View Full Version : Army Chick [excerpt]
08-21-2005, 10:38 PM
I wanted to share part of my more "typical" writing. Things like this are what I spend most of my writing time on - a lot different from the other short stories I've got here. This is just the first page or so - the whole thing reaches 13 pages and the board won't take something that long. I'm going to revise it and might make a webpage for it.
"Look man," I said, feeling my foot start to move. Stupid borderline hyperactivity. I never could stop tapping my right foot. "I just don't get what the huge fuss is all about. It's a stupid football game. Worthless in the grand scheme of things."
"Or in the light of a better offer." The boy sitting across from me responded with lawyer-like smugness, letting long dark hair fall across his cheekbones. It was just cruel that he be the first person I befriend, and the only person I could have a halfway decent conversation with outside of art class.
I shrugged. "That too. But all anyone cares about is that dumb homecoming game; there's no way they'd go in for something like, say, going to the diner and showing a new girl around town." Kick. Jitter. I hate my feet. At least I got new shoes, in light of moving across the state – they were decently cool slip-ons that someone somewhere with a lot of time on their hands had beaded colorful swirling designs all over and sold them as vintage.
Man, were they so much cooler than anything else I owned. Not like it mattered here in Stormville; it was like some town out of a movie. Or one of those guilty-pleasure young adult books that are actually good once you get into them. There was a grand total of nothing to do here, besides a mall and some good parks and diners. You had to make your own entertainment or waste away.
Thing is, every time I tried, there was always some problem. Murphy's law must apply double or something around here.
You'd think that, on the first day in a new school, I'd have it super tough. No, the first day was actually (in retrospect) not half-bad. People said 'hi' to me. The teachers were nice, giving me extra copies of whatever book I was supposed to have read and showing me the ropes. My long, butt-length shiny blonde hair got some appreciative glances and some small talk, and that was good enough for me. I didn't really have anyone good to talk to, but everyone is a little lonely on the first day of school.
The second day I managed to trip over my face in every way possible. And I didn’t even think a person could trip over their own face, but there you go. Already the grungy orange lockers and painted brick walls were getting to me; the traces of rumor in the air were infecting me like poison. Apparently old camo shorts were a faux pas with my cheerleader-blonde hair, or something. Not to mention that I got lost. Three times. Did I mention that it was not once, not twice (which is understandable, if a little borderline) but three times!? And I didn't look bad in those shorts. It was hot out, they were comfortable – but not too boyish – and honestly I thought I looked sort of cute. Instead I get the haughty cold shoulder from everyone. The Upper Crust thought I was some sort of fashion freak (it was like was wearing dual plaid, or something) and the computer kids took one look at my hair and decided I wasn't worth their time.
I leaned against the door of the girl's room – after having not given the code and been thrown out by angry smokers – feeling like maybe getting sick wouldn't be all that bad an idea. My backpack had slumped from sitting primly on my feet to sadly on the tacky tile floor, and I'm sure my face was slumped as well. All of a sudden a guy with ear-length straight brown hair and a goofy grin comes out of the boys bathroom across the hall and stands, hands on hips, staring at me; like I was some puzzle or something or I had ketchup on my forehead and he couldn't fathom how it got there.
He stuck out his hand, and said "I'm Jake, nice to meet you." I shook it, like it wasn't totally weird (in high school, at least) for a stranger to introduce themselves after staring at you. That hadn't happened to me since I was about five.
"Uh…Leeann." I brushed a strand of hair out of my face, feeling disheveled. Why did I have to look sad and messed up when I ran into someone sort of cool?
"Leeann the army chick," he said, nodding. "Are you supposed to be in class or lunch?"
"I don't really know, actually," I responded, feeling my cheeks flush as I dug out my schedule. It was very, very doodled on. "Lunch."
"Come on, eat lunch with me. I'd promise you a rip-roaring good time, but everyone around here knows it's just the burritos."
Wow. Just…wow. Where had all the good people been hiding, huh? I'd been dealing with absolute cretins all day, and this guy pops up out of nowhere. It was going to be great. He was sweet, funny, cute, and didn't think with his rear end.
I should have known it was too good to be true.
Isis, This is a great introduction to your story. Although it reminds me of a typical teenage outcast. I don't know if the story changes to one of an outcast turned into a hero, but that is what I would predict to happen. This very much reminds me of my school, the setting at least. I feel that I am starting to know the main character, but a lot is a mystery. I think you did a good job so far.
Vennila X Vana
08-23-2005, 10:01 PM
I agree with JEM. She does sound like the typical outcast, and that's the word for the story so far, typical. It's really cliche, but it's just the beginning.
It's incredibly well-written, and you can tell the author is well-read. But, maybe it's just the beginning, post some more for us?
