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  1. #1
    david lidz

    okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Okay, so, again, I've just been writing chapters about these characters, Levi and Pearly, and I don' think when (and "if," I suppose) I put this altogether in a novel, they'd appear chronologically. So far I've got chapters that span over three decades in the lives of these characters. I submit two more here, "second grade," which is rather long, and "junior year," which is a bit shorter.

    Again, thanks to any of you who care to peruse and rip...


    ps - for what it's worth, I use italics, particularly to signify paraphrased quotes or impressionistic quotes or singing. I guess we don't get to use italics here, and I sort of regret that loss of nuance. Anyway, I've tried to put quotation marks around phrases I had italicized. If you see something that looks like it's missing quotes, well, you get it...

    pps - as i posted and reviewed these pieces, I see there might be something to the assertion many of you made about my addiction to commas. Wow, I thought once I had licked the alcohol and weed addiction my work would be done. Who knew I'd have to start attending Commas Anonymous meetings now, too...


    Seventeen. My junior year. I am in my Latin class. It is my favorite class in the world because my teacher is so cool. I don't mean that he is permissive or easy or that he cusses. That's what most teenagers calling a teacher "cool" would mean, right? I am not like them, the kids in this high school and I imagine throughout America, they are morons all. The adults, too.

    Everyone. It's a stupid country. We have a total moron for a president. An idiot. A simple @!#$, old and confused, who needs above all else to be loved. But he's such a good actor he's got the whole ****ing country mis-taking his confusion for strength, resolve, direction. "Restoring the country back to her former greatness, "they buy that @!#$.

    Yup, my idiot school-mates are buying right into the myth. "Reagan's cool," they say. I try to point out that the old clown says things like trees cause more pollution than cars or the homeless are homeless by choice, and my so-called friends smirk. "They probably do, they probably are…"


    Mr. Kearney is not that kind of cool. Mr. Kearney is smart and he is funny and his passion for Latin is infectious.

    "The President," the guys on the news report, "has infectious optimism." I'll say he does. Infectious like a zombie bite, all who are bitten are freed from the burden of intellect. The bitten, the smitten stomp around mindlessly, moaning, arms extended, seeking out some victim to devour, some enemy, maybe some Communist ass to kick, or, if we can't get our mitts on any Communists, well, then a couple of Grenadans will do. And there's always the homeless. And trees. Gays with AIDS – brought it on themselves, right?

    I also hate Reo Speedwagon (My friends and I call them REO Fagwagon) and Journey and Huey Lewis. And Def Leppard is so lame. We like Led Zeppelin and the Doors and the Talking Heads. I think George Thoroughgood is the @!#$. And still, always, the Beatles are untouchable. There is a new band, U2 and their new album "War" is also the @!#$.

    I supported John Anderson in the 1980 election, but I was only 15 so I couldn't vote. Still, I feel bad about that, cause looking back now I know that Jimmy Carter was a good and a smart leader. Probably a holy man. As a kid, I was just young and stupid. I loved presidential elections because I loved the idea of getting a new president. I always loved the idea of dumping the incumbent, because it seemed like he'd been around forever, and wouldn't it be cool to have somebody new? '72 I was so bummed Nixon won because I was tired of always hearing about him all my life. Then he quit – good stuff! New guy, Ford, yea!! But in '76, I was tired of Ford, and I pulled for Reagan in the primary. Wow, I was so young and stupid. Ford won the primary anyway, so it was then I liked Carter in the general. And he won. Yea! New guy!!

    But, in 1980, I was like the rest of America, tired of all the bad news. Now I see that Jimmy Carter had inherited a big fat mess of a country, and he was actually doing the right things to help us realize what we as a people made up of all peoples could be – an able, enlightened, compassionate society, a tolerant society, ready to lead by firm but gentle example. Instead we picked the thug and rejoiced in thuggery ourselves, and my gut tells me that we will remain thugs for decades, that we may not be able to correct the course we have chosen before it is too late.

