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18+ Language Mature Content

Too Much Blank Space, Not Enough Vomit - Ch. 3

by LordStar

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

Ethan was waiting for them when they arrived at the apartment, stirring pasta sauce in a saucepan on the stove. He looked up as Rhys let himself and Leah into the apartment, a grin cracking across his face.

"My two favorite people."

Rhys scowled, shrugging out of his jacket and hanging it on the hook by the door. Leah was quiet as she wandered farther in, her gaze travelling to the artwork on the wall. It was drawn by Rhys, from Picasso-like self portraits and drawings of Ethan to surreal and cubist abstract pieces.

"These are amazing," she murmured, staring at the one above the TV. It was one of Rhys' earlier ones, drawn right after their mom had left for California. It was a dismembered elephant, lying on a grassy plain, tears streaked down its gray, leather-like face. A chunk of its ear was missing and one of the legs had bone poking through the skin. In the background, the sky was a fiery array of pink and red and orange, a sharp contrast to the dismal colors below it. Rhys ignored her comment, going into the kitchen to help Ethan with dinner.

"Thanks for ambushing me with your girlfriend at the meeting," he muttered, moving around Ethan to the counter beside the stove, where he began to chop the green peppers.

"She was going to be there anyway," Ethan replied in a low voice. "I figured you could use a friend like her. She' know, like you."

"An addict."

"And she's..." Ethan paused, looking unsure of himself. "You know."

Rhys cocked an eyebrow. "Oh. She's trans."

Ethan flushed a bit. "Yeah. I just figured, you know, you two have some things in common."

"Didn't know you boned girls with dicks," Rhys muttered, floating on the last drips of his high. He’d have to go shoot up in a few minutes, and all the better to be high during what would be a monster of a dinner.

Ethan turned tomato red. "Shut up, dude."

"Unless you haven't boned her yet," Rhys went on, picking up some garlic and starting to mince it. "Which would be weird, considering you've brought her home to meet your little brother."

"Who says I even want to bone her?" Ethan said, a bit loudly. Leah turned her head, eyebrow arched; when Ethan only flushed darker, she turned back around to continue staring at the artwork. "Besides," Ethan continued, his voice quieter now as he stirred the sauce, "who I do and don't bone is none of your business."

Rhys shrugged, throwing the minced garlic into the sauce. "Sure, dude. Just remember there are condoms underneath the bathroom sink."

He left the kitchen before Ethan could reply, going back to his bedroom and shutting the door. He dug his kit out from under his mattress, sitting on the bed and getting ready for his next hit. He picked up the spoon, pouring a bit of cocaine into it before flicking a lighter to life and holding it underneath the spoon's belly. When the cocaine was melted into a syrup he set the spoon to the side, prepping a syringe. He drew the dope into the barrel of the syringe, then set that to the side as he tied a tourniquet around his right forearm. He pulled one end with his hand and the other with his teeth until the tourniquet was tight enough. A vein right in the crook of his elbow bulged and he pierced it with the needle, bovel side up, pulling back on the plunger until the barrel was full of murky red. Satisfied that he had hit the vein, he pushed the plunger down slowly, sighing in relief. If anything, he had staved off the craving, and now he had the opportunity to actually enjoy the dinner without the horrifying ideal of being sober.

He got to his feet, packing away the kit and returning it to its place under the mattress. When he arrived back in the kitchen there were three chairs around the table instead of the usual two, and Leah was sitting in his spot, to the left of Ethan. Ethan was making them all plates, so Rhys took the seat opposite Leah, giving his brother a fake smile as Ethan set the plates on the table before taking his own seat in between the two. Rhys leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette as the other two began to eat.

“You need to eat,” Ethan said, not looking at him. Rhys tilted his head upward to exhale a cloud of smoke. Leah was watching him, her doe-like eyes as electric blue as her hair. Rhys got to his feet to get himself a Dr. Pepper from the fridge. He stood at the end of the table, popping the tab and taking a long drink from the can, cigarette hanging between his fingers. Ethan set his fork down with a sigh.

