Bryan Harrison

Bryan Harrison
Location
Seattle, Washington, USA
Birthday
March 24
Title
Former Enfant Terrible, Now Merely Terrible
Bio
The difference between a rant and an editorial is how much the writer is paid.

MY RECENT POSTS

Editor’s Pick
MARCH 11, 2009 7:23AM

Sophie Wisniewski, Witch

Rate: 96 Flag

The Usual SuspectSophie Wisniewski is a witch. We know this because she says so and because she's outlined her strange eyes in black. She's also wearing a shiny purple bedspread draped over the pink nylon night gown that covers her all the way to her lime green flip-flops.

It's February and 40° in a time when battered wives ask for it, children need to be taught a lesson, and TV comics make a living pretending to be alcoholic. The neighborhood lawns are gray and sodden; the surrounding woods an uninviting slush of dead leaves. Nonetheless, after the hundredth repetition of “I'm bored,” my mother has heartlessly handed me my coat and pushed me out the back door to “play.” It's a damp, chilly world whose dim, colorless excuse for sunlight would look just right in a morgue.

Walking down the main street of our ridiculously named Green Acres, I encounter Glen Shiflett and Eddie Zbigniew. They are my friends by default, as there is no other boy in the neighborhood within five years of my age. I explain that once again my mother has taken all my books away because reading is making me “weird.” Glen admits that he has for some reason epoxied the sheets to his bed frame, causing his mother to lock him out of the house and throw his coat out a window as an afterthought. Eddie says nothing. It's understood that he's just wandering around looking for things to destroy, since this is what he does every day. We amble along, dispirited, until we discover that Sophie Wisniewski has built a small fire in the matted, knee-deep grass of the Wisniewski front lawn, and this strikes us as promising.

“I am a witch!,” she says as we approach.

That she is dressed for some Halloween acid trip four months after the fact is unremarkable, given the Wisniewski manse is still sporting blinking Christmas lights at 4:00 pm in February. That she's setting their front yard on fire without interference only serves to emphasize the enviable way in which her parents sleep through whatever any of their many children finds to do. Similarly, her resemblance to a hungover raccoon invading the Goodwill donation dumpster means absolutely nothing. The Wisniewskis are infamous for their own special amalgam of the Brady Bunch, the Adams Family, and Lord of the Flies. This serves a useful social function in the neighborhood, in that anything from groaning zombie in-laws to exploding eyeball cancer can be instantly normalized with the magic words, "Well, it's not like we're the Wisniewskis!”

In fact, Sophie's suddenly purported witchiness fits well with the the legendary Wisniewski lifestyle. It could explain everything from the fact that her parents sleep all day (vampires!) to their venerably overflowing septic tank (entrance to the underworld!). Given this new information, even King, their ancient, cataract-ridden collie takes on a decidedly Hell Hound aspect. (King once inspired me to invent a game called “Radiation Poisoning” which involved staining one's gums with Welch's grape juice, pretending handfuls of noisome mangy collie fur were one's own falling-out hair, and clutching at the knees of unknown adults while rasping “Please... heeeeeelp meeee!” Toothlessness is King's salvation – were he actually able to bite, he would have been destroyed years ago. As it is, getting gummed by him is merely smelly, and we have to ask people we hate to hold still while we gently guide his trembling arthritic jaws to their shins.)

Sophie has acquired an empty five pound Folger's coffee can, and has used part of a rusting barbecue to suspend it over a small fire that appears to involve a geography text and part of a Danish modern lamp. She's stirring the contents with a broken snow shovel handle, with which she threatens us as we approach.

“Back! You'll ruin the spell!”

“Your so 'flicted!“ This is Eddie's single witticism, and he barks it reflexively at anything he doesn't understand, which is everything.

“What's in there?” Glen means well, but I know that if left undistracted, his interest will sooner or later result in clogged plumbing or the water feature of a nearby golf course bursting into flame.

“It's fuckin' 'flicted!” Eddie barks, inevitably.

“Is it sticky? Does it burn?” Glen is equally predictable.

I'm less afraid of Sophie since my mother explained that the rule about hitting girls doesn't apply to girls who are bigger than you, especially if they hit you first. That, and the sense of impending intellectual suffocation I feel in Glen and Eddie's company provokes me to blurt, “What spell?"

Sophie's been waiting for this. “The witch's' spell!” She shrieks and opens her creepy, pale Alaskan Husky eyes wide. “The spell of power!” She claws the air and I see her fingernails are clotted with dried blood. “The spell of punishment!” Her cackle is awesome, combining the parrot shriek of a pubescent girl at a Beatle's concert with her infamous filching of her father's unfiltered Camels.

