#1
I was supposed to go to school today. I’ve come out here, to a little incline above the town, to be alone for a while. It is eleven in the a.m and birds chirp somewhere out of sight, behind me. I have my guitar with me in its folded denim case, but I can’t entertain the idea of playing at all, now. For now it’s just something to hold in my lap and clutch as I look out on the stream flowing with reflected light a short distance away. The streaming wind around me, almost synchronised with the flow of water I see, makes me shiver, but the sun is out, emerging and re-emerging from behind clouds in tantalising waves, and the shiver is good. It is the thrill-shiver of anticipation that accompanies the first coffee, and the first tablet. The shiver holds me, jittering, and I let its electricity draw the muscles of my face into a placid smile. The mobile phone in my pocket has two new messages I haven’t had the guts to reply to, yet. My friends have no idea about my situation, but their texts have been the exact shade of ‘sick with worry’ that on some level I get off on and despise myself for. Dominic either has no familiarity with weakness at all and really is completely baffled as to why I am so messed up, or he has a macho self-aggrandising agenda for which beta-males like myself are prey. That he has the vitality and contradictory grace of a black bull does not ease my insecurity and paranoia about that second possibility in the least. His words, like a baritone bugle, are a call-to-arms, a demand to awaken that I am too paralysed to answer:

Hey man, looks like you still haven’t learned
Sometimes it seemed your tide had turned
I guess ingratitude is what I’ve earned, but
No loss to me

We tried to stop you in your stumblin’
Selfishly drew away but no hard feelings
I won’t fret for you ‘cause worryin’s
A waste of my time

I did what I could so it’d rub off on you
Took you to every party and showed ya through
Tried to engage but all you wanted to do
Was seal your moat

But you’re not really there I guess it’s certain
And by the way ya owe me a bottle of bourbon
I alone tried to draw aside the curtain
But now I won’t

And far away but coming closer are great pregnant storm clouds. I look on them dumbly and feel the smile hitching up again. I day after I started the course of lithium I found myself standing in the bathroom at one a.m. I teetered before the mirror above the basin for hours, my head in the reflection seemingly detached by shadows from my body and hovering, my cheeks the colour of white coffee in the rising dawn light. Collapsing against the plaster wall and staring into my reflection like a bale-eyed cow. Giggling and scratching at my three-day-old stubble. I remember Mum passing by to the loo and asking what the **** I was doing. The caffeine-withdrawal shiver.
I did go to school that day, and in class I was with Dom and his friends. I guess they are also sort of my friends by proxy, but that day my mind was in La-la Land and really has always been a persistent tourist there, so if I think about it there’s two degrees of separation between myself and Leo-Paul-Cooper. There was a test that day and I found myself unable to write a single word. I walked home, cooked a steak and went to bed at six p.m. I sleep a lot these days.
The clouds have moved closer still. With the guitar that I cannot tune nor play I rise and walk back towards the town. The weird combination of black-blue clouds and metallic train station in the distance and the intense, almost-white glare of the deserted dirt road I am walking on make me feel as though I am in a dream or on a very potent drug. I pass by a power station and the MatchBox-looking trucks far off make me giggle nervously. I’m trying very hard not to feel sad about losing my mind, and my intelligence. Ironically – God, it cracks me up – the fact that I’m a deadhead now makes it easier not to think about it. I can’t feel sad, I can’t feel the loss, and I can’t lament it, because there are only word associations, images and sound associations, now. Dom’s voice now, that I give words and phrases to speak like a sort of mental sock-puppet, talks to me in a tone of disappointment that is reassuring – the way our parent’s disappointment in us is reassuring, in its way – and almost like company:

