“Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror–of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision,–he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath–
“`The horror! The horror!’
Joeseph Conrad – “Heart of Darkness”
On Thursdsay, May 2nd, The Hour After Happy Hour discussed two short stories. The first was a horror-genre piece submitted by Bruce and Susan Lockhart, while Mike Lambert followed up with a break from his novel “Young People” with a piece called “Inter-State.” “Inter-state” starts with a day-drunk talking to a fellow day drunk but takes a unexpected turn into something more insidious. This was Bruce and Susan’s first submission, and Mike’s third to the workshop.
We were lucky to get our first crack at workshopping a genre-centered piece with the Lockharts’ “So Vein” piece. “So Vein” chronicled how Violet Sinclair’s deteriorating health leads her to make a “deal with the devil” – or in this case the vampire. What she gets is not what she wanted, as she finds she’ll never appear in a picture, mirror, or photograph again. We talked about restructuring parts of the story, potentially re-writing it in first person and adding a visit to a doctor’s office or something similar to add more sympathy to Violet, and set her up before the fall. The conversation inspired allusions to other pieces where a character chooses to make a deal with someone or something, and then must deal with the unexpected consequences – A Portrait of Dorian Gray was brought up as a potential parallel.
On we moved to “Inter-State” – told almost exclusively in second person conversation and southern dialect, as a guy begins to tell a new companion (the reader) the secret of why he drinks during the day. A sample that comes towards the end of the piece:
It’s a nice place, though. Good big community, real close to Vegas, y’know, and you meet polite folk like you who you can tell yer fucked up stories to. Like attracts like, and that’s why you stay away from lonely places like the road. Of any of the things that happened out there that night, this’s what I know for sure: If I’d gone in there, back in that store, or even just outta the truck? I think I’d have found out what was so funny, too. And I’d probably still be there, twitchin’ in flypaper.
Mike’s goal was to reduce the story to lessen the character count for a submission, and get a general vibe on what was working with the narrator’s voice and the like. The discussion was raucous and pretty awesome. Many recommended expanding the piece, rather than reducing it. We touched on some of our favorite moments such as the quote above, and more confusing moments in its supernatural twist.
The narrator was a highly educated truck driver, who had a pre-dilection for discussing physics, on one hand that character element added to a his compelling voice, but we couldn’t decide if the narrator should be self-taught or college educated, and how that should shift his voice.
Honestly, I don’t think I can do the piece or the discussion it generated justice by describing it here. I was most impressed with Mike’s deft ability to earn a jump from colloquial to supernatural – gradually building from where the story starts at a dive bar, to a strange convenience store where not everything is right, and then escalating immediately to a world of question marks and quantum mechanics.
“Inter-State” ends with the narrator confessing he’s not really sure what world he’s in, or what reality is, and so he drinks during the day to not have to worry about making that distinction in the night, and it has the reader gets the sensation (due to second person narration) of feeling awfully fucked up in a inside, trying to understand just what the fuck happened.
We tried to figure out what the fuck happened, by heading to Lou’s Corner bar after, where we discussed the potential commercialization of breastmilk, and so much more. The horror! The horror!
Next Thursday – we get treated to some fresh Dean Matthews, and god-bless Kara, we’ll get back to some poetry.
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!