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Short stories. Written late.


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#1
strange_quark

strange_quark

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Hello,

I write mostly for myself, as a way to relax. I also don't write too often, as I get busy with other things, but when I feel inspired... I write.

I tend to write about whatever. Sometimes I've got a real plot, sometimes I write just to set a mood. It just depends on what mood I'm in.

If you've got feedback, positive or negative (I can take it), I'd love to hear it.

That being said, here's something that I wrote recently. I don't really know what prompted it, so make of it what you will. Hopefully it strikes a note.

---------------------------------


Evening Shift

Work is always such a drag. At least this close to the end of my shift anyway. I mean, the rest of the time, you get some interesting customers through, but this late, or rather early, you just get the depressing dregs of humanity. If you’re lucky.

Earlier in the evening, it’s better. You usually get the people slouching in from their jobs. They usually just stop in to get a pack of smokes; they’re still pretty dead to the world. You can start to see them come alive if you look closely though. It’s like a leg that you’ve been sitting on funny for a while. After enough time, it’s asleep, and when you move it again it prickles and hurts. It takes a while for the circulation to return. The people getting off work have just spent the whole day in a cube, doing whatever it is people do in cubes for 10 hours at a time. The life is slowly returning, but you can tell there is a definite prickle, kinda like they can’t figure out what’s going on. For me, it’s a bit like getting to watch people get born, just a little bit. Maybe it’s not much, but for some of my regulars, the ones buying a bottle to crawl into every evening, I secretly think it’s the most alive they probably ever get. Some small part of me feels privileged to get to see that spark of life. Most of me just feels guilt at being the asshole who keeps selling them all the shit that’s slowly killing them. I guess I rationalize it by telling myself that their jobs are killing them even faster, and I’m just providing some relief. Really though, I know I’m here because I need the money, and anything else is just excuses.

Later in the evening, you get the college kids, and the night life crowd. They just want some cheap booze to start the evening off with, before they go to the clubs, or the bars, or whatever their pleasure is. This is my favorite part of the evening. I almost forget I’m at work sometimes. These people are friendly, gregarious… alive with the night. It’s fun to talk with them, and find out where they’re from, what they’re doing, and where they’re going. Sometimes, a cute girl will flirt with me, and that makes my week. Especially if she’s got lots of piercings. I don’t know why. I guess it intrigues me. I love my girlfriend, I’d never cheat on her, or even think about it, but it’s still nice to know that other people find you interesting. An ego boost. You don’t get many of those in this job.

At this time of the evening though, you just get the people determined to die slowly. I never get new customers this late, only regulars. Some of them are actually pretty friendly, but that just makes it worse. I don’t want to know the guys I’m killing off. Not really. Take Doug for instance. He comes in like clockwork at about 1 am every night. He used to be a broker in the financial district, or so he says. I can believe it. He still talks about stocks and the latest corporate news. His nerves are shot though. He said that he actually collapsed on the stock floor one day. I guess it was his last day on the stock floor, from the way he talks about it. I don’t know what happened to all of his money after that, and I don’t really want to know I guess. That was several years back he says. All I know is that he always gets a bottle of scotch, maybe some port near Christmas, and loves to just hang out and chat. Lately he’s been buying the cheaper scotch, and I’m afraid for what I think that means.

There are a lot of Dougs. Sure they have different names, but the important parts are all pretty much the same.

By 3am, the city says that we have to stop selling alcohol, and I’m grateful. I get to go home and work on my writing. Mainly, I just get to go home. Angela will get home in a few hours, and that’s always to best part of the day, or morning, or whatever.

Leaving the store tonight, the city feels especially still. No wind, no cars. The trash is sitting still in the street. The buildings are sitting there dank and quiet, slowly growing a new layer of age. It’s peaceful. A few blocks ahead, I see my last customer of the evening walking along. I think her name is Jessie, but I’m not sure. She’s usually pretty quiet, like she just wants to get things over with. I see her turn off into one of the little alleys off the street, and I can’t help but wonder why it’s got to be an alley. I mean, I guess I always picture my late night customers asleep in an alley, when they’re not in the store at least, but part of me always secretly hopes that they’ve got a real place to call home.

