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Thread: A Man, A Bottle, A Gun, and A Reason

  1. #1
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    A Man, A Bottle, A Gun, and A Reason

    The following is an excerpt from a short story I am working on. Any and all critique is much appreciated. I hope you enjoy.





    A Man, A Bottle, A Gun, and A Reason

    The blue pleather seats stuck to the back of Mike’s arms as he leaned over the grab the half full bottle of Fireball on the passenger side floor. The air conditioning in the 2001 La Sabre he had bought off a neighbor three years ago had gone out, and it was “fucking hot” hot by his own description.
    “Jesus Christ” he said under his breath right before taking a deep swig of the whiskey.
    A five day stubble had developed on Mike’s chin and itched like hell. He saw no need to worry personal about hygiene anymore. No job, no family, no women to impress meant no fucks given.

    “Is this shit even true?” where the words that kept on sticking in the forefront of his mind. He had no idea if this guy existed much that he was the guy. Tony Scarfino. He will be at 4027 Cove Lane in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, May 18th, 2017 at 10:30am. Those where the only words of Justice4JoeyB@gmail.com. It came a lone email he had found in his Mom’s old account four days ago, almost two years to the day after emphazema had killed her.

    Mike must have replied a dozen times to the email but all he ever got back where the annoying “do not reply”, email failure messages. Regardless, that and short meeting with HR coupled with a much longer meeting in the living room with his wife in front of the kids and he was off on the two day trip from St. Louis. The drive was much easier than he thought, so long as you don’t mind fast food and sleeping in your car. Mike didn’t seem to mind about much of anything these days.

    4027 Cove Lane is the Municipal County Court of Riverveiw Neighbors, a goddamn spitting image of every white suburbanite Americans wet dream. Rolling green hills with well-manicured streets, fresh cut grass, people outside walking their dogs and even the cliché “white picket fences” every other street. It was the place he always wanted to buy for Beth, but couldn’t.
    A bead of sweat dipped into his eyes with a salty sting. Mike rubbed it away with his fingers. His phone said 10:08.

    He didn’t know if this was going to be the guy he was looking for, Tony Scarfino. The last known picture of him was taken at the day of his sentencing in Ohio, an 11 year old killer.
    His phone chimed with a text message.

    Beth: Where are you? The boys are going to be late for school.
    Mike took another swig of whiskey before he replied.
    Mike: You’re going to have to take the boys today.

    The phone chimed back almost immediately.
    Beth: What? Where are u?
    Mike: You know where I’m at.
    He sat in silence for a few moments, knowing the reply was coming.
    Beth: What? Mike, it’s not him…
    Beth: What are you doing?

    Mike hit “ignore conversation” on the phone and set it down. Then he reached into the center console and pulled out the sterling new Mark XIX Desert Eagle along with the 7 round clip he had purchased a few hours prior.

    The truth was, Mike didn’t know what he was going to do if he found the man that ruined his life. He loaded the clip into place and cocked one round in the chamber.
    But he did have a few ideas.

  2. #2
    The blue pleather seats stuck to the back of Mike’s arms as he leaned over the grab the half full bottle of Fireball on the passenger side floor.

    I take it ‘pleather’ is an abbreviation of ‘plastic leather, not come across that before, but this is a great first sentence, I have where and who and the scene is set.

    The air conditioning in the 2001 La Sabre he had bought off a neighbor three years ago had gone out, and it was “fucking hot” hot by his own description.

    There is something I call ‘Putting together the things that go together.’, look:-
    ‘The air conditioning in the 2001 La Sabre had gone out,’ to me those are the two that go together, the bit about the neighbour is stuck in the middle, and it flows better if you re-phrase to separate it. In this case it is not making a huge difference tbh, but it is something worth watching out for, sometimes it can really obscure the meaning.
    There are also a couple of extra words in there, compare ‘He had bought off...’ to ‘He bought off ...’ those little words ‘had’ and ‘that’ tend to creep in, I think it is a hangover from speech where we use them to give ourselves a fraction more thinking time. Also ‘hot’ is repeated after the inverted commas.

    “Jesus Christ” he said under his breath right before taking a deep swig of the whiskey.
    A five day stubble had developed on Mike’s chin and itched like hell. He saw no need to worry personal about hygiene anymore. No job, no family, no women to impress meant no fucks given.

