Thursday, November 7, 2013

Excised Exposition

Here's a chunk of not-awful writing from my novel-length project which has been temporarily excised in order to make a certain passage less like a chunk from a novel-length project and more like a self-contained short story.

Context: After being betrayed by his significant other, Julius is driving down I-95 on the way to visit his aunt and, eventually, his father. He's not in a good place mentally, so there's that. The story is called "Ninety-Five," but we'll just refer to this particular chunk as:

"Dense Prose Which Screwed Up the Pacing" 

He imagines, on either side of the concrete ribbon down which he travels, the expanses of green stretching out forever into mountains, lush and fertile, and forests beyond that. Exit signs of the same hue hanging over stuttering lanes of traffic, blending in, announcing cities and towns unreachable from off-ramps which don’t end; they bend away from the interstate and plunge into that vertiginous verdigris which swallows drivers and destinations alike. As the sun’s parabolic descent swings into view through the passenger window, he traces the fractured effulgence down mountain valleys and up steep ridges, sunlight breaking across exposed acres of rock standing apart from the mountains’ otherwise dappled green skin, like geo-skeletal scabs on the bends of great skinned knees.
           Walled in on either side, tracing the single path bisecting this inimitable vastness, down down down he drives praying that darkness settles before humanity confronts him, before his world is once again industrial parks and commercial districts. At night, by the shadows, he can lie and pretend the imposing park-and-rides, the empty lots with their dejected streetlamps are merely the specters of another sad reverie, but in the yellow shine of wakefulness reality would loom too near.
            In the right lane, he depresses the brake pedal, settles back in his seat, and, by the fading light of the sun-rimmed mountains, he drafts the inarguable map of his world, one in which the Earth is fecund land interrupted by his trajectory alone, miles of road disappearing in his wake and reappearing in his immediate stead; this solipsistic world where the other vehicles are overgrowth, and Julius alone, with buzzing head and desperate heart, traverses the uncharted.
However, temporal canvas forever shifting from light to dark, the global chiaroscuro repeats on a twenty-four hour loop, and Julius crashes into the artist’s all-encompassing shade of black somewhere north of Fayetteville. He flicks through directions on his smart phone plugged into the car charger, eyes darting between screen and road: forty-five minutes until Aunt Payton’s.
           To defend against the dense night outside his midsize, Julius yawns and lets his energy drain accepting that with exhaustion comes reprieve. Not yet, though. He has to make it to the small house off the interstate before succumbing, so he trails cars in the right and middle lanes, tailgating and flashing his high beams until, aggrieved, they move, allowing him passage. The game is enough to keep him alert, or at least entertained, until the exit sign appears, and, engaging his turn signal, he looks back in his rearview one last time ingesting the loathsome vehicles and fading billboards unaffected by his will, standing impervious against his all-consuming disgust.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Redneck Zombie Work in Progress

Here's a piece I began working on about a three months ago which got placed on the back-burner due to since I wrote myself into a corner and subsequently returned to work on my novel. It's the beginning of a redneck zombie story which, if I can write myself out of said corner, will also serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for capitalism. The bullet points are actually supposed to by hyphens (a la Gaddis) which unfortunately I was unable to convert from Microsoft Word into the blogging format and I just don't have the time to fiddle with right now. Anyway, here's the beginning and no, there aren't any zombies in it yet. But yes, there are rednecks. Working title is . . .

  • Somethin's come over the boy.
  • Ask me an' I'd say somethin's been over him.
  • Pa, now, you know damn well what I mean.
  • I do. Forgive me, Ma. Yup, I do. An affliction, I'd say. Somethin' awful serious.
Ma an' Pa is dangling horny feet in the creekbed, letting them toes get all sorts o' tangled up in the algae an' the muckety-muck. I almost didn' pull up beside 'em, but Pa said that it weren't no matter, see, an' what else we got the spigot back home for? Well, argument 'nough for me, an' so I sat on down right there, ass in the mud an' ev'rythin' an' the topic what they been discussin' ain't no other 'n Simon, my older brother all growed up who Ma an' Pa named after Simon o' Cyrene, the man what carried Jesus' cross up Calvary.
  • Fixin' to tell us something, Laney?
  • Get on with it, girl, no need to be shy all suddenly.
That's Ma an' Pa t'me an' they can see right away something vicious rippin' my insides but good. Me with my habits, what Pa calls my “tells,” some term or other he done adopted off a card game with Uncle Chewy an' Rupert Lasso not more 'n two, three months 'fore. Well, my biggest “tell” what Pa'd told me about is my fingers get all fidgety-like. See, right now I been busy tying all manner o' knots with the onion grass, just pluckin' blades an' wrappin' the ends all 'round into figure-eights an' sheepshanks. 'Nother habit o' mine is I like to smell my fingers after I've been messing with the onion grass. That one, though, it don't matter if I'm hidin' nothin' or not, I just like the way it smells all sharp an' rude.
  • Don't rightly know that I'm comfortable talking on Simon like this, Pa.
  • Family don't keep secrets, girl. You hear me good now.
Ma pulls her legs up out o' the creek. She brings her feet, bunions, algae, an' all, back up on the bank, then tucks 'em underneath her, Indian-style. Usually Ma's a graceful woman, but seein' her now all dirty an' swattin' mosquitoes from behind her neck, it's a sight what'd make anyone smirk real crooked.
  • Nothin' funny here, girl. You better be out with it, else I'm liable to yank it outta you.
  • Now, Pa. Give her a moment.
  • Only one what'd test my patience this much, Ma, the Good Lord Hisself.
When Pa starts bringin' in the Good Lord or our Savior Jesus Christ or 'specially the Lamb o' God, these are the times you can tell he's gettin' awful serious.
  • Simon'd do my arm a rope-burn worse 'n I ever seen if I say anythin' to you. Made him a promise, I did.
  • Your brother ain't hardly more grown up than you yourself, Laney. No authority figure in my house aside from me here in front o' you an' our Savior Jesus Christ. Now out with it.
Well, with two o' the three Holiest o' Holies already brung, I know Pa's fixin' to get righteous angry any second now an' Simon can go ahead, rope-burn my arm all he wants, but ain't nothing worse 'n when Pa loses his temper. Old Testament kind o' wrath. Kind you don't wanna be 'round.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Untitled Dialogue Exercise

