The Intruder – short story, second draft

You might have seen a first draft of a short story yesterday.  I actually hope you didn’t because it wasn’t very good.  This is a newer version that was more in line for what I had originally wanted.  Instead, as you likely know, once you start writing, anything can happen – both good and bad.  I hope you can put the other version out of your head and forge on through this one. 

The title is fairly meaningless, meaning I haven’t thought of one and just wanted something there that helped me know which story it is.

A few questions at the end.  Thanks for flying with us, and Happy Holidays.

______________________

catcher_rye

The Intruder

The first time Cindy heard the noise, she easily accepted that it was really something from the dream she was having about Dracula chasing her through the halls of the elementary school she had graduated from nearly twenty years prior.  The second time she heard the noise, there was a forearm across her throat.  She fought for something more simple than anything she could think of:  air.  She swiveled her head left to where a knife waited next to the vibrator in her nightstand.  One of them had been used only an hour before and helped her get to sleep after sorting out the frustration of yet another bad first date.  One was needed right at this moment.  Her head turn was limited, but it moved enough to see that it was 1:17 in the morning.

There were at least nine things she wanted to say, but not a syllable could squeak out her closing esophagus.  Mom, I love you was one.  I’ve never skydived was another.  I’ve never been with two men at once was close, until she remembered last year’s Christmas party at work.  Funny what goes through one’s mind as death approaches.

“Eehh,” was all she could muster.  “Iihh.”  But in her mind was “Who are you and why are you in my house?”  She felt a rib crack, then another, and it wasn’t until then that she could feel past the forearm, past her throat, to realize that a man was sitting, no, kneeling on her chest with his eyes only inches from hers.  She wondered what she had done wrong to invite such pain.

“Where is it?” he growled.

“Whee,”  “Wha,”  “What?”

“Where is it?” he said again, his forearm pushing further.

He gripped the sheets on each side of her face and pulled the fabric across her face, causing her to think that the effect of the forearm was now doubled.  She twisted, kicked, pushed, brought her knees up towards his back, and thought for sure her knees were doing enough to his back to weaken his grip, but the result was nothing more than kicking at water that moved a bit but fell right back where it was.

All she had left were nails, but she had no nails.  She curled her fingers, digging at his wrists, clawing at his back, but her commitment to working out, improving her cardio, adding a little more tone to her arms and calves, all that limited her nail length, and she accepted that she could fake the nails but not fake the body.

The cardio gained was fading quickly, bringing her to a moment of choice, a crossroads, of either forward or backward, but there was no forward.  It was either windshield or rearview mirror, and she had to pick.  Her body relaxed, her strength conserved, her thoughts eased.  Things were blurry, and she remembered something from a self-defense discussion in a college class ten years ago.  She pushed, tensed.  Then something felt wet between her legs, but not a good wet.  It was a bad wet.  Too much wet.  Warm wet.  Maybe it would drive him away.  Maybe not.

He seemed to sense something, and he eased up just a little but not enough that she could work with it.  Her eyes stayed on his, hoping he would show a sign that he knew she was giving in.  His arm lessened, and her throat ate more hungrily, as if there was an understanding that he would give her more air if she would give him more – more what?  She had to wait and hope to find out.

“Where is it?” he asked again, his face not as close as before.

“What?”

“The book.”

“Book?”

“Book.”

“What book?”

“MY book.”

He re-applied his forearm, restricted her breathing, and returned her to semi-consciousness, then let her back again.

“Where is it?”

Neither her eyes nor her voice gave him anything helpful.  His right arm, the forearm across her neck, the hand gripped her right shoulder, pulled across her body and spun her to her left and face down on the bed.  She had a thought of what was next.  His left hand grabbed the waistband of her sweatpants.  She had a further thought of what was next.  Except that his right hand grabbed the collar of her shirt, and with his left hand on her waist band, he hoisted her from the bed and threw her to her feet.

