Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Writer's Dilemma

I am not sure what to do next.  I have this story that I started about 2 years ago.  I haven't finished it because I really don't know what I want it to be.  A novel? A script? A short story or novella?  I've done a few scenes but I'm not sure if they connect well.  I've even done character bios in order to get a better understanding of the characters in the story, trying to find a way into the lives of the story's two protagonists.

This story is yet untitled.  I'm including a sample of the story here.  Tell me what you think.  If it turns out to be a short story, I'm going to enter it into an upcoming contest.  The deadline is in March 2011, so that gives me some time to tweak it just right.

Hope you enjoy the read.


The Rescue

            “Move those people back!  Get that guy out of here!”  Chief Fire Officer Lambert barks orders with the authority afforded him by his 20+ years as a fireman.
            “Miss!  Miss!  Are you okay?  Can you hear me?” asks Fireman Jim Browski.  He maneuvers around the telephone pole and looks through the shattered passenger side window of the mangled vehicle.  Janoa is slumped over in the seat, her head resting on Carla’s right arm.  He turns on his flashlight to get a better look inside the car and notices the right side of her face covered in bloody lacerations.  The smell of alcohol escapes from inside the wreckage.
            “This one looks pretty bad.  She took the brunt of the accident.  It looks like her legs are crushed underneath the dashboard.  She’s pinned in pretty tight.”  Browski yells.  “We’re going to have to use the crane to pull this car away from the pole and then we’ll need the Jaws of Life to cut her out of the vehicle.  Hey, Eddie!  Get the crane and the Jaws over here, pronto!  These smaller numbers don’t hold up too well under pressure.  They fold like paper.”
            “Yeah, pretty much,” replies Fireman Paul Jensen, not speaking loud enough for Browski to hear.  Jensen is on the other side of the vehicle, where he sees another young girl whose head is lying against the driver’s side window.  The impact of her head against the glass cracks the window without shattering it completely, making it hard for Fireman Jensen to see her face. He shines his flashlight into the vehicle and notices movement as the girl tries to lift her left hand up to her head.
            “Hey, Browski, looks like the driver is coming around," yells Fireman Jensen.  "Miss!  Can you hear me?  Move your hand, if you can!"  The young girl lifts her hand a little ways up, but it quickly falls back onto her left thigh.  "That's good enough, Miss!  Hang on!  We're doing everything we can to get you and your friend out of there…"
            A crane lifts and pulls the car away from the pole.  Using the Jaws of Life, the firefighters first free Janoa from the passenger side of the car.         
"Get those paramedics over here!  Alright people, let 'em through!"  Chief Lambert maneuvers the paramedics through spectators and a cluster of other rescue workers. 
Paramedics, Jeanette Roland and Brice Capland, assess Janoa’s condition as critical and work to stabilize her.  They remove her from the car and gently place her on the gurney.  Inside the EMS truck, Jeanette continues to check her vitals.  The driver sounds the siren, clears a path through the crowd and heads for the hospital.
Another set of paramedics are on the driver’s side of the vehicle working on Carla.  Paramedic Angela Rice dabs the blood from her face, checks her vitals, stabilizes her neck with a brace and with the help of her partner, paramedic Rick Bowler, removes Carla from the driver’s seat.  Angela and Rick place her on the gurney and into another EMS truck.  Once inside, she tries to test Carla’s level of consciousness by asking her questions.  
“Miss, can you hear me?  Do you know what year it is?  Miss!  Miss!”

Distant voices, blurred bodies, and flashing red lights bombard Carla's senses.  Where am I?  What's happening?  Why can't I move?  God, my head feels like it's splitting.  Carla feels a shaking as the giant crane pulls the car away from the telephone pole.  She hears the sound of crushing metal to the right of her.  What is that noise?  The Jaws of Life working to free her best friend's mangled body from… Carla starts to cry.  Janoa!  God, why isn't she moving?  Oh my God, what's happened?  What have I done?
            Carla feels Janoa’s head on her right arm.  Janoa still hasn’t moved.  Carla‘s head begins to throb from the deafening noise of the sirens.  Her body feels stiff, inflexible, and she aches all over.  With a sudden, violent jolt, the passenger side door is ripped off the vehicle and a bright light flashes inside the car.  Then the voices return.
            “Miss, are you conscious?  We’re going to get you and your friend out of there, just hang tough.”
            Carla feels herself blacking out.  “Janoa, someone…help…her…I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…      please…”

            Carla wakes up in the ambulance and looks into the comforting eyes of Paramedic Angela Rice. 
            “Janoa…where is she?”

            “Is that your friend’s name?  She’s in the other ambulance, probably at the hospital already.  I’m sure they’re taking good care of her.  Tell me your name, Miss.  Do you know who you are?”
            “Carla…my name is Carla Jenkins.”
            “Well, Carla Jenkins, I’m Angela Rice and I’m going to do my best to make you as comfortable as possible.”
            “Thank…you, Angela, did you say?”
            “Yes, that’s right, sweetheart, Angela.  Now just relax, we’re almost at the hospital.”
            Carla starts to fade out again.  “Janoa,” she whispers.  “Make sure…they…help…her…”

A Rude Awakening

            Carla awakened to a small beam of sunlight streaming through a tear in a dingy window shade.  The pain in her head shattered her eyesight as she tried to comprehend her surroundings.  Where the devil am I? she thought.  Carla struggled to focus through a haze of the previous night’s drunken escapades.  She slowly turned over in bed.  Lying on her back, she squinted at a brown water-stained ceiling.  “God, why do I keep doing this crap?” she whispered to herself. 
            A voice mingled with the sound of a flushing toilet startled Carla and she sat up.
            “Hey, you woke yet?” the voice inquired. “Don’t mean to be rude or nothin’, but you need to get a move on.  I gotta’ go to work, right?  You problee need to be somewhere too, huh?  Hey! Ya’ hear me?”  As Carla looked in the direction of the unfamiliar voice, a large, muscular silhouette emerged from the door of the bathroom.
            “Ya hear me, girl?” the voice continued.  “I mean, sorry to rush you and all—had a real good time—but the night is over.  Gotta’ move on, keep it pushin’, ya know?”
            “Yeah, yeah, I know,” Carla whispered.  She climbed out of bed, each movement a premeditated attempt not to alert the nerve endings in her brain.  Still, the pain in her head screamed for her attention. Carla bent down to gather her clothing from the floor.  Then, barely able to drag one foot in front of the other, she shuffled her way toward the tiny, dimly lit bathroom.
            On the way, Carla caught a glimpse of herself in a dusty mirror attached to a pock marked dresser.  She chuckled as she secretly accused the run down piece of furniture of looking at least 150 years old, and not in a good “Antiques Road Show” kind of way.  Her smile soon faded, however, once Carla realized that she and the dresser had more in common than she cared to admit.
            “Hey, where ya goin’?” asked her previous night’s mistake. “We ain’t got time for you to get all gussied up.  I gotta’ go, and so do you.  My girl’a be home from working the nightshift soon, and—”
            “Your girl?” replied Carla with more than a slight attitude.  “That’s why you’re rushing me, so your girl won’t discover she could do better?  I can’t believe that you brought me here to sex me up and you’ve got a woman—who works the nightshift, no less!  Gives you plenty of time to party hardy, huh Romeo?”  She quickly started to dress; first bra, then panties, then…
            “Hey, didn’t nobody twist yo’ arm to get you here.  All that drinking you done, you were ripe and ready!  And my name is William!  So you need to get yo’ clothes on and get out!  Now!”
            “Alright!  I’m going, William!” Carla spit out his name as though it had put a bad taste in her mouth.  She finished dressing and started to leave when she noticed she didn’t have her purse.  She spotted it on a chair in the corner and went to retrieve it when William grabbed her arm. 
            “The door is this way!” He tried to push her out of the apartment.
            “I’ve got to get my purse, you idiot!”  Before she knew it, Carla was screaming at the top of her lungs.  William pulled her over to the chair, grabbed her purse, and slammed it into her chest.    “Let go of me, you moron!  I can walk!  I said let go!”  Ignoring her pleas, William jerked Carla around like a rag doll and threw her out the door.  She stumbled, almost falling.  Then she caught herself and turned toward her opponent.
            “Maybe I’ll just wait around a bit.  Then me and your girl can have a little talk—maybe compare notes!  How does that sound, William?”  Carla was becoming what she hated most, an hysterical woman.  What is wrong with me? Why do I care so much about having to leave in a hurry?  It’s what I do, anyway.  What’s different about this time?  Angry, self-loathing tears streamed down her face.  Carla was at war with herself.  In her mind, the voice of reason instructed her to shut up, walk away, and let it go.  He was a fly by night encounter.  One of many she’d had over the years.  What was the big deal, why all the drama, now?  Yet her feet wouldn’t listen and her mouth wouldn’t obey. Instead, she continued to spew venom like a pro, until…
            Carla couldn’t breathe.  At first, she didn’t understand what was happening.  Then it registered—William was strangling her.  In a matter of seconds, he’d lunged at Carla, pushing her against the wall across from his apartment.  The more she struggled, the harder he pinned her against the wall.
            “Let…go,” Carla gasped.  The rage in William’s eyes had a sobering affect, and for the first time, Carla was afraid she might not make it out alive.
            “Now…you…listen…to…me…you…stupid...cow,” William said slowly, each word deliberate and spiked with an angry southern drawl. “I told you that my girl will be here soon, and that you got to go.  You not gon’ stand around and talk about nothin’, ya hear me?” 
            Carla felt her stomach turn at the smell of William’s hot breath mingled with stale liquor.  She tried unsuccessfully to turn away as William continued his tirade, covering her face in spittle.
            “She ain’t never gon’ see you, never gon’ know you was here.  That’s the way it’s layin’, you got me?” 
            William finally released his grip from around Carla’s neck, but continued to pin her against the wall until he got the answer he wanted. 
            “Yeah…I…got…you,” Carla wheezed. “You can let go now.”  William backed away from Carla, watching her every move as she picked up her purse off the floor and staggered down the hall to the elevator. 

