By popular demand- The full opening chapter of Blood. Here's what exists so far. I submitted it to a writing workshop today so I'll probably have
lots of ideas on modifying it a week from next monday.
I've been well introduced to the principle that writing really happens in the editorial process, so this is just a rough cut- normally rough is as
far as I get, but I really like these characters (as opposed to other stories I've written where I just liked the world I created) so I may be able
to carry it. (I'd better- I have already agreed to sign up for another semester in my writing class, which means I owe at least 50 pages of this (my
prof seems interested in helping me develop a publishable book, although there are no actual promises of publication.)
BEEP BEEP BEEP Darren shifted one leg out of his bed and strained to reach the alarm on the shelf. It wasn’t there; he’d moved it so he’d have
to wake up. Grudgingly, he stood up and staggered across the soft white carpet to the dresser. He fumbled with the switches. The incessant beep was
replaced by a buzz of static. He tried another, only to be assaulted at even greater volume. Finally he seized the infernal contraption and yanked.
The cord straightened, toppled his CD rack, and then pulled free from the wall. Darren looked at the CD cases scattered about his feet and shrugged.
In three stories of brilliant, blindingly boring bourgeois white there was now exactly one thing out of place. He stepped into the closet, kicking his
dress shoes aside, and picked out jeans and a t-shirt, both black.
“Clean getaway”, Darren mused quietly as he grabbed his car keys from the rack behind the coffee pot... “Well, almost.” His mother was just
coming down the steps.
“Honey, you’re not going to school in jeans and t-shirt are you?”
“Good morning to you too mom,” he muttered.
“If you’re going to wear jeans couldn’t you wear a button-down shirt? You’re not in highschool anymore.”
“Relax, they cost a hundred and twenty bucks.”
“They’re still jeans.”
Darren looked down and drew a breath.
“I gave up football for debate last year. I applied to Mason like you and dad wanted. I had to sell my first car because a friggin’ classic
isn’t good enough for this neighborhood. Is dressing myself just way too much for me to ask?”
She laid a hand on his shoulder and softened her voice in a well practiced routine.
“This is what you want to do isn’t it? You liked working at the firm with your father, right?”
Translation: You’re making up your own mind again; they should have prescribed you the anti-depressants we asked for. Darren mocked in his mind.
“I don’t know. I told you I’d give it a shot. I’m not promising I won’t change my major after a couple of semesters.” Translation: I just
haven’t figured out what I’m going to change it to yet.
She nodded and turned into the kitchen. Darren shook his head and let himself out before she could decide to say anything else.
Darren smiled as he settled into the soft black seat of his Holden Commodore. He’d have preferred something older, but the old man insisted on
something with a dealer warrantee, so he ordered and modified this Australian oddity. GM had cancelled plans to import it as a 5th Generation Camaro
in 2008; making Darren’s perhaps the only one in America. Darren still missed his ‘66 Chevelle. Granted it was in bad shape; but he knew what it
could have been.
He grinned as he jammed the accelerator and immediately pulled the parking brake, wheeling the car into a 180E turn, then casually backed up to the
mailbox. He rifled through the stack of mail. “My money, my bills, my Hot Rod Magazine, mom’s, mom’s, dad’s... moms? Desert Storm Veteran’s
Association Scholarship Fund?” He tossed the mysterious envelope into the passenger seat along with his other mail and pushed the rest back into the
mailbox. He shifted into reverse and lit up the tires again for another J-turn.
Darren couldn’t help staring as Heidi came dancing down the steps from her apartment. She was wearing a skirt; she never wore skirts, but she knew
he loved them on her. She raised her arms, pulling back her long black hair and giving him a better, if still distant view of the gentle bounce
beneath her tight white blouse. She had to be teasing him, but she was good; he never could be sure. He stood up in his seat, hanging out the T-top of
his car and gave her a mischievous smile.
“Well, aren’t you just cool as hell,” she mocked as she approached.
“Not like you though,” he fired back. “Where can I get a ring like that?”
She glanced down at the diamond on her finger and blushed, but played along.
“Oh it’s easy. You get a job at the country club and seduce some hotshot lawyer’s son. They’re not very good kissers but the money...”
