Monday, January 09, 2006

Chapter 4

Okay, first post, continuing from the chapters I posted on the board. Hopefully I've taken into account the comments that were made there. It's just one more chapter, another will follow later today, just want to look at it for a little longer.

CATHERINE
She watched her boys go up the stairs. Did they know they walked to the same rhythm? Did they know how hard it was becoming for her to tell the difference between them? More importantly, was she to become indistinguishable from them? Unable to see her own walk, she couldn’t judge whether she fell into their rhythm.

She closed to the front door and followed them both up into her room. When she walked in, Stephen was already laid flat out on the bed, staring up at her when she walked in, holding out a pack of cigs. “No thanks; I’ve got my baccy.” He threw the pack over at Daniel, who was staring out the window; Daniel's hand flicked back and caught the flying pack before it hit him. Catherine watched as he took out a cigarette and lit it; she thought of the first time they shared a pack in this room. Washed down with stolen cans of Stella, Daniel had drank easily. It didn’t seem to effect him, but the smoking had; he'd coughed his way through 10 cigs, and looked disgusted by every single drag. Now, six years later, he had the affection down pat.

“Daniel, there’s a cut on your neck,” she said, knowing she should have kept her mouth shut.

“He still can’t shave properly,” Stephen tried to cover. “I taught him all he needed to know. Still my boy doesn’t know how to do shit.”

“What do you need to shave for? You barely have enough body hair to cover your little toe.” Catherine turned to him and crawled on to the bed; Stephen tried to lean forward and kiss her, but was pushed back down.

“You want to fight, hon? You know it never ends well,” he said in a movie script drawl.

Catherine was heavier and stronger than both her boys; she was always confident she could take them both, not that she really ever wanted to, but Stephen was always egging her on, trying to flare up her violent temper. She took her left arm and dropped it shoulder first on his chest.

“Badly like that?” she smiled. Stephen winced but grinned back. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Daniel was watching. No expression on his face: whether he was working out where he should sit, what he should say, or just where his life would end, Catherine didn’t know. She knew he didn’t seem too bothered. Even when Stephen’s right hand went up and underneath her shirt, Daniel remained blank, his brown eyes blinking occasionally.

“You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you babes?” Stephen was holding his grin as he spoke, but she knew he was in some discomfort. She only weighed about ten stone, but her lover was a slender thing, just less than six feet. He had some muscles but they were for moving, not carrying weight. He could move them, make them do all kinds of things, but heavy lifting wasn’t in their design.

“I know I can beat you,” she eventually replied, leaning harder into his chest, smiling, then kissing him. “But I won’t.” She released her weight, and twisted around until she was sitting on the side of the bed, Stephen's hand still undershirt, but now caught up stroking her back. “Could you stop that?” She felt him sit up behind her and lean his head into the side of her neck. “No, I can’t,” he said, kissing her cheek, running his lips along until they reached the top of her spine. “You’re too beautiful, Catherine,”

“Go to the offy, Stephen. I need something to drink,” she said as she pulled a piece of skunk out of her sock draw. “Some vodka, and fruit juice.” He rolled his eyes and collapsed down on the bed. “I’m comfy here,” he whined.

Daniel spoke for the first time since he reached the room. “I’ll go.”
“No, me and you are going to talk.” Catherine burnt the brown block until enough could be scraped off. “We’ll smoke this, and I’ll give you shitty advice.”

“I want some shitty advice.” Stephen was reaching over to drop his cig in a coffee mug.
“Go!” Catherine snapped. “Please just get us something to drink.”

He pulled himself up off the bed, but not without giving her a little kiss on the back. Just with that she felt shivers, a goodbye kiss, and now she wanted him to stay; she wished that Daniel had not turned up at all; she wanted Stephen naked.

“Give me some money then, I didn’t bring anything,” Stephen said as he ran his hands around his head.

Daniel started to laugh, his quiet dirty laugh, which Catherine wasn’t sure if it was made of phlegm or cum. Either way it was something she didn’t hear enough of during these downwind cycles Daniel so often disappeared into. “You stole something from the till, Stephen, you always do.”

