Early, scary stuff here. All of it right about fifteen years old. Not sure how I ever learned to write, really. Just that I had to. Included: “The Parrot Man,” which has a scene in it I’ve still yet to stop trying to tell; “West Texas Dirt,” which got me my first-ever fiction award, and $150; “Breakfast for Two,” which maybe had potential; then the first story I ever turned in for workshop, “Whiter Shade of Pale.” back when I thought song-lyrics were cool in stories. Or when I thought nobody else knew that song. I don’t know. Then the first story I ever wrote, sitting in another emergency room at nineteen years old, a blank spiral in my lap–all I’d had when the cops pulled me from World Lit, escorted me to the hospital for a three-day wait. What I remember best from those seventy-two hours–it was Halloween–would be this huge, big guy, who’d taken his kid trick or treating but got a flat, was changing it, got hit and dragged by a drunk driver. He was tore up all kinds of bad, of course, and really shouldn’t have been alive, but–I still get all shaky talking about it–the way he kept rising from that bed, fighting the lines and wires, fighting everything, just to live. It’s never left me. And, at the end of it, I had a story in my spiral. And here I am. But maybe I’d trade it just for that guy, I think. So he could have just taken his kid door to door, collecting candy.