    ‘personal about’, about personal, I think. Sentences become stronger if you take out the qualifications,
    ‘No job, no family, no women to impress meant no fucks given.’
    ‘No job, no family, no women to impress, no fucks given.’



    “Is this shit even true?” where the words that kept on sticking in the forefront of his mind. He had no idea if this guy existed much
    (less?)
    that he was the guy. Tony Scarfino. He will be at 4027 Cove Lane in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, May 18th, 2017 at 10:30am. Those where the only words of Justice4JoeyB@gmail.com. It came
    (as?)
    a lone email he had found in his Mom’s old account four days ago, almost two years to the day after emphazema had killed her.


    Mike must have replied a dozen times to the email but all he ever got back where
    Were/where
    the annoying “do not reply”, email failure messages. Regardless, that and short meeting with HR coupled with a much longer meeting in the living room with his wife in front of the kids and he was off on the two day trip from St. Louis. The drive was much easier than he thought, so long as you don’t mind fast food and sleeping in your car. Mike didn’t seem to mind about much of anything these days.
    What I said earlier about stronger sentences.
    ‘Mike didn’t seem to mind about much of anything these days.’
    ‘Mike didn’t mind about much of anything these days.’


    4027 Cove Lane is the Municipal County Court of Riverveiw Neighbors, a goddamn spitting image of every white suburbanite Americans wet dream. Rolling green hills with well-manicured streets, fresh cut grass, people outside walking their dogs and even the cliché “white picket fences” every other street. It was the place he always wanted to buy for Beth, but couldn’t.
    A bead of sweat dipped into his eyes with a salty sting. Mike rubbed it away with his fingers. His phone said 10:08.


    The streets were manicured? Surely it was the grass? ‘Streets on rolling green hills of well-manicured, fresh cut, grass,’ maybe?

    He didn’t know if this was going to be the guy he was looking for, Tony Scarfino. The last known picture of him was taken at the day of his sentencing in Ohio, an 11 year old killer.
    His phone chimed with a text message.

    Beth: Where are you? The boys are going to be late for school.
    Mike took another swig of whiskey before he replied.
    Mike: You’re going to have to take the boys today.

    The phone chimed back almost immediately.
    Beth: What? Where are u?
    Mike: You know where I’m at.
    He sat in silence for a few moments, knowing the reply was coming.
    Beth: What? Mike, it’s not him…
    Beth: What are you doing?

    Wait a min. You said ‘No women to impress’, he may not be impressing her much, but it is a bit of a contradiction, make it he didn’t care about impressing her? You could do with some inverted commas round the conversation parts.

    Mike hit “ignore conversation” on the phone and set it down. Then he reached into the center console and pulled out the sterling new Mark XIX Desert Eagle along with the 7 round clip he had purchased a few hours prior.

    The truth was, Mike didn’t know what he was going to do if he found the man that ruined his life. He loaded the clip into place and cocked one round in the chamber.
    But he did have a few ideas.
    Those things about stronger sentences and little words creeping in?
    ‘But he did have a few ideas.’
    ‘He had a few ideas.’

    I hope this helps, it is looking like a strong story, Olly.
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  3. #3
    Agree with the above poster: I think Olly gave some great feedback already. I think your first sentence is strong, but it's true that some of the other sentences could use a bit of trimming, just to make them a bit stronger. One thing I did not like, from a formatting perspective, was how you organized the conversation at the end with sentence centered right and left. At first, I thought I missed the "Beth" part on the right. It looks like a gimmick, it's difficult to read and it's unnecessary. If you would publish the short story, they would very likely reformat it. One question: I would suggest adding " " quotation marks in the conversation, even if you list the speaker (Beth: "What". Mike: "You know etc.")

    All in all, very intriguing!

  4. #4
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    Yea, that's a text exchange and I thought I was being creative with the formatting. Maybe a little too creative...

  5. #5
    I see what you did there, and now, a day later, I'm looking at it again. I'm sorry, but I haven't changed my mind. Depicting text messages on the silver screen is a proposition many filmmakers have struggled with, but on paper, I don't think it's an issue. I'm coming from a more traditional background, but things like the formatting or for instance having different font sizes in a sentence (in a book) make me shudder a bit; I think it unnecessarily detracts from the reading experience. Just my opinion, though.

  6. #6
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    Keep to triplets - A man, a bottle and a gun. The reader will know there's a reason.
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

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