“Fuck Danny, fuck. I’m trying to make some money out of my girl,” Stephen pouted, poking his finger at his accuser. “You are no help at all.” Catherine watched her beautiful boy go, lighting another cig as he left. “Don’t smoke in the fucking hallway,” she screams after him. “Mum hates that shit, and she’ll be able to tell too. He knows it, the fucking ass.” Daniel smiled, his laughter gone now, hiding back behind his eyes. She rolled the spliff up slowly and watched him as he walked from the window to her desk and then back again. He gave a backwards V to Stephen as he ran off down the street. His back was to her once more; his arms reaching forward, his hands pushing against the glass. If the lighting had been better he would have been a silhouette. If my mind was better, thought Catherine, it’d be able to read his. We wouldn’t have to bother with an extended Q and A; we could sit and smoke this thing in silence.

As she licked the paper, she rose to her feet. As she sealed it closed, she took the three steps towards him and leant in to his back. Stephen moved his arms back around and with one took the joint and with the other pulled her head so it rested on his shoulder. She listened to his breathing, and heard the lighter open a flame and heard him inhale. “Love you, Daniel,” she whispered. “Talk to me.”

He did not reply, and she closed her eyes, beginning to fall inside him, where she felt rain on her cheeks, where she saw fire all around. A small forest, a bright white cottage at its heart. She listened for the sound of his breathing, followed it towards the cottage’s front garden. His breathing was heavy, and she knew he was close by. She looked to the cloudy sky, and then left and right fierce fires attached to nothing were all around her. When she looked down she saw Daniel underneath the ground, alive, smiling, pointing at her. She came out of him, gasping, back in her bedroom.

“What the fuck was that?” She staggered away from him and onto her bed. He was turning towards her spliff between his lips.

“Catherine?” He was staring down at her, as blank faced as ever. He spoke in a whisper, words tumbling out: “Honey, what’s wrong? You’ve gone pale. Paler than usual. Fucking hell darling, you’re shaking.” He crouched down beside her. Catherine could see his eyes were filling up; seeing her distressed had always seemed to hurt him. She raised her trembling right hand and brought it to rest on his cheek, and she began to wipe the tears from his eyes with her thumb. “I’m okay Daniel, just weird bit of déjà vu.” He took her hand from his face, and held it, squeezed his fingers around her chubby scarred palm. They stared at one another for a while, letting breaths meet, hoping the silence would calm them down. Catherine looked at him for any sign that he knew what she’d just seen, but he just look concerned. Had he really not seen her, slip inside of him?

The door swung open and Stephen wandered in, a bottle of Kirov vodka in one hand and a large carton of Five Alive in the other. He took one look at them and exclaimed, “Pity party, is over, we have drinks! We’re going to get drunk, then high. If one of you lovelies put some music on, we may even dance.” He dropped the drinks on the bed. “I’m going to get some glasses.”

He darted back out of the room, and Catherine stood up. She’d managed to stop shaking but her legs were unsteady; she staggered forward. Daniel grabbed her by the waist, and held her. “I’m good, you can let go now.” He didn’t let go; instead, he brought the side of his head to rest on her ass. She couldn’t see him, and it made her uneasy. She didn’t want to move him, she didn’t know what the hell was going on, but if he needed to rest there for a moment, if it brought him some comfort, then she’d let him rest. She reached down and took the spliff from his hand, she took a long drag, and as she exhaled, he released his hold.

“Sorry.” He couldn’t even look at her as he said it. She smiled down. “It’s okay, darling, but you should get up,”


By the time Stephen came back into the bedroom, Daniel was sitting on the bed, crossed legged, taking nice long tokes, and she was skipping through some of the Oranges Band tracks to find “Evil’s where you want it to be.” Catherine found her song, and turned to see Stephen grinning as he poured out the drinks.

“This is more like it. We just need to relax for once.” He sounds as if he almost believes that, she thought.

“Hurry up baby doll, I need a drink. Smoke's making me dizzy,” she said as way of reply.

He handed a glass to Daniel first, filled to the rim, half and half. Catherine watched as Daniel took it to his lips and drank slowly, steadily until it was quarter and quarter. When she was handed hers, she did the same, only until it was empty; then she handed the glass back, just as Stephen was beginning to drink his own.

“Again please.” She was going to get drunk, or at least get what she had seen out of her mind, whatever she had seen. “I’m so fucking thirsty, Stephen.”

“Clearly.” He took her glass. “Well when we’ve drank this, someone else can go for the next bottle. I’m sure they were going to ask for ID, it was only because some shit head was trying to steal some fireworks that they didn’t.” He poured another drink out, first the vodka, then the fruit juice. She watched his hands as they held glass and bottle; they were more delicate then either. A flash from the 's lighter made her turn in his direction. She saw he was watching the same hands; she heard him thinking the same thoughts. She heard him think they could be broken. She wanted to believe that Daniel planned to protect them, as they tried to protect him.

