The Writer’s Craft: Rethinking Structure When Drafting

I’m not much on labels, but in 1981, Betsy Flowers published an article in Language Arts that talked about the four different kinds of writers. Without going into too much detail, here they are:

Madman: Unleashed, uninhibited writing that’s a free-flow from brain and heart to parchment.

Architect: Planned structures of the story, plotting out the beginning, middle, and end with precision and perfection.

Carpenter: focused writing with an understanding of the bigger game plan. This writer likes to get to work and get the work done.

Judge: Critical, judgmental, stickler for details. This writer can’t sleep at night without making firm decisions about semi-colons and Oxford commas.

In most of my larger writing projects, such as Fossil Five, I’ve been the avid architect to a fault. When I get into the actual writing, though, the madman takes over and tries to push the Carpenter to the margins, giving him little to no respect in the process of writing.

Frustrating, to say the least.

This has, very unfortunately, created a 100,000-plus word document that is nowhere near finished, with scraps of solid writing that is woefully disjointed from the rest of the story line. For months, I have been trying to sew it all together like some kind of Frankenstein story, but to no avail.

That’s because it’s impossible to sew up the works of a madman and stick to the carefully constructed plan of an architect. For more times than I care to count, I have jumped eagerly into the story, determined to finish it and get it ready for publication, only to hit the brick wall of this impossible scenario and walk away screaming, pulling my hair out, and moving on to…nothing.

A few months ago, I decided to take a slightly different approach, and stick with the core manuscript and just work from chapter to chapter, adjusting the story as I went along. But even that didn’t work out, because I still felt too glued to the original architectural plan that, on paper, seems perfectly logical.

Frustration emerges, and I shut down once again.

I will never finish this book, I thought.

Fast forward to this weekend, where I started re-reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Great book. I recommend it highly. As I’m reading the story, I’m thinking the whole time that his planning must have been crazy tight to make this work. That led me to pull his memoir, On Writing, from the shelves and give it another read, too.

Instead of gaining great wisdom from one of my writing idols, I wanted to throw the how-to book across the room and burn my own manuscript-in-progress. I don’t think I ever felt more like a failure up until that moment.

I found my fellow creative Jodi Cleghorn on line and shared my thoughts with her. As always, she offered sage advice from halfway around the world in her Australian home.

First, she reminded me that the present is the perfect time, always, to write. And what we create in the present is exactly the way the story is meant to me.

Great advice. I absolutely swallow this medicine full-spoon.

Second, she offered me a plan that seems so simple, yet so brilliant. Stuff your pack and fill your water bottle and go on a 5-day writing hike with just the manuscript. Then, on days 6 and 7, break out the maps, check your course, and plan the next 5 (loosely).

Brilliant. By this time, I’ve thrown the spoon over my shoulder and am now taking full swigs from the medicine jar.

So today, I did just that. I let go of the maps, the outlines, the plans, and I listened to the whispers of what I’ve written on the pages, and what still needs to be written between them.

What I realized in re-reading both works by King and listening to my fellow creative Cleghorn is this:

Somewhere in the middle, between the madman and the architect, the carpenter has to be given the chance to modify the plans. Both the madman and the architect need to take a break, release the creativity to the hammer-hitting writer, and trust the process.

Yes, trust the process within the process.

The result? After writing, revising, and reconstructing for nearly 7 hours today, I now see new possibilities in the major structure of the story. It’s simpler, but deeper; more chronological, but suspenseful. It’s like nothing I ever imagined for this story, and yet it does not alter the major plan for the full story.

Jodi is exactly right. Today’s story is perfect, because it took everything I’ve done in the past few years to get to this point today to let go. To let the story and its structure emerge from the wild writings of the madman and the over-structured planning of the architect.

So tomorrow the boots go back on, I sling the backpack over my shoulder, and I fill my water bottle for another day of writing.

After all, there’s no time like the present.

Follow me on Instagram: @rusvanwestervelt, and Twitter: @rusvw13 for writing updates on Fossil Five and other projects.


November’s Muse: 3 Stories…which to pursue?

I don’t know what it is about November and the Muse, but I wish I had the magic potion to hold on to it long after Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if November’s creativity is triggered by my love affair with NanoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month), or if it has anything to do with most of my deadlines and launches with school publications wrapping up in late October. If I look back to my daybooks from the 80’s and 90’s, though, I think I’ll find that, historically, my words have flowed more easily in these 30 days than in any other stretch during the year.

