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Telephone Man (1400)

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Old 04-09-2017, 02:37 AM
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Default Telephone Man (1400)


A raw piece, I've made no edits as of yet. Sorry.

Nothing to explain really. Share your opinions, whatever they may be. Thank you for reading.

Don't know if this site will mess up the format. Anyways have at it, any critiques will be much appreciated. Again, just looking for general feedback.



“Tonight there was some progress. I made some sense of it.” Oscar spoke to himself, lying in bed. There was something thumping against his skull; the pain let him know the Telephone Man would call soon. “Progress.”

He massaged his temples, sat up, and pulled his shirt down at the hem. He grabbed a cup of Alka seltzer water from the night table; it went down hard and bubbled in his throat. He placed the empty cup down. To his right, on a desk, a CRT monitor illuminated the emptiness of the room. Green lines of text scrolled down the opposite wall in a projection. Once in awhile, a beeping noise would emanate from the computer tower; then, he would get up and sit by his desk, push some keys, and the sound would go away. He would lie down on his bed again, massaging his temples, thumping in between his eyes. Talking to himself. Thinking about progress until he slept. He continued the cycle until “4:00 A.M.” and then he dozed off.

In the morning, he awoke, rosy fingers disseminating around the window curtains. A slit of light running across his eyes. He got up, yawning, and walked over to the kitchen; a small and spartan place. He took a glass down from the cupboard and laved it in the sink. He opened a drawer and opened a packet of Alka Seltzer tablets with his teeth; then, he filled the cup with tap water and dropped two tablets in. Watching the glass fizzle and hearing its hiss. Thumping in between his eyes.

The phone rang. He put the cup down and went to the receiver.

“Hello?” He said, apprehensively. Nothing came out the other end. He almost hung up.

“5121-13-4448-2.” A voice at the other end, a man’s voice deep and clear. “Do you understand, Mr.Colmes?"

He put the phone back to his ear, curling its cord, he almost tripped. “Yes, I’ve made some progress! Made some sense of it!”

“ I will call again tonight, be ready.” The phone went quiet and the absence of its voice took something with it. Then the voice returned. “Be ready, we’re counting on you Oscar.”

Oscar hung up the phone, he went to the counter, he drank Alka Seltzer water; gulping it down until their was only a few dregs. He grimaced, hawked, and spat into the sink. Phlegmy blood swirled into the drain. Then he washed the glass and put it back in the cupboard. He needed to get ready for work.

He went about his morning ritual and dressed. He looked at the alarm clock blinking on his desk, red digital numbers that read “8:00 A.M.” while he put his coat on. He walked out the door, fumbled in the pockets of his coat for his keys, and locked the door to his apartment. He ambled down the stairwell, fixing his tie, thinking about the phone call, running the numbers through his head.

He got into his car, drew the keys from his pocket, and turned the ignition. The engine hummed low in the cold morning, blue trails of smoke pluming from the exhaust. He opened the glove box. The gun was still there. He rode out of the parking lot and drove down the road. His mind on another road, on another day, on a similar morning. He let himself float away. Cornfields. Thunderstorms. The beginning of the numbers.

When he opened his eyes again; he was close. Twenty miles away from his apartment building. Going down Wilberry St. at twenty miles per hour. He was in a bad neighborhood, a few kids crossed the street in front of him, they chased after one another; most of them half naked, grime streaked, barefoot, and in their diapers. A teenage girl chasing after them chiding them in spanish barks like a chihuahua, a few months pregnant by the looks of it. Oscar waited for them to pass; he opened the glove box and put the gun on his lap. A little girl with matte hair and a food stained dress waved at him. He smiled and waved back. He went down the street looking at lines of leaning and battered mailboxes with address numbers. He came to “5121” and pulled into the driveway, stuffing the gun in his coat pocket.

He walked down the flagstone pathway to the front door. The house’s lawn was barren and dead, as if it had been sown with salt. Yesterday's rain gathered in puddles that looked like runny shit. A kid had put a stick in the mud, atop the hollow head of girl’s baby doll looked back at Oscar. He looked away.

