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18+ Language Violence Mature Content

Too Much Blank Space, Not Enough Vomit - Ch. 7.1

by Bullet

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

Rhys stumbled into the gallery, doing his best not to fall over as he made his way towards the local artists show. His tie hung sloppily tied and crinkled against his beer-stained shirt, blood trickling down the inside of his left sleeve. His right shoe was untied and he nearly tripped on it, stumbling again as he finally entered into the part of the gallery where the show was hosted. People were milling about, champagne in hand, discussing the art on the wall. Rhys leaned against the nearest wall and wiped sweat off his forehead, raking his greasy, sweat-soaked curls from his eyes. He took a long drink from the unmarked bottle in his hand and trudged forward, hiccuping as he came upon the back wall, which had been reserved for the top piece. His piece, a black-and-purple mass of cubes accumulating to make a disjointed portrait of his face. To the right of it read the title he had given it, 'Trans Boy', and his name - his real name - printed in neat capitals underneath it.

There was a man and a woman standing in front of the piece, arms crossed snootily over their chests as they examined it. Something about 'trans youth' and a 'clearly suffering artist', a 'confused girl' maybe. Rhys shoved his way between them.

"It's trash," he slurred loudly, startling the woman, who looked at him with a scandalized glare. "It's nothing, it doesn't 'mean' anything. I painted it when I was high on cocaine and dick. It's just a shitty drawing, quit acting like it's fucking Picasso."

He stumbled his way towards the canvas, tearing it from its place on the wall. He could see Ethan and Leah out of the corner of his eye, quickly running towards him; he threw the painting on the ground and stomped on it, his foot puncturing the canvas. He stomped on it again and again, his balance skewed by his drunkenness; by the time it was torn to pieces he had attracted the attention of all of the show's patrons. He swayed where he stood, staring down on it, then promptly vomited, spewing sick all over the ruined art. Someone was putting their hands on his shoulders now, ushering him away, a hand trying to clean the sick up off his shirt; he couldn't stop staring at the painting even as he was pulled away from it, one thought running on repeat through his head: too much blank space, not enough vomit.

He heard a distant voice say, "I'll drive him home," and then he was being ushered along again, guided gently from the gallery out to the parking lot. He was folded into the passenger seat of a cherry red pickup truck, and he turned his head to the side and blinked Lip into focus as the latter started the engine.

"What the fuck, dude?" Lip said, rolling down Rhys' window. Rhys coughed, but the threat of vomiting passed and he instead stared at the passing buildings, the wind blowing through his hair sobering him up a bit.

"What the fuck?" Lip repeated, glancing between Rhys and the road. "What kind of bullshit was that?"

Rhys hiccuped and lit a cigarette in response.

"You've been acting all fucked up since the fucking a - " Lip cut himself off, sucking in a breath. "Since the you-know-what. You need to tell Ethan about it. You need to go to a therapist and get some fucking help."

Rhys burst into manic laughter. "Fuck you. What do you even care?"

Lip looked at him like he was crazy. "I care because you're my best friend." They were almost to the apartments now.

"Best friend?" Rhys exhaled smoke, sneering. "Yeah right. Why do you care who I sleep with? You slept with me and it was so goddamn boring you didn't even remember. Yeah, remember that? Your birthday two months ago? You took my fucking virginity, asshole."

They pulled into the apartment parking lot. Silence settled over them before Lip turned the truck off with a soft, "I know."

Rhys stared at him, face contorting with rage, before he got out of the truck, slamming the door behind him. Lip followed immediately.

"Wait, Rhys - "

"You didn't fucking say anything?" Rhys spat, whirling on him. "You didn't fucking say anything!"

Lip reached out to grab Rhys' arm, bringing the latter to a halt. "I just - I didn't tell you because I - I didn't feel the same way, Rhys."

Rhys stared at him for several long moments, then suddenly lunged forward. His hands wrapped around Lip's throat, but it was only a second or so before Lip's fist connected with his jaw and he was then thrown onto the ground, a sharp kick landing in his stomach. He struggled up to all fours, his nose bleeding from where it had met the ground, and Lip loomed over him.

"You're a fucking mess, Hartman," he said, all gentleness gone from his voice. It began to rain. "Get your shit together."