Well boy, did you try to sever?
Now, guess you’ll never try again…

Annoyingly, there is a Foo Fighters riff playing beneath this couplet – the one that goes de-dun-dun, de-dun-dun, de-de-dun – where I can’t separate the beginning of the melody from its end, and it turns into one of those incessant ear-worms that’s feeding back on its own vibrations and the dust-laden wind whistling about my ears in an eternal loop like that story about the tigers that chased each other in a circle until they all turned into pancake mix.
I realise my feet have decided to carry me to the train station, the whistle blast as the twelve-fifteen for the city leaves just as audible from twenty metres away as it is when I’m at home in bed. The expansive parking lot is empty but for four families, and the platform is completely bereft of humans. I buy my ticket and scuff my shoes along the painted yellow line. When I look along the tracks to the other end I can see a smoky pseudo-fog hanging over the ground, and its grey merges with the grey of the enclosing sky, and the platform, and the eucalypts by the road, and the graffiti’d fence. All of these are grey in different shades. If a movie about this time and place was made, it would have to be shot in monochrome to be accurate. I board the next train that comes along. The ride is uneventful and the carriage and my little solipsistic dream state carry me to the city. The other message I haven’t replied to is from Joelline, whose perfection horrifies me more than Dominic’s ever possibly could. She texts constantly, with more substance than either my forced reticence or my phone bill can tolerate. That I stopped replying to her was due to financial considerations almost as much as it was to the fact that I no longer had a single thought, not a single word in my skull. Like Dominic, Joelline’s voice is loud, but her throw-paint-bucket-at-canvas punctuation – exclamation marks in groups of three, question marks always accompanied by two of the former, and always with one of an exhaustive catalogue of smileys: ; ), : /, : S, ‘-.-, :{ ), et cetera – lend hers this histrionic tone. Train doors part and mechanically slide; I emerge into the city’s central station along with fifteen others. Her words are like light jabs sparring:
#2
As if there was anything I could do
You’re so wrapped up in yourself
And pity was my cautious policy
But you bring it on yourself

Say something, or I’m gone
Say something, or I’m gone

Is friendship a word you can get your tongue around?
Is that a concept your can get your brain around?
Have a good one, you chump
When you’re just someone that I used to know

Don’t you dare expect me to mourn
Don’t you dare expect me to mourn

A more verbal me, a more articulate me would get back to these people and defend myself on grounds of chronic inarticulacy, it’s-real-condition-dontcha-know-so-lay-off and explain myself. Better yet, I could ditch this dumb-aloof silence and, I don’t know, maybe, take a stab at this whole having-meaningful-relationships-with-other-people-whole-point-of-huma-existence thing that I hear everybody’s talking about. Maybe. I’ll have to think about it.
I’m looking for a lonely booth in a metropolitan McDonald’s when a voice screams at me from across the room:

How is it going my friend?
Everything okay?
Yardley, pull up a seat here!

Dom’s face is grinning at me and he’s seated on one of the white plastic spinny-chairs by the central tables in the restaurant. Leo and Paul are with him. I had passed right by them: it seems that lith’ has taken my ability to see things that are right under my nose, as well. I cross the room and make up the foursome that is apparently the standard McFamily unit. If any of them notice how shabbily I am dressed, none of them mention it. At the time it doesn’t occur to me to ask why they are skipping school, truant, cutting, as well. I’m informed right away that it is Paul’s birthday, and it’s easy enough for me to congratulate and wish him well. The light above the table is far too hot, far too intense, and the table seem absurdly well polished. My tongue starts to feel like its full of splinters.

DOMINIC: Hey man, what you been doin’?
ALL: O-oh!

DOMINIC: Hey man, it’s just fat we’ve been chewin!
ALL: Whoa-oh!

DOMINIC: Now I don’t know what it is about you lately, but I don’t like it a whole lot…

ALL: A whole lo-ooo-ot!

DOMINIC: Man, just snap out of this
You used to have so much charm!

ALL: Don’t be a downer, hey now
Ain’t you got something to say?
Sounds like you’re havin’ a breakdown
Or just need to get laid!

