Other People's Crazy
by Gregory Fletcher
Genre: Young Adult
In a high school in suburban Arizona, the biggest kid in his sophomore class is being bullied by the smallest. With no dad, best friend, or girlfriend, Brandon’s life feels like pure hopeless chaos. But thanks to his crazy single mom, a stray dog, a bronco-busting hairdresser, a random left turn, and boomerang karma from the Universe, Brandon has a chance to turn his life in a new direction. Chaos, or Choice? They’re both in the mix of crazy at Mesa Verde High.
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“You need to wake up. It’s gone viral. You’ll have a lot of explaining to do.” Click.
Confusion. Because, on the one hand, I was holding the receiver of an unconnected landline to my ear and hearing the voice of a guy I’d never met. On the other hand, I knew exactly which video he was referring to. When Stuart passed me in the hallway yesterday, he’d been chatting it up with Saleh, who was always making short videos with his iPhone. Was yesterday’s lunchtime assault his latest project? I threw the receiver to the floor. The phone had been disconnected since Mom purchased our refurbished iPhones. How it ended up underneath my bed was beyond me.
Also beyond me was why Stuart and Saleh would’ve manipulated me into appearing in one of their videos. Why not just ask me to play along? Unlike Stuart, Saleh didn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body, so why the deception? And why me?
In my fifteen years of life, I’d never been in trouble, but a month into my sophomore year, somehow, I was being morphed into something new. Hit me, kick me—these had been Stuart’s acting directions to get what he wanted. Even without my really participating, there was enough footage to make him look like a victim. With selective editing, they could portray me as the one who started the whole thing—bullying the smallest kid in the school.
My cell phone rang. It had been so long since it rang, I’d forgotten about the Constellation ringtone I liked so much. As I reached over to unplug the charger, I slid off the bed, hitting the floor like a beached whale. The scattered dirty clothes did nothing to soften my landing. At least I was awake and out of bed.
The phone stopped ringing.
“The bathroom’s yours,” Mom said from outside my door. “That was me on the phone. You up? You didn’t answer the first time.”
“Yeah.” I waited to hear the front door close shut. She’d already showered, dressed, eaten, and was headed to the roof to sit cross-legged, poised on her meditation mat, worshipping the morning sun. I pushed up to my knees, and one leg cramped with a Charlie-horse spasm. Painfully, I flexed my foot to extend the muscle and dug my thumb into the knot. If I moved too quickly, the spasm would return. Sprawled across my bedroom floor, I waited.
When I finally made it upright, I stopped in front of the full-length wall mirror. The top frame now cut across my chin, beheading my reflection. Seriously! Would I never stop growing?
I grabbed the frame of the mirror, lifted it off the wall, pulled out the picture hook, and moved it up four inches. I was able to push the nail back into the wall and re-hang the mirror without a hammer.
Yep, my sneer was as pronounced as ever. I sneered at my sneer.
Turning from my hideous reflection, I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and lifted it over my head. It tore off in shreds. My clothes all ended up either outgrown or disintegrated. Kicking my way through the dirty clothes, I grabbed a clean t-shirt from my closet—a triple large retro of some band from the 1970s. I threw it on and stepped into a baggy pair of drawstring khakis.
I looked again at my sorry excuse of a reflection. You big blob! Sumo! Human punching bag! I made a fist to slam into the mirror, but stopped myself. Mom would have a fit and refuse to replace it. Besides, I didn’t need any more bad luck.
I pushed aside the hair hanging over my eyes and scented my own B.O. I sighed, and got a whiff of my morning breath. I stunk inside and out. As much as I wanted to get back in bed and tell Mom I was sick, I knew she would feel my forehead and pronounce: no temperature.
Maybe I should just tell her about Stuart’s film: I did it; video doesn’t lie. Might as well admit it, because everyone would be convinced of one thing: I was a monster.
Mom, with her jaw dropped and her eyes wide, will shake her head in disbelief and start babbling crazy talk about my aura or the need to turn my bed to face a different direction. I’ll point to myself and give her a look, like Isn’t it obvious who I am?
No, wait. The call on the unconnected landline proved it was just a dream. So…good news, perhaps.
As I headed toward the kitchen for breakfast, my phone’s text alert chimed. It was from Mom: Just heard from school. We’ve got a meeting with the principal first thing this morning. Something about a video.
I should’ve known any brief moment of optimism would be a fleeting one-off. Because my life only attracts bad news. And the truth of the matter is: if it happened again, Stuart running at me from across the practice football field, I’d still do all those things his video showed me doing. And more. Because who else was I but that person? So, if Stuart wanted a monster—a cold-hearted bully—fine. I just might make his day.
Other People’s Crazy marks Gregory Fletcher’s YA novel debut. Other published works include two short stories in the anthologies The Night Bazaar, and The Night Bazaar: Venice. Also, Fletcher is the author of the craft book Shorts and Briefs (a collection of short plays and brief principles of playwriting). Thirteen of his plays have been produced Off-Off-Broadway and regionally in Boston, Provincetown, Moscow (Idaho), and Miami. A native of Dallas, Texas, a resident of New York City, and a graduate with various degrees in theatre from C.S.U.N., Columbia University, and Boston University, Fletcher also teaches at the MA/MFA Maslow Family Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
When did you first know you were a writer?
