Interim by S. Walden
Dear Reader, Not many authors will discourage you from reading their work. After all, the goal of our stories is to grow our readership, not diminish it. I’m well aware of that, but when I first became inspired with Jeremy’s story, I knew I would have to go about promoting it in an entirely different way—something far removed from my past marketing campaigns. I knew I would have to hide the book, stamp disclaimers all over it, plant seeds of doubt in your minds, decline requests for advanced reviews—in essence, all the things an author SHOULD NOT do when marketing her book. That’s why it took me so long to write the damn thing—over a year of worrying, second-guessing, flip-flopping, arguing. Jeremy sat waiting patiently, and I stared back at him wondering just how much he would destroy my career.
Then I remembered that his story is exactly the type of controversial social issue I enjoy tackling. I knew I had to write it because I could. I could be sensitive to the subject matter without being PC. I could leave my political and moral opinions out of it. I could make it a human story, not a gun story. I could do all these things if I worked very hard—if I was diligent and faithful to my characters and their experiences. Once I realized these things, I stopped fretting and just started writing, careful to keep all the details private and sacred. That’s how writing should be: private and sacred.
Now Jeremy’s story is no longer private, but I hope you will find it sacred. I hope you will throw off your preconceptions and bury your social and political views, your moral judgments. It’s too easy to go into a story like this already angry, especially if you or someone you love has experienced gun violence. I urge you to think long and hard before starting Interim if you are especially sensitive to the topic of school shootings. There are extremely violent, descriptive scenes, and I do not wish for my book to be a trigger for you.
I am well aware of the social debate a book like this may provoke. I did not write it for debate. I did not write it to make a statement about guns, gun control, gun access, Constitutional rights, etc. I am not interested in comparing my story to the horrific school shootings that have taken place in the United States. I have no motive other than to tell a story about an abused boy who felt he deserved justice. What you take away from the novel is entirely up to you.
To the lonely and brokenhearted.
And to the ones who fight for them.
A lot can change in the space between devising a plan and carrying it out. That space is called the INTERIM.
I don’t know who came up with the idea that humans are basically good at heart. I can only imagine it’s someone who never read the news—someone who lived in a cocoon all his life. Someone who thought he was good. Perhaps one of those nurture over nature guys. You know the ones who tout the belief that we are how we’re raised? Our goodness, our badness all develop from social experience, the company we keep, the things we’re taught when we’re young. We start with a clean slate. It’s everyone else who fucks us up.
I think that mentality gives society too much credit. Really, it gives others a massive amount of control over you. It can’t be the people around me who completely shape my character, my soul. No. I’m born with it—that something—deep within the recesses of my mind, my heart, already pulsing and growing with basic goodness and evil. I have both propensities. I’m smart enough to recognize both. And if I have both, others must, too.
So maybe experience grows one more than the other. I’ll buy that. But we’re born with both, and I don’t believe they’re fifty-fifty. I think evil has the upper hand from the get-go, and living is just an exercise in learning how to control wicked impulses. A lot of us do. A lot of us don’t. The ones who don’t deserve justice. But they don’t always get it. Not fair at all, but that’s what I’ve learned—that life’s not fair. People can be cruel, evil and sadistic. It happens all the time. It happens every day at my school. They’re vultures who prey on the weak, the lonely, the broken. They intimidate and humiliate, and they always seem to get away with it.
So far, anyway.
“It ain’t a hard thing to do!” Mr. Stahl shouted.
Jeremy watched the spittle fly from his father’s lips—saliva mixed with whiskey—as he stood trapped on the opposite side of the bed. He glanced at the floor for his baseball bat, but it wasn’t there. Useless weapon tucked in the closet.
“How hard is it to make your goddamn bed, Jer?!”
He didn’t wait for a response, an explanation. He never did. He lunged for his son—his tried-and-true modus operandi—tackling him to the floor in a heap of flailing limbs and desperate grunts.
“Get off!” Jeremy yelled, pulling his body into a protective fetal position.
It was instinctual. He went for the position first, even in the last year after he started lifting weights. He knew he was stronger—not that spindly boy from two summers ago—but he still felt weak, and he was too afraid now to test the strength he’d been building. His father was larger, anyway—towering over most people at 6-foot-7. Thick as Paul Bunyan, but an embittered, alcoholic Paul Bunyan. A dangerous Paul Bunyan.
First blow to the gut. Jeremy expected it, but he kept his fists by his face. There was no way he’d expose his face again and give his father the opportunity to inflict more permanent damage. The unsightly scar he sported now resulted in years of teasing and bullying from his classmates.
Second punch to the ribs. He hissed and squirmed, trying to push his father off.
“You wanna live here? Then make your goddamn bed!”