This month is National Short Story Month, as started by Dan Wickett at the Emerging Writers Network. In honor of the month, I rolled out a hypertext version of my collection of very short stories, Our Island of Epidemics. (The hypertext allows readers to click through the stories in an order of their choosing, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.) In addition, I am going to write about a story from each of our first four months of fiction at the Good Men Project Magazine.
The first story is from our debut issue: “Saint Roger of Fox Chase,” by Sean Ennis.
“Saint Roger of Fox Chase” follows a teenage narrator through a rough and hilarious period of puberty. The boy lives in a medium-nice neighborhood in Philadelphia, and is a star on the school soccer time, which plays teams from not-so-nice neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, his curiosity about blowjobs leads him to the park at night, where the teenagers gather to party. One night the townies are loose and get violent and create a saint.
This was one of the first stories we got for GMPM, of course, but it was also probably the first that made me think, OK, this whole fiction thing could work. Usually, I am not a fan of child narrators, but it’s impossible to resist lines like this (probably the first point at which I felt hooked):
At the time, we were both desperate to get blowjobs, and while technically we knew what sexual act was being referred to, we were curious about the name. It was the word “blow” that was confusing us the most.
This quote comes from the third paragraph. It sets up the attitude of the story immediately—a sort of desperation to grow up too fast that comes up against a wall of fear and confusion. It’s so important to get the reader into the world of the story right away—and by world, I don’t mean setting or even character, but authority. I have to know that I should trust the author; I have to be able to give myself over, to be invested enough to keep reading.
It’s a long story that makes its demands of the reader—I dare anyone to stop once it gets going and the psyche of the narrator takes over that space in your head we call imagination.