What if?: Denouement

Monday, May 08, 2006

Denouement

[Crap. I'm late. I had intended to post this Friday at lunch, but last week was crazy. This didn't turn out quite the way I had intended, but I guess it will make it that much easier to critique. I still owe most of you comments, and I will try to get to those this week. - Paul]


“Damn,” he said, and died.

“That’s an understatement,” said the teenage boy kneeling next to the dead man. The boy hung his head, exhausted. There was a dull ringing in his ears, and blood on his hands. He tried to wipe the blood off on his pants, but he only succeeded in spreading the dark blotches, like leprous sores. He jerked away from himself, repulsed by the vision, but succeeded only in scooting backwards. He looked around. The living room appeared alien to him. He felt like he was on stage after the final act of Hamlet. Where was the applause? Was this really his home? Nothing made sense anymore.

His gaze was finally pulled to the shotgun lying on the floor by the hearth. How did that get out here? he thought. He glanced back at the stranger lying dead on the floor next to him. The boy remembered seeing the man before. He was watching me at school, thought the boy, He remembered the uneasy feeling that prickled his spine when he noticed the man’s focused attention. But why was he here now?

The doorbell had rung. The disjointed memories began to return. And then his parents were shouting. There had been another voice, a desperate voice, and it had come from inside the house. Something is wrong, the boy remembered thinking, then he had slipped out of his room into the hall.

There was a man in the living room, and he was shouting at the boy’s parents. His father was trying to get the man to leave, but the man resisted. The boy’s mother was threatening to call the police. The boy could hear the fear in her voice. He slipped into his parents’ room. The shotgun was behind the door.

The boy remembered the sudden silence when he strode into the living room with the gun, demanding that the stranger get the hell out of his house. The boy was shocked by the sadness in the man’s eyes, a sorrowful longing that hit the boy like a wave.

“But I’m your real father.” The man had implored.

“This isn’t Star Wars, you freak!” the boy had shouted back. But the man suddenly raised his hand and took a step towards the boy. And the gun had gone off.

The man took the blast in the gut. He was knocked backwards and landed hard on his butt. He sat in the middle of the room like a stuffed doll, legs spread out in front of him. He didn’t move. He just sat there, while gravity patiently disemboweled him. I don’t remember taking off the safety, thought the boy. I don’t remember pulling the trigger. But I do remember what he said.

“What have you done?” The words from his mother struck the boy as if she had slapped his face. On the periphery of his consciousness he began to process the implications of this man’s presence and the meaning of his words. His father advanced towards him to take away the gun.

“Is it true?” screamed the boy, rage saturating his vision as he began to understand exactly what he might have done.

The gun had fired again. “Is it?” screamed the boy at his mother. Through her sobbing she confessed the truth to the boy she had called son.

The gun had fired a third time. “How many fucking shells are in this damn thing?” he had shouted in dismay, pulling the trigger repeatedly. The clicking of the empty gun answered him with a hollow laugh. He had flung the spent weapon away, and collapsed to his knees at the side of the dying stranger.

The boy looked away from the gun. His former parents sat awkwardly together on the couch, staring blankly at the vacuous commercials playing on the television. “Damn,” said the boy, echoing the stranger’s last word. What a moment to realize your parents really weren’t your parents.

10 Comments:

Blogger Irrelephant said...

I particularly liked the circularity of father-to-son with the cursing, and two phrases particularly caught my eye--the "leprous sores" image and "...while gravity patiently disemboweled him." Wow, both very gruesome phrases, and if you'll excuse the expression, visceral (can't resist a good pun,) but very effective because of that, nicely mirroring the boy's emotional turmoil.

My only stumbling point was "The doorbell had rung." Is it me, or does that (again, excuse the pun) ring a little flat? Should that be "rang" or am I just picking nits?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

I particularly liked the circularity of father-to-son with the cursing, and two phrases particularly caught my eye--the "leprous sores" image and "...while gravity patiently disemboweled him." Wow, both very gruesome phrases, and if you'll excuse the expression, visceral (can't resist a good pun,) but very effective because of that, nicely mirroring the boy's emotional turmoil.

My only stumbling point was "The doorbell had rung." Is it me, or does that (again, excuse the pun) ring a little flat? Should that be "rang" or am I just picking nits?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

I particularly liked the circularity of father-to-son with the cursing, and two phrases particularly caught my eye--the "leprous sores" image and "...while gravity patiently disemboweled him." Wow, both very gruesome phrases, and if you'll excuse the expression, visceral (can't resist a good pun,) but very effective because of that, nicely mirroring the boy's emotional turmoil.

My only stumbling point was "The doorbell had rung." Is it me, or does that (again, excuse the pun) ring a little flat? Should that be "rang" or am I just picking nits?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Pater said...

That's one of the things that I don't think worked well once it made it to the paper, so to speak. I had intended to use the past perfect tense to separate the flashback events from the present events. So the doorbell ringing is the chronological beginning of the story. But then I wanted to insert the boy's thought process in the present, which is already being told in a past tense voice. And things got clumsy.

If I were to rewrite it longer, I think I would be able to have more distinct layers of past and present, and be able to order them in a way that didn't get the tenses messy. But I feel like I ran out of room with this exercise, that I had too much narrative that had to be conveyed in order for the story to make sense. I wound up not being able to spend as much time on the boy.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

But still and all a strong story. And could someone please go in there and erase the stutter? I'm not sure why, but every time I try to comment from my workstation at the office I end up with multiple personality comment disorder, which makes me look like a noob. *sigh*

6:11 PM  
Blogger Giovanna said...

Paul, I see what you are saying about the tense, and I totally agree, that is what bothered me a bit about the narrative.

But, that's about the only thing I didn't like. LOL It was really good. I will try to take more a red pen to it if you like.

The only other thing that left me confused, was wondering if he had shot the mother and "father" as well, when the "gun went off again." I first thought that, but then you wrote they were "sat awkwardly together on the couch, staring blankly at the vacuous commercials"---did they collapse there dead?

11:05 AM  
Blogger Pater said...

I was trying to leave that a little ambiguous, that the reader isn't exactly sure what happens to the "parents" until the end when they are described on the couch. I was trying to use enough descriptions to convey that they were dead, but that they wound up posed in what would have been an almost natural manner. Perhaps I can sharpen my image without becoming too telling. Thanks.

11:06 AM  
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