My great aunt and uncle, Matilde and Theodore Ferro, were writers for classic radio, TV, as well as for various fiction, etc. They wrote the long running radio serial “Lorenzo Jones and His Wife Belle” throughout the 1930s and 40s. They wrote teleplays for live television, and, later, many classics like “Leave it to Beaver,” “Peyton Place,” “The Patty Duke Show,” and dozens more. When I met them as a young kid, we instantly connected. During a visit in high school, they gave me a copy of one of their scripts from “Leave It To Beaver.” On the plane ride home, I discovered it was missing the last couple pages. I decided to write how I thought the script should’ve ended, and mailed it to them. They telephoned with delight, “You’re a writer!” I moved to LA for college, to be close to them, and we read each other’s work as if we were peers. I will always be indebted to their support and all that they taught me.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Just a few:
a lack of compassion,
undervaluing investigative journalism,
relying on Facebook and friends’ opinions for the news,
failing to treat others like you’d want to be treated,
undervaluing the arts,
not finding the time to read,
the inability to put the phone away during social times with family and friends,
religious fanatics who’ve lost the meaning of religion.
Where were you born/grew up at?
My dad lived in New York City, and my mom in Long Island. When they were married, they decided to move to Dallas, Texas, where I was born and raised. Lucky for me, they brought along their theatre-going habits, which quickly became my favorite childhood activity. I even studied children’s theater at the Dallas Theatre Center, and acted in two of their mainstage productions. The Dallas school district also supported the arts. Every year, my school went to the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, and Music Hall for musical theater. If that wasn’t enough, my parents supported the idea of producing neighborhood theatre in our own living room. (Clearly, I was heavily influenced by “The Little Rascals.”) We must’ve produced four separate productions prior to my high school years; at which time, my amazing drama teacher, Brenda Prothro, directed us in two to three plays a year, and produced my first full-length play in my senior year. What an amazing time and upbringing.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was having lunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Within the first 15 minutes, she got a text and abruptly had to go. I was like WTH! But when she explained that her son was being bullied in high school, and she was being summoned by the principal, of course my heart went out to both of them. As she was leaving, she said, “Of course the odd thing is—my son is the biggest in his sophomore class. And he’s being bullied by the smallest!” Without knowing anything else about her son, bully, or school, my mind started trying to figure out how this began, and how it would end. And Other People’s Crazy began its first trimester.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m halfway through Other People’s Drama, which is book two, following Other People’s Crazy. The second book centers on Brandon in his junior year of high school. And I suspect there will be a third book in the series, with Brandon in his senior year.
I’ve also completed two new YA manuscripts, currently looking for publishing homes:
Class of Numbers takes place in a charter high school in New York City. A sub shows up to teach a class when a sub was never called. The students’ names are substituted for numbers that remain the same for the entire class. Then immediately afterwards, the sub disappears. Who was this sub, and what do the numbers mean? The students are determined to find out.
Tom and Huck—Sitting in a Tree re-images Tom and Huck as gay 16-year olds, living in 1850 Missouri. Looking for love, searching to belong, the adventures are told in the comedic spirit of Mark Twain.
Advice you would give new authors?
Try your hand at other genres. Being forced to think outside of your comfort zone can be rewarding, beneficial, and full of teaching moments. I started as a playwright, but when I was encouraged to write fiction, I found that I loved storytelling in this new genre, especially YA (young adult). And because of my background in playwriting, I had a strong advantage with dialogue, structure, and forward development.
Try writing a ten-page play, either original or based on some of your existing work. My craft book, Shorts and Briefs, a collection of short plays and brief principles of playwriting, will give you clear, concise instructions, as well as examples. The principles of playwriting apply to all creative writing, so expect some Aha moments when examining them from a new angle. Plus, playwriting, like screenwriting, involves a community of artists, so then writing won’t be so isolating.
Describe your writing style.
I like relating and feeling a human beating heart on the page. I also like the contrast between darkness and white light. One without the other becomes too off balanced for me. I love comedy when it’s balanced with drama. And when it comes out of action vs. jokes. Whether contemporary or historic, I like to see characters make choices, and the forward development that follows. By the time I get to the final page, I want to have experienced and felt the journey of the protagonist.
How important is reading?
So much good comes from reading. Yes, read as much as you can. Limit TV and social media, schedule time to read-read-read. Different genres, subjects, and authors—it will be enlightening, beneficial, entertaining, and full of teaching moments. Along with reading, also write as much as you can. The more you write, the more you’ll discover your strengths and what works best for you. As with any craft, the more you practice, the more you mature and excel.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
For me, writing is about listening. (Who or what we’re listening to may be up for debate. I’m guessing, we’re all listening to the same source, calling it whatever name makes us comfortable: God, love, the universe, ancestral spirits, the dearly departed, or any other celestial or otherworldly vibes.)
When we stop listening—unable to connect with inspiration—this is writer’s block. None of us truly knows where creativity and connection come from. Clearly, it’s a fragile state that no one should take for granted, misuse, or neglect. Therefore, when you honor and respect the gift of listening, you may be able to avoid being blocked.
Does an athlete put on a uniform and rush to the field or court to play? Does a musician put together an instrument and immediately begin to perform? Does a dancer step into the proper shoes and costume and rush to the stage at “Places?” Of course not. So why does a writer grab a pen or open a laptop and expect the words to flow? We, too, must warm up and prepare to write.
Get rid of distractions. Stretch the muscle groups to rid any tension. Deeply breathe to calm the mind. Prepare and unclutter your space. Allow yourself to listen. Allow inspiration to channel through your mind, heart, and fingers. Let the principles you’ve learned as a craftsperson help guide and shape your words.
If you’re unable to hear, then ask questions aloud, and listen for the answers. (This works well at bedtime, too, just prior to falling sleep.) Or take a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. Meditate. Practice yoga. Pray. If you’re still blocked, turn to art. All forms of art can allow for inspiration.
Do whatever works best for you to rid yourself of tension, anxiety, and stress. These are the culprits of writer’s block.
(If interested, I offer more tips and principles for creative writing in my craft book Shorts and Briefs, 2nd edition, by Gregory Fletcher. Thanks for the support.)
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