Chapter One - The Knowing

Discussion in 'Writers Forum' started by spicypisces, May 26, 2004.

  1. spicypisces

    spicypisces Member

    Hi, all. ​
    It's been suggested to me that placing this in the poetry forum was probably not the right choice, and that this belongs here.​
    It's part of the first chapter (1st draft!) of a story I'm working on. (Please be kind!)​
    If anyone cares to comment, I'd love to hear what you think. Boring? Good? Stinky?​
    Thanks! I'm looking forward to hanging out here!​
    -Lorelei the Siren​

    Chapter One
    Gargoyles​

    My children are playing in their room. It is dirty. They are dirty.

    I am staring at the ceiling of my basement apartment, behind in my rent and feeling squalid and without hope. There are no windows in this room. That’s good. Today at least, I do not want windows.

    Today I am one of the innumerable downtrodden who pace and wait for death; life is a bus stop for some of us. Hurry up and be over with, life. Me and my children are cold, it is raining. We are hungry. We have no money. We want to get aboard the nice, warm bus, and sit down. Close our eyes and just enjoy the ride.

    Lay down now. Go to your unmade bed, lay down and close your eyes. There will be nothing when you open them. Just dirty dishes, fruit flies, the same stack of unpaid “Final Notices”, the dents in the car. The despair, the dust. And the Knowing.

    The Knowing. The most painful of afflictions. The Knowing consists of the buried corpses of failure. Those things we leave out of our everyday minds, set aside to rot. Deny to Death. Bury and plant over with our lovely gardens. There. That’s better. The sunshine, the flowers, the grass, this is all real. Those decaying Things in the ground....what things? I don’t remember those Things. I choose not to remember them.

    The Knowing attacks the sleeping. The content.

    I am standing at the bowling alley, working on my fourth strike, a pleasant light-headedness guiding my steady hand, and instead the Knowing strikes. Perhaps with an image, or a phrase. A thought...innocuos. Unexpected. “You’re going to get evicted, Lorelei. Then, you’ll have nowhere to go and they’ll take away your kids.” The evil corpse continues gleefully, relishing the outcome of this particular nights prediction. “You’re going to end up sleeping under a bridge with no one left to give a S--T about you”. Suddenly, the bowling alley is too bright, the light-headedness turns to panic, my eyes are dry – my mouth full of glass. I’ll likely throw a gutter. I’ll sit quietly, acknowledging to no one around me that one of my zombies has just risen at the most inopportune of times – to wreck a 200 game . Engaged in the battle to shut the evil b---h up, rip her face off, kick her back into the f-----g ground, I seem quiet to those around me. A little spaced out even. But I’ll win. I always win. She’ll die for a while and I’ll be able to get on with things...

    But the Knowing always comes back. To remind me of my shortcomings during my triumphs, to taunt me with my worries when I’m laughing, to cackle my miseries in my ear when I’m at my desk. “You’ll be FIRED again Lorelei. You’ll be FIRED for staying home with your kids too much. THEN YOU’LL HAVE TO TELL YOURSELF IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT. BUT WE KNOW THE TRUTH, DON’T WE?”

    The only thing keeping the thread of reality from snapping, is keeping the Knowing with her razor-sharp scissors at bay. Convincing myself that I am not a list of failures is my only defense.

    I look forward to the night. The sweet deliverance of sleep - bliss. Sheer bliss to be asleep and warm.

    It is for this that I, and those like me, continue to strive. The luxury of the bed I sleep in, unmade though it may be. The luxury of a bedroom for the children. Dirty as it may be. The heaven that is oblivion. You cannot be oblivious if you hungry, or cold, or without a bed.

    Oblivion is the finest luxury I am afforded. And I can’t help but look forward to when the bus will pull finally pull up, and I can get on – get oblivious, and enjoy the ride.

