Saturday, October 13, 2012

Then and now, continued: a comparative look at exposition over the years

I'm about halfway done with my short story assignment for class, and I'm having a fantastic time. It feels so good to write.

The first part I posted has been altered a bit based on some invaluable feedback; if you were among the ones who commented on the last post (either on deviantART or here), let me say thank you. I learn so much from you all; your input makes me a better writer overall. The fact that anyone is willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help me grow as a writer is one of the biggest compliments I could ever receive. Every word means the world to me. So thank you.

This will be in the same vein as last post. I'm going to take the second half of the introduction I wrote in 2009 and post it, with the rewrite beneath it. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated!


Original, dated January 2009:

The receiver clicked and the sound of static silence rippled from the earpiece. I hung the phone up and wiped my fingers on my pants, still unsure if the funeral was in the morning or the evening. Seven o'clock is uncommitted. It goes both ways.

I hate phone booths. This one was like every other one I had been in: the clammy, stale air that ruminated inside the booth reeked, though instead of donning the common dirty hobo odor, this one was much more reminiscent of two dollar hooker and nauseating perfume. An uneven layer of condensation clung to the walls and if I were feeling a bit more festive, I would have written all over them with the tip of my finger. But my mom had just died (four days ago, I kept telling myself) so I let them be. Besides, this particular phone booth already had its share of defilement. Each side of glass was riddled with amateur graffiti and crude drawings: a penis, random names looping in bastardized cursive, 'Mike wuz here.' Mike is everywhere. In the corner, the words 'Fuck me,' were written in bold black marker, with the latter word crossed out and replaced with 'you,' which was also crossed out and replaced with 'God.'

I shrugged the accordion door to the side and stepped out, pulling gloves from the back pocket of my pants and thrusting them on in a single, practiced motion. I've never cared much for the cold, but then again, my fingers and toes are always cold no matter what the season. Bad circulation. It's in my genes.


Rewrite, dated October 13, 2012:

The crack of his phone slamming against the switch hook is the last thing I hear before silence ripples into the earpiece. I hang up the pay phone and wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. My hands are shaking. I stand in the phone booth and stare at the bright yellow handset, replaying the conversation in my head over and over.

The dim halo of light above me flickers like it’s straight out of some cheesy horror flick. Stale air trapped inside the glass walls of the phone booth reeks of cheap hooker perfume. One side of glass has a crude drawing of a penis and the words, “Mike wuz here.” Mike is everywhere. In the bottom corner of the accordion door, the words “fuck you” are written in bold black marker; the latter word is crossed out and replaced with “me” and an accompanying phone number, which is also crossed out and replaced with “God.”

Before I leave, I make sure to check the return coin slot; when I was seven, I found three quarters at a subway station, which has always served as a personal justification for my habit since—even thirteen years later. But I don’t give a shit about quarters now, and I fully expect the slot to be empty. To my surprise, my forefinger stumbles over something that is decidedly not change. It’s smooth but textured, like dense paper. I feel around its oddly shaped edges for a couple seconds, unable to identify the object simply from touch. Then I pluck out my prize. A white puzzle piece.

As a child I’d made a pastime of watching my dad sort puzzle pieces on the cleared dining room table according to size, shape, and color, slowly working his way from the inside, out. Using the border was cheating. When he wasn’t looking I would steal important pieces and hide them in my pockets to see if he’d notice. I wanted him to scour the house looking for the pieces he couldn’t do without: a heavily made-up woman’s eye; the hour hand on the face of a melting Dali clock; New York City on a map of the United States. I’d had it all planned out: he would ask me to help him find it, I would save the day, and we would work on the rest of the puzzle together. But he’d never even so much as asked me when a piece went missing. Not a word. All of his puzzles remained incomplete, and I was left with a box full of important pieces that meant nothing without the others.

Unlike the ones I stole, the evenly white piece I turn over in my hand is underwhelming. Maybe it’s snow at the top of the Himalayan Mountains or the bottom right-hand corner of the Beatles’ White Album. Nothing special. I slip it into my jeans pocket, shrug the accordion door to the side, and step out.

2 lived to tell about it:

Sara Bell said... Reply

I definitely prefer the second again. I can definitely see the phone booth, and now I'm curious about the puzzle piece too! =]

King of the Eyesores said... Reply

@Sara Bell Thank you! I like the revision more, too. :) I appreciate your input, and I'm glad you're curious about the puzzle piece, hehe.

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