1.14.2007

HH Com Rd 2 -#49 (526)

Hook here


FIERY GIZZARD CONFLAGRATION, 750 words

Stumpy Meeks lay on the couch sleeping off a two-day drunk when an explosion knocked him butt-first onto the floor of his trailer.

"Come in," he said.

It took him a couple of seconds to realize nobody was knocking on the door. His brain was working slower than usual. Drinking Vodka Bombs--Red Bull mixed with Stoli--had that effect on a man, and he scribbled a mental sticky note not to combine the two again.

Just as he'd crawled up to the couch and was resting his head on the cushion, another blast ripped through the night. The shock wave buckled the walls of his trailer and cracked the windows in the living room. Stumpy crawled screaming under the couch as glass fell out of the window frame and fell onto the shag carpet.

This time, he knew it wasn't the Vodka Bombs going boom in his head. Something else had exploded, and he was torn between hiding safe under the couch or going outside to take a look around. It really wasn't a tough decision. Having more curiosity than sense, he waited a minute or two and then crawled out.

He stumbled to the door, clicked on the porch light, and squinted into the night. There was a fire burning down in the hollow. The Harper place had blown all to hell, and a line of burning debris littered the hill leading up to his yard.

"Jesus Christ Jones on a crutch," he whispered and stepped out onto the patio, intending to call the law to report the fire. Instead, he found himself mesmerized by the fire.

The smell of gunpowder had burned the air, and though it was a cold and wet December night, his nose could've sworn it was the Fourth of July. The concrete patio felt clammy on his bare feet. He took a few steps then stepped on something warm and hard.

Stumpy picked the thing up and held it up to the porch light to get a better look. It was a human finger covered in blood and wrapped by a diamond wedding band. He screamed and dropped it, then danced away backwards and fell butt-first into the living room. Safe inside, he crawled over to the kitchen window and peeked outside.

There it lay, right where he'd dropped it. It was a human finger, all right. No mistaking it. It had to belong to somebody, and probably, they'd want it back. So it was up to him to save it.

After extracting a pair of hot dog tongs and a sandwich baggie out of the junk drawer, Stumpy headed back outside. He crouched over the finger for a moment, the horizon lit by the fire in the hollow below, clicking the tongs and thinking of the best way to go about this. Should he grab it sideways like a hot dog? Or on the tip for a better grip?

"Get on with it, Stump," he said and popped the finger into the baggie. He sealed the strip so that red and blue made purple. When he stood up, the whole world spun around. Too much blood had rushed to his head. Too much vodka, too.

Inside, he dropped the baggie in the freezer next to the ice cube tray. While at the fridge, he grabbed two cold ones for the trip back to the couch. He popped the tab, took a long swallow of Pabst, and wondered who had busted out the glass in the front windows. Seemed like there was something else he needed to do, somebody he ought to call, but the phone was all the way down the hall in the bedroom, and whatever it was could surely wait until he'd gotten some sleep.

Stumpy leaned back on the couch and was snoring before he finished the beer.

#

Boone Childress was driving down the freeway, and his back was killing him. Fucking killing him, and this from a man who didn't drop f-bombs like sugar from powdered donuts or complain about daily aches and pains. In twenty years as a firefighter, he'd broken about six bones, torn an ACL, and dislocated both shoulders so many times the joints popped out easier than eyeballs on a Mr. Potato Head. Nothing else pained him like his back.

Except maybe his ex-wife. He'd just ignored three cell calls from her, the last as he popped two more ibuprofen and took the exit toward Altamont, where a burnt-out double-wide trailer awaited him.



I want to like this more than I do. It's funny but (and what does this say about fiction!) severed fingers in doggie bags with tongs are yesterday's gruesomes. You're telling us about Boone rather than letting us see him in action and understanding what he's about from context.

All the things you mentioned in your hook are usual kinds of plot points. You're going to have to give them a fresh coat of paint and a shiny new whistle to get my attention past page five.

27 comments:

whitemouse said...

This was reeeeeeally funny. My husband wants to know why I was making all those weird snorfling noises while I was reading it.

Anonymous said...

You're telling us about Boone rather than letting us see him in action

Huh? This opened with a hangover, a huge explosion, and what to do about severed body parts. If that's not action, I'm not sure what is.

The writing here was good and gritty, but not *quite* pitch perfect. I can't say exactly what it needs (although eliminating the second "crawl" from the fourth paragraph and every use of "screaming" would help), but my best recommendation is to open your copy of The Big Sleep and read the first chapter six times, then look at this again.

Anonymous said...

Terrific beginning! Luuurve the first two sentences.

From there on the voice wobbles.
Boy howdy, if you could keep that opening tone consistently, at least for Stumpy's POV, you'd have a red hot poker of a book (assuming the story itself is tight). I enjoyed this.

Bella Stander said...

I agree with Miss Snark. Also, how does someone who's more than half drunk and semi-asleep hide under the couch? Or even someone who's sober & wide awake? A couch is big and heavy and low to the floor.

Greta LaGarbeaux said...

You're telling us about Boone rather than letting us see him in action

Huh? This opened with a hangover, a huge explosion, and what to do about severed body parts. If that's not action, I'm not sure what is.


Anon, I think you're confusing the characters. Boone is the second guy, the firefighter. And MS is correct; everything we learn about him (in a very shot segment, granted) is told, rather than shown by behavior.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading half-way thru - it didn't grab me at all
Also if you want to see what's happening into the night you don't put on your porch light. It's hard to see beyond the light.

amyb said...

