“Stand the fuck up. Time to settle this like men.”
Alex curled up on the couch and sat up, clutching his stomach. He rubbed his weary eyes and lifted the blanket – there was a condom on his limp dick, and it looked dirty.
“I said get up!”
Alex took his first glance at the imposing figure staring down at him – he was shirtless with brutal tattoos, burly, and had that thick, curly red beard only farm boys could grow. A cute dog lie on the ground at his feet, whimpering like a dying pet.
“Huh? Who are you?” said Alex.
“Who am I? Cut the shit. Don’t act like you forgot what you did last night.”
Alex set his hands on his knees, stared at the ground, then burped. In truth, he had absolutely no idea what he did last night to set “farm-boy John” off. He gulped back some throw up, then turned to look up at the big man again.
“Listen dude, I have no idea what-”
BAM. Before he could get another word out, farm-boy John cold-cocked him. The massive fist sent Alex off the couch to a colliding crash through the coffee table. Alex spit a piece of tooth out, then groaned as he stared at the broken wood he now lay on top of. What the fuck did I do?
“Get up!” Farm-boy John lunged to kick Alex in the gut, but Alex rolled away before the toe of his boot could connect. Alex picked up a table leg then shot to his feet, then wobbled briefly before finding his balance.
“Look dude, sorry about your girl. But I swear she must’ve come to me.”
“Girl?” Farm-boy John crossed his arms and started to laugh. “You that dumb to think this has got to do with a girl?”
Alex took another good look at farm-boy John – pasty-white skin, red curly beard, tobacco shreds in his teeth, red curly beard, dirty, calloused hands, red curly beard.
“No, obviously not… I’m sorry for whatever I said to you last night.” “Said to me?! You didn’t say shit to me! This is our first time talking face-to-face you dumb shit!”
“What the fuck did I do then?” said Alex.
“Don’t act like you don’t know.”
“Maybe this will help you ‘member.”
Farm-boy John picked up a tall lamp, then began swinging it wildly at Alex. Alex dodged and weaved as he backpedaled. He bumped into the couch, the kitchen table, then some pots and pans. His back was against the wall as the metal clanged on the kitchen floor, and he finally realized what he’d done.
“Wait!” said Alex. Farm-boy John stopped swinging the lamp
. “I remember now,” said Alex, staring down at one of the pots that was filled with a red paste. “I dyed your beard red.”
Farm-boy John spat on the floor. “‘Bout time you remembered.” Alex let out a sigh of relief. “Aw, man! I was worried I did something you were gonna kill me over.” Farm-boy John chuckled for a moment, then in a flash turned deadly serious. “You didn’t die my beard red you dumb fuck. And what you did is the reason I’m gonna kill you.” Alex looked around and gulped. “What… what did I do?” “You see this house?” Alex looked around. “Yeah?” “Recognize it?” “No?” said Alex. “That’s cause you broke in, drank my booze, puked on my floor, then had sex with my bitch.” Farm-boy John broke off the base of the lamp, then aimed the sharp pointed end at Alex’s gut. Alex gulped. “I thought you said no girls were involved?” “You had sex with my dog you sick-fuck.” Farm-boy John thrust forward, again and again, until soon Alex’s stomach was entirely empty.
* * *
Ok I’m not proud of that one, but let’s point out some of the reasons this kept you reading.
1. Starts with and revolves around a question – What did Alex do that made this big stranger want to kill him? The question begins right there with the first line from farm-boy John – “Get up, time to settle this like men.” – Those are fighting words ladies and gentlemen, and when a fight is about to break out we all look over and wonder the exact same thing – what happened?
2. Rising tension – It starts with words, then a punch to the face, then a swinging lamp. In other words, Alex finds himself in more dire trouble as the story progresses. If it were written so that Farm-boy John began the scene holding a loaded gun, then set it back in its holster, tension would be decreasing, which is always a no-no for drama.
3. False ending – I’m new to this, but it’s an area of craft I need to get better at. You know them as twists – you expect one thing to happen, then another thing does. Alex having dyed Farm-boy John’s beard red makes logical sense, because a lot of attention is drawn to that nasty thing throughout the story. It would have been a suitable ending, but never settle for suitable – aim for surprise and gratification.
4. Sorry dog lovers and respectable human beings.
As always, thanks for reading!
– Thomas M. Watt
#5. The title. Gives you a hint about what the story might be about but you have to read to the end to find out for sure. Well done. 🙂
Thank you Linda! Great feedback too.
I wonder – did you consciously put all those elements into the story as you were writing it or did you realise after it was written what made it work?
Linda – I always look for a question first. It’s the question that keeps us reading, the answer will only matter if readers care enough to reach it. So I write with a question in mind, but as I the story progresses various answers come to mind. After I write the ending, I return to the beginning and edit appropriately. In this case, Alex wasn’t originally wearing a dirty condom, and there was no dog present in the story. I added that in after I had an ending I was satisfied with. That was a really good question though, thank you for asking!
Thanks for your detailed answer! 🙂 I often come across the stories I write by asking “what if?” The possibilities are endless. 🙂
that’s true, great tip.