Writing has made me a better reader, probably like gardening makes some people more healthy eaters. I'm barely better at turning a phrase than I am at dragging a rake, but I plow through the process every day. I've heard creative writing described as the ultimate vanity of the self-absorbed, and I can see why that might be true.
What possesses anyone to believe others might care to read what they think? Narcissism most unholy. Nevertheless, humans continue to craft their own words and to consume the ruminations of others, and doing so is what separates us from the apes.
To get this year's ChopCult creative writing contest started, here's a chapter from a short story I started several years ago but never managed to finish.
If my silly yarn gets your juices flowing, please post your own short story, personal essay or philosophical diatribe on the contest thread in the main forum.
Everyone has until Febraury 29 to post entries, at which point I will pick my top five and put these semi-finalists up to a popular vote. Neatness, spelling, syntax and lucid thought counts, so please use spell check, delete double spaces between words and sentences (these wreak havoc on HTML) and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER over-use elipses ("...") Sorry guys—it just drives me nuts.
On March 15 we'll close the poll and announce the winner and first runner-up, and both authors will get a prize package of substantial bounty, probably an old book or two, some rusty motorcycle parts from my personal stash, a brand-new t-shirt and a shitload of stickers.
Thanks in advance to everyone who enters this year's ChopCult writing contest. Good luck and have fun!
Like every other patch holder who values his privacy, Alpha Chino took his women like his tequila: with a grain of salt. Being the Treasurer of San Francisco’s most notorious OMG had its privileges, and knowing how to avoid the gauntlet of trannies and crack whores that haunted the alley behind the SHMC clubhouse was one of them. After parking his blood red Street Bob in front of the Chinese laundry on Castro, Al peeled off his helmet, darted through a rack of pressed shirts and slipped down the narrow corridor behind Mr. Chang’s industrial steamer. The old Chinese man had a soft spot for the Bay Area’s most discrete outlaws, so the minor inconvenience of neighborly foot traffic was far outweighed by the steady work Al’s club sent Mr. Chang’s way. Motorcycle riding was a dirty business, and nobody rode dirtier than the men of the Satin Hammer MC.
Al wasn’t always a Hammer. Before Sean Pean made Harvey Milk a household name, Albert Eugene Denham was a broker on the Pacific Stock Exchange. When that institution closed in ‘02, “Blue Chip” Gene found himself unemployed. After her credit cards were revoked and tuition for his stepson’s boarding school evaporated, the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Denham made sure Albert was homeless, too. With the deck stacked against him, Al played the last card in his hand: a lifetime membership at the Equinox Fitness Center. It was a parting gift from the venture capital firm that bought the building on Pike Street where the financial lion once roared.
The first friend Albert made at EFC was a muscular, balding man named Gary Abrahams. A homeless stock trader and a retired Navy Seal made an odd pair, but Al and Gary shared a bond beyond petty narcissism. Both men lived and loved life in the fast lane. In headier times, Al quenched his thirst for high velocity in vintage sports car races on the Monterrey peninsula. After leading 16 missions in the Middle East, Gary blew his enlistment bonus on every vet’s wet dream: a brand-new Harley. During their daily body-sculpting sessions at the gym, each friend regaled the other with tales of high-speed adventure between reps.
It didn’t take long for the flaccid finance guru to become a chiseled gym rat like his rugged friend. Al’s metamorphosis wasn’t lost on the other members at EFC, and several gentlemen offered him free room and board in exchange for diet and weight-lifting secrets. Ashamed to admit that “hungry and homeless” hardly qualified as good advice, Al declined every offer. Instead, he slept on a cot in the laundry room club managers provided in exchange for help on the company’s books.
Most Sundays Gary and Al played basketball with the other unemployed bankers and furloughed sailors at the San Francisco Y. It was Al’s aggressive play in the post, neatly groomed two-day shadow and cut-off khakis that earned him the nickname “Alpha Chino” with the trash-talking ballers on the Y’s parquet floor.
“Hey Gary—your girlfriend looks like ‘Serpico.’ Did you show her how to handle your balls like that?”
Albert recoiled. “What the hell is that s’posed to mean?”
“Don’t sweat it, Al—nobody ever blamed a seaman for having good taste.”
“Maybe not, Gary, but I’ve had plenty of semen that tasted good. What do you think about that, Alpha Chino?”
“Tell your cabin boys they're barking up the wrong tree. I’m straight as an arrow and everyone at the gym knows it.”
“It’s true, guys. Albert's a breeder.”
“Well, a girl can dream,” one particularly flamboyant gym rat exclaimed.
After the ribbing he took from Gary’s buddies, Al skipped his shower after the game. Over frappes and biscotti in the sports lounge, Al Denham probed his friend for answers.
“What’s up with your buddies—they seem queer as a football bat.”
“They’re just fucking with you, Al. Besides, it can get pretty lonely on the high seas.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying real men stick together. If you belonged to a brotherhood that shared a common bond, you’d understand the game.”
“I was a Delta Theta in college—I know about brotherhoo…”
“You don’t know shit, my friend. I’m talking about REAL brotherhood, like living in a submarine with 150 men for six months, or prospecting an MC. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Well I’m here to tell you, there ain’t no women, either. A real man will do whatever it takes to help a brother survive.”
“Save your gung-ho rants for your cabin boys, Gary. If you’re sayin’ there are queers in the Sons of Anarchy, I call bullshit. Those guys are bad!”
“Fuck, Al—SOA ain't even real! All I’m saying is every man needs a crew he can lean on, and a place to call home. That's why I ride with the Hammers. Think about that when you’re curled up with a sack of dirty jockstraps in the laundry room tonight.”
Most evenings Al found the sound of the cleaning crew’s routine soothing—the kerplunk kerplunk of sneakers in the dryer, the vvrrrr rrrr rrrr of the industrial buffer on cold marble floors. Not that night. Gary’s ruminations on manhood and camaraderie had left Albert with more questions than answers, the obvious one being the most troubling.
“Is Gary a fag?” Every sign spoke to the contrary.
His relentless dedication to fitness.
The skin-tight blue jeans and muscle tee.
That bushy mustache.
And last but not least, that obnoxiously loud and fast motorcycle. Gary loved his Hog, and he showed it the way a schoolgirl wears her heart on her Hello Kitty notebook: by festooning it with every outlandish accessory you could imagine. An embroidered flag on the fringed leather saddlebag seemed especially over the top. When Al called him on it, Gary’s response was swift and resolute.
“My niece in Des Moines made that patch for me, and I promised her I’d wear it with pride. Besides, her mom… my sister… is the only one who understands…”
“Understands why I joined the Satin Hammers. I had to get out of Hicksville, and Vicki never judged me for it. Wish I could say the same for Dad. I split 15 years ago, but the old man still hates me like it was yesterday. I’m dead to him, and Mom gave up trying to change his mind years ago. I’m here to tell you, brother—you can never go back. Anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.”
Al pondered the evidence long and hard that evening. After weighing the facts, his mind was clear. There was no way this leather-clad motorcycle fiend and best friend could bone a dude. Case closed. After fluffing his laundry sack into a makeshift pillow, Al closed his eyes for a good night’s sleep. Gary was riding in a parade in San Francisco Monday morning, and he’d asked his homeless training partner to sit on the back and wave a flag behind him. Of course, Al agreed.
Who doesn’t love a parade?