I want to do this. I need to do this. I can do this.
He is hiding in a wooden shed that has been repurposed from wood taken from an old outhouse to now hold garden tools. In the summer heat, the smell of urine and fecal matter permeates the small space. He wants to puke.
Is that strong enough to show what is happening or am I telling the story again? Why don’t I get what that means anyway---’show, don’t tell’?
I miss my old Smith Corona typewriter. I would love to rip the page with these words from the platen and scrunch it up into a paper ball. Pushing the delete button gives little release to the dejection I am feeling.
Why is writing so …intimidating, for me?
He can hear the shouts of the men searching for him. He is attuned to his father’s voice and can discern those low, nasal sounds in the cacophony of sounds that reach him in his hiding place. They are getting closer.
Ok. So what happens now? Do I give him a name or let him continue in the story without one? Why is he hiding? This story is definitely not working.
The door handle jiggles and he freezes, every fiber of his body taut and strung out with tension. He has locked the door from the inside but he knows it will only delay the inevitable capture. He just can’t run any further.
Then he hears his death knell; in the chimes of barking. Sparky is with them! That stupid dog has brought them here. It takes only seconds for the door to be broken from its hinges. He feels the splintering of wood as it pulls from the door frame. He stops breathing.
Do I introduce some of the characters? Why are they important? The prompt suggested setting the story in a town of cowards. Why are they cowards?
“I know he’s in here. His dog’s led us right to the shed so set the dog lose.” That man speaking is his father.
He can hear Sparky’s excited sniffs draw closer to the hole in the dirt below the floor. Will the huge planter be enough to say that he couldn’t possibly be there? He cannot hope beyond that thought. He is trembling violently.
“Hey, move this, will ya?” His father’s voice again. And the simulated stone is shoved to the side.
“Nothing but boards here.” That voice belonged to his father’s friend. “There’s no way he could be hiding under there. What a dumb dog you have.”
“Let’s see,” his father says with a grunt.
He steels himself for the inevitable as the men jump on the boards above him. He’s going to be crushed for sure. But his makeshift tunnel made of an old metal tub and padded on the outside with old clothes holds.
“Please don’t paw at the boards. Please go Sparky.” He sends the thought telepathically to the dog. He has washed the clothing in strong vinegar to remove the human smells on them. Was it enough to prevent the dog’s nose from picking up his scent?
“Come on, you mangy dog” his father snarls. Sparky yelps; he has been hit with a club--the sound of hard wood on soft fur and bone tissue is unmistakable. His dog, his only friend, is paying for his moment of reprieve.
Not happy with those sentences but need to move the story along.
Where are they? And why is a boy being hunted rather than sought??
The shed door slams and vibrates against the broken frame. The voices decrease in volume like a tide that flows away to a distant shore. There are muted shouts but they retreat as the search resumes somewhere else.
He crawls through a side hole in the tub. On his belly, he moves a short distance underground to an opening the men did not find. He pushes himself up outside the shed. He takes a huge breath, tries to calm his nerves and to capture valuable oxygen in his lungs.
Should I explain how he made the tunnel? Will the reader equate it with a prison break from a prison camp? Why did he have access to the shed in the first place?
He has only made plans to this point. He has been so sure that he would be captured and taken back before he made it to the shed. He now has no idea how to avoid the men hunting him. Overwhelming despair causes him to sink to the ground, behind an evergreen tree with low branches that hides this opening. They have always successfully blocked access to the highway from the town. He knows this from previous attempts. Town residents will know he is trying to leave again; no one will help him. Why does he even bother? Resignation settles over him like a heavy, wet woolen blanket. He fights the suffocation he feels.
Rats. I’m telling it again.
“I’ve only made plans as far as the shed. They have always caught me before I’ve made it this far. I have no idea how to avoid them now.” His thoughts are filled with overwhelming despair and he sinks to the ground, behind the evergreen tree with the low branches that had hid this opening.
“Last time, I got to the eastern highway but they had put up barbed fencing all along the road. I don’t have wire cutters anyway. And the time that that lady had hid me inside her pantry cellar, they had whipped us both in the school yard. There isn’t a townsperson who will help me. Why do I even bother?” Resignation settles over him like a heavy, wet woolen blanket. He fights the suffocation he feels.