Before she could recover a moment, a moment to run, he leapt from the bed and was behind her, forearm again at her throat but from behind, his hip into her back and pulling her towards him so that her own body weight could choke herself against his arm.  He pulled her backwards, from her bedroom, through the hall, and down the steps.

Sink your body weight, she thought.  Rag doll.  Make him work.  But he dragged her just as easily down six steps, a left turn at the landing, another six steps to the floor.  Instead of a collar, he now had wide hands gripping all her thickness of the ponytail she normally slept in.  She dropped to her knees, but he didn’t totally relax enough, and she felt the pull enough to stretch her back upward to avoid the pain.

Play dead, she thought, like you passed out.  Though she wasn’t far from it.

“No,” he said through gritted teeth.  “You’re going to find it.”

He lifted her up by her ponytail until she cried and reached for his strong hands, trying to lift herself up against his force to gain even the tiniest slack for herself until she had no choice but to stand and face him.  But it was too dark to face him.

The nightlights she had spread around the first floor were enough to see where she was walking when she needed either iced tea in the summer or leftover coffee in the winter, but it wasn’t enough to see exactly who the man was who was, to a degree, having his way with her.  Shards of red, blinding flashes of red through her field of vision prevented her from distinguishing anything of his face, anything she could later recount when she hoped to sit, huddled in a blanket on the sofa while a female officer might ask sensitive questions and male officers search her bed for hairs and clothing fibers.

“What!” she yelled.  “What the fuck do you want?”

“I want the book,” he growled again.  “It’s not here.  Where is it?”

“Why would I have your book?” she argued through tears.  “I don’t have any book!”

“We sold you this house,” he said.  “My books were left behind, and they were on these shelves.”  He pointed to the built-in bookcases that flanked the fireplace.  “Where are the books?”  She struggled slightly.  “Tell me where they are!”

“I don’t know!” she cried.

“Yes!  You do!  Think!”

She did, while keeping both hands on her hair, on her scalp, as if that was the only thing keeping it together.

“My sister!” she said.  “My sister has them.  I gave them to her!”

“Let’s go,” he said.  “Drive me to her house.”

“She lives an hour away.”

“I don’t care,” he snapped.  “Get your keys and let’s go.  No cell phones.  Nothing.  Just keys.  In the kitchen.”  He guided her, still by the ponytail, to the kitchen where she snatched the keys from the countertop near the refrigerator and moved, barefoot, through the door into the garage where her car waited.

He guided her behind the wheel, then dropped to the floor of the backseat, still with a strong grip on her hair.  “Go,” he said.

The hour she claimed was less than half, and she slowed to a stop across the street from a ranch on a rural road, far enough from anyone who might be passing, anyone familiar enough to pay attention.

“You’re going to knock on the door, and I’m going to be right next to you,” the man said.  “If I want, I can kill both of you in less than two seconds.”

“Her husband is a cop,” she tried.

“Shut up.  Lie to me again, and I rip out half your hair.  Just do your best to stay calm, ask for the book, and we will go.  Do it right and nobody gets hurt.”

“What’s so important about – ”

But that was as much as she could spit out before his strongest pull yet nearly sucked her into the backseat next to him.  She knew that the smack against the steering wheel would leave a mark on her thigh that might need explaining if anyone were to see it.

He guided her from the driver’s seat, closed the car door silently, and moved her like a puppet across the street and up the front path.

“I’m going to let go of your hair.  You run, and she doesn’t see tomorrow.  Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Follow directions, and everybody sees tomorrow, and you’ll never see me again.  Understand?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t knock.  I’ll knock.  You ask for the book.  If she invites you in, you say you’re not feeling well and you need the cool air outside.  You don’t go inside.  Understand?”

“Yes.”

“I hope so.”

They stopped on the cement and brick steps.  Cindy did her best to wipe away tears with her shoulder.  There was a booming knock, wait, knock again, wait.  The door opened.

“Holy Christ,” said a woman slightly younger than Cindy but with similar hair.  “What the hell are you doing?  You couldn’t just call?”

