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Drama Sad

I’ve taken to writing by the window, in a makeshift seat made from flattened cardboard and a sofa cushion you picked up from the skip. I’m sitting on my already numb backside, the window glass smeared with post-its about plot and character. The typewriter is crushing my thighs, but I’ve almost lost the feeling in my legs too, so the pain will stop in a minute. Besides, I’m over halfway through.

And this time, I can feel it. This is the manuscript.

I won’t be throwing this one in the fire or throwing balls of its crumpled chapters at the pigeons that come to sit on the dried-out bird bath. I watch them sometimes, not now, not in the winter. But in the summer, I watch as they hover over the once cream stone, which has now taken on a sheen of red. Oxidised rust, or mould. I’m not sure. Cal isn’t sure either, but then he only seems to answer me with a series of grunts.

“How was your day?” Grunt.

“Do you want me to read you my latest chapter?” Grunt.

“Hey, can you pick up some pens from Hobbycraft?” Grunt. Grunt.

I roll my eyes, returning to the typewriter. Half the time, I don’t know if Cal is even in the room. He isn’t supposed to be like this – he’s nineteen. An adult. He isn’t a teenager anymore. I mean, last week he got me an interview at the bookstore on Gower Street. Pelican Books I think it’s called. I laughed in his face. I mean, what does he think I am? I’m sixteen and I’m writing a book. I won’t need to work anywhere once this book is finished. And I’m so close. I’ve drafted and re-drafted for years and years. It’s a project which has haunted me since the day I was seven. A little girl on a farm who sees and hears things that aren’t there. And the Father who left her, the Mother who died, and the brother who stayed for the fallout.

I’m surprised Cal hasn’t turned me over to social services. Most of the time, I might as well not be here.

The key turns in the door. Quickly, I resume typing, my fingers like hawks on the keys. The typewriter was liberated from a skip at a site Cal was working at last Christmas. It’s the best thing he ever got me. Before the typewriter, all my manuscripts were hand-written. It took me twice as long to work my spider-web scrawl into something legible.

“Didn’t they teach you how to write at school?” Cal asked the first time he saw my work. I grinned and threw a cushion at him. He apologised afterward. I frowned.

I never knew he hadn’t been joking.

Besides, he should have known that I’d dropped out of school last year, before my GCSE Mocks. I had a manuscript to finish.

I hear his footsteps gathering like raindrops on the floorboards. We had the carpet ripped up and sold. It bought us two week’s worth of basil and tomato soup from Aldi – my favourite.

“Tomato and Basil? What kind of monster are you?” Call smirked. He lives off pop tarts. In fact, if I strain, I can hear him moving around the kitchen, opening a packet with his teeth. Grumbling, I settle back into the dilapidated cushion. It’s alright for him. He’s a hollowed-out tube. Food runs through him like the Thames. Carbohydrates and fat drop off him, but with me they are sitting ducks.

My brow scrunches. Great. Now I’ve forgotten what I was going to type. I’m sure it was a brilliant description. My High School friends always said I had a knack for harmonising phrases which should never be together.

Cal enters and slumps onto the sofa. He’s walked with a slight limp ever since last year, when he broke his ankle on a building site by falling into a rather large pothole. It’s never been the same, but at least he takes these painkillers every day so it doesn’t bother him as much as it should do.

“Hey there stranger”. I offer him a smile. He grunts. My smile widens. The world is whole again.

He doesn’t talk while I type. He sits on the sofa, throws a few painkillers into his mouth and drifts off until it’s almost midnight. I finish up for the day, and head upstairs to place my typewriter in its special box, which is a drawer I removed from a large chest of drawers at one of Cal’s building sites. His clients were throwing it out. The wood was chipped, and it stank of what we assumed was urine. I kept one of the drawers. Cal taught me how to sand it, how to clean it. Now, it houses my prized possession, cushioned by one of Cal’s best shirts. He doesn’t go out into town anymore and the last boyfriend he had left to study Marine Biology in Perth.

I pause on the stairs, typewriter in hand. Harsh breathing resounds in the living room. Rolling my eyes, I set the typewriter onto the top step and trot back to the sofa.

“I hope you’re not going to make that noise all night,” I say. “I need to sleep otherwise I won’t be able to write tomorrow”.

Cal looks up through glassy eyes.

“Sis”. He reaches out; his hand catches my sleeve. “You don’t have to do this. These people, they’re like my clients. They pick the bigger companies because they’re bigger. They’re well-known. I only get work because I’m an Ant. I’m a worker bee serving the hive. It’s the same with writing. You don’t need to be a Literature Professor to know that. They only pick the writer whom they know won’t let them down”. I pull away, snarling.

“Let them down? Is that what you think I’m doing? I’m trying to fix things. You go out there and you stand around drinking coffee and eating biscuits. I saw you coming home with a whole packet last week. Is that what this is? You think you know what’s best, but you don’t. You dropped out of school when you were thirteen. I’m the one who writes. I create stories from nothing. What do you do Cal?”

My brother chuckles, shaking his head. He looks up, but he’s staring through me. I scoff, turning away. He’s always looked at me that way, ever since we were kids. Just because I couldn’t disassemble the TV and put it back together again. Just because I didn’t know how to check the oil in a car. I’m the one with the legacy. I wag my finger.

“I’m going to fix things. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I know the publishing world and any minute now, I’ll have finished my work. And then we’ll be out of here. We’ll get a new house, one in that Wychwood Park that we used to drive past. We’ll get a car, and I’ll have a horse in the back field. You don’t understand but you will”. I turn to leave, but Cal grabs my wrist. His fingers are like galvanised bones.

“Let me go,” I snap.

“I don’t need to understand. I can see it. Just get some sleep kiddo”.

