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DimWest
January 21st, 2011, 02:18 AM
This is only my second piece ever. I wrote it in 3 sittings and it's unedited, so forgive any sloppiness. I intended it to be a novella when I started it but I might just leave it at this.

Everybody wants something. Some people, they want to go to the moon. Others want to be a famous musician. Some people have dreamt of being a doctor ever since they had their tonsils removed at age 6. Some people love money and want more and more of it. Every once in awhile you’ll get someone who wants to be a writer or an artist. But in the end we all want one thing: happiness. For the astronaut in training, they want to set their feet down on the moon’s dusty gray surface and they won’t be satisfied until that goal has been achieved.


My name is Jack Smith, my favorite color is whatever color the sky is at the moment I’m asked, my favorite movie is The Matrix, and I like being called “Agent Smith”. My favorite author is Edgar Allen Poe, my favorite actor is Johnny Depp, and I believe in God. I think. I love to write and to read. I swim long distance and someday I will finish a triathalon. I live in St. Joe, Michigan where Lake Michigan beats on the beach in a perpetual siege against the shore. These are all the things we let define us. So this is probably how you’ll define me if you continue reading.

Anyways, I’ll tell you my story. I was having a particularly depressed day when my phone buzzed on my nightstand. It was my friend Katie calling about a party she was having that night. I was depressed as hell like I said so I said I wasn’t in the mood and hung up. But then I remembered that Katie is about 26 years old, still in high school and would have shit-loads of alcohol at any party of hers. Her father is this lawyer type that goes to Mexico about every other day for vacation and leaves her with about a thousand bucks food money which she promptly spends on booze. In St. Joe, alcohol is terrifically easy to get. So I called old Katie back up and told her I had a change of heart. I love to get drunk when I’m depressed which is pretty much all the time.

Something you should probably know about me is that I can’t hold any strong liquor and beer tastes horrid to me no matter how many times I try it. The only way I’ll ever get drunk is if its something pansyish like Mike’s Hard Lemonade or a little bit of scotch mixed with a lot of soda.

It was the last Saturday in June and even up north it gets pretty warm, so I put on shorts and a tank. I walked into the bathroom and admired myself in the mirror. I’m not one of those bastards who’s really conceited and looks in the mirror but won’t admit it to anyone, I promise. I’m a conceited, narcissistic bastard and everyone knows it.

I got myself a ride from my friend Luke and a good excuse for my ‘rents, then killed the hour I had till the party down at the beach, which was about a five minute walk from my house. All the houses that close to the beach cost a shitload, but it’s worth it. My house is probably 50 years old, and my neighborhood at least that old. The skinny street I live on is this ridiculously steep hill that’s brimming with potholes. Because the neighborhood is so old, there aren’t hardly any young trees; they’re all ancient and huge. The limbs are high up and impossible to climb which is kind of a bummer. It’s a terrific place to live, though, really beautiful. When the house was built the owners cut trail though the woods that leads to a huge dune. To get to the beach you can either jump off the bluff and cut your legs on the dune grass or go down the rickety staircase, which is probably just as dangerous. There’s about 50 feet of beach between the base of the dune and the edge of the lake. Looking at the water you’d swear it was the ocean if you didn’t know any better. The sand is perpetually warm and just between the sand and the water there’s a stripe of rocks and shells that wash up. If you look closely at the rocks while you’re walking you’ll see smooth rounded glass of several colors. Across the lake from St. Joe is Chicago, where partiers and whatnot throw their beer and wine bottles into the lake where they shatter and are smoothed and rounded over the course of who knows how many years until they finally make their way to our half mile stretch of beach. I collect Chicago’s litter and keep it in jars and bags around my house. Anyway, I walked along the beach and looked for glass, thinking about pointless stuff like the meaning of life, and I got depressed as hell. Somebody in the government should make a law that bans being alone or something, cause when I’m alone I get depressed as hell for no damn reason. That sounds a little like Brave New World, I know, so maybe the law should just apply to me.

All the neighborhoods with beach access in a mile or two radius connect to this stretch of beach, and the guy who was driving me to the party – Luke – lived in one of these neighborhoods. It was almost seven so I walked up the stairs that connect to his neighborhood and found my way to his house. I knocked and waited tensely. I’m always tense when I’m waiting for someone to answer the door. Wondering if I have the right house – even if I’ve been there before – or if he’s home or not, etc. As always, my anxiety was irrational and Luke and the smell that came with him and his residence greeted me. Luke’s father smokes and drinks copiously.

“Heyyy, buddy!” he said and then regarded my tank. “Whore,” he concluded, “Five dollar whore.”

I smiled and said, “Hey bro. You ready??”

I say that a lot. Bro. Not to random people I just met or anything, just to friends.

