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  1. #1
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    New short horror story-VERY strong language and violence.

    This is part of a second draft. 970 words. Thanks to anyone who critiques it.


    TONIGHT, I’M EATING IN

    “You’re them, ain’t ya?”

    My dad and I were sitting on stools in front of the counter-top pie and cake display case, and we both looked up when we realized the stranger was speaking to us.

    “The ones that was campin’ out on the river?” he added.

    He was in a booth, alone, next to the short hallway that led to the Diner’s restrooms. And he had the look of what my dad and Uncle Ben always referred to as a ‘hard case’. He wore a brown, leather bomber jacket that looked like it had been drug behind a Harley on a cross country trip, and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses with reflective lenses that hid his eyes. Two parallel scars ran down his face, beginning on his forehead and ending in a V-shaped point on his lower jaw.

    I looked to my dad. His face had gone the color of sour milk.

    We knew what the stranger was talking about, all right. We were them - - the ones who’d been camping (well, us, minus my mom, she’d never made it back from the trip). We never bothered answering the man and he finally took the hint and left us alone. But I found myself wondering about him; I wondered why he was wearing sunglasses inside. And a couple of times, while I chewed on my grilled cheese and tried to keep it down, I caught him checking us out.

    If you’ve never had a grilled cheese sandwich at the Diner, let me tell you all you need to know: it sucks. It has absolutely no taste; and they never toast ‘em right - - one side is always burnt, and on the other side, the butter is hardly even melted. Which might’ve been why my stomach was making noises like a bad garage-band.

    “Dad,” I said. “I have to go to the restroom.”

    He looked at me with concern. “Are you sick?”

    “No,” I said, lying through my teeth.

    Since our camp out, I’d been having trouble keeping my food down. Everything tasted strange. Rank. And my stomach liked food even less than my taste buds did. When I ate, I always felt like I had the night of the county fair when I was five, when I had demolished two hotdogs with everything on ‘em, plus cotton candy, a root beer, and nachos loaded with jalapenos - - then I’d ridden the Scrambler. Dr. Osbourne said my therapy was going good and that there wasn’t anything wrong with my stomach. He said it was most likely a side effect of the drugs, or my condition - - PTSD, the same thing soldiers coming home from the war sometimes have. He prescribed some new pills, ones that didn’t knock me out the way the drugs at the clinic had when I first got there, but it didn’t help my stomach.

    “Do you need me to go with you?” Dad asked. At least he whispered it this time, I had to give him credit for that.

    “No.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yeah.” I wasn’t some snot-nosed two-year-old who needed help pulling up his Huggies.

    I jumped up and hurried to the Men’s Room before he could decide to follow, and I felt his eyes on me the whole way. I love my dad, but since they’d released me from Stratford, the only place he’d leave me alone was at home. And maybe, just maybe, the Diner restroom - - the jury was still out on that one.

    I had no more gone into a stall and pulled the door shut behind me, when I heard the restroom door open and the sound of footsteps crossing the concrete floor.

    S---, Dad, I thought. Give me a break. I'm fourteen.

    The footsteps stopped in front of my stall. Through the space under the door, I could see cheap rawhide work boots facing toward me; the toes were dyed green with grass stains, and dried clumps of red clay were embedded in the front sole. Those weren’t my dad’s; I doubt Dad had ever owned a pair of boots like those. He was more of a hiking-boot man. L.L. Bean and Columbia, not K-Mart blue-light specials.

    “You in there, boy?”

    It was the hard-case.

    Ever since the attack, I’d been edgy, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’d had the sense that something was stalking me. Not something alive, more like something bad was going to happen, like fate had it in for me. So it didn’t much surprise me when trouble happened; I’d been expecting it all along.

    I heard movement outside the stall door. And suddenly, a strange, amber-colored eyeball was staring at me through the gap in the door.

