November Challenge: Day 26

Hello all. Thanks for coming back. Fair warning, I’m probably going to start gushing here in a moment. If you are sitting too close to your monitor, be warned, you may be in what we here at the E. W. Morrow blog like to call the “emotional splash zone”.

So, today has been another shining example of how I just need to write even if I don’t feel like it. I started today by continuing yesterday’s story of babysitting gone wrong, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling it so much that I stopped writing all together. I went away, ate some dinner, played some Pokemon, and tried to clear my head. Then I came back. I didn’t return to the original story, because I really didn’t know what to write anymore, and I started writing something new. Four or five somethings new, as it seemed. Several ideas were started and scrapped. Half ideas and faint notions that I hadn’t explored in even the most perfunctory sense. They died too young. So I decided to just buckle down and write something. I fell back on an old staple I’ve used a lot this month. I started with a single image, the image of a lonely, boarded up house, beaten by life and imprisoned by neglect, left to rot in the turgid waters of time, and I went with it. I just tried to keep the mood for the whole story, kinda lost it about 2/3 of the way through, and got it back again in the end. In a big way.

And it’s got me to thinking. I really need some perspective on the things I write. Dearly. Incredibly. Incessantly. Unabashedly. I need some distance. I am, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, very hard on myself. I am depressed most of the time and anxious the rest. Sadness and anger seem to be the only emotions I feel anymore. A lot of the time that shows in my work, which isn’t always a bad thing. But I can think of no force on earth, save complete, moronic ignorance of one’s surroundings and abilities, that clouds judgement so completely. I plan on re reading everything I’ve written this month, perhaps trying to revise stories and ideas I thing deserve it, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to. I’m not sure I can take a detached and critical approach to my own work, or even view it with anything other than deep seeded contempt and disgust.

And that’s why I’d really like input from my readers. Please, don’t think of this as a guilt trip, as a cry for help. I know I just went down a dark path with my post in regards to myself, but it wasn’t really to influence, merely to…inform.

I don’t get a lot of comments on my writing. Oh, I’ve had feedback, of a sort, but it’s always vague. General statements and compliments. And, while I don’t want them to stop and I understand on an intellectual level their subliminal importance, they aren’t what I want. I’ve had several people offer to read and critique my work but none of them have panned out. Most of the time it seems people offer and then do their best to ignore me, never going so far as to rescind the offers or even acknowledge difficulties in their fulfillment. This has been…hurtful, to say the least. A few people have read and commented on the stories but, as I’ve said, only in generalities.

I don’t expect everyone to be a scholar or a crack editor. I don’t expect everyone to like my work. Believe me, I know how it feels to go through life barely being able to connect with the things I read and hear, and it frightens me. I shy away from commenting on current events for fear of being dragged into a discussion I didn’t want or plan. But I think that everybody, no matter how well or poorly educated, has the ability to read a work of fiction and have an opinion, a viewpoint, something important to say. I truly want to hear what people have to say about my work because I can’t do it on my own. I’m not writing this for me. Not just for me, anyway. If I thought no one was reading my work I’d be pulling my hair out at the futility of life. Every day I become more and more aware that I cannot function in normal society, in a normal job, but maybe I have it in me to function in an abnormal one.

So, I guess, this is my point. The final summation of my angsty, emotion fueled rant. The very nub of my inevitable gist. Give me a comment. One. Single. Comment. That’s all. A whole month’s worth of comments and I would like one thought, one opinion, one tiny morsel of truth that I have not yet stumbled upon. I don’t expect anyone to read all of the stories I’ve written/abandoned this month, but I’d like to think that everyone who read even a couple had a thought about one of them. If I could get five, ten, a dozen comments, critiques or criticisms, I’d not feel like this time was a waste.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, it would let me know that people weren’t just visiting my blog and clicking “like” on a story they haven’t even read just so I’ll visit theirs and do the same. I’m interested in the quality of views, not the quantity. You have quality in you, I just ask that you share a little with me.

So, with all that out of the way, I give you another day of sub par writing. Let me know what you think. General impressions, what works, what doesn’t, etc… And, as always, thanks for reading.