After a few minutes, my thoughts start to settle out. I can see the stars clearly tonight, which is pretty cool. That always mellows me out a bit. I’m kind of in a really mellow trance as I walk along. Ahead, I can see a light coming out of the alley Jessie turned into. It’s moving around funny, and I think I can hear some rapid scuffling noises. I get worried. I know this isn’t a real nice neighborhood, and I imagine all of the horrible things that could have happened to Jessie. I run ahead, thinking that I can maybe do something to stop whatever’s happening, but without much real hope. Out of breath, I arrive at the alley, and about ten feet in, I see two kids kicking the shit out of someone rolling on the ground, wrapped up in a blanket. There’s a third kid standing back a ways, pointing a video camera at the whole thing. That’s where the light’s coming from. I start screaming at them, not thinking, and I take a swing at the nearest kid. He goes sprawling across the alley, like this was the last thing in the world he expected. The other kid stops his kicking. Everyone is totally quiet for just a moment. They alley is a frozen tableau. Then the person on the ground stands up, and lets loose.

“What the fuck are you doing, you stupid fucking piece of shit!?!? It isn’t Jessie. It’s another kid, dressed a lot like the other three, under the rags. “Christ! That’s my friend you’re pushing around dickwad.? He’s really pissed off. Really pissed off.

“What?? That’s all I can say. I’m totally blown away. I don’t know what I’m seeing. It doesn’t make any sense. “What do you mean? Your friend!? I just saw the two of them tearing you apart! What is this?? Weak. Lame. Nothing else more intelligent comes out.

The kid behind the camera steps in, “Jesus man! You’re a total fucking idiot. What the fuck does it look like we’re doing?"

I just stand there looking stupid. I don't know what it looks like they were doing. Not anymore. Obviously, it's not what I thought. My mind has stopped up, and I can't really think of anything.

When he see's that I'm not going to be able to say anything: "We’re making a movie.? He says it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Like, why didn’t I already figure that out?

“It’s a school project, you fucker.? He spits it out. “Don’t you have anything betting to do than push people around? Go psycho on total strangers? God. What an asshole."

I look at the kid with the camera again, and the kid that had been on the ground. They can’t be older than high school.

Before I have a chance to really recover and reorient, the kid I shoved earlier steps over and clobbers me. I should have been expecting it, but I was still disoriented. GOD DAMN! THAT FUCKING HURT! FUCK! I haven’t been hit in the face like that since junior high.

I throw my arms up, protectively, for all the good that’ll do me. I'm just living in the moment now. I’m a pretty big guy, and I don’t actually want to hurt these little pricks, so I run for the front of the alley. They don’t follow me. I’m glad. The last thing I want is to get in a serious fight with them. I guess they figure we’re even now, I don’t know. I don’t really think about it right away, I just leave.

I can hear them shouting at me as I walk away. When I look back, they’re all in the alley entrance making gestures at me. I feel like a complete tool. What else would I have done though? I mean, it’s not as if I was just going to announce myself and ask if they would please stop kicking her. Fuck. Oh well. It’s over.

Most of the rest of my walk home is uneventful. The city just passes by as I’m lost thinking about the alley. For some reason, I think it bothers me almost as much that these four kids were filming a fake beating at 3 in the morning for school, as it would if they had actually been beating up a real person. I don’t know why. It’s irrational. Nobody really got hurt. But it nags at me.

I remember when I was in school, one of my professors used to say that you usually work with what you know. He said that whether you write, make music, film, or whatever, that your best work is always based on your experience. I think that’s what really bothers me. What experiences do those kids have that they're making that film? It’s not a cheery thought. I don’t like what it says about things.

Suddenly, I’m very tired of everything. I’m tired of my job, I’m tired of seeing my late night customers falling apart in front of my eyes. I’m tired of watching everything slowly disintegrate around here. Most of all, I’m tired of being part of the process.

