I scraped the metal folding chair along the linoleum floor to plop myself down in the circle. Fifteen eyes (The homeless Santa character across the circle had a glass eye) watched me as I straightened myself up and let out a sigh. This was gonna be tough.
"Kevin," the moderator said with a hideous, bogus smile. "Would you like to begin?"
I closed my eyes. I can't do this! I thought. Run! A voice echoed in the room: "Please?"
I had to do it. Without opening my eyes, I stood up. I couldn't bear to see them laugh, like everyone else. But I had to get it out. I had to come to terms with it.
"Hi," I started. I opened one eye just enough to see their blurry outlines. No one spoke. "My name is Kevin," I said. Still nothing. I closed my eyes tighter.
I inhaled. I winced as if someone had a grip on a nasty splinter in my finger and was about to pull.
"...and I'm the victim..."
Another squinty-eyed peek. Still nothing...
"...of a garden gnome attack..."
Dead silence. I let out a breath. And then?
Applause. The group applauded! After eighteen months of showing up and saying nothing, I'd done it! I'd admitted and expressed my horrible nightmare. I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders.
I sat back down, felt the congratulatory claps on my back, and heard the various words of encouragement like "I hear ya, man," or "we're here for ya brother."
Yes. I was the victim of a horrible garden gnome attack. I can speak about it now because of my Survivors of Garden Gnome Attacks group (SOGGA). I can hold my head up high and say with a clear conscious that there is no shame in being brutally beaten by five, grinning clay and porcelain half-pint hellions. In fact, my survival has become a source of pride.
And I owe it all to one book: "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)" by Chuck Sambuchino.
I read this book not too long ago and found it informative, educational, and funny - yes, it has allowed me to laugh at my own experiences in bush-hidden brutality. While I still have trouble viewing the horrific pictures (Thank God Chuck was able to get the film from the poor, presumably dead photographer), and I still wake in the middle of the night with the feel of their cold, hard beards on my shins, and the feel of their razor sharp rakes across my back, I know that thanks to Chuck's book, others may not have to suffer the same fate as me.
So please, do yourself a favor. Get this book. Protect yourself. Or else you may find yourself attending a SOGGA meeting yourself...
...if you're lucky...
I'm starting a new book today with that as the title. "The Strength To Stand Up. Memoirs of an Unemployed Man." People have...
Great time had at the SCBWI conference on Saturday! And a big hello to my friends from that conference who've hopefully joined us here....