New thread for my fiction stuff. :D Uh, this is like super long. I posted the beginning of it in the NaNoWriMo thread. I ended up making the story way shorter than I anticipated (perhaps too short?) and used it for an assignment in creative writing. I don't really know how I feel about it, haha.
(About 3000 words)
N O . D A Y . FO R . B R A M . K H A L I F :
Picture this: four in the morning, a guy sitting in a cramped bathroom with his face in his hands and his elbows crunching the accordion pages of his book. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but whether I like it or not, that guy is me, pants down with an emptied mind and a burning intestinal tract. It’s a classy, I know. My mind is empty here, though. My lepidopteran eyelids flutter rapidly, longing for sleep, because my dreams freeze when I’m awake. The only thing my vision is able to focus on is that growing brown water stain on the ceiling. This is the last thing I wanted to be doing.
The book is tossed to the side by the corroded sink—flush, I didn‘t read it anyway—and I barely pull my pajama pants over my hips. I hunch over and run the sink over my hands. Lather, rub, scour. No matter how hard I wash, the reality of my dark hands is still the same. I shut off the sink, wiped the remaining freeze of the water left on my hands over my face, and dared to look myself in the eye through the mirror.
Protruding green eyes on my thin face. Once-carefully groomed eyebrows spinning out into entropy. Narrow nose under large thick-rimmed glasses. Puffy tired lips.
Breathe. Fog on the mirror.
I turned quickly and shut off the yellow bathroom light, almost tripping on the curling linoleum on the floor. I walked leftward into the tiny kitchen and yanked a cup out of the fake wood cupboard. I reached for the gallon of milk in the fridge at my elbow and filled the cup in my shaking hand. Right up to the top, sixteen ounces—I set it on the counter. After shoving the plastic container of milk back onto the rack in the fridge, I slid the tick- tick- ticking drawer open and watched my navy lancing device roll around with a mess of orange pill bottles inside of it. I pulled out the glucometer and inserted a white test strip into it. I reached for the lancing device. Click—one more time on my index finger. I watched the stick of blood pool up into a red pinhead on my quivering fingertip, then let the test strip at the bottom of the glucometer suck it up. A mess of pixels clouded the screen as it interpreted my fate.
348. A groan escaped my throat and I wiped my face with my hands, smearing a small bit of blood across my temple. Breathe.
I tossed the lancet and the test strip into the garbage can and put the glucometer and lancing device back into the drawer, got out my pill bottles. Tick tick tick, shut. My shaky hands rattled out a few pills from various bottles onto the counter. I swept them up into my palm and dropped them down my throat, following it up by pounding the glass of milk down in one go. The glass clanked in the sink and I hobbled back down into the ruins of my messy bedroom and smothered my face with my sweaty palms until I fell back asleep.
My name is Bram Khalif and I feel my days are numbered.
One in the afternoon. I woke up zipped in the body bag which I dared to call myself and laid limp on my pyre of tangled sheets on the floor, numbed and unable to move. A callused sole was right in front of my face when my bleary eyes peeled open. The scent of my roommate’s Starbucks coffee wafted above the reek of his feet. I thought I told him to start wearing socks with his nasty tweed loafers. Obviously not.
I scrambled to my knees and looked at him standing up above me. A shock of black hair was tossed across his forehead, exploding out of the front of his baggy beanie. His white jaw line was peppered with a stiff stubble, and he was still shirtless in his pajamas. He looked even crappier than usual. Still makes me wonder where the coffee came from.
“What happened to Maria—” He stopped and looked around for my cello case—which, if fact, I had thrown into my closet the night before never to be seen again—then zeroed in on my baggy eyes. “Oh. Hhh, ooh. She didn’t like it.”
So presumptive, Josh. I held a shaky finger up. “She loved it, but it’s not Maria. It’s me.”
“Oh, shi—” he breathed, crouching down next to me and holding his Starbucks out in front of my face. “Gotta get you help. You’re having withdrawals.”
I waved it away with the turn of my head. No matter how caffeine dependent I was, I didn’t need coffee when the one I loved tore my heart out less than 24 hours ago. I wrote her a song, took her to the park, and performed it with my cello, Maria, in front of the whole world.
“She said it right there,” I whispered, bowing my head. “It wasn’t going to work out.”
Josh squatted down so we were almost face-to-face. “That’s rough, Bramsay. What—what’d you say?”
“Okay? O-kay? That’s it?”
I slowly nodded my heavy head. Okay. And that’s all that I was able to muster from my closing throat before she walked away from me and Maria and the rest of my life.
He tipped his face down. “Oh, well. She as a—heh, you know—anyway.”
I clenched my jaw and laid back on the ground with an aching chest.
Josh quickly stood up and walked out of the room, singing Ave Maria under his tenor breath. His beanpole body shrunk down the hallways and turned the corner to the kitchen, fingers texting rapidly on an outdated flip-phone.
I woulda strangled him if I could.
By the time I’d managed to crawl off of the ground and make it to the beat-to-death couch in our living room, I was already lamely jabbering to a hospital secretary about my glucophage meds not doing a crap for my diabetes. “Glucose levels? No, they’re in the three-hundreds. . . . Yes, three-hundred—consistently. Yeah, I know. Mmhmm. Alright, Thursday at eleven. Thanks.”