    I feel bad for supporting John Anderson. I think he probably stood for all the same things Carter was already doing as president. So I should have just stood up for Jimmy Carter instead of rooting for some new guy just because he was new. It's weird I feel so bad about it, I couldn't even vote, but I do. I feel like he's some kind of saint, like I let him down, and he knows it, and he's always going to hate me. At least by 1980 I was smart enough to realize Reagan was all bad, new guy or not.
    Tall and balding, Mr. Kearney stoops at the shoulders a little. His ruddy face accessorized with wire frames, a hook nose and penetrating eyes whips at the end of his long neck deep into the rows of adolescents who, inclined toward disinterest, slouch in their rickety old, tiny wooden desks. Mr. Kearney teases, he jokes, he cajoles, he puts you on the spot, but most impressively, he teaches Latin, he really teaches it, he gesticulates life into the Dead Language, a true resurrector. After a couple thousand years, it's about time we got another one of those, right?

    He is snapping his fingers, getting ready to lead the class in the conjugation song: –M, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, and –nt, he croaks, like an old blues man. –Ooooo, he belts, -s, -t, -mus, -tis and –nt! And then he gestures for us to join us.

    And we do: M, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, and –nt, we chant. –Ooooo, -s, -t, -mus, -tis and –nt!

    This is just the prelude, we chant, that leads into the song:

    Sum, es, est. Sumus, estis, sunt. Eram, eras, erat. Eramus, eratis, erant. Ero, eris, e---RIT, erimus, eritis, ERUNT!

    We are all clapping and singing and snapping our fingers. Well, most of us. There are a few cheerleaders and football-player/wrestler/muscle-head types who are not going to be caught dead participating in this way. But they turn their noses up at their own peril. Kearney will take note of their irreverence for the Great Language and for the dedicated, able teacher, and he will exact revenge. I am hoping he will force the cheerleaders to wear togas at next Friday's Saturnalia. The football players, I am sure he will allow them to humiliate themselves by giving them the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the class the, ahem, power of their intellects.

    So, most of us are snapping away to the Latin Conjugation Song, and Mr. Kearney is so into the recitation of these ancient words and his foot is stomping so wildly, he fails to notice the classroom door open.

    In walks Mr. Bonder, the guidance counselor. A new girl follows him. It's a big school, but still, you can always tell a new kid. I am always interested in new kids. I guess in the same way I was always wanting a new president, I always root for and befriend the new kids. And then, just like with the presidents, I get bored with the new kids, and most of the time, I find out that they are idiots just like everyone else in this stinky old building.

    But still, every time a new kid gets tossed into the maelstrom – I am interested. And, as this new girl walks a bit wide-eyed into a classroom full of kids led by a middle-aged bald guy with wailing appendages to shake, rattle, and roll to the rhythm of Latin declensions, I notice she is, as we say, a fox. A babe.

    "Mr. Kearney!" shouts the guidance counselor to our teacher's bopping-away backside.

    Mr. Kearney, without losing a beat, bops and spins on his dancing heels and croons to Mr. Bonder: Sum, es, est. Sumus, estis, sunt. Eram, eras, erat. Eramus, eratis, erant. Ero, eris, e---RIT, erimus, eritis, Eyeeeeee---
    Our conductor extends his long right arm upward, and nearly touching the suspended ceiling, snaps his fingers sharply on the last beat - RUNT!, and we his obedient orchestra strike silence on cue.

    A little winded, he smiles at the administrator, who smiles back, not at all unfamiliar with Mr. Kearney's methods.

    "Mr. Kearney, we have a new student. I'd like to introduce you to," he fumbles for a piece of paper in a manila folder, then continues, "Pearly Albright."
    I stare, and I feel a little funny inside.


    Second grade. I wake up on my own and it is all quiet in the house, and it is late. I lay in my bed and stare at my window and I can see the sun is bright already, bright and higher in the sky than when Mommy normally comes in to wake me up for school. A breeze carrying the hint of early September's sweltering mood sighs through the screen and pinches me in my nose.

    It must be Saturday.

    But, it's so quiet in the house. It doesn't feel right. I tumble out of bed, and creep out into the hallway. I want Mommy but I don't dare wake her up cause she gets mad when I do that. Still, I stand outside her bedroom door and think about it. I stand, and it's quiet in there, and so I lie down on the carpet and wait.

    Normally on a Saturday, I would run downstairs to the basement den and turn on Fat Albert or Bugs Bunny. I think about two weeks ago how excited I was when CBS had it's "Sneak-a-Peek Fall Preview" on and I got to see all the new cartoons that were coming. Fat Albert, the Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch, and Josey and the Pussy Cats. The Sneak-a-Peek preview was on Friday night; the new season started the next morning.

    But after I watched the previews I was so excited I couldn't sleep all night. I kept getting up and wandering down into the dark den and turning on the TV hoping Saturday morning had started.

    Mostly, every time I turned on the TV, that fuzzy static was all I saw on all the channels. One channel had fat bars of green and red running across the screen, and the words "WNUV, Channel 5" tucked in the corner, and this channel made an awful whistling sound that went on and on and on.

    I watched that for a while because that was better than static, and the colors seemed to me to be sort of a glimpse of all the wonderful splashing of color I would get to see once the CBS new fall season started, any moment now.

    It was probably two or three in the morning.

    I clicked the main channel knob to UHF. Then I reached down to the UHF knob, which doesn't click. You spin it slowly like a radio dial, and just like the radio you kind of just keep spinning the knob until a station starts to come in, and then you gotta spin it back and forth 'til it comes in just right. And, like the radio, the channel you find is still not gonna come in real clear and perfect. It'll be fuzzy and staticky, and with the TV, it'll be kind of blurry, or you'll see two of everything or everybody on the screen.

    I found a channel up around 67 that had something on it. I saw a picture of Davey and Goliath, but then the voice on the TV said that Davey and Goliath wouldn't come on until 7 in the morning.

    I said "@!#$." I am pretty sure it was the first time I said it. I had heard my dad say that word before, and Michael Gruber and some of the other kids. But never my mom.

    I said it again. "@!#$." I smiled.

    Just then a picture of a man came on the TV. I knew this man. It was Jesus. It was Jesus hanging up there on the cross. And then, letter by letter, the words "The Good News of the Gospel" appeared over the picture of Jesus, as if some invisible hand was writing it in. I found this a little scary.

    Then, the words, "with Reverend Ernest Bonavida."

    Then the Reverend Bonavida came onto the TV, and he told me I was a sinner, but that it was okay, because Jesus died for my sins.

    I felt terrible. I knew what sins were, and I knew that I was always doing sinny things, and I knew that was bad. I stole Playboys from my neighbor's garage. I called Michael Numan a faggot, and a couple of times I plotted to steal his toys and his bike. I never got away with it, but, still I knew just the plotting was bad. It was sinning, I knew. I also didn't work as hard as I should in school. I liked to be the clown. So, instead of getting lots of "excellent"'s on my report cards, I'd get just a couple "excellent"'s and a bunch of "satisfactory"'s and a couple of "needs improvement"'s. Something about I needed to improve respecting other kids' space and completing assignments. I didn't know. I just knew I could do better in school, but, in a way, I can't. Or I won't.

    I knew I had some bad feelings about my babysitter, Kristin. Like, I look at those Playboys, and I feel all funny and crazy inside, and then, all I can think about is wanting to see Kristin like I see those girls in the Playboys. Naked. I would die to see Kristin naked and to touch her boobs. In one of the Playboys, I saw two naked ladies standing in a shower together, and one of the girls was washing the others girl's boobs with a soapy washcloth.

    I want to wash Kristin's boobs with a soapy washcloth.

    Oh, and now I'd said "@!#$," and now Jesus was dead because of what I'd done.

    I said it twice. Maybe the first time I said it, he was only kind of wounded, like one of those bullet shots in the old war movies where the guy gets hit but doesn't get killed. He goes on fighting, shooting the rest of the Germans on the hillside with one hand, while using the other hand to hold his guts in.

    But then I said it again and that was the bullet that cut straight through Jesus' heart.

    And put him up there on that cross? On my TV? Two thousand years ago?

    I was confused. I knew a bit about this stuff, but still it was not making much sense to me how my stealing Playboys and saying "@!#$," and wanting to wash Kristin's boobs would have anything to do with Jesus' dying two thousand years ago.

    I remembered that my grandmother had once given me a Children's Bible. Big fat book with all the stories of Noah, and Adam and Eve, and Moses, and Jesus I had taken a pretty good look at it a couple of times because some of the pictures in it were as good as comic book pictures. Like the one with John the Baptist's head on the plate. But I could never get into reading the stories themselves. They never made any sense to me. So, I never really found out how John got his head all served up on a plate like that. Was somebody going to eat John the Baptist's head? I don't know.

    I went and grabbed the book which my Mom kept up on a bookshelf for me, down there in the den. I remembered that there were a ton of pictures of Jesus in it.

    I sat by the TV with the Children's Bible. The Reverend Bonavida was still telling me how bad I was, so I switched the TV back to Channel 5, with the red and green stripes and that awful pitch. And I opened the Bible, and by the light of Channel 5, I searched out the pictures of Jesus.