I do have a few stock phrases for Emergency situations such as this, the ‘How you been,’ ‘How’s the missus’, ‘I been doin’ jack all’ et cetera riffs that clunk and get repetitive and fizzle, but are at least in the right key and feel like I’ve made an effort.
We fall to pensive sucking of red-white-and-yellow straws and hair-ruffling. I notice a young mother near the counter who has collected her slightly crumpled brown paper prism and is pressing a Golden McNugget to the mouth of her baby boy on the stool. I’m sort of glancing around, drumming my fingers on the table when I hear the kid getting up a decent scream, I look around and see that the mum’s turned away to tap with a painted fingernail on the screen of her phone. She isn’t the negligent parent that makes her sound like though, and turns back to find The Golden McNugget half-gobbled and pushed aside. The baby has his face turned away from her and his eyes are screwed shut and his toothy pegs are bared to the sweltering McDonald’s ceiling lights. My pals beside me are as indifferent to this scene as I am, except that I am looking on indifferently. I watch the lady – in her late twenties, I judge – as she attempts to plug his mouth with other Delicious McProducts from the bag with the trapezoidal face, and then tries to soothe him vocally and then brings out a baby’s bottle with a pink lid and blue stars on the barrel contrasting with the milk and then, failing to get him to suck on it, crumples the bag into the hood of the sexy black stroller at her right elbow, lowers her son into its vinyl cockpit and wheels him out. As they leave the baby is bawling, and heads at tables either side of the thoroughfare turn and rise in sequence like gravity-defying dominoes. Whatever his gripe was at that moment, I don’t think she’ll ever know.
Dom’s bassy rumble:

Dude, you know
We can’t hang all
Day
It’s been real great
To see ya, but
Now we’re on our
Way
Don’t know when
We’ll meet
Again
But now you’re back
Among the living
We know it’ll
Be a Blast

We shake hands, counter-clockwise around the table, and they file out as the Kanye West remix of ‘Edelweiss (God Bless My Homeland Forever)’ explodes into its final climax of electric kazoo and rolling timpani over the dining room’s wall-mounted speakers. This is followed by ‘In Heaven, Everything is Fine’, the original, I can hardly believe, and again I solitarily thrum on the tabletop for a while before leaving. The day feels wasted and catching the train back home again is all I can really stand to do.
As I cross the road it strikes me that people in the mass, clothed in black, seem to become isolated figures, become letters. Legs scissoring as they walk, the tide pitching as tall hats give away to bare heads, they form words that float before me. A man in a woollen jumper is followed by a sallow-skinned widow holding an empty wicker basket, followed by fifteen others: COGITO ERGO SUM. I am more dazed by this shifting, surreal landscape than ever before. The dark clouds have followed me fifty kilometres and great claps of thunder resound overhead. Rain falls, first lightly and then in heavy bullets that sting on my arms. I am on the point of collapse as I fight my way through the crowd, through barriers and up stairs and down escalators, with the phantom hands of these letters with human mouths and human eyes clawing at me, clawing as I pass and yet their hands pass over, leaving me untouched. As I reach the platform I see that my train home is about to leave. The whistle is sounding and its doors close with a vhhhrr. I cannot reach it and the rear carriage begins to recede before me. I fall to my knees on the rain-flecked platform beneath the darkening sky. A tanned businessman passing by crouches to meet my eyes and asks if I feel alright. In my pocket my phone starts ringing. A Middle Eastern train conductor has joined the businessman, and looking up I see twin expressions of puzzled concern over me. Words back down my throat and die there. My face sinks to the cold, damp tiles.
#3
i really enjoyed reading this.
--------------------i'm definitely the alphaest male here--------------------
#5
Oh, im sorry. I take it back then.

Why would you prefer criticism to praise?
--------------------i'm definitely the alphaest male here--------------------
#6
Well yeah, because praise doesn't tell me how to improve. Glad you enjoyed it, and I didn't mean to come off prickly, but criticism really is what I put this up for in the first place.

