Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Drowned" A Faddish Sketch



(This is a weird, possibly offensive germ of a story.  A first draft with a spell check that seems like it could be something interesting with a little work)

Her hand pushed the weathered screen door, she stepped into the chill of the Caffe Buono coffee shop.  The ever present smoky aroma of the coffee roaster in the back, the hushed chatter of the people at the tiny round tables and the clink of cups created the feeling of stepping from one world to the next.  In both worlds she felt alone.

She scanned the faces, some of whom looked up as she moved into the new space of noise and smoke and boundaries.  Where was he?  She was sure it was a he.  It sounded like a he on Facebook.  There was an older man sitting in the back typing, tight in his world.  He would not be the one.  Would be extra creepy if he was.  Some scholarly kids with laptops, maybe, but not interested in her.  Was there someone, this was the appointed time, was there someone, some young man looking at her with interest asking the same question on her mind.  Is this the person?

She continued to stand in the door, scanning the tables, the faces, waiting for some unplanned intuition to speak to her.  There was nothing for it.  It was possible the guy wasn’t even here.  Maybe he had decided to off himself without her.

She went to the counter and glanced over the chalkboard listings.  A new one "Affogato".  

"What’s Affogato?" she asked the counter guy.  Could he be the one?  He looked too cheerful.  But what did that prove?

"Affogato means drowned," he said.  "It’s ice cream with a double shot of espresso poured over it."

"I'll have that."

"Scone?"

If she found the guy, would be hungry?  Would a person like her, under these circumstances be eating a scone?  "No scone."  It occurred to her that a person even eating a scoop of ice cream might be too cheerful or even celebratory for all this.  She handed him her credit card.  He swiped it on an iPad and passed it to her and she signed with her finger, a bright curlicue.  It reminded her of Fourth of July picnics at night, waving a sparkler through the night, running down fields.  She felt a pang. She looked to the door.  It wasn't too late to run, just run.

"Thanks," said the counter guy.  "We’ll call you."

She stepped away and stood against the wall.  She waited.  Affogato.  That could have been a code word if she'd known there was such a thing. I'll be the one sitting alone eating an Affogato.  I'll be the drowned girl. 

Drowning seemed like a particular bad way to go.  Violent. Your body would fight you, resist the betrayal the mind had imposed on it.  Drowning was not the way.  What were the logistics of this thing?

Everything had logistics.  If you were a thief, the logistic was not breaking in, it was about not getting caught.  If you were a hacker, it was about not getting caught.  If you were trying to kill yourself it was about not getting caught by your own body, your fear at the last moment.  If you jumped off a building and had second thoughts on the way down, it would be too late.  How many people had second thoughts after the commencement of seeing it through?

"Affogato." The counter guy was looking at her.

"Drowned," she said.  She took the dish.

Drowning wouldn’t cut it, she thought.  It doesn't make a statement to those you leave behind.  It can be accidental.  One does not want to be accidental.  This is about you, she would want to say.  You broke my heart, you did this.

She found an empty table near a group of boys and just sat.  The ice cream did look a little drowned as the hot coffee began to consume it into a frothy cream.  The whole business, it was just ungrateful.

"You wouldn't drown yourself would you?" said a bios voice behind her.  She turned.

"Facebook?" she said.

"Yeah," he said.  He sat down.  "I'm -"

"You're not going to tell me your name are you?" she said.  "I don't want to know your name."

"Okay," he said.

"Want a bite?"  She raised the spoon.  "No cooties yet."

He took the spoon and put it in his mouth.  He looked kind of cute. Suspiciously cheerful.  If he should have been dressed in black like a sulky Hamlet - to be or not to be, maybe not - it would have been more obvious. Nothing about this was obvious.  She wondered if even her weariness showed.

"Gonna miss ice cream," he said.

"I don't believe in that shit," she said.

"Ice cream?"

"After life.  Regret."

