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Working title: Greg Stillman (Lots of bad language) (1 Viewer)

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
This is a story I've been working on in my spare time whenever the mood strikes me. It's probably the most relaxed, laid-back of my writing projects because I just work on it when I want to, for as long as it's interesting to me at the moment... there's been little research so far and I'm not worried about the pacing, plot, etc... just writing this one for the sheer hell and fun of it.

This does have a fair amount of cursing and will feature some fairly inappropriate content as it progresses. And I fully concede that it is not the most mature piece of literature ever written. But I thought I'd share it anyway. Here are the first couple of chapters.



Chapter 1.

Outside Greg Stillman's new loft apartment, there was the languid sound of a stream of cars rushing by, all going to indeterminable places with unknowable goals, a steady, unbroken cacophony of mechanical noise ever-present in the bustle of New York City. From time to time, there was the occasional honking of a horn, or the screeching of tires, but for the most part the sound was constant and uninterrupted. Greg supposed that people who had lived in the city longer than he had grown used to it, and didn't hear it anymore, the way that he didn't hear the cicadas that sang all through the night in the woods of the suburbs from where he'd come. Besides the sounds of the automobiles, there was also a churning, methodical vibration from two floors down -- the base of the building, the all-night laundromat that held aloft the four stories of living quarters on top. Al-Harith's House of Suds, it was called, ran by an old Palestinian man, a devout Fatah supporter, who kept a large knitted quilt with Yasir Arafat's picture on it hanging behind the front desk and who was known to turn away "suspicious-looking" Jews from using his Huebschs and Maytags.

Greg, lying in bed with the light from the streetlamp outside shining in through the thin sheet-curtains of his window, raised himself up on one elbow and flipped his pillow around to access the cooler side underneath. He laid his head back down again and tried to force his eyes shut, but he knew slumber was going to be next to impossible tonight. There was too much on his mind, too many new prospects to consider, too many possible avenues down which to steer his life, to be able to do something as mundane as sleep.

After several more minutes of tossing and turning, he decided to get up, maybe have a Capri Sun. He sat upright, swiveled his bare feet onto the hardwood floor, and turned on the lamp on the bedside table. He stood up, wearing only his green pinstriped boxers and white t-shirt. On the bedside table was a thick-framed pair of rectangular-shaped glasses; Greg grabbed them and slipped them on. From across the room he caught a glimpse of himself in a large swiveling mirror that he had brought from home. His dark brown hair was unkempt and messy, and he had a faint layer of stubble on his chin and cheeks. He regarded himself for a moment, and then began to flex his upper arm muscles, doing his best to look sexy and desirable. But he was thin as a board and woefully untoned, as he'd always been. He would have to work on that, he supposed. Maybe take up weights or something.

Greg took a look around his new place. The strangeness, the unfamiliarity, would take a while to wear off, he supposed. He had lived in the same place — his bedroom in his parent's house — for most of his twenty years, and it was a strange sensation to be spending the night somewhere else. Sure, he had spent many nights over at Ardell's house, staying up until dawn playing Midnight Club II or Final Fantasy IX or whatever the current favorite game-of-the-week was; or sitting outside on the back porch in the setting sun discussing who would win in a no-holds-barred fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk, but this was different. Ardell had lived only three blocks away from Greg since they had been six and had met in first grade. Now Ardell, and Greg's own family, was nearly five hours' drive away in Warsburg.

The apartment was in a half-finished state of unpacking. There were large cardboard boxes that sat here and there, with their contents littering the floor in large, unordered piles. Stacks of books were lined up against the walls, on tabletops and chairs. A stack of blankets, brought along at the insistence of his mother, sat on the kitchen counter. Here and there were knick-knacks and memorabilia from Greg's life: his 3rd Grade USAMO Mathletes trophy; the clay bust of Nien Numb he'd made in his 5th Grade art class; his autographed picture with Michio Kaku taken when he was thirteen.

It was an old place, the apartment. Greg had done a little bit of research when he'd first moved in yesterday — his internet wasn't hooked up yet, and he'd had to take his laptop down to Splinko's, a coffee shop down the street — and had found out the building had been around since the early 1920's. Back then, the ground level had been a meat-packing plant, and the apartments on the above levels hadn't existed, but had instead been offices for law firms, tax offices, and even a private investigation service. Ownership of the building, called the Rutterson for a reason Greg hadn't been able to discern the cause of, had passed through many different hands over the years, until now it was owned by an elderly African-American gentleman named Mr. Christman, who lived in a corner apartment on the top floor. He had never met Mr. Christman in person; he had done all the lease-signing and other beaurocratic tasks through an assistant.

Making his way into the kitchen, which was little more than a corner of the place partitioned off by an L-shaped counter, Greg opened the refrigerator door. Light flooded the entire apartment, and out of the corner of his eye he caught the passing shadow of a car, blown-up and enormous against the wall. The contents of the refrigerator were sparse. There were a few pieces of a cake that his parents had brought by for their housewarming party earlier that day in the top shelf. In the middle was the remnants of a twelve-pack of Mr. Pibb, and a small bottle of jalapenos. In the bottom were several lonely condiments: a mostly-gone squeeze bottle of ketchup, some soy sauce and a tiny green vial of lemon juice. Toward the back of the shelf was a lone packet of Capri Sun.

Greg walked back into the living room, sipping the juice through the tiny plastic straw, and rummaged through a box of old DVDs and videos at the foot of the couch. He pulled out a VHS of Swordfish, shrugged, and put it into the DVD/VCR combo on top of the television. Of course his entertainment center had been one of the first things to be set up after he'd moved in, although the cable install guy wouldn't be here until tomorrow. Greg collapsed onto the couch and watched the previews of movies that had come out years before, all now old and obsolete, and sipped his juice pack. He thought about how his life was going to change from this point on. How different things were going to be, now that he was not living under his parents' roof anymore. Of course, he considered, suppressing an involuntary shudder, the responsibilities of being on his own were his now, as well, which was something he was going to have to get used to. But he was sure he could do it.