    I moved to cover myself; it was instinctual. But if the perv had thought he was going to see anything, he was disappointed - - there was nothing to see. I was in the stall waiting to puke, not to do something else, and I hadn’t lowered my pants.

    “Boy, I need to talk to you.”

    I wasn’t too scared yet; my dad was right outside, and I knew if I screamed, he’d come running. But my stomach was really going at it now. If my grilled cheese had been a roller coaster ride, it was clanking up the big hill to the crest, right before the drop off. The muscles above my belly button began to spasm.

    “I’m gonna hurl.”

    “Come on outa there, boy.” He must not have believed me.

    He pushed on the stall door. The only thing holding it closed was a magnetic catch, and it swung half-open before my feet acted on their own and slammed up against the door. I heard a grunt as the door collided with something. His hands? His face? Hopefully, it was his nose.
    Last edited by The Tinman; 04-30-2012 at 12:21 AM.



  2. #2
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    LMAO! Well, maybe not such strong language, since it was bleeped out. Give me a break. And the violence comes later in the story, so you didn't get that either lol.

  3. #3
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Well, it’s not too bad for first person. You’re not a bad writer if you can advance a story in first person – much more common to see the MC yammering about himself and not advancing the story. So, thumbs up there.

    However, you use a lot of weak or empty verbs, particularly “ing” verbs. The best and most common use for “ing” verbs is to show something happening when something else happens. Other than that, you want to eliminate them as much as possible. Use stronger verbs and plain past tense as much as possible. This also helps with conciseness.

    Also, two problems that bother me:
    1. They’re sitting on stools in front of a display case? Makes it kinda difficult to see the display, doesn’t it?
    2. The kid intentionally orders something he knows sucks? Not happening.

    Say things as clearly and quickly as you can without losing the voice. Read it pared down about 25%:


    “You’re them, ain’t ya?”

    My dad and I were sitting on stools in front of the counter-top pie and cake display case when the stranger spoke to us.

    “The ones that was campin’ out by the river?” he added.

    He sat alone in a booth next to the short hallway leading to the restrooms. He wore a tattered brown leather bomber jacket and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses with reflective lenses. Two parallel scars ran down his face, beginning on his forehead and ending in a V-shaped point on his lower jaw. My dad and Uncle Ben would call him a “hard case”.

    My dad’s face turned the color of sour milk.

    We knew what the stranger meant all right. We were them - - the ones who’d been camping (well, us, minus my mom, she never made it back from the trip). We never answered the man, and he took the hint and left us alone. I wondered why he wore sunglasses inside. As I tried to stomach my grilled cheese, I caught him checking us out a couple times.

    The grilled cheese sandwich at the Diner sucked - absolutely no taste and never toasted right - always burnt on one side and butter barely melted on the other. Probably why my stomach sounded like a bad garage-band.

    “Dad,” I said. “I have to go to the restroom.”

    Concerned, he asked, “Are you sick?”

    “No,” I lied.

    Since our camp out, I couldn’t keep food down. Everything tasted strange. Rank. And my stomach liked food even less than my taste buds. When I ate, it was like reliving a childhood night at the county fair, when I demolished two hotdogs with everything on ‘em, cotton candy, a root beer, and nachos loaded with jalapenos - then rode the Scrambler. Dr. Osbourne said my therapy was going good and my stomach was fine. He said it was most likely a side effect of the drugs, or my condition - PTSD, the same thing soldiers home from war sometimes have. He prescribed new pills, ones that didn’t knock me out like the drugs at the clinic, but they didn’t help my stomach.

    “Do you need me to go with you?” Dad asked. At least he whispered it this time.

    “No.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yeah.” I wasn’t some snot-nosed two-year-old who needed help pulling up his Huggies.

    I jumped up and hurried to the restroom before he could decide to follow, and I felt his eyes on me the whole way. I loved my dad, but since they released me from Stratford, the only place he left me alone was at home, and maybe, just maybe, the Diner restroom - - the jury was still out on that one.