By the time I get home, I’ve decided that when I wake up later today, some things are going to change. I can’t keep my sanity, my self-respect this way. I’m going to find a new job. Maybe it won’t pay as well, but on the bright side, it probably can’t pay much worse. I’m going to find something that I can actually do something good at. I don’t know what, but there has to be something. The kids still really bother me. There has to be something that I can do that’ll make a difference.

I’m afraid that if I don’t do something right now, the edge will have faded off of this feeling in the morning, and I'll just keep on going like nothing happened. I call the store, and leave a message for my boss, telling him that I quit. Tomorrow, things will be different.
faster, faster, faster you run, but no matter how fast you run, you can never leave yourself behind... but there is something worthwhile in the struggle, something that may one day redefine the self

"Man is not so much a rational being, as a rationalizing being" - Robert Heinlein

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" - Mark Twain

#2
ForgottenSilence

ForgottenSilence

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Well written it flowed easily. your story picks up subtle details, wish i could say i noticed anything in my customers but i'm to busy putting on this fake hyper cheerful crap so my boss doesn't bitch at me, all i notice is if they are anoying and get in my face. you should keep writing no i already said this but that was good.

#3
strange_quark

strange_quark

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*smiles*

Thank you!

I also don't notice a lot of things I wish I did. I guess that's why I try to add detail when I write. It's a way to remind myself to try to notice things in real life.

I've actually got something I've been working on a bit lately. I'll post it as soon as I'm happy with it.
faster, faster, faster you run, but no matter how fast you run, you can never leave yourself behind... but there is something worthwhile in the struggle, something that may one day redefine the self

"Man is not so much a rational being, as a rationalizing being" - Robert Heinlein

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" - Mark Twain

#4
strange_quark

strange_quark

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Okay, here's another one that I've been working on, and I think it's probably ready to post.

When I write, I usually write fiction, but this one's a departure. This one is true, as best as I can remember things.

Let me know what you think. I appreciate any and all comments.

Cheers!

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Visiting Mom

Practice let out and I caught a ride home with a friend who had a car. I got home, and the house was dark, but that happened a lot, so I didn’t think too much about it. Not at first anyway. The whole evening is kind of blurry now when I look back on it, but I try to remember what things were like anyway. It’s hard to distinguish between the things that I actually remember myself, and what other people have told me over the years. I guess memory is a little like that.

Anyway, mom never came home, and I remember that dad eventually came home late. I don’t know where my sister was in all this, but she must have been around somewhere. Just to show you how weird my memory about that time is, I can’t even remember if my oldest sister was dead yet or not. I mean, that seems like something I should remember. I seem to remember that she was dead, but then again she died when I was 15, and I’m pretty sure it this must have happened when I was 14. Oh well, maybe it’ll come to me someday. Maybe I’ll ask someone about how things actually happened someday, but probably not. Nobody much likes to talk about it.

I remember when dad got home he told me that something had happened to mom. I don’t think he really knew any details, but he had talked to her doctor, and she was in the hospital. He said that we could visit her the next night. I worried a lot that night, but I didn’t really know a lot of things that I know now, so I didn’t worry as much as I probably should have.

The next evening, after everyone got home, we went to the hospital as a family. I remember when we got to the door to mom’s part of the hospital, called “three south?, we had to hit a buzzer to get let in. That’s probably the point when it first hit me how weird the whole thing was. I knew mom had problems, but this wasn’t anything I had really expected. As we walked towards the nurse’s station, I looked around me. Everything looked pretty normal so far. Except for certain things. All of the windows used security glass, and there was a ping pong table in a common room sort of area. If you’ve ever been in a hospital, you know that they don’t normally have those just sitting around. Thank god they did. I spend a lot of time over the years playing at that ping pong table.

When we got to the nurse’s station, someone asked us who we were there to visit, and if we had brought anything for them. We did have some stuff, and so they had to pick through it. It turns out that there are a bunch of regulations about what you can give to people on the psych ward. Especially if they’re on suicide watch.