As far back as he could remember, Greg had always had a knack for math and science. He did well in his other subjects too: art, writing, music. But it was in numbers and scientific theorem that he found himself most inspired, and by second grade he had already advanced to a fifth-grade level in these classes. By middle school he had narrowed his interest down to biology out of all the sciences, and had begun competing at a statewide level in competitions. He kept up his grades in nearly everything, except for gym, which he couldn't seem to master despite himself, but he knew where his ambitions lay, even then.

His senior year in high school he had received the Scriptmann Academic Scholarship, which was an allotment handed out to promising students by his father's employer, Scriptmann Pharmaceutical Holdings, a drug conglomerate based in Warsburg. Greg didn't know how much of his receiving the scholarship had been based on his dad's employment with Scriptmann for the past fifteen years, but he was sure he had worked just as hard as anyone to get it. His father had warned Greg that Scriptmann would expect his "interest in the possibility of employment" with the conglomerate upon his graduation. Even in his excitement over having received a scholarship, Greg realized the implications of this. He was always conscious of the ever-present haggard look in his father's eyes from years of late nights at work at Scriptmann, of missed weekends and cancelled vacations when his father was called into the office.

"This place'll chew you up and spit you out," his father had told him wearily, on more than one occasion, when Greg was old enough to understand such things, "and then shit all over you."

Scriptmann was notorious in his hometown for monopolizing the lives of its employees, and then offering them a pittance when it was time to retire. But, Greg considered, if that was his future, it was a full four years away, maybe more if he decided to do a doctoral degree, pursue the academic route. Plenty of things could change between now and then. And it wasn't as if Scriptmann had any legal right to demand that he come work for them the day after he graduated. Maybe he could avoid Scriptmann completely somehow, who knew? Right now was a time for considering the possibilities life had to offer, not dwelling on some dismal future that may or may not ever come to pass.

Greg finished his Capri Sun, and absentmindedly blew back through the straw, inflating it again so that it looked so full it was about to pop. Now it's full again, he thought, and then sucked the air back out. It was a stupid little kid's game he'd played since time immemorial, like blowing onto a spoon and sticking it on your nose. He didn't know why he did it anymore, but there it was.

He felt a faint buzzing from somewhere, and after a few seconds realized it was his phone on top of a box of toiletries a few feet away. He got up and walked over to the box. The phone cast a feeble blue light over the walls as he picked it up. It was nearly 3:15. Only one person who would be trying to get ahold of him at this time of night.

Hey motherfucker, Ardell had texted. U already forget about us little people?

Greg slid the phone open and began typing.

Bitch, what the hell u doing, don't u know I got mad bitches up in here?

It only took a few seconds to get a reply.

Haha, u fuckin loser. Ur prolly sittin by urself jackin off.

U caught me, Greg said. Thinkin about u, tho. I was --

He was interrupted by another buzz, and he saw that Ardell was calling.

"Hello?" he said into the receiver.

"I wanted to see if you were up," Ardell said.

"Well, obviously I am."

"I'm horny, and I was thinking about you, too."

"You're always horny," Greg said. "You're twenty years old and you've never been laid. Never even had a hand job, unless you count yourself jerking off into a sock. Of course by now you're starting to wonder if it's just women that you suck at, if maybe you'd have more luck with dudes. What the fuck else is new?"

"Fuck you," Ardell said jovially. "You've never been laid either."

"Yeah, but all that's going to change. Remember, I got a fuckin' scholarship, I'm out here in fucking New York City —"

"Oh yeah, I forgot... bitches cream themselves for fucking biologists."

Greg laughed. "So what's up?" he asked.

"Nothin', man," Ardell said. "Just can't sleep."

"Me either. Don't have internet set up yet. Been sitting here for the past half-hour watching shitty VHS tapes."

"That sucks," Ardell said. "They just put the whole last half of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica on Hulu."

"Shit," Greg said, "Maybe I shouldn't have moved out here after all."

There was silence on the other end, for a good ten or twelve seconds.

Finally, Ardell said, "So when do you start classes?"

"Two days from now," Greg replied. "I'm really going to have to hit the ground running. Fucking Genetics and Gene Regulation on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Then Molecular Ecology on Saturday at seven-fucking-thirty. Scientific Computation on Tuesday-Thursday, and Vascular Plant Diversity online."

"Well, it's what you signed up for, isn't it?"

"What about you?" Greg asked. "What are your plans for this fall?"

"Oh, you know," Ardell replied. "The usual. The DemiGame Convention's coming up in September. I am so there... they're supposed to have a pre-release screening of the cutscenes from Bloodwater IV, and you can meet the lead programmer."

"Cool," Greg said. "You got any... you know... real plans? Like, school or anything?"

"Then in October is WizardWorld in Boston," Ardell went on. "I've been working on a fucking bad-ass Starscream costume. I'm hoping to win the grand prize in Decepticon-likeness. A thousand dollar gift certificate to F.Y.I. Music. They got DVDs and games and shit there, not just music. You gonna be able to make it?"

"I don't know. I'll probably be pretty busy."

"Can't you like, take time off from your classes, or something?"

"I don't know. I doubt it. I'll probably be pretty much in the middle of things, around October."

"Shit, dude. When are you supposed to have fun?"

"I don't know," Greg said. "I'm sure I'll work it in somehow. Hey, I'm gonna get off here — "

"I'll bet you are — "

" — but I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"When can I come up?"

"I don't know... I guess as soon as your mom can give you a ride."

"Tsk. A shame."

"What's a shame?"

"A malformed mom joke, man," Ardell said. "It never had a chance. Died as soon as it saw the light of day, because you said it and not me. If I had been the one to mention my mom giving me a ride, you could've said don't you mean as soon as your mom gives me a ride?"

Greg shook his head.

"Okay," he said. "Whatever. I'm gonna go."

