Category Archives: Short stories

Never complete but stories all the same

The Tragedy Of Abigail’s Debutant Ball

“It was my debutant ball, and I was coming out for the first time, and my dance card had been completely filled with all of the eligible bachelors. I was standing in my ball gown, which was gorgeous of course, a peach floor length gown, that was slightly yet suggestively off the shoulders, with silk flowers stitched to the bodice that came in every delicate shade of peach and pink you could imagine. My nanny had to go to the county line that so no other girl would have my particular style. I spent an hour getting my corset tightened to a 16 inch waist- 2 inches less then the average waist size. I had to be the most beautiful woman at the ball. After all, it was my damn ball. Oh, excuse my language, I’m the heroine in this story see, and sometimes I cuss a little because although I am a debutant, and born into high society, I’m also a little wild and wild women cuss.

It was at the moment that I was showing my dance card to Emmy-Lou, a dowdy girl from the out-skirts of town, that the dashing man of the ball arrived. It was Ashley Gatin, the rich, yet young and estranged (mother in the mad house, father romping about in Europe, the same ol’ story) man with the mansion on the hill. He never was seen at social soirees because dark mysterious men don’t go to balls because then they wouldn’t be dark and mysterious. Everyone knew he was bad yet magnetic. You’re not suppose to marry that type because any involvement with this young rebel could prove scandalous. Still, you know every girl in the room would jump his bones if they had the chance. Of course, he came up to me before approaching any of the other young women, and complimented me on my lovely frock.

“Why Miss. Abigail, you look ravishing this evening.” He smiled at me, flashing a quarter of his pearly whites.

“Why thank you, Mr. Gatin, how nice of you to notice”. I fluttered my neck with my fan, because it’s the south and it’s hot.

“I was wonderin’ if I might trouble you for a dance.”

I was peering over the top of my hand painted fan, watching all of the other debutants watching me with absolute envy. Look at them whisper to one another. Jealous cows.

“Why I am so sorry Mr. Gatin,” I said coyly with a frosting of bitchness, “but you are just a little too late, why I am afraid that my dance card is full. Perhaps next time Mr. Gatin. Now, if you would excuse me please Sir I must go and join my next dance partner (Mr.Dull and boring).”

He gently yet seductively touched my arm and leaned in toward my ear where his warm breath burnt my exposed neck.

“Oh I will dance with you tonight Miss. Abigail.”

“Humph.” I said spinning from the pure nerve of that hunk of a man.

It was becoming late and the last dance was called. I was dancing with Mr. Talks too much about himself, when a figure appeared behind my partner.

“May I cut in?”

It was Mr. dashing Ashley Gatin, of course, and he never looked at my dance partner, but had all of his intense focus on me; the beautiful bell of the ball.
I didn’t really say yes, but I didn’t say no either. My partner knew he was rejected because he felt the heat between mine and Ashley’s two bodies. We danced a waltz, Blue Danube maybe, when he pulled me in just a little too acceptable for society’s norm.

“Why Mr. Gatin, what do you think you are doing? I am a lady.”

“I know you are a lady, but I want to tell you I don’t care what the people think or say, I’ve just come into millions and I want you to be my wife. We will take an ocean liner to the far off lands and show the heathens of the world how civilized and beautiful we both are. I love you my dear, I have since I saw you riding your stead out in the meadow when you were but a mere girl.” He said.

“Oh darling!” I gushed.

And it was then at this moment when tragedy struck. As I fell into his manly arms I felt a strange vibration coming from my midsection, then like an explosion the bones from my corset burst from the pressure of my dancing and my natural body shape, my ghastly 22 inch waist was exposed. I looked up at Ashley. He looked down at me with a pained expression in his eyes.

“Ashley, Ashley darling?”

I cried to him and right then a single stream of blood fell from his closed lips to my damask cheek. I looked down and notice that a whale bone from my corset had stabbed into his delicate flesh piercing his heart. No he wasn’t shorter then me he had just bent down to pick me up in his wild embrace. It was bad timing.

