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Author Topic: Wheelman  (Read 2884 times)
Bronxwriter
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« on: September 01, 2017, 01:41:08 PM »

WHEELMAN Part I CONFESSIONS/ HOW I BECAME A DRIVER FOR THE BROTHERHOOD (Transcribed by Agent Griffin from a Federal holding cell)
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So, yeah, one Friday this guy named Ali calls me. At first I was excited and scared cause I knew him as a reefer guy from the streets of the South Bronx and wondered how he got my cell number. He soon asked me in a nice way to give him a ride; he needed a favor and would give me $20 bucks to do it. Since I needed some money for gas for my old piece of sh** Dodge van, I said, yeah okay man, but I got things to do. What a lie! So I found myself driving down the Bruckner and taking the elevated part to the 138th St. exit. A few blocks later, right where he said he’d be, Ali was standing in the rain with a big white box in his hands. It looked like a giant birthday cake. When I pulled over he asked me to pop the rear door and he slid the box into the way back.

He got in and handed me a twenty, and I said, where to?  He told me to drive back uptown to the Pelham Bay Station where the 6 train ends. I took the Bruckner, this time north, but I didn’t get on the elevated cause I saw some traffic building there on my way down (f**kin rush hour, I hate the rush hour, bunch of assholes on the road). I took the service road past Hunts Point, right by Kmart and Castle Hill and past St. Ambrose’s Church where I used to go to confession every two weeks no matter what. Ali didn’t say much except that he was meeting his girlfriend to give her a surprise on her birthday. I pulled around the station and parked at the end of the triangle with the big pink building clear in the rearview mirror. The sign there read “no stopping or parking” cause it’s a bus stop, but I ignored it. Ali stepped out of the car and, again, had me pop the rear door.

He took the box out and said, keep the car running, I’ll be right back. When he left I turned off the car thinking to save a little gas and got out. I stood with my back against the passenger door, wishing it was summer so I could see some of those Puerto Rican or Dominican girls in their bikini tops and tight shorts, coming home from Orchard Beach. No such luck on a cold, crappy day like today. A few buses pulled up and honked their horns the way only New York City transit workers can, loud and obnoxious. I didn’t even turn my head to see them give me the finger or whatever. During this time there were about ten people standing there waiting for various buses to Fordham, City Island or Throggs Neck.

After about five minutes more of day dreaming, I got jolted awake when I heard someone shouting, get in the f**kin car, get in the car! As I looked back toward the station, Ali was running my way at full tilt, his neck muscles pumping and his eyes with a crazy look. I walked around the car and got in just as he opened the passenger door. In one motion he yanked the door closed and pulled out a little silver gun and shoved it into my ribs. Get the f**k out of here, he screamed, his face just a few inches from mine. Move this piece of sh**! I dropped the car into low gear, and as I pulled out I creased the side of a number 12 bus which was just pulling around us, leaving a blue scar on the bus and a crunched fender on my van. I careened down the block, through a red light by the cervesa fria bodega and barreled down the service road toward the Greek Church. Ali said, get on the highway, and I did, weaving my way through the semis and cars onto the New England Thruway South.

Just as we got on the road, I heard a humungous explosion behind us and when I looked in the rearview mirror I could see incredible flames and a cloud of black smoke rising from where the Pelham Bay station once stood. It looked like an atom bomb had been dropped on the place.
Ali nudged me with the pistol again and said, keep driving, watch what you’re doin. At the fork in the road he said, take the road toward the bridge, and I protested saying the cops will be there, he said don’t worry asshole, I got it covered. We passed the Randall Ave. exit doin about 90 and had just gone under the local traffic bridge overpass when Ali grabbed the wheel and pulled it to the right. We hopped the curb and veered down into that little valley between the service road and the highway where I used to walk my dog. He let go of the wheel and screamed, now stop the car, stop it! As I slammed on the brakes we jerked to a stop, and he reached over to turn off the ignition and screamed, turn the f**king lights off, and keep your foot off the brake pedal! So I did, and we just sat there.