“Please take a seat and act normal, Rhys.”Rhys scowled but did as he was told, returning to his seat. Leah twirled spaghetti around her fork.

“How was work?” she asked Ethan, smiling at him in a way that made Rhys’ stomach curl. Ethan’s returning smile, with his eyes softening in the dim light of the kitchen, was enough to make Rhys want to vomit as he answered,

“It was just fine. Not as great without you there.”“Oh please,” Rhys muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling and taking a drag off his cigarette. Ethan scowled at him.

“Behave yourself, Rhys.”

“Stop eye-fucking each other across the table and I will,” Rhys retorted.

“Rhys Edward Hartman,” Ethan snapped, brandishing his fork at his younger brother. “Watch your mouth.”

Rhys rolled his eyes again and leaned back so his chair tilted on its hind legs, taking a drag off his cigarette as he did so. Leah was grinning, clearly enjoying herself as much as she was enjoying the spaghetti.

"You guys are cute," she said, making Ethan blush a bit. Rhys focused his eyes on the ceiling to watch the fireworks unfolding in his visions, the cocaine pounding through his veins and his brain feeling full of impatient thunder. He remained silent, letting their conversation become background noise, almost like a passing train, whistling by his ears without him giving it much thought. It wasn’t until he heard the scraping of Ethan’s chair and the untouched plate in front of him was whisked away that he became aware again, blinking to pull the world back into focus as Ethan cleared the table.

“We’re going to watch a movie,” Ethan told him as he went to put the plates in the sink. “Do you wanna watch it with us?”Rhys shook his head, retreating to his room without saying anything and shutting the door. After a moment of thought he locked it, then bent down to where his record player lay on the floor next to his nightstand. He put in a Dead Kennedys record and turned the volume up a bit, laying down in his bed and lighting a fresh cigarette as it grew dark outside.

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1705 Reviews

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Reviews: 1705

Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:12 pm
BlueAfrica wrote a review...

Question, did either of them notice Rhys was high? I know we're more or less in Rhys' head, and he would probably be kind of an unreliable narrator, but I think our narrator is more of a third-party limited omniscient narrator. So even if Rhys didn't notice Ethan and Leah noticing him being freshly shot-up, I'd think we'd probably see at least a hint that they did in fact notice.

"Unless you haven't boned her yet," Rhys went on, picking up some garlic and starting to mince it. "Which would be weird, considering you've brought her home to meet your little brother."

I'm not really sure I get Rhys' point here? Why wouldn't Ethan bring home a girl he likes but hasn't had sex with yet? Or does Rhys equate sex with a serious relationship and think it can't be serious enough to bother meeting the family if there hasn't been any sex? But that would be sort of odd, since Rhys has lots and lots of casual sex; I don't see a reason why he'd equate sex with seriousness.

I don't have much to say about this installment, mostly because I think I'd just end up repeating what the others have said! As you know, this chapter doesn't really go anywhere in particular, since dinner ends quickly and then Rhys isolates himself in his room rather than watching the movie with Ethan and Leah. That's not necessarily a problem, but it doesn't leave me with much to say. As ever, though, a well-written chapter that still holds my interest and shows more of the Ethan/Rhys dynamic.

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610 Reviews

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Reviews: 610

Mon Jun 10, 2019 2:24 pm
Panikos wrote a review...

Hiya, thought I'd drop in and review the next chapter, seeing as it's been kicking around in the Green Room for some time.

I think this carries on in the same strong vein as the previous chapter. I enjoyed getting a bit more insight into Ethan's character and seeing the dynamic between him and Rhys - I found that was the most enjoyable part of this segment. Ethan seems a bit awkward about Rhys's situation, but ultimately well-meaning, even if he doesn't fully get him.

