Author Topic: Short Story Excerpt/Adult Language/1400 Words  (Read 276 times)

Offline DRP22

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Short Story Excerpt/Adult Language/1400 Words
« on: May 21, 2018, 03:22:28 PM »
Hey, folks. I've been putting together a book of short stories, each around 6-7K words. I've completed three of them. I'm attempting to write each story in different styles, playing with tenses, voice, etc. Below is an excerpt form the fourth story. Let me hear your thoughts!

_____

The key to being a spirit medium, the key for any conman, is to know when you’ve almost worn out your welcome. I mean, I’m good—real good—but eventually people wise up and walk away.

Or worse, run out of money.

For instance, every once in a while, I’ll get invited to someone’s home to hold a “séance party”. Mrs. Whats-her-face is a long-time client. She came to me when her father died of liver failure. She came to me when she thought her daughter was pregnant. She came to me when Trump was voted into office, asking about “omens of doom.” Whatever that means. About six months, this woman was in and out of my parlor, coming to hear me say things like, Your aura is bruised. The spirit world is communicating, but are you failing to listen? Again, all of this horseshit.

So I get a phone call, the one I was telling you about, the phone call where everything turns to shit. This chick, Whats-her-face, calls and says, “My husband is out of state for a conference. Is it possible to book you for a small gathering at my place?”

Immediately, I know this is the beginning of the end of our consumer/provider relationship. The best thing to do here is to charge triple—even quadruple—what I’d usually charge. In advance.

In the early 90s, McDonalds was really blowing up. A drive-thru ended up on every major street corner, the big golden arches spaced about twenty miles along every interstate. The big wigs in home office know that maintaining quality food with this many chains would be nearly impossible. Not to mention how difficult it is to provide a dining experience for people eating inside, and speed for those eating on the go. They approached this problem with a psychological solution: hard, cheap plastic seats. Sit and eat for more than five minutes, and your ass is so sore, you can’t wait to leave. In every McDonalds, high quantities of bright yellows and reds—colors denoting urgency. Everything about the layout screaming go, go, go. Google “hostile architecture.” Google “aggressive interior design.” The trick to getting more money, the trick to not pissing off scores of customers, is to get them in and out of their own volition before they have time to complain. Customer experiences in high quantity, not quality.

When working away from my parlor, in some hostess’ house, with all her skeptical friends drinking white wine and judging each other’s nails—I know my presentation will be shit. Without the theater design, without the diffusion of saffron oil, without a track of chanting monks playing at low volume, my whole shtick is nearly impossible to pull off. Suddenly, under the lighting in this chick’s dining room, my mysterious goatee looks… glued on. With everyone around me at the table dressed in GAP, my second hand robes look dingy. I’ve got a little more eye liner on one side than the other. Don’t look too close, because, yes, I’m wearing silver-tinted contacts. Before the séance even begins, I’ve already these people. This is why I charge so much for home visits. The big bang marking the end of steady income.

Our hostess says something like, “Guys. I promise. Victor here is the real thing.” But there’s a hint of doubt in her voice.

Lighting a cigarette, I say, “So, are we gonna do this?”

One of these Gucci soccer moms looks over, appalled, and says, “Tobacco is really bad for your health.”

Yeah, with the inflection and everything.

And blowing smoke, I say, “I’ve read your palm, sweetheart. Between you and me, I’m not the one who should be worried about cancer.”

Half way through the séance, and people are rolling their eyes. Whats-her-face is bright pink, and drunk, the bottle of pino grigio sitting a few inches from her glass. I stand up and bow, saying, “Ladies, the mysteries of the spirit dimension must wait. I need a piss.”

I make my way to the bathroom, up polished wood stairs. A few minutes later, I’m wiping my hands on a monogrammed towel when I hear something. Singing. A low, croaking kind of voice singing in what sounds like Russian. Cocking my head to the side, I’m walking down the hall towards a partially shut door, lamplight inside spilling out from underneath. Behind me, from downstairs, Whats-her-face is apologizing to her friends between hiccups. I press my ear against the door to catch the tune being sung and the singing stops. My hand flat on the door, I push it open.

This is where I first meet the Glass-Eyed Woman. Sitting on the edge of a twin bed, wrinkled and veiny hands resting shakily on her lap. She’s ancient. Decrepit. Barefooted In a pale nightgown, I can make out the shape of her tits, sunk low, sitting heavy against her stomach. Where she’s not balding, her hair is grey-white and thin. Her lower lip stretched up halfway to her nose, she’s rubbing her gums together, staring down at the patterned carpet.