I came across three incidents yesterday that, for each, lasted no more than 15 seconds. In that brief time, my overactive muse created scenarios of each of those incidents. What follows are the three things I saw and the stories that my muse spun almost instantly. Which do you think has the most potential for a longer story? If I get more than 10 votes for any one of them, I’ll develop it fully and post it here before the end of the month….

1. 6:57 a.m. After I drop off Holland at the gym for her morning practice, I head home along the back roads through Lutherville to Towson, when I see three girls walking along the road, toward me in the oncoming lane.

The sleepover had not gone as they had planned, not by a long shot. When Kristin and the others decided yesterday afternoon to invite Ryanne and her friend from Roland Park, Elyse, they knew the night would not be a typical movies-till-3 a.m. event. Ryanne and Elyse always pushed the party beyond the typical teen boundaries. Sometimes they brought a flask of Southern Comfort to share, and other nights they brought along a few other “guests” who would wait in the woods until after Kristin’s parents were asleep. But now, as they walked in silence along Ridgely Avenue, the rising sun stealing what little edge there was to the early chill, each wondered if Ryanne and Elyse would ever be seen again–dead or alive.

2. 5:23 p.m. On our way to Cafe Hon (but still in our own neighborhood), we see a tall, 20-something gentleman running at a fast pace through the gates of Goucher College’s campus, across our street, and along the sidewalks until he reaches Goucher Boulevard. He stops, looks behind him, and rests his hands on his knees to catch his breath. It seems like he has been running for some time.

Seth glanced over his shoulder as he took a moment to breathe. Had the traffic not been so busy along Goucher Boulevard, he undoubtedly would have kept running, straight across the street and up along the quiet street on the other side until he passed out. Were they still close behind? Had they given up? Or had they not seen him at all? He couldn’t get her eyes out of his mind–eyes struck with terror as she pleaded for her life on the very trail he walked nearly every day. Two older girls had stood over the other, their backs to Seth. His natural instinct was to help, of course. To break up whatever little ritual was going on and save the girl. But the sun seeped through the thinning trees and found the knife’s blade. The taller of the two played with it behind her back, balancing it loosely between two fingers as if it were nothing more than a twig picked up along the way. Seth had gasped, and when the pleading girl’s eyes dropped to his, he ran. Now, as he looked back along Squires Road to the gates at Goucher’s back entrance, he wondered if it was too late to save her. He turned back to the busy boulevard. The traffic had ceased between lights, and he had a clean shot of making it to the other side. His life or hers? He took a deep breath, stood tall, and acted on his decision–one that ultimately would change his life forever.

3. 7:31 p.m. We have just left Cafe Hon and are on our way to Fell’s Point. We exit 83 South and sit at the traffic light, waiting to turn left on to Eastern Avenue. On the far left corner is an office building, dark with just two rooms on the third floor that remain dimly lit. A silhouette of a thin woman moves about, heading toward the second, adjoining room. The light turns green, and we head to our final destination, Mr. Yogato’s.

Rose lay on the couch. The cool cloth she had placed on her forehead an hour ago was now barely damp and fixed at room temperature. Her head still pounded, the anxiety never abating since she read his status update on Facebook: “Back in B-more to get what’s mine.” She did not know where to go, what to do. He would first go back to the house to find her. She was sure of that, especially with it getting dark so early. And he would most likely wait there until she came home. Probably inside. She never thought it necessary to change the locks. Now, inside the office where she was a corporate hero for Bergen and Brown Associates, the fear of her past finally caught up with her, and she could feel the safety of her last haven on earth slipping away, out of her control, and into the hands of a man she swore she would never see again. She slides her legs off the couch and sits up, the blood rushing from her head, and she feels dizzy. She stands and heads to the sink to cool her cloth one more time, when she hears the doorknob to the adjoining office rattle. She freezes, listens intently to the sounds through the thin walls, and hears the faint whisper. “Ro-ose. . . .” It is her ex-husband, and he has found her. Trapped in the corner office on the third floor of Bergen and Brown, she is no longer a hero to anybody. She moves toward the door, stops at the supply drawer and removes a letter opener. In many ways she feels sorry for him. His last status update on Facebook will need to be updated soon that he got what he deserved, and she can’t, to save her own life, think of what it might be. . . .

Which do YOU think I should finish?