I also think you do a good job with Rhys's personal viewpoint in this chapter, as well. He's realistically boxed into himself, and it's quite hard to see him come away from the church meeting without really being any better for it. The passage where he takes the cocaine is a mixed bag for me - part of me feels like the narration style is too rigid and list-like. All of the sentences are of a similar length, so it's a bit monotonous to read. That said, a clinical, by-the-numbers description could communicate just how familiar Rhys is with the practice. I don't know if that's what you were going for, but you'd need to be more deliberate about it, because at the moment I can't tell if it's a stylistic choice or just slightly sloppy writing.

As with the last chapter, I think you don't get as much out of the scene as you could. Rhys builds up the dinner as this big ordeal, but it only really lasts for a few lines. I'd like you to make more of it, because there's lots of untapped conflict you could make use of. I find it strange that Ethan and Leah were so chill when Rhys was being so rude. Like Bisc says, it's odd that Ethan and Leah are so couple-y with each other (especially given that Ethan seemed so bashful earlier in the chapter), but I find it odder that Rhys' behaviour at the dinner didn't escalate into a bigger conflict. If this is the first time Ethan has brought Leah round and introduced her to his brother, I'd expect him to be kind of frustrated - and a bit embarrassed - that Rhys doesn't engage, doesn't eat, and behaves so coarsely.

Obviously, I haven't read the first few chapters, so it may be that I've missed some key character details that would explain everyone's behaviour a little better. Nonetheless, I think the point stands that I would've liked a bit more rising conflict in this chapter, because not a whole lot of note happens. I've read two chapters of this and I'm still not all that sure what the main stakes are. Rhys is certainly interesting, but he seems pretty aimless at the minute; I don't really know what he wants. I like low-level conflict and think you have a really intriguing cast of characters, but there isn't enough meaningful friction between them - it doesn't feel like the events of this chapter will have a huge bearing on the events going forward, if that makes sense.

Nonetheless, this was still easy to read, well-paced for the most part, and well-written. Your characters continue to feel viscerally real. I especially enjoyed seeing how Rhys and Ethan played off each other, as well as getting a bit more insight into Rhys's background and talents.

Keep writing! :D

LordStar says...

Thanks for the review! And I definitely agree that there could be more conflict during the dinner; I'll keep that in mind in the next draft, as well as the bit about the clinical writing at the beginning; I was trying to make it seem very routine for Rhys, but I'll make it more pointed and obvious in the next draft. Thanks again!

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737 Reviews

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Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:23 pm
DougalOfBiscuits wrote a review...

Heyo, I'm hungry and grouchy at my brain so let's see if this takes my mind off it while my noodles get ready!


from Picasso-like self portraits and drawings of Ethan to surreal and cubist abstract pieces.

This maybe isn't the biggest range you could have chosen, since "cubist" and "Picasso-like" are pretty synonymous.

lying on a grassy plain, tears streaked down its gray, leather-like face

I have a feeling "leathery" might just be a word, but I love the image!


Alright, solid Ethan introduction. He seems to have veered off into being a butt more than previous drafts so that leaves a nice wee role for Lip to fill. I'm maybe a little surprised that Ethan and Leah were so... lovey-dovey with each other (i don't think there's a word for that that isn't as vomit-inducing as what it describes) while Rhys was being so rude (or, totally justified, but they might have read him as rude). It feels like the situation is awkward, so they might have tried to behave in this way, but not quite pulled it off - maybe their eyes keep glancing towards Rhys instead of each other.

I like that we see Leah's reaction to Ethan being harsh to Rhys and Rhys being a smart arse back. Generally good establishment of dynamics here. It might be interesting at some point to explore the dynamics between Leah and Rhys that Ethan doesn't fit into - addiction, transness - and see if Leah is always on board with how Ethan handles things, or how Rhys deals with things. I'm sure this is all in the pipeline, but just some thoughts based on what you have here.

Generally though, really good chapter. Gets everything nice and set up.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)

Life's short; smile while you still have teeth.
— Tuesday