“My.  My phone isn’t working.”  Cindy’s eyes danced to her left, then to her sister, then left again.  The sister looked and looked back again.

“What’s going on?  This seems weird.”  She pulled her robe tightly around her chest.

“We,” Cindy began, then her head jerked slightly back.  “I need a book I gave you when I bought my house last month.  It’s got a red cover.”

“You want to come in and look for it?”

“No!” barked Cindy.  “No.  Just get the book, or get the whole box I gave you.  If you have the box still.”

“I do.  C’mon in and – ”

“No!  Please.  Please just get the box.  I can’t really explain.”

“Okay, okay.  Relax.”  As her sister walked away, the man reached and pulled the door closed where it stayed until the sister returned.  She held a small, cardboard box with no more than a dozen hardcover books inside.

“Here,” she said.  “I hope this works out for, for whatever you’re up to.”

“I know it seems crazy, but just trust me.  We’ll talk about it tomorrow, I – ”

But she was pulled backwards before she could say anything further.

“I’m okay,” she called.  “Seriously.  I know this seems bad, but I’ll explain tomorrow.”

“Call me when you get home,” the sister said, still through the open door.

“Go,” Cindy said.  “Go back to bed.  I’ll call you later.”

She put the box on the front seat and drove off.

“You got your books.  Now what?  Just let me go home, and I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

“Of course you won’t,” the man said, re-gripping her hair from the back and leaning forward between the front bucket seats.  “Watch the road, not me.”

“Where do you want me to go?” she asked.

“My house.”

As she drove, following his directions, she saw flashes of books as they flew from the box on the front seat to the floor in front of it.  When the books stopped, and he said nothing for a while, she assumed he found what he wanted.  When the grip on her hair was released, she was certain.  They both stayed silent until she pulled up in front of a house in an unfamiliar area of town.

“Now what?”

“We have to give this to my son,” he said.  A book landed on her lap, startling her as if an uninvited hand were in her lap.  “Go.  Get out.”

“What about – ?”

“Go,” he repeated as he gripped her ponytail again and guided her out of the car and followed her to the front door. 

Cindy thought about the time, estimating it was about three in the morning.  She thought about the circumstance, perhaps a divorce or separation, and why she was needed for this instead of him doing it himself.  Was her purpose to show his wife or ex-wife that he had already found another woman?  Was this some kind of drunken vengeance?  She hadn’t smelled alcohol, but there were other chemicals to influence behavior, especially bad behavior.

“Knock,” he said.  “Bell doesn’t work.”  She did, waited.  “Again,” he said.  She did.  The door opened.  Cindy locked eyes with a woman about her age, about her height, but her hair was rolled up in a big clip that dangled unevenly above the collar of a worn, pink robe that she pulled across her chest when a force of wind blew past.  It threw Cindy’s ponytail in her face enough that she needed both hands to remove it.  The gust blew past the woman at the door, causing her to fall half a step backwards.  She sniffed at the air like a dog might when another dog is in the neighborhood.

“Can I help you?” the woman whispered.

Cindy’s mouth hung open as memories appeared.  She remembered her across the table in a real estate office.  She was explaining how her husband had been called away and couldn’t make it to the closing.  A few syllables fell out of Cindy’s face, but it was nothing intelligible.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” the tired woman said.

“I.  I mean.”  Cindy spun left and right.  She didn’t realize she was no longer holding the book until the woman looked down at her hand and then back up at Cindy but without any further knowledge of the moment.

“Oh!  The book!”  Her feet shifted.  She held her eyes closed and, as her mother used to remind her, she did her best.  “I was.  I was with your husband.”

“What?”

“Your husband.”  Cindy looked again behind her.  “I’m not sure where he went.  I mean, he was – ”

“What do you mean that you were with my husband?”  She again tightened her robe and quickly glanced behind her when she heard something.

Cindy tried again.  “Your husband.  He was at my house.  I mean your house.  I mean I bought your house recently.  You might – ”

“Yes,” the woman interrupted.  “I know.  I remember.  But what do you mean about my husband?”

