My two-year-old, Miles, likes to play a game called "butt hands" where, after shoving his hands down the back of his pants, he chases his sisters around the house shouting in his broken toddler speech, "butt hannn, butt hannn." Ever the responsible father, I’ve taken to assisting this little devil by snatching him up and pursuing the girls at greater speeds, lunging him at his siblings like Rafiki presenting Simba to the lion kingdom.
Psychologist Jordan Peterson talks extensively about the importance of ‘rough play’, particularly regarding fathers and children; how much joy kids get from ‘horsing around’, and the importance of learning boundaries. Puppies do this too – playing hard until the point of hurt, at which their bark becomes a high-pitched yelp, alerting the others that things have gone too far. Have you ever seen an unsocialized dog that wasn’t afforded such basic training? Not good. So how much worse are children bereft of this birthright - the gift of simple play? Or rather, what do they become as adults?
The understanding of this basic principle makes me incredibly grateful for my childhood. Sure, we didn’t have much monetarily speaking, but man, when it came to the stuff that mattered – good friends and loving parents and a place to call home - we were rich beyond fathom.
Dear Story Unlikely,
I had a vivid dream last night that my mom was having another stroke (she had one in May, I was overseas and wasn't with her, thankfully, she recovered well). I was trying to get help and get her to the hospital but nothing worked. The ambulance refused to come, taxis refused to stop, and no one wanted to help. I tried to carry her, but I couldn't go far; while I kept trying to call for transport, desperation set in because I knew every second counted and I was wasting time. I broke down crying (she haven't seen me cry since many decades ago), helpless and scared. And there she was, consoling and comforting me and trying to guide me, just like what she always did, even though she was the one who needed my help. Even in my dream, I knew I needed her forever, but she wouldn't be with me forever. I woke up feeling really scared.
So, I just want to say thank you for your story. I haven't told anyone about the dream because it terrifies me. I called her, and she didn't know how happy I was to hear her voice.
It was Fat Tom who got me into professional wrestling. I’d ride my bike over to his house on Saturday mornings, and he’d be watching this show where a bunch of grown men were flopping around a wrestling ring and pounding the snot out of each other. They placed their opponents in sleeper holds, dragged out props from under the mat like tasers or garden shears to cut off their hair, and beat each other senseless with steel chairs. To us, this was the pinnacle of entertainment, and Tom assured me it was all real.
“That’s Bret Hart,” he explained while watching a Royal Rumble. “He’s the best.”
“What about that guy?” I asked, pointing to The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. Flair had stark white hair and the wild bearing of the clinically insane – and for a second I wondered if he was Tom’s dad. But before Tom could answer, his little sister poked her head around the corner.
“Peeza, get outta here!” Tom shouted. He must have had some sort of brotherly intuition, for he did this often, as if she was some disease-ridden zombie that could infect us if she wandered within coughing distance. “I’m warning you, Peeza!” She never heeded the warning, and like clockwork, Tom set the remote aside, and charged. What went down in that house differed very little from the opera on TV - minus the taser and garden shears, of course - and before Tom’s mom could intervene, Peeza [who by the way didn’t actually inherit that name until years later (and full disclosure; ‘Peeza’ was the pre-teen slurred form of ‘Piece of you-fill-in-the-blank'), but I digress] was power-bombed onto couch, chair, bed, or all of the above.
Eventually, Peeza tired of all the submissions and permanently retreated to her own space. This actually came back to bite us in the you-fill-in-the-blank, like one summer day as we sat on the porch holding our black and orange cap guns. By this time, Peeza had developed a healthy distrust of Tom and refused to play any of our games - ill intent or no - and nobody else on the block was home. But we needed a third. After all, what good was a pair of robbers without a cop to catch them?
“I’ll go get Crimes,” Tom finally concluded.
“Crimes?” I asked. “The Crimes?”
Tom nodded. “Yeah, he lives next door.”
I have two distinct memories of Crimes; first was him chasing kids around with boogers on his fingers, only these weren’t dry little waifs or imaginary constructs to frighten the girls, but massive freight-liners oozing down index and pointer.
Second was when he defiled the tree fort at 1st ward park.
I was standing near the swings when all of a sudden a horde of kids came pouring out of the fort like bats out of a cave. “Crimes is peeing on the wall!” they shrieked. And sure enough, as I glanced over, I noticed a darkening of the wood on the outside corner. Forever after when we climbed back up into the tree fort, we older kids would disclose to the younger ones in very hushed tones, “And that’s where Crimes peed on the wall.”
Tom ambled over to Crimes’s and knocked on the door while I sat on the porch in shock. After all this time, Crimes had been living next door to Tom (a one-minute bike ride from my house), and I was completely unaware. I felt a form of violation, like when a cat barfs all over the floor, then watches from a distance as you clean it up.
Tom returned with Crimes in tow and offered him a cap gun. He took it hesitantly as if it were real. “Just shoot at us when you see us,” explained Tom.