In a few minutes you could see a few flashing lights; it was the cops heading to the Throggs Neck Bridge. After a while Ali told me to get out, and we walked to the top of the hill and saw the roadblock in the distance at the toll booths with the Friday night traffic building into a terrific jam. Glad I’m not out there I thought. We went back to the car and sat there for a while, and Ali then had me drive through the valley to the other end where it meets the road to the Cross Bronx and Bruckner. I pulled up onto the shoulder and then he said, okay, put on the lights and get on the road. I did, and he said, now take me down the Bruckner and don‘t go on top. I knew what he meant--the elevated part of the Bruckner --and I agreed; if there’s one place you can’t get away from that’s it.
We sailed down through the South Bronx and he said, go underneath pointing to the spot just past Southern Boulevard where the Bruckner turns right. You know, where the hipsters are opening the antique stores. I figured we were going into Manhattan when we saw a bunch of cop cars with their lights on about a quarter of a mile ahead, blocking the ramp to the Third Ave. Bridge. Ali hissed turn around, and I did while he jammed the gun into my side. Just do what I tell you. I did. When we got to the spot where I had picked him up about 2 hours before, he said, Stop. He got out and leaned onto the open passenger side door.

Now get the f**k out of here, take the car off the street and cover it up.
We’ll be watching you.

He slammed the door and disappeared into the evening crowd by the bodega.
 Still shaking from it all, I went back home by a different route. I took Southern Boulevard up to the Hunts Point Bridge and then took Story Ave. up through the backdoor through the cemetery by Lafayette Ave. When I got home I parked the car in the alleyway instead of in front of the house. I went into the basement, took the blue plastic tarp I used when I painted the house and covered the van with it. When I went in the kids were screaming, and Mary Beth asked me where I’d been.

Nowhere.

Why’d you park in the alley?

Cause the car is not right.

What does that mean?

It won’t start.

Then how’d you get it here?

Someone gave me a jump.

Just then little Mikey let out a scream that got her attention, so she moved on. I didn’t know what to do, but soon I was watching the TV. news, on FOX my station of choice. They had coverage all over the place, about the bombing in the Bronx at the train station during rush hour. They kept saying it was a terrorist act and that a group called the Islamic Brotherhood had taken credit for the whole thing. All I could think of was Ali and that big white box.
There were a lot of pictures of dead and bloody people, some old ladies and kids, all over the place. They said it was the worst tragedy since 911 and that the cops were on it but couldn’t find any clues except that they thought the perps escaped in a blue van possibly with NY plates last seen going south on the New England Thruway. When I heard this my heart skipped a few beats, and my ass felt wet. I almost barfed right there and then. Then my phone rang. It was Ali snarling into the phone.

Listen asshole, don’t even think of going to the cops. We’re watching you like flies on sh**. We know where you live, where your wife works, and who the babysitter is. If you don’t think we might hurt them turn on the news. Just leave the car where it is and no one will be any smarter.
 
He had me - the explosion had killed over 70 people that they knew of right then. They still had to sift through the rubble, another 200 or so were severely injured but that too was uncertain. Jacoby’s emergency room was overwhelmed, and the burn unit at the other hospital had to ship people out to Long Island. The fire in the area of Pelham Bay was still raging, and there were firemen, EMS trucks and cops all over the neighborhood. The Mayor (that little prick) and the Governor were both on the tube, offering help and promising to get those responsible. Later word came out that the entire northeast Bronx was under lockdown and National Guard troops were pouring into the town. I thought Christ the sh** has really hit the fan.

I couldn’t sleep that night; the kids were howling a lot, and my gut felt like someone had stomped on it with two feet. Finally after tossing and turning for hours, I fell into a deep coma like doze only to find Ali and the Brotherhood chasing me and blood all over the place. Ali was choking me and I was about to black out when I woke up in a sweat at about noon to find that Marybeth had gone to work; the babysitter was in the living room with the kids, and the car was gone. I was in a panic when the phone rang, Ali’s voice was screaming.