    There he was with little children all flocking around him, listening to his stories, parading with him into Jerusalem. There he was healing lepers. Yuck, that looks like a nasty disease. I wonder if that's what sinners get?

    There he was bringing a dead guy back to life.

    Hmmmmm. If Jesus can bring this dead guy, this Lazarus - Lazarus? What kind of name is that? Where do they get these names? Are these two thousand year old names nobody uses any more?

    No, there are some Jesuses on some of my baseball cards, and there are lots of Mary's at school. There is even a Noah in my class and I have one friend whose last name is Moses.

    But Lazarus? Anyway, if Jesus can bring Lazarus back from the dead, how is it I could kill Jesus dead for good?

    I remembered hearing somewhere along the way, maybe at one of the few times my mom took me to Church, I think it was last Easter, I remember hearing that

    Jesus himself had risen from the dead.

    I was not getting this at all. I kept flipping the pages. And then I came to a picture that, since that moment, I have never been able to shake from my mind.
    Jesus is standing on top of a mountain, looking all pure and blonde and blue-eyed and Ivory Soap clean in his white robe and his blue cape ---

    Why doesn't Jesus have his own Saturday morning cartoon like all the other guys with super powers and capes? Why isn't Jesus on Super Friends?

    -- and turning away from him, leaping off the mountain, is red, horned and hoofed ---

    Satan. "Lucifer," says the caption, tempting Jesus.

    I was terrified. This had to be the scariest picture I have ever seen in my life. I couldn't stop staring at it. I couldn't read any more of the words or captions. I just stared and marveled and my entire body filled with fear.

    I slammed the book shut, but the image is burned into my mind.

    I turned off the TV and I ran up into my bedroom but I was so terrified of Jesus and his friend Satan that I could not sleep. I tried filling my mind with thoughts of the Sneak-a-Peek Preview and the new fall season and Fat Albert and Bugs Bunny, but nothing helped. All I could see was that awful Satan, and scary Jesus who now hated me because I'd killed him, and even though he could come back from the dead, well, that only makes things worse, cause he'd still hafta be pissed that I had killed him in the first place.

    Jesus and Satan were coming for me.

    I ran to my mother's bedroom door, and I was just about to knock, but she had told me not to wake her unless it's an emergency, and, and, and, I couldn't decide if this was.

    Yes, Jesus and Satan were coming for me, but, they were coming to give me my punishment for being the awful sin-maker that I was, right? Was that an emergency? Did I have any right to expect help from my mom?

    If I woke her, would that be a sin?

    So, I lay down on the floor outside her door, and I shivered and whimpered.

    When I awoke, it was Saturday, I was in my bed. I looked at the clock. It was 11:30. Jesus and Satan, if they had come at all, well, all they did was carry me back to my bed, and, oh, I'd slept right past all the new cartoons.

    Is that what I got for doing those sins? I missed all the new Saturday morning shows.

    "@!#$." I was so heartbroken, I wanted to cry. I was sure life would never be right now.

    That was two Saturdays ago. Last Saturday I got to see all the new cartoons. I love love LOVE Fat Albert!! Josey and the Pussycats is dumb. Bugs Bunny remains my favorite.

    But, now -

    it is Saturday, isn't it? Something doesn't feel right. Hearing nothing happening in my mom's room, I head down to the den to watch my cartoons. I am still kind of scared to go down there because Jesus and Satan might be there waiting for me, but, it's not so bad in the daytime.

    I turn on the television. No cartoons. Game shows, news shows, I Love Lucy re-runs. That means –

    it's not Saturday.

    Why didn't Mommy wake me up for school?

    I look out the window, and I see she is sitting in her garden. I think she calls this "meditating." The doorbell rings.

    I bound upstairs and open the door. Kristin is standing there.

    "What's up Little Man," she smiles.

    My heart stops, my head spins, I am absolutely confused.

    "What day is it?" is all I can think to say.


    "But, but – school?"

    "You're mom asked me to come and hang out with you today. We're going to go to the shopping center, maybe catch a movie."

    "But, how come –"

    "Can I come in? Where's your mom?"

    "Around back. In the garden."

