Recently a friend of mine (and by friend I mean Facebook acquaintance) caught a lot of shit for one of his stories. First he caught crap for a live reading of it, then he caught more poop for posting a link to it on a Facebook group we both belong to.
Before we talk about it, here is the original link for those interested in reading the story for yourselves. I warn you, it's strong stuff.
Go on, I'll wait here. (The first bit is about the live reading, so if you want to skip to the tale, scroll down a little ways.)
Ah! You're back. Good. Did you enjoy it? Yes? No? Were you offended? Most likely! But more importantly, what did it you imagine? What did you visualize? Nasty stuff, I'll wager.
And that is where the shit storm starts. Apparently some folks got uptight about the insinuation that the character of Lucy is a child, and therefore the story is about a pedophile. A 'dirty, filthy, should have his balls cut off and salted and squashed and ran through a meat grinder, not necessarily in that particular order' pedophile. But go back and read it. The author, Paul Mannering, never says she is such-and-such age. He speaks through the eyes of the fucked up psychopath as Lucy being "the youngest" and "small" but he never once says Lucy is a child. Granted, he heavily insinuates it, I'll give you that. And granted it isn't the best tale I've ever read or the most interesting, but I will say I understand where the characterization comes from.
I defend his tale as being sound in its insanity, because that is what writing it about, capturing the voice of the madness.
But there is something about hurting kids that is a limit for us, isn't there? Kids--and animals for the most part--are a kind of hands off territory that few writers dare to tread. And those who do often draw back a nub. Funny how you can slit up a forty year old woman six ways to Sunday, but make her a six year old and we drop jaws and scream and rant and rave. Why? Some say it's because of the innocence a child represents. Does that mean all adults deserve to be slit up a treat by simply being older? Or does that mean we as adults earn a certain amount of torture thanks to our surely sin filled lives?
I can't say for sure either way, but I do know that I have laughed at a beheading scene but squirm at the thought of even fake animal torture. Folks loved It's Alive, but that was different because the supposed baby was an animal, not a real baby. Right? Right? Tell me I'm right.
One of my absolute favorite graphic novels not only broaches this most taboo of subjects, it takes the whole idea into its loving arms, caresses it, covers it with kisses and makes sweet, sweet love to it. In his work The Lost Girls Alan Moore made a mastery of the subject matter. I would give my right arm for a hardback copy of it too. *hint hint* Now, I realize he didn't make such harsh work of it, but he very clearly abuses some very young girls to perpetuate a story line.
That said, I will agree with the owner pulling the plug on a live reading. Seeking out a blog to digest a story is one thing. Having a story read aloud to you is another. When you do live stuff you really do need to consider the limits of the audience, and to be fair the audience in this case, they didn't come there to hear him read his stuff. (His filthy, filthy stuff!) They came to hear a band play and he was asked to drop some fiction on them as a treat. He read this number as a second story after receiving accolades for his first read. It was no small wonder the owner said stop. I commend Mr. Mannering for taking it maturely and moving along. (Though he does point out the bar was a 'pussy' by his blog title.)
Don't get me wrong in this, I don't support the idea of pedophilia or it's sick and perverted practitioners. But I will stand behind someone who provides a character the voice it demands, not matter how twisted. Why? Because the simple matter is this:
You don't have to read it.
The narrator thought of Lucy as the youngest, and her small size fulfilled some sick fantasy the murder desired. What amazes me is that in a burrito of utter debauchery, someone got their panties in a wad because one of four, count them four dead bodies may or may not have been a child. FOUR corpses this man toys with, poses, fucks and talks to and the insinuation that one of them might be a minor is what upsets folks.
Paul puts the experience like this:
" It was a strong reminder
that my creativity is shaped by my experiences. I'm influenced by some
stuff that most people fortunately don't get to experience. I have no
real interest in harming anyone. I just find it calming to direct my own
inner shitstorm into extremes. The lesson learned is that we all have
to keep our masks on at all times."
Truer words were never spoken, good sir. I tip my hat to you as both a man with free speech and free will, but also as a man willing to put his inner shitstorm on the page. I tend to hold back, and sometimes wonder what kind of reaction I will get if I ever decide to let it all go. Maybe someday I will. Not today, but someday.
As a close, I leave you with a story I wrote years ago that is very similar in nature to Paul's tale. It is written with a much more delicate tongue, but the essence is the same. Am I sick for writing it? Possibly. Am I twisted for providing this necrophiliac and murder a voice? Definitely. Do I ever mention the dream girl's age? Never. She could be a child. She could be an adult.
I will say that I never speak of her as a woman, in my story she is always referred to as his girl.
Martin Dexter thought had a good life.
had a fine wife, who loved him only in the way that twenty long years
of fruitful marriage can foster in a couple. He had a well-behaved son,
grown and gone, healthy as horse and as strong as an ox. He had a job he
liked, and a few hobbies he loved. He had a home, two cars and a small
trailer on the beach in Florida that, although Maggie had to talk him
into buying it at first, he had to admit he was growing to like.
And he had his dream girl.
loved his wife, Maggie, intensely, deeply, and madly. And she loved
him, sometimes dutifully, sometime wildly, but always honestly. They
fought every once in a while, after which he would take her to bed and
apologize the only way he knew how. And they would lie in the sweat of
the afterglow and promise not to fight ever again. Only love, Maggie
would say, only love from here on out. But Martin knew she wouldn’t
stick to it. She wasn’t capable of it, but that was okay.
That’s what a dream girl was for.
“Have you got your wallet?” Maggie would ask.
“Yes, love,” he would answer.
“Have you taken your medicine today?”
“Don’t forget to get an oil change. And new tires.”
And their life was like that and he was happy. Mostly.
every once in a while, his mind would drift to his dream girl. She
never asked him if he would take care of the car. Or if he had taken his
medicine, as if he didn’t know he needed to. She never asked him
anything. She was quiet. And that was good. She was perfectly quiet, and
perfect just like that.
But they, the family, always expected things from him.
Robert would say, “I need one hundred dollars for books.” Robert was in
college. College was expensive, but Martin understood the need of it.
“Yes, son,” he would say. “The money’s on its way.”
“Thanks dad. Can you spare another hundred for some shoes?”
“Sure son. Just keep those grades up.”
his dream girl never asked for anything. She just took whatever he
offered her, no questions, no expectations, and no disappointments. She
would look right at him with that faint trace of a smile and nod, maybe,
if he timed his touch just right.
“Do you love me Martin?” his Maggie would ask. She asked this a lot. Over the years he grew more and more tired of her doubt.
“You know I do,” he would answer.
“I don’t think you do.”
He never knew if this was a joking time, or a serious time. Wives were funny like that. Wives were nothing like dream girls.
“I do,” he would assure her, “you know I do. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Maggie would say.
dream girl never weighed him down with love. Or hate. Or any emotion at
all. She just welcomed his touch, totally, even if it a bit coldly. But
warmth, he knew, was reserved for wives. Sometimes the dream girl’s
faint smile would hint at the warmth she had left behind, before she
became his dream girl. It was her secret. It was part of her charm. It’s
what made her his dream girl, instead of just a mistress or a lover. Or
Life would get hectic. Reports needed to be finished, so
they could be filed. Phone calls had to be made. Bills had to be paid.
The company picnic, bridge night, Maggie’s parents visiting. Life could
“Did you get those orders shipped?” his boss would ask.
sir,” he would answer; knowing his boss already knew the answer. His
boss just liked to hear Martin say it aloud. It was what he called
validation. Martin hated validation. Sometimes he hated his boss too.
And his life.
“Well, just remember to fill out every form properly. You didn’t initial next to your signature on the last three order forms.”
“It’s okay Martin. Just don’t let it happen again.”
it was times like this when he needed to visit his dream girl, most of
all. Even more than the doubting Maggie times or the needy son times.
And he would slip away from his normal life, and he would go to her, in
that deep dark place where she slept. And he would hold her, sometimes.
And he would take her, sometimes. But only when Maggie was away, and
Robert was at school. Because occasionally the smell would drift up from
the basement, no matter how much care he had taken.
“I don’t know what keeps you so busy in that basement,” Maggie would say.
“Just a hobby, my love,” he would say. And it wouldn’t be a lie.
“Well, your hobby is attracting mice. Again.”
“I think one of them has died under the floorboards or between the walls. I can smell it. Can’t you smell it?”
“Yes dear. You’re right of course. I’ll get rid of it tomorrow.”
And he would.
when it was time for bridge night, he would stay home with a headache
instead of joining the game. Later he would go out, to the darkest parts
of the city, to the dankest streets, and there he would find her;
standing on the corner, with that faint trace of a smile hinting at her
past. And he would open his car door and she would get in. And she would
talk about money for the first and last time. He would pull the car
around the back of the house, and he would show her his basement where a
drink was waiting just for her, already mixed. And after that it was
only a matter of time and skill before she would truly be home again.
Then she would be his dream girl.