This post is going to be a bit late tonight, I've been working on a short story for the better part of the last week, and it's finally starting to crystallize in my mind; out of the primordial yuckity-yuck that all stories stew in before being yanked out by its creator. It's a simple little yarn really, about a freshman's first day at football practice. I think all of this cold weather has had my mind wanting to run away to some warm memories, and I'm inclined to oblige. It's funny, I don't really think about high school that much anymore. So many people remember it as either the time of their life, or as an agonizing gulag; but, to me, it was more like a way station on the road to adulthood. A place to catch my breath before the bullet train of the rest of my life pulled in.
The most vivid memories of that period of my life are nights spent playing poker, summers spent drinking the cheapest beer we could get our hands on around a bonfire, and my first handful of short stories. I can remember those first stories much more vividly than my days on the football field. I remember writing a serial about a pizza delivery boy who found himself in an increasingly absurd set of predicaments. The delivery guy would be delivering a pizza to the White House, only to find out that terrorist have taken the President hostage and he is the only one who can save our nation's leader from certain doom. It was basically the kind of plot that someone would write while they were really stoned after watching Under Siege.
In the second story the pizza guy, having proven himself an American hero, gets recruited by the CIA to take out Hitler, who's head had been cryogenically frozen after his death and now is back to take his revenge on America. Just so you get the picture, it's only Hitlers head that is alive. One of his minions has to carry him around in a specially made helmet that keeps him alive because - you know - science. I don't remember the particulars of the stories ending, but I'm fairly sure it involved Hitler's reanimated head biting our hero in the ass. This was really classy stuff, let me tell you. What was great about these stories was that I was encouraged to be as whacky as possible by my Sophomore English teacher. When I was given my first creative writing assignments I wanted to write something that would make my friends laugh and my teacher blush, but no matter how out there the tales got - bless her heart - she would just smile and tell me to keep at it.
Now I'm racking my brain to remember exactly how I felt when Kyle Simmons laid me out in tackling drills. Kyle was a senior linebacker who weighed 230 pounds, and knew how to use it. I'm doing my best to accurately describe that moment of contact, where your brain short circuits, and the pain doesn't register for a couple of seconds. And how your body has to relearn how to breathe as you get up.
I'm doing my best to describe what it feels like to get up at six in the morning and run wind sprints in 99% humidity, and for some God forsaken reason it's already 89 degrees. It's tough because the only memories that stand out of those first football practices are the moments of pain. The dull ache of the muscles. The tightness in the chest. The tiny traumas to the brain. There are some other antidotes that stick out, but I won't spoil them here.
Our classes' ten year high school anniversary is this summer, and I'm not sure what that means to me besides the fact that my memories of those four years are starting to blur. If I had to guess, I'd say that's why I'm writing this story. I'm trying to capture as many moments as I can because in another ten years who's to say what I'll remember. It seems like my brain ran out of storage a couple of years ago and dumped a lot of my teenage years, and I can't say that I'm entirely upset about this. My tastes, or lack thereof, in any of the fine arts left a lot to be desired. I'm grateful, however, to have such fond memories of what it felt like to create a story out of thin air.
When I'm having a heard time trying to come up with ideas to write about I still think back to those halcyon high school afternoons when I wrote just to get my kicks and no subject was taboo. I remember sitting around with a notebook adorned with pictures of Christina Aguilera and Jessica Alba, listening to Green Day or Social Distortion, and writing about the most outlandish stuff. It was like someone - we'll say a British gentleman with a thick London accent - gave me a camera, threw me into an inter-dimensional portal, and yelled, "capture as much of it as you can!" Writing back then felt like miracle working, and when things are going really well, it still does.