Then there’s me, standing there in the doorway, entirely uncomfortable with that monogrammed towel in one hand. “Sorry, I-I didn’t know—I just heard you singing, so I—“

She turns to look at me, and her eyes look off. Not crooked or anything, just wrong. The way prosthetic eyes, no matter how good they are, always look too glossy and unfocused.
“Well, I’m gonna—I’m just going to head back down—“

Weak, shambling, she starts to push to her feet, mumbling that now incredibly creepy Russian song. Coming at me, she smiles, and her mouth is the color of raw beets. Me, I’m just paralyzed with discomfort.

Google “fight, flight, or freeze.”

A foot away from me she puts her ice cold, skeleton-like hands on either side of my face, and for a terrifying moment, I think she’s trying to kiss me.
Instead, smiling she says, “You don’t see. Not really, no,” and then, nodding, “But you will. Then, you will know.” And she takes my hand and gives it an affectionate squeeze. Shambling away, back towards the bed, she’s singing again.

I step out quietly, shutting the door behind me, dropping the towel there on the hallway floor. Time to go.

Back down stairs, it’s dead silent around the dining room table. No one making eye contact. Whats-her-face’s mascara is running. I clap my hands together, and say something like, “Well! Thank you for a wonderful dinner. But alas, the witching hour is at hand. I’m off! Please, no one get up, I know the way.”

Fishing for keys in my inner robe, halfway towards my car, someone says, “Hey, asshole.”

Turning around, there’s our gracious host, holding my jacket. “Forget something?”

“Right.” She hands me the jacket and I smile, saying thanks. She’s so pissed, she’s radiating heat. “Hey, you’re mother… does she speak Russian by chance?”

Arms folded, she says, “My mother died when I was thirteen. You told me her presence was what got me through grad school.”

“Of course.” Shit. Forgot about that one. “So the lady upstairs, who—“

“I think you should know that I intend on calling my lawyer tomorrow. I have never been so mortified in my entire life. I had this dinner party planned for months, you dipshit.” And putting both hands to her forehead she says, “I knew I should’ve just gotten a magician. I hope you know an a-fucking-mazing defense attorney, because my husband--”

And in that moment, it happens for the first time. I feel a knot in my chest, and momentarily I can’t breathe. My teeth are vibrating the way they do during hyperventilation. In front of me, Whats-her-face was still speaking, but instead of words, a stream of clear water pours out from between her lips, splattering down onto the sidewalk between us. Her face is blue. Suddenly, her hair, her clothes—it’s all soaked. Ounces of carefully placed makeup run down her face in sheets to the collar of her top. I watch as her eyes roll steadily upward until only the bottom edge of each iris can be seen.

Then it all stops.

Dry as anything, arms crossed, she says, “Are you listening to me, asshole?”

“W-what?”

Turning on her Prada flats, without looking back she says, “Expect a call from my lawyer.”

That night, I didn’t sleep. The next morning, there in the Weekend Express:

UPPER EAST SOCCER MOM JUMPS FROM RIVERBANK BRIDGE

Offline Kit

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Re: Short Story Excerpt/Adult Language/1400 Words
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 04:47:54 PM »
I enjoyed your raw style of writing, a great way to get Victor’s personality across.  You weren’t specific about the feedback you wanted so I’ll just give random thoughts.  Take it or leave it, as they say.

First, some grammatical stuff:

“The key to being a spirit medium, the key for any conman, is to know when you’ve almost worn out your welcome.”  Con man is two words.  Also, just a suggestion, I think removing “almost” makes is a stronger statement.

“About six months, this woman was in and out of my parlor,” Change “About” to “Every”.

“Before the séance even begins, I’ve already ____ these people.”  Missing word.

Victor is horrible.  But this line makes me start to love him in his awfulness: “And blowing smoke, I say, “I’ve read your palm, sweetheart. Between you and me, I’m not the one who should be worried about cancer.”” Yes, I snickered.

I want to see more reason as to why Victor is intrigued by the singing.  An old lady singing in Russian isn’t enough for me to feel compelled to check it out.  Maybe include here that it is creepy instead of later, after I’ve already decided she’s croaking a Russian lullaby or something. 

I think you have some great descriptions and maybe engage more senses to his encounter with the Glass-Eyed Woman to punch out the macabre even more, maybe it smells like dead onions in her room.

Nice reveal at the end.

It was an enjoyable read.  Thanks for sharing.

Best,

Kit
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 04:52:41 PM by Kit »