Robert Ragan is ABP’s Featured Artist for the month of June 2019

ABP- Thank you for taking this interview Robert. A year ago in June of 2018 ABP had the privilege of releasing your collection of short stories, Mannequin Legs. Please tell us about your experience writing it, and how you feel about the book a year later.
RR- I wrote poetry for ten years, then started writing fiction when I was twenty-nine. The stories in Mannequin Legs were all written over a seven or eight year period. The title story itself was one of the first short stories I wrote when I was experimenting with fiction. Looking back on it a year later, I’m still proud of it. But with me when it comes to writing I always try to out-do the last story. So I hope that I can put out a much better collection with my follow-up.
ABP-  Your fiction has also been featured in several of ABP’s zines and anthologies. Is there one of those that is particularly memorable for you?
RR- I love appearing in anthologies and zines a long side great writers. As far as my work I have to say my favorite story was “The Jar of Death” published in zine #2.
ABP- What is the literary scene like in Lillington, North Carolina?
RR- I used to attend a Writer’s Workshop at the library in Lillington NC with a group of older writters. Some of them have been published but their styles were more suitable compared to mine. Other than that,  I’ve come across a few aspiring writers and poets here and there. Unfortunatley, they don’t take it as seriously.
ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?
RR- There’s so many, I dont know where to start. William Burroughs, and Kurt Vonnegut to name a couple. Lately I’ve been reading more stories and poetry written by my peers than more famous authors.
ABP- Aside from writing, you are also a visual artist. Tell us about your journey In that regard.
RR- My whole life I’ve always had a fascination and love for all types of art. Writing, music, and visual arts. Obviously, writing is my true passion but I was very excited when I got up the nerve to experiment with painting. I dont look at myself as a visual artist, it blew my mind when people actually asked about buying them. I write and paint all for the love of art. I would give them away, but I cant duplicate them. So I keep them for my private collection.
ABP- What do you have planned for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
RR- Being back at my old job I cant write as much as I had been. But in my spare time, I’m always working on new stories for anthologies and online magazines, as well as my follow-up collection.
ABP- Once again, thank you for taking this interview. It was a privilege to feature you. Please take as much space to share anything you would like to share with our WordPress audience
RR- One of my newer short stories “Right On The Hole Part”
20190413_123051
Right On The Hole Part

 

I call it like I see it. Sometimes though, I wonder if maybe I’m hallucinating.

This morning on the way to work. A diehard Duke Blue Devils fan says, “For every game Zion misses we will murder two young immigrants from Nike’s sweatshop.”

A couple of guys on a radio morning show ask, “Is America taking sports and entertainment too far.”

Wow, that’s cutting edge; very groundbreaking.

I turned it to something else and caught the end of the commercial, “O O O O’Reilly’s…Auto Parts….OW!”

Pulling into my parking spot…in hell, I see a couple of coworkers smoking cigarettes by the front entrance.

As I walk by, I hear one of them say, “Man you went down on that chick while she was on her period? That’s some nasty gross shit!”

 

The other guy says, “Man, she tricked me. She said she was just lightly spotting.”

For so long I was trapped in my own head. To save myself from my reality I started listening to everything anyone said around me. I couldn’t describe the smell, but I swear I stuck my nose into everything.

I don’t know why these people hired me. I’m hardly even qualified to stack boxes on the end of this assembly line. Before taping each one, I’m supposed to insert an instruction sheet.

The customers bitch and complain because I forget to add the instruction sheet in at least one box on every pallet.

How am I to worry about a sheet of paper, with so many thoughts racing through my head?

My body is in this warehouse for 10 hours a day. But my mind is far gone. I pay attention just enough to get by.

Most of the time I’m taping up boxes and thinking up rhymes in my head about all my co-workers.

I’m lucky no one can actually read minds.
My face is the book cover..open it up and my brain is filled with memories and fantasies turned into stories. Conspiracies tattooed on the soft tissue.

When I was younger my mother tried to prove I was mentally disabled in order to get a monthly check.

Psychiatrist admitted I was dumb as a rock and off in the head; but not to the point that I couldn’t be a functional member of society.

My mother swore I’d commit suicide or take a gun to school. After being turned down a few times, she vowed to take it to one more hearing.
My father had just died…A wannabe writer and painter, he was hardly ever in my life.