"Oh let's not talk about that shit.  How you going to do it?"

"I'm looking for ideas."

"I can't believe you haven't thought about this."

"What about you?"

"I'm thinking of freezing to death.  It's like going to sleep. "

"How you going to do that?"

"I know a guy who has a meat locker.  Gets about 35 degrees."

"Is that enough?"

"I guess."

"What about a gun?"

"I don't have a gun."

"You can get one.  That's what I'm thinking."

"We're doing this together right?  That's the deal we said."

"Well what's a good gun?  I don't have much money."

"Maybe a little gun is cheaper than a big gun.  Maybe a 22?"

The next table over had gone quiet.  Chairs turned.  Guys leaned in.  "Naw,
man.  Don't use a 22."

They turned and looked the guys.  "You been listening?"

"Twenty two?" said another kid.  "That's stupid.  That's like using an ice pick on yourself.  Shoot yourself in the head, you don’t die, just an impromptu lobotomy."

"Wait, wait," said the girl. 

"Hemingway used a shot gun," said another kid.  He put the barrel under his chin, and just sort of wrapped his toe around the trigger - BOOM!"

Now people were looking.

"Don't use a 22, not if you're serious.  Serious people, shot gun."

"Would you use a shotgun?" said another kid.

"Hell, I'd use a nerf gun."

"What??  Get the fuck out."

"No, man, you get these nerf guns, they look real.  You go somewhere, you wave it around, some cop shoots you."

"Fuck, that's sick."

"Well, what isn't?" 

"Well, for one thing, it makes you look like an asshole.  Threatening people with a gun.  Little kids.  It makes you look like a total asshole.  Get your name on the news, but it's the wrong message.  It's not 'you done broke my heart, fuck you Cruel World,' its like ‘Mommy made me nuts and I wanna cry but I got a cop to shoot me cause I’m too chicken shit to off myself.'  That makes you a punk.  You couldn’t do it.”

“Plus you're wasting your fifteen minutes of fame."

"Fifteen minutes.  I like that."

"Warhol said that."

"Who the fuck's Warhol?"

"The guy that's doing your mama!  You don't know who the fuck Andy Warhol is?  Get the fuck out of here.  You’re repugnantly ignorant."

"Warhol is cool," said another kid.  "He did Marylyn Monroe.  And soup cans and shit."

"A shotgun?” said the girl, “that’s what you're telling me?"

"Course you could end up just blowing your teeth down your throat, like that guy on the show 'Preacher'?  That motherfucker is gross."

"No!  That clown in American Horror Story!  That's what he did!  Blew his face off with a shotgun.  So he has this mouth mask.  That was some fucked up shit."

"Naw man, don't use a shot gun."

"I think we're getting off the subject," said the boy. 

"You're not going to freeze to death," said one of the other kids.  "Not in high summer in Georgia.  But if you did freeze to death when it's a hunnert fucking degrees out there, that would be cool. Now that would a statement."

"Irony," said another kid.  It's got irony."

"It does, it does."

"What's wrong with pills?"

She ate her ice cream.  Worked the spoon around the bowl.  Feeling the boy’s eyes on her she put her tongue out.  She had a long tongue and licked the edge of the bowl.  Then the inside of the bowl.  With their eyes on her she licked the spoon, long and slow.  She worked that spoon.

Their eyes were on her.  All their eyes. 

“You got talent,” a boy sighed.  “Don’t waste that talent you got.”

She set the bowl down and stood up, looking towards the door.

"Hey!"

She turned and all the boys were looking at her.  "Feel better now?" said one.

And then she knew.  She did.  It was out of her system.  It had been a dumb idea.

"I know what I'm going to do now," she said.  "I'm going into show business.  If I'm going to die on stage I want to get paid for it."

She walked away without looking back.

Outside, the heat and the sunshine felt beautiful.






