Life During Wartime at The Flash Fiction Offensive

This was my brutal bullying story for the Noir at the Bar: Trump edition on 11/6/2016. It’s pretty brutal but nothing different than what I experienced as a student. With Pence in power, it may become a reality. He is pro “gay conversion therapy,” where sometimes half the kids forced into them commit suicide. He wants to roll back protections for LGBTQ citizens. And kids have reported being taunted about “getting deported” whether they are legal or not, once Trump is in power, so this is no fantasy.


Read it at The Flash Fiction Offensive. Thanks to editor Tom Pitts for the quick publication.


Behavior is the Truth

This is from Andrew Vachss‘s “Children’s book for Adults,” Another Chance to Get It Right. The title alone says a lot. We all have another chance, every day, to do the right thing. There is no absolution for past wrongs. The closest that comes to it are the good deeds we do today.

Children know the truth
Love is not an emotion
Behavior is the truth.

You can say I love you a thousand times, but if you call your kid “a piece of garbage” (as a childhood friend’s mother was fond of calling her son) it means nothing. To quote INXS, Words are weapons, sharper than knives. This article in Parade magazine says all that needs to be said: You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart.
We make our own monsters in abusive homes and prisons; we also make our own bullies in the checkout line and the dinner table, by teaching that belittlement and humiliation are valid corrective behavior. My friend Daniel B. O’Shea wrote long and heartfelt about the idiot father who shot up his 15 year old daughter’s laptop because she complained about chores on Facebook. If you raise a brat, look in the mirror. Do you throw a fit when the waitress is slow to refill your drink? Where did they learn this petulance from? Do you correct spoiled children by acting like spoiled children?

©1993 Andrew Vachss & Frank Caruso. Used with permission.

Do something about it. Support PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck

A short sharp anti-bullying piece

My story “Faggot” was written for Chuck Wendig’s 100 word anti-bullying challenge a few months back. It’s now up at Shotgun Honey, and if you leave a comment with your thoughts, or experiences with bullying, I will donate $5 for each comment to It Gets Better to support anti-bullying campaigns and gay teen suicide prevention.

You Can Donate Too.

It is not an excerpt from my novel in progress, but involves two characters- Brendan and Joey Bello, and is written from the bully’s perspective.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Heart Transplant

Heart TransplantHeart Transplant by Andrew Vachss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Andrew Vachss has broken our conception of what can be achieved with the graphic novel format. Teaming with artist Frank Caruso and clinical social worker Zak Mucha, he takes on bullying and emotional abuse with a great story that goes to the root of the problem.

As someone who was bullied in school, and who learned to fight much later in life, it touched a nerve. When we hear of bullying, we blame the bully, we blame the school, but we don’t talk of how to bully-proof our children. By teaching them that they are worth fighting for, and to have the armor of self-confidence that makes bullies seek other targets.

We can’t undo the damage that creates a bully. “Give me a child until the age of 7, and I will give you the man.” But we can raise our children to not be bullied, or tolerate the bullying of others.

I’ll be buying another copy and donating it to my local library, if they don’t already have it in stock. It’s that important.

View all my reviews

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Captain Purple vs. the Guido Bullies of Nutley

Yesterday people wore purple to support LGBT teens, and fight bullying. I don’t have a lot of purple since when I was really fat it made me look like Grimace, so I wore my LSU rugby shirt- their colors are purple and gold. I look like the purple Michelin Man instead. Let’s go back in time to the ’70s, and let me lay a story on ya. We like to think that things are constantly getting more progressive or morally bankrupt, depending on what TV news you watch. But we’ve gotten consistently more conservative, easily offended, and prudish if you ask me. Sure, we didn’t see “wardrobe malfunctions” on TV back then… it was called streaking, and people laughed about it. We didn’t freak out.