He closed the phone and tossed it onto the couch. He walked over to the window, and pulled the sheet to one side, watching the scene down below: the furniture movers, the pawn shop and the gun store on the opposite side of the road, the steady stream of cars rushing past, even at this time of morning. His gaze followed a green Volvo that was driving slower than the other cars, and he watched as it meandered down the street. Down at the corner, near a drugstore with iron bars over the windows, he saw a Redbox.
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
Chapter 2.

A few minutes later, after throwing on a pair of tattered blue jeans and a pair of shoes, Greg made his way down the large, wooden staircase that led to the ground floor. There was an elevator, but a yellowed piece of notebook paper taped to the door read out of order, and it looked like it had been there for some time. He passed by a large pane of tiled glass on his left, and through it he could see the diffuse shapes of a couple of people mulling about in the laundromat, buying overpriced boxes of detergent or playing an ancient arcade version of Ms. Pac-Man.

The night was warm and muggy as he opened the large oak door and descended down the cobblestone steps to the sidewalk below. He was slightly startled by a cat on his right rummaging around in a trash can. Mangy and matted, it meowed warningly at him, although it sounded more like a baby than an animal. In the street in front of him a few burly motorcyclists drove past on their pimped-out hogs, the noise deafening compared to the relative silence of his apartment. Greg noticed they wore sunglasses even though it was nearly 3:38 in the morning.

It took nearly a minute before there was a break in the traffic long enough for him to make it across the street to the other side. He reflected how, back in Warsburg, if you were outside at this time of night, a car passing by once every ten minutes would be busy.

As he approached the Redbox, he saw with slight annoyance that there was someone already there, although they hadn't been there when he'd seen it through his apartment window. A large, burly man stood hunched over the screen, and as Greg approached he turned his head back over his shoulder and regarded Greg suspiciously. The man wore a long, brown trenchcoat and his hair was long and bushy. A long brown beard, peppered with grey, hung down over the mans chest. Strangely, he wore no shoes, only a pair of ratty, yellowed ankle-socks.

"Evening," Greg said, but the man didn't reply, instead turning back to the screen.

So the guy didn't feel like talking. Greg stood and idly looked across the street, and after a few seconds of searching found his apartment window, the second one from the right on the third floor. He counted the windows from the bottom to top: in all there were twenty-five including the two large ones in the front of Al-Harith's. A police car sped past with its lights on and sirens blaring, and for a second Greg's attention shifted to intense car chases and violent shoot-outs with criminals. The burly man paid no attention. Another minute passed, and Greg passed the time by trying to figure out his latitude and longitude based on the position of the few visible stars above. It proved nearly impossible, although he wasn't surprised; he recalled reading an article about how New York City was one of the worst cities in the world for light pollution. The burly man grunted and cycled through the list of movies visible on the touchscreen, although Greg could only catch glimpses of it, as the man stood close as though he were trying to conceal something. Several minutes went by, during which Greg opened his mouth to speak several times, but could never bring himself to say anything. After taking a look at his cell and seeing that it was getting close to a quarter of four in the morning, he decided to give up and turned around to leave.

"Did you do it?" the burly man asked, and Greg stopped.

For a moment, his mind grappled with the question. Had he done it? He turned around, and faced his questioner.

The man eyed him levelly, and Greg thought he could detect a trace of accusation in his gaze. The man's trenchcoat had drifted open, and Greg found himself particularly unsurprised when he saw that the man only wore a pair of red-and-white-striped swimming trunks underneath.

"I believe I asked you a question, young man," the burly man said, and Greg suddenly realized he'd been standing there staring wordlessly for the past fifteen or twenty seconds.

"Do what?" he asked, and his mouth was suddenly very dry, very much in need of a sip of water. The man chuckled, a little maliciously, Greg thought, and rolled his eyes.

"Did you take them?"

"Did I take what?" Greg asked.

"The diddle films, you nitwit. Did you take the fucking diddle films? All of them?"

"I don't know what the fuck you're..." Greg started to say, but then his mind seized on the meaning of the term. "Oh, shit, do you mean porno movies?"

The man registered complete earnestness, and nodded his head.

"The diddle films," he repeated.

Greg snickered despite himself.

"Dude," he said, "this is a Redbox. They don't carry 'diddle films' in the fucking Redbox.
The most hardcore thing you're liable to find in here is a hard-R. You want to watch some porn, go down the street and I'm sure you'll find an adult bookstore in like, five minutes. This is New York, right?"

The burly man looked upward and to his right, as though there were a noise that only he could hear from the upstairs of a nearby building. But his gaze was consternated, and he crossed his arms.

"You don't have to take them all, you know," he said, and whatever humor Greg had found in the situation dissipated immediately when he heard the combination of barely-constrained fury and desperation in the burly man's voice. "You could leave some for the rest of us, you selfish little shit."

"Hey, I better be heading back," Greg said, "but it's been... yeah. You take care, okay?"

The burly man took a step toward him, and Greg could see that the man's upper lip was trembling.

"Give me just one," he said, "all I need's just one. What can you possibly do, hoarding them all to yourself? It's already getting on four o'clock. You don't have much time left, unless you're gonna call into work and diddle yourself all day..."

"Hey! Whoa, who's diddling themselves?" Greg said, taking a step back. He was aware that the street was only a few feet away, but he was too nervous to cast even a quick glance back over his shoulder.

"I've done it myself, a few times," the man said in a confidential tone, still moving in short but definite steps toward Greg. "Just shut myself up in my room, closed the curtains, turned down the lights, and cut the phone cord. Diddled myself all through the day, from sunup to sundown. Didn't open the door for nobody, except for Mom when she'd bring me sandwiches."

"Dude, what the fuck?" Greg said, "I don't have any fucking diddle movies — "

"You little selfish prick!" the burly man screamed, and lunged for Greg.