10 comments:

  1. I love this! And once again, Garce, I heard your voice while reading it...which of course, is not literal, since I've never even spoken to you on the phone. But your author voice is unmistakable. You have a way with conversation that always feels natural, as if these are real people just sitting around, talking.

    I love the boys and girls leaning in to butt into the conversation. Young people think about suicide a lot more than older ones, I think. Those of us who are older are more aware of the creeping of time, that brings the Grim Reaper ever closer...and we prefer to avoid him for as long as possible. But young people still feel immortal, and they're in love with the idea of a statement that would define their death, a final finger in the eye to whomever they feel wronged them. They haven't yet learned the peace that comes with forgiveness...it's still all about revenge for them. Conveniently they forget that they won't be around to enjoy the fruits of their revenge...they'll be dead.

    And the focus the boys had on her licking the bowl and the spoon was delightful. Thanks for sharing this one!

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  2. Hi Fiona! Thanks for reading my stuff! So good to see you back. It needs work but looking at it, it seems like it could be the seed of a short play. I want to Walk around with it and think about it. I worried a little people would see it as taking suicide lightly. It's based on something real I heard about. Kid's were getting together on Facebook and organizing anonymous suicide clubs. For real. I thought this was strange and terrifying. I wanted to experiment with that image.

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  3. Hi, Garce!

    I agree, this is more like a (ironic or comic) play than a short story. It's a bit difficult to assign the different lines to speakers, for one thing.

    Great premise, though I'm not sure I see where the faddishness comes in. Unless it's the FB connection!

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    1. Most of the speakers are anonymous, but it wouldn't be hard, a skip and a jump to make it a play, and I'm looking around for plays these days. It needs a little more thought. I'm finding that I really like writing dialogue.

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  4. This is both surrealistic and totally believable, including the suggestions from interested bystanders. Garce, you should definitely expand this and get it published somewhere. It would make a good pair with Dorothy Parker's poem, "Resume."

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    1. Thanks Jean! Is resume the one where she lists all the ways to kill yourself but you don't find out until the last couple of lines?

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  5. This is indeed a gem, and believable. I was about to say that I'm glad my kids are well past adolescence, but my granddaughter is eleven now, so... But I do think she has better sense, and her parents, a computer systems professional and a trial lawyer, are very watchful.

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    1. We always worry about what happens out of sight of our children. The danger these days doesn't seem to be so much physical as psychic. The nature of bullying itself has changed so much from when I was a kid. There is such an intensity to social life among the kids that is different from when i grew up.

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    2. The real difference these days is the reality of constant contact. I've seen kids get anxiety attacks when they lost their phones, or, God forbid, their parents take them away. How are they going to know what everyone else is looking at on Snapchat? How will they keep up with the social loop of whatever group they're in? They feel ostracized, even when their friends are not shunning them. That's the biggest change that I see between when we grew up and now. And the the level of insults can be so much higher when they're sent out on a medium that will automatically disappear in a minute or so...no proof left for anyone to see.

      As always, the best way to counteract this as a parent is to be accessible to your kids. What I did was tell mine age-appropriate stories about what I was like at their ages. That way when they had problems or questions, they knew I had faced the same issues, and was not always proud of the choices I made...so we could discuss them.

      What shocks me most is to talk to kids who tell me they never talk with their parents...that the only time they interact is when their parents are telling them what to do. That's not a relationship. And I have adult friends I've known for years, who bemoan that their kids won't talk to them! OMG! These are the people you brought into the world with sweat and tears, and you raised them! What do you mean they won't talk to you? You're the adult! It was your responsibility to keep the lines of communication open. When did you stop listening to them? Or treating any revelation as a precursor to judging them? Or correcting them? Once they're 18 it's way too late, if they don't trust you with their secrets anymore. Very sad.

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  6. I agree with the others that there's something interesting here. The ending felt a little bit sudden to me, but it flowed really, really smoothly for a first draft, and the dialogue was good. Work with this more if you have the desire to, for sure. I think it's worth it.

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