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Author Topic: Life So Perfect  (Read 247 times)
cbass
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« on: October 09, 2018, 08:15:25 PM »

“If life’s so perfect, why this? Something got you here, led up to this. What is it? And leave the ‘I don’t knows’ the other side of the backdoor.”

Joe’s finger twisted fraying upholstery on the well-worn gray chair. Shrugging one shoulder, he said, “It was a bad day. Everyone has a bad day. Listen, I don’t want to be rude and it’s nothing to do with you, but this is crap. I don’t need to be here. I’m not like those others out there. Those kids in this place, I’m sorry, but they’re … well, I’m not crazy. I made a stupid mistake. I don’t deserve to be here. There’s plenty of crazy people that need this sort of thing, but I’m not psycho.” Control. Control. It’s about control. Don’t be such an idiot. Joe looked at the therapist and forced a smile – a feeble effort to appease the one who would decide when he would go home. “Sorry. I know they’re not crazy. But … I just don’t belong here.”

Braxton chuckled. “Hey, there are a few crazy ones here. Those are the ones that want to be here.” He leaned forward, pointed to Joe’s left arm. “How many staples? Twenty-one? And the pills? How many pills was it? Fifty? Oh yeah, sixty. We have to figure out what got you to the point where death was your only option, the only way out. Something’s going on. What’s going on up there and in there?” Braxton pointed to Joe’s head then chest. He leaned back and tucked his left foot under his right leg. His eyes fixed on the soon to be seventeen year old.

Joe glanced at his therapist; he had to get away from the man’s demanding gaze. He stood up and took three steps toward the room’s lone window. [Should be out there, in the real world. His gaze rested on the distant landscape. Picture perfect. An endless canopy bursting with subdued shades of red, yellow, brown and orange. Autumn in the Ozarks. The best time of year: crisp chilly air filling the lungs, football, pumpkins, Halloween parties – and his birthday. Should be home, not stuck in this godforsaken hellhole. Football? Season’s over for me, no hope now, no chance of a scholarship now. Probably gonna flunk, have to repeat my junior year. All ruined. Screw this. Screw this guy. His eyes shifted down, a half dozen adult patients wandered around the enclosed courtyard, all smoking, all looking drugged up, zoned out – Pathetic, sad creatures. Rather be dead than like that.
“So what is it? What got you here?”


Joe turned and faced his therapist. He filled his lungs and pulled his shoulders back. He knew his beefy six foot three frame could be intimidating, and he worked hard to use that to his full advantage on the football field. The reality was he hated his size; always knew people saw him as fat, not muscular; knew others were laughing behind his back, laughing at his pudgy face that too often was sprinkled with pimples. He brushed his closely cropped brown hair and held his hand on the back of his head. “Screw this. Screw you.” The words were about to give birth. Control. Show him you’re in control. Joe emptied his lungs. He sat down, looked his therapist in the eyes and nodded. Braxton’s dull blue eyes seemed so strange; sometimes sad but comforting and sometimes piercing and overpowering. His graying hair, long and always pulled back in a ponytail, made him look old. Forty-five, maybe fifty. Too old, whatever. Joe didn’t know what to make of this guy. He couldn’t decide if the man’s low, raspy voice was comforting or irritating. He didn’t want to like him; he didn’t want to trust him.

He’d had a therapist when he was seven. Only because the school nurse insisted. “Some signs of depression,” she’d told his mother. “It could only help him.” His mom balked at the idea. The well-meaning nurse insisted all the more, “Certainly won’t hurt. Just for a little while, help him adjust to the divorce.” Divorce. Big deal. Everyone’s parents get divorced. He had coped fine, just like his brother and sister had; they were all just fine. Three months he met with that therapist. She was young, would take him out for ice cream, walks in the park, even to movies. He thought counseling was okay then, but he was not seven anymore, and Braxton was not a twenty-one-year-old fresh out of college.

Joe attempted to smile; he wasn’t sure what expression surfaced on his face. What the hell does he expect? I don’t need this. Hell. Just do what you have to. Fake it ’till you make it, that’s what the kids here say. Don’t have to like him. Just give him what he wants. Not a big deal. “Okay. So where we supposed to start?”

***

Chuck stared down the hall into the kitchen. His mother’s muffled sobs stirred confused emotions; anger, despair, ineptness, dread. He took a step forward. Wait. Give her some time.