Glen is intent on the boiling black goo, which I understand has the potential to result in Mrs. Shiflett smoking five cartons of cigarettes. She will do this while the Shiflett home is being steam cleaned and she and my mother discuss why, though Glen did whatever was done, it's still my fault. (Since everyone knows Glen is only slightly brighter than King the collie, it's hard to counter these arguments.) Eddie is staring at Sophie's little fire in a way that reminds me of last fourth of July, when his patriotism was extinguished only when two fire engines rolled up our street and firemen spent five hours putting out a riding lawn mower, a tool shed, and an acre of forest.

Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde war briefly in me, but lose hands down to Mother Teresa. I feel sad for poor lonely 'flicted Sophie, so much an untouchable that even normal parents who're awake at midday can't see she's about to burn her own house down. Not for nothing am I in the fourth grade at what my older brother calls Lady of Our Perpetually Sorry Elementary School and Concentration Camp. I know Jesus would play with Sophie as surely as I know he'd wash his hands with soap afterwards.

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!" I intone. I'm eleven and while I won't grow hair on it for another year or so, several months back I inexplicably acquired the voice of James Earl Jones. I'm still exploring the fact that Vincent Price's Abominable Dr. Phibes now sounds like a Chihuahua next to my German shepherd. And outcast that she is, Sophie is quick to sense opportunity.

“Idiot! If you're wise, you'll fear my power!” Sophie waves her claws in my face, and from the smell I realize her nails are covered in dried ketchup, not blood. She tosses her hair in a way intended to evoke Bewitched, but since Mrs. Wisniewski bleaches all her many daughters' hair green using what is commonly believed to be Clorox, it's more like being threatened with a broom of chemically scented straw.

“Thou. shalt. not. suffer. a witch to live!" I repeat, taking a step forward with each word. Since I'm running out of lines, I add the Ghost of Christmas Future's dire, pointing finger from the Mr. Magoo version of A Christmas Carol.

Sophie waves the snow shovel stub in our direction, and I'm afraid Glen will become fixated on the boiled black sticky substance on the end of it. Fortunately, I'm both a compulsive reader and an altar boy. I chant some random Latin until I'm struck by a brilliant idea.

“Burn her!” I bellow. “Burn her body now, lest her immortal soul burn in eternity!”

Sophie screams in an agreeable way, exposing her buck teeth in a snarl, not unlike Mr. Ed reaching for an apple. Then she runs.

We pursue, a posse of diminutive John Hale's in sneakers. It's well known that Sophie can outrun us all, but we never begrudge her this. After all, her father has been known to chase her naked down the street with a belt at 6:00 am, while the rest of us wait for the school bus. It's not unmanly to be shown up by a girl whose track and field skills are honed by frequent flights for her life.

We're further delayed when she leads us through the legendary Wisniewski Back Yard of the Black Lagoon. Like natives familiar with the village quicksand, only Wisniewskis can be sure of avoiding the ruptured septic tank in the hip deep grass. Sophie, fleet as a deer despite the flip-flops, cackles and shrieks as she runs, the purple bed spread flapping behind her, her chlorine green hair in a poison dandelion seed nimbus around her elfin head.

The satisfaction of eventually catching her is lessened by the awareness that we've done so only because she's gotten bored running. Green Acres' failed, half-completed suburban optimism is lost in the abandoned pig farm it was intended to replace, and there remain many acres of woods to run through. This time of year it's so easy to escape adult supervision that, like fireflies, they seem only to exist in summer. Sophie, unfazed by having run a marathon, arranges her bedspread cloak about her thin shoulders, swathing her equally knobby elbows, hips, and knees in purple polyester. With her sweat spiked hair she resembles nothing so much as the deranged younger sister of the Status of Liberty, and she fixes us with a gaze I won't see again until Judi Dench plays Lady Macbeth.

My lungs are on fire and I'm groping for dramatic inspiration. Fortunately, the elementary school library at Perpetually Sorry Assed Lady has a wonderful History of the Spanish Inquisition complete with illustrations – the perfect way to pass an hour as Sister Robert snores through “Library Skills.”

“Hold her!” I hiss, pointing downwards with an imaginary Margaret Hamilton manicure. Glen and Eddie obligingly pin Sophie's thin arms to the wet ground. She writhes and screams operatically, thrilled at all the attention. But for her unfortunate teeth, rail thin body, and electric hair, she'd look perfect in King Kong's fist.

I spread my arms wide, palms toward heaven, and pant, catching my breath.

“My child, you must repent your sin!”

Glen and Eddie are of course public school heathens so I add, sotto voce, “Witchcraft is a sin and she has to say she's sorry or she'll burn in Hell.” Sophie knows this - she's a public school nightmare, but as her parents occasionally wake up on Sunday morning, she sporadically attends catechism classes at Perpetually I'm Really Sorry, Lady.

“Never!” she screams, opening her mouth so wide I can see that the spaces between her teeth continue all the way to her molars.

“Recant!” Glen and Eddie look at me in complete bafflement, but I can't think of a shorter word. Being the brains of this gang is a thankless job.