He told me he was and we went through his garage and hopped into his beat up old ford pickup. On the way over, while he was driving, he asked me how I was doing. I don’t know why he did it. He never asks those kinds of questions. He knows how much I hate it when people say “How are you?”, and even more so when really they don’t give a fun. But some how I knew he gave a fun. He did. So I didn’t give him the bull shit “Good, how are you?”. I told the truth.

“Shitty as hell,” I told him.

“Why?”

“This girl, Alice – you know her I think – I can’t stop thinking about her. I used to read books, and run or swim, work out, I used to think and write, and hang out with friends, but now I just think about her all day and I get depressed as hell thinking about it, because every time I start to get somewhere with her, y’know, I just screw it up or something, I don’t even know how it happens, it just does, I don’t follow up or something I don’t know. But I get real excited and then it all just ends and we don’t talk for weeks. It’s like a merry go round from hell or something. I really like her. I’m just horrible with her. I haven’t barely looked at another girl since I met her. I don’t want to. I love her, I think, so it wouldn’t be right. She’s perfect, though, she is.”

He sighed. “You know what you’re problem is?”

Not at all the answer I was expecting. I got a little annoyed, and defensive as hell. “Oh, do enlighten me.”

He lit a pall mall and put his knees on the steering wheel. “You believe in something. My dad is a drunkard, my mom was probably some bimbo, and I haven’t ever even met her, I’m flunking out of nearly every single class, I’ll probably end up just as big a fuckup as my dad, but I’m a hell of a lot happier than you, and you know why? Because I don’t believe in shit, man, I believe in a good time. The world is too full, damn full of people who all want to change the world. They don’t do anybody good. Everyone thinks they’re something special, that love will make them happy, but the truth is, there is no such thing as love, there’s just sex and damn puppy love. When’s the last time you’ve seen someone who’s glad they’re married? Never. That’s why the damn divorce rate is like ninety percent. The other ten percent are the Christians who won’t get one because it’d look bad. You’re sixteen damn years old and you’ve been in, like one relationship ever. Two counting this Alice. You’re sixteen fucking damn years old and you think you need to be finding a fucking wife or some shit. You’ve turned down north of a dozen good looking girls, man. I don’t even like half the girls I’ve dated. People are going to start thinking you’re either queer or a damn nun or whatever. Life’s a helluvalot easier if you don’t give a shit, Jack. Believe me. If one of my girls – I have many – cheated on me I wouldn’t give a shit man. You’re all uptight about these relationships with your morals and stuff. Just have fun. ”

I was dead shocked. I’ll admit it. “But…”

He pulled in Katie’s neighborhood and parked at the curb next to her house and got out.

“You comin’?”

I nodded. Stuff like that always happens. Just when you want to finish a conversation. There were several cars already parked. Katie’s parties, they’re not like the ones in the movies, with about a thousand kids all packed into one house, screaming their adolescent heads off. Neighbors call the cops if you do that. That wasn’t her taste anyways.

Luke reached the door before me and went in without bothering to knock. I followed him. I’d describe the house and the party and the drunk kids and the high kids and the dancing kids but it’s all quite cliché and dreary so I’ll just tell you that I was most certainly not in the mood to spend the evening depressed and thinking about all the stuff that Luke had said to me, so I drank to forget and hoped that it would stay forgotten. I figure I’ll end up an alcoholic. I don’t really want to be. I don’t like the way it makes me feel but I do it anyways because it drowns everything else out in a way that nothing else can.

When I was just sort of wasted, but not totally drunk, I was lying on the floor and this senior girl, Sara, – I’m a junior – at my school just came up and lay down right on top of me. She was one of those girls that you spend about half your life fantasizing about, imagining she’s in grave danger and you come along and beat the shit out of her abusive boyfriend and she falls into your arms crying, “My hero!” and then you take her back to your place in your Camaro with the windows down and system up, but you don’t even bother to go in the house, but instead make love for hours in the car and then take a road trip to Las Vegas and get married that day and make lots of little Camaro driving babies. Anyways, she got on top of me and started trying to make out with me but she was drunk to shit and just kinda stuck her tongue in my mouth and left it there. After I recovered my self-disposition I reluctantly pushed her off of me.

“Wanna do it, baby? Huh? Huh?” she said.

“No.”

Then I thought of what Luke said.

“Yes, I mean yes.”

“Then cooomme onnn, Will!” she said.

She didn’t even know who I was.

Sara pulled me up off the floor and led me across the living room. My heart was beating at about 200 bpm and all I could think about was, am I really about to lose my v-card to some drunk slut who didn’t even know my name? I was afraid someone would notice or something, but they were all too busy. We got to the hallway where all the bedrooms and stuff were and I was about to open the door when I heard someone scream, “What the hellya think you’re doing?”

“Oh shit,” I said and I turned around just in time to get thrown into a wall by a guy who looked like he weighed about 120 pounds.

So this is Will, I thought.

