By William Worsham
“When trying to write good fiction, we should always ask ourselves, ’What would Lorrie do?’”—William Worsham
“If I put in a quotation from myself about my own work, does that make me self-absorbed?”—William Worsham
“Humor is really part of the fabric of human discourse—it may be deflective or knee-jerk, intimate or distance-making, organizing or derailing, and may arise from hostility, generosity, boredom, anxiety, existential fatigue, or good drugs.”—That’s actually Lorrie Moore. No—I really mean it. She said that. I mean, don’t my quotes pale in comparison now?
You might want to skip over this because this is the part where you are created. This is not a reverent moment or a moment of religious intensity. This is a moment when your mother and father, in the backseat of your father’s worn-out Chevy, experience a moment of temporary bliss—or your father does, while your mother thinks, “That’s all there is?” Your mother continues this emasculating dissatisfaction with your father for ten years. It is not easy to see your father this way, fumbling around, trying to find a bra strap and whispering an apology when it all ends too quickly but this moment—crazy ridiculous moment—is when you really came into being. The next nine months are uneventful, you sleep right through them.
You are a superstar! The entire world revolves around you! And you are only a few days old! You don’t know any of these people, but most of them seem very glad to see you. Your grandmother on your mother’s side worries that you look too much like your father. Some kid, who you later find out is your cousin, likes to get entirely too close to your face. You get the sense he hates you. You realize later that the people who act too much like they enjoy your company always hate you. You never understand the hypocrisy of humankind. You are helpless to resist the passing around and the “Goo Goo” baby talk. You smile. You will do this later with your in-laws. This is good practice.
In later years you will wonder if you might have been smarter had everyone spoken to you as an adult, right from the beginning. Still, this is a great time—the best time of your life. You cry and someone comes running. You don’t even have to use the bathroom on your own—it just sort of comes out and someone else picks it up.
This is the time before school begins to ruin your faith in the human race. Your mother stays home from work. Your father resents her but you love every minute of it. Your mother reads to you every day before you lay down for a nap. You walk down country lanes to visit friends with handfuls of vegetables. Peas are as big as your hands—pumpkins are mansions. Meanwhile in the real world, you slurp vegetable soup. You hear The Wind in The Willows. You are the mole, or maybe the rat.
The wind blows across the wooden panes of your windows creating a high, whining sound. It scares you now but later you will wish for that sound and can’t find it. You blame this on poor construction. This is the sound you hear right before you sleep, when the rest of the house is silent.
You go to preschool and your teacher is an overweight woman you call “Piggy Oinks.” Your mother is embarrassed and apologetic. She says she does not know where you get it from. You don’t know either. Soon, you are removed from preschool.
You go to school and learn to tie your shoes. School seems to think it is terribly important that you learn to tie your shoes. With the advent of Velcro, you wonder how important it really is. You take a lunch box to school and it is nice! The important thing is that there is a thermos in it. You don’t remember much about the box other than that. You remember days when you put your coat away and snow falls off, leaving puddles under the coat rack. You remember how warm and new spring felt, but every day is good before homework.
You don’t understand multiplication and your father institutes a program to force you to learn it—later you hear about The Soviet Union and you think about this time—your father is the commissar of multiplication and you are filling your quota. You think in these terms about homework all your life.
Middle school deserves its own chapter because your mother leaves your father during this time. You don’t know why but you have to go with her. You change schools. You have no friends. You hate your mother but you begin to like the opposite sex. You do poorly in school—mostly on purpose—and everyone wonders what is wrong with you. You wonder why they don’t know. This is the dark chapter. This is the teasing, jeering chapter. You lose your faith and your dreams here for a very long time. A kid teases you because you are in the car with your mother. You get out of the car and your mother stops you. You spend years picturing his face bouncing off your fist. Later you realize this part of life sucked, in some way, for almost everyone. That does not make you feel any better about it now. Your grandfather dies and you cry about it but you wonder why—you were never close to the man.
You leave your mother like she left your father and you live with your father. You spend the final part of middle school succeeding for the first time—because you are happy, because people like you, because your father set you up for success. Later you realize he probably did this to dig a knife into your mother.
High school is called that for a reason because you spend much of it getting high. Later you think maybe that was a bad idea. You never really regret the drugs, even if you feel like you should. Remember doing acid once as both terrifying and memorable—a road trip really was a road trip. Remember there was a girl you talked with that night. You discussed things—profound things—life-changing things. You wish you could remember what those things were. The older you get, the more important the parts of life that you forgot seem to be.
Stay just above the waterline and keep from drowning. You worry your teachers and your parents but make it to graduation. D’s are passing—thank God.
You go to community college or better yet the military because you really don’t know what you want to do with your life. You are following some vague plan set in motion by your parents. You begin to suspect the real reason you are following this plan is because you have nothing else to do. You are experiencing the bad part of the suburban middle class. The Big Blank. While you are in the military or community college or even working at a pizza shop, you begin writing some things. You do not know why you do this, you just do. This is not a career, it is a pastime. High school and the awkward part after high school blend together into a mushy bowl of cereal. You eat it—but you don’t like it.
Follow a career path based on what you have to do—you have children, you have a wife or husband—for a while you have a wife or a husband. Get on the relationship diet—fat while in, thin while out. Go through hell and think you are living your parent’s lives. Begin to believe your life has no meaning and hasn’t since you were in high school—no—elementary school. Work a job you believe in for a boss you don’t. Decide you must change. Decide you must put a mark on the world before your life ends.
Read Lorrie Moore and decide you want to become a writer. Say, “This is me! That is just what I feel!” Write to purge your system and then become blocked when writing is less fun. Fill your head with everything, read books you don’t finish and read tons of books about writing. Realize they all say the same thing. Realize they don’t really help. Realize you need to write but suddenly find out you have nothing to write about. Terror like stage fright comes on you, “I forgot my lines! I forgot my lines!”
You walk, you eat “writing food,” you smoke and you talk about writing. You take Gingko. You become agoraphobic in the world of writing. You stay in your little non-writing house, shuddering at every noise outside. Your mother calls and you tell her about your school major and she says, “Well, but you can’t make a living on that, can you?” You then lie and tell her you want to teach English for The United Nations. That seems to work and she is proud of you. You enter the world of writing again, stepping tentatively off the front porch of the non-writing house. No one understands—except Lorrie Moore. She seems to understand, so you like her on Facebook.
Just before you die, you give all of your papers to your children. Each story has a number of rejections posted on it from various publishers. At your funeral, everyone remembers you as “a great teacher.” Someone meets with your children and agrees to publish your work. You are recognized as a “literary genius” and “ahead of his time” unless you are her. Then you are “ahead of her time.” Your children live very well and muse on how you would have felt if you had known.
Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student