Sarah sat at the kitchen table staring out the French doors, the black of the night seemed to envelop her soul. So old. She seemed so old now. He told her a few months ago she was letting herself go – not exercising as she had religiously done, not watching her diet like she used to. Of course, that was a mistake. She cried, then she got angry, threw a plate that nearly hit his head. He apologized, said he didn’t mean it. He had just come home for the summer after his first year at college. He didn’t intend to hurt her. He was worried. She’d always been a warrior – never defeated, always proud, always strong. But she had changed and he knew why; but the why was never talked about. And even though the why had been dealt with, mom was no better. She pulled an oversized fluffy pink robe tight around her shoulders: the robe he, his brother and sister gave her four Christmases ago. The Christmas their father went on a Caribbean cruise and came back with his third wife.

Sobs subsided. Chuck searched for the right words to give comfort, bring peace – somehow bring back normality. Normality? An illusion. It was never really there. At least the illusion had carried them through the past few years. Damn Joe, selfish, thoughtless prick. “You okay mom? Still can’t sleep? You shouldn’t worry. At least you know he’s safe.”

Her gaze remained fixed. Without moving her head, she reached her hand out. Chuck came through to the kitchen. He pulled a chair close to his mother and held her hand. “It will be okay, mom. He’ll be fine. The little bastard did something stupid and mean. Just wait till he gets home, I’ll twist both his ears off.”

Sarah shook her head. “It makes no sense. This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“When did Joe ever make sense?”

“You know he is a captain for the football team this year. He’s so proud of himself. I’m so proud of him.”
“I know mom.”

“He thinks he can break your record for career tackles at the high school.”

Chuck smiled. “Never going happen, mom. I just might have to break both his legs.”

Sarah looked at Chuck, then looked away. He felt her fingers press into his palm. “Seeing him in the emergency room, having his stomach pumped while they put staples in his … hardest thing I’ve ever done. And leaving him there … there in that psyche ward. Some of those children … they’re so … so angry. Some of them seem so lost, so pitiful. He needs to be home.”

“He’s safe there mom. You know he’s safe. I couldn’t sleep if he was home. I mean, we don’t know what’s going on inside that head of his. What if he tried again? What if he actually …”

“No. You’re right. He’s okay, he is safe. But the why? Chuck, do you know why? Has he told you anything? Mentioned anything? What about any of his texts? Is there anything? Anything? There must be something, some sign. What’d we miss? He must have said something to you. Think.”

The desperate heartache in his mother’s voice fueled more uncomfortable feelings – panic, guilt, shame. He looked his mom in the eyes and rubbed her hand. “Nothing Mom. He’s not said anything to me. He’s just crazy.”

“Don’t say that.”

“You know I don’t mean that. God damn him, he scared me.” Chuck got up, kissed her cheek. “Get to bed Mom. This won’t help.”
He went to his bedroom, lay down on his bed and shut his eyes, knowing sleep would refuse to come. He knew more than he could tell his mom – things she did not need to know, did not want to know.
Logged
Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2018, 04:19:27 PM »

“If life’s so perfect, why this? Something got you here, led up to this. What is it? And leave the ‘I don’t knows’ the other side of the backdoor.” Starting your first sentence with dialogue is a bad idea. It didn't do anything but irritate me because I don't know who is speaking, what the setting is etc. And then at the end of the sentence of dialogue, there's not even a tag to help the reader out. )

Joe’s finger twisted the fraying upholstery on the well-worn gray chair. Shrugging one shoulder, he said, “It was a bad day. Everyone has a bad day. Listen, I don’t want to be rude and it’s nothing to do with you, but this is crap. I don’t need to be here. I’m not like those others out there. Those kids in this place, I’m sorry, but they’re … well, I’m not crazy. I made a stupid mistake. I don’t deserve to be here. There’s plenty of crazy people that need this sort of thing, but I’m not psycho.” ( This is just more of a continuation of confusing information in the form of dialogue. So far the description of the chair is the only interesting thing ) Control. Control. It’s about control. Don’t be such an idiot. ( What is he referring to? ) Joe looked at the therapist ( Ahhh, ok. Would help to just say 'Joe sat in the therapists office' in your first sentence ) and forced a smile – a feeble effort to appease the one who would decide when he would go home. “Sorry. I know they’re not crazy. But … I just don’t belong here.”

Braxton chuckled. “Hey, there are a few crazy ones here. Those are the ones that want to be here.” He leaned forward, pointed to Joe’s left arm. “How many staples? Twenty-one? And the pills? How many pills was it? Fifty? Oh yeah, sixty. We have to figure out what got you to the point where death was your only option, the only way out. Something’s going on. What’s going on up there and in there?” Braxton pointed to Joe’s head then chest. He leaned back and tucked his left foot under his right leg. His eyes fixed on the soon to be seventeen year old.