You are a f**kin dead man! I told you not to take the car out!

My wife took it to work. I told her not to drive it.

Get it back, stash it somewhere, or you and your family are f**king toast!

Immediately I called Marybeth at the 7/11 where she was working on Tremont, just around the corner from the 45th Precinct.

Why’d you take the car? I told you not to.

I had to go to work. It’s fine; it started right up. What happened to the front fender?

What’re you talking about?
   
The goddamn front fender Bruce, you know what I mean.

Got no idea.

Yeah sure.

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Alrune
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2017, 08:10:54 PM »

I feel like this needs a framing device.
If it is being transcribed by an agent during an interrogation, maybe start with their conversation. Make me like this character, because, right now, I'm not sure I have a lot of sympathy.
If this happened to me, I would be up that night writing an e-mail to the FBI telling them everything and for them to come and get me and my family to safety because they're watching. Also, if there was an attack and 70 people were killed, I seriously doubt his wife wouldn't have heard about it.
Otherwise, you have quick pacing and a pretty decent narrator voice. There are a lot of superfluous words, though.

Example:
At first I was excited and scared cause I knew him as a reefer guy from the streets of the South Bronx and wondered how he got my cell number.
Can easily become:
At first I was anxious cause I knew him as a reefer guy from South Bronx and wondered how he got my number.
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gushags16
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2017, 11:58:46 AM »

I really liked this. It has an Elmore Leonard quality to it. Normally I'm not a fan of not using quotation marks: for instance, I think Cormorac McCarthy's use of it feels pretentious. In this case, however, I think the spareness of it actually adds to the feel of it, and even helps us get an idea of the narrator's -- I don't want to say intelligence -- let's just say amount of schooling ... ? Because there's obviously a difference.

Can it be tightened? Of course. For me, I don't need as many streets and directions. It was a little bit like the GPS speaking to me at one point.

Like:

Quote
Immediately I called Marybeth at the 7/11 where she was working on Tremont, just around the corner from the 45th Precinct.

Is it important that I know that she works on Tremont? Just around the corner from the 45th precinct is important information, but what street she works on? I'm of the opinion that YOU need to know this as the writer. But YOU as the writer also need to know when it's important for me as the reader. If you give me too much extraneous info, I may get annoyed.

On the other hand: maybe he has an obsessive need to give directions. To narrate excessively. I don't know. If that's the case, maybe it's fine. In that case, however, I'd expect to eventually have another character mention it/ be annoyed by it/ whatever.

As to framing devices mentioned by Alrune: I'll disagree. I dislike framing devices. If you can do it without them, I think the story will be stronger. In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, for instance, I think Spielberg could have lopped off the old man bits at the beginning and the end and the story would have been even stronger. It would have just been a historical piece, and what's wrong with that? That's right: I'm bagging on Cormorac McCarthy AND Steven Spielberg. BOOM!

It could also be argued that you already have a framing device: the simple note that this is transcribed from a Federal holding cell. We know from that that the narrator has either been caught or is confessing. We don't know which yet.

Quote
Also, if there was an attack and 70 people were killed, I seriously doubt his wife wouldn't have heard about it.

As to the above mentioned by Alrune, I'm not seeing anywhere in the text that she hadn't heard about the explosion or the deaths. Maybe because he and she don't specifically discuss it, but I think that's something that could still happen.

All in all, as I said, I liked this. It's got a lot of voice and drew me in. Good luck and I hope this helped.
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jcwrites
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2017, 12:21:54 PM »

Might want to check this out: https://www.amazon.com/Wheelman-Novel-Duane-Swierczynski/dp/0312343787#reader_0312343787
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mafiaking1936
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 11:59:17 AM »


As if that weren't bad enough:

http://i.imgur.com/qKwOL3G.jpg
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JohnPansini
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2017, 09:39:16 PM »

I really liked the stream of consciousness voice. As for the two titles, don't worry about it. Titles can't be copyrighted, only content. Yours seems to be your own.

