Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dangerous Lines

Some assignments come smoothly. Some you struggle for. This is a struggle. I wrote the opening two lines having no idea what I was writing, but by the fourth paragraph the idea solidified. The writing isn't as smooth as I would like, but I never do rewrites to my assignments. Unless they are going out somewhere.


"Drop the gun."

"You first."

I smiled, then sat down. He leaned back against the wall. Neither of us relaxed our weapons.

"When we were kids, I used to think that you were smarter than me. I always felt I had to try twice as hard to accomplish half as much as you. I used to spend so much time angry."

My brother Jan smiled, but there was no pleasure in his expression. He knew better than to drop his guard. "I am smarter."

We looked toward the street but there was no traffic. The police had probably cordoned off the block. We knew they would have the snipers on the rooftops by now, they might even be setting up for some sort of assault. We didn't have any hostages, and the negotiator didn't seem too concerned when he talked to us. To me.

"Why don't you surrender," the cop had said. He had that smugness in his voice that rankled me.
"I'd rather die."

"No, you wouldn't."

" I can't stand the thought of spending time in jail. I can't."

"You sound like a person done jail before," he said.

I hadn't. My brother on the other hand had been in twice for burglary. He was the one who had come up with this heist in the first place.

Holding the phone hard to my ear, I said: "I have."

It might have been the change in tone. Maybe I started sweating. My brother watched me, eyes digging in.

"There's different kinds of jail time," said the cop.

"It's all the same."

"Maybe so, maybe not."

"I'll kill myself first," I said. I believed it, too.

"Let's just keep it cool."

"No jail."

My voice rose with desperation. I hung up and made eye contact with Jan. He knew instantly what I had in mind. Identical twins may not think alike, but they're close. Something in my expression must have registered with him. His eyebrows rose, then we both went for our weapons.

"It's got to be you," I said. "They have your prints."

"You gonna kill me?" he said. He didn't sound surprised, but I could tell the idea amused him. "And then what? Write a note?"

"I don't need to write a note. I've already put suicide in the minds of the cops."

"And why shouldn't I shoot you and use the same plan?"

"Identical twins don't have identical prints."

"I'm not letting you shoot me," he said.

I kept the gun pointed.

Sometimes certain ideas are better left alone. It's like you jinx yourself just by opening to door to some line of reasoning. Suicide. It squatted between us like an ugly toad waiting to be kissed. He was right, my plan had been stupid. Once I killed my brother they would have searched every inch of the building and I had no idea where to hide.

"Well, I guess that blows the suicide plan all to hell."

"It was a stupid plan," he said. "It had too many holes in it. Anyway, you wouldn't have killed me."

"I can kill you," I said.

"You had your chance."

"So did you."

"We going out together?" I asked.

"Well, it's not like I'm letting you follow behind me with a gun to my back."

I nodded. We moved toward the front. I don't know which of us started running, but soon we were flying through the lobby then pushing past the thick glass doors. I couldn't see the little red dots of the laser sites, but I could feel them travelling over me. I would have dropped my gun, maybe put my hands up, but I heard Jan fire first.


Bond said...

Wild ride.... The brothers, each with their own thought of survival, or is it really letting it end?

I enjoyed this very much. The Butch and Sundance ending, going out in a blaze.

I am also happy you noted the "no editing" thought for assignments. I plan on doing more of these.

SQT said...

See, I liked the part where they were debating over shooting each other. Nice touch to make them twins.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Okay, this sucked. I just reread it...and it sucked. I think the problem with the story...is that it isn't a story. It starts cool, but there's nothing there.

This is something that I would write and stick in my "fragments" folder for later examination and possibly develop it into a story.

I like the idea of one brother planning on saving himself by killing the other and making it look like suicide....but it sucks.

And that's what happens sometimes. Assignments are learning experiences and a chance to flex muscles. Interesting experiments.

Susan Miller said...

You are so funny, Stu. I don't think this sucked, but I do think that the assignment itself was rather tough.

You don't have a problem with tension in your writing. I have read your work while holding my breath at times. I just think that when you raise a bar for tension you can destroy tension. By focusing on it you have eliminated it because the best tension slithers underneath the surface.

Also, with this assignment you've informed the reader that the tension will not be broken in the piece. That in itself alleviated some of my tension while reading it.

Oh hell, what do I know? Other than I always enjoy your work.

etain_lavena said...

hectic....seems like brother rivalry is on the menu for Lucas too.....enjoyed it:)
keep save:)

Bond said...

Ah, you see...for the assignment..I thought it held up.

I am definitely staying around here. The honest critiques are good for the soul.

Thanks for your comments

Jon said...

I agree with Stewart; it's a sketch, a really good sketch, but a sketch none the less. You're right...put it in a fragments folder, but remember it. There's no doubt a story in your future that will need this kind of setting and dialog and mental framework. Use it then and it will all work.

Kate S said...

I didn't think it sucked. So, maybe it was a scene pulled out of a longer work, but it didn't suck. The tension was good, and I agree with that you don't have a problem with tension in your writing. The cat story comes to mind as an example.

SQT said...

Lol, I agree with the others, it didn't suck.

Lucas Pederson said...

Personally, it really didn't seem like a story to me. More like an ending scene from a novel perhaps. The writing was tense, espeacially when they were debating on shooting eachother. I loved how the tension constricted the words and made them hum. Very nicely done. And you should try dabbling around with it, maybe even start from teh beginning, how the two brothers began a crime spree. Something like that. I'd love to read it.
In anycase, this asssignment was difficult for me, but it was fun. And I like fun.

Travis said...

I don't think it sucked. But it does point out how much we can still learn about developing compelling dramatic tension without copping out to an action for action's sake.

I don't have any suggestions or helpful criticisms, because this is an area where I really struggle.