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River
November 19th, 2011, 12:03 PM
This is part of a story that I wrote, I think last year. I would like some feedback on the story as to whether you like it, or if not, why.
Even my editor wouldn't comment on this story.


Strange Associations



From New York to freaking Augusta, Georgia in one freaking day, on two freaking planes: one plane to Atlanta, then a prop job over to Augusta, a town that smelled like crap, and looked worse. Condemned! That’s what he was, condemned, because his boss had declared one morning at meeting that he, Joel G. Callahan, was the best in the business of making his company money, said company being a company that sold textile goods from hell to Hong Kong. In other words he, Joel G. Callahan, would take the Augusta office or get fired.

So here he was in downtown Augusta, with an upstairs office overlooking Main Street, while his wife was back in New York in her downtown office on the 15th floor overlooking Wall Street, said wife not even coming near to moving to any Augusta, Georgia or anywhere else.

He, Joel G. Callahan, had a secretary who sat in the outer office looking like a lump, while he, Joel G. Callahan, tried his best to get the single air conditioner that sat in one window to work right. It moaned and groaned as if it had never worked right in all its fifteen years in existence in that one window.

Joel had taken to watching the goings on in that section of Main Street when he gave up on the air conditioner and opened the other window that was the escape from the stifling heat, but let in the interminable crap smell.

In the loneliness of his cursed dead end job, after he made his morning calls, he stood looking out that window. Augusta was a soldier town, with Fort Gordon just a few minutes away by bus; the buses arrived steadily every few minutes, disgorging soldiers in Khaki uniforms across the street.

He often wondered what a soldier’s life was like. They came into town by the droves on the first of the month to spend their paychecks, and then went back to the base as if nothing had happened. A lot of them had breakfast at the little restaurant next to the hotel.

Today was Friday, right after the first of the month. He stood watching the prostitutes work the soldiers. The prostitutes would take them to the hotel, where the hotel manager got paid doubly from the whores’ kickbacks, and from the men who followed them to the rooms. He took to timing it for different prostitutes; the most proficient had it down to a science of about 20 minutes. The prostitutes made good money.

The soldiers bought them iced tea at the bar that sat on the other side of the hotel, while paying the bartender the overly priced shot of whiskey. Sometimes the whores even took a whiskey instead of the brown colored tea, but only enough to deaden whatever feelings they were having at the time. The prostitutes would drown their sorrows after they returned home to their run-down apartments and flats that dotted any soldier town.

A bar on one side, a restaurant on the other side of a hotel, which sat in the middle with cab stands and bus stops in front, made up a machine that ground out dollars for the owners, the cab company, and the bus company, and paid fat raises to the police department and the city council. The hell of it was, thought Joel G. Callahan, they didn’t have to move 20 feet, much less to a town as far away from New York as Augusta, Georgia was. He missed his wife as he stood in the heat, and watched as a prostitute brought another soldier out of the bar, and around to the hotel entrance.

I ought to quit this job dead cold and go back to New York. The thought slid through his mind like a rocket on rails, but he knew he wouldn’t do it. He had gotten to where he was climbing that corporate ladder from the slums to the top, fighting all the way, and Joel G. Callahan was not about to give it up and quit.

A drop of sweat rolled off his forehead to the hard wood floor, as he watched the prostitute arrive back on the street exactly 20 minutes to the second. It wasn’t the whore that caused him to sweat though; it was the interminable Georgia heat. He slammed the window closed. Another day done in Georgia, he thought bitterly.

Joel walked to his small upstairs apartment on Third Street, just 2 blocks off Main, took out his key, and opened the door, only to be met by a sweltering blast of hot air. He pulled off the sticky dress shirt and stripped to his underwear. He opened the window quickly and cranked up the air conditioner to the highest setting. Soon the room cooled to tolerable limits as it flushed out the heat and brought in fresh air. He prepared his supper in the Microwave, and pulled off his shoes to watch re-runs on TV. Another night in Georgia.