    We walk around to the backyard, and Mom beams when she sees Kristin. I know she likes Kristin a whole bunch, and I have a feeling that it has something to do with the fact that Kristin dresses a lot like my mom, and they seem to like a lot of the same things. They both wear flowery dresses and beads, sandals. They both have long thick brown hair. Kristin comes over every time she buys a new record album and she and my mom listen to it and I get bored and I leave and when I come back the room is full of smoke that smells like when I burn leaves with my magnifying glass.

    Mom hugs Kristin, then she gets up and comes to me and kisses me.

    "Levi," she says, "can you give Kristin and me a moment?"

    "Sure," I say, and I stand there and stare at the two ladies I am absolutely the most in love with in the whole wide world, waiting to see what they will do with this moment I am giving them.

    "I think your mom means can you give us a moment alone, kiddo," says Kristin.

    "Huh? You mean you want me to leave?" I am crushed.

    "Just for a minute, Levi," says my mother.

    I don't want to go. "But, Mom, I gotta ask you something?"

    "Okay, Levi, what is it?"

    I can't think of anything.

    "Why don't people name their kids Lazarus anymore?"

    My mother looks at Kristin, as if Kristin might have some idea where this question came from. Kristin smiles, and offers a barely noticeable shrug.

    "I'm not sure I know what you mean, Levi?"

    "Well, I was reading that Bible Grandma gave me…"

    At this my mom looks a little shocked, almost uncomfortable.

    "And I know there are still lots of Peters and Pauls and Marys, Jameses and Josephs around, and there are baseball players whose mothers named them Jesus,"

    "Actually, I think those guys are called 'Hay-Soos,'" Kristin points out.

    Now I am puzzled. Hay-Soos? Like Dr. Seuss? Hey Suess? Like the Cat in the Hat? Horton Hears a Who? Like the Lorax? Green Eggs and Ham?

    My mother sees that Kristin's remark has derailed my train of thought. "Are you wondering about names that come from the Bible, Sunshine?"

    "Well, I guess, I mean - " of course the truth was I really wasn't wondering anything, I just didn't want to be sent away so the big people could talk without me.

    Mom looked a little pained. "Why son, Levi, your name comes from the Bible. I guess we have never talked to you about that. Levi was one of the sons of Jacob. Joseph's brother." Her faces twists as she says this, as if it has pained her, as if she wishes she hadn't said that.

    My head goes spinning again. This was earth-shaking news, and I had never even knew that Joseph had a brother.

    "Wait," I stammer, "You mean, Jesus had an uncle? An Uncle Levi?"

    "No, not that Joseph," my mother answers. "I'm sorry Levi, I guess we should have talked to you at some point about your name. I guess I never noticed how time is passing, how big and smart you're getting." Mom sighs, her eyebrows crinkle together. "But Levi, now's not really the time. Give Kristin and I a few minutes to talk, won't you, Honey, and then you and she are going to go out and have some fun…"

    My head spins so much from the news that my name came out of the Bible, I have a little trouble figuring out my next move. I look up at my mom's face, and I see a rare indication of impatience, which I know is bad, and that it would be a sin for me to test that. Still, I don't want to go. I look at Kristin, and she smiles again at me and says, "C'mon kiddo, why don't you go watch some TV."

    "Nothing's on."

    "Le-viii," my mother raises her voice, only a little, but still, her showing anger at all was such a rare occurrence. I knew I was pushing it by not leaving.

    "Hey Levi," Kristin offers, "go around to the driveway and check out my new car. It's a VW beetle and I got it painted all flowery and psychedelic. You're gonna just die when you see it"

    I have no idea what she is talking about.

    "Go on, Levi, check it out."

    Hearing my name again, I remember the shocking revelation of a moment ago. I ignore Kristin's suggestion and instead bolt straight for the back door which leads directly into the den, and I pull down the Children's Bible.

    I search and I search and I search, page after page, for Levi, and I can't find him. I keep digging through the big old book, until finally I come upon a picture of Jesus, which fills me with terror. I drop the Bible, and run outside searching for anything to keep my mind from wandering to that image of Jesus and Satan hanging out up on the mountain top now emblazoned in my mind.

    I run out into the driveway, and there it is, just as she said it would be. A bug-looking yellow car, decorated in pink flowers and peace signs. It just might be the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life. I tip-toe around the car, devouring with my eyes every pink petal and peace sign, every inch of rust-speckled chrome.

    Life is good again because I know despite all my sinning I will in a matter of moments be riding in this amazing spaceship with Kristin!!!! Kristin, who is one day going to be my girlfriend and ask me to wash her boobs for her!!

