Herniating My Roots
By Richard Thomas
My debut collection of short stories, Herniated Roots, just came out with Snubnose Press. It’s been growing for the last five years, this cyst that is my body of work. And how exactly did this diseased, engorged muscle push its way through the walls of my flesh to frighten and scar the world? Well, let me tell you.
The stories in this collection have several things in common. They deal with that moment in time, that tipping point, where you can no longer return to how things used to be. You have an affair, and are caught. You go off your medications and the ghost world comes swooping in to alter your reality. You fall off the wagon for good, and your actions cause you to circle the drain, slowly being pulled under once and for all. Road rage, a violent accident in the wee hours of the morning, the final termination of the skin-job that was your spouse, the launching of an improbable rocket made of Tinkertoys, high into the glowing moon that hovers over the dark night. These are the moments that change your life forever.
I like to write about fractured people, to see how they react when the vice grip they have on reality, on their emotions, on their sanity, finally slips away. Nobody wants to read about a husband that gets up and goes to work, kissing the wife and his two kids good-bye, where nothing happens and nobody steps out of line. No, we want to see what happens when the secretary finally sits down on your desk, her skirt hiking up to reveal her slender legs. We want to see what happens when that jackass that has been cutting you off every day for a month, finally causes an accident—do you help him (or her?) or do you leave that jerk to suffer the consequences of his actions? Who is the better person now?
I also like to write about my greatest fears, to go those places that I hope and pray will never actually happen (or never happen again). Losing your family, the random violence of life in the streets, a momentary lapse of good judgment that leads to slick flesh and a heart pounding in your chest. Yes, I want to go there, to finally see if the allure of the darkness, the solitary light bulb at the end of the alley, really lives up to all of the hype—what’s behind that red door?
I’ve called my work a lot of different things—neo-noir, transgressive, grotesque. But whatever you want to label it, my goal is to find your deepest, darkest secrets and bring them struggling and screaming out into the light. I want to make you a witness to the horror, to the vengeance, to the base desires that we all have, and tell me how it feels. Sometimes it feels pretty good.