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View Full Version : "The Runaway" (language warning)



Worlds
November 25th, 2011, 11:36 PM
any and all comments are welcome! thanks for looking!


The bus seat was hard and rigid. It hurt to slouch so Jack had to sit up straight. He was sitting with his head against the window, which rattled annoyingly with every small bump in the road. In the streets outside cars passed the bus going both directions and Jack wondered where they were going that late at night. No doubt some of them were coming home from parties, he thought, and maybe some were just moving on to other parties; it was Friday night after all. Jack, however, was on his way home from work, a no-where job as a security guard for a parking garage.

People were sitting haphazardly on the bus, no one next to each other and there was at least a row between everyone. It was mostly the normal assortment of strangers; druggies and dealers and bums. Jack had already turned down coke once. But on the right side, a few rows away from Jack, sat someone different. She had long brown hair that looked well kept and she wasn’t twitching at all, which definitely separated her from the rest. A junkie-looking man suddenly sat next to her; Jack could see the girl visibly shrink away from him. He said something Jack couldn’t hear to her, and then repeated it louder when she didn’t reply. Jack stood.

“I asked what you name was, sweetheart,” the junkie was saying when Jack walked up behind him, swaying with the movement of the bus.
“Excuse me,” Jack said, putting his hand firmly on the man’s shoulder, “you’re in my seat.”
The junkie looked up at him, glanced at the girl, and slowly slinked off. Fucking junkies, thought Jack, good thing they’re easy to spook. He took the now vacant seat. The girl looked up at him with a mixture gratitude and fear on her face. She was no older than seventeen.

“Thanks,” the girl’s voice shook and she didn’t look him in the eyes. There was a bruise across her left cheek and a cut across her lip.

“Jack,” he put out his hand, trying his hardest to look friendly because it seemed to him that that’s what she needed.

“Kristen,” the girl almost smiled as she took Jack’s hand limply.

They sat in silence for a few blocks. Jack wondered about her face and she wondered if he was going to try and rape or mug or otherwise abuse her. Kristen didn’t think so though, he seemed to be kind and she found herself thinking that she could trust him. Jack just didn’t have that domineering presence, she thought, that most bad men had. Kristen wanted to talk to him, she was starved for conversation, but she didn’t know what to say. It was three am on a bus and he was a complete stranger after all. It was Jack who spoke first.

“What a happened?” he asked, looking over at her. She turned to him, seemingly in slow motion compared to the buildings passing by quickly outside the bus. Jack noticed that she had beautiful eyes, green and flecked with bits of amber and hazel. They weren’t the kind of eyes you read about in books, he thought, the kind that seemed to tell some story of a painful past or regretful event. They were very pretty though. Kristen brought her hands up to her face, reminding Jack of the bruise and cut lip. Those told a story.

“My dad,” Kristen whispered, not sure why she was even telling this to Jack, “my dad hit me.”

“Shit,” Jack said as he shook his head, almost feeling sorry that he had asked.

“We had gotten into a fight,” Kristen said, looking at her knees, “I don’t remember what about. After he hit me, I just ran out the door. That was a week ago.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes. The bus whined and rattled as it struggled up a hill and every seat on the bus vibrated. A few drunks had gotten on and were laughing loudly towards the front. Assholes, thought Jack.

“Where’s home?” asked Jack after a while.

“Nevada,” Kristen said with sigh of homesickness.

Jack hadn’t been expecting that. He was thinking that she would say Stockton or Sacramento or something. Nevada was a long way from San Francisco. Kristen seemed to hear his thoughts.

“I’ve been hitchhiking,” she said, “Spending nights in rest stops and all night diners.”

“Where are you staying tonight?” Jack asked. His stop was coming up.

“I don’t know,” whispered Kristen.

“Well,” Jack stood, holding onto the silver pole for support, “this is my stop, and I have an extra room. It’s yours if you want it,” Jack made his way towards the front of the bus.

Without really knowing why, Kristen followed him.

Off the bus the air was cold. As they walked down the sidewalk, their breath floated behind them in small, dissipating clouds. Cars drove by them on the street, casting shadows like clock hands as they made their turns. Music played faintly from parties going on in apartments around them. The sidewalks were empty except for the occasional bum. Kristen, wearing only a light sweater, was shivering.

“Here,” Jack took off his jacket and held it out for her to take.

“Thanks,” Kristen said and as she put the jacket on her eyes softened.

After a few blocks, they came to Jacks house. Its paint was peeling and the front lawn was long dead. It wasn’t always like this, thought Jack, it wasn’t always like this.

Inside Jack and Kristen sat down on the couch. Jack turned on the television, which was set to cartoons.

“Let me change it,” Jack said, reaching for the remote.

“No,” Kristen smiled, “this is fine.”