    I run inside and change out of my jammies and into my Billy-the-Kid cut-offs. I throw on my sneakers. I look out my window and see that my mom and Kristin are sitting side-by-side with their butts right on the dirt in the garden, Kristin cradling my mother in her arms, my mother's face in Kristin's shoulder. I groan with impatience. I can't take it anymore.
    I run downstairs and out the back door straight toward the garden. I don't care if my mother told me to go away. I don't care if I am sinning again. Anyway, I have given them their moment, and then some. Give me a break here.

    I charge right into the garden, and when I do, my mom looks up from Kristin's shoulder, and I can see that she has been crying.

    @!#$. I've done it again. Killed Jesus. I look away from my mother, and up towards the sky, fully expecting to see Jesus and Satan come swooping down from their mountain-top to get me. When that doesn't happen, I at least expect as I turn back toward my mom and Kristin to see my mother getting angry at me.

    Instead, they both get up, brushing the dirt from their skirts. My mom smiles, wiping her face with her wrists, and says, "Okay, Levi, I guess you've given us more than our moment. Thank you for being so patient. She's all yours now."

    Did my mom really just say that?

    It is one of the greatest days of my life. Kristin takes me in her amazing yellow and pink space capsule to Friendly's, where she lets me have french fries and a hot fudge sundae for lunch.

    "Who was Levi?" I ask her all of the sudden and out of the blue in the booth at Friendly's.

    She looks up from her salad, chews for a moment, swallows, then picks up and sips her cup of tea while she considers my question. "You mean the guy in the Bible who your mom says you're named after?"

    "Yeah, I guess so."

    "Well, I don't really know. I don't know too much about the Bible. I'm not religious in that kind of way."

    "In what kind of way are you religious?"

    "Um, well, Levi, believe it or not, I'm a witch."

    I just look at her, waiting for the moment to come when I understand the joke.
    Or for her to explain it to me. Finally, she scrunches her lips all up to the side of her face. I guess she's thinking, and she says, "Well, not like a witch like you think of a witch. Like not flying on a broom on Halloween or not like the Addams Family lady. Not like Samantha."

    "No, I get it," I say. "You're more like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch cause you're seventeen."

    "No, well, actually, I'm eighteen, now, kiddo."

    I didn't know. This news unsettles me. It's as if she is slowly getting away from me.

    "Forget I said 'witch,'" she goes on. "Let's just say I've got a religion where we mostly worship Mother Nature, rather than any particular capital "G" god who's got a long white beard and all that stuff."

    "Oh." I think of the brown-haired lady in a white dress in the commercials. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.

    "Anyway, I don't really know who Levi was in the Bible." She sips her tea some more to think. "Well, you're mom said he was Joseph's brother, and not the Joseph who was Jesus' dad, so, that means he was the other Joseph's brother, and I think the other Joseph was the one who had the amazing techni-color dreamcoat."

    "The what?"

    "The dreamcoat. The other Joseph was a kid who you could tell him your dreams and he would be able to tell you your future."

    "Wow, that's pretty-" I spoon out a bite of hot fudge sundae while I search for the word.

    "Heavy?" Kristin offers.

    "Yeah. Heavy."

    "Levi to me is the guy who made the jeans."

    "What do you mean?"

    "You know, Levi Strauss. The guy who invented blue jeans."

    I guess I look at her kind of dumbly, because she continues, "C'mon, you have to know what Levi's are. You're probably wearing some. Let's see."

    She jumps out of her side of the booth and steps over to mine. She grabs my arm, pulls me to my feet, and then begins examining my cut-off shorts, probing for a label with her finger. She is touching me like this, and I can't help but think my moment has finally arrived, and, remembering some of the pictures I have seen in my neighbor's Playboys, I reach for her boobs. I actually brush one with my knuckles, but before I can turn the move into the lusty act I have been for years dreaming of, she spins me around still searching for that label, not even noticing my advance. Again my head spins, I feel tingly, and I am getting a boner.

    She finally finds a label inside the back of my waist band. "Ah, these are Billy the Kids." She spins me back around, and she sees, I think, what is happening inside my pants. She stares for a minute, I think she is a little surprised. She stares at my crotch, and I am about to faint, overwhelmed by the heated waves of both embarrassment and desire smashing with tidal force against the inside walls of my skull.

    She smiles almost imperceptibly before returning to her seat. "Well, one day, probably when you are a teenager, you'll be wearing Levi's."

