anxiety, beauty, character, creative writing, dark places, desire, emotion, fiction, flash fiction, hunger, life, love, lust, masculinity, nature, passion, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, writing

The Bridge At Otter Creek

Justin was barking into his phone as he took the corner at speed, and when he caught a glimpse of his face in the rear view mirror, he was shocked at how angry he looked. He had spent the entire drive back from the city seething at how badly the deal had gone. Right now, he was on the phone to Tia, who had sworn blind that the deal was good.

‘You wasted my motherfucking time, Tia. How am I supposed to make my nut when you’re sending me out to mom and pop operations?’

Justin looked up, the bridge at Otter Creek ahead meant that he could get back into town before dusk. Already thinking about hitting up Kev, a gram and a couple of shots of Maker’s would salve his wounded pride. He swallowed, feeling a seam of hard steel at the back of his throat, burning with thwarted pride.

‘Justin, you’re going into this thinking that every lead is a Fortune 500, it doesn’t work that way and Mr Helsdon – ‘

‘Mr Helsdon needs to shit or get off the pot, Tia. He’s been with the same insurer for fifty years, golfs with the guy every Tuesday afternoon. You wasted my time, Tia.’

He hit the bridge and before he was halfway across, a sudden wave of emotion overwhelmed him.

‘I’m scared, Tia. I turn 30 this year and I’m fucking terrified of turning out like my dad did. Fat, useless, trading on old glories. I don’t want to look back and see that my life peaked in high school -‘

Tia took in a sharp breath, overwhelmed by the pleading and the pain in his voice.

‘It’s okay, just it’s been rough I know – ‘

Justin shook his head, squeezing out tears that ran down his cheekbones.

‘No, I know that you’re fixing to leave and I don’t blame you because I treat you like shit but that’s because I can’t stand how much I fucking need you Tia.’

Tia looked around, waited for him to laugh or someone to pop up with a camera to record her reaction.

‘Justin, just come back. We can talk about Houston.’

He crossed the bridge, his fear gone, the way a vampire dies in the sunlight, ash and bone fragments. The next few miles were strange ones for him, and better ones too.

2.

June had kept up a running monologue for so long that when she fell silent, Andy wondered if something in his brain had finally broken. She asked him something, and he murmured his agreement without hearing what it actually was.

‘Do you ever listen to me?’

He lowered his chin to his chest and sighed. It had been a long weekend, her family would all toss disapproving looks when they thought he wasn’t looking.

‘Of course honey, just it’s been a long drive. But look, we’re nearly home.’

She sighed and turned the radio up. It was her way of ensuring that Andy did not get to speak and whereas once he would have resented it, now he was grateful. They had separate lives, running in parallel, a truce rather than a marriage. Since the kids had left, the house was too quiet and neither of them quite knew how to handle it.

As the bridge rattled beneath the wheels of their Prius, Andy reached and turned the station off with a sharp twist.

‘The reason I don’t listen to you is that you don’t give me a chance to speak, June-Bug.’

June’s face sharpened, the perpetual mask of good manners slipped to show the woman beneath.

‘That would require you to say anything that wasn’t about work or football, Andy-Bug.’

He grinned and shook his head, sighing with a gesture that made her damp.

‘When was the last time we had sex, June? Not just the time where you use my dick as a sleeping pill. That was April last year.’

June snivelled and wiped her eyes.

‘I didn’t think you wanted to. I thought you’d made other arrangements. The Hawkins girl.’

He laughed and shook his head.

‘That would be like fucking a box kite. I still jerk off about you, June-Bug but you don’t seem interested.’

He clamped a rough hand on her thigh and she thought she might explode right there.

They stopped once they were on the other side of the bridge. It was quick, but it was good and despite the years, they managed to surprise themselves.

3.

It slipped beneath the water from where it had hung beneath the bridge. It knew that the world seldom offered such ample opportunities for it’s kind and that it could feed from here for a long time to come. It was full. That was enough for now.

 

 

 

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anxiety, beauty, dark places, desire, fiction, flash fiction, fragile, hunger, mental illness, short fiction, Uncategorized

The Boys And Their Mothers (NSFW)

Clea kept flexing her right hand as she waited in the queue. The surgery had been successful but she would never have full function again, and the painkillers merely took the edge off the pain but never removed it entirely. She would shift the small pile of books from one arm to the other. Her library card was, out of everything, the most valuable part of her new identity for her.

Books were her only escape now, aside from the painkillers and the SSRIs. The therapy, a condition of her parole, left her scrubbed raw for days afterwards and she needed these library visits to give her some sense of herself again.  She had spent the last five years under the eyes of several institutions, none of whom looked upon her with kindness. She had her supporters but their generosity of spirit was short lived. Another cause, another victim to raise in their estimation and she was left to deal with herself again.

She would have googled herself but she was not allowed to use a computer with access to the internet. Life for her was lived in the margins, defined by where she could not go and what she could not do. Who she could not speak to, or call, or write. A small apartment, so damp that the walls breathed, paperwork and everything cracked, worn and patched up. A second act as depressing as a Werner Herzog documentary.

Today was her son’s seventeenth birthday. She had spoken about it, the therapist sat there, digging into his furred nostril when he thought that she wasn’t looking and staring at his faded brown loafers when she was. She had arranged for a card to be sent, but she would never know if he received it. Christmas had been especially difficult for her this year.