    I had no more than shut the stall door behind me, when I heard the restroom door open and footsteps crossing the concrete floor.

    S---, Dad, I thought. Give me a break. I'm fourteen.

    The footsteps stopped in front of my stall. Through the space under the door, I saw cheap rawhide work boots, with grass stained toes and dried clumps of red clay embedded in the front sole. They weren’t my dad’s.

    “You in there, boy?”

    It was the hard case.

    Ever since the attack, I was edgy, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I sensed something stalking me. Not something alive, more like something bad ready to happen. So it didn’t much surprise me when trouble came; I expected it.

    I heard movement outside the stall door, and a strange, amber-colored eyeball stared at me through the gap in the door.

    Instinctively, I moved to cover myself. If the perv thought he was in for a show, he was disappointed. I was in the stall to puke and hadn’t lowered my pants.

    “Boy, I need to talk to you.”

    I wasn’t too scared yet; if I screamed, my dad would come in no time. But my stomach was really going at it now. If my grilled cheese was a roller coaster, it was clanking up the big hill to the crest, right before the drop off. The muscles above my belly button began to twitch.

    “I’m gonna hurl.”

    “Come on outta there, boy.”

    He pushed on the stall door. Only a magnetic catch held it closed, and it swung half-open before my feet reflexively slammed against it. I heard a grunt as the door collided with something. His hands? His face? Hopefully, his nose.

  4. #4
    simba major
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    I feel a little fogged as to what's going on. They went camping, his mom didn't make it back, and the hard case is stalking your MC? Why? What happened to his mom? I figure that you're into a slow reveal, but still it frustrates me - not in a good way - that I don't know a little more at this point.

    I think you still have to find your voice as narrator. Sometimes he sounds fourteen and sometimes he sounds thirty-five. The southern rural thing comes through with "drug" and a few other touches, but it is not consistent.

    I wouldn't worry about the finer points until you work those things out.

    Keep at it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    I didn't get southern rural out of that in any way. The biker guy sounded southern rural, but the boy, no way.

  6. #6
    simba major
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    "Drug"?

    Whatever.

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    One word convinced you the boy was from the rural south? One word does not a manner of speaking make. To me, it was an anomaly. Try this:

    I wasn’t too scared yet; my dad was right outside, and I knew if I screamed, he’d come running. But my stomach was really going at it now. If my grilled cheese had been a roller coaster ride, it was clanking up the big hill to the crest, right before the drop off. The muscles above my belly button began to spasm.

    or

    I wasn’t too scared yet; if I hollered, my dad would come lickety-split. But my stomach was really churning to beat the band. That grilled cheese was like a roller coaster clanking up the big hill, right before the drop off. My barf muscles was starting to twitch.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-30-2012 at 10:41 AM.

  8. #8
    simba major
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    Do you really want to argue this? I'm not interested.

    The point is that a sense of voice is missing - or this disagreement would not have arisen.

  9. #9
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    Thanks John. Yeah, it's a second draft and I I put down my thoughts as quick as possible. As I edit and polish I change any words I think are weak or not quite what I meant. I'll have to clear up the 'sitting in front of the display case scene'--they're actually sitting in front of a counter, not a display case. What I was going for was that it's one of those glass countertop displays that are about 12 inches high. And the reason he's eating something he doesn't like is because of his stomach problems, he has to eat bland foods...guess I need to clear that up too lol.

    Again, thanks.

  10. #10
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    Thanks Cat. That's one of the problems with only being able to post a small sample. Yes, I'm going slow on the mom info; it's hard to tell if it's too slow (and it may well be) because you're unable to get to the part where I gradually reveal it.

    On the narrator part, where he say he sounds 14 sometimes and 35 other times, I'd appreciate it if you could point a couple of those out; it was one of the things I was struggling with, narrating like a 14-year-old...it's been a long time since I was that old lol.

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