“I'll never cheat on my husband, Satan!” This strikes me as brilliant for a girl who, unlike me with my superior Catholic education, has surely never heard of the Spanish Inquisition. I become determined not to be outdone.

“Press her under stones!” More baffled looks from everyone, and I try to contain my irritation with the fact that none of them remember Hope Lang's indelible performance in the made-for-TV classic, Crowhaven Farm. We all pause while I deliver a concise plot summary, explain the Salem witch trials, and add a few extra notes from The Little Golden Book of Torture in Our Perpetrator Lady of Bastinado Is Sorry's school library.

A search for a suitable board ensues. Glen discovers a discarded gate from someone's demolished fence. We put it on top of Sophie, who snarls, "I curse you!” while lying agreeably still. Large stones prove harder to come by, and Eddie's idea of using dirt, like all of Eddie's ideas, quickly proves unworkable, as do our attempts to balance a discarded toilet on the gate.

Piqued by our failure to squash the sin out of her, Sophie shrugs off her board, brushes the wet leaves out of her toxic straw hair, and says, “This is dumb and my feet are cold.”

This strikes me as unsportsmanlike, but since she's wearing flip-flops, I can see her toes are indeed the grayish pink of a frozen ham steak. Still, inspiration is upon me and I mustn't spurn my muse. I bend down, lift Sophie's chin in my hand, and whisper thrillingly.

“My child. If you will not recant, you will leave us no choice. Admit your sin! Repent!”

I can tell she's impressed, and I'm excited to have finally found a use for all the crap I've been listening to nuns babble since I was five.

“Recant!” I think I've found my new favorite word.

“Never!” She turns her head away and thrusts out her chin.

“What are we gonna do now?,” Glen whines because of what will later be called ADHD.

“This is 'flicted!” Eddie barks, because it's the coolest word in a vocabulary that includes only 29 others, excluding obscenities.

“The witch must burn,” I bellow because I'm a future Drama Queen of America.

“Burn the witch!” shrieks Sophie, because her entire family is bat shit crazy.

Like it always does with all Really Bad Ideas, the universe cooperates wholeheartedly with this last suggestion. Glen finds a great towering brown hulk of a discarded Christmas tree, complete with sad tinsel. Eddie runs away to cut down someone's clothesline with the sort of knife budding sociopaths are never without.

I say “Recant!” several more times, rolling the initial “R” and trying to generate actual spit on the terminal “T.” I have a clear picture in my head of Montgomery Clift playing a priest in I Confess and I widen my eyes sorrowfully at what I'm being forced to do.

Sophie moans, ”Lucifer, save me!” and embraces the tottering tree backwards. It occurs to me I'm not the only one who knows about Joan of Arc, and I'm once again startled by the vocabulary of a girl who has been known to apply makeup with magic markers and style her hair with spray starch.

In no time, her upper body is sloppily webbed to the cactus-prickly tree. I'm gearing up for another round of my new favorite word when Eddie intervenes. He is of course the sort of eleven year old who has never seen a handkerchief but is guaranteed to have a Zippo in his pocket. He applies it to the tree before I can explain "metaphor," which was my favorite word before I was seduced by “recant!”

We discover that given the slightest encouragement, a dead pine tree goes up like a torch. Sophie's body is somewhat protected by the serendipitously quilted bedspread, but the back of her hair is shriveling in a way reminiscent of my mother stopping a run in her nylons with a lit cigarette. I am trying to find the end of the rope when she screams and takes off running with a flaming Christmas tree tied to her back.

I follow her with all the speed I can muster, but if I thought it was difficult to catch her the first time, it's impossible now that she's wearing a forest fire. She's a screaming comet obscured by its own fiery tail, presumably rocketing back to Planet Wisniewski. I can barely see her through the flames and smoke, but I believe her feet have somehow left the ground as she flees the woods.

Glen pants “Shit!” and Eddie bleats “Fuck!” and it belatedly occurs to me to have hysterics, but I'm gaining on Sophie and I can't run this hard and scream “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” at the same time.  She, on the other hand, while smelling of happy holidays, sounds like the “duck and cover” siren they occasionally test at school.

Until, all of the sudden, she doesn't. Out of the woods, she enters not her own yard but that of the house next door. The people we ignore all summer because of their swimming pool. She hits the canvas winter cover like a pine scented meteor, and both her screams and the fire are extinguished with a violent rip and an unseasonal splash.

— • —

It was all terribly exciting.

Do you suppose poor Sophie was burned, scarred beyond recognition?

Drowned in pool chemicals, maybe? Her agonized rictus face the same pallid green as her hair?

I didn't mean to upset anyone. Shall I stop here?

No? Are you positive I shouldn't just stop and claim I made it all up?

Are you sure? It was an awfully long time ago and surely you have something better to do than...

Oh, all right. Sit down. But there's really not much more to tell.