    I dream of those things that most people take for granted. Cleanliness. Job security. Someone to share my bed. Nice clothes. I look at other women sometimes. Even fat, unattractive women. But, she may have a fat, attractive ring on her finger. Fat, unattractive children dressed in smart outfits with clean faces. Her hair is neat. Impossibly neat by my standards. Her clothes are pressed, she pushes a stroller that does not appear to be stained with juice and baby food. How does she manage these things? I long to be her. The fat, homely stranger whose home I imagine to be immaculate. She probably has a late model car, RRSPs, and a husband who still sees her as beautiful. She is beautiful. And I am ugly.

    I am a dirty, despicable creature dressed up as a human being who can forget this basic fact most of the time. Sometimes, passably good-looking. Well, at least I used to get away with it a lot more than I do now. I used to be able to convince people that I was the same as them....sitting with them at a coffee shop, dressed in probably the only clean clothes to emerge for the mountain of laundry strewn about my floor, I might pass as one of Them. At these times, I am sure to try to make my hair neat. Conceal the imagined blemishes on my face that I’ve nonetheless picked into scabs. Put on some lipstick. Managed to tidy up my car. Then, I’ll laugh, chat, and pretend – just for a while – that I’m one of them. Drink a cup of coffee and lament about the huge dinner I’m planning to make. Yes, all that work just to throw away the leftovers! Complain about the laundry I have to do when I get home. The payments I must be sure to make. Oh the trials of life. All the while, the Knowing is a gargoyle squatting on my shoulder, invisible to all but me. Laughing hysterically at this charade. Gut wrenching riffs of humiliating laughter in my ear. Chiding me silently while I sit among my “Friends”. “You are a JOKE and an IMPOSTER Lorelei! You know full well there’s laundry in that pile from last SUMMER, you know GODD--N well that you’re having MACARONI for dinner and THEN ONLY IF YOU CAN MANAGE TO WASH A COUPLE OF F-----G DISHES FOR YOUR POOR CHILDREN YOU STUPID B---H! WHITE TRASH! TRAILER-PARK SCUMBAG! YOU DON’T THINK THEY KNOW??? YOU DON’T THINK THEY SEE ME SITTING HERE????” And I know they see it. See it in my sagging smile. My wrinkled clothes. My bitten fingernails and crooked teeth.

    It was so much easier when I was convinced that they couldn’t see. I could still smile, secure in my fantasies. So secure, in fact, so well convinced that I truly believed I was one of them. Prideful and full of hope – I remained steadfast and determined to see pile of bills to the bottom. Look nice in public...lose fifteen pounds. Marry the man who could see just how Wonderful I am.

    It has grown so difficult to conjure these images. To project myself as normal. To convince myself that I haven’t caught the spark of incredulity in their eyes....to be convinced that I haven’t sensed their well-disguised pity. “You sure are, one of us, Lorelei. You are great.”

    Life was simpler when I believed that the Knowing was a fiend who accompanied everyone in their day-to-day lives. Engaged in an imagined commradery with my peers, I imagined that they, too, had gargoyles on their shoulders. I supposed that they, too, wore conjured faces to conceal their despair. I was right sometimes. Right about the ones whose facades bore cracks. Whose trappings were transparent. Whose efforts laughable, pain and panic swimming like black fish beneath clear ice... visible. Revolting.

    I found myself proud of my ability to hide the swarming black creatures that swam nervously below my surface. I thought myself superior to the underlings, their ineptitudes casting them instantly as outcasts.

    But...

    For those whose facades were smooth, whose eyes remained steady and clear, whose voices remained a serene, flat line no matter what, I found myself enchanted. Beguiled by their incredible ability to hide their truths. To muffle their gargoyles. Baffled by their talents, I observed, trying to learn their impossible craft. I emulated. Simulated. Carrying them around like coaches in my minds: the calm, self-controlled role-models who served as my inspiration (mundane individuals by anyone else’s standards, I’m sure). Yet, they possessed what I most coveted: Their souls seemed staked to the ground; their eyes trained on an invisible lighthouse that kept them oriented and guided. I frantically searched for this beacon, so visible to them, and so lost to me. I wondered how it was that their gargoyles, their Knowings, did not cause them to lose their course. All this time, baffled and in awe of these people, I remained utterly ignorant to their “Secret”. Dumbfounded by the obvious, and devestated when it finally dawned on me:

    They had no Knowings. They had no Gargoyles. Not everybody does as it turns out. This knowledge, simple as it was, singlehandedly planted in me the first desire I ever had to die.