Christmas was always difficult. It had been a time for family, for love and contentment, defined by the pressure for bigger presents, brighter and larger lights, more food and for her to show the world that as a wife, a mother she always went the extra mile.

Steve worked hard, long days and even bringing work home with him, barking numbers into the phone as he sat in his wood panelled den. He loved her, not in the way that she wanted but as a symbol, a symptom of his invention and his determination. He looked at her but barely even saw her.

Unlike Finn, her son’s friend.  Cerulean blue eyes, jet black hair and honeyed skin. Lean from track, ungainly as though his limbs had a life independent of his will. Shirts versus skins in the yard, watching him with a frosted glass of lemonade pressed against her cheek. Flush with heat as she watched him.

It had seemed so small a thing, to express an interest in him. Both his parents were absent in their own ways, Greg ran a car dealership and Rebecca drank. He bloomed at her attention and her thirst grew more complex, sharper and richer. He had come over when she was alone in the house one afternoon, thirteen years old and trembling with curiosity and confusion. A stronger woman would have turned him away.

Clea would have turned him away.

But her name was not Clea then.

Later, with only dry literature to sustain her, she had come across a quote from Oscar Wilde. Had missed it during the cycles of mom memes, photos and passive aggressive status updates. That he could resist anything except temptation.

Then, Finn had brought a friend.

And another. Feverish, damp knots of flesh in the basement.

Footage.

She had been at the PTA meeting when the police arrived. By then, it was almost a relief. She had reached down into the fire of her need and been scarred by it. The trial, the sentencing, the comments online all spoke with either vulgarity, muted indignation or dissembling. Even prison had been brief, and Clea knew that had she been a man with a pubescent girl, or god forbid a boy, she’d never have seen daylight again. The shiv through her forearm had been the only notable incident and that had shaved some time off her sentence.

Today, she had picked up John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick and there was a copy of Germaine Greer’s The Boy that she knew would necessitate hiding but still, she needed something. Without making conversation, she checked the books out at the self service terminal and went outside. She could have waited for the bus but it was a nice evening and she wanted to walk. Such small pleasures were all she had left.

She could look through the Greer on the way.

The park would have taken ten minutes off the walk but she did not risk it, not at night and so she kept to the main streets until she saw the sagging building that she called home. She had the rest of the tagliatelle for supper, then it would be a cup of tea, a bit of reading and then sleep. She had the privacy of her head, at least, both heaven and hell to her dependent upon her mood and her circumstances. God loves a trier, her daddy had said.

Then she felt the cold hard object at the base of her spine.

‘Gimme yo’ fucken’ purse.’

She panicked, eyes watering as she put her hands up, dropping her purse and her books. She inhaled the tangy musk of perspiration, layers of that cheap body spray and the faint hue of pot.

‘It’s on the floor. ‘

She turned her head, looking into eyes that were tawny gold, like fresh cider, brown skin over high cheekbones and all of it framed in a faded hood as he raised the pistol up to her face.

‘Pick it up, ain’t got all day.’

She reached but her fingers touched the cover of the Greer book, the index finger blessing where the collar bone of the angelic boy on the cover, the face that made her ache with longing as Finn’s face had.

It had gotten to her that he had not coped well afterwards. The memory had been hidden for so long from her conscious mind that she began to turn, infected with the same fervour that had brought those packs of beautiful boys to her, their first and for Finn, his last. Someone had shouted at them and she looked up, the boy’s face was a mask devoid of sentiment and passion. Beautiful and terrible all the same.

He raised the barrel of the gun, and she did not close her eyes. She smiled at him and wished that she’d been given time enough to thank him.

She brought up her hand and the world went red.

 

 

 

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andy weir, books, craft, creative writing, dark places, fiction, gillian flynn, writing

Dark Places

It is a good book, not as disturbing as Sharp Objects nor is the plot as engaging as Gone Girl but it represents a transition between the two books in an interesting evolution. There is a sense of rural noir, the desperate bleak horror of what an economy in freefall does to people and how that horror compels some terrible, long reaching decisions and consequences. There are moments of nihilistic decadence, and the narrative shows the lies and self deceptions as having a reach beyond the immediate.  Yet for all it, it lacks the passion of the first book and the inexorable logic of the third. It is still a cut above the majority of it’s imitators but it slightly dips for me.

At the moment, I am working on an uncomfortable dinner scene that moves things forward and reveals some hidden subtexts that arose between the first draft and this, that gave me some really powerful insights into the book and the characters. These moments are really what shape the story for me, they’re borne out of that time spent marinating in the universe of the characters as well as a general playfulness, best espoused as  ‘what if’.

It’s good to be in this place, where the book is evolving and I can also cut away the dead ends that clutter a first draft. I aim for a smooth, legible read and resist anything that reads too much like WRITING’ to me. The story, the book is the boss and although beautiful language is aesthetically important, whatever poetry exists does so at the story’s behest. It has to follow it’s own logic, and sometimes that frustrates me, especially when there are points where it feels like I am trudging rather than flying through things but that’s necessary sometimes. I can always cut. I can always cut. Two pages a day builds up a routine where it becomes autonomic on one level and frees up mental real estate for when I come across story issues.

I’ve started The Martian by Andy Weir, which has an engaging, avuncular voice as well as a well staged increase in scale and urgency. Science is amazing but here, we get to see how even the simplest of tasks can be fraught with danger in the most hostile environment known to us, an alien planet. The tone is engaging and even from a layman’s perspective, Weir makes the explanations of the dangers and trials involved as tense as a gunfight.

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