He walked inside, leaving Rhys alone on the pavement. Rhys hovered for a moment on his hands and knees, breathing heavily, before rolling onto his back, staring up at the sky as rain poured on him.

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641 Reviews

Points: 46598
Reviews: 641

Tue Jul 30, 2019 9:22 am
Panikos wrote a review...

Hiya, LordStar! Back again. This will be a quick one.

This is kind of a chapter of two halves for me. The second half feels significantly stronger than the first, and I think that mostly comes from the fact that chapter starts too late. I wish there was a more definitive reason that Rhys got so drunk and high, because - like Bisc says - I don't really understand how Ethan and Lip are here while Rhys has obviously been off somewhere getting wasted. Wouldn't they have all gone together? Wouldn't they have been keeping tabs on him, given how unsettled he's been?

I also think that the smashing up the painting would be a stronger moment if we could trace it back to a specific trigger. Could you use the argument with Ethan? If you developed the conflict about Ethan entering the piece without Rhys's permission, that could easily lead to Rhys going off and getting drunk, then destroying the piece when he finally goes to the gallery. As it is, it seems like he wrecked the painting just because he's not feeling great, which has less impact and doesn't have enough connectivity to previous conflicts.

I haven't read all of the earlier chapters, so I've missed a lot of the interactions between Rhys and Lip, but I think you handled their conversation pretty well. I'm not sure I like Lip, but I'm not sure I like Rhys either, so the conflict feels nicely grey - neither one is completely in the right. Lip's pretty cold at the end, but I guess Rhys did throw the first punch. I wonder what the long term effects of that will be.

I am somewhat wary that the plot doesn't seem to have that much direction, as far as I can see. Rhys is just coasting, which is realistic and absolutely makes sense for his situation, but it does mean that there's nothing he particularly wants. And that means there's no overall goal that the plot and characters are heading towards, so it sort of feels like everyone is staying in the same place. The writing is good and the characters are three-dimensional, but the chapters I've read feel more snapshotty and episodic than chapter-like. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not what I'd personally expect from a novel. It just depends what your intentions are.

Keep writing!

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760 Reviews

Points: 32596
Reviews: 760

Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:39 pm
ExOmelas wrote a review...

Heyo, team tortoise back again!

Nit-picks and nice moments:

His tie hung sloppily tied and crinkled against his beer-stained shirt, blood trickling down the inside of his left sleeve.

I love this bit of description. It's both heavily gross and just touching on the various aspects quickly enough to be subtle.

his name - his real name - printed in neat capitals underneath it.

Just to check, real name as in "Rhys", not as in legal name? Or has he changed his name legally? I actually don't really know whether Rhys is transitioning. I'm not even 100% a binder has been mentioned.

He stumbled his way towards the canvas, tearing it from its place on the wall.

Ooooh okay, I'll go for this. I know I mentioned before that there didn't seem to be enough foreshadowing about some conflict arising around this portrait being in the gallery without his permission, which I still think is true, but I like this as a fallout.


Something I like about this chapter is that we're getting progress on a thread that's already been begun. Ages back when there were allusions to Rhys fancying Lip, this is the conflict of that coming to the fore. That's rather satisfying. I think it was done really well too. The way Rhys lunged at Lip fit really well with him being so pathetic in this chapter. Although, I don't know if it makes sense for Lip to be so irritated. He did seem a bit irritated about how many people Rhys was sleeping with, but he got over that and comforted him, so I don't understand how he got back to being so irritated. BUT I do sympathise with him reacting to Rhys lunging at him, because it's not his fault he doesn't like Rhys. Although well... should he really have pretended not to remember sleeping with him? That doesn't seem healthy. I guess they're both kind of messes, which sounds about right for teenage boys.

I do wish I knew if it was a specific event that led to Rhys getting so drunk and high. Would Ethan not have got him ready for it, since he was so excited? It feels like a significant block of time is missing before the start of this chapter.

Also, slight logical thing, are the gallery just more progressive than their visitors? Otherwise why would they choose something to honour so highly that their clientele were going to be so transphobic about? ('confused girl' got an inward wince from me, btw)

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)

But answer me this: how can a story end happily if there is no love?
— Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane