"Okay. So. Uh … The story I've written is about this guy, Gonzo, but that's not his real name, and he's in prison, like, Ocala Pen or whatever, somewhere in BC. I'll get that all sorted out before I finish it. And he's like, a gangster type, you know? And in the gangs, they have this thing, they call it de-boarding, where anyone who gets out of line or is in debt to the gangs gets a beating, and like, I don't know why they call it that, but they do, and they have like a trial sort of thing and the person is kind of sentenced, you know, to a beating of a certain period of time. Someone actually stands there and holds a watch while the others wail on this poor guy, and he's not allowed to fight back, but in the story, he does, and the whole thing gets carried away and they like, really beat this guy and like, kick him in the head and stuff and when it's over he's like, totally catatonic and so they drag him off to the bathroom.
"Oh, okay, I sorta forgot to say that the beating takes place in the gym, but they drag him to the bathroom that's part of the gym and leave him there and he gets forgotten or missed or something by the guards until like, much later that night and by that time it's too late, and he dies."
The rest of the group shuffled a bit in their seats. Greg's little narrative, interrupted as it was by all the 'likes' and 'okays' and 'whatevers', seemed to take a long time. Questions were popping off in everyone's head but it was Arthur, the facilitator of this little group, that took the first stab.
"So … I realize this is a fiction group and we're all supposed to be making things up, but that all sounds a little bizarre, like, too bizarre to believe, like, maybe it's fantasy or something. Is that what you're writing? Is this fantasy? This isn't a fantasy group. We made that clear."
Greg was more than a little put off. Fantasy? Who was this asshole?
"No, it's not fantasy. I mean, if you wanted to get technical, it's not even actually fiction. This actually happened. It wasn't in Ocala, it was in Sask Pen, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. And the guy's name wasn't Gonzo, but I don't want to say what his name actually was, cause he's like, a gangster, and I'm not really supposed to be telling this story."
The members of the writer's group, who got together through the Meetup App on their smart phones, looked sideways at each other, a couple of them smiling. They'd heard a few of Greg's crazy ideas, stuff about Satanic rituals and Goth groups. Fantasy stuff. But this wasn't a fantasy writers' group. That was made clear on the Meetup page. He told all of his stories as if they were real, and nobody there liked them at all, but this was the first time anyone had challenged him directly. Another member, Susan, spoke up.
"But, how could you know that it's true? I'm sure whoever told you this story made it seem real. Or maybe you read something in the news. But, I gotta agree with Arthur. I know this is a fiction group, but this seems a little absurd, not to mention being, like, really violent. Is this an idea you're going to pitch to Quentin Tarantino or something?" The others laughed.
Greg was really pissed now. "No. It's not something for Quentin Tarantino. And I didn't hear it from anyone or see it on the news. I was there. I was in Sask Pen when it happened. I was supposed to be in on the beating but I got called away by my Parole Officer just as we were going to the gym at rec time. And I wasn't in a gang. I was a provisional member. That beating was supposed to have been my initiation and I would have got the tattoo, but then it all went to shit."
Arthur sneered. "You were in prison? You were in a gang in prison? I don't mean to be rude here, Greg, but I think I have to call bullshit on this one. You don't actually look like the gangster type to me. What were you in for? Shoplifting?"
Greg was really starting to hate Arthur. Actually, he was starting to hate them all. "No, asshole." There were some gasps from the group. "I was in for destroying property. I was a member of a Satanic Death-Metal cult and we set fire to some churches, old wooden ones, just like this one we're sitting in."
Arthur was an important member of the congregation of the church they were sitting in, which is how they got free access to the basement they were in to hold these twice-monthly meetings. He was pretty pissed off himself now, and thought Greg was being extremely obtuse to come up with a story like that, sitting in this place.
"I think you're way out of line here, Greg." The rest of the group nodded along with him. "We're in this group to offer, and accept, constructive criticism of our writing. All anyone here has done is try to point out to you that your story lacks credibility, or any sense of realism. The suggestion has been made that you're writing a fantasy story, and you say you're not, but this crap about Satanic groups falls directly in the fantasy realm. I can understand that you don't like anyone saying anything negative about your work, but it was made perfectly clear to everyone here that, in the event you disagree with what someone says in the way of critique, you keep your rebuttals civil. I think calling me or anyone else an asshole is way out of line."
Once again, everyone nodded. Susan, who was always more than willing to offer constructive criticism, spoke again.
"I agree, Greg. We've all had people, including you, critique our work. No one else has ever got rude or profane. Your story just seems far-fetched. Not only that, but what's the point? What's the plot? You seem to be spending an awful lot of time with stuff about what gangs do, when you could be moving the plot along."
Greg was fuming. He felt like he was back in the joint, getting reamed by his Parole Officer. "Plot? There is no plot, you dumb bitch."
Everyone gasped. A couple of people began shouting. Arthur stood up.
"All right, Greg, I think it's time for you to leave now. Maybe you should head on back to your Sask Pen or wherever you came from. I'm sure they like this kind of language and behaviour there, but it's not appreciated here."
Greg stood up. "Fine. You're all a bunch of no-talent assholes anyway. I don't need any of you." He held up the middle finger on his right hand and showed it to everyone in the group before he threw his note pad and pencil in his backpack and stamped out of the room, up the stairs and out the door.
The rest of the group gave a collective sigh of relief when they heard the outside door slam shut. Arthur looked around at them all.
"Okay. Now that we've got past that little bit of unpleasantness, should we carry on?" The rest of the group nodded and Susan began a synopsis of her most recent story.
Greg stamped all the way to his car, opened the trunk and slammed his backpack in. He held onto the trunk lid for half a minute or so, trying to calm himself down. He was hyperventilating, heart pounding like a jackhammer, peaking on adrenaline, doing two-fifty in a forty zone, and thinking only one thing; fasterfasterfaster. He hadn't felt a rush like this since ….
He let go of the trunk lid, reached in and pulled out a plastic Gerry-can of gasoline, then headed back to the old wooden church.