taking the 777 challenge

This seems to be making the rounds, and I can see why. T.S. and Kristan have already taken it, and it’s been fun to read their selections,

Here’s mine:

Dorm life wasn’t really an option for me, so my parents had rented me a tiny apartment — basically just a room in a rooming house. It wasn’t on campus, but it was just a couple of blocks away.

“I hope you don’t think I lured you up here for immoral purposes,” I said, attempting a joke as I closed the door behind us.

She smiled pleasantly. “That would be fine,” she said. She reached down and took the hem of her sweater in both hands, pulling it up over her head. Under it she wore some sort of feminine undershirt thing (it may have been a “chemise,” but I’m not completely sure), which she also removed, laying it carefully on the back of a chair, next to the sweater.

Her skin seemed more and more improbable the more of it was revealed.

That’s from my current story, which starts here. I’m pretty pleased with it so far.

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i just had a thought…

When PT Anderson was starting to work on the movie of Inherent Vice, the first thing he did, based on what I’ve read, was to turn the novel into a screenplay — the whole thing — because that’s the form he’s used to working in.

It’s obvious even from the trailer that the film will be a very tight adaptation of the novel. As I said, for pretty much every frame of the trailer I know exactly which scene it’s based on.

But I imagine it’s possible that Anderson’s devotion to the text itself might not have precluded some additional research. One obvious place to do such research would have been the Pynchon wiki, where there is page-by-page (and sometimes line-by-line) commentary on the book.

A bunch of which was provided by me.

So, it is actually possible that the upcoming movie Inherent Vice will be, in some tiny way, influenced by my thoughts on the book.

Wow.

Some days, this World Wide Web thing is pretty cool. :-)

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prolepsis

I just saw the word prolepsis in a book review, and it made me think. Narrowly defined, it means stating a thing as true before it actually is (“dead man walking” would be a classic example), but more generally it refers to foreshadowing.

You know, like reading a novel that starts “It was the summer that changed my life.”

This struck me, because I never do this, which was certainly not a conscious decision.

Also, I just did do it in what I posted a few minutes ago. So, encountering this word made me think.

One way of looking at it is that I shouldn’t do it, because I don’t do it — that’s done by writers who are different types of writers than me. This is obviously not a valid basis to make any artistic decisions.

(As always, I take inspiration from Robert Altman, who spent the last chunk of his career in movies deciding which projects to film based on, “Well, I’ve never done that before.”)

And I think the foreshadowing fits here, because this is the first thing I’ve written in decades where the narrator isn’t Marshall or third-person me. And Mike, the narrator, worries very much about the future, and he would tell the story that way.

Or possibly it’s just because I wanted to juice things up a bit, to reassure readers that the torturing of the characters (so often recommended these days by web-based fiction experts) will soon begin.

The story started here. The torturing is coming soon.

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part three

(This story started here.}

 
“I sort of got into a fight today,” Sharon said quietly.

She had been silent for a few minutes before saying this and I’d started to doze off, but I raised my head to look at her.

I’d been exploring some areas of her body with pretty close attention over the previous hour or two, and I hadn’t seen any bruises.

“Please don’t tell me I have to go out and beat somebody up to defend your honor,” I said.

She examined my face, squinting in the dim light from the window. We’d been together for a few weeks at this point, long enough for her to start to learn some ways of telling when I was trying to be funny.

We were lying in my narrow bed. She was naked, and I was wearing my T-shirt and boxers. It was a warm night, and the sheet was only pulled up to her waist. In the moonlight, her golden skin looked like it was glowing, and her pale eyes seemed to have no pupils at all.

“It wasn’t a real fight, with fists,” she explained seriously. “It was with Professor Potter. He’s had trouble with a student who lives in U-town — she doesn’t always show up for class, hands in her assignments late, that sort of trouble — and he started saying things about U-town, things which aren’t true. I didn’t know whether I should, but I raised my hand and I said that it’s not right for him to generalize in that way, since I live in U-town and I’m always in class and I always do my work.

“He said something about people who live there are all freaks, and I objected to that, too, but then some people started to laugh, so I sat down.”

She looked, for her, really upset. She never cried, but she looked pretty unhappy. I suddenly knew that the next thing which had happened, which she didn’t want to say, was that somebody had mentioned me, in connection with the category “freak.”

“People don’t understand about U-town, I guess — people who haven’t been there.” I shrugged. “I’m curious about it myself.”

“You are?” she said. “You could come and visit, if you want to. Would you like to?”

I nodded. “Yes, absolutely. Whenever is good for me to come.”

“You could come tomorrow, tomorrow night,” she said. That was Friday, when she’d be going home anyway. “Craig will be making his baked fish for dinner — it’s really good.”

“I don’t want to impose–“

She smiled. “He’ll make extra.”

This was typical of us. We could talk frankly about war and peace and psychology and music and everything else, but when it came to each other we always tiptoed, as if the whole thing might turn out to be as fragile as a soap bubble.

Well, our weekend in U-town put an end to that, and to some other things as well.

When I woke up in the morning, with Sharon wrapped around me like a very friendly octopus as usual, I wondered about something.

U-town, quite famously, had no telephones. How was Sharon going to let her brother know that company was coming and he should make more of his excellent baked fish?

 
After my last class, we walked together to the bridge as we did every week, but this time, instead of giving her a goodbye hug, I started up the bridge with her. She took my hand as we walked up the incline.

We’d never held hands before, and, knowing her, she had thought long and hard about making this move. She might even have drawn a line down the center of a page of looseleaf paper, using a ruler to make sure it was straight, and made a list of pros and cons.

She didn’t look at me as she took my hand, but I was careful to squeeze her hand as we walked, to let her know that this was okay (to say the least) with me.

