#1
What People Are Made Of
Mrs. Alison lived well into the country, so when the night came, she had to fight through the mud and the pummel of the rain for much longer than she expected her bones to take her, through all manners of eddies and swells in the eroding road that was now more like a river. She found the barn that belonged to the Coopers, who had moved in with a hurry no more than a week earlier and had barely gotten a feel for farm-life by the time the storm hit, with the glow of a lantern dimly permeating the sheets of rain and the drops on her eyelashes. The Coopers were the nearest neighbors besides the widowed Mrs. Choquette who she was sure be no help at her age and was surely sleeping anyhow.
Steve Cooper had heard the barn door blow down and was inside trying to calm the cattle through the shock before boarding it back up. Slouching earthward under the weight of her thoroughly-soaked clothes, Mrs. Alison stumbled in the barn door.
“Bill is hurt—he’s not moving—he fell trying to patch a hole in the attic—the ladder must have been slippery—I only heard the thud.”
The invasive will of nature had transformed the dry dusty barn the Coopers had bought into something that felt more like a cave with the sagging roof and dripping rafters. Here the stock would have to wait—Mrs. Alison was already fighting off the weather, expecting Mr. Cooper to be close behind. He had to first go to the house to get a warmer jacket and tell his wife to go to town and send real help. Walking after her towards where he knew the road was, and with the rain already soiling his skin, Steve Cooper left behind his house and his newborn baby boy mostly hoping to show his wife he wasn’t as heartless as she knew he had been. He caught up with Mrs. Alison as she was making her way over a downed tree. After seeing him up close, Mrs. Alison wouldn’t have talked to him had the sound of the water and the wind and the leaves not been more sound than her ears could understand.
Further down the road seemed to be the only direction they could travel. One could hardly see the thin line of trees that separated the road from the fields on either side. With the exception of the illuminating lightning, there was no other light, so the few feet in front of them that their eyes could decipher was all the trail they could follow. The house was built against the road, set no more than fifteen feet back. It wasn’t a big house but it loomed tall in the lightning strikes over Mr. Cooper as he approached the door Mrs. Alison had flung open in her hurry. She was already rushing up the attic steps which were leaking heavily now into the rest of the house.
Steve Cooper knew what a dead man looked like. This bothered his wife. When the man at the grocery store in town had had some kind of heart attack while the Coopers were waiting in the checkout line, he proclaimed almost before the man had stopped moving that he was dead. Now, he climbed to where Mr. Alison lay soggy in the accumulating pool of the warped attic floorboards.
“Dead,” Mr. Cooper said.
Had it been anger Mrs. Alison felt, she would have lost control over herself, but it wasn’t anger that she felt now. She was too scared. Scared of the death and of the eyes in front of her that so clearly mirrored the lantern all too similarly to the way the pools of water did. Mr. Cooper saw this but he made no attempt to calm her. Instead, he picked up the hammer and board at Mr. Alison’s side, climbed the ladder and got to work plugging the leak for now. The roofing would need to be fixed from the outside, but this would stop the constant stream of rain into the house. The water continued to shake the rafters, and the hammering gave the drone a slow, deliberate beat.
Patt…Patt…Patt…
The flash of lightning came first. The electric white and blue light burst up from where the stairs cut through the attic floor and into the house that was momentarily filled with it. Then the crack of the thunder so loud and so close that even Steve Cooper’s hammering couldn’t rival it. The ladder was indeed slippery, though it may not have needed to be.
Mrs. Alison, kneeling at her husband’s side didn’t even look up. In the depths of the rush that was either coming or leaving his head (he couldn’t tell), he saw her trembling hands praying over her husband’s body. He saw the lantern and its reflections in the pools that were now seeping to tightly around his already saturated body. He could see the rainwater that his hand hung limp in at his side, unable to move, but he couldn’t feel it. The rest of the attic was empty—even of cobwebs in the corners. And for what was perhaps the first time, Steve Cooper saw the world—as it actually was. And then his eyes drooped shut and he saw the world for what was certainly the last time—as it would never quite be.

Steve Cooper was buried shallowly in the eroding crust of the earth, hidden in the back of the property. None of the local churches would take him in their yards. His wife and newborn son left to her parents’ home far away from his grave, marked only with something of an epitaph that he had written and had carried in his wallet for many years carved bleakly in a tree tilting over the site.

My heart that’s long since ran away
Will meet you on division day
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Last edited by jiminizzle at Sep 23, 2010,
#3
Quote by mr7string
Tl:dr


get the fuck out of here.

i will get back to this piece when i have more time. i'm looking forward to it.
#4
this was unreal. the amount of detail and backstory you manage to squeeze out of a few simple thoughts is wonderful and the ending was like a punch in the stomach. this was fully realized and wildly intelligent and completely publishable and i loved it to death. (more gushing).
#5
This was great Jimmy, really.

There are a couple of small nitpicky things I'll mention though.

Mrs. Alison wouldn’t have talked to him...

"Talked" read awkwardly to me there. It's probably just me, but I keep wishing that it said "spoken" instead. I think part of the reason is that "talked" kind of carries the feeling of having a conversation, whereas "spoken" can imply as few words as you wish. Seems more fitting to me, but I could be wrong.

In the depths of the rush that was either coming or leaving his head (he couldn’t tell), he saw her trembling hands praying over her husband’s body. He saw the lantern and its reflections in the pools that were now seeping to tightly around his already saturated body.

I didn't like that both of these sentences ended with "body". It was something that stood out right away when I read it. I think replacing the second one with "corpse" or something similar would not only fix that but also play on Cooper's background.

Just a couple suggestions. This piece is quite nice regardless.

#7
I think the using of "had ___ been..." is a very delicate and powerful phrasing that should be used carefully and never in excess. You used it well here, but I didn't care for the repetition.

I like pretty much everything else except I'm halfway through, reading that Steve Cooper isn't such a great guy and I'm wondering more about him, and then he dies, and how did he see the world, before, you know? There's mystery there, but not really enough evidence in the beginning to prove his unworthiness. his wife may know he's heartless, but how does she know this? what has he done to repulse the conversation of Mrs. Alison? how does he know what a dead man looks like? I feel like I felt the first time I saw A History of Violence, but with a less enigmatic Ed Harris. I don't need to know a lot more, but something would help.

Yes, that's it, I think. Sorry I didn't get back to your last one. I liked that one too
#8
fear not, this isn't through. im meeting with my teacher about it (and that other one soon). once again hope to make some small changes with big effects. and steve2, yeah, i agree with your points. thanks guys.
Anatomy Anatomy
Whale Blue Review

Park that car
Drop that phone
Sleep on the floor
Dream about me
#11
Yeah I loved this, well deserved.

I felt that 'dry dusty barn' was a bit too much, same with 'illuminating' it felt sort of redundant, we know these things usually have that quality - but this was nicely executed and very enjoyable.
#14
thanks again. I guess I just wanted to ask you guys if anyone had any more opinions on adding more to cooper's history? I meant to leave it vague but I'm wondering if a little more might help or if its good as is cause I've gotten pretty split opinions from a couple people.


as usual im behind on crits :/
Anatomy Anatomy
Whale Blue Review

Park that car
Drop that phone
Sleep on the floor
Dream about me
#15
definitely add more. He seems the ex-Bonnie and Clyde type to me. mystery works for it, but silence only brings the character so far, you know?