“Noooooo!” I screamed as a crowd gathered around just in time to see his dead body slip from my corset’s bones and from my embrace. Blood was everywhere, a pool the size of a pond formed under his body and got all over my peach shoes with the single flower. I ran screaming from the building my bloody footsteps leading the others to find me. And find me they did, on my hands and knees in the garden pulling up grubs and eating them.

Now years later, you find me here in this castle where they shipped me off. Now, I just run around half naked pulling my hair and starting fires. My Lawd, if only I had tightened that corset to 18 inches, I wouldn’t be here now.”

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More on Gunther

I finished my latest short story, and plan to post it onto Zoetrope to see what the “people” think before I send it off to see if anyone would like to publish it. This story will be my first real attempt to reach out into the publishing world to see if they bite. I need a title though, so hopefully the Zoetrope folks can help me out. Speaking of short stories, I posted some annotated notes from people on Zoetrope, and the things they thought were strong and weak in regard to the story Gunther McWilliams. I’ve had a funny reaction to Gunther: I’m over it. The story was created out of a short story challenge contest, so, it isn’t the theme I generally feel driven to write (yes, I plugged my third placement in the first round). It was great practice in writing in a different genre and voice but when it came down to all the extra work to make the story shine, I just didn’t have it in my heart to go deeper. But maybe some other time.

Here are the notes:

The good: non-traditional story–this semi-science fiction story is satirical and funny. Swiftesque feeling. The story flows well. The dialogue captures the nature of the character, authentic in tone. Never once gets in the way of the story you’re telling, and the pace you keep is perfect for a narrative of this sort. The story itself feels familiar interesting twist here a fascinating twist I really like the premise.

Constructive:

Some places for improvement would be more imagery . Not totally original but enjoyable nonetheless. A very few minor typos.  I’ve seen it before.


Building a short story (#2)

Where do our ideas come from? Anything and everything. My last short story, (even though the last post said ‘final’ Gunther McWilliams is far from complete) was inspired or driven, I would say, by the NYC. It was a fun story to work on but not my choice of genre or subject matter. I am much better at watching science fiction than writing it.

This story, in its very raw form, was created from a series of nerdy writing exercises I like to do. Taking the last line from a novel, 4 random vocabulary words, an object in the room, a sound, and a smell or a taste, I then sit down and write for a total of ten minutes and try to incorporate all the images and words from my list.

In this blog exercise, I’m posting the very first draft, misspellings and all. Between my own re-working and hopefully the editing and writing help of CP, and anyone else that wants to contribute, we can turn this piece into a submission worthy work.

Inspirations list:

Marguerite Duras’ The Lover:

Told her as before, that he still loved her, he could never stop loving her, that he’d love her until death.

Vocab: baroque, labile, machination, obeisance.

Sound: clapping

Smell: feces

ten minutes

Untitled

There was a stench that filled the room and she could not describe it as anything other than shit. Marguerite stepped over the piles of clothes and papers, the stacks of books, strewn newspaper articles, shredded bits of card board, the yogurt cartons, the bottles and cans of beer, the accumulated mess of months of a recluse; a terrible, terrible recluse.

In a way she felt that he had done this to her on purpose, that all the while he had her in the forefront of his mind. She could picture him moving about his space planning it all out, the machinations of his movements laying each step like a brick layer building his invisible wall. Her invisible wall was more like it. Sure he was the one dead, but she was the one still alive, still walking around in his swinging shadow, still listening to his clapping as he laughed at her singing, still watching him build his studio like a baroque palace of trash. She was angry with him for leaving her such a mess -such a mess it was- the stench was nauseating. He had had two cats and they must have shit somewhere in the studio. All over the studio, she thought.

She moved to the window and pushed it open. A rush from the afternoon traffic fought its way past her face. He was like a ghost even when he was breathing. He told her he would love her till death. The bastard, she thought. She pulled a cigarette from a silver case that had a printed copy of Venus Rising on the lid. She brushed her finger over the image then snapped the case shut and dropped it into her coat pocket. She tapped the cigarette on the windowsill, two times, then lifted it quickly to her lips, and held it there as she searched her pockets for a lighter. The air felt warm on her cheeks and helped to relieve the smell. She cupped her hand over the lighter and cigarette till the tip glowed amber. She tossed the lighter onto the floor to join the trash. That’s all it was trash, garbage, a huge mess, a nasty hassle. She stared towards a neighbor’s window and slowly exhaled. The smoke lifted from her lips like thin webs and quickly vanished into the rising dusk of the evening.

She was not going to obeisance to him or his space or even the memory of him. She was labile at this point, and had no room to honor him in anyway. She could drop from the window as easily as he did, and with that she let the cigarette lit, and hot fall from between her fingers. She pressed her head against the windowsill and stared at the wall directly across from her. There was writing on it, she hadn’t noticed it earlier. It was in dark charcoal badly faded and smeared but she could still make it out even in the distance. It said, for you, and underneath the words an arrow pointed down to a sheet of paper thumb tacked to the wall. This won’t make it better she thought as she pushed herself from the window, and toward the paper. She tore it from the wall and began to read:

Marguerite

Such love has always been unknown to me, until I laid my eyes, my hands, and my mouth upon your very name. How you rolled over my tongue, your flesh in my nose, your heat in my eyes- I think love means Marguerite- The heart is dark  and full of such dangers that so many fear to even step to the edge but you Marguerite sailed through my body like a seasoned explorer, an adventurer of the heart. I love you Marguerite but I cannot kick the darkness away. When I am alone, my skin sweats and I have to touch the wall to prove that I am real, but I feel my hand pass right through it. My transparent flesh passing through wood, and my voice is fading. I fear never loving you again, but I’m fading even as you stand in the room. I love you Marguerite, but not this world, and it’s hard for me to believe I was ever even in it. If there is something beyond death I will love you there.

She returned to the window. It doesn’t make it better, she thought. He never even knew her. Then crumbling the paper into a ball she looked toward the sky and with that she dropped the letter.

Final draft Gunther McWilliams

Final suggestions were taken from these two previous posts.

“I need to speak to the council.” He was looking up at a woman standing behind a towering reception area.

“You think you can just come in here off the streets and talk to the council? Like that?” She snapped her fingers.

“Look. My name is Gunther McWilliams. I’ll make an appointment. I just need to speak to them. Something strange is going on.”

She examined the screen in front of her then shook her head with a tsk, “I’m sorry, you are not Gunther McWilliams.”

“I am I assure you I am.”

“No sir, you cannot be.”

“Are you telling me that on that little screen of records you cannot find a Gunther McWilliams?”

“No sir that is not what I am saying. There is one Gunther McWilliams, only one, but he is two years old.”

Gunther’s knees weakened. “That’s impossible,” he said, “I thought the city council declared that each person has his or her own name, each person has their own unique identity, there are no others with your name. How can there be a mix up, how can that child have my name?”

“Because, it is not yours.”

“Yes. I assure you it is, it has been mine for 32 years.”

“According to our records, sir, Gunther McWilliams is two and you do not look two to me. Therefore you are not Gunther McWilliams.”

I pretty much agreed and took seriously what both CP and the judges said about my short story and I made the changes I think will help to make the world of the story more believable, so it caused me to change a few things in the beginning again:

Gunther McWilliams woke with a dreadful headache. Last night was his 32nd birthday, and he and the guys from work had quite a row. He was surprised to see a few members of the council at the party. He felt he was a solid employee but never considered himself city council worthy. His boss had said, when his birthday came he hoped the council would show up to his 32nd party. Everyone one kept teasing him about being the old guy at the office.