First-Line Challenge, Part Two (final installment)

Here’s the final installment to my story. Part One was posted earlier…if you did NOT read that first, please do so before reading part two….

Thanks again to my friend Brad for initiating this. It was great fun!

Enjoy…Remember: this is a first draft. 🙂

*                     *                         *

First-line challenge, part two:

Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .

Alex lay on the tracks, motionless. He could feel the pain pulse in his legs, twisted under him and jammed between the concrete railroad ties and the gravel ballast. He was certain both legs were broken. He tried repeatedly to find the strength to drag himself off, but the pain was so strong in his chest, and his breathing so shallow from the injury to his right lung. He barely had the strength to stay awake.

For the next two minutes, he waited. The last audible voice he heard was somebody asking about who owned his Chevelle. He had wanted to throw rocks at them, get there attention in any way possible, but there was no strength to do anything but repeat the same prayer, over and over, believing that miracles do happen in the states as well.

At 2:05, as he struggled to keep his eyes open and avoid slipping into unconsciousness, he was jolted by the inevitable, foreboding sensation that time was running out. It was faint at first, nearly imperceptible. But within seconds, the vibrations were followed with a discerning hum. In less than two minutes, the southbound train would be passing by on its way to Ruxton Station, and there was nothing Alex could do to stop it.

Exhale: And let eternal life be found. . . .

*    *    *

Chelsea walked out of her manager’s office and looked at the clock: 2:04. The “meeting” took less than a minute for her to be handed the change-of-address form that her elderly neighbor had requested. It was this kind of special, door-to-door service that her manager expected from all of them at the Ruxton Post Office, and Chelsea was never one to complain. In fact, she knew that, if things worked out like she had been told earlier in the month, she would keep the same neighborly relationship going when she took over the Ruxton Station after the first of the new year. Her manager was a jerk in so many ways, and she wasn’t unhappy to see him retire. He got the customer service part right, though, and that more than made up for his misgivings.

She stepped outside, first folding the form and stuffing it in her bag as she walked blindly onto the lot. She was parked on the other end, and when she lifted her head, she noticed that several people had gathered around her silver Mustang. Immediately, she wondered if something had happened to her car. There were strangers leaned up against it, hands stuffed in pockets, waiting for something or somebody. One man, in particular, paced anxiously, speaking emphatically on his cell phone.

When the officer saw her approaching, he took one step toward her and pointed his finger toward the red Chevelle.

“This your car, miss?”

At first, she thought he was pointing at her Mustang, and began to answer when she saw Alex’s Chevelle with the Corolla rammed into its front end like a punch in the face. She stopped, relieved then shocked at the realization, and looked for Alex.

“No. The Chevelle belongs to Alex DeVeers. He’s not out here?”

“Nobody is claiming the Chevelle, miss. Did you see him today?”

Chelsea started walking toward the officer. “About ten minutes ago. He was dropping off a few letters and then heading out to—”

She stopped abruptly. In the sudden rush of seeing the crowd and Alex’s Chevelle, she had not noticed where she was walking. She looked down and saw a pair of sunglasses, lens now shattered and frame twisted.

She recognized them immediately as Alex’s.

“He’s not here?”

“Nope. I was just on my way to check the stores when—”

Chelsea looked to the left at the fence that separated them from the tracks. She could hear in the distance the approaching southbound train.

“What about the guy in the Corolla?” she asked. “Did he see Alex before he hit his Chevelle?”

“Never saw anything. The stupid kid had his head in his crotch looking for his phone that he dropped.”

Chelsea could feel the train now. She looked again at the fence and tried to imagine a scenario that might be different than what was becoming her worst fear. What did she have to lose by checking?

“Come with me.”

She ran toward the fence with the officer behind her.

“You think he’s down there?”

Chelsea didn’t have to answer. As soon as reached the parking lot’s edge and stepped on to the grassy hill, she could see Alex’s body, limp, on the tracks.

She dropped her bag and started climbing the fence, screaming over her shoulder.

“You never checked the tracks? You never checked them at all?”

The officer shouted to the crowd for some help, and within seconds, three others—including the stupid kid in the Corolla—were scaling the fence.

They knew they had no time to waste. All of them saw the train’s headlight bearing down the tracks. They felt the vibrations. Heard the ominous hum. Thirty seconds—maybe less—is all they had before Alex would be killed instantly.