— • —

When we get to her, Sophie will be sort of sitting in the wrecked pool cover. We'll haul her out of the icy water unencumbered by clothesline, tree, bedspread, flip-flops, the lower half of the singed pink nightgown, or – seemingly – her senses. She will laugh hysterically, leaving us to assume her brain has dissolved in the pool's winter antifreeze.

Glen will be primarily interested in retrieving the quilted bedspread, intrigued by that fact that only the purple side has melted.

Eddie will say, “Fuckin' 'flicted,” but with a rare tone of admiration.

Checking Sophie for burns from her head to her feet and finding none, I will start to cry when she absently touches my head.

We boys will want to be rescued by an adult, whatever the consequences, but that won't be necessary. As the last of the winter light fades, drenched Sophie will spin in front of us, skinny white arms outstretched, laughing hysterically. She will be half frozen, half naked, and half shorn, but she'll cry “I told you I'm a witch!”with every evidence of joy. We'll wrap her in all our coats and tiptoe her home, whispering furiously at her to be quiet. She won't listen, but as there will still be some faint gray in the sky, her vampire parents won't wake. The rest of us will sneak back into our warm houses and flinch every time the phone rings for the next 24 hours.

Later I will hear from my mother that Sophie received a beating with a belt buckle for the singeing of her bleach-green hair, and for the big black smoldering circle in the Wisniewski front lawn. As is usual when the Wisniewskis are discussed, words like "those poor children," "crazy," "shame," and "what can you do" will be heard. Social services will be mentioned but not called. Sophie will claim to have burned her hair in the lawn fire and to have been alone. No one will question this.

The following summer, Glen, Eddie, and Sophie will simultaneously discover the word “fag,” and I will have neither their friendship nor any other until I grow six inches in as many years and run away from home. In the meantime, I'll observe from a distance as Glen discovers crystal meth, inspires an unwanted pregnancy, and is finally tried as an adult and sent to prison on several narcotics charges. It will be whispered that Eddie has been institutionalized for killing and skinning small animals and masturbating with their bloody pelts. I'll never see either of them again.

Older boys will discover Sophie is a girl, and therefore something they want, at about the same time they realize I want other boys, and am therefore something they hate. She will achieve a semblance of social acceptance as the neighborhood slut and when her larger, older boyfriends beat me up, she will never fail to scream “Asshole!” and hurl herself at them. She'll become to me a sacred monster, and I'll fear, pity, and envy her in equal measure.

Eventually I'll pretty much stop leaving the house and so won't see her again, but I'll hear rumors. My mother will report when Sophie abruptly gives up boys, bleaching what will turn out to be thick auburn hair, and responding to anything other than her given name of “Sophia.” This will shock people almost as much as when she vanishes, allegedly on scholarship.

More than that I don't know.

I can tell you, though, that for the rest of my life I will think of her whenever I'm spared the terrifying consequences of my own stupidity, and whenever I'm confronted with incontrovertible evidence of my own magic. I'll wonder how she survived, though I suppose it's obvious...

She didn't recant and she didn't burn. She flew, then floated, then kept a secret through trial by ordeal. She practiced her wiles on those who meant neither of us freaks well, then grew her dark hair long and flew once more, this time for good.

And we all know what that means.

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Wow, that was wonderful.

I was impressed by the way you describe and offhandedly refer to horrible things in a 'light' tone. I always find the contrast much more effective than solemnity. Some wonderful lines - like the bit about the old dog. But everything was so vivid. And so sad. I hope Sophie is all right - and you too.
I don't find this sad at all but...I dunno...fierce ("fierce"--I think I watched too much reality tv last year). The last two to three paragraphs in particular are brilliant. You are a fantastic writer.

"I'll wonder how she survived, though I suppose it's obvious...
She didn't recant and she didn't burn. She flew, then floated, then kept a secret through trial by ordeal....then grew her dark hair long and flew once more, this time for good. And we all know what that means."

you're assessment may be incorrect in the technical sense, but it really doesn't matter, does it?
your--your assessment (bad bad!)
Incredible. If it weren't for the Polish names, I'd say this has to be the South. Admit it, you stole Sophia out of some Flannery O'Connor, and when she grew up returned to whatever story you plundered her from.
That was wonderful. Amazing and wonderful.
Very evocative and very well written. You've got great storytelling skills.

I love the way it starts out as a small, suburban slice of prepubescent fantasy and you elevate it to something much, much larger.

Your ability to capture a time, a feeling and a picture of a place is wonderful.

I see elements of Golding's 'Lord of the Flies', hints of the Dylan Thomas classic 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' with some J.D. Salinger and of course, Harrison.

Well done!
jane... You're flattering me. ;)

Excepting high school, technical work, and correspondence, very nearly all the writing I've ever done has been written since I started my OS blog, and is posted there. It makes me feel better about staying up 'til 5:00 am and sleeping 'til noon.
Mrs. M... You've found me out. I grew up in Annapolis, MD, not far from the Mason Dixon line. The Chesapeake was then very much a world of its own - I guess we'd have to class me "semi-southern gothic."

I changed the names, but retained their ethnicity. There were three Polish families on our block - just a coincidence.

Thanks again for your kind words.
GW... I'm only sure that if there are technical assessments for witches, the witches laugh at them. ;) Thanks much for your support.
Steve... The thangs you say! Y'all stop that now before you turn my fool head.
I was going to ask the same question as Jane, you have to be a famous published author and you are just here for fun. This is incredible. You have to try to get published if someone like you cant get a book deal there is no justice!
Myriad... I think I still see it as I did as a child: whatever it is, it's what it is. I suspect all lives are difficult, and while we all whine quite a bit, I've noticed young people are often more accepting and practical than adults. They feel entitled to cake, not to Purpose and Meaning. They take the wondrous and the awful as givens, which strikes me as a sort of wisdom.

No doubt I'm in some insufficiently caffeinated romantic state. ;)
i had been wondering all along how much training you have had, if you had an MFA, if you had been at Iowa Writers Workshop (or others) , etc so now those questions are put to rest
Ariana... That's incredibly flattering, but I honestly haven't a clue. This really is something I started to give purpose to my insomnia. The warm reception has caught me by surprise, and I'm certainly very grateful for it.
The fact that you are not being read enough, and that this was barely rated, is a fucking CRIME.

A crime.

Please tell me you are published. Please.
Demeter's Daughter...

You're very sweet. (Don't worry - I promise not to tell.) Also no slouch yourself.

While I won't pretend I don't thrill to applause, I seem to being doing this because I have to. And no, I've never been published.

As a retired geek, it's clear OS was designed to be a site with far fewer users than it actually has. With so many contributors, its rating systems act as closed feedback loops. You know - where only what's advertised sells, and only what's purchased is advertised. New products are likely to fail, and older ones unlikely to improve. If grocery stores did this we'd all be eating nothing but Kraft Mac & Cheese washed down with Diet Coke.

The activity feed and recent post information also fails due to the number of users. When the frequency of posts reached the point where either list is a snapshot only of the past few minutes, they became curiosities with no practical use. For them to be meaningful, we'd have to look at the site every minute or two.

What do you think we should do about it? I'm not much of a fame whore, but it's not hard to imagine a better OS environment. Think anyone will listen if we talk?
you sir, are in a class by yourself..this is the finest piece i've yet to come across on O.S...or anywhere else for that matter

you've been given a rare gift

i am SO fucking blown away by this post

and i don't understand why i'm not the 500th person to rate or comment on this

exits bowing
Unfuckingbelievable. You are a god. You are making me late to get out the door to catch a plane, damn it. If I miss my plane it's totally the fault of your writing skills. Damn you! *LOVE* this!
Mr. McF... You're so generous I hardly know what to say. The only gift I'm sure of is insomnia. Thanks for the encouragement.
Great stuff, all throughout. I knew that family too, but in my neighborhood, they were called "The McPeeks."

Odd how every street has one~

Rayted with a laser beam~
yyyeeeaaaaahhh.....I think you are not long for obscurity here. Nope.

As to what to do? I dunno...I have a lot of Spring on my hands here...flowers to bloom, critters to awaken.

I am new here too. I am not sure the closed feedback loop is ENTIRELY accurate. Get seen once and well, and you are seen more and more..

It's just getting that seen once part down. Methinks this isn't going to be a problem for you.


For example...I am about to pimp you in PM to high heaven. My circle is smallish, I guess...but they have friends.
This is absolutely wonderful ... perfect.

I loved it. Every. Single. Word.

:) Ann
Can't wait for more!~
oh yes oh yes.....this must be promoted.
That was .... indescribable. You have a most fertile imagination, Bryan.

An amazingly excellent read. Thanks so much.

Thumbed.
What an AMAZING read.....Kerry, Joan are you READING????? Incredible writing. Just incredible. Kerry, Joan??????
This is one of the best things I have ever read on here. You have a gift. I'm jealous, bitch.

This needs promotion, by god.
I loved it so much, I just came back and read it again!!!

Yes ... promote, promote, promote ... everyone should have the pleasure of reading this!!!

And seriously, Toochee ... where are the editors on this??? Helllooooooooooooo!!!
Has anyone scrawled this yet? Please tell me you have.....
briliant writing and fantastic story.

rated
before I posted this comment I read the others. I too wonder if you are not some famous author hiding out for respite in the bloggerdom of OS. If not, then your talent should recognized beyond my computer screen.
I want more! Amazing as a short story, could see it as a novel. Really incredibly fabulous.

rated
Completely and entirely enthralling, professional, absorbing. A little O'Conner, as has been noted, a little JC Oates, a little Stephen King - gosh, it's the short form writ large!

Please drop a note upon the creation of your next wonder. You're correct, the closed-loopiness herein makes impossible to keep up, especially for those of many of us that have to pursue the everyday drudgery of living.
Fabulous...you've raised the bar for all of us here and given me a serious case of writer's envy.
I e-mailed Joan and Kerry. I am going to be kind of busy for most of the weekend so PLEASE take the torch and get this the exposure it deserves. READ AND RATE THIS PIECE, PLEASE! EVERYONE!

