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Written by Kim Catanzarite

Kim has published many articles and short stories over the years, and she has won several contests.
Kim's YA novel titled Two Roads Diverged was a semi-finalist in the Pirate's Alley William Faulkner novel-in-progress prize. (2017)
Kim's short story titled "Handsome and Grethel" is featured in the debut publication of the Deadly Quill, July 2017. 
Her short story "At the Light on 17 and King" came in seventh place in the Sixfold fiction contest (Winter 2016) and will be published in the print version of the literary magazine as well. 
Kim's YA novel titled The Three Coins was short-listed for the Pirate's Alley William Faulkner novel-in-progress prize. (2013)
Kim took home two awards from the South Carolina Writers Workshop 2011 conference held in Myrtle Beach, SC: Second place in the Novel First Chapter contest and Honorable Mention in the Poetry category.
 Follow me and read my short stories on Wattpad: Click here for wattpad. 

Kim's work has appeared in the following publications:
The Evansville Review
moonShine review
Emry's Journal
The Petigru Review
Catfish Stew
The Deadly Quill
Various Better Homes and Gardens magazines
Woman's Day Specials
Charleston Style & Design
House Calls magazine
Many others
The Ridgewood News
The Post and Courier
Parent's Post
The Winston-Salem Times
Many others

An excerpt from my work-in-progress, a young adult novel titled Two Roads Diverged.

The Year 1984

Chapter One – Mother of the Year

Tommy Briar punched the door of Birchwood High School. He’d used this side door to enter the building for the past four years—the one he trusted to shave off a few precious minutes from his morning commute (because it was the closest to the road and therefore the most direct) but today, for the first time, the door was locked. Why did something always stand in his way? After tugging at the handle for much longer than he should have bothered, hoping it might just magically pop open, he cursed out loud and sprinted over the grass in the direction of the main entrance.

In the past few days, the sun had come out and the Birchwood High grounds had grown a thick spring lawn complete with fat flowering bushes and scattered dandelions—not that they made it any less of a prison. At the top of the hill, Eugene Coralis sat hunched in his wheelchair, fumbling in his effort to light a cigarette while a group of junior girls wearing mini skirts and black-rubber Madonna bracelets watched from yards away. Were they actually laughing at him?

 “What did you guys eat for breakfast this morning, bitch flakes?” Tommy grumbled.

The girls gaped at him as if he’d broken some sacred promise never to insult a popular girl—let alone four at one time. And now their nasty laughter followed him up the stairs. But so what? He was used to it.  

As he burst through the main entrance, the starkly lit corridors made him feel self-conscious. Something about vibrating fluorescent lights screamed rules and obedience, and we know what you did last night. He slipped past the guidance counselors’ offices, sneakers squeaking, while just a few stragglers slammed locker doors and scuttled off to their first-period classrooms. If Tommy didn’t hightail it up to the second floor, he was going to walk in after the bell again. Just as he reached the stairwell, someone behind him shouted, “Get your gay-dar out, it’s Tommy Briar!”

Tommy spun around to the unsightly presence of Vince Mopar and Jim Atkinson coming up fast, two lunkheads who’d been getting on his case since freshman year. Were they really going to do this now, only four weeks away from graduation? Four weeks until every senior at Birchwood went his separate way—Tommy couldn’t wait.

“What do you want, Mopar?” he said, breaking the first rule of anger management, which is Do not engage.

A crazed grin caused Vince’s lizard-like eyes to bulge more than usual. He was an ugly, pasty-white guy with an even uglier smile. “I'm just wondering if your mother’s gay gene passed on to you, that’s all.”

Tommy knew what he should to do: Take a breath. Count backwards from ten. Let the words wash over him like water off a duck’s ass. But it was early in the morning, and he had woken on the ornery side of the bed. His alarm hadn’t gone off so he’d missed his ride, and now he had to deal with the kind of bullshit that made him hate his fellow man.

“I’m pretty sure he’s got a girlfriend,” Jim muttered, looking like he didn’t want any part of whatever this might turn out to be.  

