Friday, September 15, 2006

Work In Progress

Ray Butler upended cushions and looked under the couch. He rooted about the living room until he finally found it. The tip of a black plastic remote peeked out from a half eaten bag of microwave popcorn that was propped next to the armchair. He grunted, took a long swallow from a can of MGD, lifted an eyebrow and belched appreciatively. As he placed the beer down onto a wooden coffee table randomly riddled with white sweat rings, the old empties from the night before scattered like bowling pins and fell to the floor.

Ray bent over the popcorn bag and reached down to fish out the remote. He sensed the danger before he understood it. Fear froze him in place. His heart thumped double-time in his chest, and he became aware of the effort of breathing. The landlord had just replaced the carpet with plush brown shag, which, from Ray's stooped position, seemed to cover the ceiling. Fresh size-twelve footprints leading to the closet formed deep depressions in the carpet that stood out like flashlights in the dark. Like sleepy tendrils of a sea anemone in a soft current, the flattened fibers drifted languidly back to a standing position.

He forced himself to move again. Only one thought filled his mind as he pulled his empty hand from the bag, knocking it over: the Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, loaded and ready in the cupboard above the refrigerator. But could he get there in time?

Think casual, he told himself. He retrieved his beer from the table and made an exaggerated show of swishing it, then guzzled the last bit of swill. He gave the can a one-handed man-crush and flipped it toward an overflowing garbage can by the kitchen island.

He strolled to the refrigerator and opened the door. On the bottom shelf lay a plundered twelve pack box of MGD with only two cans left. He decided on a bottle of Bud Lite instead, which was lying on its side alone in the crisper drawer. "Damn," he said aloud as he shut the door, "now where the hell did that opener get to?"

He rifled through a few drawers and cupboards on his circuitous path to the gun's hiding place. When he opened the cupboard door, he was horrified to find that the .38 was gone.

"I believe that's a twist-off anyway," said a smooth voice behind him.

Careful to move slowly, like the hour hand of a clock, Ray turned to greet the intruder. The steady eyes that regarded him seemed to absorb the light around them. The man wore a grey, wool slash pinstripe Italian suit and python skin dress shoes. His jaw was square and bounded by a cleft at the end of his chin. And though he was clean shaven, there was just a hint of a shadow mustache and beard. He had crisp black sideburns half the length of his ears, and wore a white straw Panama fedora with a dark grey hatband.

When the man reached into his jacket pocket, eyes fixed on his own, Ray knew his time had come. He had been expecting a visit anyway--it was only a question of when. To Ray's intense relieve though, the man pulled out a pack of Camels and an ivory inlaid butane lighter. "Mind if I smoke?" the man asked.

Roy blinked. "By all means, be my guest."

"Are you sure?" the man said, "Your place, your rules."

"Mi casa es su casa," Roy replied.

The man's brow furrowed, and his tone took on a dangerous edge. "What, are you Mexican or some shit like that?"

Roy stuck waved his hands in front of him with his palms out. "No. It's just an expression. It means--"

"I know what it means. But this is America. And in America, we speak English. Capiche?"

"Yeah, sure, capiche... Uh, I mean, I understand."


Kathleen said...

I like it. And I want to know more! I want to know what happens next. You sucked me in damn near immediately.

Bailey Stewart said...

I'm with Kathleen - that's it? I love your descriptions.

Like sleepy tendrils of a sea anemone in a soft current

That's a good one.

Scott said...

Kat - That's good feedback. I'm trying to jump right in and move.

Bailey - So far that's all I have. That's two lunches worth. But I have a plan, sort of...

Bernita said...

You have a rich way with words and a knack for original description.

May want to consider if you've over described by saying something twice, as in "found what he was looking for."
We get the idea that he is looking from the first sentence.
Like the idea that he can think cleverly about defense and isn't a paralyzed idiot.
And you've created great suspense.
I like it.

Scott said...

Bernita - Ok, I'll reconsider my phrasing there. I'm glad that it works for you so far.

Bernita said...

Just a picky thing, Scott.
Usually best to finish the piece first before one gets busy with edits.
Much easier to flense after you have the whole story solid.
It intrigues nicely.

Beth said...

Who is this Bernita and why did she steal the words from my fingers? Now all I'm left with is "ditto" on both of her comments.

Scott, the funny thing about writing classes is you rarely meet good writers there. A high school teacher of mine (serious hard ass guy, but incredibly gifted) told me to pursue writing as a serious career when I was 17. I told him I would need college and this and that. He said, "Good writers aren't born out of a classroom. You're either good or you're not." I never forget that piece of advice.

Moni said...

I smell a murder mystery coming on. lol Good job! :)

Flood said...

There's a great noir quality to this, Scott.

mr. schprock said...

It's both scary and funny. Nice descriptions. Me like. Keep going and don't stop till your done.

klgilbert said...

Scott, love your descriptions. You paint a vivid picture. I like your use of fresh verbs, it makes the piece active.

In the paragraph near the bottom that starts "When the man reached into his jacket pocket..."
I believe you meant to say *relief* here..."To Ray's intense relieve..."

Good show. Will be waiting for more.

klgilbert said...

Scott, I didn't mean to be presumtuous. If I sounded rude or arrogant in my last message, I didn't mean to. That is why I don't like to critique others' writing.

I thought maybe you were typing so fast that the form of the word came out and not the actual word you meant. (A typo, so to speak). It happens to me all the time. If that is not the case, I apologize. :)

Scott said...

Beth - I suspect you may be right. It may not turn out like I expected, but still there is much for me to gain.

Moni - Nope. Nice guess though.

Flood - Cool, thanks

Mr. Schprock - Thanks man. I can't keep going until its done, as I don't have that kind of time in one stretch.

KLGilbert - Please, feel free to tell me what you think, exactly as you think it. Of course that was a typo, and I really appreciate that you pointed it out. There are so many words that fly off my fingertips without thinking, and you caught one of them. Thanks. I liked what you said about my verb choices and such. I'm trying to get better, so please feel free any time to point out awkward phrasings and misspellings.

klgilbert said...

:) Okay, Scott. Can't wait to read more of your story. ~K~