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18+ Language Mature Content

Too Much Blank Space, Not Enough Vomit - Ch. 2.3

by LordStar


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.

“These are stupid,” Rhys told Ethan as the orange Camaro pulled onto the street leading to First United Methodist Church.

“They help you stay sober,” Ethan corrected, not taking his eyes off the road.

“Apparently they don’t,” Rhys muttered under his breath, lighting a cigarette and examining the track mark on the inside of his elbow. It hadn’t taken him long to build back up to his old tolerance, and he had had a nice fresh shot that afternoon.

Ethan only sighed in reply as they pulled into the church parking lot.

“Please Rhys,” he said softly as they pulled into a parking space and Rhys moved to get out of the car, “just do this for me. Okay?”

Rhys paused, hand on the door handle, then nodded quietly as he got out. Ethan pulled out of the parking lot as Rhys walked towards the church entrance, on his way home after another late shift at the diner.

Rhys lingered outside the door to finish his cigarette even as the meeting started inside. A baby blue Subaru pulled into the parking lot, screeching to a halt in the first parking space it could find. The driver door opened and Rhys laid eyes on the most punk looking girl he'd ever seen.

She was tall, at least 5'11, with electric blue dreadlocks to her middle back. She wore knee-high boots over what Rhys knew to be crust pants, her dark-skinned midriff showing between her waistband and the Dead Kennedys crop top she wore. She lit a cigarette as she stepped out of the Subaru, locking it with her keyfob as she started towards him.

"Fashionably late as well?" she asked in a heavy Cockney accent, peering at him through her heart-shaped sunglasses as she leaned against the church's brick wall. "High as a kite, too."

Rhys shrugged in response, taking a drag off his cigarette and looking down at his feet.

"It's okay," she smirked, "I know a newcomer when I see one. The important thing is that you're here. Bring the body and the mind will follow."

"Platitudes," Rhys muttered, smoke curling out of his mouth with disdain. The girl's smirk only grew wider as she exhaled smoke herself, the clouds of smoke mingling together before disappearing into the air.

"You'll get it eventually, kid."

Rhys dropped the remainder of his cigarette, crushing it with his boot before walking past her and inside. He went to the back, trying not to make too much noise as he fixed a cup of coffee and dumped seven sugar packs in it. No creamer, he couldn't stand non-dairy creamer.

He shuffled to one of the metal chairs in the back, taking a seat with his hands cupped around his coffee, watching as the punk Brit came in and took a seat near the front. He took a sip of his coffee, relishing the way it burned his tongue and his throat on the way down. He loved when things were so extreme he could feel them.

The group was getting to the last of the reading, and Rhys leaned back in his chair with his head tilted back to watch the kaleidoscope colors as the room tilted into silence. The occasional voice, a member "sharing", was a pleasant, background hum as he watched his visions.

He wasn't aware of how time had passed until someone kicked his chair, jolting him out of his trance. He pulled his head up to look at the Brit, who was holding something out to him. He took it, staring down at it in his palm. It was a white key tag, emblazoned with the NA symbol one one side and 'just for today' on the other.

"Don't need this," he muttered, trying to give it back to her. "I'm not sober."

"Clean," she corrected, hands in her pockets to indicate her refusal to take it. "And you will be, eventually. This can be a reminder."

"A reminder?"

"Of what exists outside of drugs," she smiled. "Come on, I'll give you a ride home."

"I'll walk," he didn't move from his seat.

"We're going to the same place," she shrugged. "Witchwood apartments, 404."

He stared at her.

"Rhys, right?" Her smile grew wider. "Ethan's little brother?"

"Leah," Rhys nodded in understanding, then muttered under his breath, "that fucking bastard."

He got to his feet, shoving his hands - and the key tag - into his pockets. "What, did he ask you to spy on me? Are you even an addict?"

Leah's smile disappeared. "I'm three years clean, thank you very much. He told me he'd bring you by, get some recovery in your head. I told him I'd drive you home."

They had made their way towards the church doors over the course of this conversation, where Rhys saw through the window panes that it was storming outside. He sighed.

"Fine."

The two hurried across the parking lot, taking refuge in the Subaru. Rhys shut the passenger door behind him, looking around as Leah situated herself and put the key into the ignition. The backseat floorboard was covered in empty water bottles and cigarette packs, old crumpled receipts and one or two bags of fast food. On the backseat lay a tarp with mud-caked boots on it, Leah's purse beside them and on top of a thick, old-looking laptop. Rhys let his eyes wander as Leah backed out of the parking space, his gaze falling on the cross hanging from the rear view mirror along with a cotton-candy scented air freshener.

His arms itched, the burning desire for more cocaine wriggling under his skin. He needed to shoot up, resurge his high, feel that euphoria, stimulate his brain before the boredom took over. He wished Leah would drive faster.


