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Thread: A Tale Of Two Parties

  1. #1

    A Tale Of Two Parties

    A lime green Chevy Camaro, glistening in the sun: reality. Speeding down the highway, through cherry fields and apple orchards. The world feels like it’s about to explode at any second, the air spontaneously combust, but I check the rear view mirror and see the same white SUV behind me, Virginia license plates. We’re all going about 80 mph around a bend in the road; well, I’m pushin’ 90 now. But nothing happens, no car crashes, or sudden explosions, and so I just keep on going.


    Rectangular green signs jutting out at me from all angles as I zoom by Contemporary country homes with wooden decks and sylvan arches: cardinals and blue jays darting among the scraggly pine trees. The land perpetually rising and falling alongside the road. And the mountains, looming in the distance, a giant tidal wave, frozen in time, threatening to sweep across the desolate, resource-strapped valley. The radio is on:


    "Yeah, it's funny," a man's voice says in a charismatic and laid back tone "people ask me all the time, they're like So are you Okay? What are you doing now? And I'm like, yeah, um, I read, I go on walks, I, uh, make Lime Habanero Salsa with my homosexual friends."


    “Yeah, that’s real interesting,” a woman’s voice replies in a calm yet excited manner. “Tell me more."

    “Yeah, well, not to brag, but it's awesome, incredibly exhilarating. I mean, you’re really living from second to second, due to the sheer number of bullets that are flying at you, and the amount that you’re sending back at them, it’s a lot of intensity--you have to respond without hesitation, in order to preserve the lives of the people that you’re working with, that you love. So you just say, ‘alright, well, now is the time to duke it out, now is the time to, you know, exchange gunfire, and there are potentially lethal consequences . . . but you can't think about that, you can't let it phase you, you treat it like it's just another walk in the park. . . . "

    I’m so distracted by the man’s words that I momentarily forget about the road. The sound of the speed strips on the shoulder ripping up my tires brings me back to reality. State trooper on the side of the road. He's busy, occupied with another car. I exhale a sigh of relief and hit the gas. But that's the cops for you, always trying to make you admit to things you didn't do; indeed, things that didn't even happen in the first place. Things? What things? Do things even exist??--I rehearse a story in my head just in case the police pull me over:

    “Good evening," the Police officer says to me. "Are you aware of fast you were you going?"

    "Aw, no, I'm sorry officer, this white SUV was tailgating me. . . ."

    "Where are you going?"

    “Home.”

    “And where is home?”

    “Uh, Maple Street.”

    “Maple Street?”

    “Yeah.”

    “And where is this Maple Street?”

    “Right off Market Street.”

    “Oh, Market Street, I know where that is. This story seems to check out. I mean, I don’t know this Maple Street, but it sure sounds like a real street name, and I’m not about to sit here and type it in the GpS, so you're free to go."
    I decide I need a break. I feel dangerous.


    I stop at the Walmart near Strasburg, end up browsing the women’s clothing section. It's organized in quadrangles across from the food aisles. I love to see the variety in monotony: leather black skirts, red bustiers and fishnet stockings--with the black lipstick! It’s organized just slightly differently than any other Walmart I’ve ever been to.

    As I walk out, I see a 7-11 across the street, nestled in between some white plastered buildings, the kind that look as if they were built during the Civil War. It has a blue roof. I go inside and buy a pack of Marlboro Reds, because that’s what I’m smoking right now. Yup, puffin’ on those cowboy killers. I must have a suicide wish.

    When I’m done, I get back in my car and leave: reality. Back on the highway, it’s business as usual. A never-ending stream of multicolored cars indelibly engraved like state quarters with the footprints of past peoples. No sir, nothing out of the ordinary going on over here at all: no funny business whatsoever. Time? What is time? Does time even exist outside of the human consciousness?

    I meet up with Frogman at some restaurant, or bar, in the middle of a shopping center. For some reason, things seem unreal to me. The venue has velvet carpets and is packed with people. Frogman and I are sitting at the bar. In front of me sits a single Heineken on a palm tree shaped coaster. Just a single Heineken, no more, no less. I drain the last sip and push it back, adjusting the empty bottle ever so precisely so that the logo is facing me. Then I frame it with my fingers and call it art.

