Palimpsest  

Go Back   Palimpsest > Palimpsest Forums > Features


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12th Jul 2008, 2:43   #1
bill
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,950
Default Untitled Story (violent content)

Part One

I love people.
I don't belong on earth.
Return me to the yahoos.
To the people of Queens,
I love you. And I
want to wish all of
you a happy Easter.
May God bless you
in this life and in
the next. And for now
I say goodbye and
goodnight.

- Son of Sam letter, April 17, 1977


Stuck outside a shut-down barbershop, near the mouth of a wide, trash-packed alley, the phone booth was lit up, cold and white. Inside, a man tapped out a phone number on the keypad.

"Hey, baby, it's me...Nope. No, I'm sorry, I'm stuck, I can't get away."

On the street behind him, a cab almost hit a kid in black clothes who was skateboarding after 10:00 in the evening. The kid skipped his board up on the curb between two parked cars and glared after the cab. The kid thought, but didn't say, things like "Fuck you" and "Fuck off".

"No, it's the Vasey people. They got me, they want me to go out with them. To, I don't know, to commemorate."

This was a quiet part of the street. Another car passed, its headlights washing through the barbershop window and over the chrome inside. Not far away, someone was yelling loudly for someone else to come here and shut up.

"Well, no, I mean, I'm not far at all. I'm only like three, four blocks away, and I think we're probably just going to go to Olson's for drinks."

Across the street, a couple stories up, a woman opened a screen door and stepped out onto her balcony. She lit a cigarette and craned her neck so she could watch TV while she smoked. From the street, the flickering wall across from the TV was visible.

"Because they just told me. No, I'm walking. They'll already be there when I get there, so...No more than an hour, I don't think. They just want to be, to cap everything off, you know."

From the darkness of the wide mouthed alley, a man in a yellow raincoat who was holding a 40 oz. half-full of piss-colored beer shuffled towards the phone booth. He stopped, his body lightly tilted to the left, and stared emptily at the man inside. He did this for only a second or two before turning his back.

"Okay. I'll call you from Olson's before I leave...I know, but don't worry about it. I'll eat. No, I know, right. Okay, I love you, baby. Okay, see you soon. Bye, I love you."

He hung up and stepped out of the phone booth. As he did, the drunk in the raincoat slipped and stumbled, his beer dropping from his hand. The bottle rang of the concrete, but didn't break. It rolled towards the outer wall of the barbershop, the beer foaming and creeping up the funnel-shaped neck.

"Wup, shit," the drunk muttered, landing on one knee and staying there, head down, as though waiting for a wave of sickness to pass.

The man from the phone booth stopped and watched him. As he watched, the drunk shook his head and muttered some more before sliding both legs out in front of himself so that he sat down hard. He sat there and watched his beer bottle clink against the barbershop's red brick. He huffed out a long sigh and coughed.

"You all right?" the man asked, a little quietly, maybe hoping the drunk wouldn't hear him. The drunk shook his head, possibly in response, maybe in reference to something inside himself he privately disagreed with.

"You okay?" the man asked, now taking a few steps toward the drunk. "I saw you go down. You bang your knee?"

As the man got closer, the drunk tilted his head back, the man appearing to him upside down.

"Oh, hey, buddy," he said. "Naw, my knee's, I don't know. I lost my beer."

"I saw that. You need help up, or what?"

The drunk's hair was short and ruffled, but a quick combing would have smoothed it over. His raincoat was slightly beat to hell, but otherwise he didn't seem too weathered. The man wondered if the bender he had evidently been on was just a one-off, something spurred by a temporary bout of depressiong which, once it had been replaced by a hangover, might not reoccur. This idea somehow made the man less willing to help in whatever small way he could, but he was committed now.

"Yeah, man," the drunk said, nodding. Nodding had replaced head-shaking, perhaps indicating a positive change in his general outlook. He lowered his head, seeming suddenly tired, and lifted his hand so the man could take it. The man did, and braced his legs before pulling the drunk up.

"There you go," the man said.

The drunk plunged a knife, long a thick, into the man's guts. With one hand clutching the back of the man's head, and the other curled around the handle of the knife, he drove the man back into the shadows of the alley. The man started to make noises, wet and catching, like someone closing their throat to keep from vomiting. His eyes grew large and he began to sweat. Blood ran over the drunk's hand and splattered over his body. The blood ran over his coat like rain over a windshield.