Good luck Bronxwriter,
JP

Can't believe those f**king Yankees lost last night! Two out two run homer in the 9th! Been sick about it all f**king day. 
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Bronxwriter
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2017, 11:23:58 AM »

Wow! I really appreciate the constructive criticism and encouragement.  There is nothing better than advice from fellow writers.  I will take your questions, suggestions and critiques to heart and will apply them to the first five pages and beyond. A note about quotes: My manuscript has dialogue in italics but that was lost when I cut and pasted it into this website. I need to figure that out.
   The repetition of directions coming from the protagonist is intentional but perhaps I got carried away with it. I wanted to start with a one-dimensional character who gradually reveals himself to be more complex --but I don't want him to be too annoying.....back to the drawing board ....
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Dribbydrawers
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2017, 09:05:15 AM »

I really liked this and got into it quickly. It reminded me of the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker with its language and quick actions, but like so many of the female characters in Parker's books, she has been poorly written. Please give her credit for her brain. Presumably, she knows a lot about her guy, especially since she didn't believe him that it wouldn't start. With all the coverage of the bombing, she probably be suspicious of that car, matching the description of the getaway car, to be covered up. I would suggest he put her off with something like, "I got in an accident, but the description of our car matches the getaway of the bombing suspects car, and we don't need the cops nosing through our business, so let's not drive it." Let some hinky friend who is dumb and has the keys to their vehicle be the asshole who drove it away. Show that that the main character has a solid relationship with the mother of his child(ren), unless you have some reason for not doing so. Also, she works at 7/11 so they can have a babysitter? How can this make sense? 7/11 doesn't pay enough to justify a babysitter and if he makes enough for the both of them and she doesn't need to work, but does need to be with adults, why on Earth would she fill her time making coffee, ringing up cigarettes, and stocking cups in a place that has a reputation for hold-ups?
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 09:20:47 AM by Dribbydrawers » Logged
Bronxwriter
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2017, 10:30:13 AM »

Thanks to everyone who shared their reactions.  Dribbydrawers and others highlight the fact that we don't fall in love with the main characters in the first five pages. This is intentional-- the beginning of the story is mostly about the action; as the story unfolds the characters become more complex. showing  transformation and adaptability.  Marybeth overcomes major challenges and shines as a strong character. And Bruce? I hope you'll get to read the novel someday (don't we all wish that for our books?) to find out what happens to Bruce.........
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MichelleG
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« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2017, 10:51:10 PM »

I really liked this.

I don't think you should tighten it up as commented. I think this is 'his voice' and it should reflect that.  I think the names of the street should stay because those are the kind of details the police would want - "How'd you get there?" and then he would do some rambling - where I went to confession ...
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"You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of isolation and the impunity with which crime may be committed there." - Sherlock Homes, The Copper Beeches - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2017, 11:01:50 PM »

I really appreciate your insight and critique.  It's encouraging when a reader "gets it.' That's what us writers are hoping for. After a while our characters are living in our head and we can't expect a reader (or potential agent) to be as attached to them as we are. Part of revising is finding a balance between believing in our story and taking suggestions from others to make our creation accessible and meaningful to the reader.  Thanks so much!
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Zooks
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2018, 03:29:49 PM »

I really enjoyed this - from one Bronx writer to another. It was like a visit back home to see the 45th Precinct and Tremont mentioned (along with the Brucker, etc.)  The pace is good, the action believable. I couldn't picture what you meant by Ali yanking the wheel so they parked between the service road and the highway. Aren't there chainlink fences there?  Also, you referred to the vehicle as a van and later as a car. Is it more of a panel truck or a soccer mom car?  Again, I really enjoyed reading this. Good luck!  clap clap Kool-Aid
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