Untold Stories

“What are you complaining about, J? You’re getting paid, aren’t you?”

That was Derrick’s go-to whenever I started to moan about something – a bad review, a crap project, an editor I wanted to punch, that sort of thing. He knew just when to deliver that line, too. Just as I was building steam and my accent started to thicken, just when obscenities started to become punctuation…

“What are you complaining about, J? You’re getting paid, aren’t you?”

Boom. And down I went. Every time.

I don’t have many friends. Not good ones. I am not a friendly person. I am largely ambivalent to the affairs of others.

Derrick Ferguson was my friend. He died a few days ago. I found out today. I can’t imagine what his wife, Patricia, is going through. Though I don’t know her, I feel like I do, if only because Derrick was always talking about her. We talked to each other about our wives, our families, our aches and pains.

Mostly, we talked about stories.

We didn’t talk enough, though. Not lately. I had my excuses – work, my daughter, etcetera ad nauseum – but they all ring a bit hollow now. Survivor’s guilt.

I had another post planned today, but I knew that if I didn’t write something about him now, today, I probably wouldn’t. I knew the longer I waited, the less meaningful what I wrote would be. It would be anodyne and professional. The dutiful commemoration of a fellow professional.

But Derrick was my friend. We talked about stories. Stories we’d written, and wanted to write. The stories of others that we admired or hated, or both. We talked about our work, and what we were working on.

Derrick was always working, always coming up with stories he wanted to tell. Always trying to figure out the best way to get those stories out there, to the people who might want to see them. Who might need them.

“I don’t know, man – who’s this story for?” I asked, one time. Stupid question. I have – had – still have – a bad habit of thinking that ‘market’ and ‘audience’ are interchangeable. Derrick knew better.

He laughed – whatever else, I could always make him laugh – and said, “It’s for me, J. I just write what I want to read.”

He wrote what I wanted to read, too. Whatever it was, when it arrived in my mail box, on my computer, whatever, I put aside whatever I was reading at the time to dig in to it. Dillon, Sebastian Red, Diamondback Vogel – Derrick came up with some wild yarns. Some good stories.

Better than me on my best day.

Derrick knew how to write a story that would grab hold of you and not let go ’til you’d gotten to the end – and he’d leave you wanting more. Don’t believe me? Check one of his books out for yourself. There’s quite a few. Read them, then reread them.

Cherish them. Because there won’t be any more.

It’s selfish of me, but my head keeps spinning back to that singular thought. No more stories. No rematch between Diamondback Vogel and Nickelby Laloosh. No more Dillon, or Eli Creed. No more Xonira, no more…

No, that’s not true, is it?

The stories he wrote are there. And the stories he didn’t get to write are there too. An infinity of untold stories, in my head, and the heads of all the rest of us – those of us he taught and tended. Not just me but so many others.

Derrick meant so much to so many of us. Those of us he talked down off of the ledges, and out of making bad decisions. Those of us he convinced to keep going, to keep writing, to keep telling stories when we wanted to give up for whatever reason.

Those of us he told the secret of how to write a good story.

“I just write what I want to read.”

I forget that sometimes. Too often, of late.

I didn’t want to be reminded this way.

Do yourself a favour – do me a favour. Check out Derrick’s stories, if you haven’t already. Read his movie reviews, his interviews. Read them. Cherish them. Because he’s in every one of them. His humour, his soul. Derrick put himself into every story he told.

Just as he’s there in every story he didn’t get the chance to tell.

Rest in peace, my friend. The world was better for having you in it, and emptier by far with your passing.

I’ll miss you.

I’ll miss your stories.

8 thoughts on “Untold Stories

  1. I am very sorry for your loss. That’s not an empty platitude but coming from someone who understands the importance of friends for those of us who don’t make them easily.

    I don’t mean to pry or be disrespectful, but do you know if he was a Christian?

  2. This tribute gave me more encouragement to keep on writing.

    Thank you, Josh.

    And I, along with many others, will miss Derrick very much.

    He was a good friend and mentor.

    He left his mark on the world in the lives he touched and with the stories he wrote.

Comments are closed.