"This isn't how you thought it would go for you, is it?" the drunk said. His voice was calm. He twisted the knife hard three times until the man sat down, back into a pile of stuffed garbage bags. The drunk sawed at him, opening a mouth in the man's belly. The man gurgled and cried out, so the drunk closed a hand around his throat, cutting off his voice.

He removed the dripping knife and set it aside. The man's eyes were glazing over, so his killer tentatively removed his hand from the man's throat. The man didn't scream, though his breathing was loud and quick. His killer looked at the slit in the man's belly and slowly wormed his hand inside. The man was about to shriek, he could tell, so he took a great handful of the man's guts and pulled down. They held, and the man's mouth dropped open, his jaw hanging impossibly low, his eyes swinging back, as though someone had just tapped a nail directly into his brain. His appearance was so ghastly that it made his killer wonder what the hell it was he'd grabbed.

He let go, and looked into man's swimming eyes.

"This is it," he said. "No more for you."

The man's eyes rolled as his killer put a hand over his mouth and pressed. Then with his other hand, his killer retrieved the knife and slashed open the man's throat, moving back slightly as the blood washed down. The man died there, and his killer, long having shaken off his drunk act, took the man's wallet from his back pocket, and stuffed his corpse into a deep pile of garbage. He took off his raincoat, threw that on the body, wiped the knife free of his prints and added that to the mess, then covered everything over. Quickly washing his hands in what was left of the beer, he then threw the empty bottle deep into the back of the alley. Then he opened the man's wallet, to see was what there was to see.

The dead man's name had been Dennis Scott. The address on his license was not local, but there was a key-card for a room at the Global, which was just four or so blocks east of where his killer now stood. There was also a folded up Post-it note, with a room number scribbled across it. His killer, whose name was Sam Winnick, turned in that direction and saw the glowing top of the Global, and the dead star of its antenna tower. Also in the wallet were pictures, family photos, old parents, a young wife, maybe a brother. There was a little money. Winnick turned and began to walk east.
__________________
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various

Last edited by bill; 12th Jul 2008 at 17:55.
bill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th Jul 2008, 4:11   #2
Beth
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
Beth's Avatar
 
Join Date: 22 Sep 2006
Location: Illinois
Posts: 2,854
Default Re: All Right, Well, Here Goes...(Violence Within)

I like the set up of this, bill. I'm wondering if you are thinking about it as a short story or something longer. You could pad this scene with thousands of words, shaping everything as much as you'd like and adding a sense of either suspense or calm, giving your reader the violence after building up to it, or blindsiding them with it after creating a foil.
Beth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th Jul 2008, 4:22   #3
bill
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,950
Default Re: All Right, Well, Here Goes...(Violence Within)

Thanks, Beth. The truth is, I'm almost done with it, and have very semi-clear direction. There's an element of this story that's not even hinted at in this first part, but which will be hinted at in the second part, and which features prominently in part three. I hope you (and others) think it works...
__________________
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various
bill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th Jul 2008, 15:22   #4
bill
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,950
Default Re: All Right, Well, Here Goes...(Violence Within)

Part Two

This dark part of the street would soon lighten up, he knew. He'd killed Scott just past the point in the city where things stopped being fun, or, rather, things stopped trying to be fun. Past a certain point, the area couldn't even sustain a barbershop, though presumably the people there had hair just like everyone else. It was sad, and a little perplexing. Winnick knew that there were perfectly good explanations for these sorts of unofficial borderlines in cities throughout the world, but those explanations could only cover the rational ground. There was something else going on, Winnick had always believed, something having to do with a general sort of melancholy that no one could really figure out, if they even noticed it, which he imagined most people didn't. Yet Winnick felt it.

But all that was behind him now, because look, here were lights, and people, and bars and restaurants and stores that were open late and that sort of thing. As the number of people increased, as he moved with the tide along crosswalks, he began to want to strike out at them. Not because they were, or appeared to be, having fun while some other small group of people down the street were staying in for the night and probably having less fun. He wanted to punch them, he believed, because there were just too many of them.

As he crossed a street, the streetlights, headlights and shop windows turning the night into a second dusk, he fell in step behind a young man walking between two young women. Both women wore jeans that were similarly tight and similarly low-slung. Each girl had an arm looped around the man, and whenever the man turned his head Winnick could see his sloppy, oblong grin.

"What?" the young man said to the girl on his right.

"She said," said the girl, "that she didn't want to meet me again, like, ever again. She said, 'I don't let people treat me that way, and if you're going to treat me that way, I don't ever want to ever meet you again'. She said, 'People like that aren't my friends'."

