"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The teenaged pulse

I checked into my own blog today to see if any of my friends had posted anything interesting on their blogs and found a bunch of stuff to appeal to my writing career and one post from Ali ranting about people substituting Z for S because they think it's cute and she thinks it's criminally insane. As you can tell, that's the one I read (and agree with, by-the-by) and none of this has a thing to do with my post today except that it's easy to get distracted when you really should be working.

What I planned to talk about on today's post is that I'm writing the third mystery and am, as always, trying to get it believable (getting it "correct" is something we'll leave alone). This particular story line involves a group of teenaged boys, including Blanche Debussy's son, Nick. For the uninformed, Blanche is my protagonist's best friend. Picture Suzanne Pleshette, make her a coroner, and that's Blanche.

Although I do remember being a teenager, I've never been a teenaged boy. But my son has. Technically, at 19, he still is. So I tried to get some information out of him that could help fortify my teen characters.

"My victim is a 17-year old boy," I began. "He breaks into a house with his friends, the house catches fire, and he dies. Now the detectives are in his room, looking for reasons for him to be in that house. What would his room look like?"

*insert crickets chirping*

"A room doesn't define an individual, Mom."

"I know that, but, like, would he be into World of Warcraft? Would he have posters on the walls? What kind of music would he like?"

"How would I know? You sound like there should be a stereotype."

"No, I don't want a cliche." I tried again. "I don't want to have him listening to last year's music, or playing games that aren't popular. In general, teens like to do what's popular with their crowd."

"Not all teens."

I was beginning to understand why Peri never had kids. "Listen to the first two words of that sentence. 'In. General.' Not 'All Teens All The Time.'"

Gradually, with much cajoling, I found out that the boy would have posters of First Person Shooter games and probably listens to a genre of music called Dubstep. Originally, I was going to have Marcus read my first chapter, but after my verbal head-banging incident, I'm not certain if that's a wise idea.

So I'm going to let you read it. Let me know what you think. Has this young fictitious boy become real to you, or is he still a little Pinocchio?

* * * * *

Cool, sparkly.

The drugs swept the teenager's mind, swirling the ceiling above him until it was nothing but darkness from which stars pulsed. He reached out for a handful but they eluded his grasp, preferring to settle on his fingertips. He smiled, the corners of his mouth feeling stretched away from their usual pout.

Dad complains I'm grumpy, but it's his fault. He barely speaks to me, anyway. Good thing. "Why can't you just," whatever, it's all he ever says. Straighten up, go to school, be normal. What for?

Mom's always telling me how she understands, she was just like me, blah blah blah. What does she know? She doesn't know what school is like, all those crappy teachers, whining crappy assignments. Homework is useless. I already know what I want to know. If I don't, it's because it's boring.

My friends are all I've got, but they're all I need.

He scowled, his hand lowering to his chest. These guys hung out with him because his parents were so generous. Mom and Dad fed them, let them swim in the pool, and were kind enough to leave beer where they could get at it. He supplied the video games and kept his parents at bay by apologizing each time the bar was raided.

These drugs are fine, def wicked. His body felt better than it ever had. For several minutes, he focused on his breath. He felt his bones move apart to give the air somewhere to go, then relax back into each other when he no longer needed that gulp. In… out… in… out…

Dylan said it was some kind of cocktail. Alex giggled. Cock. Tail. Cock tail. He laughed out loud. That Dylan was a riot.

His hallucination shifted, from night to day. Now he saw blue skies and white clouds above him. Reaching up to a cloud, he felt velvet run through his fingers, and saw a trail of white follow his hand.

The clouds in front of him began to turn grey and dirty. The air coagulated in a brown haze around him. His ribs no longer spread, although his lungs fought for oxygen. The air they drew in smelled of smoke and stung all the way down. He coughed himself out of the dream and looked around.

The room was dark and unknown to him. He remembered; this was not his home. They had broken into this place, thinking it was abandoned. Each over-filled room told them they were wrong, but no one was home, so they explored it before the white powder and whiskey took effect. Alex had ended up in what looked like an old lady's bedroom. A vanity held fancy glass bottles, and a porcelain doll nestled in the pillows that were covered by a tufted bedspread.

He heard his name being called. "Alex. Hey, Alex."

Opening his mouth to answer, he coughed again. The air was getting thicker with smoke. He saw shadows pass by the doorway, and tried again, but his throat was too raw for noise. One of the shadows paused.

"Dude, we gotta get out of here," it said, then coughed.

"Come on." Dylan's voice sounded hoarse but loud. "Alex is probably already out."

He didn't hear anything after that, so he rolled to his stomach and began to crawl. The smoke swirled around his body, much like the imaginary stars. He wished the smoke was the illusion.

Dragging his body around the corner of the room, he looked down the hallway. Red-hot light sizzled upon his face. He backed into the bedroom again and saw curtains. With an effort, he pushed to his hands and knees and scooted to the lacy ruffles. He pulled them open and yanked on the window. It was locked.

The room continued to fill with smoke and heat. His breathing felt like a fish gasping for water, and his head grew light. He felt around the frame, searching for a latch. Finding one, he slid it, the only direction it would go, and felt the window casing spring up. He reached both hands forward to remove the screen and slide to safety.

Wow, am I going to have a story to tell the guys.

That's when he felt the security bars. His last bit of effort was to grab them and prove their immobility. He slid down, to the floor beneath the window, and listened to the pretty glass bottles exploding on the vanity, as they shattered from the heat. Rolling to his side, he looked at the shards on the carpet, lit by the flames around the doorway.

He reached out his hand to them, sparkling like stars.


Tameri Etherton said...

Marcus cracks me up. Yep on the Dubstep, sure on the first person shooter posters (I've never seen any in any of Michael's friends' rooms, but it could happen). Right now Michael has a Zelda poster, Minecraft posters (actually they are huge foam core board he, um, borrowed from the convention in Vegas) on his ceiling and a ton of airsoft stuff on his shelves. He's a little bit younger than your character, so his room might not be typical of what you're going for, but I thought you got the feel just right.

Gayle Carline said...

Thanks, Tameri. Marcus cracks me up, too.

Ali Trotta said...

Love this, Gayle. Really well done. :-)

Also, thank you for the shout out. Or should that be shoutout? Both look wrong to me, now.

Gayle Carline said...

Shout out. Shout-out. Shoutout. Damned if I know.

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