After a few rules and stuff, they showed us to mom's room. It was right next to the nurse’s station, apparently because it made it easier to get to quickly if she tried to kill herself again. When we finally got to see mom, the one thing I really remember was how tired she looked. She was trying to put on a good face, but anyone could tell that this was a lot for her to take in. I realized then how lame it was for me to feel weird about the whole thing, since everything was obviously so much worse for my mom than for me. We talked for a while about things. Nothing substantial, just stuff like how well people were treating her, and how lame it was that she wasn’t allowed to have shoelaces or gum. People can be pretty innovative when they’re suicidal. She told us that in the past some people have folded up gum wrappers and stuck them into power outlets to try to electrocute themselves. I don’t know if that really worked or not, but all the same, gum (with foil wrappers) was banned as a result. The one thing we most certainly didn’t talk about was anything that had gotten mom there in the first place.

Mom talked about some of the people she had met there. Most of the people were either really nice, or reclusive. Except for the nursing staff. Some of the nurses were really good, and some, as we found out over the coming years, were total fuck-ups that should never have been allowed within 100 ft. of a psych ward. Only a complete fuckwad plays amateur psychotherapist to someone on suicide watch. Just because you have a junior college course or two on psych doesn’t qualify you. Not by a long shot.

The trip that first night didn’t last all that long. Just long enough to stop by, talk a bit, hang out a bit, and then leave. I don’t remember how many weeks she was there that first time. I think it was about three. I spent a lot of time there. We played a lot of ping pong. I found out that she didn’t remember the suicide attempt. The whole thing blacked out. Of course we had all known that mom was having a lot of problems before this, but this was about the time when we all started to realized that things had really changed for the worse.

I remember on one of my trips to visit mom that she introduced me to a few of the other patients that she had made friends with. All of them were very nice. One of them was a girl just a few years older than me. I thought she was pretty cute, and I remember being really strongly affected by her. I thought it was so incredibly unfair that the world was such a fucked up place that such a nice person would try to kill themselves. Repeatedly. I think this girl made me change my mind about suicide, just as much as my experience with my mom, and how she affected my family. All my life I’ve thought about suicide. Sometimes pretty seriously. I’ve always known that it would be hard on other people, but I guess I always secretly thought that they’d be glad when I was gone. With my mom, I don’t know, I guess I could only really think about how I would feel if she died, but I never really put it the other way around to think about how my family would feel if I died. I tried, it just didn’t work. I could never imagine them feeling anything but relief. Something about meeting this girl though did it. I knew that nobody would ever be anything but upset if she died. Maybe it was because she was much closer to my age, but I finally realized how terribly it would probably affect everyone if I killed myself. I won’t say I never seriously thought about suicide again, but this was probably the turning point for me.

After mom was released, it seemed that things got back to normal for a while. Pretty soon after she was released though, she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. That explained all the blackouts, and a number of other things. We found out all sorts of horrible things from her past, and we learned a lot about MPD. As the years went by, she was in and out of different hospitals, and things always seemed to be about the same. She never much got better, and sometimes she got worse. At one point she had over 80 (I think) personalities. She tried to hide the different personalities from my sister and I, but we could tell anyway. Sometimes it was pretty hard to miss. At some point, her main personality started going away. Others were left in charge for longer. Eventually one of her personalities, a guy, started being the main personality.

Now it’s been more than 10 years since the first hospital visit. My mom is gone. Her body is still alive, and the guy who came out as the main personality is alive and pretty much happy, and working on making the body a guy’s body as well. We’re pretty decent friends, and I love him, but we're not mom and son. Not by a long shot. The MPD is finally starting to fade into the background, and I think he’s going to live a mostly happy and satisfying remainder of his life. I’m happy for him, for the most part.

I miss my mom a lot though. The times we spent while she was in the hospital those various times were among the last times that I really got to spend with my mom, and to let her know that I loved her. We also spent a lot of time in funky little coffee houses hanging out late while I was in high school. That was after she moved out, and so those were the times that I saw her the most. I really loved those times. Every time I go to a homey little coffee house now I think of my mom and smile. I hope that even though she’s gone, she knew before she left that she was loved by someone.
faster, faster, faster you run, but no matter how fast you run, you can never leave yourself behind... but there is something worthwhile in the struggle, something that may one day redefine the self

"Man is not so much a rational being, as a rationalizing being" - Robert Heinlein

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" - Mark Twain




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