"I guess she doesn't have many friends, then," said the other girl.

"I know, right?" said the first, and by then they were all across the street, and Winnick lost the thread of the conversation once it had jammed up against the crowding voices of the people -- all types of people, really -- moving like cars on a freeway all around them.

What time was it? Winnick thought. Around 10:30, by his watch. He put his hands in his pockets. He passed by the entrance to a bar, outside of which sat a large bald man wearing a tight black t-shirt, his hand out to receive the ID of a young kid hoping to get in. Winnick heard the bouncer say "What's up, bud?" with some suspicion, before he lost their voices, too. To his left now was an old couple, both dressed in sharp, old-fashioned evening wear, as though the casual attire of all the young people around them were part of someone else's night out and had nothing to do with them. They were standing by a car parked at a meter, the car squat and blue and newly washed. The old man, much taller than his companion, had his hands pressed to the sides of the old woman. She had her head tilted up, her lips ready for a kiss, her face white and powdered and crumbling like a squeezed doughnut.

Winnick passed them. As he did, he heard the sound of scuttling paper, and when he looked down he saw that he had absently kicked a tightly folded sheet of yellow legal paper along the sidewalk ahead of him. He brightened, and bent swiftly to pick it up, moving to the side as he did, away from the constantly moving mass of people. The paper was crisp, and Winnick thought that it had been dropped recently. Opening it, and seeing that it was a personal note, he thought hopefully that it had been dropped on the way to being delivered.

Dear Paul,
Quit steeling my CD's and pills. Don't come to my house anymor. I will come to you're house.
Richard

Winnick read the note four times before refolding it and putting it in his pocket. His mind was racing. The note was to be hand-delievered, obviously, but to where? To Paul's house? Why a note? Why not pick up the phone? He tried to imagine, as he always did in these situations, the kind of person who would write such a note, and what history existed between these two people that would lead to this. A history of stealing, apparently, and either addiction or health problems, or both. Winnick's mind couldn't latch on to anything more specific or interesting, however, and he began to grow frustrated. He clenched his fists, back against the wall of a restaurant as people scurried past, hurrying to the places where they would get drunk, and he forced himself to sigh. There was not time for this now anyway, he thought. When he got home later he could spend time on the note, but not now.

The Global filled his vision as he walked on. The whole thing was a sort of casually white, like an envelope, with dark blue awnings scattering its lower floors. He could see the outside dining portion of one of the hotel's restaurants, all black with light orange lamps glowing like a distant island campfire, lightly shining on people who stood against the rails, holding bottled beer, or sitting at tables, crowded over their food. He cross the street diagonally, walking briskly straight for the Global's main entrance. He probably reeked of beer, and would take care of that in the restroom. Probably no one would notice anyway.

Once in the lobby, Winnick stopped for a moment to gather himself. His instinct was to plow on ahead at full-speed, now that his blood was pumping and his brain was spinning, but he needed to rein himself in a bit. Not that he knew for sure, but he believed that when he got lik this his eyes went glassy, and maybe even shined unnaturally, which would be a big giveaway to anyone who looked at him for more than a few seconds. So while he slowed his walk as he neared the center of the lobby, he began blinking rapidly to erase the gleam. He felt that by the time he reached the ring of deep leather sofas that were the lobby's hub he had achieved this. The sofas were rich and comfortably brown. At first he thought he should sit there and collect himself, but he discarded that notion. Off to the left of the white and nearly empty lobby was a darker room. The hotel bar, called Boseman's. Winnick went inside.

He sat on a stool at the bar and laid his forearms on the cold wood. Two stools down sat a middle-aged man, grinning up at a basketball game on the overhead television. This man was smoking, and there was an ashtray by his elbow. Cigarette smoke curled towards Winnick, and he flapped his hand at it. The man glanced at him.

"I'm sorry," he said, shifting his ashtray a few inches closer to himself.

"That's okay," said Winnick brightly, putting on his face. "I'm in a bar, arfter all."

"That's true. I try to be polite about it anyway, because who knows these days. But if you'd kicked up more of a fuss I probably would've fought you.

Winnick laughed as the bartender approached.

"What can I get you?" the bartender, who was young, fat and bald, asked.

"A Foghorn. And a shot of bourbon, whatever's cheap."

The bartender said, "You got it," and walked off. He was back shortly with Winnick's beer and shot, and Winnick paid him.

"You know what's funny?" said the middle-aged man. "I stay here every time I'm in this city, which is a lot, and I come to this bar most nights I'm here, and none of these sons of bitches ever seem to remember me."