He interrupted her with a kiss. She opened her mouth, then giggled when he flinched.
“I told you I was going to get it pierced.”
He laughed, “That was three months ago ... Better late than never.”
“Let’s go. I wanna be alone for a while before your dad gets home.”
Darren moved his textbooks to the back seat and she picked up the mail and climbed in. He glanced at his watch: it was only 6:00. They’d have more
than an hour.
“You know what else you told me about that three months ago...”, he pried.
“Unuh buddy. That was before I knew our honeymoon was so close.”
“What about when I told you?”
“That was special... and it wasn’t the same thing either,” she smirked, “keep your pants on while you can... you’re going to have a very
busy Christmas vacation.”
“That’s not sex though.”, Darren insisted, straining his voice.
She slapped her fingers down on his thigh sharply as she leaned away from his reaching arm.
“Good,”, she giggled, “your guy friends can do it for you until December.”
He knew he’d been beaten before he even started the game, but he had to try. He put it in drive and headed for home.
“I dreamt about you last night,” he confided.
“The one where I tie you up?”
“No, that was only once. The one that keeps coming back- the night we met.”
“You promised to forget about that.”
“No way. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Darren drifted back to in time for a moment, two years, to when his parents had just joined the country club. Talk about hell. He felt like the only
sixteen year old in the world. The only human being under 40 for that matter. His dad had taken the time to brown-nose some judge; in the courtroom or
out, he was always working, and Darren had the chance to sneak out back for a cigarette. Or so he thought. He’d “accidentally” stained his
jacket to get out of it. It hadn’t occurred to him that he looked like a waiter without it. He still remembered the anger in his eyes when Heidi had
shouted for him to get back in the kitchen... but that was before he saw her. One look at those pale, ice blue eyes (and, if he were to be honest with
himself, her stunning figure) convinced him to go ahead and get back in the kitchen. Everybody else would remember it as the worst service they’d
ever had at Pine Ridge. He and Heidi would always remember I as something else.
Heidi snapped him out of the memory, “What’s this Veteran’s letter?”.
Darren did a double-take. “I dunno, I forgot about that. Here, hold the wheel.”
“HEY ” She grabbed the wheel as quickly as he let it go. “Take it back You know I hate that.”
“Then why are you laughing?”
Darren opened the letter, letting off the accelerator just a little. She snatched it from him.
“Take the wheel back, I’ll read it to you.”
Does she always have to win?, he thought to himself. He remembered the ring in the same instant. Stupid question.
Her eyes scanned the page, and her mouth dropped a little. She put the letter down.
“What does it say?”
“Uh... it says get home faster.”
“No really, I want to know.”
“Just... you’ve got to read it for yourself when we get there.”
She shifted in her seat and didn’t say anymore. Darren glanced at her nervously and sped up.
Dear Mrs. Jameson,
The Gulf War Veteran’s Association is pleased to announce that your son, Darren Jameson, has been accepted for full tuition reimbursement under the
Fallen Comrades’ Memorial Fund, having received Sgt. James Riggs’ service record and verified all eligibility criteria.
We are deeply sorry for the loss of your husband, our brother in arms. We are committed to upholding our brother’s legacy through his son. If you
have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the address or phone number listed below.
1SG Tim Rutherford, USMC Ret.
“It’s OK Darren. It’s OK.”
He sat, blank faced, leaning on Heidi’s shoulder. His eyes twitched a bit, and something in the back of his mind felt like crying might be in
order, but he couldn’t. It had to be wrong. It was too specific to be wrong. It was addressed to his mom.
“Do you think it’s true?”, he asked softly, uncertain of wanting an answer.
“There’s only one way to really find out. We’ve got to ask them.”
“I’ve got to ask them.”
“Unuh, we. I’m not letting you go through this alone.”
He blinked disbelievingly. “You do think it’s true.”
“Maybe, we’ve got to go in there and ask your mom.”
“No.” Darren reached for his cell phone. “Mom’s never straight with anyone. I’ll ask Da... Joshu... whatever he is, man to man.”
