Hey, everyone, I’m sorry that I haven’t blogged over the last few days. There are two reasons for this.
First, I took this last weekend off of basically everything. On Thursday I felt myself hitting a mental breaking point and realized I had been pushing myself a bit too much. A close friend of mine recommended that I schedule a break from exercise, healthy eating, writing, etc. and just spend two days doing whatever the hell I wanted. So, I did that. I ate pizza, rolled, drank beer, took naps, watched terrible TV, etc for two days and it worked like a charm. I am not more motivated than ever to write and work and be healthy. I may start scheduling in break weekends every 3-4 weeks.
Second, I’ve been trying to spend more time on my fiction writing. I have found that blogging can sometimes (though not always) actually hinder my writing. It makes me feel like I accomplished something while I procrastinate doing the work I actually need to do. It is like when I spend an hour researching and planning a workout routine to start tomorrow when it would have been better to just spend that time exercising (even if the exercising wasn’t perfectly efficient). So, my blogging may be a bit sporadic for a while as I force myself to write fiction first and only blog when there is a specific idea I’m passionate about or if I get a question. That being said, II have a couple of posts (including an “Ask Me Anything Question”) that I need to get to and hopefully, will later this week.
So, with all that in mind, this post is a rough draft of a writing exercise from Stephen King’s “On Writing” (my favorite author and a fantastic book overall for artists). The basic premise of the exercise is that King gives a prompt and then the author’s job is to excavate the story, much like an archaeologist excavates a historic site. Authors do not “create” as much as they “unearth”. This is my short story based on King’s prompt. I have not proofread or edited this at all, this is just a stream-of-consciousness style story that is in desperate need of editing (particularly the beginning… I don’t feel like I hit my stride until the second half), but I wanted to share it with you anyway.
“Richard and Lucy”
Despite the boxes stacked throughout the house, the building felt empty to Richard. Nothing had gone according to plan. His life was supposed to be complete by now… a beautiful wife, a perfect child, a stable and lucrative career. But, except for the perfect child, none of that came to be. The boxes in the empty house were proof. He couldn’t figure out exactly where things went wrong but somewhere they did, and now he stood alone in the doorway to his recently sold house and mentally prepared himself for the exhausting task of the boxes into the truck.
His friends asked him if he wanted help. They had all been so supportive, even when he didn’t want the support. Maybe it was his foolish masculine pride, or maybe it was years of military service that hardened his heart, but whatever the reason he wanted to empty the house alone. Even his daughter was absent, but that was for the best. She would have more fun at her grandparent’s house than watching her old man haul boxes as blood, sweat, and tears dripped onto the floor of this home of shattered dreams.
After a long look around the entryway, Richard took his phone out to pick some music. Nothing modern fit his mood. No, for this moment he returned to his youth, his punk days of dyed hair and hatred of authority. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, that’s what he needed. Music that matched his mood, a mood that matched his mind, a mind that knew everything was just fucked up. With music blasting through his headphones he began to move boxes, his body working harder than it had in years.
The living room and dining room went smoothly as his body got into a routine. Lift box. Move box to the truck. Put the box in the truck. Repeat. Each brown square sitting on top of each other, a simple game of Tetris with the same shape in varying sizes. Richard’s mind was completely turned off, lost in the task of moving and the angry voice of Henry Rollins damaged his eardrums. He was so lost in the moment that he didn’t notice anything strange about the breeze coming from the back of the house, the slightly opened box in the kitchen, the smell of perfume that wafted through the air, the tickle in the back of his mind that his military buddies fondly called “Spidey sense”. Any sense that something was wrong was pushed down into the deep caverns of his mind where he stored trauma, despair, and visions of his war crimes that he wouldn’t even tell his therapist.
His mind didn’t escape the music until it was rudely interrupted by a text message. The screeching guitar of “Padded Cell” in his headphones interrupted by a harmonic beeping. He set down the box and pulled the phone out of his pocket. The screen flashed, New Message: Mom – “Call me ASAP 911!!!”
A light flashed in Richard’s head and then he was falling, the taste of liquid metal filled his mouth. Everything went black.
The world started to come into focus and all Richard could think of was rabbits. Rabbits running in circles. The rabbits started to disappear as reality returned. He blinked his eyes and tried to focus on something, anything, but it seemed too difficult. A sweet smell filled his nostrils, an impossible smell, one that reminded him of hate and love. He couldn’t quite place it. The world went dark again.
