Riley Sampson, Entry 22(the same caliber as a gun)

and the beat goes on

Grace, is something truly amazing. How sweet the sound.

Literati

After a brief technical delay due to internet connectivity issues, we are resuming posting your stories again from Prague.  Basic assumptions that people have about themselves and others are being challenged, and self-discovery is not always the pleasure it’s advertised to be.  I will repeat the words of David Foster Wallace (who was actually paraphrasing one of his teachers): “Good writing should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.” We certainly have had evidence of that so far.  I also feel compelled to remind everyone that I will not restrict commentary or censor stories, unless they are blatantly or overtly racist by intent. The story I am posting here will no doubt stir up a bit more controversy. I tend to side with Ice Cube, who, scolding Bill Marr on television for his gratuitous use of the word on his show, declared that only black people can use the N word, but I allow for it here and on a case by case basis if I think it is essential to the story. I apologize to all for whom the word continues to be offensive.

Let’s be the best people that we can be.  Here is a story of peer pressure.

 

The Test

by Riley Sampson

 

“He talks about killing niggers and Jews.”

I lazily stirred my coffee, but I noticed Scottie wince, so I stopped. “I mean, it’s just talk.”

“But still, his anger was dragging me down. It made me pin my hate on others when I really just hated myself… Whenever we got into that, I needed alcohol to help me do it. I couldn’t say all that sober.”

“But you did.”

“Riley, you know me. I never meant any of that stuff,” he countered, “I was just going along with—”

“Scottie,” I said, “he’s not a Nazi only when he’s drunk. You can’t claim you were wasted every time we’d joke about ethnic cleansing.”

“Alcohol’s part of it.”

“Then why aren’t you an alcoholic?”

Scottie’s eyes refused to confront me, and in earnest, he relented something I’ve still failed to recognize. “You have passion—drive, and aspirations, and stuff. Until I find something like you have—and I know this sounds ridiculous—I don’t think I can be around Foster anymore.”

“That’s fair, I suppose…”

“Then could you do me a favor?” he asked me, “Tell Foster it’s my parents. That they’re grounding me for the drinking. I don’t want him to know this is all on my own volition.”

“Why?” I quirked, “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”

“Honestly, I just don’t know what he’ll do.”

Honestly, Scottie is a coward.

***

Foster leaned over his mother’s bourgeois marble countertop. “That’s it?” The furl of his mouth disapproved—and violently, too.

I chuckled, watching him pour a tall glass of brandy. “So it would seem.”

“Wow,” he gaffed, “what a faggot.”

“It’s pretty annoying.”

“It’s very annoying.”

With a conceded stare, Foster ushered me towards the balcony. “Here,” he invited, “I wanna smoke,” and once outside, he flicked on a lighter and kissed his cigarette to the flame. “Though I guess we should’ve seen this coming.”

“Really?”

“Remember how he’d always blow us off for that nigger Jessica?” he said lowly through a smoky sigh, “and, God, she wasn’t even hot, though I guess that’d be impossible anyways.”

When Foster took another drag, I added, “She ended up cucking him too,” and, lounging against the balustrades, I considered whether my comment was constructive.

“Fuck. That’s right.” He lugged down some liquor, and then, in husky irritation: “This is why we need to kill them.”

“Personal experience isn’t an argument,” and thus, I had elicited my test.

When Foster rebutted me with studies of race and IQ, historical precedent, and a list of my favorite writers and scientists—all white, of course—I wondered why I didn’t care. Scottie had told me I was full of passion—that I had the momentum to escape Foster’s pull—but there I sat, mere feet away, so thoroughly passionless I was unable to compliment or condemn anything he said.

So, at some point I said “nigger” to make Foster laugh, and when I did, he told me to shut up because the neighbors were black.

*********

8 comments

  1. Avatar
    Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    There’s some real, raw talent here, and in my view a little more adherence to Elmore Leonard’s sterling Rules for Writers would have let a lot more of it shine. But I appreciate a genuine voice, even if some over-adornment competes with it, and I was glad to read this piece. I’d be even gladder to read a revised version of it, because I think this is worth hammering at until every word is perfect. Some writers say no piece will ever achieve that but I’ve seen that to be utterly untrue; at the least it’s worth striving for.

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      And I appreciate when there’s courage to publish stories including the words that real people speak, so grown-up readers can contemplate them. Our children are already being cheated by abominations like expurgated versions of “Huckleberry Finn,” and we need to stop this plague of over-correctness and under-comprehension in its tracks.

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      PS: Concluding sentences are often a story’s death-trap, but you did masterfully here. Go back and refine the rest of it and you’ll be quite a contender.

      • Avatar
        Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

        And–Thorn–there’s no deliberate intent behind describing “white people” specifically as and in contrast to any and all other ethnic groups–and I paraphrase here–a pox on humanity? It’s accidental drive-by bigotry?

        • Avatar
          Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

          Here’s an editorial I might write, in circumstances such as these:

          “Some people’s experience of prejudice has been so searing that it has burned permanent blind spots in their retinas; that they may generalize prejudice and bigotry, and spray it indiscriminately in return, can be understandable but not something that can be condoned or excused, especially when we are attempting to encourage dialogue and not vengefulness. We cannot fall into the trap of finding some expressions of hatred more acceptable than others.”

    • Avatar
      Riley Sampson says:

      Thank you for your advice, Ms. Akhtar. If we could avoid cluttering the comments section (email perhaps?) I’d like to discuss your critiques and see how I may apply them to my writing.

    • Avatar
      Michael Stang says:

      I’d say give Riley some time under the microscope, the writing will cleave with a sharper edge. For now, sitting back and reading this a number of times, my eyes water with what is in store.

  2. Avatar
    Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    Once I caught on to the subtle segue between the two scenes, I found the well differentiated characters compelling in quality of dialogue ranging from gossiping to be mean to outburst of anger to numbing apathy and inner confusions about themselves. This dialogue driven story is as powerfully relevant as it is youthfully disturbing in its content’s messages. While I see this 21st-century-segregation entry as more of an opening chapter with a dramatic first sentence of a larger story rather than a flash fiction stand-alone piece with a closing flash to seal the frame; I believe this author has earned consideration to be a finalist.

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