800 WORD STORY ~ THE BITER BIT

Welcome to the first creation for 800 Word Story, a segment where author Eden Baylee and I write a story together.

In a nutshell, the story is made up of four parts of 200 words each.

I started this one, handed it off to Eden for part 2. She sent it back to me for part 3 and I returned it to her to write the conclusion. With no discussion of the story beforehand, the allure of this process is to discover how the other moves the story along.

It was fun and challenging, and we hope you enjoy reading it.

* * *

Prompt: She may be young but she’s not stupid.
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden

* * *

The Biter Bit

“She’ll be calling him Daddy next,” said Harry.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Anna wearily.

“Christ, you and your bloody clichés.”

When he snapped like that, Anna knew he was close to losing it completely. She continued to pick up more of their daughter’s scattered toys and stuff them into the teddy-bear-shaped bag. Her voice softened as her thoughts went back to the nursery where, singing Debbie’s favourite song, she’d tucked her in and watched lovingly as the little lips smiled and the sleepy eyes closed.

“And keep your voice down,” she said. “She’s only just dropped off.”

“I s’pose this is one of his bloody presents, too, is it?” said Harry, lobbing a fluffy animal of indeterminate species to land at Anna’s feet.

It was a familiar argument. Her pregnancy had seemed to suppress the tiresome jealousy that had spoiled so much of their time together but, in the three years since Debbie’s birth, he’d once more, with absolutely no justification, started to become suspicious of every contact she made. Today, the row was triggered by her telling him how Debbie had laughed at the postman who’d delivered a present from his friend Ronnie, their best man.

+++

Anna had just finished eating when she heard the noise of keys. A moment later, the front door banged open. The keys fell to the floor, she heard cursing, and then the door slammed shut. She winced, finished her glass of wine and quietly set it down on the table.

Please, not tonight, she thought. I’m tired of this. Nevertheless, she steeled herself for a confrontation, thankful that Debbie rarely woke up when she finally fell asleep.

“Where the bloody hell are ya?” Her husband’s slurred words were angry. He stumbled into the dining room and leaned against the archway glaring at her.

“I’ve made a plate of food for you. It’s in the oven.”

He shuffled forward and pulled out a chair, falling into it. “Not hungry.”

“Fine.” Anna picked up her plate and stood up.

“Sit! I’m talking!”

She took a breath, slowly lowered herself back down. She was in no mood to fight, but she needed Harry to cool off. As she had suspected, he’d gone to the pub and had several pints too many. She smelled it on him, and it both disgusted and angered her.

How long was she going to keep doing this?

 +++

“Guess who I’ve been talking to,” said Harry, leaning back in his chair and stretching his feet out to rest them on the arm of the sofa beside him. He paused, scratched his chin, then continued, his tone hard, aggressive, “Karen”.

Anna frowned. What was this about?

“Karen? Karen Reilly? Our baby-sitter?”

“Know any other fucking Karens?”

Karen was seventeen at most. In the Autumn she’d be starting at Art College. Keep calm. Say nothing. He wasn’t expecting an answer.

He laughed, a throaty, drunken rumbling.

“ Ha! Fucking Karen. Good idea. That’s what we were talking about. Me fucking her. I get bugger-all from you nowadays. So why not? She’s up for it.”

This was absurd. Talk about clichés! Harry was a walking one.

Anna couldn’t resist reacting.

“She may be young but she’s not stupid. What d’you think her dad’s going to do if you try that?”

As he sat forward and brought his feet thumping down on the floor, the snarl in his voice frightened her.

“Who gives a shit? She’s up for it. She said so.  I’m off. We’re leaving, the two of us. There’s bugger-all you or he can do about it.”

+++

It was a rainy day when Anna met a girl on a park bench. The area was deserted save for the occasional jogger. Six months had passed since Harry’s rape conviction. His sentence hearing would be next month. There was little doubt he’d be locked up for the maximum term. Attempted rape of a minor was no small crime.

“How are you, Karen?” Anna sat down, placed her purse beside her.

“Good, thanks. Looking forward to going away to college.”

“Of course,” said Anna, “speaking of which …” She opened her purse, pulled out a small package. “Here’s the rest of what I owe you.”

The teenager took the envelope and stuck it in her pocket. “I trust you.”

Anna turned to face her. “For a fifteen year old, you’re scary smart. Convincing my husband you were … old enough was brilliant.”

Karen shrugged. “He was gullible… A bit of lipstick… That’s all it took.”

“You’re staying with your aunt when you go away?”

“Yes … can’t wait to leave my Mum and Dad. They never stop fighting. Next year, I’ll be old enough to live on my own.”

