Experimental piece 1k words (bit of violence)

reiver33

Only Forward
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#1
I'm trying 1st person 'immediate', so to speak, in the manner of a conversation recounting past events as they happened. This is the opening chapter of 'Change Of Heart' (think B-sides), which are deliberately kept short in an episodic format (which may not work). Anyway...


So, I’m sitting in the Roundhouse Bar with Taco Murphy, not doing much of anything. Pretty much par for the course since the plant shut down, but it wasn’t like either of us had a wife and kids waiting at home. Well, this woman comes in - slim, brunette, way too classy for the Roundhouse - and stands for a moment, scoping the joint. Gets my attention, not just on general principle, but because she’s in a business suit, flat shoes, no purse. Not what you see around here, except on a cop or similar.

But as I check her out, I swear, she kind of flickers. Then again, I got this metal plate in my head, from when Bobby Newmark rolled his old man’s Corvette with me riding shotgun, and I don’t always see things the same as other folks.

No matter. Classy walks up to the bar where Henry is standing, palms flat on the countertop and a glum look on his face, like he figured this has to be the Licencing Commission or somesuch. Taco, being Taco, slides along the bench to get a better view of the dame’s ass. Asshole catches my elbow, makes me jab the bottle I’m holding against my teeth. I shove him away and we have words, so I miss what was being said up at the bar.

Miss my chance to run.

Henry points in our direction, relief obvious on his face. Classy nods and starts walking over. Taco, he’s still bitching at me, so I have to punch him in the shoulder to get his attention. He rubs his arm, glares. “You wanna take this outside, Frank? Huh?”

“Get your head outta your goddam ass, we got company.”

He looks at the approaching woman. Blinks. “What gives?”

“Beats me. You got any outstanding warrants might have escaped your attention, dude?”

Taco grunts. “Like I’m always the bad guy? You ain’t no angel, Frank.”

Classy stops in front of our booth. She’s a looker, no argument; neat figure, laughter in her eyes, blood-red lipstick. But up-close there’s something about her – takes a moment to register – perfect bilateral symmetry (I dated a med student back-a-ways). She smiles. “And which of you fine gentlemen is Frank Booth?”

Taco swallows a laugh and sits back, taking a long pull on his beer. I stand up, all polite, like. “That would be me, Miss.” I pull my baseball cap off, run a hand back across my close-cropped hair, and set my headgear firmly back in place. “We got business together? Because you sure don’t look familiar.”

“I’m Clara Conner. Agent Clara Conner.”

“Uh-huh. And which particular agency are you from? If you don’t mind me asking.”

She reaches into an inside jacket pocket and removes a slim leather billfold. Again, just for a moment, it’s like bad reception on your TV. The shape of a woman is there, under the static, but featureless, like a storefront dummy. Her hair, skin, clothes - all just window dressing. I glance at Taco but he sure don’t see it, if his leer is anything to go by.

Then this voice in my head, the voice from my dreams, telling me to get the hell outta Dodge, as in right now. And sometimes you just gotta listen.

I slap the billfold from her hand, send it spinning across the bar. Kick the table hard against her legs. She doesn’t flinch, gasp, or nothing - hand darts behind her, I figure reaching for a piece carried in the small of her back. Taco jumps up, switchblade in his hand like magic. The guy may be a shithead but he’s always got my back.

“Freeze!” Henry, holding the .38 he keeps behind the bar. “Nobody move.”

God bless the predictable.

Clara half-turns her head towards him, but keeps her eyes on mine. “Trust me, you don’t want any part of this.”

Henry clears his throat, sounds dry. “My bar, my friends, my call. Frank here has a temper but I’ve never known him hit a woman. Everyone just calm down and we’ll do things peaceable, like.”

Clara looks straight at me. Dark, dark eyes. “Oh, I think we’re way beyond that – don’t you, Frank?”

I’ve worked door at the Consort Club and could tell it was gonna kick off, no matter what. I clench my fists. She smiles.

The fire exit behind me opens as someone remembers someplace they have to be. The low afternoon sun streams in, lights her up like some religious icon.

Her pupils don’t react.

Clara spins round, towards Henry, and I see metal in her hand. I don’t know how anyone can move that fast. I hear her gun go ‘woof’.

Henry, man, he explodes. All of him above the bar just blows apart, along with the bottles behind. Liquor spray bursts into flames.

The bitch spins again, draws a bead on my chest.

Shotgun roar.

Takes half her face away.

And then it’s whole.

Jonny Chen, short-order cook, standing in the kitchen doorway. He rak-raks another round in his 12-gauge. I grab Taco’s collar and bundle us both backwards over the bench. Because behind Jonny is the gas griddle, and Clara is already aiming at him.