I set my cell phone down on the couch and swore to myself. That’d mean that I’d have to wake up early.
The sun tried its hardest to peek through the bent up metal blinds in the living room, but got stopped up behind the tall buildings and decorative trees outside. Who puts trees in such a cramped pavement park in the city? I mean, it’s pointless. The landscape guys only end up tethering them straight with ugly fluorescent lines of tape that burn the eyes of anyone with any kind of sense. And the cars that drive by them on the narrow side street splash dirty water all over their trunks—fssh, fssh—and them boom, in the winter, they’re dead.
Yeah, buddy. That was money well spent, don’t you think?
“Brams—” Josh walked into the middle of the dim living room and stopped right in front of me with a toothbrush idiotically hanging from his slack lips, still in his pajamas, still texting. “—Bramsay, there you are.”
I raised my eyebrows. I honestly hadn’t moved since I got up and sat my lazy butt down on the couch. That, and I’m pretty sure that my conversation with the secretary was loud enough. People say I talk too loud, but maybe they’re too quiet, can’t hear them that way.
Josh was right in front of me, looking too tall for his own good from my seated perspective. Usually I’m the skyscraper, but I kinda liked being shorter than someone for once. Not to say that Josh was particularly short. He stood a solid 5’11”, and what he didn’t have in height was quickly compensated by an insane ego and holier-than-thou mentality. He scratched his slightly wavy black hair with one hand and rubbed his ivory abs with the other. They had a bit of tone going on there, but his otherwise wiry build wouldn’t allow more definition to ever happen.
But I wouldn’t tell him that unless I was looking for a fight.
“What’d they say?”
“The . . . you know?” He snapped his fingers a few times. “The clinic or whatever?”
I slouched into the tweedy couch cushions and pushed up my glasses. “I got an appointment the day after tomorrow. Annnd, they are shocked that things aren’t working out with the glucophage—”
“Ennh, yeah, yeah, whavvever,” Josh mumbled through his toothpaste spit and the sloshing of bristles across his teeth. He wandered away to the bathroom and spit.
“Get a shirt on, too, while you’re at it.”
He turned from the sink and gestured to his grey skinny jeans. “What, I’ve got clothes on.”
“Yeah, well, shirts are pretty nice, too.” I picked at a callus on my fingertip and threw my legs up on a rickety coffee table in front of the couch.
Taptaptap, he shook the water from his toothbrush on the sink, and the sound of spit sputtering between lips sprayed through the air. I saw him bend over the sink, scraping at something with his unseen hand blocked by the doorjamb, but I couldn’t see what. He smacked the vanity mirror and seemed satisfied, puffing out his chest with a glowy exhale.
Bored with Josh’s crude routines, I wandered to the kitchen and pulled out the milk again, opened the cupboard, and filled another sixteen. This time, though, I reached into the fridge and withdrew the holy grail: chocolate syrup. A small sea of its brown, glorious sludge found its way to the bottom of my filled glass. I clocked and clattered a spoon round the inside of the cup and mixed the syrup into the milk. The glass touched my lips. Oh, so wonderful, especially for a breakfast past noon—
“The silly goose?”
“What are you drinking?” Josh had somehow managed to throw a raggedy red flannel over his torso and was crossing his arms like an expectant kid. His thick, obsessively-groomed eyebrows furrowed deeply.
I tipped the cup back and tasted the creamy beverage in my throat for a few brief gulps. “I want some Rasin Bran—do we have any?”
He frowned. “No.”
I reached for my chocolate milk, but it was intercepted by Josh.
“Bramsay, you’re so stupid,” he cried, taking a seat at the table.
“My body, my rules,” I said, pounding down the rest of the glass.
He shook his head and continued texting with his jack hammering, arthritis-bitten fingers. It bobbed back and forth with each punch of a letter. His brow furrowed every now and again and raised up when I walked behind him to drop my cup in the sink.
“Hey, uh, can you snag me a—”
I glared at him and pushed up my glasses.
Josh made a disgusted face and swiveled back around to continue texting. “He always gave you crap for that, you know. Are you going to tell him that he was right?”
Close my eyes. “What. Are you talking about.”
“Kéran always said, ‘Why are you with some white girl that’s too young for you? It ain’t gon’ last long.’” Click click click. The flip phone snapped shut. “What I want to know is what he has against white people. I’m offended.”
I rolled the kitchen drawer open and stared at the bottles rolling around in it. “You’re too sensitive.”
I had Josh’s full attention now. He picked up his chair so he could face me completely. “Listen. I was joking. And look who’s talking. Do I sleep on the floor when my girlfriends break up with me—?”
I pulled out the lancing device.
“—No! I channel that energy, Bramsay!”
Click, stabbed my finger.
Josh stood up. “You need to channel that energy into something other than this,” he exhorted, waving his hands around the place.
The glucometer beeped and he looked over at the screen.
“And,” he said in my face, “you need to see a doctor.”