Writing Challenge: Day 26 (Untitled Pieces)By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2106

Nikki didn’t lose consciousness after the fall, but the darkened room did spin unsteadily as she lay on the carpet. She reached up and pulled the sack of Legos from beneath her head and groaned. Nothing felt broken but already she could feel bruises forming on her back and hips where she’d impacted the ground most severely. More than a minute passed before she felt secure enough to sit upright, and then another two before she got to her feet. Staggering over to the doorway she kept her senses well enough not to lift her feet as she went and this time she didn’t take as much care not to kick toys across the room when she nudged them with her toes. She flicked the light switch.

It didn’t turn on. Maybe, she though to herself, the impact of me landing on the floor shook the bulb loose. It wasn’t quite in all the way, after all. But that didn’t do much to explain why the rest of the house was suddenly so dark. Timmy had probably gone through the house turning off all the lights, that would be it. No cause to be alarm.

At the top of the stairs Nikki groped for the panel of switches that controlled lights in the hallway, the stairwell, and the landing below. None of them worked. A moment of panic took hold of Nikki and she frantically tried them all again and again, as though rapidly flicking them up and down might somehow recharge the electricity, cause some spark to illuminate her passage.

From somewhere downstairs, probably the kitchen, the sound of a cupboard being opened squealed through the empty house. A second later the cupboard banged shut and another creaked open. This continued unabated for several minutes.

“Timmy!” Nikki shouted down the stairs. “Timmy stop this right now! I’m already going to tell your mother about what you’ve done, don’t make it harder on yourself!”

The sound of the cupboards ceased, and silence reigned once again. Slowly, one step at a time, Nikki descended the stairs. Her phone was in her hand, mercifully undamaged from the fall, and she held it in front of her like a shield. The tiny screen barely seemed to illuminate the space in front of her for more than a few feet, and the color of the background image colored everything in a reddish-purple light, but it was better than nothing. A few steps up from the bottom of the stairs she paused and panned the screen across the room, shining light into every possible corner she could. There was nothing but shadows and darkness.

Still holding the phone in front of her, Nikki almost fell again as she climbed down the last few steps. Her foot missed the second to the last one and she barely managed to grab on to the banister in time. From the darkness to her left she thought she heard the sound of laughter.

“This isn’t funny Timmy,” she said to the shadows as she regained her feet. Now that she was on ground level again and had a pretty good idea of where the little trouble maker was hiding, she moved with a bit more confidence.

She rounded the corner at the end of the entry hallway and took another left, toward the living room and the kitchen beyond. Just as she made the turn, and without any warning at all, something darted into the reddish light of the cell phone. It was short, and plump, and looked a lot like Timmy. It was in its pj’s, and wore a red and black mask. And maybe that was all it was. Maybe it was only the faint, shifting light from the cell phone that made the masked face look like it had a snarling, dagger filled mouth. It was possible that the chittering snarl the thing made as it swung the baseball bat at her was just the sound of Timmy’s laughter. It was so hard to tell over her own scream.

The tip of the bat collided with the fingers of Nikki’s left hand. White hot pain flashed across her vision and arced along her body. Something punctured the flesh between the bones of her hand and nicked the fingers and skin to either side. The phone went flying into the sitting room to her right, spun a few times as it went and crashed against the wall. In the final moments of strobing, rotating light before the screen cracked and went out Nikki could just make out the glittering points of nails sticking through the wood of the baseball bat. The Timmy-thing in front of her dropped let go of the bat’s handle and scampered off into the living room.

 

 

A lonely brick building with boarded up windows. A door wrapped in yellow tape. Condemned sign hanging limply from a single bit of weathered tape. Months of bills, overdue notices, final demands and eviction notices mouldering in a rust letterbox on the porch. This is all that remains of my childhood home.

The concrete steps crumble a little beneath my feet as I climb back down them. I walk backwards and nearly trip over a clump of weeds poking through a paving stone on the walkway. Much like the house and driveway the front yard has fallen into disrepair. Somehow I remember the lawn being a lush, green carpet that needed mowing every weekend from spring all the way through autumn, but now the dusty soil only supports prickly yellow stalks with the occasional patch of crabgrass defying even time’s best efforts to eradicate it.

The wind picks up and blows across the disheveled property, bringing with it the motley sounds of a dying neighborhood with it. A few dog bark and howl in the distance. The drone and buzz of insects rises and falls in waves of lazy, indifferent existence by habit. That’s all this place is anymore, just a bunch of people and things going on as they always had because failing to do so was too much work. But the march of time and the patient forces of entropy and decay wear everything down in time. Houses. People. Memories.