Other users that write, I'd be willing to c4c.
#7
Is this just meant to be a poem, or an actual song?
Quote by EndTheRapture51
Anyway I have technically statutory raped #nice

Quote by EndThecRinge51
once a girl and i promised to never leave each other

since that promise was broken

i dont make promises any more
#9
theres nothing to say criticism will make you improve. Especially if its potentially coming from some 2-bit nobody on the other side of the world, who's opinion is actually no more valid than yours is.
A full and eloquent critique of the whole piece would just be a waste of everyone’s time should the writer choose to fundamentally disagree with it. **** critics. Most critics are just the failures of their respective fields anyway.

In all my time here, i've never had a typical crit on any of the prose i've written
I was always happier with simple acknowledgements that it had been read and there wasnt anything glaring that people had to be negative about, or disliked. Especially considering that more often than not, most of the poetry here doesn't even hold my attention for long enough to read through multiple times AND then pick apart and analyse, let alone the prose and longer posts.

Short stories are generally just too long to expect any really substantial critiques. As soon as a piece becomes too long for one single post, anything that might resemble a critique would either venture too far into subeditor territory (which is helpful, but sorry nothing technical immediately struck me as being out of place here – especially seeing as this plays a little looser with the laws of English than your average piece might), or just be contrived (and potentially way off base) and full of inconsequential points. People shouldn't really feel obligated to scrabble around looking for something to say about a piece beyond "i like it" if thats what they thought.

I personally always felt that the whole "crit" system was mostly bollocks, and is a nice way for people to assert a bit of authority by flipping into teacher mode and telling the whole world what is wrong with other peoples writing, but that’s another issue entirely. I get the concept of c4c and how it keeps the board alive, I just think the whole board would be a better place if it were about comments and enjoying writing, and reading more than the crit must beget crit dogma! Even if there’s nothing immediate to say beyond a simple acknowledgement of approval.
Maybe that’s a mark of real quality? That people enjoy without quite being to isolate exactly why, or that there’s nothing about the piece that causes peoples noses to wrinkle in foaming angry disgust, or force them to tell you exactly whats going wrong and why.

Having said all that, what I did enjoy about this piece is the brisk-walk-through-a-nightmare feel it has. Things like the non standard dialogue and structure gives it a surreal quality. which I enjoyed whilst I was reading it. It’s vivid, and despite the pace and unusual structure, it's easy to follow. It feels like it was coming from a very interesting and creative place. I’m not even going to lie and pretend that I understood all the context and references (which is the main reason I don’t really want to start pontificating on parts that might be just misunderstood or inconsequential) but I enjoyed the content at least on face value. The words you used, and the order you put them in were enjoyable to me.
There.

That was all a very longwinded way of trying to justify a short little comment…
Oh well.

Also, you generally get at least one comment on every piece of prose that says something along the lines of "I don’t get it? Is it meant to be sung really fast?"

Every time…

Nice work.
--------------------i'm definitely the alphaest male here--------------------
#10
Long story short.

You can never actually expect people to offer ideas for improvement on a piece that's longer than 4 paragraphs.


Instead, you better be prepared to settle for either good, bad, neutral, or suggestive commentary. Suggestive is probably what you'd prefer, and what I mean by suggestive is that someone might point out a few grammatical errors or something, but it's close to impossible to expect anyone to fully criticize a piece of this length.


Hell, I didn't even read it past the third line.
Last edited by BluePaintCult at Oct 19, 2011,
#12
This was really good. If I were to offer a criticism though it would be of your description. That is, it is neither vivid nor frequent enough for my liking. Unless of course the bleak world which you paint is intentional and represents the protagonist's mental state. However that is just my opinion, rambling, sleep deprived and incoherent as it is

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1489857

This is my most recent thing if you want to comment it. Cheers.

Also, I really dig the stream of consciousness writing style you've got going