09-03-2005, 11:19 PM
I'm probably going to be posting this in little segments for a while. I also meant to make her seem like someone who wasn't used to be an outcaste...certianly in the beginning of the year she wasn't used to it [though I started off later on and then went back]
At first I couldn't really tell. There was that sinking feeling there, though; that while we understood each other, we could talk about nothing or everything every day at lunch and never get bored, when I flicked my long hair as gracefully as I could it did nothing. No appreciative glances, though every once in a while he'd ask to change how I had my hair. "Let me put it in pigtails," he'd say, and the next thing I knew I'd have two fountains of blondness sprouting from either side of my scalp.
Then I began to wonder where he friends were. Someone charming and funny shouldn't be sitting just with the new girl, though it was nice to have Jake to myself. Maybe it was his longish hair – up here in Stormville, near Buffalo, all the guys had short hair. As Jake told me on my 'grand tour' ("The bathrooms, where the air is one part oxygen ten parts smoke and old Lysol! The janitor's 'closet of delights'! And here are the science wing's infamous back stairs!") of Stormville Senior High: "Welcome to Wonderbreadland."
I missed home. There was just…nothing here. Like I said, you had to make your own entertainment, and that was hard to do. First I tried out Jake's method – walk up, shake hands, smile like you own the world.
The Popular Girls: Oh, you're new. How uncool.
The Jocks: Babe, I'll shake more than your hand
(Me: Get a clue, sleaze)
The Computer Kids: My IQ is dropping! Don't touch my precious typing fingers!
The Smokers: You're the one who forgot the code. We remember you. Burn.
The One Token Goth Kid: Horror. Loathing. Despair.
I more than struck out, and I wasn't going anywhere near the Golden Valley Mall. No thank you. While I doubted it was large enough to induce full-on sensory overload, I didn't doubt for a second that it would be horribly depressing.
So instead I asked out Jake. No problem, I thought. Simple. You guys can go to the diner, it doesn't look all that bad, maybe stroll around town, I'd like to get to know the place…
"No can do," he said, looking sort of queasy. "I'm sorry, but I'm busy Saturday."
"How about Sunday?" Really, I had nothing to do, I wanted to hang out, and who ever does anything important on Sunday? Especially around here?
"I'd really rather not," he replied, shuffling his feet and seeming beyond uncomfortable. I thought I knew what this was about, I'd seen it before, so I made a funny face and clarified.
"How about as friends?" His expression cleared up considerably, and for the moment I was convinced and happy.
After that we spent a lot of time roaming the few roamable streets and observing everyone to walk into Dina's Diner. It was one of those little smoky places that smelled of burgers and cigarettes and hairspray and old coffee, and had booths with small jukeboxes on the wall. Ruffling through all the songs; I told him the story of how I ended up here after years in the real suburbs and not this middle-of-nowhere thing.
My mom is a journalist, and I guess jobs were tough back in Hudson. She needed to get work, too, because it's just us two. We have cousins up in Buffalo (somewhere…flakes.) and they know people who know other people, and…well, before I knew it my mom had a job and we were driving out to some dinky town that was near enough and far enough, according to her.
It stung, coming to a place where people only bothered to learn my name because I was hanging with the class pariah and thus worthy of negative attention. I knew people before; friends from way back when, and hangers on that decided they wanted to laugh along with us.
"And no matter how much I try with these people, they still say nothing to me. Nada, zip, zilch." I sighed for effect. "I guess you know how it feels."
He just got a funny look on his face. "I was just like you, for a while," he said, then put down his coffee cup. I plonked down a few rumpled bills and coins, and when I glanced up the look was gone. "Come on, we don't need them. I've got something cool to show you."
I was fascinated by the empty roads, the crumpled sidewalks – who knew the back neighborhoods of this place held so much intrigue? And there were huge trees making a canopy over the straight roads, and turning the thin winding ones into elaborate green tunnels. We turned onto a dirt road that looked newly tread, and into a skeleton development.
There were maybe four or five houses-to-be, empty and half-built. The structure was there, and the floor, but the only walls were plywood. The rest reminded me of rib cages pushed together. "Like I said, you make your own entertainment," he quipped, bounding up to the closest house, and hoisting himself up onto the floor platform where the front steps were going to be. None of the stairs were built yet, so we just looked down into the basement hole with fascination and poked around half-closed in rooms, looking at what the builders had left behind and trying to find significance in them.
"Ah, a stick of gum," Jake said sagely, holding it up to the light. "It shows the path of an unsuspecting carpenter, blundering through life…" I laughed and tugged his arm, because the sun was going down and I didn't want my mom sending a swat team out after me.
It wasn't until a few days later that I knew, for sure. My mind had been occupied by some weird things – last-period art was full of oddities, for starts, with fires starting about every day and no clue who was doing it – but I was hit by an eighteen-wheeler of a bung feeling. Something bad an unexpected was going to happen, I knew it, and by lunchtime I was chewing on the end of my long ponytail as well as tapping my foot like a madwoman.