Tossing and turning in the night, with visions of his wife going through his head, he wondered what she was doing tonight. Where were she and he going with this? Questions buzzed around in his brain like flies on stink. He missed his New York office, he missed their comfortable apartment, he missed Wall Street. Hell… he missed everything. How did I end up in stinking Georgia anyhow, fer craps sake? I fight my way up the ladder to this? If there was a building tall enough in this town, I’d go jump off it.

The next morning he walked the six blocks to the restaurant that sat beside the hotel, the July sun already making inroads to destroy what cool there was, as it beamed down on his particular part of misery. As usual, the restaurant was crowded with soldiers and office people. He looked for a place to sit.

He found one empty booth and sat down to stare at the menu, even though he knew what he was going to order before he looked at it.

“Mind if I sit here?” He looked up at the woman standing before him. She had green eyes and large breasts with lots of cleavage showing, and too much leg.
He indicated the seat across from him with one hand, and she sat down tiredly and sighed. His eyes went back to the menu he was holding.

“Buy you breakfast, honey?” He looked over the menu at the green eyes.

“Sure; it’s not every day a woman offers to buy me breakfast. You look tired.”

“Yeah, long night.” She sighed as she transferred a wad of bills about two inches thick from her cleavage to her purse. Joel knew what she was; he had seen her on the street from his office, but he just decided to talk to her like any other person. It was no business of his, anyhow. The waitress came to take their orders. Before she did, though, she snuck a sneer in at his sitting with the woman. To hell with you, lady; you aren’t doing much better that I can see.

She ordered the same thing as he did: bacon and eggs medium; of course, with the ever-present foul tasting Georgia grits, which he forgot to tell them to leave off his plate. Geez I hate grits. The waitress stuck up her snoot and walked over to the next table to take an order.

The woman acted like she could care less, her tired eyes taking in nothing, as she reached in her purse and withdrew a pack of cigarettes. She sat smoking silently until another waitress brought their food. Joel was glad it wasn’t the same one who took their orders.

They ate in silence, just glancing at each other across the table, until finally she spoke.

“Say, do you want to go dancing tonight?”

“And where would this be?”

“There’s a dance hall at a road house about 3 miles out of town. I just thought you might be up for it.”

He thought a minute while he chewed and swallowed the last of the bacon. “You know, I just might at that, it’s usually too hot to sleep anyhow.”

She scribbled her number on a napkin, slid it across the table to him and got up to go. “I’ll be up around 4 this afternoon…call me if you want to go.” No one seemed to notice the exchange as she got up to leave.

At 4 sharp his hand hovered over the phone. Eventually he dialed the number; a sleepy voice came back, the huskiness of day sleep apparent in that voice.

“Say, this is Joel Callahan, the guy you sat with at the restaurant this morning? I forgot to get your name; do you still want to go dancing?”

“Oh yeah, could I call you back, Joel? My mouth tastes like crap. Give me a minute to wake up, will ya?”

“Of course, the number is 569-8762.”

“OK, I’ll call you in a few.” The phone went dead and doubts about this craziness began to assault him. What am I doing, about to go out with a whore? The thought again slid through his mind like crap through a goose, but he knew he would go, whore or no whore.

At 4:30 sharp the phone rang. “Can you be ready at six, honey? I’ll pick you up in my car, and we’ll toot on out there, OK?”

“Sure; you can pick me up at 230 Chestnut; it’s not far from the hotel.”

“I know where it is; see you at six.”

The phone went dead again. She doesn’t mince words, which means she won’t try to talk me to death.

He showered and shaved carefully, and put on a light pair of slacks, along with his soft Florsheim shoes. His feet felt light as he tripped down the stairs a little before six, he lit a cigarette and waited by the curb.

Soon a black Caddy slid up to the curb. He leaned against the door of the car, “I forgot to ask your name.”