Gunther stood up and felt a throbbing in his head. God, he was old. You play you pay. It was time to pay the piper, and Gunther had to struggle through yet another dull workday worsened by a nauseating hangover.

He stumbled into the kitchen to pull out a bag of cat food then poured it into a ceramic bowl on the floor.

“Rodney,” He called out.  He waited for a few seconds then called out again. “Damn cat,” he mumbled as he walked to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower. His mind wandered to Linda Silverston the new receptionist at the office, a real hottie too, big blonde hair, big brown eyes and big boobs. She seemed to have taken a liking to him; she had come to his birthday bash and had had a couple of drinks. He knew he was a nice guy, not the most handsome but not ugly, and he only had a small paunch. He patted his belly fat. He decided he was going to ask her out. He was 32 years old he shouldn’t be afraid to ask a woman out. He would do it today, right after work. He smiled at this. Gunther didn’t take a lot of chances, but he was resolved to start taking some right now.

As he stood in the doorway with his briefcase he glanced around his apartment one last time. He hadn’t noticed it earlier but something felt a little off. He looked at his coat tree it seemed as if it had been moved slightly.  He shrugged the feeling off. He had probably just bumped into the tree when he came home drunk. All part of getting older, you forget things.

“Rodney?”

Part of the problem was that I hadn’t established or hinted to the fact that there is a city council that dictates peoples lives, in fact the council provides all the names for each newborn. I didn’t want to reveal the name information too soon, but the judges and CP were right, I needed to mention something, and that is why I addded the line about council members being at the party. I didn’t want too much attention on them just enough so that the reader could think back, and think to themselves, “oh right the council was at the party and Gunther was surprised.”

one judge said this:

One complaint in the logic department – the missing cat was meant as foreshadowing, but it is specifically stated that the humans are treated at birth to forget others when they turn 32.  The cat should not have been affected.

This was me ineffectively conveying that the cat was taken away. Animals are unaffected but they can be physically taken away. That was why I added the new part of Gunther noticing that his coat rack looked as if it had been moved. His thought is that he must have bumped into it drunk and I hope that this being his first thought also shows that there is no crime and that is why Gunther would never suspect that someone would break into his house and certainly no one would sneak in and take his cat.

When you stated this important fact yourself, you misphrased it so that it reads as if humans forget all OTHERS when they, themselves, turn 32:  “…is the message to forget people at the age of 32.”………….

This comment i had to give up on because I wasn’t sure what the judge was talking about, I re-read the scene but I still have not been able to figure out how I miss-phrased the sentence. I could be wrong but I don’t think this particular comment is very clear as to what the judge wants to see changed. So I dropped it.

Lastly, I changed up some of the ending and I filled it out a little then I also stated rather bluntly what does happen to Gunther. I like it but some my think its a cliche. If you watch sci-fi films it is not an unusual story, I can name at least three movies that I think of when i read this. Not that I had decided, I was going to write like those movies, I just noticed the similarities after I re-read it, this is a normal thing in writing after all much has been written before me it would be near impossible for me to be 100% original, but still there is a uniqueness in how I tell the story.

The End.

ShrtStry1-using the feedback-Gunther McWilliams prt1

Its been awhile since I’ve been to this post but I’m back.

I’ve taken Catherine’s (CP) advice from the first part of feedback, you can check out the specific of what she wrote here but this is the story using her advice.

Gunther McWilliams woke with a dreadful headache. Last night was his 32nd birthday, and he and the guys from work had quite a row. Now it was time to pay the piper, and Gunther had to struggle through yet another dull workday worsened by a nauseating hangover.

He stumbled into the kitchen to pull out a bag of cat food then poured it into a ceramic bowl on the floor.