Chelsea was the first to reach him. His eyes were wide open, frozen in fear as he muttered some prayer over and over. Somebody said something about him being paralyzed and not moving his neck, but there was no time for that.

She looked around to see where they could take him. Behind her was the grassy hill. No safe place there. She looked on the other side of the tracks. Directly in front of them and to the left was a sharp drop to the Gunpowder River. Pushing him over the edge and on to the rocks below might kill him instantly, so that wasn’t an option either. To the right, about 150 feet, was a clearing wide enough for them to lie him down safely. She looked at the officer, who understood their only option.

“You mean, you want us to run him toward the train reach that patch of grass?”

She didn’t waste the time responding. Instead, she pointed at the others.

“Each of you get around him like you’re carrying a coffin.” The officer didn’t like the analogy, but he and the others knew exactly what to do. “On my count, we lift him and head over there.”

Suddenly, the stupid kid in the Corolla realized what that meant. “I’m not running into the train, if that’s what you mean.”

As if on cue, the train operator saw them on the tracks and blew his horn. He threw on the emergency brakes, yet despite all of the drama of the sparks and the squeals, he knew it would never stop the train in time.

Chelsea reached over Alex’s body and grabbed the Corolla Kid. “You did this to him. And now you’ve got a second chance to save him. If you don’t work with us to get him off these tracks, I’ll make sure you’re the last one on them when that train passes through.”

She had no idea where that had come from. She started to tremble from the fear of it all—the rapid rush of adrenalin that they were all so close to death. She looked into his eyes for another second, and together they bent down to lift Alex.

“One, two, LIFT.”

Alex let out a deafening scream. His left leg was still caught on the tie, and he could now feel the new tear in his upper leg.

“Stop!” The officer kneeled down and freed Alex’s leg. There was another scream, and Alex passed out.

“No time!” shouted Chelsea. “Let’s go!”

They carried Alex’s lifeless body toward the oncoming train, stepping as carefully as possible over the concrete ties as the gap narrowed. They couldn’t afford any mistakes. One trip on the ties would mean certain death for all of them.

“Faster! We’re almost there,” Chelsea screamed. They could barely hear her as the roar of the train and the boom of the horn were deafening.

She could see the clearing just five steps away now. They were going to make it after all. She envisioned the last few steps, the relief they would feel when the train passed them by, the rush of the wind as it cooled them in their victory.

That’s when Corolla Kid tripped, just three steps from the patch of grass. He went down, and Chelsea tumbled over him, her momentum carrying her one step closer to safety.

The train was just feet away. The officer looked up. Saw the terror on the operator’s face. The helplessness and the fear.

Chelsea thought that Alex was the lucky one. Unconscious, he couldn’t feel this fear. He would never know how it all ended. He would go peacefully, unlike the rest of them.

The officer and the others felt differently. On their last, final instinct, they dropped Alex on the tracks and jumped in front of Chelsea. While the officer pulled Alex to safety, the other two dragged Corolla Kid and Chelsea a seemingly impossible ten feet to the edge of the patch of grass.

The train passed them, mauling Chelsea’s discarded shoe that remained on the tracks. Chelsea passed out, and Corolla Kid pulled out his cell phone, chirping with a new text message. He read it quickly, responded with a “not now! BRB!,” and then collapsed. The officer radioed for a medic, sat down next to Alex, and checked his pulse. Slow, but steady.

He looked at Corolla Kid and smiled. “Nice phone.”

“Can’t leave home without it,” he replied, smiling nervously.

“May I?” The officer extended a hand, and the Kid handed it over as it chirped again, now in the officer’s grip.

He flipped the top and checked the message.

Hurry. I’m hungry.

He typed in a response, sent it, and closed the phone. With one quick motion, he threw the phone as far as he could, northbound along the tracks. It landed with a metallic scrape against the concrete ties before leaning against the right rail.

“Oh, and by the way,” the officer offered. “You’re also under arrest.”

Corolla Kid said nothing as he lowered his head. He doubted he’d BRB to his girlfriend—or anyone else, for that matter—for a very, very long time to come.

First line challenge

I had the good fortune to have Thanksgiving with my lifelong friend, and we exchanged a first-line challenge, where we provided each other with the opening line of a potential story. We negotiated to write 1,000 words by Ravens/Bengals kickoff on Sunday, but I wrote my first 1300 words this morning, with about another 1000 to go later this weekend.