I hear her gun, then the Propane blast drowns everything else. That big old bench seat shoves us across the floor like leaves in the yard. Saves our ass. Taco drags me to my feet and through the fire exit. The alleyway leads to 2nd Street one way, Braun’s junkyard the other. We head for the wide-open. We stagger, we stumble, we run.

And don’t look back.
 

Joshua Jones

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Apr 6, 2017
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#3
Overall, I think it flowed well and kept me engaged. The only thing that caught me, and this may be a regional difference or just me, but with the voice you gave Frank, I was expecting the Roundhouse to be more of a country, redneck type bar, and for them to jump into a beat up pickup truck rather than run through the alley, which implies more of a city.

Again, I could be wrong, but it reminded me of the classic Country music story/songs of Johnny Cash (like "A Boy Named Sue") and Charlie Daniels than an urban setting. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it may not be what you were going for.

Overall, though, it was very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing!
 
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
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#4
"Clara Conner" sounds like a Terminator. Which is a little odd.

I don't think the writing style is experimental either.
Then again, I got this metal plate in my head, from when Bobby Newmark rolled his old man’s Corvette with me riding shotgun,
This goes on a little long for Frank's speaking style. I'd get rid of the "riding shotgun" part. The reader will assume that he must have been in the other seat.
 

Peter V

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#6
I like the style and the immediate placement into the head of the protagonist. A believable and three dimensional character always gets me straight onside and couple that with an interesting plot and you have me hooked. It is well written, the pacing is good and very quickly into the action.

I like it
 

CTRandall

I have my very own plant pot!
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#7
I like it so far, though regardless of the metal plate in his head, I felt Frank let the first flickering go by too easily. The bi-lateral symmetry comment also felt out of place (though if we gradually become aware that Frank is brighter than he lets on, it could work). Maybe he simply notices that she looks too perfect, not in a pretty way, more in a mass-produced way.

The first person present tense works in a short vignette but I'm not sure I could take it for a whole novel. As it sounds like you're planning for this to be short, you might not need to worry about that.
 

tinkerdan

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#8
I enjoyed this and have little to complain about.

However there are some mechanics in this sentence that threw me; though it's probably just me.

Classy walks up to the bar where Henry is standing, palms flat on the countertop and a glum look on his face, like he figured this has to be the Licencing Commission or somesuch.
Even though it should be clear that Henry has his palms flat on the countertop that comma caused my brain to put Classy with palms on the countertop until I hit the part about 'his face'. And I don't think the comma is necessary with a bit of tweekery.

Classy walks up to the bar where Henry stands with palms flat on the contertop and a glum look on this face, like he figured this is the Licensing Commission or somesuch.

Also 'has to be' is both a waste of real estate and a bit of waffling that isn't necessary. It doesn't hurt to state it as something definite..
 
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#9
My thanks to all for the feedback and specific critiques. I'm on nights when, traditionally, I had time to write, but increasing workload makes this problematic - hence the short chapter length! However, I should have time to tweak this tonight...
 
Joined
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#10
I really enjoyed reading this, the pacing was good and I found it intriguing. I had one issue which jarred with me as a reader.

The agent seems to be undercover (plain clothes, human appearance, human speech patterns) but at no point did she behave as undercover - she "scoped the joint", introduced herself as an agent and provided ID. I feel that the scene would have lost something if she were wearing a uniform and clearly not human so perhaps undercover behaviour would be the way to go using a tell to give her away (like the flicker).
 
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#11
So me and Taco head down 2nd Street, in the general direction of away. Sunday afternoon so not many citizens about – and no cops. I hear this big whump of a secondary behind us, and a couple of other folks start running as well, so at least we’re not stand-outs. Make it as far as Rodriguez Hardware then have to stop, wheezing, legs done. Taco, he ain’t much better.

Vacant lot beside the store been empty so long it’s all overgrown. Couple of old hippies planted fruit bushes and put up a sign saying ‘Reclaimed Green’. Don’t think they figured on a ground crop of condoms and reefer butts. We lay up there, off the street, trying to get our breath back.

Taco jabs me in the chest. “You really done it this time, asshole.”

I jab him straight back. “What, this is somehow all my fault?”

“Well, let me think – you know of any other shitheads called ‘Frank Booth’ around here? Huh? OK, so maybe nobody places us at the Roundhouse, but do you seriously think that mad bitch was working alone? I bet her partner has every cop in the state looking for us by now.”

“Screw them, I got a plan.”

“You always got a plan, Frank, and they always suck.” He sniffs. “Try me.”

I take a deep breath. “We get our sh*t together, load it in my truck. We blow town and never come back.”

Pause. I hear Fire Department sirens getting closer.

Taco stares at me. “Running away? That’s it?”