Heidi watched with wide eyes and both of her hands folded around one of Darren’s, as he dialed. “It’s not true”, she whispered.
“Hello, Mr. Jameson please. It’s his son.” his face hardened as he waited.
“Yes, Joshua, listen I want a simple answer. Are you my father.”
“What kind of question? It’s a yes or no question. Yes or no: was I or was I not born about 9 months after you and mom had sex.”
Heidi’s face went pale. She tightened her grip on his hand and bowed her head.
“God damn it Joshua, tell me the truth- I’ll go in the house and dig my birth certificate out of mom’s files if I have to.”
“You’re not.”... “Yeah, I know.”... “Ugh... no I don’t understand.” *CLICK*
Darren threw the phone to the floorboard, smacking his wrist on the steering wheel as he did. He winced at both injuries and fell against Heidi’s
shoulder. His face went red as he felt the first tears slide down his cheek. He tried to calm down and breathe.
“I’m sorry Heidi.”, he choked.
She ran her fingers through his blonde hair, staring down his lean, muscular back, watching sadly as he shook, trying not to hyperventilate.
“Don’t be sorry sweetie. I’ve cried to you before.”
He fought back the urge to accept it. Did she always have to be right?
He fell into her lap as he felt his breath escape him. Men don’t cry He cried anyway.
His mother met them at the door, cigarette in hand and head bowed. Darren slipped past her without a word and she turned to follow. She pushed the
door shut behind her but Heidi stopped it and let herself in.
“I don’t want to talk about it mom- you ARE my mother, right?”
“You’re god damn right I’m your mother, now get down here. We’ve got to talk about this.”
“NO We HAD to talk about this, 10 years ago ” Heidi rushed to his side and followed him up the steps. Again his mother followed.
“He left me Darren ”
“Like father like son ” The door thundered shut behind them. Just as his mother arrived there was the metallic click of the latch sliding home, as
ominously as prison bars ever could.
“Darren, you can’t just leave. What about us?”, Heidi pleaded.
Darren froze. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and she leaned her head against him.
“Lay down with me for a while and calm down. Then we’ll get her to tell you what happened. You can’t just throw everything away, even if your
family is wrong.”
This couldn’t be happening. He turned to face her and held her by the waist, easing down onto the bed and looking deep into her eyes.
“What am I throwing away?”
“Everything. College. Your home. Our wedding. You don’t have to forgive them. You don’t even have to come around here. Just stay. For me. When
we finish school we’ll go somewhere else, anywhere, and you don’t ever have to see them again.”
Another tear threatened to form.
“Their money isn’t everything... not to me. We’re everything. They didn’t even want me seeing you, but I told you their money couldn’t get
between us, remember? You promised too. I can’t stay here... And you won’t ask me to if you love me.”
“If I love you? Darren How could you say that? You’re talking about leaving me ”
“No,” he shifted closer to her, laying chest to chest with her, holding onto her waist, “Come with me. Marry me anyway. I’ve got enough money
to carry us for a month; two if we’re careful...”
“Then what? Work 2 jobs a piece? Only see each other on our days off? Never have a family of our own?”
“We don’t need their money I can work on cars to support us and we’ll just start at a community college. Everything will be fine; it’ll take
us six years instead of four maybe, and we won’t be getting a house while we’re still teenagers, big deal ”
She closed her eyes. Her lips were quivering. “You’re really going to leave, even if I say no, aren’t you?”
Woah You only get one chance to answer that one right. They both knew the answer, and they both knew it was wrong. He tried to cheat; he kissed her.
She pushed her forehead down, pulling her lips away. He stared, awestruck. She’d never stopped him before. He’d always read her too well to need
“I thought you loved me.”, he drawled, eyes locked on hers for three days-long seconds. He stared though the tears as they began to form.
He just froze as she pushed back and swung her hand down. His cheek stung. His soul fractured. He didn’t even hear her scream.
“I thought you loved me too ”.
She was to the door before he could even stand. He gathered himself and ran too the stairs, only in time to catch one last glimpse of black hair and
soft shoulders, and one last ring of her sobbing voice.
“I love you.”, he muttered to no one.