But not me. I escaped the rot and the stagnation. I got out of here while I could. For twenty-seven years that’s what I told myself. I’d escaped and I was never going back. It’s just a bit of bad luck that had brought me back, and soon I’ll be done with it.

That’s what I tell myself.

God damn those property developers. A couple of no good, money grubbing, spit shining grease balls who surround themselves with do-gooders and yes men. They can’t revitalize this neighborhood. Why even bother. Sure, the crime’s low and there’s basically no graffiti, except what hasn’t faded over the decades, but there’s a reason for that. This place is a pit that even the gangs and the drug dealers are too smart to fall into. Greed makes fools of us all, it seems.

I head back to my car, barely stopping to look around as I pop the trunk and pull my pack of tools out and sling it over my shoulder. No one’s watching, so why bother to check. But I do check when I pull out the last few items, the ones too big to fit in the pack and, coincidentally, the ones most likely to cause alarm if seen. Just a pick and a long handled spade. Fuck me but I wish I owned a hoe or a metal rake, something a little less conspicuous than a fucking mining pick. But I don’t, and I need something to break up the soil unless I want to be here all night, which is the last thing in the world I want to have happen. Even more than being caught, than my ultimate goal be discovered and subsequently uncovered, I do not want to be here when the sun rises. If the light finds me here, and this place becomes aware of my presence, I don’t think I’ll ever escape it again.

Time to get to work then. I close the trunk of my car silently and make my way to the side of the house. I dump the bag on the other side and quietly lay the larger tools beside it, letting the wooden handles fall the rest of the way to the dusty soil when I can’t reach down all the way. With my luck the hinges on the gate have rusted, and the last thing I want is the sound of squealing metal alerting some nocturnal listener in one of the nearby houses to my presence. I take a few steps back and get a bit of a run up to the fence, placing one hand on a sturdy looking metal post as I leap over the chain link barrier. I’d done it a hundred times before and my muscles remember the actions. I land silently, if a bit awkwardly, and collect my things before I continue on.

I’m in for a bit of a scare when I round the side of the house and make it to the back yard proper. Two scares, as it happens. The first scare is the first impression of the yard. It is a decidedly treeless impression. All of my calculations, all of my planning, everything about tonight’s operation was based on the large oak tree that had been in the back yard. Without it I won’t be able to orient myself properly. I won’t be able to measure my paces from it. I won’t know where to dig.

I drop my bag in anger, fighting the urge to throw it across the dusty, crabby lawn and scream out in rage. I settle for swinging the pick in a wide arc, relish the feel of it as it bites into the dirty brown soil with a thump. Then I take a deep breath.

It’s a little known fact that the human eye sees things better at night when it doesn’t look directly at them. The cells in the center of the eye, the cones, are tuned for color and sharpness of vision, two things it’s hard to come by at night. The rods, the cells that make up most of the eye and which are situated mainly towards the edges, are what pick up shades and values. So if you were, for instance, standing on a barren plot of land, hands on your knees, coming down from a fit of rage, you would be more likely to notice, say, a withered and charred stump sticking out of the ground and shrouded by weeds than you might have been a moment ago.

That’s how I notice the stump. It isn’t very much, just a few feet tall and, like I said, covered by weeds and creepers so that it blends almost seamlessly into the background of ivy and shrubs along the back fence. I sign in relief and turn to gather my things. That’s when I get my second scare.

In front of me is the old dog house my father and I built when I was just a boy. I say we built it, really I just held things while he hammered and sawed, handed him tools when he asked for them and stayed quiet when he didn’t. We got a dog the very next weekend. It ran away a week later, and I didn’t even remember it’s name, but a month or so after that we got another dog, named it Max, and painted it’s name on the dog house just above the door.

And here is the dog house. I can still make out the letters, just visible beneath the grime and dirt that have been caked on over the years. And inside, I see Max. The rage I felt before at the missing tree returns, fully laden with acidic guilt and cloying sadness. It’s not all of Max, obviously. Just bones and a little glint where his name tag catches the moonlight. How long has he been here, I wonder? How long did he wait after I’d gone? Did they even feed him? Probably not. Nobody even cared enough to have his remains taken away. They’d just left him.

Something else stirs inside me and I bite it back. I bite all of it back. The tears, the remorse, the anger, even the searing, painful hatred I have for this house and this neighborhood. This is how it gets me, I think. This is how it traps me. Strength now, sadness later.

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One thought on “November Challenge: Day 26

  1. Pingback: Going forward | E. W. Morrow

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