I loved the writing and thought it was really funny. I did think it lost steam a little in paragraph 7 ("intending to call the law...") but it picked up again later. Also, I didn't quite believe the guy screaming when he picked up the finger.

Dave said...

CAUTION

Back in 1994, Flight 427 crashed near Pittsburgh. I will tell you what has some of the rescue workers in therapy twelve years later... children's clothing hanging off trees with body pieces still in them, dripping.

CM said...

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed this, and would have kept reading.

LadyBronco said...

"Also if you want to see what's happening into the night you don't put on your porch light. It's hard to see beyond the light"

I think you forgot that Stumpy was drunker'n a skunk.

I laughed out loud at Stumpy. I liked this a lot.

magz said...

Ouch Dave, guesome is gruesome and always much more so in real life. Not too fun when faced in the real world, BUT when used deftly in fiction.. it works as a mindworming scene.

This worked for me as a visual, Stump & his tongs wobbling and squinting on the patio all hunkered down totally focused on the logistics of how to properly snag a digit as flames crackle and sirens approach.
Good job author! I'd be on page 10 or 15 by now totally absorbed. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

i love how this, like all undergrad writing students' early drafts, begin with the protagonist waking up.

canwag said...

I like the part where he says, "Okay, Stump." Is he referring to himself? Or the - ah -"stump"? Good job - I liked it.

Anonymous said...

A fun read -- at first.

Hope this writer keeps at it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It took him a couple of seconds to realize nobody was knocking on the door. [His brain was working slower than usual. Drinking Vodka Bombs]--Red Bull mixed with Stoli--[had that effect on a man,] and he scribbled a mental sticky note not to combine the two again.

Really, the stuff in the brackets is mostly redundant, or could be inferred by the reader. This could be tightened a lot. ie: It took him a couple seconds to realize no one was knocking. He scribbled a mental sticky note not to combine Red Bull and Stoli again.

Okay, not timeless, perhaps, but at least I don't feel like you're bonking me over the head with his hangover. I also thought "Door's open," has a better ring than "Come in." But that's just me.

Also, I dunno, is it some sort of dissociative event that makes him forget what happened before he can call 911? Cause if it's just a half-drunk/hangover plus a cold one, I'm not buying it.

overdog said...

"Come in," he said.

Made me laugh.

His scream at the sight of the digit told me loads about him.

I'd read more.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was deep enough inside the character's head.
I liked it - it was noir and funny. (I'd get rid of the 'butt-first' that's repeated.)
To get deeper inside the character's head try writing the first couple pages in first person POV and see how that changes it. It will get rid of things like 'having more curiosity than sense' for example. It's a cute line, but it's one I'd think about taking away.
(instead of 'he found himself mesmerized by the fire' - maybe 'the fire mesmerized him')
see?

Sam

Anonymous said...

i dont get it - the guy finds a finger and does run and call the cops right away??? makes no sense to me.

silly absurdist college humor.

Anonymous said...

Also, I dunno, is it some sort of dissociative event that makes him forget what happened before he can call 911?

My guess is there is no 911 in this neck of the woods. Don't project your environments as universal. There are cures for hyper-corrective disorder. Seek them out, snarkling.

Janet Black said...

I think this person will write very well someday, but right now the writing seems somewhat immature. It feels forced toward the comedic.

blogless_troll said...

I agree with Miss Snark about the telling. For this kind of funny to work you need to be entirely inside Stumpy's head and stop explaining the jokes. Let the reader figure it out right along with Stumpy.

Chumplet said...

Yup, it could indeed be funny. Even severed body parts can be funny in the right context.

My favourite hockey player's nickname was Stumpy. Don't ask...

Anonymous said...

I loved Stumpy. I could care less about Boone. More Stumpy. Less Boone.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree. More Stumpy, less Boone. In fact, I'd really love to have Stumpy be the one to solve this thing. I haven't reread the hook, so I don't know what's supposed to happen, btw.

Anonymous said...

My guess is there is no 911 in this neck of the woods. Don't project your environments as universal. There are cures for hyper-corrective disorder. Seek them out, snarkling.



"Jesus Christ Jones on a crutch," he whispered and stepped out onto the patio, intending to call the law to report the fire.

And then:


He popped the tab, took a long swallow of Pabst, and wondered who had busted out the glass in the front windows. Seemed like there was something else he needed to do, somebody he ought to call, but the phone was all the way down the hall in the bedroom, and whatever it was could surely wait until he'd gotten some sleep.

911, the cops, whatever. He was clearly intending to call the authorities, and then one sip of Pabst, and he suddenly can't remember why his windows are broken. First he has the presence of mind to put the severed finger in the freezer, then he just forgets the whole thing? It's clearly some sort of dissociative fugue or something.

And I may have been a bit blunt, about the redundancy, but it could be pruned. There are a lot of long sentences that could be broken up to make the first bit of this more immediate. I think it has promise, but it needs some work. One of the easiest mistakes a writer can make is spelling every single thing out for the reader.

Oh, and I don't consider myself a snarkling anymore. My earlier comment was my first in about two months.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say, 911 is almost universal in the US at this point. Really. It is. I am sure there might be one or two places that honestly aren't hooked in to universal (or integrated, however you want to call it) 911 now; but they are few and far between. Even in my tiny tiny town it's been up and running ten years. People have their 120 foot driveways with signs and names in unincorporated counties and all the maps were redone.

Don't poop on the author's research on that one. It's not wrong.

McKoala said...

I guess this isn't my thing; I didn't really find it funny. The POV seemed to drift a bit and I think that the advice to try writing or thinking it through in first person might be very helpful. It's lively, though, at least Stumpy is!