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  1. #1
    Conor Beaulieu

    Reformatted reformatted reformatted

    .......I bet if I ran my hands over it, I could tell you what it said. Like braille. Truths so self-evident the blind could see
    them. I listen to them for a while, the teacher and the students. She pitches question after question at them. Underhand. They hit it out of the park every time, just what she wants to hear. Its fascinating to watch, a machine building and rebuilding itself. Every year, with every new crop of heads. Fascinating and a little scary. I slip out of my seat and head out the door; I\'ve seen enough.I\'m barely out the door when I hear my name from down the hall. It\'s one of the deans. I let out a little sigh and lean back against the wall, resting my head against the cool tile, and wait for him to get to me.

    “Where the hell do you think you\'re going? You can\'t be leaving again, first period isn\'t even over.”

    I just look at him, he seems more angry than he should be, and kind of worn out; exhausted. I feel sort of bad that I\'ve been such a bother to him over my high school years, so much of a nuisance, but it really wasn\'t intentional. It\'s just who I am, and for some reason who I am just doesn\'t sit well with some people.

    “I was going home, sir, I don\'t really feel all that well.”

    He puffs up a little, and I can almost see the speech building up inside of him. Boiling over.

    “You don\'t even take this seriously, do you? You\'ve spent all four years here slacking off and doing whatever the hell you feel like. You\'ve got a brain most kids would kill for, hard working kids, and you throw it all away. Do you even care what happens in your life? What are you going to do when you flunk out of high school, how the hell are you ever going to be happy if you can\'t do anything more than flip burgers in some grease joint down the street?”

    I look at him for a while, and again I just feel bad for him. I know I should probably be angry, or ashamed, but I\'m not.

    “Well, sir, you got through high school, right?”

    He gives me this shrewd little look, wondering why I\'m asking, “What do you think? Of course I did.”

    “And college, right?”

    Again, that little flaring of the nostrils, the raised eyebrow, “Yeah. Twice.”

    I think a little, and he sits there, for some reason not interrupting me.

    “Are you happy?”, I ask, and my voice is more honest than I intended, I think a part of me comes out in it.

    I really need him to say yes, but he doesn\'t. Instead he looks me over for a long time, searching for any trace of sarcasm, any sign I\'m mocking him.

    When he doesn\'t find any, he sets his mouth in this grim little line, “No, kid, I don\'t think I am.”

    I let out a heavy sigh, and lean my head back to where it was against the cold tiles, closing my eyes, “Well, I\'m sorry sir, but I don\'t want to be anything but happy with my life. I\'ve been floating through these years because I look around at your generation, and mostly I see unhappy people. Regretful people. Then I look around at my generation, and I see us going down the same path. Nothing new, nothing different. No offense, sir, but I don\'t want to be like you. And no, I don\'t know what it is I do want to be, but somehow I don\'t think I\'ll find it in any textbook or lecture or classroom. We\'re supposed to be learning all these things about the world, all these little secrets to clue us in about how things fit together, but when it comes down to it, we don\'t even know enough to live the lives we want. Science teaches us how we breathe and live, but not why we bother. History shows us our fathers\' mistakes, and all we do is repeat them. English and French and German and Italian and all those other languages are supposed teach us how to speak, and yet most of us never tell the people around us exactly how we feel. I\'m sorry sir, but I can\'t do that, I can\'t be that. I\'m sorry.”

    I take a deep breath and let it out slowly; I didn\'t really intend to say that much. I don\'t think I knew it myself before I told him. My eyes open to find his far away, thinking of something I can\'t even begin to imagine.

    When he finally looks down at me, his face is a mask, “Go home, kid. I don\'t want to see you around here for the rest of the day.”

    I give him a little nod and shrug myself away from the wall, turning down the hall. Halfway down, I turn to find him still standing where I left him.

    “It\'s not too late,” I say, just loud enough for him to hear.

    He looks up at me, but I\'m already miles away. I don\'t look back as the doors to the building swing shut for a final time. I can almost hear the steady hum of machinery behind me.

  2. #2
    Cindy Kay

    Re: Reformatted reformatted reformatted


    I like what you're doing here. Feels like this kid and the dean are getting passed the typical student-teacher conversation, a little splash of reality outside the school doors.

    I'm assuming this scene's main purpose is to give us more understanding of who this kid is and why he's leaving. Think this is a nice touch. You feel the kid's distance from his peers and his teachers.

    I'd drastically trim that lecture the kid gives. Feels out of character for him to say so much. More powerful, I think, to just say, "I wanna be happy." He can think a good deal of the other stuff, but feels like a lecture to have him say it all.

    Also, consider, slowing down. Keep with the mood visuals you start with, the head against the cold tiles. This kid feels alienated from his world so keep reminding us of that in little decriptors. Maybe the hall is stuffy-hot. The overhead lights dim and buzzing. Give a brief visual on the dean. His pants a tad too short, orthopedic shoes. Maybe his keeps fiddling with the lock of hair that's supposed to cover his bald spot. Little descriptions that put us in mind of the percieved generational difference between these two.

    Lastly, consider matching your sentence cadence more to the feel here. Bleak, hopeless. Trimming the fat can give more of that feel pretty easily.

    "I nod and shrug off the wall, turning down the hall. Halfway down, I turn. He's still standing where I left him.

    “It's not too late,” I say, just loud enough."

    Like I said before, be careful about too much editing at this stage. It's fine to pick up a few tricks and so forth as you go. (Learning to format dialog is a great one.) But keep making forward progress, too. Guard what you're good well as you work on your weaknesses. I've seen too many people's writing wither because they let editors sit on their shoulders too heavily. Remember writing is an iterative process. You can fix anything a any time.

  3. #3
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Reformatted reformatted reformatted

    Thanks, Cindy.

    The tips about fleshing out the dean are good, I'll go back over that.

    As for the kid talking too much, I kind of want to wean him into being this really well thought out speaker. Have him be really quiet with occasional outbursts of these poignant speeches that he didn't even know were in him, and teach him more about himself.

  4. #4
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Reformatted reformatted reformatted

    And I'm just doing this now because I have absolutely no time to sit down for any real writing sessions. Packing up everything I own and moving in 2 days.

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