He knocked on the door. Thirteen times.

A bald mexican cholo opened the door, he was stuffing his wife beater into his pants, as if he had only a moment ago put them on.

Oscar watched him; hand clasped around the gun in his right pocket.

“Que quieres gringo?” the cholo said, somewhere from inside the house came the voice of a woman and the redolent smell of weed. The cholo saw Oscar looking into the house, he came out to the front steps and shut the door behind him. Somewhere from inside the house came the voice of SPM, rapping. “Aye puto, estas mudo o que?”

The cholo sat down on the front steps; he pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from his front pocket and lit a cigarette.

“4448,” Oscar said.

“Esa no es nuestra dirección, pendejo. Esa es la casa de Maria.”

Oscar tilted his head, giving him a puzzled look.

“The house you're looking for is two streets down that way, asshole.” The cholo pointed down the street.

Oscar nodded, he looked back at the doll head.

“It’s up to you Oscar.” It said, in the voice of the Telephone Man.

“4448.” Oscar said, nodding in conviction.

He took the gun from out his pocket, as if it were a letter that had been delivered to the wrong address.

The cholo dropped the cigarette from his lips. He was already getting up when Oscar shot him at the base of the neck. The gun rattled and roared like the peal of some stygian bell, the bell that might signal Charon to come help the dead across the river styx.

“I see shadows in the night of demons dancing.” The windows shook from inside the house; a stereo system was blasting octaves out into the neighborhood.

She didn’t hear the gunshot. Oscar pushed open the door. Coat besmeared in blood and sweat. He was nervous.

Inside the music was deafening. The woman was coughing somewhere in the house. A dog was barking in their backyard. Smoke whorled in wisps and crawled on the roof like some sentient smoke monster from a Lovecraft story.

Oscar opened doors until he found the woman; she was in a bedroom, naked from the waist down bending over a mattress, panties around her ankles. In her mouth, a giant blunt fumed like a stink bug. She was brown and fair; she looked back at Oscar.

Her face looked worn and rife with some addiction. Weed wasn’t the worst thing she was on. The cries of a baby hovered above the music like some plead for succor. Oscar looked about the room; there was a crib. He looked back at the woman.

She spoke, but what she said was gibbered and incomprehensible. She was definitely on something worse than weed. She looked oblivious and inane, she went back to smoking her blunt. Swaying her hips back and forth as if beguiling.

Oscar went to her and shot her in the back of the head.

He took the baby from the crib and dandled it. He went back to the living room and looked about the cockroach ridden kitchen for a refrigerator. He found some formula in a cubby and prepared it, heating it up in a food stained microwave.
He gave the formula to the baby and it began suckling. He found a folded up stroller amongst a pile of clothes on the floor. He opened it and strolled the baby out to the flagstone pathway and went back inside the house.

“I understand in due time my life is going to slide behind
“The curtain of uncertainty the pearly gates of fire-”

The stereo boomed. Oscar turned it off.

“4448,” He muttered to himself.

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Last edited by Walled Cities; 04-09-2017 at 11:03 PM..
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Old 04-09-2017, 11:36 AM
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You really need to work on the basics. There are a lot of run-on sentences.



Oscar spoke to himself, laying in bed.

Lying

Pulling down his shirt at the hems.

This is a fragment. And there’s only one hem.

He grabbed a cup from the night table; Alka Seltzer water, he drank it, it went down hard and bubbled in his throat.

He grabbed a cup of Alka Seltzer water from the night table; it went down hard and bubbled in his throat

He would lay down on his bed again

Lie down

thumping in between his eyes.

What’s thumping?

filtering around the window curtains.

Filtering isn’t the right word. Flitting maybe.

“Do you understand, Mr.Colmes?’

Should be a double quote at the end

He put the phone back to his ear, curling it’s cord, his eyes lidless.

Its cord. I don’t know what his eyes have to do with the rest of that sentence.