    “You want another one with that cowboy?” A woman’s voice asks. I turn around and see a brunette dressed in a French maid outfit staring back at me. Something about her isn’t right, and I start to get that feeling again, like I’m being played, as if things aren’t what they seem, and everyone is in on the joke except for me. “Excuse me,” I say to her, “Do you work here?” She gives me a startled look and shakes her head: “No.” All of a sudden Frogman is in a big damn hurry to leave. He gets up and heads outside. I follow him. The barmaid follows me.

    It’s night now and the street lights beat down on an empty section of the parking lot. “Where are you going?” the barmaid asks, pulling on my arm. But I pay no attention to her. My eyes are trained on Frogman. He runs across the street and goes through a small red door belonging to a concrete building with stained glass windows. It’s all very suspicious, and I decide to investigate.

    But first I stop and turn back to the barmaid who is still clutching onto my arm and crying as if we’re in some sort of old fashioned movie. I still have no idea what’s up with her, but there’s something fishy about her too, although I don’t have time to put my finger on it. “Do you want to come with me?” I ask her.

    “No,” she says, “because you’re just going to get me drunk and high and take me to Maple Street.”

    “Maple Street!??”

    “Maple Street,” she says, turns on her heels and marches off. Wait, I say to myself, what did I forget at Maple Street?: what really happened that night on Maple Street!? For a moment, I consider going after her, but I am drawn to the red door that Frogman entered—it really is some bad business for him to be acting like this, and I want to get to the bottom of things.

    As soon as I walk into the place, I’m no longer sure where I’m at or who anyone is anymore. The room is cloudy. I catch sight of a vampire in a corner of the room and overhear him talking about some deadly plan. There’s also a black guy in a suit with a cowboy hat smoking on a big cigar; and a busty blonde woman, dressed in a burlesque outfit. She is leaning against a pool table with green felt. The bartender is bald and pouring drinks. Behind him, the liquor display is lit up by hot pink neon lights. To my left, I see Biggie Smalls staring at me, his glance indecipherable, unreadable. The dark, right-wing bar frightens me and I flee outside and into the parking lot.

    I keep running and after a while, I come back to the restaurant, or bar, where I am greeted by a crowd of people who are gathered outside. It seems like there is some sort of parade or political rally about to happen. “Hoo-mans,” I proclaim. “Thank God!” I follow them into the restaurant, which is now completely stripped of tables and booths. All that remains is the bar counter. Everyone sits down on the hard wood floor in front of a large flat-screen TV mounted to the ceiling, their legs crisscrossed, Indian-style. I sit down next to a red-haired girl decked out in gothic clothing. She seems surprised that I am sitting next to her. “What’s wrong?” she asks me. I whisper in her ear that I am scared because, earlier, I saw a real vampire. When I say this, her pupils dilate.

    Suddenly the TV overhead flickers to life with the image of a clean-cut man in a suit speaking behind a podium: “You See," he says, "Capital, although created by man, has developed into a Sentient force of its own, just like Robots with Artificial Intelligence . . ."



    A blood curdling scream slices through the air and our heads turn to determine the source of the commotion. The front doors burst open and a bunch of men in suits with AK-47’s pour into the room. A man in an orange Tommy Bahama shirt steps out of the throng of attackers, an oozie in his hand. “Surprise,” he says. He fires a couple rounds into the ceiling and the crowd scatters, ducking for cover. I jump up and start to run too, looking for a way out, but, while the majority of the crowd stampedes into what seems like a storage room at the back of the building, I slip into the bathroom.

    In the bathroom I run into a stall, step on the toilet, and push up a ceiling panel. I manage to climb up into the ventilation shaft just as one of the attackers bursts into the bathroom. I hold my breath as he checks each stall one by one. Finally he leaves.


    Then all becomes silent and I begin to feel the onset of a deep slumber. The last thing I remember as I drift out of consciousness is the sound of tools at work--saws, hammers and drills. . . .

    When I wake up, I'm still in the ventilation shaft. I strain my ears but am no longer able to perceive any further sign of commotion, and so I climb down. The front of the building is deserted, and, to my consternation, there are now iron bars and grates blocking the windows while the front door is chained and bolted shut with a giant padlock.

    Unable to exit from the front of the building, I rush for the storage room where I saw everyone run to earlier. As I push open the double doors, a massive warehouse stretches on as far as the eye can see; there are furnaces and factory equipment, giant piles of cardboard boxes and semi-opened pallets. People are everywhere, chained to machines. I recognize them. They are the big group of people from earlier.

    A burly man with a nametag that says Mike approaches me. He seems to be overseeing the work of the others. I ask him what they’re doing. He further explains the situation: "We are being forced to make robots," he says, "And once the robots are finished the smaller party will kill us all and subsist on the labor of the robots!"

    I look at the robot parts, which are essentially metal rods of varying weight and thickness, and determine that they should be sufficient to break through the windows at the front of the building. I tell Mike that I’m about to escape and he asks me how. I unloosen a bundle of rods and hand one to him. He starts to speak, but is interrupted as the intercom overhead crackles to life: “Leader is your friend, and a great visionary, he only wants what’s best for you, he realizes that some of you are savable, and is ready to spare those who work the hardest. . . .”

    Mike and I continue to discuss the escape: "There should be no opposition in the front, for the smaller party are all busy in the back of the warehouse having a meeting right now."

    “There is no time to waste,” I tell him, and we begin make our way through the gangs of labor, urging the others to join us in the process.

    On the way back to the double doors, I catch sight of the red-haired girl from earlier whom I told about the vampire. Around her neck is a black collar with silver studs. “How did you end up like this?” I ask. She tells me that V--------, the leader of the smaller party, had done this to her. I take out my knife and cut the collar in two. “The rest is up to you,” I say. Then I proceed out of the warehouse with Mike and a few others.

    When we arrive at the front of the building, I take one of metal rods from Mike and smash a pane of glass; it shatters, exposing the first of several layers of iron bars and mesh. The air resounds with sirens. Frantically, I work through the grates of mesh, using the metal rod like a crow bar to jerk them out, until, at last, I reach a thin screen composed of fabric. “Hurry up,” Mike shouts, “they’re on to us!” The screen is thin and I am able to easily push it out of the way, creating a hole small enough for a person to fit through. I can see the Real World through that hole. I turn around. By now a large crowd is gathered behind me, also eager to escape the building. But I go first, falling ten to twenty feet and landing in a small parking lot.

    Many others escape too, and we begin to gather a short distance from the warehouse. All of a sudden a cacophony of screams is released from the building, and all of us who have escaped know that it is the sound of the others who hadn’t been able to escape and are now being slaughtered by the smaller party. Someone hands me a longboard, and I skate off. As I do this, large crowds of people begin clapping and nodding in approval. Not too long after that, I see my poster placed next to those of the other legends: “David Ashley Crann,” it says, in big letters under a couple pictures of me—a short kid in various chill postures. There are also several quotes underneath my name that read: “I ain’t no skrilla, shoobie,” “New York Times Best Seller,” and “MVP.”
    Last edited by Pyromanic; May 9th, 2017 at 08:05 PM.

  2. #2
    Stop shouting, it's unreadable.
    Jay Greenstein
    My articles on writing.
    The goal isn't to tell the reader that the protagonist is terrified, it's to terrorize our reader.

  3. #3
    Content Manager Ptolemy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    Stop shouting, it's unreadable.
    I feel like it's a stylistic choice, but still it is very hard to read nonetheless.
    "He slides into second with a stand-up double." - Jerry Coleman
    "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth." - Lou Gehrig
    "After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson." - Reggie Jackson
    "Your Holiness, I'm Joe Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal." - Joe Medwick to Pope Pius XII
    "I think Tim Wakefield would even say tonight that Tim Wakefield got to Tim Wakefield tonight." - Tim McCarver

  4. #4
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed this - it's wonderfully nightmarish and freaky. No annoying SPaG issues which is a relief. It would be very interesting to see what you make of this.

    The only problems I had were that due to the confusing nature of events, I lost myself a bit. If you could smooth those transitions a little, that'd help.

    Also maybe give the I a little more introspection so we know who he is - unless of course you don't want to. But ... just as a reader it might be nice.

    Not sure what the others mean. Was this originally in caps? Good choice to change it. It makes, for me, the difference between finishing a piece and bombing out in the first few lines (which I do quite often)

    But yep - good work.


    ~ * ~

    "Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us."
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    ~ is this fire, or is this mask?
    it's the Mantasy! ~
    - Anonymous

    *

    "C'mon everybody, don't need this crap!"
    - Wham!

    ~ * ~



  5. #5
    No, it wasn't in caps, it was partly bolded, partly in Arial Black, and partly in different font sizes. I didn't think it was a problem to read (and I sort of liked the different font, which I thought added to the fragmentary effect of the piece--Each Paragraph is a unit with a strong effect of its own, and the change of font, I thought, sort of emphasized that). Plus the piece is intended to be really deconstructive; it seeks to take all the traditional elements of the narrative and mess with them. Why is it that we feel compelled to write in the same font all the time (i understand that the piece has to be readable), but playing with different fonts can really enhance certain words and phrases in the text if done correctly.

    But I changed it, so now it's all the same font/size, and hopefully it's more readable now.

    Last edited by Pyromanic; April 19th, 2017 at 02:15 PM.

  6. #6
    Hey Pyromanic,

    A nice first entry for the forum. Good work on that! It's never easy to put your first work out there. I liked it but felt that you could have explored the character and the situation a little more fully. It could have added depth to the piece and that is a good thing.

    Just my two cents! I liked it nonetheless!

    Cheers! Keep on writing! : D
    Carpe Diem.

  7. #7
    A lime green Chevy Camaro, glistening in the sun: reality. Speeding down the highway, through cherry fields and apple orchards. The world feels like it’s about to explode at any second, the air spontaneously combust, but I check the rear view mirror and see the same white SUV behind me, Virginia license plates. We’re all going about 80 mph around a bend in the road; well, I’m pushin’ 90 now. But nothing happens, no car crashes, or sudden explosions, and so I just keep on going.
    It's pretty hard to follow. Is our protagonist in that green car? Why, if s/he's driving 90 mph is s/he paying attention to the fact that it's glistening so brightly it rates italics? What does that have to do with the story, or the car behind, or the feeling like the world will explode. Damned if I can tell?

    In the first paragraph someone unknown is driving fast on an unknown road in a farm setting, heading somewhere unknown, cooming from somewhere unknown. I'm sure that as you read it you have a visualization of the setting, and the driver. But I know only the car color and that for unknown reasons the driver feels like the world is going to "explode any second." And, for some undefined reason that feeling seems to be related to a car that's following. And somehow, our driver , through the rear-view mirror, can read the the license plate on that car. Is the car behind chasing, racing, or just on the same highway? You don't say. But mentioning that it's been following, and including the state and car color seems to imply that it matters to the story.

    Words made it to the page, but I suspect that a lot of the story is still in your head.
    Rectangular green signs jutting out at me from all angles as I zoom by Contemporary country homes with wooden decks and sylvan arches: cardinals and blue jays darting among the scraggly pine trees. The land perpetually rising and falling alongside the road. And the mountains, looming in the distance, a giant tidal wave, frozen in time, threatening to sweep across the desolate, resource-strapped valley. The radio is on:
    Strangely, neither I nor Google know what a sylvan arch is, so you might want to rethink that one. In any case... So there we are, driving past orchards and homes? And at ninety this driver is noticing that the houses have decks, and s/he can see what they're made of? And at that speed s/he's birdwatching and identifying the local birds? Seriously?

    And somehow, the farms and homes and orchards are set in "scraggly pine trees?"

    And what in the pluperfect hells are those green signs jutting out at all angles?

    And added to all that, this place of contemporary homes and orchards is a resource strapped valley? Where the hell are we?

    I'm sorry. Maybe it's me, but it feels as if there are lines from several different settings dropped in.
    I stop at the Walmart near Strasburg,
    At this point I've read 453 words. That's close to two standard manuscript pages, and nothing's happened. I've learned what color the car is, but not the age, gender, or anything meaningful about the driver. I've learned that roads have curves, contemporary houses have wooden decks, and that birds fly in the woods. I've learned some of the things said on an unknown radio program, by unknown people, for unknown reasons. And now, our driver gets out of the car and suddenly that white car that was so important it's been mentioned several times has apparently vanished. And our protagonist doesn't either look for it or think about it.