They sat and watched the cartoons for almost an hour, laughing and smiling together. Jack was glad Kristen had come, and Kristen was glad she had stepped off that bus. Jack’s house was bare, Kristen noticed. Only the couch and the television populated the living room. There weren’t any pictures on the wall or any photos on the mantle. The only thing that stood out was a hole in the wall near the door.

“What made that hole?” Kristen asked, pointing.

Jack instinctively clenched his right hand and began to massage his knuckles. Kristen noticed a scar running over the back of Jack’s hand and that when she had mentioned the hole, his eyes fell away, like a pennies into a wishing well.
“I’m sorry,” Kristen said, looking down, “I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s alright,” Jack smiled roughly, the kind of smile someone gives while reminiscing at a funeral, “I made that hole.”

They sat in silence for a moment or two, the television letting out zips and boings and zonks as a cat tried to catch a mouse. Eventually, Kristen asked the question that was on her mind.

“What happened?” she whispered.

“I haven’t told this story in a long time,” Jack laughed sadly, “it isn’t really much of a story,” he rubbed his right hand as he spoke, “I was engaged once. Years ago, I loved a girl. She was beautiful,” Jack looked over at Kristen, “she looked a lot like you to be honest. She went away to college, but it was only a few hours away. I drove down there every other weekend, and she drove to see me whenever she could. I really thought I was going to marry her. I really thought we were doing well despite the distance,” Jack paused for a moment, his breathing getting heavier and his shoulders slumping a little. “But then it started to fall apart. I still drove to see her every other weekend, but she came to see me less and less. One Saturday, she knocked on my door and when I opened it she was standing there with a look on her face like she was waiting to see a car wreck and behind her was another man. Before she even started to speak I slammed the door and put my fist through that wall. I broke my hand.”

Jack’s head dropped just slightly and when Kristen looked over at him she saw the tiniest of diamonds falling from his face. She slowly raised her hand and laid it on top of his, so gently that Jack at first thought he was imagining the touch. He didn’t look up, ashamed of the pain that refused to heal, but he grasped her hand, squeezing tightly. Kristen squeezed back. After a moment she let go and put her arms around Jack, drawing him close to her. Jack laid his cheek on her shoulder and wrapped his arms across her back. He didn’t sob. His body didn’t shake and he didn’t heave uncontrollably. The hurt had long since moved beyond that point and instead his eyes just leaked like a dripping faucet. Kristen laid her head on Jack’s, allowing their cheeks to touch. Jack thought he felt that her face was wet, but he couldn’t distinguish if it was his own tears or hers. He picked his head up and looked at Kristen in the eyes. Her mascara had run in dark streaks down her face, giving the impression of shadowed canyons. Her eyes danced the way shiny pebbles do at the bottom of a stream.

“I told him I hated him,” she whispered, not looking away, “I told him I hated him and that I wished that he had died instead of Mom. That’s why he hit me. I don’t even remember why I said it, but I know he didn’t deserve that. He’s a good man, he was a good father. After he hit me, I could tell he instantly regretted it. He bent down over me and wiped the blood and kept saying that he was sorry over and over again. He looked like he was going to cry. But I just pushed him away and ran out the door, not saying anything. The last thing I heard him yell was my name. And then I was gone.”

Jack reached out softly and touched Kristen’s shoulder. She began to sob, holding her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking like a tree in the wind. Jack held her, and she held Jack, and they supported each other. They stayed in each other’s arms until they fell asleep that way.




Have a great day!!

Cody
November 26th, 2011, 02:42 AM
People were sitting haphazardly on the bus, no one next to each other and there was at least a row between everyone. I don't know that you need to describe the bus. Most people have been on a public bus or seen them in movies. It's enough to tell us that people are sitting haphazardly.


It was mostly the normal assortment of strangers; druggies and dealers and bums. Those don't seem like the normal assortment of strangers at all! Most strangers are just people. To you I'm a strangers and I am none of those things.


Jack reached out softly and touched Kristen’s shoulder. She began to sob, holding her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking like a tree in the wind. Jack held her, and she held Jack, and they supported each other. They stayed in each other’s arms until they fell asleep that way.


This was maybe the most fantastical part of the whole thing for me. A runaway girl on her own is not likely to allow a boy to approach her that way. It's very dangerous for her to open up to this strange boy on the bus. Letting her emotions take hold of her that way, letting the boy get close, telling him she is a runaway, all good ways to get yourself into trouble.

In short I like the idea of the thing on the whole, but it comes across as a little unrealistic. When I read this I feel as though the author has never been a runaway in this situation. Child runaways from abusive homes are a serious and real issue and I feel like it's difficult to write about it if you don't have some experience with the issue, either first hand or through a close friend.

lawrencewalls
November 26th, 2011, 06:57 PM
I have to agree with Cody, the story seems to be going in the right direction, but it lacks in character detail, and is overbearing about mundane details, that pretty much need not be described (i.e. bus). The situation seems a bit rushed and feels unlikely. I'd recommend doing a bit of research, get into the mind of a runaway. I admire your imagination and creativity, and with a little fine tuning, this could be great.

