This is Brad Ellison –
Yeah. Drink up all that ferocity for a minute.
Don’t worry if you feel like he’s kicking your courage in the teeth, it’s okay, that’s the normal mammalian reaction to such a predatory visage.
Take comfort in this, dear friends: The first time I met Brad was at the Karaoke meet and greet that the Freshman of Hardin-Simmons University are asked to attend during their orientation week on campus. And I know what your thinking, a man such as this must have stood above all others, wearing a crown stitched together by the foreskins of weaker men, and demanded that we all bow before him and collectively sing mighty rock anthems of the 1980s. I can see how you’d think that when you look at that picture. Hell, I’ve known the man for over ten years, and when I see that picture even I get a little nervous, like he might show up at my house and demand that we machete fight to the death while naked and covered in the war-woad of our fathers.
Those things did not and have not happened (YET!) , no the first time I met Brad Ellison he approached me while wearing black cargo pants, a Led Zeppelin t-shirt all slathered in a leather trench coat, and said, “Hey, you wanna do this thing?”
My first reaction was to ball up my fists and get ready to rock and roll with this mountain of tremendous flesh in a brawl that would have brought down the walls of Valhalla itself. But then I realized that he was actually asking me if I wanted to sing a song with him. I smiled, nodded, and chose the song which would cement our friendship for the rest of time.
I picked, The Great Pretender by The Platters –
Because that’s how I (lamely) roll.
Four months would pass before we’d see each other again, when we were introduced to each other again by our mutual friend Will Clapp.
Over the next three years we build a friendship which helped him survive loneliness and me conquer my bigotry, racism, fundamentalist ideology. It is easy to say that I would not be the man I am today without the calm and taciturn nature Brad ushered into my life. I was an untempered piece of iron that Brad Ellison helped (along with others) to forge into something sharper, something more beautiful, and something more useful to the world around me.
Brad Ellison, and I say this with no hyperbole, is the single, shining reason that I became a capable writer. Upon reading an incredibly bad Batman short story that I wrote, Brad looked at me and said, “I don’t even know what’s going on here. I mean, Seth, you know I love you, but I’m not even sure if this is American English that I’m reading.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen is how Brad Ellison elicits care to the people he loves. An unbridled honesty that cuts right through all the games ‘friends’ play with each other. He could see that at the root of me I was a storyteller, but that I had no freaking clue what the parts of speech were, how to put them together, and fuse together a narrative that engaged a reader. It was on that day that Brad clapped his gigantic hand on my shoulder and vowed that if I was willing to do the hard work it was going to take, he’d teach me.
I told him that no one outworks me.
He said, “We’ll see.”
Over the next four years he put me on a rigorous reading regimen: Les Misérables, Musashi, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Shining, Always Out Numbered, Always Out gunned, those were the first five novels and short story collection that I ever read. And upon doing a tally of all the works he required me to read, I have counted seventy-one novels, forty-eight short stories, and seven collected anthologies which I took into my brain. All of this was tacked onto me settling into a two-thousand word a night writing routine that I’d email to him every single day for the first year of our student/teacher relationship.
I won’t lie to you, those first few years I was terrible. I was an adjective addict. Tenses punched me in the face. And the gerunds, my Lord the gerunds.
But slowly, with each plodding step forward this mind of mine began to transform into something sharper.
Through Brad Ellison’s patient tutoring I went from being someone who lies on paper to someone who fills empty, white pages with stories that move people.
Without him, I wouldn’t be a published author. He was there through all the doubts, reminding me every so often that I once said, “Brad, no one outworks me.”
Above all his wonderful qualities, the best and most endearing aspect of my friend is that he believed in me.
I’ve suffered his best right cross. And he is the only person to stuff my single-leg wrestling take down that I’ve used to take men bigger than him to the ground. We’ve wrestled with one another physically, emotionally, and intellectually; and we’ve both come out stronger men for it.
The Reverend Kevin Sinclair is Sir Bedivere.
Brad Ellison is Sir Gawain.
A man, such as I am, has been afforded friends of the highest caliber and none can say that they are higher than my friend and chosen brother, Brad Ellison.
I was the best man in his wedding, and he is one who makes the world a stranger and more miraculous place. He is my favorite author, and you can buy his fantastic short story, The Devil’s Right Hand here. It’s worth every penny.