Question by film_sense22: Just started this story, rough, rough draft, looking for opinions?
Part 1 of 4 – How this all came to be…
Wednesday’s are notorious for being the slowest day of the week. Every tick of the clock seems to move backward, and watching it only makes those movements backwards a hell of a lot slower. And as those ticks clicked backwards, Johnny could feel his pulse and temperature rising ever so slightly. The back of his neck felt like sun burn after being slapped, and his blood pressure bumped and thumped like the blood was trying to break loose.
He’d look back at the clock, waiting, and waiting, and waiting for 3:15. 3:15 was the book of Revelation to him. It meant the day was over, at least for a couple more hours. It meant he could back home, relax, take a shower, masturbate, discuss the meaning of everything.
But 3:15 was still a ways a way. He yawned and positioned himself in as many awkward positions as time would allow. Any awkward position would keep him awake, but only for a moment. Soon his inner body would adjust, and start falling asleep again. He felt mechanical. Two sides of him were competing for attention. Neither one was really winning, except whoever was making the more rationale argument.
I could leave. Leave early, say I have a doctor’s appointment.
(You would miss the rest of the lecture)
I’m missing it anyway. I can barely stay awake.
(You’re parent’s aren’t paying for you to sleep)
(You’ve got a child on the way)
Those words woke him up more than any awkward position was ever going to. It made him breath deep breaths and sweat big sweats. He wasn’t even sure who he was, and now he was going to have to direct someone else’s life.
It didn’t help that the professor was talking in somewhat hypnotic speech. Eerily soothing, and causing those eyelids to become perhaps a dozen times heavier than they already were. Johnny stuck it out. Just like he did every Wednesday.
Across campus, Timothy was already deeply engrossed in another afternoon film. It was the second film he had watched today. This semester he cleared most of his schedule for watching movies. He got a job at the campus library checking in and out books. Occasionally, he’d push the rack all over the library placing books in their respective places. He mother fucked the Dewey Decimal System to high heaven, claiming their had to be an easy way to catalog books. He always assumed someone else could do it.
This afternoon’s selection was the 1948 Orson Welles version of Macbeth. Timothy was on a Shakespeare kick for the past two weeks. He’d brought home just about every version of Hamlet from the library last week. Bragnah and Zeffirelli and Olivier and Burton, not to mention the half dozen or so stage productions with names no one would ever recogonize. He said he saw something about himself in the character of Hamlet. Something about the madness, and the way Hamlet carried himself.
The library was the perfect place for him to work. The campus library housed nearly every film ever made. The rows and rows of cinema, past and present, screamed “watch me.” Timothy was just the person to do that.
Concluding her fourth week teaching was Jocelyn. She was just finishing a lecture on neurons and how they worked.
“Remember there is to be a test on Monday. This is going to be on. I’m going to ask you some tough stuff.” Her voice was drowned out by the sound of zippers and notebooks closing. You wouldn’t think of a notebook closing, making any noise at all. But given the onslaught of three hundred notebooks, and it was a symphony of whooshes and wishes.
The semester was just getting started. She had settled in nicely, to the student teaching position. It curbed most of the cost of her graduate education. Her parents were happy about this. They weren’t so happy about the seven month unborn child she was carrying around. Unmarried. Still in school. Oh yes, her parents were plenty worried about that situation to even fully appreciate the tuition waiver for her graduate work.
She had refused to tell her parents who the father was. At least up until now. Her parent’s patience was running thin, and she soon would. But first she had some thing of her own to clear up. She was constantly pondering her graduate degree, wondering and wondering if any of it was worth it. She wondered if she only enrolled to quell the fact that this child was the end of her young life.
No condoms, how could I be so stupid.
She thought this constantly, and consistently. She felt like the girl in the sex ed video, who stayed home on Friday, when her friends went out, just so she could watch her baby.
Her friends, all of them, were so supportive, but their eyes fed her that thank-god—that’s-not-my-child look. She could feel their eyes move up and down her body, the same way a guy does to a girl he sees coming his way. But there eyes were not with with lust, or love, but complete relief.
No fucking condoms, you stupid piece of shit.
The last of the students headed out the door, just as she was gathering up her things. Just a lonely pregnant women in the middle of the auditorium, all alone. That’s how things for her had felt lately.