When I was a kid we watched the Osmonds. Things were so permissive back then that we let Mormons on television. The Osmonds are about as boring as you can imagine, and the only thing I liked was when Donny would do wear a ridiculous sparkling superhero costume and pompadour, and declare that he was “Captain Purple.” Somewhere between the period when I wanted to be The Hulk (documented here) and when I wanted to be B.J. and the Bear (mentioned last week) I decided that I wanted to be Captain Purple. Thankfully this was not near Halloween, so I don’t have any photos of my little round-bellied self in sparkly purple tights. If I did, I’d share them. Why? Because I dressed in a lot more embarrassing Halloween costumes as a kid, and I never got bullied over them. The country was simply not as religious, conservative or homophobic back in the ’70s as it is post-Reagan and post-W. We were not innocent. No one in their right mind can look at The Village People and tell me that we did not know they were gayer than a bouquet of dicks.

When I was a kid, it was funny to dress as a girl. One kid went to school with two Nerf footballs for boobs under a t-shirt, with a big white wig, as Dolly Parton. He was later asked to remove the boobs, but slipped them back in when we filed out for the Halloween parade. That year I was dressed as Agatha Crumm, an old grouch from the comic strips that I used to think was funny for some reason. It also helped that I lived with near my grandmother, and could grab a bunch of her old clothes instead of buying a costume. Later costumes included a ghost that looked way too much like a Klansman now that I think about it, and the Grim Reaper. Walking home from the high school Halloween party dressed as the Reaper, and using a payphone, almost caused a car accident as the teens burst into laughter. “Death is calling!!”

I wanted to grow up to be a Hulk.

So yeah, I dressed as an old lady for Halloween. No one called me a fag or beat me up. I remember the first time I heard the word “gay” was probably in 3rd grade, as we waited to file in for home room. An older kid was trying to trick me into saying “I’m gay.” I could tell he was being cruel, so I said “I’m happy, but I’m not gay.” This was when “gay” was still used as a synonym for that. Then I asked my mom what he meant and she probably made up some shit, because I didn’t learn what it meant until middle school, where the real bullying begins. I grew up with a friend or two who were most certainly gay, and I remember one older kid throwing his hat in the creek. But he was never called a faggot, or anything like it, when anyone else was around. I’m sure he was bullied- we all were- by the shit heads of Nutley high school, Guido capital of the eastern seaboard.

Luckily I didn’t grow up to be a prison inmate.

I was mostly safe because by the time high school came around I was wearing shredded Army fatigues, Dead Kennedys t-shirts, sporting a humongous Italian afro and carrying a Nepalese kukri in my bookbag. I slowly lost the punk look as college approached and switched to a trench coat, Pre-Columbine, waiting to happen. There was a little guido midget who kept wanting to fight on “Church Hill” but he never showed. But then, one day I was unarmed and three coked up guido douchebags jumped me outside my house- apparently because I didn’t get their basketball as it bounced past me one day in gym class. It was utterly idiotic, but this is how wars are started. They jumped me outside my house, sucker punched me in the nose and ganged up as I strangled the living shit out the first one who hit me, flying into my patented Hulk rage. I went to the cops, but nothing came of it. Later, one died of a heroin overdose, another one stole his mother’s car to sell for drugs, and the main jerk-off flipped his Monte Carle and cracked his skull, but survived. Later he apologized to me, years later. I can’t even remember his name anymore. Now that I do mixed martial arts, I’d love to tell him that his jab sucked.

If I met High School Me today, I’d probably beat him up too…

What spurred this post was an article about parents freaking out because their sons want to dress as a princess, or their daughters are tomboys. Kids do stupid shit as we try to figure out what we want to be. I wanted to be a garbage man, and sometimes I still yearn for the simplicity of crushing stuff in a garbage truck. I think it is monumentally more important that you worry about raising your kid to be an asshole more than if your kid wants to wear a tutu and pretend to be Princess Headbutt or if Daddy’s little girl wants to wear combat boots and watch monster trucks. Getting bullied doesn’t build character- if you think it does, you have no character- but choosing to be yourself, despite the booger-flings and spitballs of outrageous douchebags, does build character. Don’t be the rock that crushes the spirit of your children. That’s the job of school and the workplace.

The fallen caryatid carrying her stone, by Rodin.

© 2010 Tommy Salami