“Well, he came to my house, your house.  The house.”

“When?”

Cindy’s thoughts caught up like a down escalator doing too fast.  “Oh.  No.  Please, don’t get the wrong idea.  It’s not like you think.”

“You don’t know what I think,” said the woman in the robe.  “Nobody knows what I think.  And when someone tells you they know how you feel,” a tear formed, “they’re lying.  They don’t know.  Nobody knows.”

Cindy fought to understand but lost the fight when a boy appeared behind the woman at the door.

“Mom?” the boy asked.  Cindy estimated him at about fifteen.  She noticed how much the boy looked like the man who chased her into her car, her sister’s house, and then guided her, somehow, to this house.  “Mom, look what I found in my room.”

Cindy looked at the boy, then looked at her own hands that held nothing.

The boy opened a red-covered book and held it up.

“Look here, Mom.”  He pointed to something written in pencil inside the front cover and read aloud.  “Everybody makes mistakes.  But the worst mistake you can ever make is to not ask for help when you know need it.  Dad.”

“That was your grandfather’s book,” the woman said.  Then she looked up at Cindy, back to the book, and to the boy.  “Your dad wanted you to have it, but he couldn’t find it.”  Cindy watched as more tears formed on the woman’s face.  “But this nice woman found it and brought it over.”  The woman put an arm around the boy without taking her eyes off Cindy.  “Isn’t that right?”

“Yes,” said Cindy, her own tears forming.  “I found it.  And I thought it might be yours.”

“Yes,” the woman said.  She mussed the boy’s hair as he flipped through the pages.  He looked up at Cindy and smiled as both women fought – but lost – holding back tears.

“Right,” said the woman.  “Holden, say thanks and goodnight to the nice woman.”

“Thanks, miss.”  The boy extended a hand.  Cindy shook it and watched him turn away, flipping through the pages.

“You’re welcome,” said Cindy.  “G’night.”

They watched the boy head down a hallway and disappear into a room.  The woman turned back to Cindy.

“Seems like a good boy,” Cindy said.  “Holden?”

“His father insisted on that name.  And he hasn’t spoken a word since he found – I mean – since his father left.  Nearly two months.  They rarely got along well.  Hell, none of us ever got along well.  He kept saying he felt like he was intruding on our lives, and maybe we would all be better off without him, but I never took that seriously.  He kept telling me he had something he thought might help, but he was gone before he ever gave it to him.  Pretty sure it was that book.”

“I hope so,” said Cindy.

“G’night,” said the woman.  She closed the door, then held it, then said, “Come back.  Any time.”

Cindy nodded, afraid what would happen if she attempted to speak.  She turned and walked back to her car, hitting the remote to unlock the door.  She fell behind the wheel and attempted to process what had happened over the previous two hours.  She glanced back to the door, then started the car and drove home.

Ten minutes later she turned the key and exhaled fully as she locked the door behind her.  She threw the keys on the floor beneath the coat rack without looking, eyes heavy as an internal auto-pilot guided her through the living room and to the stairs up to her bedroom.

The first thing Cindy did was find her cell phone.  There were three text messages and one voicemail from her sister.  She texted back, “I’ll explain it all tomorrow.  Breakfast at the diner, 10?”

Her sister answered.  “Ok. G’night.”

________________

They met, and Cindy recounted the whole story, from waking up with an arm across her neck to the boy who hadn’t spoken for months.  Then she waited for her sister’s lecture about living alone and maybe moving back in with her, but none of that came up.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” her sister said.

“Only one?” Cindy laughed.

“When you came to my house for the box, why didn’t you just come inside?  We could have locked the door and called the police.”

“You think he was going to just let me walk into your house and let us call the cops?”

He?” her sister asked.  “He who?  Cindy, there was no he.  You were by yourself.”

__________________

Question 1:  Not sure if you read the previous version of this story, but if so, do you think this is an improvement?