“It’s Sue Rankin. You ready to go, honey?”

He opened the door and got in to the smell of the strong sweet perfume that permeated the car. She had the air conditioner running full blast against the Georgia heat. She had on a skirt cut just above her knees and a low V cut blouse that didn’t leave much guess work at her ample cleavage.

“You married, honey?”

“Yes, my wife is back in New York.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“My company sent me down to take over the Augusta office. I had to come or get fired. End of story.”

“Gee, that’s rotten, honey,” she said in her husky voice. They rode in silence for the next few minutes, but he was aware of her every move.

“Here it is.” She pulled into a large gravel parking lot, next to a large low, rundown building that had seen better days. They got out and entered the door of the bar, where several sat drinking. There was a live band, just tuning up on the stage. They found a table in the middle of the room, and sat down, while a waitress took their order for drinks. The band messed around a while then a singer cut loose with ‘House of The Rising Sun’.

“Let’s dance.” She said, reaching for his hand.

He got up with her and moved to the center of the dance floor. Very soon she began to get warmed up, and the girl could dance. Soon others began to come to the dance floor, and the floor began to get crowded as more came in. The band played one song after another, only giving about a minute and a half between songs. They would walk back to the table to take a sip of their drinks to hold back the heat. Sweat popped out on their foreheads as the beat and thump of the drums beat the age-old call to celebrate life. She danced up to him and wiggled her large breasts back and forth, and laughed at his eyes. Gee whiz lady, if Linda saw this, she would divorce me.

After about 10 songs, the band announced a break, and they went back and flopped in their seats, exhausted.

“You like to dance, don’t you?” He said after he got his breath.

“Yeah, you seemed to do alright too, honey.”

“Do you have any kids?”

“Yeah, I have a little girl who’s eight; you?”

“Naw, we haven’t had time for kids – the jobs and all.”

“Don’t you like kids?”

“Oh yes, I love them, it’s just that we decided they would interfere with our careers.”

“Workaholics huh?”

“You might say that.”

“I just did. You seem like a nice guy.”

“Thank you. I return the compliment.”

She looked at him with a jaundiced eye. “Now you’re not being honest; I liked you better when you were honest.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I can tell.” She got a faraway look in her eyes.

The band started up again. “Come on, baby.” She got up and held out her hand to head back to the dance floor.

“I don’t think I can last much longer; I’m sorry.”

“No need to be sorry, honey. Just two more songs and we’ll split for home.”

They danced the next dance, and then the one after that was a slow dance. As she held him tightly, he drank in her sweat smelling hair and her perfume as the dance oozed on. The dance ended, and they walked back to the table for her purse. The evening was one of those rare balmy evenings as they drove back to Augusta.

The next Friday the phone rang on his desk as he stood by the window, trying to get a breath of fresh air.

“Joel, I need you to come home tomorrow. Can you do that?”

No “Hello,” no “How are you?” It was as if his wife was handling a piece of business with a customer.

Cody
November 27th, 2011, 03:51 AM
Why did you dig up this year old piece to share with us? Has something reignited you interest in it? Do you plan on working on it more?


The prostitutes made good money.

How does he know what kind of money the prostitutes make? 0.o Just because the author knows the going rate of prostitutes in Augusta doesn't mean that the character does. If the character does know then there has to be a reason why. To me though it reads as though you have stepped out of character as writer, because he is wondering about the life of a solider, and then suddenly it sounds like he knows? It feels like your main guy needs to be thought out a bit more.

ALSO


a prop job over to Augusta, a town that smelled like crap, and looked worse. Condemned! That’s what he was, condemned, because his boss had declared one morning at meeting that he, Joel G. Callahan, was the best in the business of making his company money, said company being a company that sold textile goods from hell to Hong Kong. In other words he, Joel G. Callahan, would take the Augusta office or get fired.

