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Realistic Fiction > A Glass Depression

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message 1: by Anthony (new)

Anthony | 140 comments (This is part of a short story that I am writing. I am debating whether or not I should expand on it, so let me know if I should continue it. And feel free to make suggestions!)

The bottle sat on the crumbling street next to a sickly green gutter, its carved surface holding the dim light of the day. If you were to look at it from any angle, you would see a reflection of the battered alleyway—a subtle shift here or there, the light dimmer in one spot, the roof of the creamery slanting toward the ground—tiny variations that may or may not matter, a million different ways for the future to present itself.

As it was, my small dirt encrusted hand reached for the bottle, obscuring the light, the image whirring by dizzyingly before being placed in the holey rucksack in my arms. I inspected the haul: five glass soda bottles. If I went to the deli, the shopkeeper could recycle the bottles and give me a nickel, just enough to get a new bottle of soda for lunch.

Running through the alley, I took care with my small fortune. Money was hard to get, especially with the uncertain economic times my parents kept talking about. Every day it seemed like a job was lost, a family was broken, or some impoverished, unlucky fellow finally stopped digging in a field long enough to drop into the toiled earth as though it were a fresh grave. I felt bad about collecting bottles, but with the little bit of money my parents gave me, I needed some way to finance my one luxury. It was what made me forget, however momentary, about the current conditions of the world.

On the street corner sat the deli, a small ramshackle building with peeling paint and a crumbling foundation. Children my age and younger loitered in the entrance, gossiping or enthusiastically starting shoving matches to get in line for penny candy. The shelves were stocked with all-purpose goods, from the usual canned fruits and vegetables to the cigarette packs and stockings of the adult world that was rapidly approaching me with its wide open arms.

I saw a movie poster behind the register, some unknown actress dressed in lavish swathes of fabric and a feathered cap. My face crumpled into a scowl. Who in their right mind would want to dress like such a frilly little thing? I doubted any people could afford the cost of a play, let alone such a garish outfit. A quiet sigh escaped as it dawned on me that I was being too conservative yet again.

Of course, eating nothing but potatoes for a year while your father is looking for work can have that effect. Times like that made me question: was I really ten years old?

The bulky man standing in back of the counter was a Polish immigrant, his English rather poor and his manners absent. The filthy apron around his waist was covered in dirt and grease, the white shirt underneath not any better.

“Hallo, Dolores. What you like?”

“I want some soda and a sub.” I gave him a sneer. “And don’t dirty them with your grubby fingers, you hear?”

He gave me a scornful look, saying “exzactle what I say, horrid child” but replaced it with a knowing grin when he turned away from me, reaching under the counter for sandwich ingredients. It was a game we played, this shopkeeper and I. We called each other names or made up crazy theories about how the world was screwed up because of the Whites, or the Polish, or whoever. Our squabbles were meaningless fun, really, a way to relieve stress; we were all in the same position.

I exchanged the bottles for the beverage and bought a sub with the dime my parents had given me earlier. The man put my purchase in a brown bag before handing it to me. With lunch in hand, I headed for the train tracks.

While running past a street lamp’s orange glow a pothole was in my path. I veered to the right, tripping in my haste. A sharp pain shot through my side, and when I lifted up the front of my shirt, taking care to lift the bandages wrapped around my torso gingerly, I noticed once again the reddened scrapes. They were scabbed over, except for a cracked line letting lose a thin trickle of blood. A ripple of fear had shot through me at the sight of the pothole, some maddening fear that comes from the depths of a person’s mind, where all of our horrors reside. While I hobbled to my destination I recalled the event of my injury.

* * *

One day, when money was low and in place of food around the kitchen table were the haggard faces of my parents, Father told me about a new house rumored to belong to a well off couple in want of social seclusion. The house was being built from scratch—the nerve of those people unnerved me to no end, considering most people were grateful for simply avoiding starvation—and during one of father’s job hunts, he had seen a stack of copper pipes piled carelessly in a space set aside for a closet. Copper was pure profit, like gold but with a purpose, considering it was used in houses. He tried to convince me to take them.

“But that would be stealing,” I said

“It could be considered that,” my father started out, “but would it really? After all, everyone is suffering from poverty. What gives someone the right to waltz in to our neighborhood and flaunt their wealth? Besides, they are probably either a dog of the government or someone that makes a living conning people out of their money.”

So after debating whether or not robbing would be acceptable, even in our conditions, I finally agreed to the “appropriate” use of the copper. At the first sight of dusk I left to investigate the house.

The construction crew was off for the day, so sneaking inside proved to be no problem. The house was a bungalow on an elevated stretch of land, slightly beyond the town limits as to dissuade people from approaching it. In the dark, the structure resembled much more than the skeleton described by Father; it was a cave, hulking and intimidating, as though it lead deep into the earth. Putting the thought aside I rushed past the door-less frame.

The interior was bare, unornamented walls and a hardwood floor all I could make out from the lack of windows. Only when I stepped further into the space could I tell the presence of something. A rhythmic sound filled the room, a monotonous ticking noise coming from the far wall. A glint of fading light, probably from an unfinished wall, reflected off of round glass and Maplewood. A clock stood alone, the hands telling the wrong time considering they were a minute from midnight.

A lack of openings, along with the coming darkness of night, made it impossible to see where I was going, but I inched forward until eventually coming across the outline of a door. There was no light, no sound except the steady ticking of the clock, matching me stride for stride. Tick. Tick. Tick. I took a blind step through the doorway and a sudden weight seemed to drag me downward. Tick.

And then silence surrounded me.

I tumbled forward, the floor disappearing. Fractured planks of wood caught me under the arms, the sting of scrapes running the length of my torso. Warm liquid spread through my clothes. A shrill yell was wrenched from me. Looking past my dangling feet, into the gaping maw of wooden teeth and a stomach of infinity, I saw where the metal pipes had gone.

Below me was the boiler room, more finished than the house, a network of pipes going on continuously. Small lanterns, cheaper than electricity, were hanging in various spots, the glow expanding off of the copper until I was surrounded in a sea of roiling orange.

I clutched the boards, trying to lift my body out of the abyss. If my grip loosened, I would have cracked my head open on a pipe, and if I was found, there would be nothing but a mangled body. Or would I have simply ended up an unsolved missing child case? Terror overcame me as my screams went unnoticed; I was too far away for anyone to hear, for anyone to help.

“Please, is anyone there? Help! Help!” I screamed until my throat was raw, until my words became incoherent sobs. All I could do was begin to drag my body out of the pit, the heat becoming intolerable in the poorly ventilated space.

Using all of my strength to painstakingly rise, nothing but dancing orange to keep me company, I somehow managed to escape, pulling my body up to the safety of the room. I sat there sobbing wildly for a while, looking at the broken clock. It had become unwound, the time still a minute to midnight.

* * *

Once I was free I limped to the house of a family friend. She was a nurse that worked in a makeshift hospital run from the home of the town doctor. She gave me a worried look, saying, “my lord, what happened to you, Dolores?”

My reply was simple. “I had an accident playing outside.”

Medical people were supposed to be taken in with reservations; I made up a ridiculous excuse about brush burns and cuts from falling down a hill and into a tangle of branches in the small forest outside of the city. She probably knew it was a lie, but she never asked me about what really happened or mentioned it to my parents. People of that time had a code of honor. We may have been poor, but we kept our word and learned not to concern ourselves with the affairs of others.

She bandaged me up, told me to wash out the cuts from time to time to prevent infection, and I went home, my parents completely oblivious as I told them the pipes were missing.

My mother came out of our open kitchen and stood rigidly by my father, who was sitting in the living room with a pile of paperwork, a spatula in her hand. In all of the panic, it never occurred to me that she would be upset. But considering how late it was, along with her obvious effort to cook, I was probably lucky to be standing.

So I was not shocked when I saw the look of contempt in her eyes as she said, “You are treading on dangerous ground, Dolores. I put out the effort to make a good meal, to make something out of the scraps we have, but apparently you can’t have the decency to come home for our nightly meal.”

I wanted to make her understand, but somehow, it seemed pointless. Maybe it was the stern sound of her voice, or the set of her shoulders, like nothing could touch her. But I most likely told myself this out of respect for my parents. I could clearly see the slight glaze as I looked into each of their eyes, and I knew that one wrong move could make them snap.

After a long talk, full of impending punishments they would no doubt forget, they told me to get ready for bed and forget about the pipes. So I listened to them, washing up and getting dressed for bed, even though I knew sleep would never find me.

I stayed awake that night, staring at the ceiling of my room while listening to their hushed, strained voices, wondering if falling into the pit would have been any different from my existence.

message 2: by Bella (new)

Bella  Holmes (bellaholmes) | 7 comments That's awesome!!!!! I would love to hear more. Please.... I think you have a very deep passionate book that needs to be finished

message 3: by Anthony (new)

Anthony | 140 comments Wow, I really should check this more often. Thank you very much for your comments!

@ Anika

I'm glad you could see some of the themes I am developing (even if it's still pretty early in the story.) I don't know why I didn't get an alert about your response. Eh, Goodreads was probably acting up again (I'm absolutely certain that technology hates me.)

@ Bella

Glad to hear that you liked it. I wasn't getting replies for a while,(or notifications, so thank for that, Goodreads) so I thought that people were not interested in the story.

I have been working on a lot of different projects lately (Which includes a short story and novel I have been working on. And the outline for my NaNoWriMO novel.) But I am happy to say that I will most likely have the next part of this posted either today or tomorrow, for those of you still interested in reading. So thanks again for taking the time to read and comment on my writing. :)

message 4: by Anthony (new)

Anthony | 140 comments Sorry about the wait. I revised the second part of this, so enjoy!

There was an outlook, a cliff directly over the train tracks. Children often went there to play games or watch the train go by. Because of the lack of money, we had to be creative. A battered broomstick and a round stone could easily pass for a ball and bat. We could cut out strips of colored cloth for team markers in a game of football. Girls resigned to the simpler things in life like housework and cleaning played with paper dolls. If they were unable to afford them, some arts and crafts project would ensue until they were holding a homemade version. There was nothing wrong with such things, but I wanted to live, to experience all the bumps and bruises that reckless children could get. That concept in itself was the very idea of freedom to me. Every time I was injured during a game with the boys, whether it was a scrape or a bump, I wore it as a badge of honor, not caring if other girls shrunk away from me when passing by.

The tracks were pristine, bars of wrought iron forming a path to the world beyond our humble town. With trains you knew the destination before you set off, no second guessing or worrying about directions. There was a simple beauty to it, watching such a powerful machine whisk people off to a planned area, offering shelter from the muddy streets and downcast sky.

I used to imagine what it would be like to ride a train. A man would accompany to my seat, not because I was some pathetic female, but because I had dignity and poise, because it felt good to be admired. After the ride I would be content with ordering a lunch from a food cart without worrying about money, although not too much as to disgrace myself in front of fellow neighbors. No matter how hungry you were, manners were of top priority. Prince or pauper, you made sure to let on an image of stability.

While it felt good to daydream, reality always came rushing back. Poor people may not have mattered much to the world, but who was to say that the rest of the world mattered to us? We had our own politics to worry about.

If you thought about it, what defined class? Sure, the rich had fancy places to live and were able to cater to their every desire, but could that truly be the meaning of class? What if a poor person was to inherit a vast fortune from some distant relative, for example? They were rich, but they did not fit the social mold. Who would want to be constantly dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, scared to have their dignity or status tarnished at the slightest upset? With money came power, but with power came madness. If you caged an animal, making it obey the rules insisted upon by a building, never letting it roam free on a pleasant afternoon, wouldn’t it go mad as well?

Once I reached the top of the cliff I saw a boy standing alone. He was one of the children I spent time with in town when I wanted to play a sport. He was lanky, his clothes too baggy on his narrow frame. A cap was askew on his head, a dull gray thing slightly more worn than the tan trousers he was wearing, but not as bad as the thin shirt he was wearing, which frayed at the bottom.

“Hey, Dole. How you been?”
“Fine, I guess. I brought some lunch. We can share before we get the gang, George.” I said, shaking the bag in my hand.

He grinned, thanking me for the food before we sat down to stare at the tracks. The sandwich was cut in half, so I handed him one and we took turns sipping from the bottle of soda. Things seemed a little awkward between us, but maybe it was my imagination. I wasn’t old enough to like him in that way, and he was still in that phase where girls seemed gross and frilly.

We made jokes about parents, talked about what we should play, and goofed off. Some of the awkwardness disappeared as we became lost in the lightheartedness of childhood.

But maybe for a fraction of time, sitting together on that outlook, I thought about being with someone like him, someone who was easy to hang out with, no expectations or odd silences, no hushed voices behind closed doors, just a simple life free of worry and expectations.