Was this man angry? Winnick wondered.

"Oh well," he said, shrugging, not having anything to say.

"I talk to them. I tip well, or not badly, at least. Well, no biggie."

There was silence then for a bit, during which Winnick listened to the basketball players' shoes squeaking on the glossy court. He drank his shot and sipped his beer.

"Saw a good movie the other day, up in the room," the man said, yawning mid-sentence. Winnick was starting to regret his decision to come to the bar, but he'd felt the need to let some time pass.

"Oh yeah?" he said.

"Yeah. Not porno. This was, it was one of those movies where it's a bunch of kids, and they're grown up, and they come home for their class reunion, and everything's changed and whatever, one of the kids had died, and nobody could, you know, this kid was everybody's best friend back in school. I don't know, it was kind of good. It made me think of how I never go home, never go to any reunions, but it made me think maybe I should. See how everyone is, see who's who. I mean, I had some damn good times in high school -- "

"Right," said Winnick, nodding.

" -- right? Good friends, real good friends, and I don't know where the fuck any of them ended up. Isn't that sad? You ever been to a class reunion?"

"No."

"Yeah, me either! We should go. Not together," the man said, laughing, "because what would be the point of that? But you kow, I think it's something that's good to do for yourself, if nothing else. But I liked the movie. It was called 'Remember That Time...', and it had the three dots. You should order it. It's only like five bucks."

"I will," said Winnick. He drank his beer down halfway.

"Sorry," said the man, after a while. "I get very conversational when I travel, with anybody I see." He held up his drink and showed it to Winnick. "And plus this. But I get restless when I travel, and I do a lot of it, so I guess it all adds up. That's probably not good, huh?"

"Oh, I don't know," Winnick said. Then, saying something he'd been led to believe was true, "It's good to travel."

"Maybe," the man said, sipping. "If you're going to Europe with your family. But I'm traveling so I can tell some guy 'You don't need to fire these people because we made such-and-such money last year'. That's no fun. That's not relaxing."

"No, I guess -- "

"Not that I want anybody to get fired, but it's not fun. What if they don't believe me? Or it's not enough? That's not fun."

"Maybe you should quit," said Winnick.

"I probably should have years ago," the man said, nodding. "A bit late now. Christ, how many of these have I had?" He stared at his glass, as if in disbelief. He looked back at Winnick. "What do you do?"

"Sales," said Winnick.

"Christ, quit now. You're young, get out. That's like, Put me in jail, but you gotta pay me, but not enough. Fuck it. I did that. Never again."

Winnick's mind fogged out for a second, and he remembered something he'd done several months ago. There was a woman lying in the middle of her living room, and her torso was opened up, her intestines lying all around her like stereo cable. And Winnick was standing above her, wondering what to do next.

Also, that same night - at least he thought it was that night - he had found a five-dollar bill outside of his apartment. Along the top, in tiny print, someone had written" "Give to Charles for video games."

Winnick shook off the memories and said to the man, "It's just what I'm doing until something better comes along."

"Yeah, but don't get caught sitting around. There's that saying, 'Life's what happens when you're sitting around'? And that's very true, my friend. When you start just sitting around, it'll eat up everything."

"Well, yeah, I know," said Winnick, finishing his beer. "That's what my wife says."

"Your wife's right. You movin' on?"

Winnick had started to stand.

"Yeah, he said. "Got to."

"Well, it was nice meeting you. Sorry I talk so much."

He put out his hand so Winnick could shake it, which he did.

"Mitch Downey," the man said. "Good to meet you."

"Paul Charles," said Winnick. "Same to you."
__________________
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various

Last edited by bill; 12th Jul 2008 at 18:03.
bill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22nd May 2009, 14:34   #5
bill
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,950
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

I finished this story, and put it up on my blog in four parts, if anyone is interested.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four
__________________
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various
bill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22nd May 2009, 14:58   #6
Noumenon
Senior Palimpsester

has the freedom of Palimp City
 
Noumenon's Avatar
 
Join Date: 13 Jul 2006
Location: Madrid, Spain
Posts: 3,786
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

I saw it there, will be reading it soon.
Noumenon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24th May 2009, 20:21   #7
Noumenon
Senior Palimpsester

has the freedom of Palimp City
 
Noumenon's Avatar
 
Join Date: 13 Jul 2006
Location: Madrid, Spain
Posts: 3,786
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

I finished it today and generally I like it - so generally, well done Bill! I'll read it through again and maybe post some more thoughts as a direct response on your blog, but to sum up my first impression:

I recognise that you are looking to create the flavour of your character's mental world and I think you succeed in this, rather well in fact, but there is a lot of text against relatively little foreground action. If you are presenting a novel-length insanity study I think that is less of a problem because we can expect and accept length and attention to detail; but as this is so much shorter I did wonder if there couldn't be something linear in his life presented for us to follow, even if it was a deliberate red-herring to be abandoned on demand.

