Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Photos From The Attic - Part Four

Part One of this story can be found here.

I found the cups. They were so full of mould it was impossible to wash away no matter how many times I placed them under the brown water spraying out of only one working tap. There didn't appear to be any glasses; perhaps he drank straight from the bottle, necking it in short glugs? Not that I wanted a drink. Would've been a bad thing to do.

The whiskey in the bottle was almost gone, empty. There were several empty ones lying in the sink, broken shards with their sheen of fine malted whiskey long since evaporated. There was a local liquor wholesaler's box in the next cupboard. I took a full bottle of the single malt out, left the half empty one standing, guarding the cupboard.

It took me a minute to work it out, for the penny to fall down into a darkened chasm, ears bent to hear any faint splash, wishing it to be bottomless but actually hearing it finally drop after a disappointing ten seconds. I got up. He was still warm, but his chest definitely wasn't going to move again this lifetime. I poured him a glass, left it in his hand; amber-gold splashes on his trousers, mixing with his urine, faeces, as bowel and bladder broke their levees. I picked the photo from his hand, nails already turning white as the blood drained to the lowest point of gravity. Fingers flick, eyes close. A last wheeze of breath, stale with an odour of alcohol and lima beans. Poor fuck: what a life.

I looked about the room. He had to have kept in touch with the others and there was a chance they might go the same way as old Johnson here before me. He'd given me something - there was another, not in the photo and not taking it. Where'd he gone? What'd happened? I surveyed the room, but it revealed that Johnson had lived sparse, hand-to-mouth no doubt, on the social security or maybe a war pension; maybe what he could beg, borrow or steal. I didn't have time to reminisce about a man I didn't know well enough before he'd gone and kicked his bucket from here to the fucking Arctic Circle. Selfish old cunt, the thought coming from nowhere.

I had to leave the place, get out before anyone noticed the old mad had been visited by someone, before word got out that there was a stranger in town. After all, my lift had been suspiciously knowledgeable about my exact destination. I hadn't said a word, as usual, but I hadn't needed to. It was then that I spied the tin under his seat. A rusted, battered and dented biscuit tin, the lid held fast with tape and string. Reaching it meant I had got the full force of Johnson's bowel movements and bladder issues, several times the tin just slipping from my grasp so that by the time I'd finally clamped my fingers tightly around it my head was almost touching Johnson's dick. I gagged but managed to resist the urge to vomit and retrieve the tin.

I pulled at the string, its toughness cutting into my hands leaving thin, bloodless welts that stung as my sweat ran into them. I ignored it, using my teeth to bite through the string. I could hear shuffling from the box; I believed it contained letters and I thought they might say something about my Gramps, about this secret. Finally, after scrabbling for a further minute with the dirty tape, glued on with dirt that had been gathering on the adhesive over several years, the box was open, the contents spilled messily over the floor as I searched them for recent post marks.

I found one. Sent only weeks before. It was from Foley. I figured he was on the right, although I had to accept that he could've been one of the others in the photo, it was difficult to know. My hands trembled as I fumbled with the envelope, suddenly tearing it open when I realised I didn't need to be polite anymore, the dead not being up on the latest etiquette themselves.

It had his address, printed across the top of a letter. He was living upstate, back in the home of his youth. I scanned the neat words, looking for clues to questions, ideas, I didn't know what. And then I saw it, written in his shaky blue and white script, the answer I was looking for: someone who knew what happened. Someone else.


This story is continued here


purplesimon said...

More to come.

purplesimon out...

ginab said...

I'm going to be a cow Si, on precision; because I am thrilled that in under four weeks YOU WILL BE ATTENDING A FICTION WRITING WORKSHOP AT CITY U LONDON.

So, in prep, it's time I was a cow...

I found the cups, but so full of mould it was impossible to wash away.

Technically, the mould belongs to I. I was so full of mould. ;-) But what tripped me up initially was 'it'. Always trips me up. Spell 'it' out for right now. ;-)

Not that I wanted a drink. Would've been a bad thing to do. The whiskey bottle was almost gone; several lying in the sink, broken shards with their sheen of alcohol long since evaporated.

Whiskey bottles are usually nearly empty, or they're half empty or they're half full (depending on who is looking). They cannot up and go anywhere.

And I think the details following the semi colon just describe versus drive the content forward. But the real challenge for me here though is that if we have an alcoholic, someone who has been drinking straight from the bottle or out of a glass, why is he considering washing up mouldy cups? Seems he would have a glass somewhere.

There was a wholesale box in the next cupboard. I took a full one out, left the half empty bottle standing, guarding the cupboard.

Here I wondered if 'wholesale' was a brand or a special type. What is the box made of? What's it filled with? Because there were so many bottles in the sink, I cannot in the end here picture the one bottle.

