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.

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

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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!

 

 

 

What Identity Crisis?

Cliché alert – ‘No two writers are the same’. OK, but there’s more because ‘No ONE writer is the same’ either. Here’s what I mean.

We all know the publishing business has changed significantly and increasingly quickly over the past ten years or so. When I started writing novels as opposed to plays, you polished your MS, printed out a copy (not cheap if it ran to 400-600 pages) and sent it out to agents and/or publishers. Postage wasn’t cheap either (you also had to cover the costs for its return if they didn’t like it). Then, through the (sometimes) months you waited for them to reply, you got on with the next novel. Meantime, you also had your day job and you were a husband, wife, lover, significant other, hermit, father, mother, son, daughter, outcast, or whatever other roles you chose or your social situation imposed on you. See what I mean? There were (and are) several people inhabiting your body. But, back then, the writer bit was just that – you wrote, sent your stuff away, waited patiently but eagerly for a reply, got rejected and did it all again or got accepted and wrote another one.

 

Today, though, even that writing bit has fragmented. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a serious mental condition and not a term to be used lightly but being a writer today doesn’t just involve the one role. There’s still the writing (the best bit), but there’s also:

  • the PR person, desperately trying to create and project a cuddly profile;
  • the fish out of water, trying to learn and apply marketing techniques;
  • the social networker, scrolling through tweets and Facebook comments with all the other writers;
  • the blogger, trying to sell books;
  • the harlot, willing to do just about anything to claw his/her way up the sales lists;
  • the reviewer;
  • and the unrecognised genius, whose novel will change the course of humanity but lies misunderstood in the depths of a computer.

I exaggerate, of course, but only on the basis of fairly common experiences shared by most of us.

 

But why am I saying stuff you all know anyway? Because what I’m really doing (with very little subtlety) is crawling towards a point and, en route, grabbing the chance to boast about yet another of my ‘selves’.

Several times, over the past few years, I’ve become an ‘award-winning author’ and, this month, I’ve been given another one – this time for The Figurehead. OK, trumpet blown, so what?

The first time, the news turned me into a six year old on Christmas Eve. And yet, simultaneously, I  rejected (and still do reject) the idea of ‘competitive literature’. Even though I know there are terrible novels out there as well as terrific ones, I applaud anyone who’s had the stamina and the commitment to actually write one and see it through to the end. But if I deny the competitive element, where do sales figures fit in? In the end, being able to add that little ‘award-winning’ tag to me and some of my books theoretically gives me a wee marketing edge. Reality-check, though: I’ve worn the tag long enough to realise that it is emphatically ‘theoretical’. It doesn’t sell any more books and seems merely to provide new opportunities for friends and family to find satirical ways of saying the words  ‘award-winning’:But it also opens up another tricky area when it comes to the various ‘selves’ I was speaking of (and at last we’re nearing the point. My awards were for very different books – a spoof spy/crime thing,  a stark revenge/vigilante story with a pretty chilling resolution, two historical romance/crime novels. So what does that make me? A funny man? A Romantic? A scary man? And what about the other stuff, the police procedurals, the non-fiction, the kids’ stories?

Years ago, my then agent, the late Maggie Noach, introduced me to someone as ‘a nice man with nasty thoughts’. Multiplying your ‘selves’ can be counter-productive because readers, naturally enough, like to know what to expect when they buy a book. If they’ve enjoyed your gore-saturated slasher mystery, they’ll probably feel cheated if your follow-up is a light-hearted romantic romp through the tulips. In a way, they impose an identity on you – and they have every right to do so. Ah, but what happens if it’s not you but the characters in the follow-up who decide that they’ve gone off the idea of sinking their fangs into lily-white necks and instead want to fall in love and settle down in a semi-detached in Cheltenham? Not much I can do about it. How confusing this writing stuff is.

(The above was written by award-winning author Bill Kirton.)