And yes, I am shouting.
Most excellent! One of the best things I've read on OS in a long time. I bet Zoetrope Magazine would publish it.
Many people pimpin this today. Yay you.
Wow. That's all I can say. Okay, I'll say more. Incredibly well-written, as well as being an excellent story.
Stunning, Dear Boy. You must collect these.
Fantastic! I especially love the ever-changing parochial school names, having attended them myself for way too many years.

Definitely rated!
I'm a pretty good writer, done it for money. But I scratch in the mud with a stick compared to this. My problem now is I can't stop hitting the rating icon, despite knowing it only counts once....
This was hilarious, Bryan, even though the event you describe could have turned out tragically. I saw each of the kids personalities in this so clearly, and even had sympathy for Eddie the Destroyer. (And thank goodness for her sake, Sophie was a quick thinker even while tied to a flaming Christmas tree.)

Some of the things I particularly love:

The Wisniewskis are infamous for their own special amalgam of the Brady Bunch, the Adams Family, and Lord of the Flies. This serves a useful social function in the neighborhood, in that anything from groaning zombie in-laws to exploding eyeball cancer can be instantly normalized with the magic words, "Well, it's not like we're the Wisniewskis!"
***
Given this new information, even King, their ancient, cataract-ridden collie takes on a decidedly Hell Hound aspect. (King once inspired me to invent a game called “Radiation Poisoning” which involved staining one's gums with Welch's grape juice, pretending handfuls of noisome mangy collie fur were one's own falling-out hair, and clutching at the knees of unknown adults while rasping “Please... heeeeeelp meeee!” Toothlessness is King's salvation – were he actually able to bite, he would have been destroyed years ago.

***

It's not unmanly to be shown up by a girl whose track and field skills are honed by frequent flights for her life.
***

“Recant!” Glen and Eddie look at me in complete bafflement, but I can't think of a shorter word. Being the brains of this gang is a thankless job.

“I'll never cheat on my husband, Satan!” This strikes me as brilliant for a girl who, unlike me with my superior Catholic education, has surely never heard of the Spanish Inquisition. I become determined not to be outdone.

***

She writhes and screams operatically, thrilled at all the attention. But for her unfortunate teeth, rail thin body, and electric hair, she'd look perfect in King Kong's fist.
*****
I can tell she's impressed, and I'm excited to have finally found a use for all the crap I've been listening to nuns babble since I was five.

“Recant!” I think I've found my new favorite word.

“Never!” She turns her head away and thrusts out her chin.

“What are we gonna do now?,” Glen whines because of what will later be called ADHD.

“This is 'flicted!” Eddie barks, because it's the coolest word in a vocabulary that includes only 29 others, excluding obscenities.

“The witch must burn,” I bellow because I'm a future Drama Queen of America.

“Burn the witch!” shrieks Sophie, because her entire family is bat shit crazy.

Like it always does with all Really Bad Ideas, the universe cooperates wholeheartedly with this last suggestion. Glen finds a great towering brown hulk of a discarded Christmas tree, complete with sad tinsel. Eddie runs away to cut down someone's clothesline with the sort of knife budding sociopaths are never without.
***

If you're not a professionally published author, you SHOULD be!
Terrific, and thanks to 1_irritated_mother who steered me here. Thumbed.
It is a crime against all that is good and holy that this is not on the cover and EP'ed. I'll be sending my own little note along to TPTB.

(thumbified for one of the. best. stories. ever.)
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY GREAT WRITING! Like that, all in capital letters. I wish I could rate you lots of times, in the meantime I´ve added you as friend in my list. Thank you very much for sharing your writing here.
I did not have time to read this at work. But I did. Couldn't stop. My gosh. Superb.
Rated.
Wow, amazing. I found the first half hysterically funny, word perfect humor, and then you really stunned me with your second half, in which you married that humor with such poignancy. That is incredibly hard to pull off, and you did it beautifully.

In short, I loved this. Where are the editors when you need them? This deserves the cover!
you're getting much deserved attention, however, I'm feeling possessive--I like the underdogs ;)
Great story and very believable. Reminds me of my childhood.... Thank you for sharing. Totzaon
Holy crap. What made me think I could write?

Her family sounds like the one in Running with Scissors but without the beatings. This is a book. Please, write it. It's abundantly clear that you can.
Is she from California? You know what they say about CA. Who isn't fruits or nuts is flakes.
i should have mentioned this in my earlier comment

tell your mom that i think she's way wrong regarding children who spend all their time inside reading being made 'weird'

but then thank her profusely, from all of us, for pushing you outside on this particular day
YIPPEE !!! AN EP!!! VERY MUCH DESERVED! We love you and your writing! Can you tell? Can you tell!!! I love it when this happens! Congratulations!
spectacular story
Absofrickinlutely fabulous. You took me on such a journey and reminded me of so many people I knew back in those days. Gorgeous. A gift. Thank you.
Well now, don't I feel satisfied.
This story is gold. Don't waste it here. Now OS owns it.
Persepimpone... What you done, Girl? I got more customers than a mulatto transexual satan worshipping hooker in the middle of the Republican National Convention!