            At 7:00 a.m., the October morning was crisp.  Carla walked out the front door of the Colbert Arms Apartments to her red Toyota Camry, parked half a block away.  The fresh air helped to clear her head and Carla was thankful to have made it out in one piece.  Again, her voice of reason returned, followed by her old acquaintances, guilt, remorse and a flood of hot tears.  She pressed the keyless entry button, disarming the alarm.  Then she stepped inside the car and slammed the door shut.  Once inside, Carla gave in to her emotions.
             “God, why am I so stupid!  Why do You let me do these things!  Jesus, why won’t You help me?” 
            She rested her head on the steering wheel and took two deep breaths in an attempt to gain control.  Then she reached inside her purse, grabbed some tissue, and dried her eyes.  After regaining her composure, Carla put the key in the ignition, started the car, and pulled out from a small side street onto Gratiot Avenue.
            Driving home, Carla wondered how she would explain being late for work, yet again.  Her lifestyle was clearly starting to interfere with her job at an Advertising and Public Relations firm and her work ethic was slowly dissolving into a state of apathy.  Still, Carla loved her job and was thankful that she had such an understanding and patient boss.  The fact that most employers would have fired her after the first or second infraction was not lost on her, and she dreaded having to fabricate another series of lies.


            Carla arrived home at around 7:45 a.m.  She dragged herself up the stairs of her apartment complex, struggled to push open the front door, and stumbled into the lobby.  Stanley, the daytime security officer, sat at the front desk drinking his morning coffee, watching the security monitors, and occasionally skimming his newspaper.  He looked up from his desk as Carla took slow, deliberate steps towards the elevators and instantly knew to keep his naturally upbeat personality to a minimum.
            "Hello, Ms. Jenkins.  How's it going for…?
            "Not fast enough," Carla quickly replied.  "Sorry, Stanley, not much for talking this morning. Maybe you can have a halfway decent day for the both of us.  See ya'."
            "I'll try, Ms. Jenkins.  Take care of yourself, now."  Stanley shook his head and let out a deep, sympathetic sigh as he watched Carla approach the elevators.  To him, she looked more pitiful with each step she took.  Though he never really knew her personally, Stanley remembered the days when she looked happier and much more confident.  She was a woman on a mission every morning:  she looked good, she smelled good, and always seemed as though she could conquer the world.  Now…well…Stanley thought to himself how sad that his admiration had turned to pity.  Pity for a once vibrant woman, a woman who seemed to know where she was going and how to get there.  Pity for a woman who'd somehow lost her way and no longer knew her purpose.  How sad, he thought to himself as he took another sip of his coffee and directed his attention back to his paper and the security monitors.

