Work-in-Progress Wednesday: 10/6/2010 (New Writing)

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons & blimpy.

Because I’ve been so busy with things other than writing lately (hard to believe, I know), I’m going to deviate a bit this Wednesday and just post a new piece of work that I’ve been promising to post for almost a week now.

As I mentioned a few different times over the past weeks, I have my first workshop date coming up in my short story class. That day is next Tuesday, so I had to send my story to everyone yesterday. After some thinking, I decided to go with the brand new, much shorter piece for this first date. It went through two drafts before I sent it out yesterday, though I had been hoping to revise it one more time. Oh well. A busy weekend prevented that.

Anyway, the piece is called “Midnight Marquee” and is a bit different from what I usually write. It came out to two and a half pages, and I’m very interested in what my classmates will think of it. You can read it after the jump (and you can also find it on the Creative Writing page). If you feel so inclined, please do leave comments. I’m always interested in them!

Midnight Marquee
“I’ve done a lot of things,” I casually mentioned, as I stood with Patrick under a flashing, red and yellow marquee. “Seen a lot of things.”

Traffic, without consideration of the late hour, sped by on the one-way, throwing a dark wave of stale, gleaming rainwater across our legs and feet. Neither of us paid it any mind. People shuffled up and down the winding, ages-old sidewalk that turned out of sight around the corner. The low, indistinct chatter, flashing of cell phones, and shrugging of shoulders that we were privy to was exactly what one would expect from such a group of late-night city wanderers.

“Yeah?” Patrick responded. “Like what, Lena?”

I couldn’t tell from his tone if he was genuinely interested or if he was just trying to humor me. He ran a hand through his wavy, pitch black hair as his head tilted to the left. Our shoulders touched; I think they did, but my depth perception is bad, and I wasn’t sure I felt it through the anxiety and terror of random conversation.

“Oh, most everything, really.” A light bulb flashed out on the marquee above us. I suddenly felt weaker, paler, like some of my color leached out into the surrounding world. “Most anything you could imagine.”

A black owl flew between us.

“That’s odd,” I muttered. “Have you ever seen a black owl before?” I couldn’t really tell, but I think he smiled.

Patrick spoke through the filter of a snuffed-out cigarette. “Aren’t all owls black, especially at night beneath a marquee?”

I shrugged, ignorance covering indifference or embarrassment—either one, it didn’t matter.

After dropping his cigarette to the pavement and crushing it into the surrounding blackness, he spoke again. “As for having seen and done things, I’m no stranger to the world, Lena. Let’s agree that for everything that’s ever happened that you didn’t do, I did.”

A cockroach tumbled down from the marquee and over the front of Patrick’s checkered shirt. He didn’t seem to care. The two of us watched as the insect crawled across the street, defying traffic, defying death, but mainly defying common sense it couldn’t possibly have possessed.

I filled the awkward silence when it became clear that he wouldn’t. “Did you know that if you cut off a cockroach’s head, it will live nine days before it starves to death?”

The cockroach crawled out of the pool of light cast from the lamp it stood under across the street. It crawled out of existence. The masses of people walking past paid us no mind. Patrick turned away from me; I think he did, at least—his face was distinctly indistinct in the shadows from overhead.

“Let’s agree that for everything you’ve ever thought, I’ve thought everything else.”

With that, I was nearly positive that he was no longer facing me, although I still couldn’t be sure. Feeling rebuffed, I gave in and let the silence fall over us like a shroud. The cacophony that embodied downtown did all of the talking. Patrick and I listened quietly. As the night dragged inevitably on, a few more of the remaining light bulbs flashed out above us. I was getting weaker. Tired. Suddenly, Patrick broke the silence.

“Do you feel like you disappear, Lena? At night, I mean.”

I saw his face for what he was, then. A well filled with tar—thick, viscous, and impossibly deep. He said what I was afraid to, and I could do nothing but stare in his direction. “I like to think I’m there during the night, but I’m not sure,” Patrick said. “I’m not sure at all, so I stick to the light.”

My feet felt uncomfortable, like something was standing on them. He noticed my discomfort. He sensed it when I displayed no obvious sign of it.

“I always feel like someone is stepping on my feet, too,” he said. How could he know? Was he in my head somehow?

Without warning, the marquee overhead flashed out completely and Patrick disappeared.

“Are you there?” I whispered.

There was no answer.

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