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Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:23 pm
Panikos wrote a review...



Hi, LordStar. Thought I'd swing by for a review. I think I read the first chapter of this, but I don't know a great deal about the plot, so apologies if I miss details. I'll try and make this as helpful as I can.

The first thing I want to say is that I really enjoyed reading this. Your writing style is right up my street - clear, economical, very much to the point. Your dialogue is excellent, as well; it feels completely natural, as well as conveying a lot about the characters. I'm assuming that this is the first time Leah appears in this novel, and she made a strong impression on me from the off. I wasn't sure about you continually referring to her as 'the Brit', though. It seemed like an odd way to label her considering that nothing about her personality or manner of speaking seemed...obviously British, if that makes sense? Don't get me wrong, I am deeply glad that she didn't become some 'apples-'n'-pears' stereotype, but the fact that she's a punk girl seems her most defining characteristic, so I think it'd have made more sense to focus on that.

One broader critique I have of this chapter is that, while you're mostly pretty economical with your words, you sometimes get over-detailed. E.g.

“These are stupid,” Rhys told Ethan as the orange Camaro pulled onto the street leading to First United Methodist Church.


“Please Rhys,” he said softly as they pulled into a parking space and Rhys moved to get out of the car, “just do this for me. Okay?”


It's not a major issue, but these dialogue tags felt like they had too much information attached to them, especially when you coordinate them with other clauses (via 'and' and 'as'). It might help to break them into multiple sentences, or integrate some of the information into the paragraphs of prose. In general, I think it's best to be pretty concise when you're peppering actions amid bits of dialogue, otherwise it can slow the pace of the conversation down. It makes it seem like there are unnatural silences where there shouldn't be.

I also noticed this little hiccup:

Ethan only sighed in reply as they pulled into the church parking lot.

“Please Rhys,” he said softly as they pulled into a parking space


While you're not exactly repeating yourself, it feels superfluous to have both. You could easily replace the first bolded quote with the second. That would solve the problem of the dialogue tag feeling a bit convoluted, as well.

Anyhow, I don't have a whole lot to comment on outside of minor flow issues. The tension between your characters felt realistic. Rhys, just from this short extract, feels like a strong personality - not entirely likeable, but all the more interesting for that. I liked how relatively low-level the conflict felt; I think the most skilled writing is that which involves very small stakes. I would've maybe liked a bit more detail about the actual church meeting, though. It makes sense not to go into too many specifics, because Rhys isn't exactly listening that intently, but you could still offer a few disjointed summaries of what the other attendees are talking about during all that time. Giving us a small insight into their stories would make the meeting feel a bit more fleshed out, I think.

Other than that, though, this is a really solid chapter. Even out of context, you still roped me into the plot, which is the most important thing.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




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Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:56 pm
DougalOfBiscuits wrote a review...



Hey, decided to take a break from Doctor Who and come review this!

Nit-picks and nice moments:

Ethan pulled out of the parking lot as Rhys walked towards the church entrance, on his way home after another late shift at the diner.

the "his way home" was slightly unclear until I realised you meant Ethan's way home.

A baby blue Subaru pulled into the parking lot, screeching to a halt in the first parking space it could find. The driver door opened and Rhys laid eyes on the most punk looking girl he'd ever seen.

Here we goooooo!

She wore knee-high boots over what Rhys knew to be crust pants

What are crust pants?

"You'll get it eventually, kid."

I feel like this sound a bit american? Like, I would say kid, but I use a lot of americanisms. She is in America, of course, but if you wanted to make a point of emphasising her britishness at the moment we meet her I might change it to... "man" or "mate". Actually, did we discuss this in a pad or was that someone else about something else?

He took a sip of his coffee, relishing the way it burned his tongue and his throat on the way down. He loved when things were so extreme he could feel them.

Fun question: i recognise that line exactly. is that from a previous version or from patrick melrose? :P

Overall:

This was generally great, really well paced introduction of Leah. I get a sense of her personality, and Ethan's here actually, forgot he was introduced here too. He seems a bit quieter than Lip, which is a good distinction.

I have two ideas:
1. They begin to talk a bit too abruptly. No introductions, just slip into what it would be like if they were friends greeting. I'm surprised they wouldn't exchange names there.
2. I think we don't get enough feel of the meeting. Maybe something about who's leading it, what the story by one of the members was about. I do this myself all the time but it makes it feel a bit streamlined to just the plot, which makes it harder to engage in the fabric of the story. Let me know if that doesn't make sense. I've added and deleted a lot of sentences to this explanation.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)





Irrigation of the land with seawater desalinated by fusion power is ancient. It's called 'rain'.
— Michael McClary