Tom gave him a look of disbelief. “Because we’re the bad guys!” And off we ran, taking respective positions behind air conditioner and bush. A breath later, Crimes appeared around the corner of the house, and we unloaded. “Bang bang bang!” we shouted.
Crimes turned away like a robot, then aimed at the siding.
“Dangit Crimes!” Tom shouted. “Shoot at us, not the house!”
Crimes pulled the trigger. “It’s a ricochet shot,” he explained.
“What the heck is wrong with him?” I asked.
Tom didn’t waste time with an explanation. “Charge!” he shouted, and popped up from the bush, snapping his gun towards Robocop.
Overwhelmed by the imaginary return fire, Crimes dropped the gun and fled home. Tom stood over the abandoned weapon with his hands in the air, at a loss for words.
“Well, that was fun,” I said.
Crimes, a slender boy with sandy brown hair, was this bizarre enigma that appeared in kindergarten and vanished sometime in first grade. It’s the strangest thing to have such a distinct memory of a person and the events surrounding him, and yet not to be able to recall his face. In fourth grade, a kid named Bjorn - who fit those physical attributes - transferred to our school, and I developed the idea that Bjorn was merely Crimes attempting to re-brand himself. Yet when this theory dead-ended, I began to believe that perhaps Crimes never really existed at all – that he was just an imaginary construct born from too many power-bombings.
That was the last I ever saw of Crimes.
He moved shortly after the cops n robbers episode, just as Tom eventually did - as we all do. My first sleepover was at Tom’s, and I remember crying in the middle of the night because I wanted to go home. Tom grabbed a flashlight and a Where’s Waldo book, and between the three of us we made it through the night. I walked home the next morning with my bag thrown over a shoulder and pillow tucked under my arm. The sun was rising over the cornfield and the dew soaked my shoes, but I felt good. I didn’t know this as I cut through the neighbors’ back yards, but Tom would bounce around homes over the next decade or so while I’d stay right where I was. The distance couldn’t separate our friendship, but it would mark an end to the days of inseparability.
It’s strange how mere locations hold such power - how both the places and the memories you make in them are one and the same. Our homes are places of subtle magic, anchors for young souls, and you don’t understand this until you’re no longer there. Decades later, as we travel down these same streets, the memories ignite like ghost fires, and we see ourselves from a distance, riding bikes, running circles and shooting cap guns with not a care as to what tomorrow will bring.
Yet a yard is nothing but grass, walls are simply the culmination of sheet-rock and paint, houses are themselves meaningless, but they are the places we call home; for it’s not the roof over our heads or the dirt that they’re built upon that makes a home, but rather those with whom we share them.
Or shoot in them.
And on rare occasions, even power-bomb.
About the author:
Danny Hankner began penning stories about himself and his idiot friends as a teenager. Now, masquerading as an adult, he lives in Davenport, Iowa with his wife and three children, working as a master electrician for his own company. In his spare time, Dan rides and builds mountain bike trails, guzzles copious amounts of Zevia ("It's good for me!"), and runs Story Unlikely, an award-winning literary magazine where he floats around self-important titles like 'Editor-in-chief'. His work has besmirched the good reputations of Downstate Story, SQ Mag, Bending Genres, Memoirist, and many more unfortunate publishers, as well as being awarded semi-finalist in Writers of the Future.
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Growing a career as a speculative fiction writer is a daunting challenge, and an adventure best taken with others. Does this describe you? It does Angelique Fawns. Using her skills as a journalist, she is documenting her journey and finding as many hints, hacks, and secrets as she can. She's published three guides to help other authors avoid the pitfalls and also shares her successes. Follow her blog at www.fawns.ca for an in-depth look at paying open submission, no fee calls for speculative writers each month. You can read the latest interviews with others in the industry, or listen to authors read their stories on her podcast. Sign up for her newsletter to receive a free submission tracker, gain insights from top publishers and authors, and enjoy the ride of her latest adventure.
IVORY TOWER PASTOR
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
Nine months ago we published a memoir,Ivory Tower Pastor - a twisted affair about an abusive clergy and the Gallon Drinkers (think Gallon Donor, except we're talking Kool-Aid, not blood) he has surrounded himself with.
We posted this update last month, but since it's such a perfect microcosm - the result of actively denying truth and ‘doing what you’re told' - we're keeping it highlighted this month, as well. "Looks like cancel culture's back on the menu, boys!" It's a hard lesson on the perversion of man, and the lengths people will go to cling to their idols.
Until these men are finally held accountable - removed from their positions of power and suffer the necessary consequences for their perverse behavior - we will continue to follow this story. And there are those (cough Acts 29 Network cough), who need to - for once - start taking abuse within their church network seriously and deal with this.
(It's like when restaurants used to post bounced checks on the wall, but for the digital age)
As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no. Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking.. Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
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