Two girls slid into our table. It was weird; the lunch tables essentially had two halves, and the other end of ours was populated by three, sometimes four, band kids. Jake and I sat as far over on our side as possible, and the space might as well have been miles.
So one – her hair was dyed, I knew right away, since it was about fifteen shades of blonde, red and brown – sat down right next to him, flouncing her skirt and butterfly clips. "Jake honey, how's this weekend?" Was she a tease? Or was it her and Jake…but then why the grinning friend?
"Go away," he sighed, and I felt better, though that was sort of horrible of me. He looked so freaked out, because the girl was touching his hair. "I really don't want to talk to you, Chelsea."
"What about me?" The other girl pouted, and I could tell that she was wearing way, way too much lipgloss. As a compulsive lipgloss person, I knew overkill when I saw it. Even my pucker wasn't that shined. "You know you want to."
"No, I don't," he said, and got up. I thought I detected and squeak in his voice, and all of a sudden I got it, I knew just what was going on, no normal guy would refuse offer after offer after offer, from all sorts of girls; he'd never mentioned a girlfriend (not even to the footballers that came and tried to knock his skull every few days) or anyone who had his particular attention…come to mention it, I'd never even caught his eyes lingering on girls. And I looked at him when he couldn't catch me long enough to know where his gaze fell.
Oh, god. I had fallen for the gay guy - like things weren't already resembling some teen movie well enough on their own.
"Leave him alone, you hussies," I said, scowling, letting my ponytail fall. It was hard to sound jealous and imposing around hair ends. They looked at me and tittered, giving me pitying expressions, and then left. Their giggling was infernal, and I glared at their backs until they were all the way across the cafeteria, then turned to Jake.
"Game's up," I said, with a grin. I didn't feel freaked out or upset or betrayed or anything…I guess I knew it would be inevitable, "too good to be true." He just groaned, and put his head down on the table, and only looked up again when I started eating his fries.
"Whoa. You eat." He sounded shocked, and I nodded, wolfing down another three fries. They were sort of greasy, but good in their own way.
"No sh.it. You gonna eat all those?"
He just pushed the whole tray towards me. "I haven't seen a girl eat in about forever." He grinned, shaking his head, looking mistily out the far-off and grimy windows to where the leaves were just changing color.
09-03-2005, 11:21 PM
It was weird, how any mention of Jake after that made me jump. Maybe I was looking for some kind of reassurance, or something to tell me that I had at least a snowball's chance in hell. I started striking up conversations with Ms. Quick, the assistant art teacher – she thought I was sweet when I first approached her, though my motives were sly. I just wanted to get out of my corner so I could hear what everyone else was saying. No one kept their voice down in art. Heck, I didn't even have much of an interest, but it was an easy and credit-bearing class.
She stopped telling me how cute my hair was at about the same time she started really talking to me, and about the same time that the fires broke out daily. I had to look at some really good stuff, find my niche, she said, and sent me over to pull some art books off the low bookshelf in the back. I ducked down and grabbed three things that had appealing bindings and weights, and when I stood up flames danced before my eyes. They were tiny, but just on the corner of a piece of crumpled loose-leaf. I blew them out, and went back to Ms. Quick. It didn't really register at the time, it just seemed a little weird.
The next day I sat on the bookshelf, not caring that the plants hanging in the back of the room were hitting me in the face. No one paid attention to me. But there was no paper and no fire over here – it was on the other end of the room, near the sinks this time.
"Weird," was Jake's response when I told him, pushing his left-over nachos to me. We talked about the possibility of this elevating to spontaneous human combustion, and who we'd like to see reduced to a pile of ash.
I'd just started really investigating when the Homecoming fever settled in. Apparently it was the big event of the season, and I didn't doubt that for most people Homecoming was as good as it got. I was a big-town girl, and I had other ideas about what to do with myself. They wouldn't have included spending all my time with one person, usually, but there you are. I was officially on the blacklist of anyone who was anyone and many people who were not – talking to a teacher, being blonde, consorting with the gay boy and thereby becoming class outcaste number two by default.
And my god, I was so bored. I decided to stay later for a few minutes, see what an inspection of the art room could tell me. Those fires…they were distracting. Ever try and draw when you know that the edge of your paper could start smoking at any given time? Sort of hard to concentrate, don't you think? And it wasn't the heating system. I checked that. Twice.
So I took a second to stoop down and pick up papers that I'd "dropped", waving goodbye to Ms. Quick. I looked through the things people had left lying around, and though there were a few singed marks on countertops and one paper, I didn't get anything. No lighter fluid, no tell-tale smell of after-shave or perfume that I could link with the motley crew I bumped into in the halls. Just a red gum wrapper near two of the scorch marks (did the Janitor ever come here?) My first attempt at detective work had failed, and I slung my bag over my shoulder, taking the back door out.
