Your friends have all been telling you to go for months now. It's about the most fun you can have for free, except for your food, coffee, or libation tab. It's been over a week since the Decatur Book Festival and two weeks till the next ATL Mothup and you're jonesing like mad for some really, really good live stories. You love hearing people talk about their embarrassing pasts. You love good writing. You love sitting in a dimmed room, awestruck in a hushed crowd.
The very best reason, however, is that these three readers will knock your ever-lovin' socks off.
Some excerpts from their work
(though not necessarily what they'll read on Thursday)
From “How to Get Kidnapped in East Atlanta Village”
“Jef, I’m not content,” Trixie said into the phone. This was nothing new. Trix has ridden the crest of the pop culture wave for as long as I’d known her, usually abandoning the newest fad on arrival for being so five minutes ago. “I want to do something different for my birthday this year.”
I shuddered. Over the last twenty years, I have been part of Trixie’s birthday celebrations that have incorporated activities as innocuous as firing ceramics to the pinnacle of tastelessness, such as midget tossing. “They like the funny feeling they get in their tummies while in flight,” Trixie promised.
“So what do you want do this year?” I asked.
“I want to get kidnapped in East Atlanta Village,” she said.
I tapped my receiver. “I don’t think I heard you right.”
“You heard me,” she said. “I want to be abducted in the EAV.”
“Everybody who’s anybody is getting kidnapped in East Atlanta,” she said. “Besides, I already have my outfit picked out for when I go on Larry King Live.”
“Trixie, this is the dumbest idea you’ve had since you tried to stage a production of Gone with the Wind in Esperanto!” I hung up and forgot her harebrained scheme.
A few days later, Trixie called me again.
“Where are you?” I asked. “You sound like you’re in a hole.”
“I’m in my trunk,” she panted. “I wanted to practice removing my cell phone from my pocket and calling for help.’
“I’m hanging up now,” I said.
“No!” she cried. “I need you to come over and let me out of the trunk ... I think I’m running out of air.”
For the better part of my first thirty years, romance consisted of only one definable trend: huge, unrequited crushes.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the crush is called a “crush” because of the general compression you feel around your heart most of the time, particularly toward the end of the crush period. It begins with light, floaty happy feelings, but as time goes on, when those feelings are not given over to action, they turn to what my friend, Erica, calls “fring.” The molecules spin faster and faster inside your chest creating a nearly drunken feeling, which can then quickly turn into deep, dark depression.
My crushes roughly followed this pattern no matter how old I was:
1. Meet a male human being, become friends with him, spending lots of time with him until I suddenly realize that I no longer just want to be friends with this person.
2. Tell every girlfriend I have about the way I’m feeling, do not tell him how I’m feeling, and maybe tell some of his friends in hopes that they might spill the beans but absolutely forbid them from saying anything to him.
3. Awkwardly flirt, be mean, do weird motherly things for him, and/or do nothing and pine.
4. Make mix tapes/CDs (depending on the decade) in honor of the crush. Perhaps give him the mix tape/CD in hopes that he will pick up on the subliminal messages.
5. Re-hash all interactions with girlfriends as a way of feeling that progress has been made.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 over and over until…
7. Explosion in some form or fashion (a fight, a confession) must occur so that:
a. Friendship must end.
b. Crush can subside.
I can’t really say how or why I developed this pattern or why it lasted for so long. It never – and I mean never, ever – actually progressed to actual romantic activity with a single one of my crush recipients. Tim, Bryan, Paul, Dewald (the South African), video store guy…I could write a country song about them all while drawing little heart-shapes around each one’s name.
Suzanne Van Atten
I went to the hospital today. I've been several times over the last week. Complications from a wreck two months ago have landed my ex-boyfriend in the VA hospital. I'd nearly forgotten he was once a Marine. He'd joined as a teenager to escape an adolescent brush with the law. Although the Vietnam War was in full swing then, the Marines had already pulled out and he'd spent his one stint at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Now he's having holes drilled in his head to drain the blood that has pooled up in his brain and is pressing on his gray matter, triggering strange seizures. When one occurs, he remains fully conscious but the left side of his face becomes paralyzed and he loses the ability to speak. I witness one with a horror I try to mask as he struggles through crooked lips and thick tongue to form simple words that no longer have meaning in the midst of our forgotten conversation.
On my first visit to the hospital I brought him a miniature Christmas tree made of wire and green glitter along with a bag of drugstore chocolates. I knew he would crave the sugar once the alcohol withdrawal kicked in. Tonight's visit followed his surgery. I averted my eyes from the sight of his shaven head and the three incisions held together by crude rows of staples that look like train tracks across his skull. I fed him tiny bites of grilled chicken from a hospital tray. When I stretched across him to adjust some of the tangled tubes and wires that attached him to a room full of blinking, beeping monitors, he reached out and fondled my breast. I stopped in the ladies' room on my way out of the hospital to have a good cry before driving home in the dark.