    Later that day, she takes me to see a movie about Billy the Kid, and the guy who shot him, Pat Garrett. It's a little boring. I like World War II movies better than Westerns. But, I don't mind, because in my mind I am on a date, I am going out to the movies with my beautiful girlfriend Kristin, whose boob I touched today. The memory of that moment so fills my thoughts, I hardly even notice the movie, really.

    For a minute, I wonder if when I touched Kristin's boob I killed Jesus again, but I giggle at the thought. If I did, it was worth it. I am pretty sure I am a man now. Or at least a teen-ager. I decide it's time for me to tell my mom she needs to buy me some Levi's.

    When we pull back up to my house, a motorcycle is parked out front. I look at Kristin, and I can see a look of seriousness descending upon her face as she navigates around the motorcycle to park. She notices me gazing at her.

    "Uh," she fumbles, "you're mom's got a little surprise for you." As we walk into the house, Kristin won't look at me.

    "Hi Mom!" I say as we enter the living room. I head for the couch where she is sitting, getting ready to talk to her about jeans. The room is dark, and my eyes are still seeing spots from coming in out of the September sunshine.

    I am startled when I hear the voice behind me, "Hello, son."

    The voice has come from the big comfy arm chair I have just walked past on my way to hug my mother, although, I don't have to look to know who the voice belongs to. I freeze, and just stare at my mother, not turning to face my father.

    "Levi," the voice commands. "You're not going to turn and show some respect to your father?"

    I look to my mother to save me. She looks to Kristin.

    "Levi. Look at me." I turn and there he is, but I can still barely see him because my eyes haven't adjusted. "Hello, son."

    "I need some Levi's, Dad," is all I can think to say.

    As my eyes adjust, I see his looking hard at me. A horrible, silent moment passes like this. Then, he forces out a laugh.

    My mother speaks.

    "Levi, your father has come home. He's going to stay with us. We are going to be a family again."

    I say, "Oh."

    She sees me staring at the motorcycle helmets by my father's feet. Yes, there are two of them, and one of them is smaller than the other.

    "There's more news, Levi," she goes on. "Your father has brought with him…" She pauses, looks around the room, looks at Kristin, goes to look toward my father, but she can't.

    "You have a brother," she finally announces. "He's out in the backyard, playing."

    My mouth goes dry, and I just don't know what to say. "What's his name?" is all I can think to ask.

    "Joseph," my father booms.

    Again, I can think of nothing to do but stand in silence.

    "Well, boy? You ain't got nothin' to say?"

    "Please don't say 'ain't,' Jake," my mother pleads. "Please don't talk that way."

    Still I say nothing.

    "I asked you - ain't you got nothin' to say, boy? I come here bringin' you a little brother. You ain't got nothin' you want to say about that?"

    "Wow, Dad," my tongue swells. "That's um, that's, that's -"

    I look at Kristin. And I say -


  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    You can use italics, but you'd have to go in and put the HTML code in < i > and < /i > (take out the spaces) around whatever would you want to italicize. But that would probably be a hassle if you have lots of them.

  3. #3
    Andrew Smith

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Hey David,
    I read your first post, as well. I am a published author, but that doesn't mean anything. I think you have a terrific voice and show great talent. I don't know why you wouldn't put your chapters together chronologically, though. Good luck to you. There are editors and agents out there who will appreciate your style, so get it together. Also, don't necessarily take to heart the absolute rules stated here about long sentences and such. My first published novel begins with a 69-word sentence, and I've got one coming up in which an entire chapter is one sentence of nearly 250 words. I never heard one questioning remark from my agent or editor about this. So... if it works, it works.


  4. #4
    Mandy Pauza

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Who knew I'd have to start attending Commas Anonymous meetings now, too...

    I'll, sponsor, you.

  5. #5
    david lidz

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    ANDREW - Hey, thanks very much; I am trying to look-up your books...

    MANDY - FABULOUS, i NEED a good sponsor. Just don't make me call you every day; i'm so bad about that. I'll do all the rest of the work, rigorously, like my life depended on it, but the obligatory phone calls - blechh.

    A face-to-face once a week is much better, don't you think?


    Thanks for your response!


  6. #6
    david lidz

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Oh, PS, Andrew -

    I was thinking of not necessarily arranging the chapters chronologically just in the way that I have seen it done, let's see, well, in Cold Mountain, in a couple of books I read recently - The Memory of Running, by Ron McLarty, & The Goat Bridge, by T.M. McNally - for example.

