The “inciting incident” of a story is when it really actually begins. Anyway, here is the The Big Chill homage I’m writing up to the inciting incident. I’m going to try not to post the entire story online as I write it, but this gives you a taste of the general vision of the story. I’m really pleased with the concept I’ve managed to think up. If you want to see the entire scene summary, just let me know and I’ll send it to you.
The Big Shrug
A novella by Shelton Bumgarner
Blaze Hurt and his Korean wife Union looked at each other and grinned. This weekend was going to be an exciting one, no matter what, given the people involved. Soon enough, as expected, the door opened and a middle-aged man wearing a red Make America Great Again hat walked in and gave each of them a hug.
“Jackson!” Union said as she did. “My, your politics sure have changed since we last met.”
Jackson Colburn mugged sheepishly as he turned to hug Blaze as well.
“Well, you know,” Jackson said. “Things change. I’ve changed. Who else is here? I looking forward to catching up.”
Jackson shook Blaze’s hand and told him happy birthday.
“You’re the first person here, but the rest right behind you,” Blaze said. “There’s an envelope on the kitchen table explaining where everything is.”
As Jackson nodded and made his way past them, a gorgeous African American woman squealed and hugged them both passionately. She kissed them each on the lips as she did.
“Gaia!” Blaze said, his eyes wide open. “You haven’t changed a bit. What have you been up to since Seoul? Last I heard you were modeling in Phuket”
“Yeah,” Gaia said in a deep, silky voice. “I’ve been up to this or that. Seoul was so long ago. I try to keep my eyes on the future, not the past. Happy birthday, baby,”
She, too, pushed past the couple on her way to the kitchen.
After a moment, a middle-aged woman with a lot of luggage made her way to the door and greeted the couple warmly.
“Maude, my dear,” Union said, “It’s been too long. So glad you could make it. We’re in for a great time, I think. Things are going to be so much fun with you here.”
“You’re too kind,” Maude said. “I’m just glad I could make it. Who else is here?”
“The usual suspects,” Blaze said.
Maude smiled and made her way past the couple.
Soon, a middle-aged man and a much younger, stunning woman appeared at the door. The mood was significantly different. It was more somber.
“Hey, Tagger,” Blaze said shaking Tagger’s hand firmly. “I don’t think I’ve met your daughter.”
Tagger looked at the couple smiled, then looked down for a moment and laughed.
“This is Manhattan,” Tagger said. “She’s my WIFE and you know it, you old bastard .”
The two couples shared a knowing laugh and the tension was broken.
“I haven’t seen you in person in close to 20 years,” Tagger said. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Neither have you,” Blaze said. “You seem to have done well for yourself since then. How many times have you gotten the Vogue cover in the last few years, half a dozen times?”
Tagger looked at his wife, squeezed her hand and nodded.
“Yeah, something like that.” Tagger said. “Life isn’t a straight line, you know. But it all started in Seoul. The whole thing changed my life.”
“Well,” Union said, “it’s good to see you are doing well. Like I told the others, just go straight into the kitchen and you’ll find the information you need for the weekend.”
And with that, Tagger and Manhattan pushed pass the couple with their luggage.
The group met a little later in the living room to have a drink and chat. Things were relaxed. Finally, Tagger broke the calm.
“So my old foe has finally hit the Big 50,” Tagger said, fiddling with his beer bottle.
“Tagger,” Maude said, “don’t get started with your usual bullshit. He was never your foe and you know it. We’re here to celebrate his birthday, not rehash the past.”
Tagger continued to fiddle with his beer bottle.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Tagger said. “I have no idea why I’m here, it’s not like we exactly left on the best of terms. It was a long time ago, yes, but the magazine changed all our lives for better or worse. I wouldn’t be where I am today without what happened between Nuk and me.”
There was an awkward pause.
Tagger looked around, struggling to understand what was happening.
“Speaking of Nuk,” Tagger said. “Why isn’t she here? Seeing her was half the reason why I came.”
The silence grew longer and more potent by the moment.
“Tagger…” Blaze said. “There’s something you don’t know, I’m afraid. Nuk, she, she’s passed.”
“Fuck no,” Tagger said, standing up nervously. “That’s not possible. I would know. Someone would have told me. When…when did it happen?”
“Recently, about a month ago,” Blaze said. “We decided maybe it was for the best if you didn’t know, at least not right away.”
“OH MY GOD,” Tagger yelled. “You all intentionally kept it away from me? You all knew and you didn’t tell me? Really? How could you be so fucking cruel?”
“Calm down, honey,” Manhattan said. “I’m sure there’s a reason for all of this. Who was Nuk, anyway? Was she the woman you started the magazine with?”
Everyone looked at each other in shock.
“Jesus, Tagger, you didn’t tell her anything, did you?” Maude said with a gasp and placing her hand over her mouth in shock.
“Look,” Tagger said, “what I did or didn’t tell my wife is none of your business Maude. The issue is what happened to Nuk. How did it happen, damn it. I want answers!”
“Tagger,” Blaze said. “I don’t know if we need to get into this now. We’re here to celebrate life, not death. Maybe you should fix yourself a drink, calm down and relax. We can get to the details later.”
“OH MY GOD,” Tagger yelled. “I’m NOT going to calm down! I know all you think I was some sort of monster to Nuk, but she was no angel you know. We both did things to each other that we regret. We even talked about it a little bit a few years ago via email.”
“Tagger…she….she took her own life,” Maude said.
Tagger screamed and fell to the floor in front of the group and began to cry. Manhattan got next to him and attempt to console him.
“I think, I think maybe we need to be alone,” Manhattan said at last.
The couple got up and left the room.