Greg wheeled around and dashed out into the street. A Lexus screeched to a stop and laid on its horn, coming six inches from taking out his kneecaps with its front bumper, but it seemed strangely unimportant compared with the lumbering behemoth that was now in full pursuit. He heard more horns, angry, indignant, and he was almost struck again, this time by an H2. The window rolled down, the bass-heavy R&B turned down suddenly, and a skinny white kid leaned his head out the window and cursed Greg's mother. Greg finally reached the other side of the street and scrambled wildly toward his apartment building. If he could just make it in, he'd be safe, he thought. He clambered up the stairs, this time startling the stray cat which ran off hissing into the night. He reached the door, punched in his passcode, and pushed it open with all his strength, and began running up the wooden staircase that would lead him to his floor, to safety.

As he made his way up, he had time to think that the door really should've closed by now. He whirled around to find that the door was closing, but slowly. It appeared that the maintenance crew had chosen a particularly bad time to replace the hydraulic closing mechanism recently, and Greg watched in horror as the burly man roughly pushed it open. He gave a small, involuntary whimper as he turned and continued his ascent.

When he reached the third floor, he turned right and dashed down the hallway toward his apartment, 3F. He fumbled around in his pocket for the keys. It always happened like this, he had time to reflect. In horror movies, whenever the zombie or vampire was swiftly approaching, there was always a frenzied attempt to locate the right key, to get the car hotwired in time. He finally found the right one and unlocked the door. The air inside was startlingly cool against his sweat-soaked skin. He slammed the door shut, making sure to lock both the bolt lock as well as the padlock, and staggered back a few steps, exhausted, terrified. From outside, he could hear the padded thumping of the burly man's socked feet against the carpet, swiftly approaching.

Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door.

"Open the goddamn door!" the burly man screamed. "I know you got fucking diddle movies in there!"

"Leave me alone, you crazy fuck, or I'm calling the cops!" Greg had never before felt that his voice sounded so feminine, so desperate, as it surely did right now.

The banging continued.

Greg staggered toward the couch, and, not knowing what else to do, sat down. His phone lay where he had left it fifteen or so minutes before, although it felt like it had been much longer. He ran his hands through his hair, gripping it hard in stress and frustration. The banging grew in intensity. Greg leaned down, his head near his knees, and clutched the back of his head. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes.

Suddenly, he heard another voice from outside his apartment, and the banging abruptly ceased.

"What the fuck is going on out here?" the voice asked. It was a male voice, but with a slightly lilting, yet firm, tone. "It's after four in the morning. People are trying to sleep. Do you mind telling me what the hell you're out here doing — in a trenchcoat and a pair of swim trunks, no less — banging around, running down the hall?"

"You know what I think?" the burly man said. "I think you should just go back inside and mind your own goddamn business, that's what I think."

"Well, when you stand outside my apartment in the middle of the night screaming like a loon and pounding on people's doors, that kind of makes it my business, doesn't it?"

"Fuck you, you little — "

There was an audible click. Greg had seen enough Tarantino movies to know what that was.

"Now how about I tell you what I think?" the softer voice said. "I think you should turn around right the fuck now, and walk your flasher-looking ass right on out of here, and if I ever see your ugly bearded mug in here again, I'll tell you what, I'm gonna blow your fucking balls off, you understand me?"

There was silence for a moment, and then the padded thumping of the burly man's socks as he walked back down the hall.

Greg got up and went to the door. He disengaged both locks and slowly opened the door to reveal a slightly-built, black-haired man, probably in his early thirties, standing in front of the door to 3E, directly across the hall from Greg's own. He had a thin goatee and was wearing a tight-fitting t-shirt and jeans. He had tattoos — dragons, stylized fish — running up both his arms. In his left hand he held a Browning, and was emptying the magazine into his right. When he saw Greg he gave him a cheery grin.

"Oh hey," he said.

"Hey," Greg replied lamely.

"You know, these things bite like a bitch," the man said, holding up the gun.

"Um... thanks," Greg said.

"Thanks?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, thanks for possibly saving my life just now."

"Don't mention it."

"That was fucking awesome."

The man smiled, and the warmth in his expression was at odds with the gun in his hand. "Yeah, I guess it was kind of awesome, wasn't it?"

"Who are you?" Greg asked. "You are so fucking cool. I have to know who the fuck you are."

"Name's Eric," the man said. "Pleased to meet you."

"Eric," Greg repeated. "What a cool name. Eric. Did you have to practice being that bad-ass, or were you born like that?"

Eric laughed, a friendly, genuine sound. "You get the oddest characters coming up here sometimes," he said. "This is really a pretty nice neighborhood, but sometimes one of the homeless people wander up from under the Gahon Street overpass. Usually they're harmless, but you do get the occasional loon, like that guy tonight. Why was he after you, anyway?"

"I don't know," Greg said, not feeling compelled to go into further explanation.

"You usually up at..." Eric checked his watch. "...4:00 in the morning?"

"No. I couldn't sleep. I was actually trying to get a movie from the Redbox before... you know."

"Well, me and my buddy got a movie on. It just started. You're welcome to swing by and have a beer or something... by the way, I didn't catch your name."

"Greg. Greg Stillman."

"You in?"
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
Chapter 3

Inside 3E it was dark. The television was on, and bathed the room in a flashing blue glow, but the volume was barely audible. The apartment was much better furnished than Greg's, with a large leather sectional dividing the living room in two. On the sectional sat another man, who looked to be about the same age as Eric, but this man was bald and skinny, and had earrings and a labret. He wore a white tank top and a pair of cargo shorts. He gave Greg a cursory nod as he came in.

"Matthew," Eric said, shutting the door, "this is Greg."

"You seen this movie before?" Matthew asked. "This part is awesome... it's where Mark Preston — William Shatner's character — gets his mind wiped with the water of forgetfulness and meets the devil. Probably the best part of the whole movie, except the end where everybody fucking melts."

"We've got some beer in the fridge," Eric said, and he walked over to the couch and sat down next to Matthew. "You're welcome to it. I think we've got a couple of Dos Equis left, and a bunch of other shit. Take whatever you want."

"Thanks, but I'm okay," Greg said. He walked over to a large grey recliner adjacent to the sectional and had a seat. On the screen, an impishly evil-looking Ernest Borgnine was performing some sort of twisted religious ceremony on what Greg took to be Captain Kirk.