Your relying too heavily on dialogue and it's hard to read. We have to guess what the story is about

Joe glanced at his therapist; he had to get away from the man’s demanding gaze. He stood up and took three steps toward the room’s lone window. [Should be out there, in the real world. His gaze rested on the distant landscape. Picture perfect. An endless canopy bursting with subdued shades of red, yellow, brown and orange. Autumn in the Ozarks. The best time of year: crisp chilly air filling the lungs, football, pumpkins, Halloween parties – and his birthday. Should be home, not stuck in this godforsaken hellhole. Football? Season’s over for me, no hope now, no chance of a scholarship now. Probably gonna flunk, have to repeat my junior year. All ruined. Screw this. Screw this guy. His eyes shifted down, a half dozen adult patients wandered around the enclosed courtyard, all smoking, all looking drugged up, zoned out – Pathetic, sad creatures. Rather be dead than like that.
“So what is it? What got you here?”


Joe turned and faced his therapist. He filled his lungs ( with air? 'Inhaled deeply,' would be clearer ) and pulled his shoulders back. He knew ( filter term ) his beefy six foot three frame could be intimidating, and he worked hard to used that to his full advantage on the football field. The reality was he hated his size; always knew people saw him as fat, not muscular; knew others were laughing behind his back, laughing at his pudgy pimply face that too often was sprinkled with pimples. He brushed his closely cropped brown hair and held his hand on the back of his head. “Screw this. Screw you.” The words were about to give birth. Control. Show him you’re in control. Joe emptied his lungs. ( Because he filled them before? If you mean he held a breath and only now exhales, it doesn't work because you can't talk when you've been holding your breath already )  He sat down, looked his therapist in the eyes and nodded. Braxton’s dull blue eyes seemed so strange; sometimes sad but comforting and sometimes piercing and overpowering. His graying hair, long and always pulled back in a ponytail, made him look old. Forty-five, maybe fifty. Too old, whatever. Joe didn’t know what to make of this guy. He couldn’t decide if the man’s low, raspy voice was comforting or irritating. He didn’t want to like him; he didn’t want to trust him.

He’d had a therapist when he was seven. Only because the school nurse insisted. “Some signs of depression,” she’d told his mother. “It could only help him.” His mom balked at the idea. The well-meaning nurse insisted all the more, “Certainly won’t hurt. Just for a little while, help him adjust to the divorce.” Divorce. Big deal. Everyone’s parents get divorced. ( I really think your overdoing the attitudey short internal narrative sentences. It doesn't flow and stops the scene from unfolding naturally. And the dialogue from the past is jarring because there isn't enough going on in this scene to hold the reader, so when you add a second layer of distance it just makes it seem like the scene at hand isn't interesting to you )  He had coped fine, just like his brother and sister had; they were all just fine. Three months he met with that therapist. She was young, would take him out for ice cream, walks in the park, even to movies. He thought counseling was okay then, but he was not seven anymore, and Braxton was not a twenty-one-year-old fresh out of college. ( This backstory doesn't add much because nothing happens in it that adds to this scene. )

Joe attempted to smile; he wasn’t sure what expression surfaced on his face. What the hell does he expect? I don’t need this. Hell. Just do what you have to. Fake it ’till you make it, that’s what the kids here say. Don’t have to like him. Just give him what he wants. Not a big deal. “Okay. So where we supposed to start?”

I think not enough happens in this scene. If it's the emotional change, that he's willing to get therapy is the point of the scene, I think you need to find ways to make the scene more tense.

***

Chuck stared down the hall into the kitchen. His mother’s muffled sobs stirred confused emotions; anger, despair, ineptness, dread. ( Listing emotions doesn't helps us see them or envision it or feel like we are there . Show don't tell. )  He took a step forward. Wait. Give her some time.

Sarah sat at the kitchen table staring out the French doors, the black of the night seemed to envelop her soul ( how can you see her soul being enveloped? What do you mean? ). So old. She seemed so old now. ( You need to show us how she appears to help us see what he does, to either show and not tell or back up what he is saying with evidence, to make it fun to read. Is her face haggard, with dark shadows under her eyes, eyes that have no light behind them? Is she in a dressing gown hunched over a coffee cup, holding it with both hands as if it's the only thing that keeps her sitting upright? etc ) He told her a few months ago she was letting herself go – not exercising as she had religiously done, not watching her diet like she used to. Of course, that was a mistake. She cried, then she got angry, threw a plate that nearly hit his head. He apologized, said he didn’t mean it. He had just come home for the summer after his first year at college. He didn’t intend to hurt her. He was worried. She’d always been a warrior – never defeated, always proud, always strong. But she had changed and he knew why; but the why was never talked about. And even though the why had been dealt with, mom was no better. ( Just tell us why. The evasiveness isn't interesting to read so seems to have no reason for it )  She pulled an oversized fluffy pink robe tight around her shoulders: the robe he, his brother and sister gave her four Christmases ago. The Christmas their father went on a Caribbean cruise and came back with his third wife. That's better, a good balance of description and story, woven together  Grin

Sobs subsided. Chuck searched for the right words to give comfort, bring peace – somehow bring back normality. Normality? An illusion. It was never really there. At least the illusion had carried them through the past few years. Damn Joe, selfish, thoughtless prick. “You okay mom? Still can’t sleep? You shouldn’t worry. At least you know he’s safe.”

Her gaze remained fixed ( on what or who? ). Without moving her head, she reached her hand out. Chuck came through to the kitchen ( was he not in the kitchen before?It's been so long since you mentioned what he was doing ( so much inner narrative and flashbacks ) I didn't know where he was. Needs more body language to ground reader in MC ) . He pulled a chair close to his mother and held her hand. “It will be okay, mom. He’ll be fine. The little bastard did something stupid and mean. Just wait till he gets home, I’ll twist both his ears off.”

Sarah shook her head. “It makes no sense. This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“When did Joe ever make sense?”

“You know he is a captain for the football team this year. He’s so proud of himself. I’m so proud of him.”
“I know mom.”

“He thinks he can break your record for career tackles at the high school.”

Chuck smiled. “Never going happen, mom. I just might have to break both his legs.”

Sarah looked at Chuck, then looked away. He felt her fingers press into his palm. “Seeing him in the emergency room, having his stomach pumped while they put staples in his … hardest thing I’ve ever done. And leaving him there … there in that psyche ward. Some of those children … they’re so … so angry. Some of them seem so lost, so pitiful. He needs to be home.”

“He’s safe there mom. You know he’s safe. I couldn’t sleep if he was home. I mean, we don’t know what’s going on inside that head of his. What if he tried again? What if he actually …” No dialogue tags makes me lose interest really fast because it reads as 2 dimensional. Words on paper,  not story unfolding like a film I can see, with the benefit of connecting with characters.

“No. You’re right. He’s okay, he is safe. But the why? Chuck, do you know why? Has he told you anything? Mentioned anything? What about any of his texts? Is there anything? Anything? There must be something, some sign. What’d we miss? He must have said something to you. Think.” The dialogue is too repetitive and rambly. Dialogue in books isn't like real life. It's best to pare it down to what moves the story forward, and keep in what makes it realistic without making it rambly the  way real life dialogue can be

The desperate heartache in his mother’s voice fueled more uncomfortable feelings – panic, guilt, shame ( Don't list the emotions. It's not...emotive. The rhythm it's providing has minimal value compared with well executed description of emotion. Try to find a description of strong emotion in a fave book and compare.  ) . He looked his mom in the eyes and rubbed her hand. “Nothing Mom. He’s not said anything to me. He’s just crazy.”

“Don’t say that.”

“You know I don’t mean that. God damn him, he scared me.” Chuck got up, kissed her cheek. “Get to bed Mom. This won’t help.”
He went to his bedroom, lay down on his bed and shut his eyes ( I'm highlighting this just to point out how flat it reads. 'went' 'lay down' 'his bed' 'shut his eyes'. They are all boring to read because of bland basic verbs and no description, texture or color. 'He gravitated back to his small bedroom room, his limbs aching with tension and stomach queasy from emotion. Flicking on the lamp, he pulled his shoes off with his toes and sank onto the duvet with the childish print of  -___ on it. Lying on his back, he spread his arms wide like eagle wings in flight for a moment before he pulled the extra comforter crookedly over himself, not caring about the one red-socked foot poking out the end like a cigerette half pulled out of a crushed packet. He tried to block out his racing thoughts by putting his arm over his eyes.'  , knowing sleep would refuse to come. He knew more than he could tell his mom – things she did not need to know, did not want to know. ( What you say in this last sentence...I didn't notice that hinted at in what I read above. )



« Last Edit: October 15, 2018, 04:23:53 PM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
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