I had to hurry to catch my bus (as there was no way in hell I was going to walk home. No way.), and the only way to get from the ill-fated art rooms to the bus in reasonable amount of time was to cut behind the school, around the bottom of the parking lot and practice fields. Hardly anyone went back there; obviously this area had seen better days. I heard shouts, thinking it might be some seniors in a jeep, and wondering where Jake went to. Usually – no matter what bizarre route I took – I'd run into him.
Two guys were standing facing each other and there was shouting. It was weird – until I saw a third (very familiar) head of hair that didn't seem to be faring well in the middle of it all. One guy had Jake in a head lock – I didn't know what to do. Shock, fear, the urge to run, the weight of my backpack all lanced through me. Then, suddenly, I wanted to fight.
To be honest, I've never been in a fight before in my life. Not a real fight. Sure, plenty of arguments, even the odd mock sword duel with Tracy who lived across the street when I was a kid. But never a kicking, screaming, all out brawl. I shocked myself when I charged those guys; there was just this fire starting in my lungs and in my stomach and I whipped my backpack off my shoulders and ran without thinking, my long ponytail flying behind me.
I shouted something like "get your hands off him, asshole" and smacked the nearest guy in the shoulder. Wham! Taken out by a bag of attitude, textbooks and makeup. There were at least three in there, and let me tell you, not light. I stood there, sort of stunned – that guy was tall, and now he was on his butt, trying to get up with one painless arm – until the other one (Mike? Dan? Beelzebub?) let Jake out of the headlock and turned to me. I tried to smack him with my backpack but he caught the far-flung strap, and used it to pull me in. I didn't dare drop it.
After that things got a little blurred. I felt an arm across my collarbone and I kicked backwards, stamped down, struggled, thrashed, anything. I still didn't let go of my bag even though my wrist hurt like hell from holding it up. I snapped my head, forward then back then forward again, and I think that did it; my long hair whipped around and was able to distract my captor. I remember my leg winding up and shooting out, how I almost fell when I came in contact with human being, and how I grabbed Jake's hand with my free one and ran like there was no tomorrow.
We ran past the school, down a side road that faded from old pavement to gravel to dirt. I didn't care that my side hurt and that those thugs probably weren't following us anymore. Jake ran with me, glad to be out of there, and I could see that his nose was bleeding – there were these little flecks of red flitting around the corner of my eye when he passed me. A park – there was a park on this little dirt road that was so far only flanked by old Cape Cods and orange-leafed trees.
I collapsed onto the see-saw, flinging my bag down (though it didn't go very far). I was exhausted, and scared. Oh man, was I scared. What if those guys had shotguns? What if they knew where I lived? What if I got suspended for fighting? I didn't know who saw the fight, but I had a feeling that no matter how much I tried there would be no B.S.ing my way out of this. Jake, though. His nose was bleeding. Groaning, I dug some tissues out of my backpack and handed them to him where he was sprawled on the ground.
"Thanks," he finally gasped, his head tilted back, a tissue stuffed up each nostril. "But shite, where did you learn all that?"
I looked down at my legs. There was a new hole in the knee of my jeans. It wasn't all that big, but I poked a finger through it and felt raw skin. "Dunno" I shrugged. My wrist hurt. "It must come with being a girl. Blondes fight like bitches."
"Like hell," he said. "You fight like cats." I knew it wasn't my fault that those guys had attacked him for how he was, but I still felt bad. Partly that I hadn't kicked those guys to Tennessee but ran instead; partly that I hadn't gotten there in time to keep Jake from getting hurt; and partly that he had to go through this at all. The fact that he was trying to be funny through his pain to a girl he didn't even want to sleep with really drove that home. I wanted to cry, but instead I handed him the rest of my little package of tissues. "A whole army of cats."
I waited for him to get up, to see if he could walk. He was a little gimpy, but okay. He'd have some nasty bruises when he woke up the next morning, but I figured he could handle himself. I was sort of surprised that he hadn't cried – I almost did, and I didn't even get really beat up.
We walked home together, mostly silent, letting the quiet of afternoon sun filter through the changing trees to fill up the space that words usually did.
09-21-2005, 07:23 PM
Definately a true insight to high school life - it would be cool if your charecter had stronger opinions about the events happening around her.
Vennila X Vana
09-29-2005, 06:38 PM
WHOA. You said the exact opposite of what I wanted to say. I was going to say definitely NOT true insight to high school. But that might just be my small-town school then...I don't know Isis, is your school like this? Does this really happen? I think if you hestitate to answer yes to that you should trash this story. I love your writing style, I do really. But this story to me is cliche, although the fire thing isn't I like that, a lot. It sounds too soap opera, but maybe your school resembles one?
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