A shadow fell on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. Mom... I hope you’re happy you bitch. Darren went back to his room. He ignored the suitcases
beneath the bed and grabbed his gym bag from the closet shelf. There wasn’t much worth taking. He eyed the CDs, still scattered on the carpet, then
the other 200 lined neatly on the shelf behind him. “# it.” he growled, walking straight across the pile to his dresser. There was a snap, then
another. He ignored them. He helped himself to three pairs of unimpressive K-mart jeans; they still bore price tags. He’d bought them to work on his
Chevelle, before his “dad” arrived home the same evening and ordered him to get the rust-bucket out of his driveway and get a proper car. He
grabbed a fist full of white undershirts and stuffed them into the bag. Then boxers and socks. To hell with the rest. To hell with his parent’s
Some things are over;
Some things go on.
Part of me you carry;
Part of me is in gone.
Darren winced as he sung the lines. He seized the stereo faceplate and ripped it from the dash. The speakers crackled, then went dead as the lead
wire to came loose.
He didn’t want to cry again, but the pulverized remains of his heart, churning in his stomach like a cyclone, assured him that he would. He gasped
for air, but swallowed as much as he breathed; once the hyperventilating started he’d be done. He let off the accelerator and closed his eyes as
long as he dared.
“Just breathe.” he commanded.
The mind has no authority over the heart. He pulled over lay across the front seat, resting his head against the passenger door, as he’d done not
even an hour ago, when she had been their to cradle him. He imagined her soft arms around his head, her soft blue eyes staring deep into his, which
couldn’t help wander to the voluptuous curves beneath her white blouse.
“I thought you said it would be ok ” he sobbed to her memory. “Why wouldn’t you just come with me? The #ing money? YOU PROMISED ”
He slammed his arm against the dash, throwing himself back out of her imaginary arms. A flash-fire of pain shot through his arm and raced through his
veins, straight to his heart, then both went numb. The dashboard was cracked.
He pulled the letter from his hip pocket, unfolding it for the third time. How could they have lied? How could they have let him call a cheap
replacement his father for eighteen years? BULL #, dad left you If he left, why does the letter call him your husband? LIARS
It was only half a mile to the exit. He could be at Heidi’s apartment in ten minutes. He could beg. He could tell her how much he needed her.
She’d change her mind. She’d come with. She had a father. She couldn’t just leave her family anymore than Darren could stay with his. He
recalled the picture of him and his step-dad in his wallet. He shoved his hand into his pocket, fishing for it angrily. He ripped it out; a twenty
slipped out with it. He ignored it..
“LIAR God Damned LIAR ”, his voice thundered as he began to shred the picture. Blood smeared across the remaining half of his fake dad’s face.
Darren wiped his hand on his jeans yet again, disposing of the blood that remained. He smirked viciously and played back the scene of his step dad
barring the door as he stormed downstairs with his gym bag, and how the pretender had fallen with a single blow.
“I trusted him I forgave him for everything because he was my dad THAT’S WHAT YOU GET ”
Darren had never wanted to kill a man before. The urge was convenient though. He put the car in drive and hammered on the accelerator. He took the
exit, but passed Heidi’s place. To hell with her if the liar’s money mattered to her. To hell with an awkward moment two years ago, when a jet
haired beauty in a kitchen staff uniform had mistaken him for a loafing employee. To hell with stolen kiss just hours later, and that blushing grin
after she gave it right back to him. To hell with graduation night too, and the ring... and the first and only time she’d let him have everything.
None of it meant anything. Maybe it did at the time, but it had only been a month since then; how could it possibly mean anything and fade so fast? To
hell with her. The phone buzzed. He silenced it without bothering to see who it was. There was no one he’d listen to.
The recruiting office was only a few blocks away, in the dingy remains of a dying strip mall on Oak Street. He finally had someone’s footsteps to
Little did he know just how well he followed them. A block behind him, Heidi clutched the phone, sobbing into his voice mail as she stared at the
pregnancy test strip. She’d always teased him about the old rock tunes he set for his answering message. It wasn’t funny anymore.
Some things are over;
Some things go on.
Part of me you carry;
Part of me is gone...