The first three lines of this piece are from John Berger's novel King: A Street Story (p. 102). As an exercise in my fiction workshop last semester we were told to begin a dialogue exchange using these lines and then to proceed with it however we saw fit (paying no mind to the characters, story, etc. from Berger's piece). 

Untitled Dialogue Exercise

Where is she?
She's walking between the trees. Her name is in the air.
I can't see her, he says.
No, you wouldn't. Not yet.
You take jabs at my eyesight now?
It's something different. This isn't about seeing or not seeing.
Tell me she'll be here soon. We miss her so much sometimes, don't we?
Do we?
Don't we?
You do. I do. Yes, we miss her. How could we not?
No, but it wasn't always like this. I say sometimes because there were other times before now when it wasn't so easy to miss her. She would go and we wouldn't wait. Our expectations, they were lower then.
But now they are higher?
They have to be. We depend on her now. My eyesight, your compassion, she doesn't have such weaknesses.
Maybe that is her weakness, though.
We don't need to talk. We can just wait until she's here and then things will be fine, they'll be back to normal and we don't need to fill the air with this – this shit we say to keep ourselves company.
It's you, always you, who starts in with this “shit.” Free me from the blame and I won't speak anymore.
First the blame and then what? What will you ask to be freed from next? I can only do so much. We count on her, but sometimes I have to count on you too. Don't get any ideas. You're pardoned this time only. That's it.
You can speak, he says. I know what I said, but go ahead. She still isn't here and we could use the company, couldn't we? Go ahead now.
Sometimes I don't know if I should apologize to you or just drop it altogether.
You don't need to do that. Either one.
I wouldn't mean it if I did.
That's good. That's why I like you. It takes someone special to be honest about their disingenuity.
I couldn't lie about that, no. You'd know right away.
Exactly. You aren't a very good liar, he says. That's an admirable trait, lying poorly. Some people spend their whole lives trying to and still everyone believes them. Some people, some people. Some people like me.
You're selling yourself short. You do this again and again and you wonder why we have to rely on her, why you have to rely on me. Don't sell yourself short. You're a terrible liar and she loves you for it.
Flattery, flattery. I wonder how much longer. How much longer she'll keep us waiting. You say she loves me and then she keeps me waiting, keeps us both waiting.
We keep ourselves waiting. We've made her too important to us and now we haven't got any other choice.
I suppose we could leave if we wanted to. Just us two and maybe she'd catch up to us or maybe she wouldn't, but we would prove that we can do it. Make it just the two of us, like we did before her.
As you said, though, your eyesight, my compassion. Before we didn't know how weak we were.
Again with my eyesight. You don't relent.
She's stopped.
Somewhere in the forest? Where is she?
No, somewhere else. I can't pick her up. I wonder –
She's still coming.
I can't say.
You have to, though. After what I've just said about counting on you and now you'll deny me this?
She's stopped. I can't say anymore. I can't taste her. The air grows thick.
This is unlike you. Usually so alert, so adept. And now this.
There's nothing I can do.
You can lie.
Okay. She's still coming. Okay? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 5 Mainstream Hip-Hop Albums of 2012

Back in 2012 it seemed like every other week there was a new hip-hop album dropping and, more often than not, the album was a blast to listen to. Of course, there were a handful of disappointments (most notably Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and Wiz Khalifa's O.N.I.F.C.), but for the most part I was overwhelmingly satisfied. Enough to craft this handy-dandy top five list.

5) Meek Mill - Dreams and Nightmares

Meek Mill did the right thing when it came to building hype for his debut album. Despite being Rick Ross's protege (in a manner of speaking), the Philly rapper opted to drop the track "Amen" featuring Drake as his first single rather than any of the three songs featuring Ricky "Humdrum" Rosay. The song is catchy, funny, and it has Drake, so you pretty much can't go wrong. It was enough to get me interested at least. 

So, intrigued, I gave the whole album a listen and I wasn't disappointed. Meek Mill kicks it off with the title track on which he starts slow before going off which sets the pace for the rest of the album. Despite the obligatory Maybach Music collaborations with other label artists (the aforementioned and interminable Rick Ross, Louie V, Sam Sneaker), Meek shines here and doesn't let his album get bogged down with too many featured artists. For the most part, those who are featured are done so in good taste (Kirko Bangz, Drake, Mary J. Blige, Big Sean, etc.) and the solo tracks remain impressive.  

A solid debut from a talented rapper.