Monday, March 7, 2011
I'm a huge fan of Michael Crane's. With several short stories and short story collections available for Kindle on Amazon, he continues to prove himself a truly talented author. I asked Michael to share an excerpt from one of my favorite short stories today, "Roller Rink" from his collection In Decline.
IN DECLINE is a short story collection about people who are trying to get by the best way they can, for better or worse. Gossip, bizarre love, peer pressure, addiction, heartbreak and loss are only a few of the topics covered in these nine stories where characters are faced with tough choices and ugly truths about life, the world and within themselves.
What reviewers are saying:
"Crane has a talent very few writers have. He can find the humor in a dire situation or find a way to sympathize with the most dismal characters. Some say that to read fiction requires the reader to 'suspend disbelief.' That's not the case here. These stories ooze truth."
--BigAl's Books and Pals
by Michael Crane
Life got complicated for me in Fifth Grade. A day where at Computer Lab, Doug asked me, “So, who are you going to ask to skate with you?” We were going to the roller rink for a field trip and it was a week away. This was the first time I had heard anything about having to skate with somebody.
“What?” I asked, thinking that somehow I misheard the question.
“You know. Who are you going to ask?” His red nose scrunched up as he snorted. “Everybody skates with somebody.” At the time my attention had been focused on the computer screen in front of me. We were learning how to type without looking at the keyboard. The program we were using had a crappy animated dog that would walk closer to a bone every time you typed a word correctly. When you mistyped a word, he’d take a step back and if you typed enough words wrong, he’d run into his doghouse and refuse to come out. Needless to say, my dog was spending way too much time in the doghouse and it was pissing me off, but at that moment that was the least of my worries.
“I don’t know. Didn’t think we had to skate with somebody.”
Doug snickered and showed some of his yellow-stained teeth. “Of course you skate with somebody! What, did you plan on just skating alone?”
I nodded. “Yeah. That was sorta my plan.”
“Everybody skates with somebody when they play the slow songs. It’s like a rule, or something.”
I frowned. “I don’t know, man. I really wasn’t planning on asking anybody.”
“Well, who do you think is cute in our class? Who do you want to skate with?”
I shrugged. I knew Doug wasn’t going to give me a moment’s rest until I gave him some sort of an answer. I looked away from the screen and started sizing up the girls in my class, as idiotic and retarded as I thought the whole thing was. We were all sitting in a straight row with the backs of the computers facing the white wall in front of us that had a lot of dirty finger prints on it. I looked to my left and studied some of the girls.
Nancy wasn’t very pretty, and wasn’t very nice altogether. She’d snarl anytime you said something she didn’t like. A regular tomboy. I didn’t study her too long. Taylor was skinny and small, but she had the most annoying laugh in the world. Anytime I’d hear her laugh I would have to plug my ears with my fingers. I wasn’t going to ask her.
Then, my eyes shifted to Clara. Clara was nice, decent looking, and friendly. I wasn’t attracted to her, but we talked a lot during class. She had long blond hair that touched her shoulders. She was easy enough to make laugh, although she didn’t have the annoying Taylor laugh that made me want to crawl into myself.
Again, I shrugged and looked at Doug. “I dunno. Clara?”
“Really?” He asked, sounding surprised. His head tilted back. “You have a thing for her?
“No. You asked me who I would want to skate with,” I said. “I’d skate with Clara.”
Doug grinned at me. “I think I can make that happen for you.” He turned to his left and walked a few seats down. He tapped Mandy on the shoulder. “Psst, Mandy. You’re friends with Clara, right?” She nodded. “Good. Well, looks like Freddy boy over here wants to skate with her when we go to the rink next week.” Mandy took a long, hard look at me with those tiny blue eyes of hers, and then she threw her hand on her mouth and let out a giggle. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. She nodded and then tiptoed over to where Clara was sitting. She whispered something to her and I heard Clara yelp, “What? Who?” She looked at me and I quickly turned away, feeling my face turn red. My ears felt like they were going to fall off from embarrassment. I couldn’t bring myself to hear what they were saying to each other. I didn’t even want any of this. Why the hell did Doug have to put me into this position? It wasn’t like I actually liked Clara. Not in that way.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Mandy. She had a somber look on her face and sighed.
“Sorry, Freddy. I don’t think Clara wants to skate with you.”
“Oh,” was the only thing I could manage to say. I heard Doug say, “It’s okay, Freddy boy. We’ll break her soon enough!” At that moment, I wanted to crawl somewhere dark and cold. Somewhere so isolated that I would be the only one who knew of the place’s existence. I could tell that Clara was taking glances at me, and they weren’t good glances. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her during rest of our time at the Lab.
Something very odd happened after that day. I found myself starting to like Clara. It started out small. I’d take a quick look at her every now and then when we were in class or out and about during recess. And the more and more that I looked at her, the more I found myself liking her. I couldn’t explain it. I never had feelings for the girl until stupid Doug asked me who I wanted to skate with. Sadly, Clara was going through the opposite. She no longer smiled at me. She no longer talked to me. Whenever I’d try to get a conversation going with her, she would just mumble, “Oh” and “Yeah.” Despite this, it didn’t make me dislike her. I wished to God that I didn’t have feelings for her, but I knew what I had. I had a crush on Clara. Maybe I did from the start and didn’t realize it until that day in Computer Lab.
Paying attention to anything in class was almost an impossible task. The teacher would speak, but I wasn’t really there. I was trapped in my own thoughts, in my own world as she scribbled down math problems and sentences on the chalkboard. I’d take a peek at Clara until I thought she was looking my way and I’d quickly look down at my book as if I had been reading the entire time. I knew she didn’t like me. She used to like me as a friend, but not ever since she found out that I wanted to skate with her. Yet, I still couldn’t shake this crush.
I told my buddy, Mark, who was in a grade lower than me. He lived in my neighborhood and since he wasn’t in my class, I knew I could trust him.
“You like her?” he asked as we were walking after the bus dropped us off. He straightened his baseball cap and brushed off a leaf from his jacket.
“You know Clara?”
“I’ve seen her before. Why do you like her? She’s not even that pretty.”
“I don’t know. I think she’s pretty.” I shrugged and shook my head. “I don’t know why I like her, man. Things haven’t been the same since that day in Computer Lab. Something… happened.” I shook my head and sighed. “She doesn’t even like me anymore. Doesn’t talk to me or anything.”
“Then why do you like her? Kinda pointless to like somebody who doesn’t like you, right?”
I didn’t know how to answer him.
Did you like that excerpt? If you want to read the rest of this wonderful story, I highly suggest purchasing In Decline. You won't be disappointed.
Michael Crane is an indie author and scribbler of inane babble that can sometimes end up as stories. He went to Columbia College Chicago where he earned a BA in Fiction Writing. He is the author of IN DECLINE and LESSONS AND OTHER MORBID DRABBLES, and he also might've written two books while he was in high school, but he refuses to own up to them and that's why they aren't included on this page. His work has appeared in DEVIL MUSIC AND 18 OTHER STORIES by David McAfee, EVIL PUPPIES by Aaron Daniels and A LAND OF ASH by David Dalglish. He lives in Illinois and is always trying to work on something new, unless he's battling stupid writer's block.
Some of his favorite writers are Raymond Carver, Richard Yates, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis and Hunter S. Thompson.
Other Stories and Collections by Michael Crane: