“I have such wonders to show you….”
I learned this last Sunday that Ed Bryant, Jr. had passed on from this life.
The above quote is from Ed’s short story “Marginal Ha’nts,” in Hex Publishers Nightmare Unhinged. You have to read this story–especially now–the ending will give you chills. I read this story in October, but I just went back over the ending and it was…well, weird.
Ed and I were not drinking buddies, or anything, but we were writer friends. It all started (good, Lord, how the time flies!) some 25 years ago? He and John Stith were running a critique group at UCCS, in Colorado Springs. I can’t remember if I’d heard it from John or from Ed himself. I think I’d learned this at a local writers’ conference I used to attend/work at where I’d run into one or both of these gentlemen. Anyway, the critique group was by invitation only, so I threw my name into the hat…and waited. Well, low-and-behold, an opening was had, and I was invited. I joined.
It was a medium-sized group and Ed and/or John would helm the meeting. I don’t remember the specifics, but the group had been going around talking about a writer’s efforts (I don’t think it was mine), and “opinions” were made, let’s just say. Some…pretty narrow-minded and limiting.
Then it got to Ed. It was his turn to talk.
At first, he just sat there…you could see the gears turning in his head. He paused a little longer…then out came his words in that deep, warm, radio-voice of his—and he blew me away. Ed’s conversational cadence only knew it’s own time, but the advice and comments he gave to that writer’s work were grounded and worldly. It was exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to come out of the mouth of an individual of his caliber. And though he totally contradicted and “put in place” all the other “exalted and ebullient opinions and ravings” that had been previously expressed by some in the group…he was never (as one writer put it in a tribute to him) cruel. He was tactful…thoughtful…and kind. He just stated how it was…and that, well, there’s more than one way to get there from here.
Man, how I really wished I could recall his words! I was really blown away by the guy!
That was the beginning of my interaction with the man. I’d run into him from time to time, e-mail him. Once, even ran into him while standing in line a-couple-people-away-from-each-other to attend a Stephen King presentation at a high school down here. Then we lost touch for many years, plus-or-minus an email or FB exchange or three. Then I got back into the promotion game and began to attend author gigs, and ran into Ed at the last three MILEHICONs and 2016’s Denver Comic Con (DCC). We were on a panel together (might it have been about short stories?)…he was moderating. As the moderator he’d compiled blurbs about each of us and introduced us. I’d been so impressed that he’d taken the time to do that. Most of the panels I’ve been on, we’d all intro ourselves (not that I mind that, but it goes to show you how classy Ed was…and I’m going to try my hand at this next time I moderate panels…). And when he came to me he mentioned how when he’d run across on my website that “weird things happened to me,” he was so amused! Got a kick out of that. But, yeah, weird things do happen to me, and I try to detail them as much as possible on my other site, Reality Check. That was my first DCC.
Every time over the past three years, when we’d see each other at MILEHICON we’d come talk with each other. He was always glad to see me and when we’d depart he’d always say something about how it was too bad we didn’t get to see each other more often. That always surprised me! That he would say something like that to someone he didn’t know all that well, you know, compared to his actual “drinking buddies.” I always liked Ed…he was fun to talk with…like others who knew him better would say, he had a dry wit…and was never at a loss for things to say. And his conversations were never rushed. He never seemed in a hurry to leave you, once engaged. I also wasn’t always sure what he’d say! It was that incredible mind of his, you just never seemed to know what thoughts he would voice! But those words he would voice were always thoughtful and considerate, again, with a splash of that dry Edward Bryant wit. In the end, it didn’t really matter what he had to say…it was fun just listening to that baritone voice!
I ran into him multiple times at last year’s (2016) MILEHICON. We spent two of those time in lengthy conversations. The first was in the open second-floor rotunda of the Hyatt Regency, and we partly talked and joked about getting used to the various issues befalling our respective decades-in-life.
How telling that conversation had proven itself to be.
But the second looong conversation we had was after the large en masse book signing. I saw Ed making his way around to all his friends, chatting them up, and as things wrapped up and we were all breaking down, Ed came over to me and spend the entire time I was packing things up, chatting. I had just read his short story, “Marginal Ha’nts,” in Hex Publishing’s Nightmares Unhinged (a great anthology, by the way, y’all need to buy it if you’re at all into dark fiction), and it was either Dean Wyant or Josh Viola who told me to go ask Ed about the inspiration for that short story of his. I wish I could remember all of what Ed had told me, dammit, but from what I recall, Ed had actually fallen down some stairs just like in the story, and I remembered seeing him in a torso support (and neck brace, I think…) in the 2014 or 2015 MILEHICON. But in any event, pardon the pun, we had a great conversation together as he walked me out. As much as I really enjoyed his time and talking with him, even then, I thought the multiple, lengthy encounters…weird. Something just felt…strange…about them….
Then last weekend happened.
I flipped back to his “Marginal Ha’nts” story in Nightmares Unhinged and reread the ending.
Holy (Excusez mon français…) shit. The ending…well, it seemed as if…well, you really have to read this story! I really want to quote some lines from the end of that story, but I don’t want to spoil it for you all, but I can’t emphasize enough to go read this story!
(Damn it, I’m beside myself, hopping up and down at my keyboard wanting to quote passages from this story that are so damned creepy and—yea, foretelling?–of what Ed’s probably doing right now!)
So drop what you’re doing and go read that short NOW. It’s chilling given his passing. Suffice it to say that the passage that begins with “Boo? Screw that.” is a passage I’d love to point out, among others….
Hardly. Again, that dry wit of his.
Wherever you are, Ed…this is how I’m preferring to think of you…there, in your Twilight Zone existence…with all your new peers:
“I have such wonders to show you….”
Edward Winslow Bryant Jr., August 27, 1945 – February 10, 2017
Thank you, Ed, for everything.