Tuesday, December 6, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Bradley K. Rosen

While reading submissions for City of Weird, with a blind on so that I didn't know the authors of the stories I was considering, I had one author in mind who I was pretty sure... was awfully sure... who I knew for damn sure I would recognize the moment his words crossed my reading screen. Bradley K. Rosen.

Even as time went on and I was reading submission after submission and not recognizing any voices, even though I was sure writers I knew were submitting, even when I realized maybe this blind thing had a magic to it, that made you blind to the voices you know so well, I was certain that if Brad submitted a piece, I'd know.

Came the last day of submissions and no Brad, I was certain.

I read submissions, made my decisions on the stories I wanted, and finally the blind came down - and, yep. Nope. No Brad.

So I just came right out and asked him. He said he'd worked on a story but had decided not to submit because he knew I'd recognize his voice and that would be kind of against the rules. I instantly demanded that he tell me about the story, and when he told me it was about an old man who lives in a tent in Forest Park and believes it's his duty to save the children of Portland from the Krampus (this was way before the movie, by the way) and that his weapon of choice is this weird drum on a stick called a waldteufel...

...well, I demanded that he send me the story.

Here's a taste. And you tell me if there's any way you wouldn't recognize this voice if you knew it, even reading blind:

She woke me up out of that whiskey slumber with her whining, that high pitch of a dog’s way of talking that gets to your attentions and grabs quick at your nerves so much that you’ll do most anything she wants to get her to shut the hell up. She was standing there with her nose to the zipper of our tent. Our tent that sleeps six. Said so right there on the box it came in. That it sleeps six. Our green tent, green to blend in with the forest. A camouflage. The forest we live in that is half a forest and half a park. Not like they are half and half separate, more like they is half and half together. Like a good marriage. Like me and my dog. That is why they call it the Forest Park. Biggest city kind of park that is a forest in all of the United States of America. The city being Portland, Oregon, with all its odd clients and good-looking bridges. The city I have come to love almost as much as I love that dog. 

The Yay-yay’s sad Christian eyes. Them eyes of a patron martyr. She whined some more. 

“What is it now, asshole?” I said. “You got to pee again already?” 

The zipper that was the door of our tent was on the other side from where I was laying warm and cozy in my sleeping bag and other odd array of blankets that padded under and over me. It was cold. Part of me wanted to stretch out and grab ahold of Yay-yay’s collar and pull her back into the comforts of our bed. 

Go back to sleep. 

But I didn’t, I knew that whine she was making. I knew that look in her eye. 

The Krampus. It was coming.

I had to have it. I took the story outright, no submission, no blind, no anything.

Here's a fun fact about Brad's story "Yay." His was the very last edit made in the book. We'd gone though the process of my own edits, then three, count 'em, three separate rounds of copy edits to get all the stories pristine down to the last hyphen, and I was sitting in a Thai restaurant waiting for a to-go order. I had a copy of the book which publisher Laura Stanfill had had made through the Espresso Book Machine at Powell's, a hard copy to use for any last minute catches that had slipped by during our endless read-throughs via computer. Tonight, I was tired of scrutinizing and feeling confident that we had all our Ps and Qs crossed and dotted, and I was just reading for pleasure as I waited.

I chose Brad's story. In it, there's a flashback to when the old man is a boy, in a five and ten cent store, and, being poor on Christmas Eve, steals a cross on a chain to give to his mother as a Christmas present. After slipping the necklace into his pocket, he buys a Coca-cola. One of those older style Cokes in a glass bottle curved sexy like a woman.

Suddenly, I realized that a poor boy who steals an inexpensive necklace from a five and ten cent store would not pull out a ten dollar bill to pay for his nickel Coke.

That was Tuesday, August 9th. The next day, I spoke to Brad about it and he decided to turn the ten dollar bill into a more time-appropriate one-dollar bill. On Monday, August 15th, the book went to press.

I've loved-loved-loved Brad's writing for a long time. We were both long-time members of the Dangerous Writing fiction workshop, in which I witnessed the progress of a novel and a half of his work, along with a couple short stories. The novel he wrote in full is called The Bunkie's Spills (don't try to fathom out that title - just go with it) and it will be published next year by Small Doggies Press. I'm head over heels for that book and can't wait for it to come out.

A sample. In it, our hero Bunkie is musing on the girl of his dreams, Evelyn:

Evelyn one of them girls you always catch your friends looking at. A Michelangelic. With a thin bone of nose separating her eyes, and the hints of a cleavage that run smack dab right down through the middle of her chin.

One of them peoples that looks good wearing a sweater.

Evelyn’s Evelyn. Evelyn.

A year younger than me. Same age as Angelina. They was best friends ‘til death do us parts. Where Big Pete was smart Evelyn might have been smarter. Always getting the straight A’s and knowing about all them things I didn’t have much of a clue to think about. Things like them French Resolutions and them Reforestations of the Catholic Church.

Keep your eyes out in the coming year for The Bunkie's Spills. It's sweet and funny and profound and it will surprise you at every turn.

In the meantime, you can hear Bradley read from his story "Yay"and maybe even demonstrate the playing of the waldteufel, at City of Weird's winter event at Corkscrew Wine Bar as part of the Plonk Reading Series - Wednesday, December 7 at 7 PM.

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