"So Greg," Matthew said, "you're our new neighbor, then? I saw you and some other people yesterday hauling boxes up here."

"Yeah," Greg replied, "my parents helped me move some of my stuff in."

"What brings you to our neck of the woods?" Eric asked.

"I'm going to school up here," Greg said. "Starting to NYU in a few days."

"Oh really? Eric here went to NYU," Matthew said.

"Cool. What'd you go for?" Greg asked, turning his attention to Eric.

"Law," Eric replied, and laughed. "When I was a kid, I had this vague notion that I wanted to help people when I grew up... by the time I got to high school, I'd decided I wanted to be the champion for people that couldn't help themselves. So I planned to become a defense attorney. Well. You know how that is. One thing led to another... ambitions were tempered; lofty goals were compromised... and now here I am seven years later and I'm a divorce lawyer."

Matthew snickered.

"Basically he goes to work and spends his days helping fat-cat corporate businessmen keep their shit after their wives find out they've been nailing the new receptionist," he said.

Eric said to Greg, "What about you? What're you going for?"

"Biology," Greg replied.

"Interesting," said Eric. "What are you going to do with that?"

"You going to discover the meaning of life?" Matthew interjected. “Because it’s 42, you know.”

"I’m not sure," Greg said. "I’ve got a couple of different options at this point. I’ve thought about being a genetics researcher… you know, academia, publishing papers, convention appearances. Maybe getting a book deal or two. Or I could get a job in industry. Horticulture, environmentalism. For a lot of people, jobs like that are the more likely possibility."

"Sounds like you’ve got it all thought out, " Eric said.

"Not really, " Greg replied. "I figure I’ve got a little bit of time to narrow it down. I just don’t want to end up working at Scriptmann."

"That’s impressive, Greg, " Eric said, and he got up and walked toward the refrigerator still talking as he went. "I hope you stick with that. I don’t know what Scriptmann is, but I hope you maintain your dream and don’t end up having to work there." He opened the door and pulled out a Dos Equis.

"Shut the fuck up, you whiny bitch," Matthew said. "So you’re a divorce lawyer. Big fucking deal. Boo-fucking-hoo. There’s worse jobs out there. You could be shoveling shit or something."

"Yeah, I guess I could," Eric said, walking over toward Greg. "Although that sounds like a pretty good assessment of what I actually do anyway. " And then, handing the beer to Greg: "Here."

Greg took it wordlessly, and twisted the cap off. He’d never actually tasted alcohol before, and was in truth a little bit nervous. But he took a sip anyway, grimacing. He set the bottle down on a coaster atop an octagonal-shaped end table next to the recliner. On screen, Ernest Borgnine’s character had turned into some sort of maniacal-looking goat-human hybrid.

"This part has to be my favorite," Eric said, gesturing a beer bottle toward the screen. "That fucking goat-guy will haunt my dreams until the day I die."

"So, you guy’s roommates, or what?" Greg asked.

"Well, legally I’m the sole occupant of 3E," Eric said, "but Matthew is over here pretty much every night."

"Eric’s just lollygagging," Matthew said, "what he really means to say is he’s my bitch and I came up in here and took this place over from him because that’s how I roll."

Eric, taking a sip of beer, chortled.

"That is so fucking backwards!" he said. "If anybody here’s anybody’s bitch, you’re mine."

"So you guys are…" Greg started.

"Never would think it, would you?" Matthew said.

"Well, I wouldn’t think you were, but now that you mention it I can buy that Eric’s…you know," Greg said. He laughed nervously and took another small sip of beer. "So, how’d you guys meet?"

"Me and my wife – well, my ex-wife, now – ran a video store," Matthew said. "And Eric here used to come in all the time and want to rent the most obscure, fucked-up old horror movies you can imagine. We didn’t keep too many of them in stock, but I’ve always loved shit like that – Romero, Fuest, Milligan – and I had a bunch of videos at home, so I asked him over to dinner with me and Maggie. Well, she went to bed and we stayed up late, hit it off pretty well if you know what I mean."

"Shit," Greg said. "What did your wife think?"

"Well, she didn’t find out for the first six months or so," Matthew said. "But I had to tell her eventually. She was pretty cool about it, considering, but she told me I had shitty timing on account of Audrey, our two-year-old daughter."

"Wow," Greg said.

"Yeah. I have partial custody of Audrey – she’s seven, now – and see her on the weekends. But it’s pretty heavy shit."

Greg took a look out the sliding glass door that led out onto the balcony, at the backdrop of buildings lit up against the dark. He took a third sip of his Dos Equis, and this time he drank longer. He was starting to get a slightly dizzy, yet not wholly unpleasant, sensation in his head.

"You’re a young guy, Greg," Eric said at length. "You like to party?"

"Party?" Greg asked. "No. I mean, yeah… I guess. But I’ve never really been to one, except for this one time back in sixth grade when Sandy Abelson had a boy-girl party and everyone played spin-the-bottle."

Eric and Matthew exchanged a look and snickered, not unkindly, but Greg didn’t notice.

"Well," Eric said, "we’re having a get together here on Saturday night, if you want to come."

"Is it going to be a bunch of gay guys?" Greg asked. It came out before he knew he’d even said it. "If so, no offense, but I don’t want to come. Not that I have anything against… you know…." He knew, on some level deep down, that the alcohol was affecting him, because he couldn’t imagine saying anything like this normally.

"No, none taken," Eric said, smiling bemusedly. "And no, it won’t be all gay guys. We do associate with other people, believe it or not. There’s always plenty of chicks at our shindigs. What do you say?"

"Sure," Greg replied, and he found himself wishing that the party were tonight. He felt like meeting new faces, talking to people he’d never encountered before. He glanced up at the wall clock across the room and discovered it was now five minutes to five.

"Fair warning," Matthew said, "things get pretty wild. We’ve had the cops called on us before."

