by David Elzey
Issue #36 • November 18, 2015•Buy Now!
Most weeknights the old man stopped at one of his favorite bars on the way back from work and then stumbled home drunk. Weeknights were easy—they only meant beer. All he expected was for me to toss some food in the microwave for him, stay out of his way, maybe do his laundry, and if that was all there was then it’d be fine. Weekends were about the hard stuff, mostly off-brand vodka or rum. Twice a month, on payday, he’d struggle through the front door with boxes from the liquor store, grinning like the Santa of alcoholics. Oddly, these started out as the best nights because he’d come home sober and reasonable, even handing me an occasional allowance. Once he got hammered, though, he was nothing but mean for the rest of the weekend.
If I was too loud—which meant if he could hear me walking around the creaky wooden floors of our apartment—he’d smack me. If I accidentally dropped my spoon in the sink while cleaning up from a bowl of cereal, it could mean anything from an insult to a thrown shoe. Or I could be sitting in my room reading and he’d just come in and clock me upside the head “for good measure.”
David Elzey manages a bookstore in Massachusetts where he lives and writes. He studied Creative Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and has been published in Lunch Ticket and Found Poetry Review. Currently he is working on a YA novel about a pair of lost space-traveling Yeti.
Patrick Ryan on Bolt
Every once in a while, when we’re sitting around reading submissions, a story comes across our table that simultaneously grabs our attention and makes us recoil in fear. I’m not talking about stories that fit into the traditional horror genre, but horrific stories about contemporary teens in difficult circumstances. David Elzey’s “Bolt” is one of those stories.
Cy has an enormous problem he’s been keeping to himself, and it’s that his father is an abusive alcoholic. He’s verbally abusive, physically abusive, emotionally monstrous. But if you’re Cy, why tell anyone about it? Where’s the guarantee that seeking help will actually improve the situation? And so he suffers.
Two things happen that change the circumstances of Cy’s life. I’ll only mention one of them here—he meets a girl named Nova who, it turns out, also doesn’t have the most ideal home life. Nova is just getting to know Cy, but she cares about him. And she plants an idea in Cy’s weary head: fight back.
“Bolt” might make you wince. It might make you cringe. You might want to climb into the story and strangle Cy’s father, or reach between the sentences and pull Cy out by the arm. Regardless of how you react, I think it’s safe to say you’ll never forget reading this new issue of One Teen Story. And you might never stop wondering what happens to Cy after the story ends.
Q&A by Patrick Ryan
What I understand about the old man that Cy can only guess at is that he became broken at some point in his past and allowed himself to indulge in the fatalism of his misery. It’s clear that Cy’s long-gone mother still holds some emotional sway over the old man, but he can’t even bring himself to admit it, and this as much as the alcohol is killing him from the inside out.
But if you’re forcing this homework on me, I would say that Cy becomes the most apologetic dad possible, never quite living up to his own expectations. He’ll have seen that the products of happy families are no better adjusted emotionally and he’ll come to realize that every new parent/child relationship starts with a blank slate.
So the advice I culled from that was: write the stories that the younger version of yourself wished they could have read. Write to please yourself, no matter which self that is.