    So here's the problem: So far, if this was a standard manuscript submission we would be well down on page three and no-story-has-taken-place. Nothing has set the scene meaningfully, because everything described is left behind. There's been no character development because at this point we don't know our protagonist's age, gender, social status, their hoped for objective for the day, or even for the next hour. And there's been no plot movement, because we don't know what's going on other than that someone unknown is driving for unknown reason, with no apparent destination.

    So there have been words, yes. But the story? It hasn't begun, because story isn't a record of what happens. Story lives in the heart and mind of the protagonist, and in their reaction to the problems that confront them. And thus far, we have no protagonist.

    Sorry, I wish I had better news, but...


    Jay Greenstein
    My articles on writing.
    The goal isn't to tell the reader that the protagonist is terrified, it's to terrorize our reader.

  8. #8
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    neither I nor Google know what a sylvan arch is, so you might want to rethink that one.
    "Sylvan", from the Latin, sylva, for wood, forest, or timber, means pertaining to, or made of, wood. An arch is an arch, so a sylvan arch is an archway made of wood and perhaps carved in writhing, arboreal forms. That's what I pictured anyway. I thought it was a good word choice because it is a pretty word, a little like a secret glade of trees. The small details matter every bit as much as the big. Not sure how useful it is to oversimplify every tiny thing. That's like the quick highway to eviscerating all voice out of a text i.m.o.


    ~ * ~

    "Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us."
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    ~ is this fire, or is this mask?
    it's the Mantasy! ~
    - Anonymous

    *

    "C'mon everybody, don't need this crap!"
    - Wham!

    ~ * ~



  9. #9
    "Sylvan", from the Latin, sylva, for wood, forest, or timber, means pertaining to, or made of, wood. An arch is an arch, so a sylvan arch is an archway made of wood and perhaps carved in writhing, arboreal forms
    So here we are, zipping along at 90 on what appears to be the PA turnpike near Strasburg (which isn't convenient to the turnpike, where the speed limit is 70). The houses are hundreds of feet from the road, and from there, this person notices that all the houses have wooden arches? What, they can see through the paint?

    That aside, I cruise that stretch of road pretty regularly on my way to Pittsburgh, from Philly. And the stretch between Valley Forge and Harrisburg does have scattered housing developments in viewing distance of the road, but I'll be damned if I've seen any significant percentage of them displaying arches, wooden or otherwise.

    But that aside, Sylvan refers to forests or woods, not building material, per my dictionary and Wikipedia.

    But forget all that, a list of what someone unknown saw/heard as they drove with unknown destination and purpose is a travelogue, not a story, and that's what needs to be addressed.
    Jay Greenstein
    My articles on writing.
    The goal isn't to tell the reader that the protagonist is terrified, it's to terrorize our reader.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    It's pretty hard to follow. Is our protagonist in that green car? Why, if s/he's driving 90 mph is s/he paying attention to the fact that it's glistening so brightly it rates italics? What does that have to do with the story, or the car behind, or the feeling like the world will explode. Damned if I can tell?
    So here's the problem: So far, if this was a standard manuscript submission we would be well down on page three and no-story-has-taken-place. Nothing has set the scene meaningfully, because everything described is left behind. There's been no character development because at this point we don't know our protagonist's age, gender, social status, their hoped for objective for the day, or even for the next hour. And there's been no plot movement, because we don't know what's going on other than that someone unknown is driving for unknown reason, with no apparent destination. It's 2017 not 1807. Literature has evolved.


    The italics on glistening are intended to produce an emphasis on that particular word forcing the reader to stress it, and thus pause slightly before continuing so that it reads:

    A lime green Chevy Camaro, Glis-ten-ing, in the sun . . . Reality (!)/ -The stress on Glistening further sets up the sudden single word: "Reality" which I want to hit the reader like a tractor trailer slamming into a brick wall.

    Secondly, I disagree with your prescriptive definition of what makes a story. You seem to place a high emphasis on things like narrative, plot and character development (to me those devices are archaic), rather this story focuses on language and the effects language can produce while departing from the more traditional narrative elements that you mentioned.
    Last edited by Pyromanic; April 21st, 2017 at 02:05 AM.

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