Oscar hung up the phone, he went to the counter

Run-on sentence

He was in a bad neighborhood, a few kids crossed the street in front of him,

Run-on sentence

A twenty year old girl chasing after them chiding them in spanish barks like a Chihuahua

First I don’t know how he knows her exact age. Second, comparing a Latina woman to a Chihuahua could be offensive.

Oscar waited for them to pass, he opened the glove box and put the gun on his lap

Run-on sentence

food stained dress waved at him, he smiled and waved back.

Run-on sentence

Oscar watched him: hand clasped around the gun in his right pocket.

Comma, not a colon

“Que quieres gringo?” The cholo said,

Don’t capitalize “the”

The cholo sat down on the front steps, he pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from his front pocket and lit a cigarette.

Run-on sentence

“4448.” Oscar said.

“4448,” Oscar said.

Oscar nodded, “4448.”

Oscar nodded. “4448.” Nodded isn’t a dialogue tag.

The windows shook from inside the house, a stereo system was blasting octaves out into the neighborhood.

Run-on sentence

She was brown and fair, she looked back at Oscar.

Run-on sentence

Oscar looked about the room, there was a crib

Run-on sentence

“4448.” He muttered to himself.

“4448,” he muttered to himself.
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Old 04-09-2017, 12:18 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, Moonpuriter, I'll edit your corrections in. You're right my grammar is all over the place. There's even things you've missed.

Like I said before the piece is raw, but hopefully you've made it an easier read for everyone else, thanks for reading.

I need to read my grammar book a few more times and drill everything into my head. I knew at first glance that some of your corrections were valid. I just forgot a lot of what i read about six months ago in my grammar book, haha.

Oh well, grammar is an easy fix. It's just a case of iterative repetition.

Anyway, thanks again.
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Last edited by Walled Cities; 04-09-2017 at 01:01 PM..
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Old 04-09-2017, 12:35 PM
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Hey, Walled Cities.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like you're going out of your way to be cryptic and poetic just for the sake of it. There isn't any payoff -- just a bunch of things that happen (possibly some of them just in this guys head) and a lot of empty and detached description.

Maybe those things could be interesting in the context of a story that goes somewhere with a character that we know something about -- but as a means to an end, it's not working for me.

The stench of weed whorled in wisps and crawled on the roof like some sentient smoke monster from a Lovecraft story.
That's just imprecise and overblown for what you're trying to convey. Comes off like you're trying way too hard.

The house’s lawn was barren and deracinated...
Sounds like you're writing with a Thesaurus.

Coat besmirched in blood and sweat.
That's not what besmirched means. There are a lot of strange and imprecise vocabulary choices like this throughout.

I don't know why you're apologizing for not editing. Errors tend to take people out of the story -- so you're just shooting yourself in the foot.

P.S. -- with an examination of mental illness or paranoia, which this may be -- you still need to have some empathy for the character. I don't mean you have to make him likeable, but you need to allow for some understanding -- or it's just crazy thoughts and behavior for the sake of it.

Last edited by Myers; 04-09-2017 at 01:24 PM..
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Myers View Post
Hey, Walled Cities.

I don't know why you're apologizing for not editing. Errors tend to take people out of the story -- so you're just shooting yourself in the foot.
Exactly. And when the same errors come up repeatedly it's not just a typo; it's a systemic failure.
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:29 PM
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Thanks for your input Myers.

Besmirched. You're right i meant besmeared. I'll change that now.

No i'm not using a thesaurus. I just read a lot.

Deracinated means to be uprooted, it looked as if the lawn was uprooted, i dont see how that's impercise. Maybe it's just not working for you.

Sorry if you find my descriptions grandIloquent, but it's the way i see things in my head. Smoke crawling up the roof, to me, does look like a lovecraftian monster. Similar to the amorphous blob in, The Shunned House.

I do see how the story could be confusing, it is very surreal, and there really isn't a defined motive yet for the character. Shifting between scenes that could be real, or
In the guys head, is what i was going for. Maybe that's pushing the reader's imagination a bit too far.