Here you tell us that Augusta sucks, because it smells and looks like crap. Him having to be in this shitty town is clearly a catalyst for your story. If he had worked in a different city he may not have been exposed to the soldiers he seems so obsessed with, or the woman who calls him honey. That being said you only tells us that the town smells and looks crappy.

then you say


while his wife was back in New York in her downtown office on the 15th floor overlooking Wall Street, said wife not even coming near to moving to any Augusta, Georgia or anywhere else.

Kinda seems weird to me that you would give us so much detail even to the floor of the building his wife is on and not tell us more about crappy smelling Augusta.


“Oh yeah, could I call you back, Joel? My mouth tastes like crap. Give me a minute to wake up, will ya?”

“Of course, the number is 569-8762.”

I feel like with phone numbers sometimes it's better to just say he jotted the number down. When I see phone numbers in books I say to myself, " That's not the real number", because there is no real number. It takes me out of the story a bit.

I like how the story has a nice mix of romance and mystery.

River
November 27th, 2011, 02:06 PM
Quote: Why did you dig up this year old piece to share with us? Has something reignited you interest in it? Do you plan on working on it more?

I suppose, the truth be known, I am a more needy person than I need to be. Besides, many people have read the piece as an individual piece and the book as a short story collection, but unfortunately few fail to return and review the work for you. I also understand this, because people live very busy lives.

It is through this wanting to know how the stories impact those who read them, and then not knowing, that I am learning to 'own' my work and to not be so needy.

Do I plan to work on it more? Yes, it has been on my mind to finish the story I am presently working on, and then stop and go back through all 23 stories, review them and work on them.

Fiction writing is new to me as I wrote my first story just 4 years ago and up to that time, writing had never entered my mind, but I loved the way certain authors spin a yarn.
I didn't have a back ground in English, in fact, being set back 2 years in English class was why I quit high school in the 11th grade and hit the road.

In truth I don't know why I can write a story at all, where do the stories come from? the characters begin as as such a tiny thing and begin to take on skin and bone and have their own personality. They never existed before and now they do and they want to tell their own story. The only way they can live is on the pages of a book.

I intend to stop writing for awhile and review all my work. I am writing a science fiction piece titled 'Solar Cycle 24' and I like about 2 or three pages being finished with it, then I will work on the stories a piece at a time.
Again, thanks for the input.

Cody
November 28th, 2011, 04:24 AM
I suppose, the truth be known, I am a more needy person than I need to be.

That was a really honest answer and I tip my hat to you. I think that there are a few people who post stuff for that same reason. It's nothing to feel bad about, but I doubt that many people would have been as honest about it as you.

It is a lot easier to reflect on someones work online, because you don't need to set a whole chunk of time aside. I like to read something, do some house work, re read and respond.


being set back 2 years in English class was why I quit high school in the 11th grade and hit the road. I think that experiences make writers and not education. That being said, I would also like to say that to me it is important to be a life long learner, and to make sure that when you are learning the focus is on your own happiness. I find that I am always researching one thing or another for a story.


In truth I don't know why I can write a story at all, where do the stories come from?

I feel like everyone has the capacity to write a story. If you can tell it, then you can write it.

trent13
December 16th, 2011, 05:13 PM
POV mixed up in spots - there are certain things he can't know, such as what went on between the soldier and the prostitute. When you quote her as saying "can I buy you lunch, honey?" it seems like he is asking her rather than the other way around. I assume that one is supposed to wonder whether or not his relationship with the prostitute went any farther than the dancing? But at the end where she calls and asks him to come him, I'm still not emotionally convinced that she is worthy of being cheated on. I feel like your guy is being a jerk; he says he misses his wife but then goes on a date (if it wasn't a date, why did he go through such effort to make himself desirable? If he loves his wife, why would he put himself in a position where his biological reaction to a woman, especially given the long absence of his wife, would tempt him to betray that love?) Instead of resignation to what must be in regards to his job, he just seems to brood and whine about it - not exactly an attractive feature in a hero.