She said, “Well, he’s gonna be at that hearing.”

When the day finally came we sat in front of the administrative judge. He wanted to deny me again, you could see it in his eyes behind those thick lenses.

Just like mama said, I looked off to my right and asked the air, “What did you say, daddy?”

The judge ignores it and asks about my grades and if I ever I thought about hurting myself.

Ignoring his questions, I looked to my right again and said, “I don’t know..I’m not sure.”

My mother just stared at the judge wearing her best fake smile.

He asked her, “Who is he talking to, ma’am?”

Setting up straight she clears her throat and smooths out the wrinkles on her skirt.
She said, “He’s just started doing this recently. His father died and he swears he can see him and talk to him.”

This grey-haired old judge laughs. He then shouts at me, “Hey, kid, you can knock it off, I know this is all a big act!”
Breaking eye contact I say, “Yes daddy, I put on clean underwear right before we left.”

My mother goes into panic mode, “Come on! Can’t you see he needs help?”
Squinting her eyes trying her best to produce tears she said, “He needs some type of medication and I can’t afford it.”
Turning my head to look at her I say, “Mom calm down!” Daddy said he’ll take care of everything.”

Things didn’t go as we planned, I was not approved that day. The judge said there would be an emergency hearing sometime in the next few months.

He said, “That was a nice try, you people must think we’re stupid.”
As we walked out I now looked to my left and said, “You’re still taking me for ice cream, right Dad?”

On the drive home my mom didn’t stop for ice cream as she’d promised. “That was to celebrate if you got approved,” she said.

Later she informed me that I had to keep doing the imaginary dead father act everywhere I went. “Just until this next emergency hearing,” she said.

Everyone at school already called me a retard. But oh man, it really got worse once my invisible dead dad started showing up at school every day.

It wasn’t all bad, I got a date for the prom.
An awkward chubby pimple faced girl, her dress barely fit. We were like the biggest losers in the school.

Teri actually believed and thought it was cute that I was so close to my dead father.

On the floor in the gymnasium with other couples dancing all around us. I looked to my right and said, “Dad, she’s my date but I guess you can have this dance.”

Teri was graceful dancing right by herself.
Her dirty blonde hair bounced with each step. When the song was over she walked back to me and smiled.

She said, “I swear on everything it’s like I could feel myself in his arms.”

Teri didn’t have anything to worry about, she was already on disability and taking all remedial classes.

 

She and I broke up after she asked what I thought about having sex while she had a yeast infection. It pissed her off when I said, “I don’t care as long as we don’t make a breadstick.”

I carried on this act for so long, I really started believing it.

I came to the conclusion that my mom was trying to make this more than an act. I stopped doing it and she and I went to war.
She took my cd’s, my comic books, and even my best porno mag. Next, she took my Playstation. After that I was like forget this.

I went AWOL, tried to run away but she found me and beat me with a switch in the Food Tiger parking lot.

When the emergency hearing came around I was denied again.

My mother flew into a rage, “You crooked heartless bastards won’t help my son.
But yet, I know someone’s kid who gets disability just for being in a wheelchair.” she said, “It’s just not right.”

After that, she gave up and told me my dumbass better get a job flipping burgers or something.

Basically, that’s how I ended up here at this stupid warehouse job.

Hell, I don’t even know what’s going on half the time. At least once a week they threaten to fire me if I don’t get my act together.

My mama said I better stop forgetting to put them damn papers in the box.

Plus, she said I need to get my license and proper insurance on my junk car before I get pulled over or go through a roadblock.

When the alarm clock goes off, I bitch and moan and contemplate calling in dead to work.

She says, “It ain’t my fault you stay up all night watching dirty movies then don’t want to get up in the morning.”

Every morning it’s, “I tried to get you some help but you couldn’t follow along.”

Just the other day we went to see my grandma at the nursing home. Granny calls 50 times a day saying, “Call down here and tell ‘em to turn on the heat,” even in the dead of summer.

As soon as we walk in the door we can hear her down the hall yelling as loud as she can, “Help…Help!”

My mom’s always saying, “I’ve got enough to worry about with your grandma, I don’t need to deal with your shit too.”

 

Everybody is always picking on me, but momma and everybody at work can kiss my ass!

 

Right on the hole part…

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