Strip Cuts<br/>

Author: David Drayer
Publisher: Route 33 Press
Published: 2013-07-01
ISBN(s) 978-0-9892827-0-3
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Contemporary, Literary, Offbeat or Quirky Read Excerpt >



            When your nickname is Jack-Off and you’re stuck in Cherry Run, life really bites.

            That’s what I should have told Bernie when he was strutting around asking me what I had to say for myself. “It’s hard, Mr. Kavanaugh,” I could have said with a little quiver in my voice. A tear would have been overkill, but a little quiver would have been nice. “There’s no place for me. Making up the King Game was my way of having fun, I guess, for the first time since high school started.”

            Who am I kidding? It wouldn’t have mattered. Bernie would have done the same damn thing: sat there, hands folded, not listening to a word I said, thinking of big words to make me feel stupid, and then giving me three days in-school detention. He loves it. He would have given me the board if he thought he could get away with it. Bernie was famous for his swats. He called his paddle The Communicator and made a real show out of using it.

            Dad would kick old Bernie’s ass if he ever tried that with me again. He damn near broke the board over me last year for fighting in gym class, and I didn’t even start the fight. My dad got wind of it, and the next thing I knew we were in the truck heading to Bernie’s house. Dad was madder at Bernie than he was at me.

            Bernie’s house was pretty fancy and he was still dressed in his black suit when he opened the door. I felt so weird being there, I could hardly stand to look at him. Not Dad. He went in there big as you please. Old Earl Hardy in his work clothes and steel-toed boots. His hands were rougher than a corncob and still filthy from the mines. He told Bernie, “I know my boy is no angel. And you got a hell of a job trying to keep order, but I don’t stand for anyone hitting my kids. I’d think a man in your position would know that smacking a thirteen-year-old kid don’t do much good anyway. It does little more than piss them off.”

            I couldn’t believe Dad said “piss them off” to Bernie.

            “There are other forms of discipline,” he said, “and when my boy steps out of line, you use any of them you see fit. And if that don’t work, you call me and I’ll handle it.”

            Bernie acted real concerned saying, “I see. Well, I completely respect your opinions, Mr. Hardy.” And shit like that. He was nice as pie. Nothing like the dick he is in school. Dad was glad everything went smooth, though. I think he was kind of proud of himself. Not that Bernie fooled him.

            He knows Bernie’s an asshole. Bernard Allan Kavanaugh, smiling in this week’s newspaper beside the president of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Like the phony bastard didn’t get picked up last summer drunker than a skunk. Everyone knows. There’s no proof, of course, because Jeff Cohen’s old man, the town cop, let him go. Which is nothing new. His old man never arrests anyone who can do something for him. Doctors, dentists, store owners, and big people at the school are pretty safe, but Cohen’s old man makes them sweat for a while, anyway. Jeff told the homeroom class about it and it spread from there. He said Bernie was almost bawling and begging not to be written up.

            Dang near everybody in this town hits the bottle. Why not the high school principal? I don’t, and I’m proud of it too. I’m not a goody-two-shoes or anything, but I’ve got to keep my wits about me. I don’t want to end up like the losers that hang at the bars. They’re trapped here forever. The day I turn eighteen, I’m hitting the road.

            Besides, there’s not much opportunity to drink if you don’t go to parties. No one is going to invite a guy named Jack-Off to their party except to make him the butt of all jokes. Screw that. I’d rather be alone.

            “I forgot you were here.” Mrs. Miller sticks her pointy, freckled face around the door.


            She looks at me like dog crap on the bottom of her shoe. “Well, after three days of this maybe you’ll learn a little respect.”

            “Yeah.” She walks away. “Screw you.”

            “Excuse me?”

            I can tell by her look she didn’t really hear.

            “I have to leave at two.”

            “Detention goes until two fifty-five.”

            “But I’m on the Worker’s Early Release.”

            “Not for the next three days you’re not.”

            “Bern—…Mr. Kavanaugh didn’t say anything to me about that.”

            She shuts the door. What a bitch. The only thing I learn around here are new ways to keep from getting depressed. And what I come up with always get me in trouble—like the King Game. Detention isn’t so bad. I don’t mind being by myself. The morning flew by. I was working on my short story for English class.

            Now that class, I miss: Candy Bracknell up there telling us about Hemingway and Fitzgerald with her long blonde hair. She’s wearing the blue dress today, too. It’s a tight fit and her nipples show through the fabric.

            Man, I could get a boner just thinking about it. It bites to get a boner in her class, which I do damn near every day. A boner in detention isn’t so bad. It’s kind of fun, actually.

            I wonder what Candy thinks when she hears those assholes call me Jack-Off. She pretends not to hear, but I know she does.

            When people call you Jack-Off, that’s all you are to them. A jack-off, a screw-up, a nothing. Some people take it the other way and assume that I jack off all the time because I can’t get any girlfriends, which I can’t, because in Cherry Run if you’re not part of the “in” crowd, you can pretty much forget it. That doesn’t leave a guy anything but his imagination...and his hand. Still, that doesn’t have diddly dick to do with how I got the nickname.

            During shop class in seventh grade old Bug Eyes was absent and we had a substitute. I was sitting on one of the tables staring out the window, wishing I was somewhere else, and he points at me and says, “Jack!” then snaps his fingers and points at the floor, “Off!”

            His face turned red as a beet and he tried to fix it by adding, “Off the table. Get off the table.” But it was too late. The Jocks already got a hold of it, and they were laughing their asses off. Just like that, my entire high school existence was screwed. And to top it off, Jack isn’t even my name. The nimrod called me by the wrong damn name.

            Back then, I still had faith. I thought Cherry Run was an okay place and that high school would be, like my dad always said, “the best years of life.”

            Yeah right.

            I was really upset about the nickname. Being the wide-eyed idiot that I was, I went to my dad for advice on what to do about it. Just the thought makes me cringe. Stupid, stupid, stupid!        Poor Dad seemed surprised at the question. He was the kind of guy who never had a problem like that, and I probably killed all the visions he had for me. He did a pretty good job of covering up his disappointment and gave me some advice. It boiled down to three options:

                                                            1) Ignore them.

            I’d been using that one already and it didn’t work for shit.

                                                            2) Bust them a good one.

            That one sounded great in theory and I had hundreds of fantasies about it. But there was no way. Practically everyone called me that and most of them were bigger than me. Getting beat up would have just made things worse. And it would hurt, too.          

                                                            3) Prove them wrong.

            The choice was obvious.

Strip Cuts   by   David Drayer   |   See Bio >
Book 0 of 0 in the Strip Cuts Series.
Perspective is everything...

Welcome to Cherry Run, Pennsylvania...the epitome of a "blink and you'll miss it" American town, where the jobs are dead-end, the ultimate dream is hitting the lottery, and the only apparent escape is drinking at the Ruffled Grouse. 

In story-like chapters, Strip Cuts spans a seven-year period, beginning with and centering around Seth Hardy, a young man struggling to come into his own despite a dreaded nickname and the low expectations of those around him. We meet other residents as well, including a middle-aged man and woman who drift into an adulterous affair, a vacuum cleaner salesman who doesn't take no for an answer, a man who battles his hairy back, a Peeping Tom who is confronted by the object of his desire, and an elderly couple who get lost in a snowstorm and end up on the most astounding journey of their lives.

Often humorous and always sincere, Strip Cuts rings with universal truth, capturing Cherry Run's residents in their most private and defining moments. David Drayer's debut novel presents a unique and memorable look the heartache and hope of a small town, where the land and the people are stripped bare for all to see.

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