            Carla stepped off the elevator on the 6th floor.  She walked down the hall, suddenly stopping just before reaching her apartment.  What the crap am I going to say to Mom? she thought.  God knows I don't want to hear another lecture.  Oh well, might as well get it over with.
            Carla stuck the key in the lock and opened the door.  Soft gospel music was playing on the CD player and the smell of fresh coffee mingled with bacon wafted throughout the apartment.      "Thank God," Carla whispered, "at least I don't have to cook.  Man, I am one selfish…"
            "Carla, is that you?"  A melodious, high-pitched voice from the kitchen rose above the music.
            "Mom!"  Another voice from the kitchen, filled with excitement.
            "Hey, you two, it's me.  How ya' doin’?"  A lanky, caramel-skinned 8 year-old girl, with a beautiful face and brown almond shaped eyes, darted out of the kitchen and ran down the hall to greet Carla.  Her hair was in two ponytails, one high, one low, and she wore her school uniform:  navy blue skirt, white shirt, and burgundy jacket.  The ensemble was accentuated with white tights and black patent leather shoes.
            "Mom!  Where've you been? Gram and me…"
            "Gram and I," Carla retorted in her teacher voice.
            "Gram and I have been waiting for you.  It's almost time for me to go to school, I was afraid you wouldn't get home in time to take me."
            "Well, I'm here now, so get your coat and book bag and let's go, kiddo."
            "I have to finish my breakfast first, then I'll be ready to go.  I'm glad you made it Mom, I didn't want to be late again for class.  Mrs. Willerby, that’s my teacher, anyway, Mrs. Willberby says she doesn't like it when her class is interrupted by strablers."
            "You mean stragglers." 
            "She doesn't like when her class is interrupted by stragglers."
            "Yeah, that's it.  Straaaagglers."  Tatiana smiled as she slowly sounded out the word.
            "Okay, well, finish your breakfast and let's get a move on."  Carla tried not to notice her mother leaning against the wall, arms folded, with a disapproving scowl on her face.  Muriam Jenkins was a formidable force; tall, statuesque, and still beautiful at 57.  Large, light brown eyes accentuated a pecan-brown complexion and an artist's sculptured bone structure, crowned with a salt and pepper mane.  She had watched in sorrow as the loss of a best friend and the subsequent loss of a father slowly changed the behavior of her daughter.  Still, Muriam refused to give Carla up to her own pity and self-hatred—at least, not without a fight.
            "You know, you really should go in with Tahtie and explain to her teacher why your daughter is a straggler," Muriam said sternly.  "After all, it's not her fault; she doesn't drive herself to school. I'm surprised Mrs. Willerby hasn't already requested an audience with you regarding Tahtie's tardiness."
            Here we go, Carla thought.  Truth be told, she had received numerous letters from Mrs. Willerby, requesting a meeting regarding her daughter's tardiness to class; a fact that Carla was unwilling to share with her mother.
            "Look, Mom, I'm sorry I can't stick around for another one of your infamous tongue lashings.  I've got to use the 60 seconds I have left before Tahtie finishes her breakfast to make myself presentable so that I can drop my baby off at school and then break the sound barrier trying to get to work on time.  I really don't—"
            "Again, who's fault is that?  If you would get home at a decent hour, maybe even stay home with your daughter sometimes, you wouldn't be so stressed out doing the things you need to do, like getting your daughter to school and yourself to work on time.  Ever thought of that, Carla?  And what are those marks on your neck?"  Muriam yelled, as Carla walked away from her into the bathroom, and slammed the door. 
            "God, help me," Muriam whispered. "What am I going to do with that girl?  Jesus, if you don't fix this, it won't get fixed."   
            Muriam stood quietly praying in the living room and staring at the many pictures of Carla painstakingly arranged on the mantle above the fireplace.  Carla taking her first steps while her father held her delicate little hands in his.  Carla, dressed in her favorite pink tutu, receiving an award for best in kindergarten dance recital.  Carla with her best friend, Janoa, on high school graduation day.  All images of happier times.  Muriam took a deep breath as she fought back tears.  Change is not always good…

            Tatiana finished her milk, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and yelled to her mom from the kitchen.
            "I'm finished, Mom!"  She ran into the living room only to find her grandmother standing there alone. "Gram, where's Mom?  I'm ready to go, now.  She's still taking me, isn't she?"
            "Yes, baby, she's still taking you.  She's just in the bathroom freshening up a bit.  You know that after she drops you off, she has to go on to work, so she needs to change her clothes."  Tatiana looked down at her shoes and let out a long sigh.
            "Am I going to be a straggler again, Gram?"
            "Yep, looks like it."

1 comment:

  1. Cheryl Lynn! Oh my! I did not know you could write so BEAUTIFULLY! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poetry and this piece. Great character development in just a short time. I'm so excited and happy to hear that you're going to write, write, write! Kick procrastination to the curb. This is going to be your year!!!