Question 2:   At what point did you suspect and/or realize the man intruding was a ghost?

Question 3:  I want a connection between the book and a slightly disturbed man, so I went with The Catcher in the Rye.  Do you feel any kind of connection there?  Does it matter?

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18 thoughts on “The Intruder – short story, second draft

  1. I tried to comment on the first draft of this story, but you’d obviously taken it down, so it’s good to see the second draft. As is typical when requesting feedback – take what you can use and ignore the rest – most of it is personal preference.

    Q1: For the most part I would say it was improved – although I do miss the original ghostly man who was nicer (though I completely understand why you changed it!). Not sure you need the sexual references in the beginning – vibrator, first date, fear of rape – that all seems a bit much and becomes superfluous when you find out he wants a book. I also much prefer the scene with the sister rather than at the library – provides more interaction and conflict.

    Q2: I don’t think it comes across as strongly that he’s actually a ghost any more. The fact that he is so physical doesn’t lead you to this conclusion, until towards the end with the wife and son. (Even though I knew he was a ghost from the first draft). I did mention in my earlier attempt at a comment that I don’t think this story necessarily needs that to be a twist, but I know how much you like surprising your readers!
    Unfortunately I really dislike the broken end: where the sister reveals she was on her own. I don’t feel this flows well with the rest of the story and wonder if it would be best if the wife revealed the husband died, which is why the book is so important (this also doesn’t come across as strong in this version: why this book, why now)?

    Q3: I understood why you chose the book and I liked the link with the son’s name, but I’m not sure it’s vital. More connection could be made if the man perhaps opened up a little more – it’s possible he’s just a bit ‘too’ violent in this version as you don’t get a sense of his character as much as I felt you did in the first version.

    Hope these answers help! I really enjoyed reading both versions: i guess it depends on where you want to take it as to what changes you make!
    Take Care, Cat x

  2. Question 1: Definitely an improvement. The intensity was maintained throughout. One thing for me, and it goes back to the discussion we had on the first one, the ghost was a little too intense. I kept waiting for a moment of vulnerability to soften his harshness toward Cindy and hint at his motivations. I really like the implication that his son found his body (after a suicide, if I read it correctly) and the experience traumatized him. Showing just a little of the guilt he holds for subjecting his son to that would balance out the harshness and help readers sympathize a little bit more, I think.

    Question 2: The hints were there, but the way you wrote this one, his identity as a ghost was definitely a better kept secret. For a moment, I even wondered if you decided to not make him a ghost, and I read the first one! The first scene with the sister, where she shows no alarm whatsoever, sets off the warning bells, but the scene at his house clinched it for me.

    Question 3: I realize that the book has been blamed for shootings and the implication exists that disturbed men gravitate toward it, but that’s only because I read about it in an effort to find the connection so I could comment on it. I don’t think a casual reader will make that connection, aside from the boys name. And that’s assuming they’ve read the book. As I write this, the thought just popped into my head about the boys mental stability and whether Cindy just helped facilitate a future shooting by a scarred young man.

    I kind of liked the book choice from the first story. I don’t think this needs a connection, and the connection it does have is predicated on people being aware of history and the details surrounding certain events. Some will surely get the reference, but I’m thinking most will not.

    Those are my thoughts on this draft. It is an improvement over the first, but there are still some flaws. Your intuition about the making the character that intense was spot-on: I couldn’t bring myself to root for him to succeed. He needs a little softening.

    Hope this helps.

    • of course it helps. i know i have something good, but i also know i don’t have it quite right yet. and that’s where you and other very generously fabulous others come in. thanks so very much for giving me points to ponder on this. work to be done, wine to be ingested. thanks many again and happy holidays.

