What are you working on now?
Witchita Stories started as a memoir but quickly became something else entirely. Mostly true, but true to the point where it started to feel like fiction, if that makes any sense. So we'll call it fiction. I wrote fifty pages and sent them to Kevin Sampsell. Eight months later, he called me and said he wanted to put out my book. I wrote fifty more pages the two weeks after our first talk. I'm continually adding things, subtracting things, writing entirely new pieces, etc. Sometimes I think of the book as a novel rather than a collection, because the characters are all the same and everywhere scattered in these stories. But it's not a novel, it's a collection. There are stories, monologues, lists, and pictures. It is one of the strangest writing experiences I have ever had. It is so personal, even though I use a cold distant voice in most of the pieces, that it feels even more satisfying when the fictive elements unravel even greater truths to me about who I am--and maybe about who we can be, together. Some days I feel like this project will always be a "work in progress."
Another summer, or maybe the same summer, I’m eleven and hanging out with my brother and this kid we go to church with. We are at the neighborhood park, swinging, shooting hoops, dicking around on the seesaw, kids being kids, and then, out of nowhere, my brother has this small little baggy out of his pocket and he’s asking this kid we go to church with if he wants any. The bag is filled with these tiny yellowish crystals. The kid says: What is it? And my brother, he must sense some amount of uncoolness in the kid, because he just shrugs, says: Oh, nothing, just some candy, and puts the baggy back into his pocket. We shoot hoops for a while. Then my brother stops and points his finger to my best friend’s house. He says: You want to go into that house with us? The kid is hesitant to answer. His face is like what? and his hands and feet are nervous. What? My brother shrugs. It’s no biggie, they’re friends. They just happen to be out of town this weekend. But the kid makes this silly hand motion and says: Oh, no, no, I can’t do that. Actually, I’m late. I’ve got to go, and he leaves, just like that, and me and my brother, we go home, not saying another thing about it, like it never even was a plan to begin with.
Later that night, my brother wakes me. He says: We’re doing it? And I say: What the—what? And he says: We’re going into the house. Come on, get dressed. I hesitate, but only for a minute.
When we get there, we spend a few minutes figuring out the best form of entry. We check the doors but they’re all locked. All the windows are locked, too, except for the storm window, which my brother pushes in with a flattened fist. He snakes down into the dark without a word. Objects crash around him—pictures, trophies, trinkets, and I whisper down: You okay? And he says: Yeah, I’m fine. Come on, I’ll let you in through the back door.
The sliding glass door at the back of the house opens. I’m inside. We start in the kitchen, snooping through the cupboards. Find a bottle of vodka tucked behind some crackers. My brother fills a glass, no mixer, and drinks down about a third of it, and then asks if I want any, but I shake my head, Nah. We make our way up the stairs, looking through all of their stuff along the way. Exhilarating, my heart races faster and faster, but I feel dirty, too, so much muck of confusion lodging itself right into me.
My best friend’s parent’s bedroom is the goldmine we’re not expecting. While looking through the dresser drawer we come across a Penthouse. Claudia Schiffer’s in it, showing her stuff, tits, legs, ass, all of it out and on display. I try to play off my excitement but can feel the heat in my face, the blood rushing. In another drawer, a video cassette in oversized packaging (a porno), and a couple of rubber penises—my brother calls them dildos. I pull them out and look them over. One of them is about ten inches long. At the base there’s a place to put the batteries. I imagine my best friend’s mother putting them inside her while turning them over in my hands. I feel slightly sick, slightly turned on, slightly embarrassed. Suddenly, I want to leave. I feel wrong being there. My brother has the porno going on the large screen of the TV, watching with vague interest while drinking his liquor. I say, Hey, I want to go. I’m getting tired. And he says, Okay, we’ll go, just give me a minute, and he closes the door.
I go into my best friend’s bedroom and lay down on his bed. I close my eyes. I wait. I start counting sheep to alleviate the boredom—not really sheep, just aloud to myself in the dark. I open my eyes, I close them, I open them, and I wait. I count. I wonder what could possibly be taking so long. I count some more. I think about Claudia Schiffer’s perfect boobs, stop thinking about them, start again, stop again, decide to lay on my stomach so I don’t start jacking off on instinct in my best friend’s bed. Laying on your boner isn’t exactly comfortable. I’m starting to think we’ll get into trouble—that someone will find out what we’ve done, that maybe we will end up in a jail for kids somewhere off in the sticks. I’m grinding my teeth, eyes closed, face down, reaching for a thought that will make me feel just the slightest bit cleaner inside, under my skin, when I hear my brother walking through the hallway, calling my name, signaling departure. And even still, to this day, when someone says my name, I feel this unnamable force surround me. It comes on at the back of my neck, then full on, cold and familiar, and tugs at me, trying to pull me away from one place and set me down in another.
Troy James Weaver was born, raised, and remains in Wichita, Kansas. His work has been in Hobart, is forthcoming in Atticus Review, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. His first book, Witchita Stories, will be published by Future Tense Books in 2015.