Finding the Monster / by Josh Stricklin

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

People ask me that all the time. That’s a very boring story though, because the answer is “always.” That doesn’t make for a very good story though. Two sentences? Not very good at all, sir. I carried a Comp. Notebook in junior high where I wrote anything from songs to jokes, anything I thought was worth reading later. I carried one when I had my first short story published and did until I graduated from Southern Miss with too many stories in my head.

Still not a very good read though. But this is where it gets better. Because my story isn’t the answer to the question, “When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?” No, my story is the answer to the question, “When were you able to become a writer?”

The short answer is December 23rd, 2013. A lot of people think being in the hospital on Christmas Day would just be awful, and without morphine it probably would’ve been. I’m here to tell you, if you can time it right, it’s not so bad. I’ve referred to being an artist as “feeding the monster.” That night I found the monster, and in the following months it tore off its chains and has ran rampant ever since. On Monday December 23rd 2013, I was hit by a car and left in the street.

At the time I worked for T-Mobile, and I rode my bike to work everyday. Sometimes even when it rained, but not that day. That day I drove, but the storm let up a couple hours into my shift, so on my break I went home for my bike. When I returned work was right there where I left it.

So I finished the shift and closed the store, just like always. I took the mall parking lot to avoid as many unlit roads as possible, just like always. I rode the same streets and sidewalks I did nearly every other day, only that night I was thrown a curveball in the form of a white Lincoln Town Car using part of the road that wasn’t a passing lane as a passing lane, and I just happened to be there. I heard the engine rev violently, I saw the grille between the headlights, I even tried to get out of the way.

The thing about being in the air…once you’ve already flipped once and you’ve made the full rotation you think, OK, now to stick the landing, exchange insurance info and call it a day. But then your feet start to go over your head again. That’s the one that changes everything. That second flip takes it from silly to severe. Finally you hit the asphalt, and the wind explodes out of your lungs.

I lay in the street unable to breathe, unable to move. I heard a car slam on brakes, everything was bright and then dark again. I could feel the heat from the engine. I could reach up and scrape the bugs off the front bumper if I wanted to. I didn’t. Horns were blaring and people yelled as they passed the car. A scrawny guy with a misshapen, reddish afro gets out and drops a dark red blanket over me. I asked if he could hand me my phone. “I can’t,” was all he said. He left me there.

Luckily a car behind him stopped. The driver’s name was Ariel, and I truly believe she saved my life. I spent a total of two weeks in the hospital and four months of physical therapy, which I used to write The King of Evil. I was told I’d never be able to walk again. The driver was never caught even though my brother saw a white Lincoln Town Car with a smashed in driver’s side grille. The police just said, “We just do,” when we asked how they knew it wasn’t that person that committed a felony. “What do you want me to do about it?” the officer said a week later after returning from vacation. They threw my family out of the police station.

For any “constant readers” I have, I apologize. I know there is a fictionalized version of this story in Those Who Are Left, and it does come into play in The King of Evil. My accident allowed me to become a writer. It has its claws in both of my novels, and I owe my entire career to it.

Every time there’s a pain in my leg, every time I sit down at the computer to pound out another ten pages, I will always think about it. Every signing, every interview, or even when I catch a glance at a cover, I will think about it. It never fails. I always think of the grille coming toward me. The headlights. The revving engine that changed my life forever. And every time I do…

I thank God it wasn’t a Prius.