For example (and this was the comparison that immediately came to mind, so well done again) American Psycho bombards you with monologue and dialogue and description, but slips into it those little things which begin to unsettle you, the first cracks before another dam-burst - you do this too, and there were a few occasions when I thought that's great, that really works. But, in AP there are also the various levels of plot to wrap it all around, the career concerns and relationships that are constantly under threat - conscious threat too, with Bateman aware that he could snap and completely fuck up his cover-life at any second if he didn't keep a tight grip on things. It's this cover life that I think your guy lacks.

In brutal honesty, I think you could wield the editorial knife, trimming some of the bulk without sacrificing the voice, thus (maybe) making room to add something on the narrative side if you wanted. But like I say, some of it rings very authentic. The hospital dialogue in part three was spot on, and in particular gave a hint of an existing story in his world that would be interesting to delve into further.

I'm also a big fan of sentences in which one word makes all the difference and this one, near the start of part four, was my favourite:
Quote:
She was blonde, yes, but also had what Winnick had referred to as a "weak chin".
It's the second "had" for me - it could be a typo, or it could have been born of a typo, or it could be precisely deliberate on your part, but I think all by itself (although particularly in the light of how he ends the closing dialogue of part two) it does something very interesting to the question of how real the named identity we are following is, how long it has existed, whether "Winnick" is actually someone this killer has known and killed and usurped the identity of - and then there is no suggestion elsewhere in the text to contradict or support this argument, which makes it all the more satisfying to me. I hope you'll let me know which it is!

So if only for these two beats, aside from the coldly documentary eye with which you record his crimes, I found this a very interesting piece.
Noumenon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th May 2009, 3:21   #8
bill
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,950
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

Oh, my goodness...it was a typo, and I'm embarrassed to have to admit that, but I couldn't not. I supposed you're of the opinion that I shouldn't go back and fix it, though, right?

As for the rest of it: thank you for the kind words for the things I did intend, and I don't actually think you're wrong in your criticisms. I've felt for a while that there was something missing from this story that I couldn't quite put my finger on, and you may have just nailed it. Specifically, the lack of a stronger narrative to pin everything else to.

You may be interested to know that I wrote a pretty large chunk of this story once before, many years ago, and lost it in a computer crash. After the appropriate several years of mourning was over, I came back to it, but obviously couldn't reconstruct it word-for-word. One of the things that fell away this second time around was a subplot regarding Winnick's mother. I didn't think it worked even at the time, and besides that it was probably a horrible cliche', but at least then I seemed to have the understanding that something like that, if not that specifically, needed to be present in the story to give it more drive.

That's more or less what I was trying to add with the conversation in the bar, which I will admit to being very pleased with, but you're probably correct that it wasn't quite enough.

This is odd, too, because I really am, at heart and in my tastes, a "story" kind of guy. Anyway, thanks very much for taking the time to give me your thoughts on this, Nou. I truly appreciate it.
__________________
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various
bill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th May 2009, 6:36   #9
Noumenon
Senior Palimpsester

has the freedom of Palimp City
 
Noumenon's Avatar
 
Join Date: 13 Jul 2006
Location: Madrid, Spain
Posts: 3,786
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

Definitely don't remove!
Noumenon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th May 2009, 18:00   #10
Noumenon
Senior Palimpsester

has the freedom of Palimp City
 
Noumenon's Avatar
 
Join Date: 13 Jul 2006
Location: Madrid, Spain
Posts: 3,786
Default Re: Untitled Story (violent content)

And, a possible title: Note-taking, or something similar?
Noumenon is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply



Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
running on MT : A Short Story - by amner amner Features 9 1st Dec 2011 19:35
2008 Filmlists Colyngbourne Film Reviews 28 18th Dec 2008 9:40
IOU: one story, entertaining, original Noumenon Features 5 22nd May 2008 20:32
The Vampire in the Attic - audio short story Flutty Book Reviews 0 12th Jan 2006 12:41
The World's Shortest Story John Self General Chat 3 27th Aug 2004 22:05


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 4:40.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.