    For how else does one escape their Knowing?
     
  2. EroticCookie

    EroticCookie Guest

    I think that you have a good idea here but if you don't mind I am going to give you my opinion. This whole chapter seems to focus on your character's everyday struggle. I think you should explain some of the things that she has done to make things better but just eventually see them fall apart. The detail was nice but it dragged on a little too much. The main character seems too depressed to do anything but this is also the first chapter and I never make my mind up about a book in the first few pages. If I did then I wouldn't be reading much of anything. Like I said it is a good idea but I think that you need to explain what she has done and maybe what happened to her life to make it this way. She has children, so I'm wondering. Was she married in the past? Does she have sometype of habit/disability that is preventing her from obtaining a job for very long? Are these "friends" of hers from childhood and just staying around because they are trying to remember the way things used to be? Sorry if I'm coming off as a little harsh but this is only my opinion and I hope that you continue posting your chapters because I'm interested in the way things are going to turn out for her.
     
  3. spicypisces

    spicypisces Member

    Thank you.

    I think you're right....going through revision two I'll have to watch for ramblings. I have a style though of trying not to edit myself in the first draft, because if you nip your ramblings in the bud, you can miss some really great stuff!

    Having this forum to get feedback from is going to be a big help in getting this thing finished. Thanks to all who give their comments - positive or negative.

    And since you've asked (twist my rubber arm!)

    Here is the next part of Chapter One:

    One way to escape is too give up trying to live for yourself, and live for another. Easily understandable when you think about it – I am worthless, so why live for me? BUT – the man who has looked my way, given me his time, told me I am beautiful....well, he’s priceless, right? Surely enough to distract me from my Knowings and my Gargoyles forever....it never is forever.

    My favourite distraction was Kevin. A beautiful, tattoeed smoldering man who was much too good looking for me. I think despite convincing myself that I was dating him for his mind – his ravagingly sexy smile and shadowy eyes were what kept me too entranced to notice what a miserable prick he was for the five years we were together.

    His startlingly good looks turned out to be the only useful thing about him anyways. Both of my children bear the lines of face. Laugh with his smile, look at me through his hazel eyes and tell me that they love me. They’re all I have left of him, for I haven’t seem him since our second child was born. Good for them, really. My oldest – Ethan, who is eight barely remembers him. My youngest one – Rose, who is four, is mercifully ignorant of him altogether.
    Eveyone said I was too good for him, too brainy to end up with a wild pot-head who couldn’t hold a job down or stay home at night with his pregnant girlfriend. But, they were wrong. For those five years, my misery didn’t matter. His behaviour, the cruelty, instability and suffering didn’t matter. He was mine, and I loved that he was mine. Period. Despite having almost killed me (I just about jumped off a bridge when he left me in the hospital holding our little girl)....he kept me alive. I wasn’t any better than him. I used him for life support just as much as he used me for financial support.

    We live in a world that has us so pickled in hypocrisy, we’re too drunk to realize what a sham it is. Told on one hand that no one is better than any one else, yet, living by the complete opposite premise – where people are arranged in tiers, from best to worst. Rich to poor. Beautiful to ugly.

    Superiority is probably the biggest preoccupation of humankind. “Getting ahead” is a half expressed thought....what people mean is “Getting ahead of other people”. Winning. Ranking higher in the food chain. Marrying above or within our own level. The motivation is not neccessarily to tread upon others, in fact, we are most often motivated by the simple desire to be secure, safe. Being the bottom-runger has a decidedly hazardous feel to it that most of us strive to overcome. Yet, the bottom-feeders: Homeless drug addicts, prostitutes, teenage runaways, old drunks...what suit sporting big shot doesn’t walk by thanking his lucky stars that he’s better than that? Would he ever date one of them? “You’re better than that”, “You’re above him”, “Don’t stoop to his level”....aren’t these mainstays of everyday philosophy out of place in a world where we are all equal?