Thanks again, I'll keep this in mind on future writing.
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Last edited by Walled Cities; 04-09-2017 at 01:52 PM..
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by moonpunter View Post
Exactly. And when the same errors come up repeatedly it's not just a typo; it's a systemic failure.
Well, it's a fine line. If someone's really trying, I can overlook the errors. If you tell me upfront you didn't bother to edit something before posting, chances are I won't even read it.

Occasionally, if I read the first few sentences or a paragraph or two, and I get the idea that it's a really good story -- I'm a lot more willing to overlook errors. But only if I get the feeling that it's due to a lack of understanding, and not just laziness.
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by moonpunter View Post
Exactly. And when the same errors come up repeatedly it's not just a typo; it's a systemic failure.
I understand what you're saying. Grammar is concrete and systematic, I'll just look over my book again and learn from my mistakes.

You talk as if a nuclear power plant is about explode, because of run-off sentences.

Grammar might be technical but it's not rocket science. Most great writers often strayed away from correct grammar and write consistently in fragment sentences.

Thanks for your corrections, I'll learn from them and keep them in mind.
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Myers View Post
Well, it's a fine line. If someone's really trying, I can overlook the errors. If you tell me upfront you didn't bother to edit something before posting, chances are I won't even read it.

Occasionally, if I read the first few sentences or a paragraph or two, and I get the idea that it's a really good story -- I'm a lot more willing to overlook errors. But only if I get the feeling that it's due to a lack of understanding, and not just laziness.
I'll keep this in mind and post future works in their second or third drafts.

Thanks again.

I didn't know there was such a stigma on this forum for posting unfinished work. I didn't mean to come off as lazy. I just wanted to share something.
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Old 04-09-2017, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Walled Cities View Post
No i'm not using a thesaurus. I just read a lot.

Deracinated means to be uprooted, it looked as if the lawn was uprooted, i dont see how that's impercise. Maybe it's just not working for you.
I'm sure all of us here read a lot. And I know what deracinated is. I'm talking about the effect of using more obscure vocabulary choices rather than words that are more likely to come to mind -- even to people who are well read and who know the definitions. It can come across like you're going to a Thesaurus. Just something else that can take people out the story.

The house’s lawn was barren and deracinated, it looked as if it had been sown with salt.
Well, I can see a bare lawn and dead plants. And sewn with salt reinforces that. But logically -- why would there be plants that have been pulled up by the roots? Think about it.

That's what I mean by imprecise.

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Old 04-09-2017, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Myers View Post
I'm sure all of us here read a lot. And I know what deracinated is. I'm talking about the effect of using more obscure vocabulary choices rather than words that are more likely to come to mind -- even to people who are well read and who know the definitions.



Well, I can see a bare lawn and dead plants. And sewn with salt reinforces that. But logically -- why would there be plants that have been pulled up by the roots? Think about it.

That's what I mean by imprecise.
Oh i see, that's what you meant. Okay, that makes sense.

I just meant that it looked as if the entire lawn had been pulled up by it's roots due to how barren it was. Ill find a way of reworking that line, thanks.
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Old 04-09-2017, 02:24 PM
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And this one...

The stench of weed whorled in wisps and crawled on the roof like some sentient smoke monster from a Lovecraft story.
You're talking about a smell. But it's a smell that comes from smoke. Smoke can whorl in wisps -- so you are mixing the literal and figurative in a way that makes the simile fuzzy or imprecise.

But that could just be me.

Last edited by Myers; 04-09-2017 at 02:27 PM..
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Old 04-09-2017, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Myers View Post
And this one...



You're talking about a smell. But it's a smell that comes from smoke. Smoke can whorl in wisps -- so you are mixing the literal and figurative in a way that makes the simile fuzzy or imprecise.

But that could just be me.
No, thats valid. I'll get rid of the stench part and replace it with physical smoke. You can't see a smell flow in whorls after all, i get it.

Never thought stuff like that bothered people, though. I guess we all pick up on different things as we read.

Thanks.
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Old 04-09-2017, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Walled Cities View Post
Never thought stuff like that bothered people, though.
It might not bother anyone, but that's a pretty low bar, isn't it?