I sucked the dark blood on my finger. “And why’s that. It happened a day ago, and I’m not even depressed about her.” Maybe.
“Enngh—no!—you’re missing what I’m saying!” he yelled, turning away from me and pulling the clump of hair at the front of his head not covered by his hat.
I looked down at the glucometer and sighed. 403. “I need some Raisin Bran.”
Josh turned slowly. “You’re killing yourself.”
I imagined myself losing a foot. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, it’s a good excuse to go outside less. I flexed my dark toes contrasted by the yellowed linoleum. There wouldn’t be much of a funeral for my foot, that’s for sure.
“Put me on a pot of coffee,” I murmured, tossing the lancet and test strip into the trash can.
Josh set his face. “No.”
He was just looking out for me.
I walked out of the kitchen and straight to the bathroom. I saw what Josh was poking at before—he was writing a Post-It note to me (or somebody), and he had stuck the yellow square on the dirty mirror:
We were once guys of grace and class. What happened, Bramsay? What happened to us? Head up, bro.
I ripped it off the mirror and examined the terrible scrawl more closely, laughing to myself. Yeah. That’s us. I slapped it back on the mirror and walked back to bed so I could just lay down for a second.
I was tough stuff, I thought, considering myself it good condition after the breakup. At least better than I was that morning. Except when I wasn’t fighting with Josh about my health or my attitude, I realized that I’m still numbed. I still don’t know how I feel, and a small part of me still feared that the pain would kick in later. I had felt this way only once before, and I remembered it like it was still happening:
His name was Aaron Dartmouth, appropriately. His face was scarred and his blonde eyebrows had carefully shaved vertical stripes in them, so you could see his white, white skin shining underneath them. He got up and walked right out of the room in high school and gestured a finger-gun at me and mouthed bam after I had made a speech on racial equality in the school environment.
I’m no expert, but I did know two things: I’m fairly sure that a gun would make a different sound that boring old bam, and that finger guns weren’t intimidating after the age of five. That is, until Aaron Dartmouth did it.
“That boy’s serious shit,” Kéran once said to me once before. I didn’t listen to his warning, because what would my little brother know about Dartmouth? He was the freshman, and I was the senior. But that was the thing about Kéran was that he was street smart. He could barely read, but he didn’t have to. He could navigate the alleys of his life without ever having to worry about who J.D. Salinger was. A shut-in like me could never know what a guy like Aaron meant, that is, until my jaw met the pavement in a bloody consummation of mind and reality after school that day.
The thing about Kéran was that up until then, I never took him for having any sort of clue about anything that goes on. But as I sat on the edge of the bathroom sink later that day and it was he picked the gravel bits out of my wounds, I realized that it wasn’t Kéran who didn’t have a clue—it was me.
The peroxide wiped into my pulpy gashes bubbled and fizzed in in my face. I tried to silly goose away, but he dug his fingers into my shoulders and looked at me with his marbled bluey brown eyes and whispered, “Don’t be such a silly goose,” and that’s really all I needed to straighten up my spine and take it for what it was.
Kéran always taught me to be strong no matter how much it hurt, but at night, I’d anchor myself to bed like a fallen anvil of self-pity and found myself in a petrified stillness listening to the sound of my own breathing.
Though no one had even laid a hand on me, it still felt the same. Instead of my achy, cut-up jaw throbbing, instead it was my chest. It fluttered every once in a while, probably just to freak me out and distract me from my fluttering stomach. This is what it feels like to be alone, I thought to myself, staring at the white ceiling while wondering when the brown stain in the bathroom would leak over into the sky of my room. No bit of plumbing precipitation from above could hurt as much as I already did.
The light of my bedroom leaked in through the jailhouse stripes of the clinky metal blinds covering my window. The clothes on my floor took form in contours of the obstructed light and half of my blankets from that night had toppled onto the floor. My chest moved up and down, up and down, oscillating in this otherwise dead ruin of a room.
Thanks. :) I think that characterization is one of my strengths, but plot--eeeenh, not so much. And I think that is where I stop getting confident, especially with this particular piece. Did it seem anticlamactic or anything? I mean, it wasn't meant to be plot-heavy to start with (I like dialogue too much to cram a bigger genre-plot into 3,000 words), but does the direction of where it went seem disappointing?
And I originally meant for Josh to be a genuine silly goose, but as I continued writing, I realized that it's not Josh, it's Bram. Bram has such a dim, limited scope on life. I don't think he had a positive thing to say about anything. I keep looking back at what Josh was doing the whole time, and he's trying to keep Bram from destroying himself. Granted, he doesn't have the best way of going about it, but I don't think he's as much of a problem-child as Bram makes him out to be.
Post subject: Re: || Fiction Dump: Bram's story (C&C for school please?) :
Posted: Mon Jan 10, 2011 12:36 am
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:54 pm Posts: 401 Location: The artist formerly known as Bard Alsta
If I had your characterization skills I could definitely be published by now. That is such a weak point for me. =/
I personally liked it a lot. The ending was so vauge that I ended up wondering if by 'rested' you meant 'died quietly in a pile of sheets that sound like they are grody'. I think it was just right in both the plot and everything else.