Here’s what I came up with.

He watched the seconds tick by – inhaling and exhaling – while he waited for the train to arrive. He had learned long ago that, when everything else around him was collapsing, the one thing he could focus on and control was his breathing. It allowed him to keep his head in Fallujah at the height of Operation Phantom Fury, when he repeated the one prayer he knew over and over, believing it was the bridge he’d need after being blown up by some IED—a discarded shoe or even a tired baby doll. He did everything possible to keep the rhythm of breath-prayer-breath in sync with his heavy steps.

Inhale, step-step: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .Exhale, step-step: And let eternal life be found. . .Inhale, step-step: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .

Afterward, when the insomnia kicked in back home in Baltimore, he thought about how breathing kept him alive as much as prayer.

Now, he hoped he could somehow pull off the same miracle, this time on the Light Rail tracks just outside the post office on Ruxton Road.

Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .Exhale: And let eternal life be found. . .Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .

He had just stepped outside after sending a few letters to the boys he came home with, and another letter to Charlie and Grace about their son’s heroics last January. It was his promise to Allan that morning, that he’d keep in touch with them and bring to life every laugh, every story shared with Allan before he died. It wasn’t hard to do, really. In fact, it helped him a little, too, when the pain seemed a little stronger on days like this.

He passed the animal hospital on the small strip of stores and stepped on to the parking lot. He could already feel the rumble of the approaching train on the tracks behind the stores, and he couldn’t wait to get in his car, turn on some Zeppelin, and drown out the rest of the world on his ride home. His restored red Chevelle stood out in the corner, the Crager mags catching the sun every which way. To his left, the roar of the northbound light rail train dulled the other sounds around him as it passed by, and he picked up his pace to his car. In just seconds, he would be back on Ruxton, navigating the sharp turn toward West Joppa Road and heading home.

He never made it. Not home, not on Joppa. No navigation of sharp turns. Not even any Black Dog or Dazed and Confused.

Afterward, he wasn’t sure whether it was the blinding shards of light from the mags or the deafening sound of the train passing by that distracted him, because somewhere between the last light rail car passing the Chevelle and Alex removing the sunglasses from his shirt pocket (those reflections from the mags were just a little too much like the flashes of light in Fallujah), he was struck with the full force of a 1985 Toyota Corolla. Later, the report would detail how the driver dropped his phone making the turn at Joppa and Ruxton and lost control of the car when he bent over to pick it up.

Alex’s glasses flew straight up in the air as his body, lifeless like some ragdoll drop-kicked across a room, hurtled the fence and tumbled down the embankment, finally resting on the train tracks.

He could still feel the vibrations from the northbound train that had just passed, a sizzle-hum that faded all too quickly as he lay on the tracks, unable to move.

On the other side of the fence, he heard the shits and damns from the teenaged driver, looking at the damage to his car that ended up in the front end of some guy’s nicely restored red Chevelle.

“Fuck! My father’s going to KILL me!”

Alex heard a few patrons coming out of the post office, rushing to the teen to see if he was okay. When they arrived, he told them to hold on as he texted his girlfriend.

Got phone, in accident, all ok. BRB.

They formed a circle around him and the two cars as someone called 911.

No, everybody’s fine. Just get here as soon as you can.

They stepped over the green anti-freeze fluid flowing down toward Ruxton. Was it from the Corolla? The Chevelle? Impossible to tell, another gawker said. The front ends of both cars were too intertwined to tell which took the harder hit. Other fluids—oil, transmission fluid, was it? And something dark red—they covered the ground like some middle school science experiment gone awry.

They talked louder. Waited for the county cop to sort it all out. Wondered who owned the pretty red Chevelle parked in the corner, now pushed against the fence that protected innocent patrons from falling onto the tracks.

Alex tried to shout, but his right lung was punctured, and the best he could do was whisper the same thing, over and over, as he waited for the sounds and the vibrations of the inevitable southbound train:

Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .Exhale: And let eternal life be found. . .Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .

Towering above the strip stores and across Ruxton was another three shops—all consignment—with a miniature Big Ben clock towering over the center store. Alex couldn’t see the entire face of the clock, but he could watch the second hand sweep between the 9 and the 3. The minute hand, moving ever-slowly toward the number 1 (was it really only a little after 2 p.m.?), helped him measure exactly how much time he had to get off the tracks. The southbound train would be passing through in less than 7 minutes.