I suddenly wondered how her brothers were going to feel about us sleeping together in their house. Obviously she was a college student and not a kid, but brothers can be weird about that sort of thing, and I knew they were a very close family.

Well, I’d deal with that if it came up. The important part to me was that she was bringing me to meet her family. She’d never talked about her parents and I’d always had idea that they were dead, so meeting her brothers was a pretty definite statement that I was her boyfriend. And she was my girlfriend.

I squeezed her hand again as we reached the top of the bridge. In the back of my mind, always, was the question of my parents. Thanksgiving break was coming, inevitably, and I know they expected that I would come for a visit, for the long weekend.

Well, that was weeks (fewer and fewer weeks, of course) away, and here I was nearly over the bridge to U-town and I wasn’t even paying attention.

 
More to come…

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i’m consistent, at least

Well, at least I’m consistent

I just posted the second part of my new story. It’s called “In Bed,” which seemed amusing since the first part was called “In Class.”

Possible amusement aside, it occurred to me that this was, by some standards, moving quickly. One minute Mike and Sharon are classmates, the next minute they’re in bed.

But, as I think about it, this is always my preference. Some people like to go around and around and back and forth about Will They Get Together or Won’t They? (while there’s often no real doubt about how it’s going to end up).

But, as I wrote about a while ago, I get bored pretty quickly with the courtship stuff — I think couples get much more interesting once they’re actually together.

So, Mike and Sharon are already in bed.

Now we start to get to the good stuff.

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in bed

(This is part two. Part one is called “In Class“)

 
Sharon ran a finger across her chin. “I grew a beard for a while,” she said thoughtfully, “a nice little Van Dyke. But it seemed to make people nervous for some reason, so I got rid of it.” She shrugged.

This was fairly typical of our pillow talk. I’d quickly figured out that either Sharon had the driest and most absurd sense of humor I’d ever encountered, or she had no sense of humor at all.

I had also learned very quickly that it hurt her feelings when I laughed at things she said. Not that she cried or anything, but she frowned a small, baffled frown. I quickly recognized that this frown came from frustration that, once again, her attempts to behave normally were not working out.

We were sleeping together two or three nights a week. Never on the weekends, though. She always went back to U-town after her last class on Friday and returned for her first class on Monday morning.

She would always ask the day before: “Would you like me to stay over tomorrow night?” If I said yes — and I’m pretty sure I never said no — she would come to school the next day with a very small suitcase in addition to her school knapsack.

Our pillow talk was never romantic. We talked about all sorts of things, but there was no mention of love or anything like that. This was just as well — I had no idea whether I was actually in love, or if this was just amazed gratitude that I had found somebody who was willing to be with me.

After a while, I began to think that this might be true of Sharon also. After all, she was beautiful (in my opinion) and smart, but she had no friends, at least at school, and I got the impression that she didn’t have a lot of friends in U-town either. When she talked about her life there, she talked about her two brothers and the old man they lived with, but there was never any mention of friends or a social life.

When she’d started to take off her clothes that first time, I had thought that she was just “easy,” one of those college girls you hear about who sleeps around a lot. But no, she didn’t sleep around — she was obviously with me. We went to movies together, we had lunch together on days when we had our breaks at the same time, and on Fridays she would wait for my last class to be over so I could walk her across the city to the bridge to U-town. Then we’d hug and she’d say, “I’ll see you on Monday.”

By the way, I could write a book about what it was like to go to the movies with her. She was often baffled by commonplace things and frequently misunderstood key plot elements. This was obviously inexperience, not stupidity, and she always listened attentively to my explanations. Part of it may have been that she’d never seen a movie before (she explained that there weren’t any movie theaters in U-town), but it was more than that.

There were rocky moments, of course, starting with our first morning together.

I woke up and felt like I’d managed to get wrapped up in the bedclothes. I was almost completely immobilized, but I quickly realized I was wrapped up in Sharon.

I didn’t remember how we’d fallen asleep, but now she seemed to be on all sides of me, as if she was trying to be a one-person cocoon. My arms and legs were pinned, but I knocked my forehead lightly against hers a couple of times and said her name.

She opened her eyes, very slowly, and focused them on my face. And then, almost inaudibly, she said my name.

Not the name I had told her, not the name that everybody at college knew, not “Mike.” She used my original name, the name I’d been born with, the name I’d left behind (far behind, or so I’d thought) when I’d arrived at college.

My stomach got tight and I felt like I was going to throw up. I forced myself not to cry (there had been quite a bit of crying the night before — all of it by me). She saw and felt my distress, and quickly unwrapped herself from around me, obviously wondering what she’d done wrong and how she could make it better. She didn’t say anything; she just looked stricken.

Seeing her distress, I decided I needed to think less about myself and more about her. None of this was her fault, after all.

I took her hand. “Mike,” I reminded her.

“Mike,” she said slowly. She repeated it a couple of times, as if trying to fix it in her mind. Then she met my eyes. “I’d like to do this again,” she said very quietly.

The mystery, though, was where she had ever learned that name in the first place. After she left, after I’d said that I also very much wanted to do this again, I lay in bed for a while and considered this.

There was no explanation that I could think of for how she’d learned that name.

I even toyed with the idea that she’d been sent by my parents to seduce me. But that was obviously not true — if my parents had decided to send somebody to seduce me back onto the right path, they would have sent a guy, definitely not a girl.

I reminded myself that, yes, there were mysteries and more mysteries, but I had just spent the night with a girl, a really nice girl who I’d had a crush on, and, while it had not exactly gone as I’d envisioned it, she seemed to want more.

If I got my act together and stopped crying so much, I might even end up with a girlfriend…

Okay, it was much too soon to be thinking about that, but I lay back and stretched, reminding myself to enjoy this moment.

 
(More to come.)

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