  3. 1. Didn’t read the first draft, thank god, I hear it sucked ass!
    2. Yes. As soon as the wife was shocked it became clear. Why was he so hurtful and threatening to Cindy then? Just to trick us into believing something really bad was going to happen to her? Just wondering…
    3. I felt a connection. Yes, but I would have added more inside the book. A note. A key taped to a page. Something more than the few words he’d written. It’s been years since I read Catcher in the Rye, so I loved that the cover was the chosen image, all the while I wondered why that image. Wasn’t there a character named Holden in that? Who was he?

    p.s. I was only joking in the first answer…

    • sucked ass. that’s both funny and correct. thanks very much for saying so, because i have to fix this one up. i like it, but it’s just not right. not yet. and happy new year!!! if i could transport myself somewhere, it would be wherever you’re sailing to. at. for. dammit.

      • i am in san diego. it’s cold. but it’s early still. my head is still spinning from all the motoring and wave pounding we had to do (no pun, but feel free to see one if you want).

        2014… man it’s gonna be tough to beat 2013, but if your 2014 is half as good as my 2013 was then you’re in for a hell of a fantastic year. does that sound arrogant? oh well, if my smily passes off as a smirk, than arrogance is expected. right?

  4. i think this was an improvement on the first one, didn’t have a chance to comment on it before you took it down. the ghost was a better- kept secret in this version and i don’t think the catcher tie-in is needed, the story stands on its own just fine as is.

    • thanks miss. i like the story tie-in because it represents angst and not knowing one’s purpose or where one belongs, and the same goes for the ghost. i don’t have it down quite yet, but i at least have a better direction thanks to you and others. happy holidays.

  5. Question 1: Not sure if you read the previous version of this story, but if so, do you think this is an improvement?

    Didn’t read it.

    Question 2: At what point did you suspect and/or realize the man intruding was a ghost?

    I never did. I actually thought he just tricked her into getting the door open so he could sneak in.

    Question 3: I want a connection between the book and a slightly disturbed man, so I went with The Catcher in the Rye. Do you feel any kind of connection there? Does it matter?

    No, I didn’t feel a connection until it was disclosed that the kid’s name was Holden.

    ——————————-

    Rich … you’re a very good technical writer with an expansive imagination, however, this particular story left me a little flat. For instance, in the first paragraph, your sentence structure is very long and detailed which creates a lulling effect when in fact, she’s terrified. Short, staccato sentences would capture the reader and jolt them into the story the same way she’s jolted awake.

    Your first sentence could be done away with all together and restructured the opening to:

    Original – The first time Cindy heard the noise, she easily accepted that it was really something from the dream she was having about Dracula chasing her through the halls of the elementary school she had graduated from nearly twenty years prior. The second time she heard the noise, there was a forearm across her throat.

    Suggestion – Cindy awoke to a forearm across her throat.

    The noises, the recurrence, all detract from the main terror of waking up to being choked.

    Additionally, there is very little about her actual physical experience. Her heart should be racing,she should be sweating. When your hair is being used to control you, you feel every individual hair. As they rip, it almost sounds like velcro echoing in your ears. Sadly, I have first hand knowledge of this.

    During moments of terror your senses tend to be heightened. You might want to contrast Cindy smelling her own fear (a truth by the way) to the fact that she has no sensory information on the man at all. Maybe his touch is cold. Maybe she expects to feel his breath across her face and doesn’t. These small touches would lay seeds for his being a ghost.

    I apologize for such a lengthy and unasked for critique, but this story has lots of potential it just needs a bit of punching up.

    • apologize??? oh dear NFW. your feedback is most valuable and can’t be argued with. i know i don’t have this story nailed down yet, but i also know i have something in the right direction, and you and others are the whole purpose here – to help me fix it up and get it on track. so all of your comments have to be read, re-read, and put to use. thanks very much for your generous time and attention, and i hope i can someday return the favor.

  6. Q1- I did not read the first draft so I can’t comment. But you know I would if I could. :)
    Q2- I realized it at the sister’s house. When she was invisibly pulled back from the door but her sister saw no one.
    Q3-I didn’t feel any connection. I can’t say it even occurred to me or that it mattered.

