evening I was looking in the bathroom mirror and asking myself why a good looking guy like me couldn't ever seem to scare up any tail. Man, I bet from a fly on the wall's perspective it is a hilarious sight—that is if a fly had a sense of humor. Me standing there whining, “I'm so good lookin, why don't any girls want to f*** me?” Or whatever it is I do say. It is all super pitiful.
Mr. Wade Talks all about God, Children, and Kidney Transplants:
When I came to class the next time the teacher wasn't there yet. When he came in, he had the same emetic smile on his face as the day before and the same “Good afternoon scholars,” like there was something good about it.
Immediately I began to contemplate why I even bothered showing up to class, and I really began to curse my decision when Mr. Wade starts telling this never ending story about how righteous his son is. Jonathan can do this; Jonathan can do that; he is so much smarter than the other children his age. I swear, millions of people screw and make babies every year. What is it that gives them all the gall to think that they’re the ones perfected the process?
So on it went and on it went, and Mr. Wade was about to again announce what it was Jonathan did that he deemed special enough to share with everyone, and for some reason I'm half paying attention to him. In the middle of his anecdote, Mr. Wade slips in the fact that he (Mr. Wade, not Jonathan) had a kidney transplant a while back. He just slips it in like it were an everyday occurrence or something I was supposed to be otherwise aware of.
I didn't think too much about it at the time. Hell, he looked fine now, healthy as a horse. The transplant had obviously took; with that damn grin on his face, he'd probably live to be a hundred.
The Art of Self-Deprecation, Part II
So afterward it is back to my residence, back to my beautiful and thorough self-loathing process. I'm in super dark mode on this particular night, all thinking about what I could do in the way of suicide to make the most potent impression on everyone.
I could slit my wrists; no, that's been done to death. I could douse myself with gasoline and light a match; no, too painful. I could take a fist full of sleeping pills; again, not very original. I fail asleep that night very secure, very happy, with no teeth in my ideas, and a beautiful false sense of control over my life.
This is the first part of a short story I’m breaking into 3 parts. If our main character seems to encompass the angst of youth, it is because this story was originally written in the angst of mine. Like most all the stories from my early years, this one has been held onto and I have tried my best to improve upon it over time.
I am especially partial to this work because it is a tribute to a teacher of mine at Southwestern Oklahoma State University named Keith Long. He inspired me and is the only person to have ever succeeded at making me feel like a real writer.
Mr. Long, thank you for having given me that little bit of hope that has fueled this life of misery and disappointment. I truly wouldn’t have wanted to live it any other way.