Monday, April 04, 2011



JEREMY: I am not the most confident individual in the world, which is murder if you want to be a filmmaker. I constantly analyze and then ridicule myself for being weak in my own eyes. 'You can't do anything right!' I yell at myself. 'You're useless! You'll never achieve anything! You're nothing but a semi-talented amateur at best! There's millions of people who are striving to do the same thing you want to do, except they've gone to school for it! You barely made it through high school, so what makes you think you have what it takes to rise above those more deserving?'

My greatest fear is that I will die before I have a chance to leave my mark on the world. I'm horrified at the prospect of being thrown into a hole after a pauper's funeral, covered with dirt and then forgotten as if I never existed. I must be somebody. My name must live on after this mortal shell. But as hard as such a deed as ensuring your place in history is, it's doubly hard when you don't have the confidence to achieve the greatness you long for. I have no faith in myself, so therefore who else is going to have faith in me?

I've lost count of how many screenplays and stories I've destroyed over the years during moments of extreme despair, only to regret the action later. And women? Don't even get me started on the opposite sex; my confidence factor is at a sub-zero level in that department.

It wasn't always like this. I was once an energetic and loquacious child who talked to everyone. I used to bug the hell out of the mailman every single day in the apartment complex where I spent my first eight years of life. I'd follow him along his entire route, from door to door until he'd jump in his truck and speed away. I was the class clown at school, delighting my peers with my crazy antics. I had more friends than I could shake a stick at, but then somewhere along the course of my young life something changed.

I believe my step-father is most responsible for this. And it's not that I'm trying to chuck all of the blame on him. I'm not sitting around bemoaning my lot in life. I am who I am, for better or for worse. I am simply explaining how it is that I came to be who I am.


Sharon Riley was born Sharon Leann Nicholson to Lee and Ellen Nicholson on December 13th, 1957 in Richmond, Indiana. When she was seven Lee and Ellen divorced and Ellen took custody of her children. Though she was the third of four children she often received the lion’s share of household responsibilities while Ellen worked her fingers to the bone to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

On occasion Lee would pick up the kids for recreational activities with his new wife, Jamie, and their off-spring. None of whom Sharon cared a holler for. My mother enjoyed antagonizing Lee's new wife every chance she got, and it was one of these malicious jabs at the woman who had dared replace Ellen in her father's heart that saved not only her life but the life of her son-to-be.

On April 6th, 1968, Lee picked up my mother and her other siblings for a day of archery at the park. They drove to a sporting goods store in the heart of downtown called Marting & Arms to purchase some archery equipment. Sharon was still recovering from an operation she’d undergone not too long ago due to a bladder infection. The doctor had instructed her not to hold her urine if she could help it.

So there was the whole family crammed into Lee’s Buick. They were halfway to the sporting goods store when Sharon turned to Jamie and said she had to pee. Jamie told her to hold it until they reached their destination. Sharon would later state that she didn't have to go that badly but when she saw how this agitated Jamie she turned up the heat, nagging Jamie until she finally relented and had Lee turn the car around.

Minutes later an explosion rocked downtown Richmond, killing forty-one people and injuring over a hundred-and-fifty others. The explosion was the result of a gas leak from one or more faulty transmission lines under Marting & Arms, which set off not only ammunition stored in the store's basement but several crates of dynamite as well.

Needless to say, when Sharon had to go to the restroom after that she went with no questions asked.


I do not know who my biological father is, nor do I care to know. The man abandoned my mother and I and I've had no use for him since. No one in my family is quite sure who he is either, but the strongest evidence points to a man -- a married man -- whose children my mother was babysitting for at the time. According to my grandmother this man's wife called her one night and told her that she had best come fetch her daughter before the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Whether my mother had an affair with the man or not she became pregnant at the ripe old age of seventeen. She either didn’t realize she was pregnant or kept mum about it for fear of what the father might say or do. She went into labor in the wee hours before dawn on May 22nd, 1974.  Mistaking this for a bad case of gas she hurried to the bathroom to relieve her bowels.

My aunt Charlotte awoke shortly thereafter to the sound of a baby crying. Her search brought her to the bathroom where she discovered my mother curled up in the corner, in shock. A stream of blood led from her to the toilet where my aunt discovered a newborn boy. "What is it?" My mother was quoted as saying. "It's a baby," my aunt replied. "No," my mother gasped, "it can't be."

My aunt fished me out of the toilet, toweled me off, and called an ambulance. It arrived soon after, its siren heralding the arrival of Jeremy Lee Nicholson into the world. My reputed father fled to Florida and sent for his family a few months later.


My mother didn’t have good taste when it came to men. Apparently she was dating a sixteen-year-old boy named Jeff Riley at the same time she was fooling around with my father. They settled, were eventually married, and I acquired his surname. I cannot say I ever wanted for toys, food, clothes, or a roof over my head.  Jeff provided all of this for me, though I suspect begrudgingly and only because it made my mother happy.

I understood early on that there was something different about my relationship with Jeff as opposed to that of my younger siblings, Arien and Alia. He seemed closer to these two, his own flesh and blood, than to me; particularly his baby girl, Alia, who, in his eyes, could do no wrong.

The physical abuse started first. I couldn't have been much older than five or six, barely in kindergarten.  I would often come home to see Jeff's leather belt hanging on the stairway railing, a sign that I was in for a good thrashing. "Go upstairs," Jeff would tell me. And up I went. It wouldn't have been so bad if he didn't make me wait for what seemed like an eternity in my room before announcing from downstairs, "Well, I guess I better go give Jeremy what he deserves." Then to hear him coming up the stairs and down the hall, snapping his belt in his hands — SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! — like some B-horror movie maniac.

That was the worst part, the waiting. Knowing the inevitable was coming and me powerless to do anything about it. Never mind that more often than not I wasn't even aware of what I was being punished for.

Over the years I've had yard rulers broken over me, been whacked up pretty bad with a cutting board, backhanded, slapped, had my hair grabbed, pulled, pushed, thrown, you name it. But take it from an expert; nothing hurts more than the wire end of a fly-swatter being smacked across your bare wet legs after you're dragged out of the swimming pool in front of all your friends for the crime of forgetting to put the cap back on a tube of toothpaste.

Then the psychological abuse started. Jeff was the sort of person who needed to put others down in order to make himself feel big. So, naturally, who better to dump on then the bastard child who was sucking up all his hard earned money as well as the best years of his life? I'm sure in his mind I deserved everything I got. I really do.

Name-calling was just the beginning. I wasn't even ten yet and already I had a negative view of myself. According to the man whom I turned to for worldly guidance, the man on whose opinions my own budding character and self-worth relied, I was an ugly, deviant, parasitic, stupid, worthless bag of shit who would never amount to a damn thing. "You'll die alone and afraid in some gutter, knowing nobody loves you," were his exact words.

Sometimes he'd do something nice but in a twisted way, like yell to me and my brother while we were playing outside to come in and get our spankings. We'd do our own little death march up to the porch, near tears, our stomachs in knots, only to be given a handful of M&M's. Yah! A stay of execution and Candy!

Then, later, he'd yell to us again to come get our spankings. Yah! More candy! We'd rush to the porch...only to get the snot beat out of us.

Then there was the strange punishment during which Jeff and I were alone in the house. I don't know where Mom was during all of this (she always seemed to be conveniently elsewhere), and I don't know what I did to piss Jeff off, but he had me strip off all of my clothes and stand by the front door while he sat and watched me—leered at me might be a better term. While he did this he would ask me questions like, "What would you do if one of your friends came up to the door right now?"

This bordered on the last of his abuses, that of a sexual nature.

Jeff would sometimes indulge in 'wrestling matches' with me. I will spare the reader the details by simply stating that to this day dry-fucking makes me uncomfortable. I remember when I was around twelve Jeff had me watch an orgy scene from the movie Caligula and repeatedly asked me questions about how I felt and what I wanted to do. He even asked if he could watch me masturbate on one occasion, attempting to bribe me with the promise of skin magazines if I complied. To my credit I turned him down.

A swimming coach saw the welts on my legs from Jeff's beatings during a class trip to the local YMCA and called the authorities. They came to my school, took pictures of my bruises, and then came to see my parents. Jeff sweet-talked them, playing Mr. Nice Guy. Jeff was a fox when it came to manipulating people. He was a highly intelligent man and spun some tale about how he whipped his kids when they deserved it but I most likely received those welts on my legs from the wooden framework of the bunk bed I shared with my brother while he was whipping me.

Here's the best part: The authorities believed him. They thanked Jeff for his time, shook his hand, and left. Once they were gone Jeff looked at me with a cold, detached smile. I beat you, that smile seemed to say. And I always will.

I turned to one other person, a school counselor, and only then for advice. She became all hellfire and brimstone at the news and called my parents in to a meeting which I wasn't allowed to attend. They exited sometime later, laughing and shaking hands. After Jeff and my mother left the counselor turned to me and said, "Your parents are so nice. The way you described them I thought they'd be monsters."

I haven't had any use for counselors or authority figures since.


The final stage of my childhood alienation came right after grade school.  One of my teachers suggested that my parents send me to a middle school that sponsored a program for children with emotional problems.

In other words, Special Ed.

According to my school record I had demonstrated on several instances 'unusual verbalizations' and was prone to 'excessive day-dreaming.' They felt it would be better for me if I was placed in a controlled environment where my 'special needs' could be catered to. My parents agreed and I found myself wrenched from everything I had known up to that friends, my surroundings…all gone in the blink of an eye.  All for my own good.

As if that wasn't enough I only went to regular school for half of the day, and even then I spent most of my time in Special Ed classes, surrounded by a who's who of colorful characters that would put Tod Browning's Freaks to shame. The few regular classes I did attend were no picnic either. Since I was new to the school my classmates only knew me as that 'Special Ed' kid, and the name-calling began in earnest.

I had to ride the special bus to school each morning. This wasn’t that big of a deal in and of itself but the buses all arrived at the school half an hour early so the whole damn school had to wait in their buses for the doors to open at eight. Our bus, for whatever reason, couldn't hang around that long so what we had to do each morning was exit the bus and board one containing 'regular kids' who mocked, jeered, hit, and laughed at us 'special kids.' Makes one eager to hop out of bed in the morning, doesn't it?

My classmates and I went to lunch an hour before the rest of the school did and then boarded another bus which took us to the Dunn Mental Health Center. Here we spent the remainder of the day, supposedly being taught how to channel our emotions and become a well-balanced contributor to society, or something like that.

If the old saying that the nuts were in charge of the nuthouse ever applied to a place it was here at Dunn. The head honcho of the program, Doug, was a weasel-like ex-hippie who would snap and yell at the class at the drop of a hat. I can't even tell you how many 'time outs' I was forced to take in my first week there.

This all began to take its toll on me. Sure, it was fun to manipulate the Special Ed kids into doing my bidding, but that got old fast. I began to withdraw into myself, hiding in the back of the room during my 'regular classes,' where I wrote and drew my own comics and short stories. I became increasingly angry, blowing up at the other kids at the slightest provocation and getting into fist fights with the bullies because I refused to be a victim.  Or maybe I was just plain tired of being a victim, of being different.

I began to defy authority. Everyone assumed that since I was in Special Ed I must be mentally unbalanced, so I acted the part. I began a love affair with the old west, reveling in the exploits of Billy the Kid, Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin, Wild Bill, yadda, yadda, yadda. I wanted to emulate them, to make a name for myself. I formed my own gang of misfits and ran wild through the streets of Richmond, becoming the 'Richmond Kidd' for no other reason than to escape the cold, hard reality of the real world.


I was still too young to realize I hated myself but I could feel it burning deep within me like a stoked flame. It warmed me in moments of despair and humiliation. I began to rely on it, to turn to it for comfort, to use it to channel my anger in fights. I began to shut myself off from the rest of the world, brick by brick. I spent less time with my gang, skipped classes at school (hell, it got to the point where I hardly went to school anymore), used the back alleys when I had to go places in order to avoid people, and began carrying weapons I'd stolen from my grandfather, Ford Washington's juke joint.

Ford was Jeff's father. He was a tall, brusque black man who had no qualms about using his under-aged grandsons to haul beer back and forth and clean up blood and broken glass in his illegal juke joints that littered the less prosperous sections of Richmond. For those not in the know, a juke joint is a place where church-goers go in a dry county on a Sunday afternoon to wash away the bad taste of organized religion. I didn't mind the work though. The juke joints were a fascinating place, and I got to listen to whatever music I wanted on the jukebox for free.

I still fondly remember the time we arrived at one of the joints late at night to clean it. Ford unlocked the door and I began to walk inside. He pulled me back out, drew his .38 revolver, and told me to never enter a room without first turning on the lights. He then flicked on the overhead light and proceeded to search the place top to bottom for any sign of an intruder before finally letting me and my brother enter.

Ford was a little rough around the edges but I respected him more than his son. At least Ford was up front on most things and seemed to genuinely want to help my brother and I learn a trade (hey, juke joints are a lucrative business).

Then again, maybe he viewed us as cheap labor. I remember after working an entire week (sometimes two) for him he'd pull out this wad of cash containing Jacksons, Grants, and even Franklins. He'd thumb through the bills and hand me an Abe. He even had the nerve to ask me if I'd work for him for free.

On occasion we'd collect all of the beer cans and haul them down to the junk yard. We'd have half-a-dozen large trashbags full of these cans, which we traded in for around four or five bucks, which my brother and I were allowed to split between us as payment for our week's labor. I remember how the smell of those beer cans made me nauseous. To this day I can't drink any beer of the Coors, Miller, Bud, Colt .45 variety.


I used what money I scraped together to buy comic books. Being a friendless geek at this stage of my life the lure of other worlds outside of the cesspool of the one I currently occupied was too tempting to refuse. I became a regular at the local comic shop, skipping classes at school just so I could be the first to pick up the latest issue of Spider-Man, or X-Men, or whatever happened to tickle my fancy at the time. I studied the artwork religiously and began to draw my own comics.

The first super hero I created was Captain Supreme. He was an astronaut named Sam Potter who, when the haul of his shuttle was breached while flying into the atmosphere of Venus, was granted super human strength and nigh invulnerability. He later teamed up with my first superhero group called the 'Death Squad'. The roster consisted of my favorite superheroes of the time, Batman, Wolverine, and Spider-Man, along with my own creations. Copyright laws be damned.

Each issue of the Death Squad was ten pages long and in color. This violent, extremely bloody book ran for a hundred-and-twenty-five issues before I decided to retire it and showcase a new superhero team I had introduced within the pages of the Death Squad called 'Decade'. Project Decade was a government sanctioned team of genetically engineered super humans. They were ten in number (Decade, get it?), and their primary mission was to hunt down and halt the actions of the Death Squad, who had been framed for the murder of the President of the United States by one of their many enemies.

Unlike Death Squad the Decade comics showcased my own creations with no 'guest stars' from Marvel or DC Comics, whom I'm sure wouldn't have approved of a lot of the situations I'd exposed their iconic characters to. Another difference was that the book was twenty-two pages an issue, the same as a regular comic. I drew thirty-one issues of Decade, honing my skills, planning to break into the comic book field and become a big name.

That all changed when I met Dar, Jesse and Joe. After all, comics were only a substitute for my real passion, filmmaking. So I abandoned my dreams of breaking into the comics field and concentrated instead on DIP Entertainment. Those many years of drawing my own funny books hadn't been wasted, though. Comics taught me how to storyboard scenes, how to maintain continuity, and, most important of all, helped me hone my skills as a writer.

My self-confidence was still shaky, and it would be years before I could look another person in the eyes, but I had found my salvation in the form of my new friends. I had a cause to believe in, a place where I belonged, where my gifts weren't looked on as strange and unusual but were encouraged and appreciated. For the first time in my life I actually felt I belonged. I have Dar, Joe and Jesse to thank for that.

So, thanks guys.

JESSE: Your skill as a writer improves each time your fingers hit the keyboard.  It is an honor to have you as a friend.  You inspire me with your talent and constant need to improve upon it.  And don’t worry, I too would be a friendless loser without you and the two gentlemen mentioned above.  Here’s to you, one of my best friends in the world.

JOE: I can only “parrot” what Jesse said above.  He said it so well.  God bless you, sir!

Next: CIRT


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