    A pretty commonly used technique where the main narrative is going on, but there are flashbacks to childhood or to episodes in the past that contribute to the telling of the story in the present...

    That's all I am after, nothing too avant-garde or anything like that, nothing Tarantino-esque...


  7. #7
    nom de plume

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    David, you write very well. Once you put the chapters together you'll be able to see where passages/scenes need cutting, etc. I didn't read each scene completely but they seem too long. However, i don't recommend to start the cutting process until you've finished a first draft completely.

    Now that i've read these two chapters, I truly appreciate the experimental approach of the first excerpt you posted.

    You have somewhat of a tendency to use the same word over and over. An example is the paragraph about Playboy. Mention it once and then find other ways to describe or refer to it (centerfold, glossy pictures, glossies, or interesting descriptions of your own).

    I don't mean to dictate how you should write but i just want to offer a suggestion:

    "I look out the window, and I see she is sitting in her garden. I think she calls this "meditating." The doorbell rings.
    "What's up Little Man," she smiles.
    My heart stops, my head spins, I am absolutely confused."

    This could be something like:

    I look out the window and see her sitting in the garden. [doing something to justify the meditating comment: Her eyes are closed and her hands, palms up, rest on her lap???]. She calls this "meditating." The doorbell rings [and something happens--to make the sentence longer for contrast with the previous one and avoid choppiness].
    What's up, Little Man? She smiles ...
    [perhaps say something more about this smile; not that the reader needs description but for "tone"]

    My heart stops, my head spins, my hands do something
    [to continue the idea of "my noun verb]

    There are myriad ways of writing this. These are just suggestions to consider or ignore. All I'm saying is mix up the sentences and be careful with the use of I, particularly at the start of a sentence. It can come across as narcissistic otherwise and grating to the reader.

    Just an idea...

  8. #8
    Joe Zeff

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    I thought long and hard before replying, because this probably isn't the type of feedback that you want, but it may be what you need. I found this hard to read, and in several tries never came near finishing it, always for the same reason: I really don't like your MC. He's shallow, superficial, ignorant and uninformed even by teenage standards. He's just about everything I don't like about most boys of his age and despised when I was a teen. About the only thing that might possibly make me want to read this was knowing that he was going to get his nose rubbed in his ignorance, and even then I'd be reluctant.

    I don't want to rain on your parade, but I doubt I'm the only person who'd feel that way, and if agents look at him like I do, you'll never get one. You write well, although, as with all early drafts, there's work needed, but I do hope that some of that work goes into improving your MC's personality.

  9. #9
    Mandy Pauza

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Joe, I have to agree.

    Seventeen. My junior year. I am in my Latin class. It is my favorite class in the world because my teacher is so cool. I don't mean that he is permissive or easy or that he cusses. That's what most teenagers calling a teacher "cool" would mean, right? I am not like them, the kids in this high school and I imagine throughout America, they are morons all. The adults, too.

    Everyone. It's a stupid country...

    I stopped here too. I wish I had something useful to say.

  10. #10
    david lidz

    Re: okay, I'll try AGAIN!!

    Thanks again to all of you. I don't feel like you've rained on my parade. I appreciate the time you took to look over my stuff and contribute what you could.

    As for giving up on my story because my character is despicable, well, I regret that, and while I know I am no Burgess or Salinger or Irving, I have to ask, did you also put down books like A Clockwork Orange or Catcher in the Rye or The World According to Garp when you found out what kind of protagonists these authors had in store for their readers?

    And while my character might be boorish and over-sexed, walking around life with a hole in his soul he tries to fill with sex and relationships and condescension towards others and later (you don't see this with what I've given you) drugs and alcohol, I can hardly agree with the characterization that he is ignorant and uninformed given his interest and knowledge about world affairs, history, his love for his Latin class, his diction. Superficial and shallow, maybe, but still, I have a little trouble seeing that too - I guess you didn't make it to the chapter when he as a second grader his reflecting on the meaning of religion and spirituality, as best as a second grader with limited exposure to such stuff can.

    Despicable, I will give you that - he is that, and if that's what you felt, I might be doing something right. You have no idea what kind of thoughts and deeds he will later be capable of...

    But again, I thank you for your time and input - and NOM, you are right, I need to keep on keeping on and then get to cutting and editing. Wrote 3000 words today! Woo-hoo!

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