Stephen’s voice came back into her mind. “So if I was going to be a lead singer, would I need low self-esteem to begin with, you know, to make it worthwhile? I mean, is their any reason to lay my soul open, if it’s not going to get me laid?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” Daniel replied, but Catherine was no longer looking at him, her friend, or Stephen. She was looking back behind the vodka bottle, at a small cartoon, depicting a woman being tied to a stake and set on fire.

“Well, don’t you think it should work like that?”

8 Comments:

Blogger sb said...

You know where it starts, "Catherine watched as he took out a cigarette and lit it; she thought of the first time they shared a pack in this room." - it's good sentences but somehow it felt forced, exposition to reveal Daniel's character. Why is Catherine thinking about the first time they shared a pack? I'm not completely sure about this, but it might be stronger without that exposition, though the details about Daniel are nice - the exposition felt a bit forced (in my opinion) .. Also, when they're talking and she tells him he has a cut on his neck, and then knows she should have kept her mouth shut you might ... and this is opinion again, want to kill the knowing part. It's foreshadowing but it has this sort of unreal thought to it - Catherine seems so utterly unlikable as a character, that she almost seems like she'd want to open her mouth. You caused a near-gag at "DAniel started to laugh, his quiet dirty laugh, which Catherine wasn't sure if it was made of phlegm or cum."..

Nice.

In some ways these characters are so abomidable it can be difficult. All in all, seems to be less nihilistic, though. I wasn't sure, what was going on, when Catherine sees Daniel underneath the ground, smiling and pointing.

Very good writing. Do you edit as you go along, or just edit a little when you're done? I'm just curious. It seems edited.

You're very on the edge of writing horror, you know. A kind of sexual horror, although it might change when its all done, the sex really seems to be the horror part.

Good stuff.

6:50 AM  
Blogger sb said...

I'm going to have to reread chapter 1. You should post them all. I think it might help, if they were all here.

6:54 AM  
Blogger wally said...

I can certainly see what you mean about the random exposition, it seems to be a mainstay of my writing. Hopefully as this piece progresses I'll return to those snippets of memory and draw them out. We'll see. As it stands, they are somewhat of a nuisance.

Sad to hear that you find them so terrible, it's certainly not the intention, they're characters I love as people, and actually think they're pretty decent souls.

As for editing, I gave it couple of going overs before posting, and then another once it was already up. I intend to go through it all in more detail once all the chapters are complete. All though I'm sure I'll return a fair bit and tweak things here and there.

Again, the idea I'm writing horror or sexual horror, is a little strange. I'm haven't read much of what could be considered sexual horror, so I don't know where that would come from.

Anyway thanks ever so much for the comments, very very interesting and insightful as ever.

5:10 PM  
Blogger wally said...

and done. added the previous chapters, and another new one. Looking forward to your next story.

5:18 PM  
Blogger sb said...

Random exposition isn't bad! Don't get me wrong. It's a talent, that I suspect if utilized with care, provides an excellent way to get into the character's minds and hearts.

The reason they're so terrible, is they seem to do things without reason. You probably don't recognize; but once you finish this, if you read back some months later you'll see what I'm talking about. They seem very threatening, too. You know more about them, then you put on the page. What you put on the page, makes them seem like at any moment they'll turn into serial sex killers or something. I haven't read much sex horror either but I think Poppy Z Brite does that sort of thing. It's this continual fluid exchange happening, and the feeling that murder isn't that far away. I've always thought sex and murder are distant cousins, at least, emotionally, and with all the sex going on here... and the fact the some of it does seem sexually horrible; for example in this chapter, how Catherine refers to them as "her boys"..

You might call me crazy but you might want to consider auditioning a few horror stories to see what happens. You seem to really like writing the dirty bits, is all I'm saying!

"Daniel started to laugh, his quiet dirty laugh, which Catherine wasn’t sure if it was made of phlegm or cum."

8:16 PM  
Blogger sb said...

I hate to ask, but could you arrange them into one big post, in order? It just makes easier reading. I know I'm a bastard but since you're done with all of them up to chapter five, it might make a more linear structure for people who wander onto this blog and read for the helluvait.

(By the way everyone here has admin rights, so if they have people they want to add, just click into settings/members...and you can send out invites.)