"And there was that one girl, that one time, who overdosed in the bathroom and had to go to the hospital and have her stomach pumped, remember that?" Eric asked, turning to Matthew.

"Yeah, I remember that," Matthew said. "We don't always have to bring that up, you know."

Eric leaned back and Matthew leaned his head against Eric’s shoulder.

"We have the best parties, don’t we?" he asked.

Greg shifted, a bit nervously, and took two last sips of his drink. It was less than half gone, but he was already starting to feel quite beside himself.

"Well, I’d better be getting back," he said, and stood up. It took him a moment to steady himself, after which he began walking slowly toward the door. One foot in front of the other, he had to keep reminding himself, and it struck him as extremely odd that he was having to consciously remember how to walk, something he’d been doing since he was eight months old.

In the hallway, although it was only five feet across from 3E to his own, place, he peered down the empty corridor nervously, afraid that the burly man would be waiting in some dark corner. At the end of the hall, he saw the first dim light of early dawn shining in through the large arched window.
 
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garnerdavis

Senior Member
On the plus side, I like the way your words flow (although, personally, I'd use more contractions). On the somewhat less plus side, this being the humor forum, I expected a punchline, and I didn't see one. I normally like cursing as much as the next guy (if not more), but if this is intended as a humor piece, I'd like to see the cursing go somewhere, rather than exist for its own sake, as it seems to. Maybe I'm not expressing myself clearly. As I said, to me humor equals punchline; this chapter contained a lot of minutia, without an apparent punchline. If it's not supposed to be comedy, then my comments don't apply; it's not my cup of tea, but that's a mere personal preference. If it's intended as comedy, it didn't work -- for me.
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
I'm beginning to think I put this story in the wrong area... it's supposed to be "quirky" or funny, but I guess it doesn't fit too well into the "humor" genre (i.e. where the jokes have punchlines.)
 

jburden

Senior Member
VS,

As per your other story of yours that I read, I think that you do a good job in establishing a believable and sympathetic protagonist. There were points, like in the scene where he's mucking about with the Swordfish DVD, where I felt you were cramming too much background details about the character into the introductory section. I think this is something that most of us are guilty on a regular basis. You want to establish the character (and you do have good details about his life), but in the rush to do so, you let the narrative pace get a little too slow. I think it would be a good idea to go through that first section and go over every paragraph and ask yourself, "How important is it that we get this detail at this time?"

The bit about the old man and the diddle movies is good, a really nice detail, and I think you pace the scene well. I did think that the dialogue from the neighbor as he warned off the bum with a gun was a bit stiff. It's a scene in which a man with a gun is warning off a psycho homeless man who's ranting and raving in his hallway at 3 AM in NYC. How much more articulate and descriptive is such a conversation going to be outside of "What the fuck is going on out here?/ "Fuck you, you little — " (click of the gun)
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
Thanks for reading, garnerdavis and jburden.

jburden, I agree I do have a problem with pacing the info-dropping for the characters. It is definitely something I will have to work on. All the work I've posted so far has been the first draft of these stories, so I will have my work cut out for me in editing, second drafting, etc.
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
Chapter 4.

"So they're gay?" Ardell asked.

"Well, yeah, but they're not like, lecherous gay or anything."

"So they didn't come onto you? Start to fall and make a grab at your junk or anything?"

"Don't be an idiot," Greg said. "Who does that sort of shit, anyway?"

"You'd be surprised," Ardell replied. "What are you doing?"

"There's a comic book store down the street from my apartment," Greg said. "Called Wai-Bek's. It's pretty cool. I found the first Secret Wars for seven bucks."

"When can I come up?"

Greg walked slowly down the cramped aisle, looking at his left at the rows of trade paperbacks and monthly titles. From up in the front of the store, a stern-looking Vietnamese man watched him suspiciously from behind a glass counter filled with comic-book cards.

"I don't know," he told Ardell. "I've got class on Monday."

"Well, what about tonight?"

"I've got to go into work at noon. I don't know when I'll be getting off."

"Oh yeah. Where is it you're working again?"

"Beauty Time Bridal."

"Fucking gay, man. What does that say about your masculinity? What happens when you meet a girl and you tell her you work at a bridal shop? What the hell are you gonna be doing there, anyway? Sewing dresses?"

"They need a receptionist," Greg said. "They've recently expanded their market, and the owners don't have time to do all the paperwork anymore. I'll be filing and ordering, stuff like that. And it's only temporary, until I can get something better."

"Well what about tomorrow night, then?"

Greg stared out the window of the comic book store, where it was beginning to drizzle.

"Actually, I kind of have something planned for tomorrow."

"What?"

"Well, Eric and Matthew are having a party, and they invited me."

"No shit! You're serious? You said they were gay, right?"

"It's not that kind of party, dipshit," Greg said. "They said there'd be girls there, too."

"Yeah, that's what they say," Ardell said with a snicker. Then, in an exaggerated falsetto tone: "Oh, Greg! Come over to our place! We're having a party and you are SO invited! Don't worry... there's going to be plenty of girls there, plenty of girls with VAGINAS. Then they you get there, and you find out there's no girls. They lock the door and from that point on it's just you and them and ass-less chaps and riding crops, and all the while Depeche Mode is playing. You just wait. Come Sunday morning and you're gonna be calling me up telling me how bad your ass hurts from getting pounded so hard the night before."

Greg had to laugh, despite himself.

"I gotta go, man," he said. "I start my shift in about twenty minutes and I gotta pay for these comics. But I miss you. Maybe you can come up Sunday."

"I'll try, but I gotta tell you man, I got a lot going on. I'll check my book, but no guarantees. All these hoes, man, they keep me busy sometimes.”

"All right. I hope you can work me in."