Seriously, I spewed cappuccino on my sleek stainless steel Apple keyboard when I saw my inbox this morning. I was peeking through the blinds, checking for torches and pitchforks outside, but so far it's all flowers.

Do I have to send everyone a thank you note? (Never mind; my mother's voice just answered. I'll enjoy it since I don't have to hand write them.)

Now it's your turn. That drumming sound you hear is my fingers on my desktop. I'll come skate on your lake while you write.
Nifty People... Forgive me for not responding to each of you individually, but I need to call my mother and warn her this exists before someone else tells her. (It won't be the first time she's heard, "Mom... I have something to tell you.")

Y'all are incredibly sweet. I've started to look forward to my insomnia. Thanks.
What can I possibly say that hasn't been said? You made me late going home...I coudn't stop reading...!

Give us more!
Now I've bumped myself down from middlin' to - oh I don't know - a little less than middlin' - mebbe fair.

If this is what insomnia does for you- embrace it. I'm so jealous. My insomnia never led to anything like this!

Fabulous writing! Thanks.
Holy crap, can you write! Since your comment on my blog yesterday, I’d intended to have a look onto yours. Meanwhile, you’ve been, well, discovered! Truth is, with a quality instrument such as yours, it had to happen. I can’t even begin to list all the wonderful, laugh-out-loud, lumps in throat and just purely entertaining moments there are in here. Witty as all get-out, too. Wow.

One last thing: there are very few occasions when time stands still while I read. This was one of them. ‘I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.
Don't thank me...for one...it was nothing, but for two, Irritated Mother and Geoff Woolyman also had the same idea and pimped the hell outta you as well.....and at almost the same moment. Mini Zeitgeist, as it were.

Oh yea of little faith....welcome to the closed loop.
This is amazing, absolutely amazing. What a story and what an expert writer you are. This is about the best thing I've read on OS and this should be published. You are brilliant! Thanks for sharing!
You are a very fine writer. I was completely enthralled with this story. Humor, poignancy, nostalgia, suspense...it contained so many elements. I was really afraid for Sophie when Eddie lit her up...

I do want to know what happened to Sophie though. Isn't there some way you can find out?
Everything I want to say has been said, so just add my name to the list.

Monte
This is, without question, the best post I've read here, and that is a HUGE compliment, because there are many wonderful writers on this site---but this is a piece without equal.
And a new bar has been set, said the girl who can't seem to write anything decent lately.
Back again for a reread...must be into self-flagellation today. Well, what the heck...it's Lent. Have you ever read Jean Shepherd's stories about his youth in Hammond, Indiana? Maybe it's all the Polish names, but this has a similar feel, though much darker. And utterly original to you, of course.
Beyond awesome writing. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the EP!!!!

Rated for witch!! :)
...what those before me said!!
Fabulous, fabulous writing! No doubt you've got more stories like this. They really should be made into a novel. I could totally get lost with you and your friends. Thanks to 1_Irritated_Mother for directing me here. I can't wait for your next bout with insomnia.
This is flippin' fantastic. And the aftermath stuff is fucked up. Wow- you've got material to work with for life. Your voice is marvelous.
I really, really enjoyed that. Great story telling.

Rated for sure.
Just wanted to add my little bit of praise to the rest of the ovation here. Your story reminds me that we are indeed called fairies and that our greatest magic is taking something drawn in charcoal and seeing it in technicolor. Stay beautiful.
Okay, I'm officially in awe and a fan. What marvelous storytelling! I don't need to know what really happened afterward, I am content to believe Sophia enjoyed the ultimate fuck you -- she turned into a ravishing beauty and went on to earn her PhD in comparative literature or astronomy or some such thing.
You know, y'all are enough to turn a boy's head.
Hi Bryan, Late to the party but congrats on a great piece!!
Where's the 3 day most read and rated when you deserve it?