He stared to lean in to saying something when a set of screams were projected from behind us. Two little boys, twins to be exact, were running toward the cliff edge.

Everyone in town knew about the McNutlty boys. Unable to be controlled by their parents they roamed from dusk to dawn, spreading mayhem with their stunts. The week before they had been caught raiding a food cart, having a food fight in the streets. The food was spread all over town by the time the cops caught the boys. I couldn’t determine which was a sorrier sight: the people staring with mouths agape as food streamed out of streets, homes, and windows, or how some people stared at the wasted food with a certain longing.

Of course, they were better known for their reckless jumping addiction. They would pick a tall point in town, usually a roof or a winding staircase, and without any reservations jump. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush they craved, numbing out all else, those precious moments of weightlessness when they were in mid-fall where everything was blurred and undefined.

“Stop! You’re going to hurt yourselves, you crazy kids,” I called at them. I stood up, George following my lead, and dashed toward the boys.

Both boys were coming to a halt, their gossamer strands of pale gold hair billowing in the breeze. Then with a quick glance between them, as to convey some secret message with mischievous eyes. They held hands and jumped, flinging their cherub bodies into the open air.

George and I dropped to the ground, yelling after them. The drop was comparable to the height of an apartment complex. We leaned over the edge, afraid of what grotesque mess might be awaiting our innocent eyes.

Only to find an unexpected scene. There was no blood, no crumpled mess of unidentifiable limbs. Instead, the boys were bouncing on the tracks, laughing and carrying on as though their bones were rubber.

Together we walked toward the town, the previous thoughts of play abandoned. The McNulty boys were slightly ahead of us, babbling in some childish language we had forgotten. George was somberly staring at the ground.

“It’s good luck them boys are used to that sort of stuff, you know?”

“Yeah,” I said half-heartedly. “You can’t live around here without being pretty tough, though.” I paused, looking at the houses on the way to the McNulty home. “Just look at what we’re used to.”

The dilapidated houses of our neighbors were all around, sagging in disrepair. The road was covered in a fine layer of dirt and trash, the streetlights starting to flicker on one by one illuminating the curb. A shadow passed over the sky, followed by a streak of lightning.

I glanced up, watching the shift in the clouds. George raised his head. “Dole, do you ever wonder ‘bout what’s out there? Like what’s waiting for us?”

“All the time, George.”

“Do you think there’s something out there for us? A happy ending after all of this mess?” And for a moment the look on his face was pure longing, wistfully so. I just wanted to reach out to him, maybe give him a definitive answer. But what in life was actually definitive? Then only thing we knew was that it had a beginning and end. We could wonder about those, or we could live somewhere in the middle.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” I said. The sadness in his expression was unbearable. So I was about to launch into some positive reinforcement, but as I took in a sharp breath something happened overhead.

A loud crash sounded from above, making us all stop as the rain began to fall. We ran to an alcove, a small overhang providing shelter from the storm. The road was soon saturated with a sheet of water, a gust of wind making our small bodies sway. George shielded his face from the wind. “Maybe we should wait out the storm.”

I watched as strewn objects were thrown about. There was no end to the storm in sight; I knew from the countless shifts in our weather that it would stay awhile.

“We just have to deal with it. It’ll pass soon. Besides, their parents are probably worried sick,” I said, pointing to the two huddled boys, no longer vibrant with energy. “The sooner we face it, the sooner we can get home.”

With each of us grabbing one of their hands, we led the boys through the drenched streets. While running through the rain the boy whose hand I held tripped, prompting me to balance him with a firm tug on his arm. There was an instant where I looked down to make sure he was okay that I saw a reflection on the ground. The sky and buildings around us were reflected, as were our own images. I saw myself standing there, the reflection rippling with the steps I took, while one variation changed what I saw from what I knew. The glow of the street lamps cast an orange hue over the image, encasing me as it consumed the drab houses.

And then the image disappeared, the indentations left by my shoes swirling the water into images that passed by before I could comprehend them. We continued through the streets until we found the McNulty home. By then we were all soaked, which threw the parents of the boys into hysterics.

After thanking us profusely George and I left. With a quick goodbye, George and I departed for our respective houses. I watched him leave until the horizon swallowed his image before I set off, enduring the storm ahead while the water below my feet continued to shift.

message 5: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) This was wonderful! The writing, the characters, the plot, the dialogue... everything! :D

I look forward to reading more. ^w^

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