I would vote for a close read and for you concentrating on specific details. Do you need so many bottles? Are the number of bottles essential to character development? Is your protag an alcoholic? Whiskey and mould don't actually fit together. Whiskey would kill mould straight up. But is mould important to character development? Is he sloppy? Can another detail convey this? What does he wear and how does he wear it? I never iron my clothes, e.g.

And then: what brand of whiskey? What is a wholesale box filled with? What does the specifics of this last detail reveal about the character? Are wholesales like McVities?

Sorry for the load of questions. I need to get back to what I do do. Be well. Take my comments with stripes. I have in my closet boo-koos of stories with 'Huh?!' and 'Wha?!?' and all kinds of illustrations to communicate frustration. I wasn't communicating frustration at you here, but questions I have as a reader on who, what, why/how, where, and when.


purplesimon said...

I'm so pleased you said those things, this is exactly what I need.

Be a cow as often as you like.

I'll be making some changes today. I knew I should have kept hold of this story for one more day!

Me and my impetuousness.

purplesimon out...

purplesimon said...

Okay, changes made. If you didn't see this before those were made, I think you'll see the schoolboy errors I made!

I like to get constructive criticism, whether here on comments or via email. I'm going to have to get used to it on this course (which you've now announced to the world!) and it's a big part of my day-to-day job (people being critical).

Anyway, it's a lot better for Ginab's influence. I hope you'll agree.

purplesimon out...

purplesimon said...

I used the word 'made' a lot there.

Pfft. [slaps forehead several times]

purplesimon out...

ginab said...

every writer is 'dozy'. every shoe salesperson is dozy. my dog, walks with four legs, she's dozy.

lryicsgrl said...

ok, gramps was a british soilder in the pacific in WW2???

why is this so f**king important to me?

I really felt the desolation of that apartment, the despair of the grandson, evil as he is!

it's 7:42 am, and i've been up since six....bleary eyed....I go back to life!

Metalchick said...

Hi Simon,
It's been a while since I've been by here, I'm visiting all the bloggers I haven't talked to in a while. I haven't read the whole story, but the description of the grandfather's apartment was well written. I promise to read all four parts of the story later on.

Take care.

ginab said...

Just realized that here, where I am, at 6:28 am, we're up and moving around (as in, you're running six hours ahead os America!).

Thought I'd get that much in. Oh and hmm, 'johnson'. Just thought I would put that out there. ;-)

Tanya said...

I love the grit and gristle feel of this new piece. OH! Sublime! Each sentence feels like eggshells crunching under foot. WICKED. Love that even in death he still gets a glass of the hard stuff. Loving this stylistically.

I'm with Gina on the whiskey bottle being gone. Where did it go?

purplesimon said...

To all: the whiskey bottle is currently on a sunshine cruise and is on its way to Acapulco. Or somewhere exotic.

Me? I'm working again. Part Five is ready to go, but I want to read it through first so I can avoid the schoolboy errors that were littered throughout the last piece.

Watch this space, just remember to breathe and to get some sleep. Eating would be good, too. If you can get the occasional sexual favour, all the better.

purplesimon out...

ing said...

Okay, now you're going to want to strangle me -- but why is the bottle in paragraph two "nearly empty" at one point and then "half-empty" a few sentences later? Or are those two different bottles?

I love the suspense in this section, and I love where you broke things off, because at that point I'm just as curious as ever to know what will happen next, and at the same time I don't feel like you're withholding(sp?) too much information. It's just right.

There's a funny pov thing going on in the last sentence of paragraph four; it's pretty clear that "selfish old cunt" is the narrator's thoughts as commentary on the dying man. So when you add "the thought coming from nowhere," I wondered if this addition was really necessary -- all we really learn is the "from nowhere" part, and I just don't think this is true here, that the thought came from nowhere, I mean.

I stop now. This reads well, for sure. Congratulations!!

Anonymous said...

Very soon, in a matter of a couple of weeks, bravo. I'm thinking about you and the new steps. Be sure to ask about independent lit presses. Universities too publish lit presses; publish collections of short stories by multiple authors.

I'm not talking the sentence, which is a whole other puppy but worth having. Seems the colleges, universities, and the polytechnics have publications where you will be able to submit your work. Be sure to inquire.


purplesimon said...

Yes, ginab, two more weeks to go. Course starts 4 October. Really excited about it, looking forward, straight ahead, focussed.

I hope to get something up here before then. Work getting in the way. Not always at home in evenings as travelling to different cities to write. But it pays the bills. Pays the course fees.

And on this grey, wet Monday morning I'm almost ready to log off, drive 150 miles and start work for two days on an advertising campaign. And someone said it was a glamorous job.

purplesimon out...

Celia said...
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