'flicted.
This is just a phenomenal story. Painfully funny - your descriptions are marvelous. So many wonderful lines - I particularly loved - "I know Jesus would play with Sophie as surely as I know he'd wash his hands with soap afterwards." Also intrigued by the radiation poisoning game. I sense many more stories where this one came from.
Wow, this was flippin' fantastic. I was laughing out loud several times, and cringing in equal measure. Wonderful.
Bryan, here's what separates the amateurs from the professionals. I'm in the amateur division so even writing a comment on this piece seems daunting. Suffice it to say, your piece is one of the best I've read on OS. You are a gifted and intelligent writer. I'm selfish, so I look forward to more. This piece has left me haunted.
Wow! That was amazing.... Damn....
Without a doubt, one of the most wonderful essays I've read here on OS...or anywhere, for that matter. I think you are most talented writer. Thanks to you and your insomnia...
"She didn't recant and she didn't burn. She flew, then floated, then kept a secret through trial by ordeal." I don't tear up easily. This did it. Thanks, seriously.
A day late and a dollar short, that's my way. Yet, you yourself outlined the shortcomings of OS . I try hard to work my way out of my isolated loop. Thanks to the good graces of a Mr. Angus McFlop, I've been introduced to Bryan's World and it is a beautiful place. Most everything I would have said had I read this almost two months ago has already been said, and by much more competent writers. Still, a girl has her opinion. Favorite image: I follow her with all the speed I can muster, but if I thought it was difficult to catch her the first time, it's impossible now that she's wearing a forest fire.
Favorite Gag: The many variations of your school's name. A post on that alone would have me howling.
Favorite Tag: Seriously fucked up shit

And I will echo what so many here have written: This is the best thing I've read in OS. Thank you.

I very much look forward to catching up with all your work.
Quality writing. Thank you for posting and thanks to
1_Irritated_Mother for her "My Favorite Post of 2009." A deserving choice!
One of the best things I've ever read. So glad 1_Irritated_Mother pointed me over here.
Thanks to the 1_Mom redirect, I just got to enjoy this for the first time. WOW. Jawdroppingly good.
Stunning, evocative and superb...hear me? superb writing! I could not put it down once I started and for anyone to get me to suspend disbelief that long is nothing short of amazing. Keep writing and sharing with us...and PUBLISH!
This is like a freebie -- a free chapter in a big, blockbuster, breakthrough novel based on real events. I could so see this happening (thanks to your wonderful descriptions). I can't remember how I got here today but I'm going to check out all your other posts now, too.
1_I_M called this to our attention. This is one of the best pieces of writing I've ever read--absolutely wonderful. Sweet, funny, sad, horrifying. Wonderful. 1_I_M says you haven't posted here in a long time . . . but after reading this, I hope you'll come back.
Thanks 1IM: I wasn't around back in March, so looks like Bryan is getting a whole new looking at. Wow, so back into the feed he goes and maybe we can bring him back out of hiding to give us more. Let's all chant. more...more....more....
This is amazing. I wish I'd seen it when you first posted it, but I'm glad I found it finally.
I may never stop reading this. Still my favorite. :)
Y'all are really very kind. I'm not sure why I stopped writing for real, and have wasted a year on furious political rants on HuffPost. Depression, I guess.
omg. freakin' amazing. this is why i bow down to real writers. (me, i'm just an academic. who wants to read that stuff?) real writers like you take only the alphabet to make words dance and force me to direct a film in my own head that leaves me breathless. now, you say you've stopped writing? can't you see how hungry we all are for more? you're not using your gifts the way you should, my dear. i'm so late to the party - more thanks to 1_Irritated_Mother who is still sending folks this way, or i wouldn't have found you.
Just making my rounds. Reading things that need reading. The things that last.

(It's me 1IMom) New name, new face. Same irritable old bitch.
Thanks again for everyone's generosity. I'm not sure why I've stopped writing. Sometimes I think all the compliments made me nervous. It was easier when it was just me and the cat, sitting up way too late.
"Express everything you like. No word can hurt you. None. No idea can hurt you. Not being able to express an idea or word will hurt you more. Like a bullet." ~ Jamaica Kincaid

Just sayin' ...

or sneak back as "Me & the Cat" and I won't tell a soul it's you. Promise.
Today I saw a black-and-white avatar as I was selecting a post and my gut twisted so I clicked the /back/ button scurrying to find you. It wasn't you. But, this is still here, so I enjoyed it again as I'm wont to do. You made me smile today.
still smitten. be well.
I want you back, Bryan Harrison. You're something special.
PS (I know what you mean about the compliments making you nervous. But here's the deal: We're smart, discerning people. Don't insult us by thinking we don't know--at some deep level beyond which even you have any control--real talent when we see it. You can't screw up because you actually are excellent. See what I mean?)
I want to read everything you write.
This is just fabulous. Such great balance of humor and description and such vivid characters in a short piece. I just loved it!
This is fabulous! So thrilling, I felt like I was holding my breath until I reached the end!
I read it twice... the first time through in absolute amazement that writing like this exists outside the hallowed halls of Barnes and Noble and second time, just because I wanted to recapture the thrill of the first time:) The best thing I've read on OS or anywhere in ages:) Gawd, you're good!
I can't take my eyes off that boy in the tie, from his gaze. Who knows, looking at a boy at that age, what kind of genius will spring forth, which tender emotions will rule his love life, which things he will pursue? It's such a mystery. And it's always too late, isn't it, to look back? And to wish we'd been kinder?
Just stopping in. Been a while. xoxo