“Damn straight.”

Another pause. Drops of sweat ease down my back.

He rubs his chin. “Why take your heap of sh*t Ford? My Dodge is way cooler.”

“My heap of sh*t Ford don’t draw attention. We sell your pimped-out ride to Bobby Newmark for travelling money. He’s made an offer, what, two, three times?”

“And suddenly I’m out a custom pickup? Jesus.”

I hold my hands up. “Hey, no problem, dude. I’ll take off on my own while you stay here and play dumb. But if I’m in the wind then the law will come down hard on anyone they do have to hand, just on general principle. You want some chickenshit life with the cops busting your balls every other day, be my guest.”

Another long stare. Taco spits in the dirt. “sh*t.” Sighs. “Let’s get gone.”

We head out back of the lot, past some sheds, moving parallel to Main Street. The town is just buildings around a crossroads and nowhere is really that far from anywhere else.

We’re crossing some scrub ground when Taco stumbles and falls. He sits in the dirt and looks up at me. “f*ck this sh*t. What kind of goddam gun goes ‘woof’, Frank? Huh? And Henry, Jesus, he just burst apart. What we dealing with here?”

I hold out my hand and help him up. “I’m thinking it can’t be the Feds, even on a bad day. Military, maybe, or private security. Still makes no sense though. I lived here my whole life and it’s not like I’ve ever pissed-off anyone I don’t know.”

Taco dusts himself down, shakes his head. We move on.

My place is, was, set back-a-ways from the main drag. Nothing much but it suited me. No sign I had company, with just my truck standing in the back yard. I toss Taco the keys. “You gas her up while I pack. Then we’ll head over to yours.”

“What am I, your personal ATM? Get real.”

I fish out my wallet. “Thirty. All I got.”

He takes the bills and gets behind the wheel as I go inside. I’m alone. He drives off while I start cramming clothes into a duffel. Not a lot else to show for my time here, apart from my ‘armoury’. It’s a shoe box in the night stand and I tip the contents over the bed. Two guns.

First is old-school – Remington .41 Derringer owned by some badass riverboat gambler. So my mom said, anyways. It goes in my jacket pocket as maybe worth pawning.

Second is the real deal – Browning 9mm. Came from my grandfather who was Shore Patrol in Korea and never fired a shot. Still works fine and I can hit a can right across the yard 7 from 10, when sober.

“Put the gun down, Frank. It just complicates matters.”

I recognise the voice but look anyway.

Clara Conner.

Not a mark on her, I mean, not one. No burn marks on her clothes, nothing. She steps forward from the doorway and brings fear into the room.

“How long did it take, Frank, to find someone with the same name? Someone suitable?” She smiles. “And I use the term advisedly. Does it make it easier when he shares your dreams? Or was it just an ego preservation technique? No matter. I have to admit, though, this is so far under the radar that Jung himself would have struggled to find you sooner.”

I stand there without speaking. I thumb the safety catch ‘off’.

“There’s no need to be coy, Frank, no need to hide any longer.” She steps up.

I step back. “Listen, lady, I’m not who you think I am. I’m not this other ‘Frank Booth’ with a new face.” I pull a ‘kerchief from my jacket, wipe sweat from my face, cram it back inside. “I’m just me.”

Her smile is a thin line. “Really? Well, you’re worth far more to us alive, but dead is acceptable. Now, I give you, the real you, one last chance to-”

I twist and bring the Browning up. Clara moves so slick it’s like something we’ve practiced. Grabs the barrel and it ends up pointing at the ceiling, arm against arm. We’re real close. She stares into my eyes. Hers look like a dead shark I seen once.

Gunshot.

Make that a cannon.

Kick to my kidney as the goddam Derringer actually works. I step back but the Browning won’t follow. Can’t see for smoke and a cloud of jacket fibres. There’s a sound like fresh popcorn.

I blink.

Clara is a bald mannequin, naked apart from some Sam Browne harness getup with pouches. The eyes, nostrils, mouth are there, but the rest is featureless grey sheen. There’s a hole in her gut the size of my fist, surrounded by blue sparks and flickers. I figure the Derringer packed a custom load, designed to settle any argument.

Slowly the dummy tilts backwards, then falls, lands on the carpet with a rigid thud. The hole in my jacket pocket is smouldering and I have to bat it out. Then the blue turns white and I feel heat, even from 6 feet away. Time to grab my duffel and bail.

I reach the kitchen with a foundry furnace at my back. I hear bedroom curtains burst into flame, the scree-scree of a smoke alarm. Charge out back and throw myself face-down in the dirt. The windows blow but glass and flames don’t find me.

I roll over, stare at the sun. Neither of us backs down.

I’m cool.
 

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