They hung up. Greg continued browsing, looking over the racks of comics and sifting through the boxes stored underneath, for another ten minutes or so before taking his small stack up to the front desk and turning over his seven dollars to the surly-looking cashier. When he had gotten his receipt, he walked out of the store and onto the busy sidewalk that ran alongside the building. He had a car that he parked across the street from the Rutterson in a commercial lot, a brown '95 Acura Integra, but nearly everything he could need besides school was within only a few blocks walking distance, and he knew he would save money by not driving unless he had to. He received monthly parking validation from Mr. Christman, so he saved cash in that regard, as well. Besides, he didn't mind walking. He'd walked regularly back in Warsburg, to and from school and down to Ardell's house. The rain was still light. He went three blocks east until he saw a white acrylic sign jutting out from the side of a nondescript-looking tan brick building that read: Beauty Time Bridal. He stopped for a moment to take out his wallet and make sure his driver's license was inside. They'd told him to bring his identification for their records.

The store had a large display window, behind which rested several ancient-looking mannequins, all different sizes and shapes and dressed up in various wedding gowns and veils. Large, hand-lettered signs read pear-shaped white chiffon: $650 and large-busted lace: $800. Sitting amongst the feet or bases of the mannequins were make-up kits and several different pairs of high-heeled shoes.

Greg groaned, and pushed open the large wooden door that led into the shop.

"You're early," a large black woman said from behind the counter. She looked to be perhaps in her mid-to late-thirties, and was enormous, with a prodigious chest that easily dwarfed any other Greg had ever seen. She looked to have a look of extreme consternation across her face, which didn't do much to make Greg feel welcome.

"Are you Charconta?" he asked. He had never actually met her, only talked to one of her sisters named Faté on the phone when he inquired about the job. He had been willing to come in for an interview, but Faté had simply ended the conversation by requesting that he come in for a morning shift on Friday.

"Yeah," Charconta said, and she pounded a sheet of paper with a large ink stamp. "You must be Greg. Come on in here and let me show you what you gonna be doing."

Greg walked in and joined her at the counter.

"These here are invoices," she said. "These are bills that are sent to us from companies that we buy from. Material, supplies, stuff like that. You gonna have to be the one to pay these, and when you do you stamp 'em with this here stamp. Ain't much to it."

"Sounds easy enough," Greg said.

Charconta gave him a severe expression.

"You might think so, but you let these things pile up on you and the whole place go under. Before you know it, the lawyers are coming to repossess the building."

Greg said nothing. Charconta motioned to a three-tiered filing tray on her right.

"Once you stamp one of these 'paid,' you put it in the middle drawer until the money gets withdrawn from the account. Then, once you see that happen, you file it. Now, the order of the trays is important. You don't put it in the top tray -- that's for late payments. You don't put it in the bottom tray -- that's for outgoing mail. It's gotta be the middle tray, you understand?"

"Middle tray," Greg said. "Got it."

"You'll be answering the phones," Charconta continued. "That's your main job. Now, there's one thing you need to understand. We're a bridal shop, and if there's one thing that a man -- especially a boy like yourself -- probably don't know a damn thing about, it's how important a wedding day is to a woman. Everything got to be perfect. The food, the decorations, scheduling, the clothes. Especially the clothes. That's where we come in. What that means is that when they come in here, the bride-to-be is gonna be stressed, off-her-mark. Same woman that you pass any other day on the street that might give you a friendly little smile on her way to the supermarket, when she come in here she's liable to strangle you through the damn phone if you even seem like you got something wrong."

Greg laughed, but Charconta only glowered at him as though he'd farted at a funeral.

"What I'm trying to say is, you better be prepared to deal with some bitches," she said.

Greg forced his smile away -- it wasn't that difficult, with Charconta's disapproving expression -- and said "got it."

"You'll be greeting customers, but you won't have much to do with them besides just ringing up their orders. Keisha, Faté and I will handle the fittings and measurements and everything."

Greg was succinctly relieved about that.

Charconta looked up in the air, trying to recall something.

"Let me see," she said. "There's a couple other things... getting lunch; taking packages to the FedEx down the corner; watering the plants; and sweeping up at the end of your shift. Nothing too difficult. You got any questions?"

Greg had intended to inquire about his hourly rate, which hadn't been mentioned over the phone, but he had to admit he was a little bit intimidated by his new boss. It didn't seem the most prurient time to bring it up.

"No," he said. "I think I got it."

"Good," Charconta said. "Now you watch the desk for a few minutes. Haven't had me my morning constitutional yet."

And with that, Charconta headed off toward the back.

Greg looked around his new workstation. It was an old, scratched-up oak desk, with a sheet of glass on top. Sealed below the glass was a seemingly random assortment of items: a two dollar bill; an old postcard from Las Vegas with Elvis' photo on the front; and a lock of someone's hair were among the things he noticed. On top of the desk was a banker's lamp, brown with ornate gold trim around the head and base. It was on, but the light that it provided was dim and concentrated to one small area of the desk. To his right was a white phone, and it struck Greg as odd that it was a rotary, a variety he was only indirectly familiar with from seeing it in old movies. A cash register sat caddy-cornered to his left, and beside it there was a cup of promotional pens that bore the name of the establishment.

Suddenly, the phone rang. Greg was amused by how it was a mechanical ring, rather than an electronically-produced tone.

"Let it ring at least two times," Charconta called from the back, presumably the bathroom. "But no more than four!"

Greg picked the phone up.

"Hello?" he said.

"What the hell are you doing?" Charconta yelled. "This ain't your house!"

"Beauty Time Bridal," Greg corrected himself. "This is Greg speaking, can I help you?"

"Greg?" came a contemptuous voice from the other end. "Who the hell is Greg?"

"Um, I'm the new receptionist," Greg said. "How can I help you today?"

"Oh, oh, that's right. You that boy I talked to on the phone a few days ago. How you doin', Greg?"

"Faté?" he asked uncertainly.

"That's me!" Faté said, and now her voice was almost manically cheerful. "So how you likin' Beauty Time?"

"Well, I just got here a few minutes ago," Greg said.

"Where's Charconta?"

"She's... uh, taking her morning constitutional."

Faté laughed shrilly, and Greg had to hold the phone away from his ear.

