A Sample Chapter from “Minimal Reaction”

I have been working on this novel for 5 years. It’s almost done and as I put the finishing touches on it and get ready to send it to my editor and then to the market, I can honestly say I’m going to miss these characters. I love them dearly and will remember them fondly like college friends I have not seen in years. This portion is unedited so excuse any blatant errors.

Part 4 Chapter 2 from “Minimal Reaction

I am admittedly not as close to my parents as other children, but the callousness displayed at the bottom of the dumpster was like nothing I had ever seen or heard of in my life. The house was completely empty of all the monetary valuable items and all that remained in the dumpster were the memories. I imagined the two sisters conspiring to have everything of value taken and stored somewhere to be later sold, or maybe it was already sold, liquidated through antique dealers, boxed up and ready for auction. The large pieces of furniture only staying to be sold with the house, which I quickly looked up and realized was already on the market. I have never felt so ashamed to be part of a larger family. I wanted to die right then and there.

The dumpster was filled about half way with photo albums, family video tapes, some personal items, old books, old newspapers, notes written in my grandparent’s handwriting. Anything personal had been carelessly tossed into the dumpster, anything of no value to anyone but a family member had been chucked, to make way for more money, to make way for purchasing new things with no ties to the past. Their guilt must have been so unconscionable, that it burned their hearts. The easiest thing to do was to declare it junk and throw it the trash. I was sick and getting sicker by the minute, but at least I had found what I had come for. There was a sigh of relief in that, they left everything my mother wanted in this dumpster, primed for pick up and taken to the local landfill, dreams, memories, and love buried with the rest of the rubbish from the entire area. The mental sickness my aunts displayed by throwing this stuff away I wasn’t ready for. This was to be my burden. My mother and Cassidy would never know because I would never tell them. I knew the truth and it literally hurt me. I needed to pack up as much as I could as soon as I could and get out of here. I started to become nervous, but my curiosity was overwhelming me.

I couldn’t help it. I had to look through some of the photos. In the first book I opened I found black and white photos of kids. Some I recognized as my mother and aunts, others could have been neighborhood children or distant cousins. There was a series of them in party hats, balloons abound the living room that was just on the other side of the dumpster in front of me, but decades earlier, children played happily while adults looked on proud. Camera’s flashed and everyone would want to come by after the film was developed to relive the day, now over a month ago. Pictures of the birthday transitioned into pictures of kids in hastily slapped together Halloween costumes, someone literally in a sheet with eye holes cut out. I laughed to myself.  What a far cry from the realistic costumes we put on today. Evidence that time changes everything.

Time did change everything. Some of the smiling beautiful faces in these pictures were the same ones that have warped into money hungry devils. I looked at the peace and sanctity that was clearly present in my Aunt Sarah’s eyes, not at all like the ones that I saw earlier. These were seraphic, uncomplicated eyes that had innocence and purity and were free of judgement and hate. These were eyes that were simple, and loving, and wonderful. The adult world makes you jaded, money and consumer obsessed, if you’re not careful, capitalism because your way of life and you forget how to love things are aren’t covered in prices and money. The eyes I saw earlier were sad lost eyes that had no control over their own jealousy, greed, and obsession for materialism. She knew it was wrong but could not help it. My aunts were fiends for money and possessions like Stupid Mikey was for crystal meth. At least Stupid Mickey never hurt anyone he loved.

I started 3 piles. One that was clearly junk like old food boxes or dish towels with holes in them, the other was stuff that I had to get back to my mother like photo albums, video tapes, reel tapes, and knick-knacks, the third pile was mine, which so far had a hat that was my grandfather’s that said “Be A Happy Farmer” on it. It had his sweat marks on it and grease and oil on the brim. It was perfect. I tried to sort quickly and had it in the back of my head that I shouldn’t be there any longer than I had to. I was sitting on a box that had some tools in it, and I didn’t think my father would want anything. Certain items like an old jacket I sat thinking about too long. I had to make the choices quick, and going through these things so haphazardly was starting to bother me. My mind was wandering something wicked and I thought about gaining a little chemical help. I jumped up and tossed my legs over the top of the dumpster. Right before I hoisted myself out, I noticed a little brown leather bound notebook where I was sitting. I eased myself back in and grabbed it with the intentions of using it as a table to break up my next line. I lept back out and went to the car, opened the passenger side door, placed the book in my lap, and grabbed my stash. I emptied a little cocaine and half a Xanax onto the book, and broke up the pill and with the side of my license and then mixed the two together. I went back to my wallet and grabbed a bill, rolled it up, and bent my face down towards the line of powder I just made. I snorted it clean and I immediately felt the effects numb my brain. I picked my head up to see a small dark circle only an inch away from my eye and simultaneously heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being cocked.

Naked, I am.

In 1957, defending himself against a heckler while on stage, Allen Ginsberg took off his clothes and said, “Come up here and share your feelings.  The poet always stands naked before the world.”

In Ginsberg’s poem, Howl, he states that he’s seen the best minds of his generation “starving hysterical naked”.  It conjures images of a madman, a Kerouac-ian loaner, dancing naked in the rain, screaming anti-capitalist statements at the top of his lungs, maybe on Benzedrine, probably smoking tea.  But that’s not what Allen meant.  I get that now.  He meant the naked soul. Baring your body is nowhere near as scary as bearing your soul.  Kim Kardashian will forever get more clicks by baring her famous buttocks than she will for bearing her soul.  I get that now.  So here I am, getting naked.

2 years ago my wife and I had a child. He is my best friend, my closest family member, and literally the funniest guy I know.  We spend tons and tons of time together.  And I am no longer the same person.  My son taught me things I never would have imagined.  He taught me that I need to live out my life as best I know how, to provide for him and teach him.  I somehow understood something new about myself, just by looking at him, just by changing a diaper, from sleepless nights to quiet moments.  I decided to stop hiding and try to launch my writing career.  I needed to know what it meant to live out your dreams and to never settle in order to truly teach him that things can always be better.

I was scared, and felt stupid.  I didn’t know anything about promoting myself as a writer.  I had already let past successes in my writing career pass me by.  I was almost embarrassed to say that I was a writer, and I wasn’t confident enough to let it define me. Not yet anyway.  How would I make money? What would people think of me?  Would they tell me to get a ‘real job’?  I needed answers to these questions before I could dive in.  I needed assurance that my rebirth would be accepted by friends and family.  I was not able to cope with that in my mid-twenties, so I ran from it, buried it, grew long hair and played in a punk rock band instead. My forever rebellious attitude forever rebelling against myself.

I needed to make sure that I could provide for my son and wife.  I needed to get a good job that could pay the bills and settle into something that had a good balance between corporate and family life.  And I did.  But Parker needs to know that life is supposed to be hard, you’re supposed to struggle to get what it is you really want.  Nothing is handed over, nothing of any value anyway.  I knew I’d struggle to launch a successful writing career, but when I do it’ll show him what it is to truly achieve your dreams to the fullest, the only side effects being good work ethic, drive, passion, intensity, and emotion; even if I fail.  I need to teach by doing, not by telling.

I have always been scared to branch out, nervous to speak my mind completely; afraid of what others may think of me, afraid of what they may say when my back is turned.  But you can’t be a real writer until you bare it all. You have to strip away the layers of what others think and feel and communicate your real emotions, your truest and deepest emotions.  Only then can you be a successful writer.  Allen Ginsberg was right; the poet always stands naked before the world.  I know that now.

I am dad. I am son.  I am husband.  I am one.  I am brave.  I am weak.  I am strong.  I am meek.  I am happy.  I am free.  I am all.  I am me.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

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