Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cakewalk by Chad Eagleton

I know Chad from twitter. It's funny how friendships are made, isn't it? On twitter we grow to know people without really "knowing" them and find ourselves offering words of encouragement on a bad day; medical advice to each other when another in the group is diagnosed with new ailments; our time and our talents, not to mention our money, when others are in need... this list could go on and on. But this, this is how I know Chad. We've offered each other words of encouragement and vented to each other over frustrating medical news, and both of us, no, I'm sure a lot of us, believe that this is how the world should work... all the time, every single day. And for the most part, especially on twitter, the world does work this way.

Our tweet time might be limited, Chad, but I'm thankful I've found you among the chatter. *tweet tweet*

Cakewalk by Chad Eagleton

When I wrote “Cakewalk,” my story in the Feeding Kate anthology, I was revising a section of my Shane Stevens bio, re-writing the chapter on the forgotten crime writer’s fourth novel. In Rat Pack, we accompany four African-American youths on their hunt for the big score during a single New York City night. It’s a slim book, but as sharp as a shiv and twice as deadly. The power of Steven’s only novella comes from his masterful use of perspective. Every encounter between pack and victim(s) or pack and victimizer(s) is marked by misconceptions and misperceptions.

And that’s so often the problem isn’t? So much of the things we do, the things we allow, and the things that get us into trouble comes down to the difference between what’s true and what we think/want to be true. Not only is it a life truism, but, if you can pull it off well, it helps with characterization. And character is king. Character hides the worst plotting and gives the best its resonance.

In “Cakewalk,” a stripper and her security work a private party being thrown for a man newly released from prison. When two youths with a grudge against the party boy raid the shindig, violence ensues. That alone is enough for a certain type of crime story. All the beats are hit: stripper—check, ex-con—check, guns—check, violence—check, a good dose of profanity—check. But I don’t want to write that kind of story. I want to deal with what really leads to moments of trouble and awfulness. I want to know those people—know more than the stripper’s breast size and what model weapons the boys from Bed-Stuy are carrying into Bensonhurst. Anything less, I think is a disservice to the reader, to our art, and to our fellow human beings. Sure I want my work to be entertaining, but if I’m not dealing with something, with people, what’s the point? I could just show you a picture of the scab on my elbow from when I skinned it cleaning the gutters and say, “Nasty, huh?”

Now, here’s the point of this whole thing. When I learned about Sabrina’s jaw trouble and the surgery she needed that, of course, insurance wouldn’t cover, I knew I wanted to help. I’ve probably talked to Sabrina less than any of you reading this post. Sure, when we have spoken, she’s always been nice and, in fact, I challenge you to find a nicer person in the crime community, but nice isn’t it. To me, the whole purpose of our society is to work together, to look out for each other, to provide things—security, comfort, and care—that would be impossible to provide on our own. If society did not function this way, if we weren’t all on this ride together, we’d still be saber-toothed tiger food—assuming our species ever made it out of the caves. The problem is that we forget that. The problem is we forget our connection to people. The problem is we get caught up in...What? Yes, that’s right, confusing what’s true and what we think/want to be true.

Hopefully, someday we’ll all grok that and there will never have to be another benefit anthology for anyone or anything. Until then, I’m glad to help.

You should too.

Chad Eagleton is a two time Watery Grave Invitational finalist. His story “Ghostman on Third” was nominated for the Spinetingler Award. His fiction is available in print and e-book, as well as online at such sites as A Twist of Noir, Bad Things, The Pulp Pusher, Beat To A Pulp, Darkness Before the Dawn, and Shotgun Honey.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I loved your story, Chad. Thanks so much for being my guest today and for supporting me and the Lupus Foundation. You're a wonderful friend, sir.

Chad Eagleton said...

I rushed the ending, but I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for having me. Ditto.

Clare2e said...

I concur--Sabrina IS one of the nicest people you could ever meet, crime community or no!