Anna smiled and stood up. “So glad we both got what we want.”

* * *

 

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment. All feedback, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and improve!

 

 

 

INTRODUCING THE 800 WORD STORY

Author Eden Baylee and I have produced eleven stories together since January 2015. All of them were written for R.B. Wood’s Word Count Podcast.  When the podcast ended in November 2020 after ten years,  we wondered about the future of our co-authorship. Did we still want to write together?

We’re both happy to say the answer is YES!

As per our previous collaborations, we’ll construct a story in four parts, taking turns to write the opening, then alternating between the other three parts. If you want a more detailed explanation of the process, you’ll find it in a previous blog.

To make it even more challenging, we’ve added the following parameters:

(1) Each part will be 200 words. The entire story will therefore be 800 words with an allowance of +/- five words (title excluded).
(2) Whoever starts the story comes up with the title.
(3) The story genre will (loosely) be: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller with a psychological bent and twist ending.
(4) A new story will be posted simultaneously on our respective blogs every month.

The prompt for each story will be taken from Eden’s Writer’s Toolbox—a gift her husband, John, gave her years ago. To help us preserve the random nature of our stories as much as possible, John will be choosing the prompts.

 

Of course, every new venture deserves a great logo to kick it off. What do you think?

Many thanks to JB Graphics for the fabulous design.

Stay tuned for our first story coming soon!

 

Explicate yourself

This is a bit esoteric (a word which will probably  invite you to click ‘exit’ and start looking for something more entertaining). But it’s a blog I wrote years ago for the excellent Authors Electric site  and it conveys some thoughts about the writing game that I think are worth repeating.

A page of a Flaubert manuscript (which his editor had to decipher).

Explicate yourself, I dare you.

I used to lecture and give tutorials on French literature, so I know how to do what they call ‘explication de texte’. ‘Explication’ in French and English goes further and deeper than ‘explanation’ and it’s fun. You see things in a novel, poem, play, story that weren’t obvious at first – links, connections, rhythms, meanings. But …

… it’s not so easy to do it when you’re talking about your own writing. Because if you start claiming things about your intentions, explaining what your symbols, images, etc. ‘mean’, or talk about any of the normal stuff that crops up when people discuss books, you can’t help but sound pretentious.

I take my writing seriously. I want it to entertain, amuse if possible but also to say something – usually about how human beings treat one another. I marvel at the resilience of some, admire the ‘cheerfulness against the odds’ of others – not just by describing them and their actions and circumstances, but by using other subtextual tricks and juxtapositions to try a bit of subliminal persuasion on the reader.

But there, you see? Already, that’s making me sound like a candidate for Pseuds’ Corner.

So what do you do? Let the writing speak for itself? Yes, of course, but that works best when the reader’s tucked away somewhere with just the book and his/her own imagination. Your ‘critic’s voice’ would only be an intrusion. And anyway, if you’re just plucking short extracts from a 350 page novel to study, you need to give each some context. So you find a lot of your explication time is taken up with something like ‘Well, in the sixty pages leading up to this paragraph, Laura realises she’s pregnant by the customs officer so her sentence is commuted to thirty years, her seventeen children are put into care in Leamington Spa and the cosmetic surgery is postponed until the surgeon is released from quarantine. Meanwhile, the genetically modified chimpanzees have been recaptured but the green one is found to have a wasting disease and so the vet, Laura’s husband, has to retrace its steps in order to find the source. We rejoin Laura in her cell just after the one-eyed warder has kissed her and gone home to his vegan wife.’

OK, that’s stupid, but it’s much more interesting for an audience than pointing out how I’ve expanded the imagery, fused abstract and concrete, reinforced a particular theme, inverted ethical conventions or something equally off-putting. Apart from anything else, whoever heard a reader saying ‘Oh goody, he’s inverted the ethical conventions. I can’t wait to see what he does with the Hegelian dialectic’?

I’m not questioning the reader’s sensitivity to things other than ‘the story’ or doubting his/her ability to operate at several levels of comprehension and appreciation; I’m just saying that I find it difficult to do that when it’s my own books under discussion. My characters continually surprise me, their actions create parallels and contrasts that I haven’t always anticipated, so once I set them going they work some alchemy of their own. Maybe they’re in tune with all the sub-textual stuff and how they reveal it occurs at some level below or beside consciousness. When it works, it’s a wonderful feeling but, strangely, I don’t always feel I should take credit for it.

All of which probably reveals something sinister about my psyche, some deep, quivering inadequacy. It also reveals another potential explanation: I know life is serious but I often find it hard to take things too seriously.