JDegg
November 27th, 2011, 09:16 PM
I'm going to say again, that certainly the description of the bus could be summarized in: "Jack sighed as he saw the drug dealer enter the bus." Then he could get some background on how he knows they are druggies/dealers besides just assuming out of thin air that anyone on a bus at night is a druggie or a dealer.

Besides that, the girl is too innocent. While family troubles will cause someone to run away, there will be far far far more to the story than just that. And they likely would run away to a friend's house rather than the next state with no one. They'll definitely trust nobody, and be far more paranoid. Even if he had just kept some random stranger from hitting on her, she'd likely think he was just trying to hit on her himself rather than something else.

You have potential here. Make it longer, focus on the character development, rather than stock good guy and stock runaway girl, think what truly would make you yourself run away or be on a bus that late at night anyways (I'm assuming its late at night, you don't specify).

JDegg
November 27th, 2011, 09:19 PM
Oh, and a tip that I've learned from teachers and what not:

- No crying, this makes the Protag appear weak, and we aren't interested in weak Protags.

ALSO ALSO I forgot this in my other post:

Stay in one person's head. Don't give us her thoughts, or anything from her perspective at all. Limit the thoughts and assumptions and otherwise reader accessed knowledge to come only through one character, the guy or the girl. This will strengthen your story. Personally I'm more interested in the girl and what she's thinking than the guy.

Cody
November 28th, 2011, 02:32 AM
JDegg brought up some really good points. A girl is a lot more likely to run away to a friends house, or a relative, or even some wooded areas in her town. When most people run away it's an impulsive choice and it ends the next day. Functioning alcoholics who occasionally beat their daughters are soooooo common. A lot of kids will put up with beatings, because they know it's better than selling sex and being cold. If she is going to run far away there needs to be a catalyst more than your run of the mill beatings, needs to be like some freak nasty child called it, type abuse.

Die Oldhaetunde
November 29th, 2011, 04:31 AM
Hello, Worlds. I must say you have quite a story here.

My first thoughts towards the piece were that of dismay. While I did not know what to expect, I certainly felt that the story read like a million others just like it. Imagine my surprise when you pulled a one-eighty degree turn to fresher pastures. However, this work of fiction is far from perfect. Let's start with description:

The details you use, while appropriate to the setting, are clunky. For example: "The bus seat was hard and rigid. It hurt to slouch so Jack had to sit up straight. He was sitting with his head against the window, which rattled annoyingly with every small bump in the road. In the streets outside cars passed the bus going both directions and Jack wondered where they were going that late at night. No doubt some of them were coming home from parties, he thought, and maybe some were just moving on to other parties; it was Friday night after all. Jack, however, was on his way home from work, a no-where job as a security guard for a parking garage."


Most of these details are good, but superfluous. Description is more than just description. It should also move the plot, foreshadow, characterize, etc. Example: "It hurt to slouch so Jack had to sit up straight." This gives the impression that Jack has a bad back. You should only include this if Jack really does have a bad back, and that bad back factors into the story somehow. In writing, everything is important and has purpose. Thus, you have "Outside cars passed the bus going both directions and Jack wondered where they were going that lat at night." (That's a monster of a sentence, by the way.) If you're going to talk about Jack wondering where cars are going, then it should be relevant to the story. You just brought up a question that begs to be asked, and then you abandon it. All of this detail distracts from the main premise. You could have written, for example:

"Jack noticed a sniffling young woman seated at the back of the bus. A bum was hanging off of her, putting his oily fingers on her shoulder, just above the breast..."

That is what is important to the story. And that is what matters. Now, you have a sniffling young woman. You've established the setting. And the Bum gives an idea as to what kind of town this is. If you want to have description, good, but make it relevant to the story.

One other thing: Jack is an older man. There is no way in Hell that he is going to still be upset about his female friend dumping him for another man. You're still young, so I'll give you a pass there, but it is completely unrealistic and makes the Main Character come off as too creepy, too obssesive, too stupid. In addition, how many people do you know that were engaged, and then the wife moves off to another college far away? People who are engaged plan on getting married. When you are engaged to someone, both of you have made the decision to get married, and are now planning a wedding. The fact that his "fiance" is not, makes it even more unbelievable.

Now, Aside from this, I want you to know that this story is literally bursting with potential. Some of it is realized already. It's a beautiful story that had me interested. I want you to work on it.

Jakers1
December 4th, 2011, 07:20 PM
A lovely descriptive story- not sure about Kristens eyes though.
Anyway, keep going.
Is this the beginning of a longer story?
All the best and thank you for sharing your writing.
Kind regards,
Jack