    Now with the book there was an inconsistency. First Cindy replies she has no idea about his book but once at her sister’s door she tells her sis she needs a book with a red cover. I wondered how she suddenly knew which book he was after from the box. BTW I don’t like that you used a RED book cover. It was too reminiscent of the sixth sense to me. Red always present when the ghosts were around. (My first subconscious cue.)

    Also why so heavy handed? I have to say from the get go I wondered why she never got her hands on the knife she had on her night stand. Perhaps she should have swung and seemingly missed or knocked it off the nightstand. The vibrator felt superfluous to me and talking about needing it after another bad date felt like you were leading the witness. I was not fooled by the look over here while my right hand climbs under your skirt.

    I think you could go with more of a sensory focus on Cindy during the abuse. Her heart racing, sweat in her eyes. Is this happening or is he having a terrible dream? I have had dreams of being attacked that were so vivid for moments after awakening I thought they still happened. Add a little more disorientation perhaps.

    I think I would have preferred the wife revealed her husband was dead. Cut out the ending with Sis. I also assumed once Cindy was on the wife’s stoop her husband had been abusive when he was alive. I expected to see more of that in the wife’s reaction. Almost recognition in Cindy’s face like she was seeing her own terror and pain reflected back to her. Perhaps that was in her tears. And at 15 I would imagine the boy would show more ‘tude if his Dad had indeed beat the crap out of his mom and perhaps him. As well as been the monster you assume he was in life from who he is in death.

    Did you mean to infer that Holden found his father dead? It occurred to me that her husband committed suicide. Is that correct?

    I think the dialogue at the end could be tweaked a bit. A little more psychology of the abused if that is who he was. If not and I took the entire thing wrong then I simply say his rough tactics in delivering the book to his son are very misleading.

    Typo in the Dad’s inscription?? “Everybody makes mistakes. But the worst mistake you can ever make is to not ask for help when you (know) need it. Dad.”

    • so much for me to use to improve. thanks very much. the red cover was because the cover of the edition i had was red. however, after some easy research, i realized there were other covers, so the red is not necessary.

      as for the suicide, yes, and the boy found him and became selective mute since then. but the book from his father woke him up a bit. still, it’s not enough and needs more work because work beats an explanation.

      the guts of the story is about a lost man and thus a lost son, and a lost man who knew he would only be a burden to his family, so he took himself out. however, very often those who commit suicide don’t realize they are more of a burden being gone from suicide than they were while living. but of course their inability to see that is what leads, partly, to suicide.

      thanks again for your very careful diagnosis, and i will use it equally carefully to improve the story.

      happy holidays to you and yours and others in the neighborhood.

      • You are close this one. Just a wee bit more finessing. Massage it a little. Bring out the inner angst. :)

        Happy New Year to you also. I can only hope 2014 has a better trajectory. I could use a little upward momentum and peace. I imagine you could as well.

  7. I enjoyed reading this, didn’t get to see the first one, so cannot compare. The comments already made are far more intelligent and thought out than anything I could offer, but from a layman’s point of view it was interesting – although by the end there were bits that didn’t sit comfortably with me. The description of the initial attack is pretty good, but why mention there is a knife and then not have Cindy make more effort to get hold of it? When survival instincts kick in it would have been a pretty big mental focus for her. What is a knife doing beside the bed anyway? (I am British, so maybe having weapons in the bedroom is more unusual to me than an American audience!) I think the sister was too easily placated – had it been my sibling arriving in that state, there is no way I would have left them on the doorstep. The son took the news a little calmly – just a few lines describing how his countenance changed at the mention of his father would have made it more pertinent to me. The conversation with Cindy and her sister the next day is a little dry – this was a hugely scary event!

    I am not a writer and you very clearly are – and a very talented one, at that. These are just the knee-jerk thoughts of a keen reader. I really look forward to reading the ‘tweaked’ version of this! I can also see this as a screenplay. Could be very chilling on screen.

    Happy New Year, by the way. I very much enjoy your writing :)

  8. Pingback: Short Story: New Year’s Tragedy | Publish Your Mind

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