“No, man, I wasn’t gonna-“ I said quickly, but he socked me in the jaw. It didn’t really hurt too bad, cause like I said he was a bit of a lightweight. I could have taken him down easy, but I don’t have the stones to hit anybody. God gave me this terrific quality called empathy. I felt sorry for the dude even as he was trying to kill me. I would have been pissed if I were him. It’s like Luke said, if I didn’t care I would have taken him down, screwed his girlfriend and had a good time. Anyways, he had another go at me. I took it in the nose, and this time it hurt. I saw his right hand pull back for another swing and I sort of flinched, closing my eyes in anticipation of the pain but it never came. I opened my eyes cautiously and he wasn’t there anymore. The sound of a fist in a face reached my ears and I looked down to my right and saw Luke on top of Will. Good guy, that Luke. It was slaughter.

I slid down the wall and sat, holding my profusely bleeding nose. I felt a familiar hint of tears and I tried to shut them down but they came anyways. Tears never listen when you tell them to stop. I’m not sure if I was crying cause it hurt like hell or if it was because I was sad and pathetic as hell.

Luke got off of Will; he had made his point, and the kid just kind of got up and ran.

Through tears I said to Luke, “ You know who I’m like? I’m like that pathetic fucker from Crome Yellow. Dumb bastard, he was,” and then to Will as he ran out the door, “You wanna know who the fuck you are? You’re fucking Curley from Of Mice and Men!”

No one knew what the hell I was talking about. I like to imagine people as characters from literature. Looking back, I’m surprised I alert enough to remember much of anything.

Will’s girlfriend had passed out and was on the floor. Luke gawked at me as he stepped over her.

“Yeah I’m crying, don’t be a bitch about it.” I was too upset to even thank him properly. I’m an ass, I know.

“It’s not that… I’ve just never heard you say fuck,” he held out his hand.

I removed my bloody hand from my nose and took his hand laughing, “Well if it wasn’t for that guy, I would have fucked her,” I said nodding at the girl on the floor, “and it would have been a day of firsts.”

He pulled me up and placed an arm around me. “You’re not drunk enough brutha, have another beer.”

I hate beer but I drank it anyways, and it tasted good.

Mike
January 21st, 2011, 12:12 PM
A couple of things you could do to boost any comments, replies, and constructive criticisms about your story are:
1) edit your story before posting it. a couple extra minutes can go a long way in making people believe that you're not wasting their time.
2) spaces between paragraphs would be nice
3) try to limit any qualifiers at the beginning, like how long you spent writing your story or what your intentions were for it. it exists, regardless of its parallel, and these kinds of statements distract us/me.

Now don't I sound picky. Just a few thoughts. You can take them with however much salt you want.

As for the actual story....and I'm not going to get into too much detail about it just yet (until you can put spaces between the paragraphs), because I only read as far as the character's inability to hold his liquor. At least I can maybe point out some pointers...(oh redundancy!)

I'd like to see it start where the action starts: the phone call from Katie. A list of favorite things, of likes and dislikes, pretty much anywhere in a story - and certainly at the beginning of one - is generally looked on as a no-no. It's also called an information dump. I'm not saying you can't do it. It's a hallmark for novice writers and the more you write, the more experienced you get at blending these details into the story where they fade to the background rather than seem like a police report. As it is, all that information you give me doesn't impact the story and it doesn't really tell me something about the main character that I'm going to vividly remember.

As well, the introduction sounds like a voice-over to me. Something you might hear at the beginning of a movie. At this point, I'm not saying it's good or bad, but it seems to me like it's something I already know. Do you know what I mean? It's not very...unique or symbolic. It's like listening to a hippie describe "Life" at a cafe on a Sunday afternoon. (Rather than a Monday afternoon?)

wron
January 24th, 2011, 10:43 AM
To me, the best part of this piece is the characterization of Jack Smith, who reminds me of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. That's what kept me reading the whole thing with interest, even though the plot doesn't seem to have much punch - in the first paragraph you pretty much declare that the major dramatic question of the story is going to be whether or not somebody is going to find happiness, and while the ending is a sort of comic answer, it does not satisfy the emphasis placed on it at the beginning. I think you're character is great, though.

benja
January 25th, 2011, 03:17 AM
I really like the style, the short and deceptively 'simple' paragraphs at the beginning are what I long to write. The word Michigan is repeated in the same line, any way round that by calling it something else, like Great Lake or something? I may be way off here, i've never been to Lake Michigan:)

DimWest
January 26th, 2011, 12:03 AM
Thanks for the input!

even though the plot doesn't seem to have much punch

I was worried about that. I started it with the idea that this would be a kind of a way to introduce the character and show the character Luke's philosophy, but not to satisfy the first paragraph. Now that I've started it, I think it's pretty much impossible to satisfy it. As for the Holden Caulfield thing, that's not really what I had in mind. I never do this, but I wrote it after myself. But when I read that book I really identified with him.

Benja: Thanks, you're right about that.