The Strangest Life


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175 in stock


By Marshall Mays

ISBN: 978-1-78382-050-4
Published: 2014
Pages: 136
Key Themes: Mental Health, Short Stories, Autobiography, Fiction, Schizophrenia


This book is a collection of some of the short stories I have written over the last few years. While many of my stories are autobiographical, others are mostly works of my imagination. I have a personal investment in all of these stories. I am proud to claim this body of work.

About the Author

The writer’s name is Marshall Mays. He was born in 1972, and he is forty-one years old. He lives with schizophrenia. It is his belief that he has lived with some form of this illness for much of his life. He wrote his first poem when he was five. Although he knew this was the first tender step in what would become a long life of putting his ideas down on paper, those around him didn’t seem to notice. He knew writing to be his talent and even his blessing in this life. He started writing short stories in earnest during his freshman year in college. He now resides in the United States, in the Southern city of Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Book Extract

Steady Eddie was a black man in his late twenties. Life was often hard for him, but it could be amusing too. Eddie was homeless, but he adulterated this pain by smoking pot in a moderate way. He walked the streets. He sat in the parks. He ate at downtown sandwich shops. Many people knew and felt affection for Eddie. He looked cool. He acted cool. He was cool. He was also mentally ill. He didn’t strike one as mentally ill, because he controlled his illness and brought it into subjugation. He didn’t use medication. He didn’t need medication. He was able to control his illness.

I came upon Eddie one day In an empty lot. I came here to read literature. It was a pretty spot. The grass grew a little shaggy. Trees grew green and to great heights. A huge magnolia tree boasted pre-eminence In the lot. Squirrels hopped. Robbins dug in the earth. The only blight to the park was a ditch where dozens of beer bottles, food containers, and discarded clothes were beginning to pile up. Eddie was sitting at one end of the lot. I was sitting at another, sitting with my back against a mushy tree stump. I was reading when I heard someone proceed to start drumming on pots using thick sticks as drum sticks. Curious, I stood up to get a better look. I saw Eddie with his trademark wrap around dark sunglasses, jazzy button down shirt over his t-shirt, and military boots, unlaced, with his jeans tucked in. I thought to myself, this is a cool dude.

Being a drummer myself, I sought to further Eddie’s talent. I enthusiastically walked to my car which was parked on the road that fronted the lot. I got a pair of drum sticks out of my car and returned to Eddie. “You can get a much better sound out of these,” I encouraged him. “Would you like to try them?”

Eddie grinned smoothly, “No. No man. I’m just messing around.”
“You play pretty well,” I suggested. “Are you sure you don’t want some real sticks?”

Eddie continued to grin, “No man. I’m just fooling around.”
I was disappointed that Eddie didn’t want to pursue his music with professional equipment, but I gave in. I returned to my seat against the stump. Eddie continued to beat his pots with his crude sticks. As I read I listened to him for half an hour. He was insistent for someone who was just messing around.

I encountered Eddie in Pete’s bar often. I resorted to this bar to drink a couple of beers in the late afternoon on many occasions. The clientele were mainly homeless people, prostitutes, and working alcoholics. They were friendly and fun, usually. One could always overhear a lively conversation taking place. The drinkers were loud and boisterous. They enjoyed entertaining the other customers. Eddie did not drink. As I have already mentioned he did smoke marijuana at times throughout the day, but he didn’t drink. He sat at a corner table with his wrap-around sunglasses, and gave a thumbs-up to everybody who came into the bar and took notice of him. Eddie was cool. He did no harm. Everybody seemed to like him. He was homeless, but he was not angry or bitter.

Eddie made his rounds every day until one ill-fated afternoon he got busted by the cops. He was sitting in a park near the public housing project. It was not often visited. Mainly the wildlife flourished. Eddie was disturbing no one. He was simply enjoying the solace of his weed. He was relaxing and taking it easy. Two cops on bicycles descended on Eddie. They came upon him before he noticed them. One of the cops grabbed the still burning marijuana joint out of his hand. The other put a handcuff on his wrist. “What do you think you are doing, sir?” He asked Eddie. No one called Eddie, “sir.” He may be referred to as “dude” or “cat,” but not “sir.” This sounded stiff and unnatural.

“Well I was minding my own business. What are you doing, sir?”
“We’re arresting you for smoking pot. What’s wrong with you? There could be kids around here.” There were no kids anywhere near. Even if there were, Eddie’s smoking would do them no harm. “Do you have any more on you?”
“Well you can search. I probably do. Not very much. Look officers I’m not hurting anyone.” Eddie complained.

“You’re breaking the law. We’re here to uphold the law.” The officers reached into Eddie’s back pockets. They reached into his front pockets. They found about a quarter of an ounce of pot rolled in a plastic bag in his front pocket. “Yeah, you do have some on you. We’re gonna haul you in.”

“Haul me in. I still say I am just minding my own business. I’m not giving anyone any trouble.”

Eddie was irritated and could not understand or comprehend his crime. He was just smoking a joint. He wasn’t robbing anybody.

The police took Eddie to the detention center. This was something they may not have done in other circumstances. They may have just written a ticket for someone else. They arrested Eddie. They fingerprinted him, and took his mug shot. They put him in jail overnight. The next day he was released with orders to appear in court a few weeks later.

Eddie often couldn’t keep track of when he had last eaten. He wasn’t able to keep track of his court date. He missed it. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

For many weeks Eddie continued to lead his accustomed life. The thought of his arrest and order to appear in court didn’t weigh heavy on his mind. The whole event was a hassle, but it didn’t seem like a big deal to Eddie. He was glad it was over. He didn’t want to repeat the process.

One day Eddie was walking down the sidewalk smoking a joint on the side of town that was mostly frequented by the homeless. He just didn’t think that smoking pot was a crime. He didn’t think of himself as a criminal, and he couldn’t understand why the police would take an interest in him. This is why he was smoking a joint in the open. He thought himself a pretty decent guy. A police officer once again surprised him. The officer was on bike patrol again. He came up behind Eddie. “Sir, is that a marijuana cigarette in your hand?” the officer asked peevishly.

Eddie responded honestly and calmly, “Yes it is.”

“Don’t you know that smoking marijuana is against the law? Are you just taunting me by smoking in the open?” The officer was angry………


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