I frown. He hasn’t called me kiddo since I was eight.

I shake my head. I don’t need to sleep, not tonight. If I finish my book earlier, maybe by tomorrow if my writing speed is anything to go by, we’ll get out of this dump in a week. Perhaps two weeks.

I’ll write us a path out of here.

“Goodnight Cal,” I snap.

“Kiddo”—

I storm off before he can finish.

The bedroom doors slams. In moments, I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed. It used to be a mattress on the floor until, for my birthday, Cal bought me a frame. He put it together while I sat on the floor, typing and re-typing my second chapter. My second chapter is by far my best writing.

The lights flicker out at ten. I curse, stepping up to open the curtains. I bet Cal’s turned off the electricity. That’s just like him – to do something big and passive aggressive just to stop me from succeeding. I glance up from the windowpane. I know what this is. He’s jealous. I always scored higher than him. I’m the one who calculates the income every month. I’m the one who does our tax returns. I’m the one who fended off social services. Cal would have been arrested if it weren’t for me. And this is how he repays me… Glaring, I jump back onto the bed and resume my penultimate chapter. I’ll be the one to light the flame, to lead us out of this cave. He may be content being a Neanderthal, but I’m certainly not. Society has moved on. Why shouldn’t we?

I hear nothing in the darkness, using old torches to light my way. I change the batteries every hour. I even zip across to Cal’s room – his bed is empty – to snatch a candle from his bedside table.

I’ll write us out of this. He doesn’t have to worry anymore.

And I write. Faster, faster, faster. Tap-tapping in time with the dawn chorus which echoes like a gong throughout the room. I can’t hear Cal, who would usually have got up by now to head off to work. He doesn’t have a car, so he walks to the sites.

“Cal?” I call out. No answer. He probably left in a mood, without saying goodbye. That’s just like him. Sometimes, he doesn’t talk to me for days on end. It’s like living with a silent hurricane.

“Cal?” I sigh. He’s definitely gone out. I’ll have to venture downstairs alone to get some breakfast. I think there’s still some grapes left in the fridge. The red ones are my favourite. I can pretend they’re sapphires just pillaged from a corrupt tyrant. Or perhaps they’re rubies, stolen from a desert siege. Or perhaps they’re pustules, scraped from the very skin of Time.

Tiptoeing, I scuttle downstairs. There’s no one in the kitchen. The front door is locked, and Cal’s shoes are strewn on the welcome mat. I roll my eyes. He’s always been slovenly.

My face twitches. His shoes are still here.

“Cal, you better not be ill. I told you I can’t do a paper round. All the bikes you get me are rusty and old”. Again, no answer. My tongue drops, cracking against my teeth like a whip. Perhaps he’s still asleep. I wouldn’t be surprised.

“Cal, come on. You layabout. You can’t sleep on the floor.” I chuckle, stepping forward to the shape lying on its back on the wooden boards.

I stop.

Freeze.

I’m standing in the eye of a hurricane.

I can hear nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing, until the clap-clap of my typewriter surfaces, banging like a hammer against my skull.

“Cal?” My voice comes out as a strangled cry and I’m kneeling by his side. And I finally see it. The way his hair has thinned, and the way his cheeks have sunk into the cradle of his skull. I see the froth, or perhaps vomit, which has dried at the corners of his mouth. I see the bottle of painkillers in his cold hand.

His broke his ankle in three places.

They gave him painkillers, the strongest painkillers they could find.

And I never noticed until weeks later, when I asked to read him a paragraph from chapter four.

“It’s okay,” I tell him. “I’ll write us out this”.

He does not reply.

Not even for me.  

November 29, 2020 14:33

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7 comments

Maya W.
10:34 Dec 01, 2020

Hello Eve! I'm glad that I decided to check out one of your stories, because I am not disappointed at all! Very well written. There were a few grammar errors, but the other comments have pointed them out already. It's very interesting for a writer to portray another writer (even if fictional) in a bad light, which makes it subversive, and I love subversive, so yay! The ending was a little rushed, I think. That's my only criticism, though. Would you mind checking out some of my stories here, too? I think you might like them, though even if...

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☆ Ariadne ☆
05:55 Dec 01, 2020

I won’t be throwing this one in the fire or throwing balls of its crumpled chapters at the pigeons that come to sit on the dried-out bird bath. ~ "Birdbath" is one word. “Hey there stranger”. ~ Period within the quotation marks. “Hey there stranger." “Sis”. ~ Same thing here. ...They only pick the writer whom they know won’t let them down”. ~ And here. They only pick the writer whom they know won’t let them down”. ~ Again. “Kiddo”— ~The dash goes inside the quotations too. “Cal, you better not be ill. I told you I can’t do...

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Skyler Woods
11:49 Dec 08, 2021

I loved your story. Just wanted to say that if you have any fantasy or scary stories that you want me to narrate then follow this link! Also, I'd love to have you as my subscriber! https://youtube.com/c/AfterDarkFairyTales

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Izzie P.
17:21 Apr 23, 2021

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11:08 Jan 27, 2021

Splendid, superb story

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Christy Sutton
21:28 Dec 05, 2020

Great job on your story. You did well showing the desperation of the girl and her brother. The first-person approach really highlights her frantic obsession with writing their way out. I look forward to reading more of your work!

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20:55 Nov 30, 2020

This is a really good story Eve, the protagonist's misplaced ambitions come across really well, and the eye of the hurricane moment was a fitting analogy. I found it interesting how you never mentioned what the protagonist's story was about, and I think that adds to the story well. It was just about completion, just about the number of chapters. And Cal's moment of expressing how there's a good chance the story won't be accepted was really fitting. In the way the character approached the writing process I don't think it would be. They were s...

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