Mentally, he maps the town and looks for an escape route that will take him close to the suburbs of the nearby city. He believes skyscrapers will be beacons to guide him to safety.
“I have heard the whispers that there are others like me there. I just need to get to them. But how?”
“The culvert! It’s only about 10 meters away and it runs alongside the ditch but under the roadway. I will need to swim in the overflow water to get to an opening outside of town. But I am sure I can do it.” He feels renewed and hopeful.
He pulls on the mask that his father makes him wear and adjusts the sides of the skin-colored latex to make it seamless along his hair line. Not a single facial feature must be visible. Hopefully, anyone in the field beside the shed will only see another resident working. He takes the pail and shovel he has hidden in the tree and sets off.
He hasn’t heard any shouts since his father and the other man left the shed and moved off, away from the field he enters. He stops now and then to listen, uses his ruse of digging potatoes and putting them in the pail to mimic the behavior of a farmhand. Within a brief but anxious time, he makes it to the culvert. He follows it to the first opening and then stealthily crosses a meter wide grass ditch and ducks below the roadway. Just inches away, the water is flowing strong and high, following a summer storm from a few days ago. He checks its direction and enters the water with trepidation. The water is the least of his worries here.
He begins a head up crawl that will pull him along but keep his eyes above water; he watches for any signs that he is being tracked. The mask makes it difficult to breath and he pauses to stand and removes it in a swift, fluid motion. He is on his way again.
I know he is in trouble. But how do I show what will happen? What are his internal thoughts? What sustains his struggle to survive? I am so ready to delete this story and start over again.
Unfortunately, the boy/young man is someone I now feel an attachment for.
“I must be close to the boundary. If I could see above the concrete walls, I would see the city’s skyscrapers, I know I they are there. If only I could poke my head out to see for sure.” His hope pushes him onward.
“Oh, no.” Just a few more moments pass and all his efforts are blown to pieces. He stands up against the water pushing at his back. The culvert here has a metal grid across his path. It allows water and contents to pass through but stops him. He realizes this grid has been newly installed; very little trash has been sucked up against it and the metal is still shiny.
Words about bravery? And why the town is cowardly? My character is sharing so few details.
This story is not going the way I first planned it. I am feeling less daring about the structure, voice and characters I have created. I should have stuck with an anecdote for one of the other prompts…sigh.
He slumps against the grid and lets the water rush over him. He has no more fight in him. A manhole-cover above him screeches as it is pulled away and large, callused hands pull him up.
“We’ve got him!”
He is roughly thrown to the ground in front of a group of men who rip his mask away from his face. Then, with their wooden bats, they beat him.
His last thoughts, as he looks up at their faces, is that they cannot show their hatred and fears like he can. Their faces are uniform, the color of their skin. They have smooth ovals that are like the blank face of a paper doll waiting to be given an expression by some little child coloring with crayons.
The men have no facial features: no eyes, no nose, no mouth, no ears.
When did this become a sci-fi story? Why do I keep picturing a group of people surrounding a youth; looking like they are wearing pantyhose over their heads and showing no faces? What am I trying to tell others about bravery and about cowards?
“Let them see my hatred and my pain.”
I don’t need to write about whether he lives or dies. I will leave that to the reader.
I realize that my story is strongly influenced by my respect for Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. My interpretation of the prompt was to show someone who is being brave in a society comprised of cowards who will not allow differences to manifest within their midst. The Lottery made me think about society when I was in high school. It still resonates with my thoughts some 50 years later.
But, do I submit the story? It is riddled with errors in grammar and tense and well, everything! I chose to write about being uncomfortable with my writing in two font styles that were to show where this was going. I don’t know if that worked. Is it too confusing?
I have never permitted strangers to read my stories. I feel panic just thinking of Reedsy posting this story to be read by other writers. My absolute fear is to read comments about how simple and banal the story actually is.
To be honest, this story has little value. After all that is happening in Ukraine, this is not a skilled, poignant story about bravery after all. Why did I write it?
My blood pressure must be high. I can feel how my face is flushed and I have the beginning of a headache. I still can’t make up my mind to enter this week’s contest.
I have completed my account and signed in.
Do I click on “submit”?