“Rodney,” He called out. He waited for a few seconds then called out again. “Damn cat,” he mumbled as he walked to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower. His mind wandered to Linda Silverston the new receptionist at the office, a real hottie too, big blonde hair, big brown eyes and big boobs. She seemed to have taken a liking to him; she had come to his birthday bash and had had a couple of drinks. He knew he was a nice guy, not the most handsome but not ugly, and he only had a small paunch. He patted his belly fat. He decided he was going to ask her out. He was 32 years old he shouldn’t be afraid to ask a woman out. He would do it today, right after work. He smiled at this. Gunther didn’t take a lot of chances, but he was resolved to start taking some right now.

As he stood in the doorway with his briefcase he glanced around his apartment one last time.

“Rodney?”

***

Gunther liked routines. He took the same route to work, stopped in the same coffee shop, got the same type of coffee, and the same croissant with ham and cheese, all to go, all paid with his bank card every work day. He had been doing it so long that he didn’t even have to say the order. He’d just walk up to the counter hold out his card, and the cute red headed barista would say, “Hi Gunther, the usual?” And he liked that.

He entered the coffee shop, the red head smiled at him as he approached. He stopped at the counter and handed her his card. She looked down at it.

“What can I get you?” She asked.

He was taken a little aback, but then thought she was being cute with him, flirting even.

“Cute.” He said. “I’ll have my usual.”

She stared at him. In fact, she stared at him as if she had never seen him before.

“Are you an actress?” He asked her with a smile, “is that what you do other than work here? Cause you are doing a great job.”

“I’m sorry sir I don’t know what you mean.”

“Okay, okay,” he was getting annoyed, “good job, now just get my usual.”

“I’m sorry sir but I don’t know what your usual is.”

He furrowed his eyebrows. “All right, maybe this is some acting class assignment so I’ll play along this once, but that’s it. I’ll have the ham and cheese croissant, and a medium Americano double shot no room for cream.”

“Okay sir that will be-“

“I know what it is, just run the card.”

She swiped his card. “I’m sorry it’s been declined.”

“What do you mean it’s been declined? Something must be wrong with the machine.”

“No, I don’t think so, I just used it with a customer before you. The machine is working.”

He huffed and pulled the card from her hand, “here use this one.”

She swiped the new card. “I’m sorry this card has been declined too.”

“What? There is something wrong with your machine I tell you.”

“No sir, its your card. I used the machine right before you. In fact I have been using it all morning. You are not the only customer in the café you know.”

“I don’t know what is up your butt this morning girl but you need to take it out before it gets stuck.”

Excuse me?”

He felt a push at his shoulder, “You don’t talk to her like that.”

He turned to face the broad chest of an incredibly fit man.

Gunther wasn’t much of a confrontationalist. He took in the size of the gentleman behind him, and decided to deal with it later. “Fine,” he said to the girl “but I’m never coming back in here again.”

“Good.” she said.

He stormed out of the shop. He could not believe the indignity, the nerve the absolute nerve of that girl. He would stop in after work and make a formal complaint, how dare she act like she had never seen him before. He walked past an ATM. He paused then put his card in the machine and punched in his number. The screen popped up a message that said, invalid pin code. He typed his code again.

Invalid.

“Impossible,” he said to himself, “I’ve used the same code for years.” He typed it again pressing firmly onto the keypads.

Invalid. It swallowed his card.

“God damnit.” He yelled. This had to be taken care of now. He pulled out his cell phone to call the office, but there was no signal. “What the hell,” he screamed.

In the bank he requested to use one of their phones in order to contact his work.

“Good morning, Seagul and Blu insurance-“

“Hello Linda?“

“Yes?”

“This is Gunther McWilliams, I’m having some problems with my bank and I’m running a bit late. I’ll be in as soon as I clear up this fiasco. Thanks, bye.”

“I’m sorry who did you say you were?”

“Gunther, damn it Linda, I don’t have time to fool around here, just give them the message.”

“I’m sorry sir—“ she started to speak but Gunther hung up.