Barely enough time to be rescued or signal ahead to the operator to stop the train before it reached Ruxton Station.

“Shit! My father is going to be so pissed,” he heard the teen say again.

Then the sound of a siren on Ruxton Road. Thank goodness, they all thought, that nobody was injured. The biggest victim, it seemed, was the poor stranger who owned that beautiful Chevelle.

When the officer arrived and made sure nobody was injured, he pointed a finger at the Chevelle.

“Anybody know who’s car this is?”

Inside the post office, the front desk attendant looked up at the clock: 2:01 p.m. Time to punch out, finally. She picked up the stack of envelopes she had just collected from her customers and moved them to the outgoing bin. She noticed Alex’s letters, the same cream-colored envelopes he always used to write to his buddies (and always Charlie and Grace), and figured he’d be long gone by now in his red Chevelle, playing his predictable Zeppelin, and heading to Loch Raven for a walk along the reservoir before heading home. Maybe she’d meet him there this time. Just to make sure he was okay.

She rinsed her hands, grabbed her coat, and headed toward the back door, where the tracks were just feet from the walkway that led her to the parking lot.

“Chels, got a minute?”

Of course she did. She turned around, stepped into her manager’s office, and closed the door.

It was now 2:03 p.m.

The Writer’s War Within. . .

The Writer’s War Within: Exploring the Creative Battleground When Watcher and the Muse Fight for Your Time

(for the story behind this vomit draft, see the previous post: 15 on the Fives, no. 7)

This is raw, folks. But it’s a draft of something, nonetheless. We’ll see where it goes.

(Already the watcher looks over my shoulder as I write this piece. I am fighting him just to write a piece about fighting him…Would this be called meta-writing, then? Or meta-battling?)

One of my favorite books is called the Tao of Health, which focuses on establishing balance in all aspects of your life. In the first chapter on diet and nutrition and understanding food combinations, Daniel Reid states that most people don’t need to worry too much about how their bodies metabolize the foods they eat. As with everything else, there are extremeson the continuum. Some people metablolize food quickly (I hate you all) and some people metabolize at the speed of sludge in a still pond. Those of us who are slow metabolizers must work very hard just to sustain our weight, let alone lose a pound or two.

A writer’s metabolism — the way we use our energy to produce good writing that makes a difference — falls on a similar continuum. Most people fall in the middle (although this “center” of the continuum is much closer to the Censor than it is to the Muse), where they manage their writing and their internal battle with their Censor on an as-needed basis. This “Center” fills only 33% of the continuum, and the remaining 66% is filled by the energy of the Muse (see pic below).

Censor and the Muse Battle It Out

Unfortunately, few of us journey deeply to the right, and the metabolic energy to create is often untapped because of the energy it takes to break free of the Censor.

Somewhere, early on in your childhood, your Censor was given the negativity it needed to be born. Maybe it was a bad comment on a paper you wrote, or the lack of recognition from a parent. At some time, somewhere, from someone, your Censor was given the chance to grow. And like a cancer, it continuted to grow and spread dangerously through you. The symptoms were clear: low self-esteem, procrastination, avoidance, etc. And, as time passed, the Censor settled in and became a permanent resident. It was content, even happy, to be in such an environment where, with a simple comment or two, it thrived on all you did — or didn’t do.

Being aware of the grasp the Censor can have on us is half the battle. Recognize that the Censor has only one goal: To stop you from succeeding in establishing a strong, healthy relationship with your muse. It should be passionate, intimate, risky, beautiful…

Once you make up your mind that you refuse to give your Censor the satisfaction of stopping you, there’s no telling how far you can go in all that you wish to accomplish.

exit interview, part one

“Exit Interview”

a short story


rus vanwestervelt

copyright 2006

part one of seven parts

Aidan shifted again in the chair, a worn, burgundy-clothed seat that was nothing more than the similar standard-issued piece of office crap he had sat in for the past 25 years.

He was growing impatient. How long had he been waiting in this room? It must have been at least 35, 40 minutes, if not an hour. He looked around again at the old paintings of children running in fields, rusty water buckets beside white picket fences, the paintings all stained with nicotine sucked in and out of countless lungs. The walls were brown, too, but Aidan could not tell if it was a natural color of the wallpaper or a shade that had just hued itself over more vibrant colors of greens, blues, and yellows.

In front of him was. . . . Continue reading