I think what you're going for is a simile that really clicks and provides that instant connection and understanding. Some people will really appreciate that.

Otherwise, if you're really thinking things through, then it should bother you...
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Old 04-09-2017, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Myers View Post
It might not bother anyone, but that's a pretty low bar, isn't it?

I think what you're going for is a simile that really clicks and provides that instant connection and understanding. Some people will really appreciate that.

Otherwise, if you're really thinking things through, then it should bother you...
I can see that. I dont think it would hamper anyone's enjoyment while reading is what I'm saying. Maybe I'm wrong. A low bar, because it won't make sense logically. I get it

I will keep a keen eye on that kind of stuff from now on, because it does bother people.

I like the simile, alluding to Lovecraft, personally and think i will keep it. I agree with you on the confusion in the literal sense, smoke and stench.

Thanks for pointing this stuff out.
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Old 04-09-2017, 11:00 PM
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Most, if not all, of the grammatical problems should be fixed.

That wasn't so hard.
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Old 04-10-2017, 07:27 PM
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It's much cleaner now, feels like you put the work in.

While this is not an original idea, it has potential. The thing that stands out to me as a reader is your starting too many sentences with 'He.'

He moved...

He massaged...

He grabbed...

He placed...

He would...

He wound up...

He opened...

He put...

He almost...

Sometimes it works, but sometimes it is the narrator telling us something the character should be showing us. Look-up passive and active story telling.

And... the cholo thing. Show us he's a cholo. Don't let the narrator tell us he is. Tucking in a wife-beater to khaki slacks, bald head, brown skin, a gun in the waistband, tells us. We know. The narrator doesn't need to tell us.

I would experiment with rewriting this in first person. Maybe it will be better in third, but the experiment will teach you something—the reader doesn't know anything the MC doesn't. That's a nice confined space to work in. What would YOU do if you were the MC?

Otherwise, it's a decent start. I don't know if this is a short, a novel, or just an exercise, but it can be made into something good.
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Old 04-10-2017, 08:08 PM
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Thanks for the feedback Brian.

Sharing this has really taught me a lot, i agree, i am using "He" too much as a sentence starter. I noticed that while going through it again.

This was really just an exercise; i write a lot, and usually end up flip-flopping around different ideas. I honestly shared this, because it was a piece i didn't care much about. So i wouldn't care if it got lambasted.

The idea wasn't even mine i got it, by proxy, from a friend.

I kinda feel bad for it though, haha.

Anyways, thank you for the reply and for being positive. I will look up passive and active story telling. I honestly don't know much about either of those. Thanks for the help.
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Last edited by Walled Cities; 04-10-2017 at 08:15 PM..
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Old 04-10-2017, 11:56 PM
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There's a lot that's good here. In some paragraphs the pace is excellent - short, clipped and masculine. In other areas, you lose the pace and your voice becomes female. Descriptions like "rosy fingers disseminating around the window curtains" sit at odds with the subject matter. It's a poetic description dropped into an ugly scene - different pace, different vibe.

Similarly, drawing on Greek mythology changes your voice, pace and the mood.

You've made positive changes to this and used the critique given to improve the piece. Well done for working on it and being receptive to advice. I like the story - so strengthen your voice and be ruthless about cutting out metaphors that weaken it. Save those colours for a different canvas.

Keep writing x
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Old 04-11-2017, 12:08 AM
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Just read your comment to BP about sharing this "because it was a piece I didn't care much about".

If you don't care - why should we?

Not the sort of comment that will endear you to people who have invested some time trying to help you.....

Get some passion.
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Old 04-11-2017, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Grace Gabriel View Post
Just read your comment to BP about sharing this "because it was a piece I didn't care much about".

If you don't care - why should we?

Not the sort of comment that will endear you to people who have invested some time trying to help you.....

Get some passion.

You're right Grace, I do appreciate the help everyone has given me, make no mistake.

I have learned a great deal from just this one post. I guess i just mispoke. Thank you for your own advice on "pace" and "vibe."

I will get passion and post more in the future.

Thanks again.
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