“So he says,” Vince said, frowning. “Doesn’t mean he’s not …” he raised his hand and waggled a pinky finger, “you know.”

Nothing had changed in the four years Tommy had attended this shithole of a school. He was still getting crap for something his mother had done—the adultery she’d committed with the woman next door and the town-wide scandal that resulted when his parents met in divorce court. And he was damn well sick of it.

But that didn’t mean there was anything he could do about it. So he put his mantra into action: Water off a duck’s ass. Water off a duck’s ass, the catchphrase he and Mr. O came up with when he joined the guidance counselor’s anger management support group. Only problem was, repeating the mantra didn’t always work. Sometimes the anger still rose up from the dark, murky side where dirt devils spun up out of the landscape of his brain and anchored their forked tails into his fleshy gray matter, refusing to slide away like water off a duck’s ass. Water off a duck’s ass.

“Well?” Vince said. “Are you a homo or what?”

Tommy sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. Probably because I don’t speak idiot,” before continuing in the direction of the stairwell. He did not want to be late. If he was, Perkins would give him detention (again) and today was Wednesday, the day Marybeth came over after school. He needed to keep walking, to practice self-control, to let the insults slide like water off a duck’s ass, duck’s ass, duck’s ass …  

He pushed open the door and was about to shoot up the steps, when Vince shouted, “You better run, you queer!”

With that, the loop of Tommy’s mantra snapped. The air grew still and a surge of heat rose up the trunk of his body like smoke through a chimney. An angry red atom spun circles through his brain, and Tommy aborted his trek to class. Like a man with a new mission, he marched straight at his assailant, thumping Mopar’s plaid-shirted chest with both of his angry palms. As Vince stumbled back, the scent of AquaFresh emerged in a puff of exhalation.

Jim Atkinson backed away. “I’ll see ya in math, Vince,” passing them on his way to the stairwell.

Still pressing Vince into the wall, Tommy grimaced, his words squeezing through gritted teeth: “I am so sick of you and your friends. It’s been four years, asshole. I mean, four years, Jesus Christ!”

Vince turned his head to the side, laughing nervously, though he tried to act as if the situation were in his control. “You seem upset,” he said in a mocking tone. “Did I hurt your feelings?”

It was unusual for Vince to be so bold without his older, larger brother nearby. But then again every senior in school knew about Tommy’s last fight and the suspension he served, and how he wouldn’t graduate with the rest of the class of 1984 should another strike be leveled against him. In other words, Vince knew Tommy couldn’t risk getting caught in another brawl on school grounds.

 “It’s okay if you’re of that persuasion,” Vince said, with a hideous grin. “Takes all kinds to make the world go round, you know? And, look man, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” He fluttered his lashes in a girlie fashion.

Pop! Tommy landed a punch off the side of Vince’s steep slope of a nose. Some blood bubbled up and spurted, then lined the edge of his upper lip in a thin stream.

 “Damn!” Vince shouted and returned the favor with a fist rising toward Tommy’s mouth. But Tommy’s left hand still had a good grip on him, and the punch only grazed the side of his face.

After that, they slid and scuffled in an angry sort of dance, where each struggled for control. Vince tried to press Tommy down to the ground via his shoulders. He had a few inches on Tommy and probably twenty-five pounds—and should have been able to do it—but Tommy eluded him by attacking at waist height in a move he’d learned on the wrestling team back in junior high. As he squeezed and lifted, breathing in Vince’s oniony body odor, he kicked one of the kid’s gunboat feet out from under him. Vince’s other foot slid fast away just before his ass slammed the ground.

Vince’s smile had gone and the red of embarrassment climbed the stem of his neck. “Don’t ever hug me like that, you homo!” he cried.

Tommy hovered over his prey, seething with the hot pulse of writhing male hormones and adrenaline spilling into his bloodstream. He considered what to do next. Water off a duck’s ass. Water off a duck’s ass. The mantra was back, reminding him he should walk away while he still could—before one of the office doors down the hall opened and a guidance counselor or the principal himself emerged.

And then the bell rang, and shit! he was late for first period again.

 Excerpt written by Kim Catanzarite—All rights reserved. 

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