Richard awoke again, this time things came into focus more quickly and the habits of his prior career started to kick into gear. The rust started to come off the mind of a soldier and he realized for the first time that he was in danger. He started a conscious scan of his body. His head hurt, possibly struck in the back of the head. He was alive so no major blood loss, though his mouth or nose was bleeding. Shoulders and arms felt fine, but he was in a sitting position and restrained. It hurt to breathe and he felt pain on his left side, probably a bruised rib. His legs felt fine but they have spread apart and restrained. He wasn’t blindfolded but he was sitting facing a corner of his house and had limited visibility.
He thought about his options.
Scream for help? He wasn’t gagged but there was no way a neighbor would hear him scream for help, and whoever did this clearly wanted to talk.
Try and move? He could probably shift his body around but he would risk tipping over and further injuring himself. No, he needed to preserve energy.
He knew he needed information and needed to catch his enemy by surprise. He subtly coughed, hoping to appear weak but get the attention of whoever attacked him.
It worked. After the second cough, a familiar voice came from behind him.
“Well, well sugarplum! I’m glad to see you awake.”
Footsteps approached from his right and out of the corner of his eye he saw a flowing white wedding dress. His ex-wife, Lucy, beaming as brightly as she did on their wedding day. His first thought was how beautiful and sexy she still looked, fitting into the tight dress six years after she first wore it. His second thought was how appropriate it was that in place of a bouquet she gently held the small handgun that he had bought her and taught her how to use.
“Aren’t you excited for our second wedding?” she asked. “This time our bond really will be for eternity, but you need to get dressed first.”
She spun the chair around and he saw his tuxedo draped across a stack of boxes. She began to untie him while slowly humming “Here Comes the Bride”. He began to run through scenarios for escape. He was bigger, stronger, and faster, but she was armed. But, one gunshot from a weapon that size was unlikely to be fatal, particularly if he were to grab her quickly. One-shot kills and hitting moving targets makes for good cinema but reality is messier and more confusing. If he could stand slowly and then spin quickly and grab her he could easily overpower her and get control of the situation.
“Now, I hope you don’t get cold feet. I would hate for something bad to happen to that bitch that you love more than me. If you try anything you may find her corpse some day but you’ll never see her alive”
With those words, all thought of escape or fighting stopped. He had to know what she meant before trying anything. If Lucy had put their daughter in danger he had to get information out of her first. He slowly walked over to the tuxedo and slowly, nervously put it on. He was surprised to feel a bit embarrassed as he stripped out of his clothing and put on the formal wear in front of Lucy. She had seen him naked thousands of times, but she had never seen him vulnerable like this.
“Time to get married again!” she said, pointing the gun at him, “go into the study.”
He moved slowly down the hallway into his study and upon opening the door found a makeshift altar built out of boxes and decorated with flowers and weeds from the garden. At the center of the room, the fresh body of a postal worker slumped in a chair, blood from a gunshot wound pooling on the floor. As he recoiled from the room he felt the gun pressed against his head.
“Don’t worry, my love. I know he isn’t a priest, but as a government employee I am sure he can marry us.” She said with a smile on her face. For the first time, Richard got a good look at Lucy and could her blond hair and wedding dress be dotted with blood. His mind raced with every possible scenario. Did she really have their daughter somewhere? Or was that a lie? He couldn’t take the risk, he had to play along until he knew the truth.
Lucy pressed a button on the laptop in the office and the familiar “duh duh da duh” of “Here Comes the Bride” pounded out of the small speakers. Something felt off about the recording, the music seemed muted and imperfect. It wasn’t until Richard heard a man say, “Dearly beloved…” that he realized that this wasn’t a song, this was a recording of their actual wedding from many years ago.
“Soon this will be over and we will be able to consummate, and then on to our honeymoon! Just the two of us!”
The short ceremony went by in a blur. Richard’s mind raced trying to find a solution while Lucy recited vows and joyously hummed next to him, except for the pistol in his ribs he almost thought she didn’t even know he was there.
The recording announced that they were married and she let out a cheer, dropped the gun, and drug him out of the office to the bedroom. She opened the door to find a nearly empty room filled mostly with boxes, the bed packed up the day before into the back of the moving truck.
