As writers we are duty-bound to story only – even if that comes at the expense of our reader’s sensibilities or rules of socially acceptable conduct. In fact, by censoring these intentions we not only run the risk of compromising our creative vision, but also breaking the time-tested narrative covenant to defy expectations. By way of example I give you the master of bad behavior, Larry David. In this most authentic moment from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry greets his manger’s wife, Susie at their new home:
Larry: Nice house.
Susie: Yeah, come on. I’ll give you a tour.
Larry: Naw, it’s ok.
Susie: No, come on.
Larry: No, it’s ok. I get it.
Susie: You get it?
Larry: Yeah, it’s a house. It’s new. I get it. It’s nice.
Susie: You get it? Ok, you know what? Get the fuck out of my house, Larry.
In 500 words or less, satisfy your own "bad" tendencies using one of the following prompts:
1. Write a story in which a character is behaving badly (alone or in the company of others). Keep in mind that s/he may not necessarily view their actions as particularly harmful or alarming. Play off social norms and convention to create an individual deserving of empathy, or at the very least, a good laugh.
2. Write a letter that serves as an apology for a past indiscretion of some kind (cheating, stealing, public indecency etc) but avoid asking for forgiveness. If possible, go so far as to place some (if not all) of the blame on the intended reader/recipient.
3. In dialogue, have two or more characters go for the old jugular. Think Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Focus in on the subtle art of cruelty. Really push those buttons unique to your individual characters! Perhaps this might take place in a public place. Perhaps it's about something ridiculously small. Perhaps it is about much more than that.
Two girls lie on their stomachs in the middle of the road, giving the finger to every car that passes. Most cars honk but a soccer mom stops, parks her SUV, and crosses over. “What are you doing?” she asks the girls, her voice low and serious. “Don’t you know you could get killed?” Her cargo of little boys stares out the windows. The girls slowly rise to their elbows, eyes blank. Both are thirteen. Both are beautiful. “Fuck you,” the dark haired girl says. “Fuck you,” her blond friend echoes. A man in a pickup brakes. “What kind of language is that?” he shouts. “Fuck you,” the girls say together, and put their heads back down on the asphalt. “You know what?” the man says. “You deserve to get run over.” A gray haired woman with an Earth First! sticker on her Honda leans out and calls, “Are they protesting? What are they protesting?” “They’re protesting being teenagers,” another woman says as she jogs briskly by. “Drugs,” an old man decides as he and his golf partner peer out the windows of their BMW. “Everything’s drugs,” the golf partner agrees. “Or worse.” The girls roll over onto their backs, arch, stretch, look up at the sky. “Please get out of the road,” the soccer mom pleads. The blond raises her middle finger. The brunette does the same. The soccer mom walks back to her car, gets out her cell phone, and dials the police. “Don’t ever grow up,” she warns the little boys in the back. But it’s already too late. She glances in the rear view mirror and sees her own son’s gaze slide away from her as he and his teammates sit silently, breath held, eyes shining.
– Molly Giles
Stace Budzko has been published or is forthcoming in Blip, Southeast Review, Versal, Upstreet, Necessary Fiction, Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Press 53, PANK, Hobart, elimae, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, The Collagist, Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, Brevity & Echo, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. The screen adaptations of his stories have received numerous honors and showcases as well. At present, he is a writing instructor at Emmanuel College and writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.See other articles by Stace Budzko