"She takin' a shit!" Faté shrieked. "Don't listen to her when she talk about 'morning constitutional...' She been doin' the same thing ever since we was kids. She try to make it sound all prim and proper... my constitutional... but we all know what going on in there. Listen, Greg, I'm gonna give you a word of advice: give it fifteen minutes before you go in there after she get out. You hear me?"

Greg snickered.

"Yeah, I got you," he said.

"She as regular as the damn post office," Faté went on.

"Did you need her to call you back?"

"Yeah, just have her call me when she finished."

"Will do."

"All right, Greg. I'll catch you later. I'll be into the shop at about twelve or twelve-thirty... I'm layin' here with Charleston -- that my boo -- and he about to give it to me, so I might not be as prompt as usual."

Greg heard a deep, guttural laugh, obviously that of a male, in the room with Faté.

"Shit girl, you might make it in 'round dinner, if you lucky," the voice said, to which Faté gave another peal of screeching laughter.

"You hear how bad my man is, Greg?" Faté said. "Listen, I'm gonna be hungry when I get there, so I'm gonna give you my lunch order right now... you got a pen? I want a calzone from Lucero's, that little Italian place down on fifty-ninth. You make sure you tell Lucero that I want the provolone this time, not ricotta. Extra onion, just a little bit of mushrooms and ham, not salami."

Greg grabbed a pen from the cup next to the cash register and searched around through the contents of the desk to find a piece of scrap paper. He found nothing, so began writing the order down on his hand.

"Ricotta, extra onion, mushrooms, and ham, not salami, got it," he said.

"Greg, I just told you -- no ricotta, provolone!"

"Oh. Sorry. Got it."

"You wanna read that back to me?"

"Don't fuck up my woman's order, Greg!" Charleston said loudly from the background, but he laughed his deep, guttural laugh and Greg decided he was joking. At least, he hoped he was joking.

Greg read the list back and it was correct this time.

"Well, I better get back to work," he said. "Um... have fun?"

Faté laughed, more softly this time, and he heard a smooching sound. He imagined Charleston kissing her neck, but he had no way of knowing.

"I will, Greg," she said. "Talk to you later!"

Greg heard a door open from in the back, and the hiss of an aerosol spray can being nearly emptied. There was the sound of high-heels clacking against the hardwood floor, and Charconta came and stood next to him.

"Who was that?" she asked.

"That was Faté," he replied. "She called to say she was going to be a little bit late. Probably around twelve, twelve-thirty."

Charconta's eyes narrowed.

"I bet she about to get her some," she said. "She just broke it off with Nay not two weeks ago, and already she gettin' it from some new dick."

Greg remained silent.

"I think it's the youngest in every family, always give the most trouble," she went on. "All I gotta say is it's a good thing daddy's dead, or he'd have a heart attack if he got word of her gettin' it from some new stud every other week. I gotta go get some work done. It usually stay pretty quiet until a little after lunchtime, but holler if you need anything."

And with that she left Greg alone.

The rest of the morning passed pretty uneventfully. There were only a few phone calls, and these he directed to Charconta as they pertained to questions about dresses that he didn't know the answer to. An elderly woman and her broad-faced, plump daughter came in at about nine thirty to look for the daughter a strapless wedding gown, and Charconta sold them a dress and enticed them to come back to the shop to get the daughter's hair done the morning of the wedding.

"Do we do grooms also?" Greg asked at around ten thirty, holding his hand to cover the receiver from a questioning caller, and Charconta rolled her eyes and confirmed that they did not in fact do grooms, and admonished him for asking a stupid question. Just give him a shave and dress a man up like a penguin and he was ready to go, Charconta told him. Brides were a different story. Weddings belonged to the brides, and there were a million different possibilities to make her dreams come true on her special day.

Greg went out at to pick up lunches about eleven forty-five. Annoyingly, Charconta phoned in some fettuccini alfredo at the Olive Garden, which meant that he'd have to go to two different places. Since he hadn't brought his car, Charconta provided him with an old, rusty brown bicycle that she kept in the water heater closet. It was still cloudy outside, but it wasn't raining. Greg rode down the busy sidewalk nearly twelve blocks to Lucero's, picked up Faté's calzone, and then another three to the Olive Garden. As it turned out, he had looked at the address for the wrong Olive Garden, and the hostess told him that the location he was looking for was actually in the opposite direction from Beauty Time. About halfway back, he encountered a detour to the left -- some construction workers had torn a huge hole in the sidewalk on this side of the street -- and he was forced to re-route around a block he hadn't initially passed. He ended up coming back around to a street he didn't recognize, and it took him ten minutes to find his way back on track. By the time he got back to the shop, it was ten 'til one.

Charconta, Faté, and another sister -- Greg figured this one must be Keisha -- sat at a table on the left when he walked through the door, out-of-breath and exhausted.

"Where in the hell have you been?" Charconta asked, with genuine contempt in her voice.

The calzone had ricotta, the fettuccini alfredo was cold, and Keisha was annoyed because she had tried to call Greg while he was out on his cell phone to ask him to stop by the Long John Silver's up on Bernett Street but apparently his handwriting on the application had been sloppy, and she'd read a one as a seven.
 

lookay33

Member
I like that you make dialogue a priority; it can make a story much more readable. Just make sure that your dialogue is always accomplishing something. It should further the plot, or develop characters. There were some parts that I thought seemed a little like idle chit-chat. Other than that, I think you do accomplish your goal of something that is "quirky" or "funny".
 

ScientistAsHero

Senior Member
Thanks to all who have taken the time to read it. (And thank you to the Ardells for their encouragement in my choice of character names..;)) I agree, there is a lot of dialogue right now. Some of that will probably come out in future editing. I'm glad to hear some people enjoyed the read.
 
:)

Your welcome!!! I needed this read.I am working on a story and needed to see dialog.i wasnt sure if too much is enough or heck i could use as much as i wanted to eh?I am working on a sad but true story.and i actually had to dig deep into this sorta undercover research I did for the real emotions people feel.so I too can feel those emotions.and it was hard.:)
 
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