    We are not equal.

    Our glossy, sugar-coated reassurances are handed out like band-aids for losers. “They are no better than us”. “You’re pretty in your own way”. “You have a different kind of smarts”. “There are no unimportant jobs.” “You’re big-boned”.

    How many folks have laid alone at night, and realized the truth? Had it galvanize in their throat and choke them half to death?

    Me.

    Everyday.

    Escape lies in oblivion. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Hours of television to distract us from the fact that nobody gives a damn. Our Kevins. And then there are those traits that God has bestowed on us like some kind of galactic practical joke. Like the acne I had as a teenager that had me feeling like a misfit every day of junior high. Something as simple as a pimple can steer you toward your station in life. I still “pick” at imaginary acne....it’s gone, but, the feeling of ugliness, of not fitting in still remains.

    I imagine God, in all His perfection, with a mickey of moonshine laughing his ass off some days.

    “Mary, Jesus, come here for a minute I want to show you something.” Side-splitting laughter reverberating through the heavens. “Check out the face I’m gonna slap on this poor bastard. Just for fun I’m gonna give him an overbite, big teeth AND a cowlick right up the back of his undersized head!”

    Special in his own way, our buck-tooth protangonist will still be unmarried at forty-five, and staring into that pathetic joke of a mug every day of his adult life. Wondering, “How can it be fair that I only get to live but once....and I have to do it looking like this every single day?” Will it matter if he’s brilliant? We may have all kinds of respect for brilliance as adults – but, what about those formative years we spend living amongst the cruellest of all Gods’ creatures – our classmates through school? The damage is usually done long before someone like Bucky can ever achieve enough success to overcome the emotional trauma of being bullied and teased because he was ugly as a little boy.

    Those that remind us that life is not fair are normally only so high and mighty from the comfort of there air-conditioned living room. I don’t often hear toothless old bag ladies extolling God’s all-knowingness and protection, assuring those around her that she is living God’s plan for her.

    Cynical, maybe. But bitterness breeds cynicism. Happiness is more easily bred in the non-polluted lives flourishing in the two-story backsplits and ranch style bungalows.

    Happiness does not often show it’s face here, in my little apartment with no windows. Happiness is purchased, ferverently snatched and grabbed whenever the Knowing can be shut-up long enough to enjoy it. Perhaps I’ve awoken in an especially good mood, not so aware of the housework or bills I’m behind on. Maybe the sun is shining and I’ve had an uncommon good day at work. This will be a day when I will grab desperately at happiness. Just a bit, please....I will take money I can’t afford to spend and bring the children out for lunch somewhere. Sit in the park and soak up the fresh air. Feel capable, steady and alive, if only for a few hours. Feel like I’m doing right by me and my children. Feel like I am one of Them.

    And yes. The Knowing knows I am out somewhere doing my level best to ignore her cacaphone of negativity. She is waiting for me when I go to bed that night.

    What of my children? Those borne of me, this madly unhappy and unrealized woman? What of their beautiful shining faces and clear eyes? Trusting me unquestioningly to have for them there next meal? A new pair of shoes?
    Truly, these thoughts are more than I can bear on most days. Indeed, they are the main nourishment of the Knowing. The part that knows that I am just surviving....staving off the wolves within moments of being devoured.
     
  4. EroticCookie

    EroticCookie Guest

    I really enjoyed reading that. It helped explain more abou t the main character. I'm sure that some people can relate to this character. The way we all seem to be known for our negitives and never our positives. I feel as though I am creating a bond with the character now. Before she was just another face in the street but now she is becoming someone I have known for a while.
     
  5. spicypisces

    spicypisces Member

    I think I'm purposefully slowing my pace down....but, the first chapter is really meant as an introduction from out to in of Lorelei and her life.

    I have a tendancy to want to blurt the story into a novella, so I'm pretty concious about taking my time and not worrying about saying too much at first.
     
  6. EroticCookie

    EroticCookie Guest

    Whatever works for you...I'm looking forward to reading the rest. If you want to swap ideas just pm me.
     

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