“Hmm, well this isn’t very romantic. We can’t make love on the floor, that isn’t romantic. I guess we will need to just fuck instead,” Lucy said. She started to strip out of her dress and, upon seeing Richard standing still started screaming, “TAKE OFF YOUR SUIT! WE CAN’T FUCK CLOTHED!”
He slowly complied.
She looked down at his naked body and scoffed. “What’s wrong? Can’t get it up for me anymore? Or were you always faking? I knew you military boys were just closeted gays. All that time bunked up together fried your brain. Oh well, close your eyes and imagine if you have to because if you don’t fuck me then that bitch of yours is going to spend the last hours of her short life gasping for air and wondering why her daddy didn’t save her.”
She moved closer to him and started grinding against him, her hand stroking him until he was ready. He felt such shame because it felt so good, his mind was fractured between what he knew he should do and what his body wanted to do. It didn’t take much effort to reconcile the two. If he needed to have sex with her to keep his daughter alive he would. So, he bent her over the boxes and fucked her.
Their bodies found their well-developed routine and rhythm that comes from a decade of monogamy and soon they both lay panting on the ground where they used their clothing as a makeshift blanket. For a moment, Richard forgot his daughter and what brought about this whole situation. For a moment, as he considered Lucy’s eyes, he remembered falling in love with her in the first place.
“I’ll be back in a second and then we can head to Mexico for our honeymoon,” she said as she stood up and walked towards the guest bathroom. Over the next few minutes heard the toilet flush, the sink run, and the sound of Lucy rummaging through boxes. When she returned she was fully dressed and holding the gun in her hand again. “Time to go! Put your clothes on, we have a long drive ahead of us.”
Richard knew that they would never make it across the Mexican border. Lucy was acting too neurotic and there was likely a warrant out for her arrest right now. He knew he had to stop this right now. If he could overpower her maybe he could convince her to tell him where their daughter was.
He got dressed and decided to make his move when they left the hallway into the front room. The room opened in a way that would allow him to quickly move to the side of the door and get control. He began to steady his breathing and get his mind back into “soldier mode”. He became a machine, violence was his job, his training took over and he pushed his humanity deep into his subconscious. She wasn’t his ex-wife or lover, she was the enemy. She was going to kill his daughter. This was self-defense. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.
As he walked ahead of her he could feel the gun pressed into the lower right part of the back. Good. Even if she got a shot off he knew it wouldn’t be immediately fatal and if he spun to the left the gun would shift right away from his body. He had walked this hallway thousands of times and knew how many steps it was to the end. He began counting down.
*5 more steps*
Each step took less than a second but it felt like an hour.
*4 more steps*
Visualize the attack but don’t get hung up on the details.
*3 more steps*
Be ready to improvise, run through scenarios.
*2 more steps*
Overpower her, don’t kill her
*1 more step*
Don’t forget about the gun.
Richard spun to the left and raised his left arm. The momentum of his body drove his elbow into her face, making an audible crunch. She had been looking slightly left and took the force of his blow straight on the nose. Blood exploded onto the walls and her vision went blurry. The gun fell to the ground as she instinctually reached up to her face, but her arms never got to her wound. Richard was too quick and restrained her arms. He pushed her to the ground and straddled her body, pinning her arms against her torso.
As calmly as he could muster he asked, “Where is my daughter?”
“YOU FUCKER! I’M GOING TO CALL THE COPS! YOU BEAT ME JUST LIKE MY DAD BEAT MOM! YOU ASSHOLE!”
“Where is my daughter?”
She started giggling. “You mean ‘our daughter’?” The laughing grew stronger. “She’s fine. She’s in the back seat of the car waiting for our honeymoon.” Her body started to convulse in laughter and she doubled over as Richard jumped off her and sprinted towards the front door.
As he left the house he saw Lucy’s car in the driveway and a familiar blonde ponytail in the backseat. He ran, joy flooding his mind at the sight of his daughter. He tugged on the back door to find it locked and he started banging on the window. “Honey! Honey! Open the door for me, sweetie”.
His daughter didn’t respond.
Then, slowly, he started to realize that something wasn’t right. His daughter wasn’t moving. Her head was limp against her chest. Blood flowed down her neck onto her dress.
He heard a cackling behind him.
He turned to see Lucy, gun in hand, laughing.
“You thought I’d let you leave me for that bitch!?”
She raised the gun and took a perfect stance. He could see her eye lined up with the front sight post, exactly as he taught her. “She always was a good student,” he thought.
A flash of light.
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