Gunther McWilliams- more feedback

NYC Short Story Challenge judges sent me some feedback on my story. It’s great that they do this, it is my understanding that it is not often you will ever get feedback when you submit to contests or publications. If you do get this opportunity be sure to soak it up. Here are their views:

The Good:

”Gunther McWilliams”- WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT – …………The plot of this piece is amazing. I think the writer does an excellent job making this scenario seem that much more realistic. Given the story, the title of the piece does a nice job of alluding to what’s to come. I like that once the story is over, the title takes on a new meaning, a darker one. Additionally, I enjoy the pace of the piece: The writer nails each scene. …………………………The piece is propelled by a well-staged sense of mystery.  Gunther’s panic is effective and disturbing………….Interesting, creative premise.  Well-drawn main character.  Lively, realistic dialogue………………….

With the bad (or what needs work):

…………I think more about this world could be made slightly different or off. I wonder if you could allude to the people this man knows and how old they are. Additionally, do people value youth? It seems this is the case. Thus, I wonder if you could bring this into the story early on: an obsession with youth or maybe just hints or mention of how few have aged around this man. …………………………The last section of your piece is awkward in the desire to “unveil” the master plan.  The “Logan’s Run” arguments are interesting, but the exposition stalls the piece and sets it in a less interesting convention.  It might be more effective to have Gunther’s inquisitiveness lead him to answers in a more active fashion.  Avoid the desire to explain everything.   …………Many grammatical errors.  One complaint in the logic department – the missing cat was meant as foreshadowing, but it is specifically stated that the humans are treated at birth to forget others when they turn 32.  The cat should not have been affected.  When you stated this important fact yourself, you misphrased it so that it reads as if humans forget all OTHERS when they, themselves, turn 32:  “…is the message to forget people at the age of 32.”………….

Many grammatical errors? CP said few.

So many thanks to the judges and CP and now I want to boil this information for a bit and see how or if I want to apply it too the next (and hopefully) final draft.

Shstry1- Gunther McWilliams prt 2

Continuing on from part 1…

Gunther’s knees weakened. “That’s impossible,” he said, “I thought the city council declared that each person has his or her own name, each person has their own unique identity, there are no others with your name. How can there be a mix up, how can that child have my name?”

(in regard to the council being all seeing all knowing) It might be useful to let the reader know somehow subtly that this is a council type thing that is a bit stringent in this way. I know you had limited words to contend with, but it might be able to be done quickly like gunther’s on his way out the door and has forgotten to take the garbage out. ‘The council will have my ass!’ or something. Because I remember being surprised that he was aware of the council’s level of control.

“Look at me do you not see me standing here. Huh? Are you blind? I am Gunther McWilliams, I work at Seagul and Blu’s insurance company. I have a black cat named Rodney and I graduated from Chester College seven years ago in business. I am Gunther McWilliams.”

                 He felt at tap his shoulder, “The council will see you now.”

* This transition was jarring: He felt at tap his shoulder, “The council will see you now.” He’s arguing with the woman but gets called suddenly. I’m thinking that he was loud and the people in the know were all, ‘okay, we have to do this now. he’s screaming.’ But wait. Thinking about it more, I like that even the employee doesn’t have any idea of who he is and what has happened, so it increases the intrigue. Maybe have the employee look shocked. Maybe have gunther turn back around at her and look smug and she return the smugness. He thinks he’s getting preferential treatment, but we soon find out…nuh-uh.

“It is gratifying to meet those with inquisitive minds, regardless if it is too late”

The council mumbled with agreement.

“Too late? What do you mean?”

“Mr. McWilliams,” the woman on the right spoke, “We are an over populated culture ….. (I don’t want to give away the end!)

*I like the dialogue with the council. That’s where you really bring your theme (in my opinion what your theme is) home. it made me want to go learn something. It could definitely be expanded, such as how does the old gunther’s enlightenment help the new gunther. what happens to the old gunther? maybe they don’t die but are sent out to pasture. There is definitely a lot in just this exchange. But again, I know you were constrained by word limits.

*the only other things I can think of is there are a few punctuation errors.

Only a few? Hell, that’s really good for me.