In the future, if we get past all of our weirdo tendencies, we'll be able to directly edit each other's posts, so we can write our correction/type stuff at the bottom of each other's posts, after the writing. We're probably not comfortable enough with it, to do so, yet, but sometimes comments can seem a bit obtuse, compared to getting into the chunks of text, and pasting it, with what we think would be helpful. Just a thought.

Thanks, Wally, the next one has been a growing experience for me. It's finished and I'm writing another one (my adolescent take on a haunted house story). I've just got to edit the last few pages. I'm just a lazy prick. But damn, you've given us something good to read!

8:24 PM  
Blogger Sam Spid said...

Hey

I've read all the chapters so thanks for posting 'em.

It's not generally the sort of thing I would read but will try to help...

I do somewhat agree about the sexual horror thing, and because it does read a little like that, it might benefit from a little more suspense. It's like you're throwing everything at us and it's really strong stuff, but you're not holding anything back and this makes it quite heavy to read, especially as there's not yet been that much 'story' type movement, but more setting up the characters.

I'm guessing the next chapter is going to be the one where you chuck a mess of conflict all over them, and I'm curious to see what that will be, because, like I said, it seems like from the first page, they're in some rock bottom place where whatever you threw at them wouldn't affect them. But, again, this could be just because I'm not really used to this type of writing.

Also, there doesn't seem to be that great a difference when the POV shifts, right now at least, so I was wondering whether you were aware of that or whether it's something you need to do for things that will come later in the story.

There are some really lovely images and beautiful turns of phrase in this, and the dialogue is very strong.

But I think the non-dialogue passages could use a little tightening up.

I dunno if this is allowed or not (we should really draw up some sort of etiquette things), but it's something I'm gonna want people to do for me, so I figure maybe you'll be cool with it too... I've gone through the Prologue bit for the language - obviously it's up to you whether you would want it tightened up in the way I'd suggest. If you're interested, I'm happy to go through the rest of it in the same way but, if not, no worries.

OK, the first sentence - the passive tense read a little awkwardly, especially as an opening line... I understand the idea of creating a sense of languor, but action is good and I also like the idea of getting the reader's attention by not spelling out to them immediately why the paper burns a hole through the bottle.

I don't think you especially need the sentence starting "tanned legs..." because it's implied by the preceding sentence and, because it's not that fresh an observation, it also detracts from the impact of the image created by the preceding sentence, which *is* very fresh. However, if you are gonna leave it in, consider that erections aren't really "allured", they're "induced" or "aroused" etc. (that threw me for a while).

If you're big on it being part of your style, then that's cool, but "chip-greased" jarred a little. I'm not sure it adds much more to the scene, but I do think it slows down the movement.

"they came from the radio" not "they were coming" because it's just one exclamation, right, and therefore happens and is over, rather than continuing.

I don't think you need the bit about infested balls of dirt... there's enough in what comes before that we can tell it's not a pristine flat, and I think that by slimming it down, you focus more attention on the colour of the blanket (pale, blue, sickly, suffocating, childhood security) because it's now got to do more work in setting the scene.

"my hands reached" is awkward... I get the idea of doing a POV, but it is awkward here.

So, what that basically adds up to is something like this:

The paper dropped to the bottom of the bin, hitting a green plastic bottle, burning a hole straight through. Catherine wiggled her open fingers above the thin lines of rising smoke. Stephen kneeled at her feet, ripping dry fashion magazines into thin penis shapes. I ran my fingers along the top of my pubic hair, pushing strand after strand until they were all laying flat. Two voices screamed, “hell yeah mother fucker” in the background. I couldn't tell if they came from the radio or the street below, but they seemed happy, as if they’d locked themselves out of the morgue and would never have to go back. Pulling myself up off my pale blue blanket, I reached towards the windowsill and looked out.

Hope that all makes sense...

I liked a lot of this piece and lines like this:

"My teeth were still too large, but if we still together by Christmas he would pay for an orthodontist to file them down."

are killer. But I am curious about how you feel about the big sweeping structure/storyline things, and would also say that, in the descriptive passages, particularly when it comes to describing action, you should watch yourself when it comes to adding unnecessary details and try to let fewer details say more.

G

3:40 AM  
Blogger sb said...

"My teeth were still too large, but if we still together by Christmas he would pay for an orthodontist to file them down."

I thought that sentence was brilliant, too! It still bothers me in some fashion.

1:10 PM  

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