“The ending is more pronounced because of the change that Ching Fong goes through.” Johnny professors says, to a mostly interested class. Johnny’s arousal level is less than willing to continue. Who would have thought 18th century Japanese literature could be so boring? Johnny wondered if all literature was so boring. He even went as far to wonder if culture in general and everything about it was this boring. All the films, books, and paintings. Every poem, paragraph and page every written and typed, was it all bullshit.
“What do you think, Johnny?” his professor asked. He realized his wandering eyes, and heavy yawns had attracted the attention of his teacher.
“Uh, yeah.” He answered. The class giggled in unison. He had no clue what the lecture was about, hadn’t even paid attention in the last week. Johnny wasn’t even entirely sure he was reading from the same book as everyone else.
“Mr. Walsh, part of your grade is participation. So I am asking for your opinion.” The professor was dead serious, in your face. The class’ eyes were all on him, waiting for his opinion.
“I’m going to be honest, I have no clue what you’re talking about.” He answered. The laughs came back, but there were fewer this time around, like an inside joke that only a few are apart of.
“Looks like that will be an F for participation today, Mr. Walsh.” The professor stared at him, half expecting a reply but continued right on with what he was talking about. Johnny wondered what this guy was like in middle or high school. Probably the kid who got quarters thrown at him in study hall.
Johnny laughed on the inside at the thought of flying George Washingtons hitting him on the head. His gazed returned to the outside, where the weather was becoming more and more brilliant by the moment.
The clouds were turning a light gray, not the kind that bring rain, but the kind that make Johnny feel complete. There was a slight breeze, he could discern from the swaying trees.
Some kids were playing soccer on the lawn. Kicking the black and white ball back and forth. It didn’t appear there were any defined goals. There didn’t need to be, the whole point was just to be outside. Some other kids were just sitting under trees text or fictional books sprawled across their laps, ingesting the whole sum of human knowledge.
Johnny’s deep blue eyes slightly watered at the thought that this was it. This room would be the end of him, and he knew it. His mood was in a downward spiral since the start of the summer. When she told him. When she told him, that within her, his seed had reached her egg, and together they were creating a child. She hadn’t quite put it like that, but he always preferred the most defined definition he could reach.
I gave it to her. I gave it to her too damn good.
(Better watch your mouth, round that newborn)
My parents swore around me, and look, I’m fine.
(Yeah you conceived a child that you have no clue how to care for)
He remembered an idea from Introductory Psych. Objective Self Awareness. Whenever the focus shifts inward, you enter this state of subject awareness. When your self and self image don’t align, it produces negative feelings. His teacher then suggested this is why we see so many IPODS and ZUNES. So people can drown out their own thoughts and remain focused outward.
Johnny sighed and succumbed himself to the last fifteen minutes of class. The outside was not much farther away.
“This is terrible.” Timothy said out loud to the walls and the carpet, and the stack of recently viewed movies on the floor. Among them such classics as the Campbell Scott version of Hamlet, the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally, and the fifth Star Trek film. The odd assortment of films was the way Timothy liked to watch them. He never liked to watch the same genre twice in a row. The past two weeks had been a rare exception to the rule. Consistency was key, as he examined the various productions of Hamlet.
Timothy was looking for the differences between each production. The smallest of details, such as camera or lighting, and he jotted them down in a notebook. With his copy of Hamlet to his side, Johnny would here him all the way down the hall. Quoting Shakespeare four hundred years after the Bard had suffered the deep dark plunge we all go to.
“Oh all you, host o heaven! O Earth! What else?” Timothy would recite. It would seem the voice were coming from the walls, or that Johnny was schizophrenic. But no, not at all. It was the sounds of the Globe Theatre traveling through time, and space to America. To Pennsylvania. To Pittsburgh. It was being absorbed in the hearts of the young, being prepared for passage to another generation.
Timothy was not enjoying this version of Macbeth at all. Maybe it was the black and white of it all, but Timothy could not even stand to finish it. He turned it off and returned it to it’s proper case.
His afternoon was carefully planned to have enough time to watch this, then the Roman Polanski version, then study for the up and coming “exam of the semester, quite possibly my life” is what he was calling it. The change in plans gave him some extra free time. So he stared at the wall, working on the story waiting to be poured onto paper.
Johnny quickly left the lecture hall, not wanting to be stopped by Professor Asshole on the way out. For the obvious and not so obvious reasons. The first of course being he was afraid he might actually slip and call him professor ASSHOLE! And the second being, he didn’t feel like getting the paying attention will help you do better lecture. Or the I’m not standing up here for my health lecture. He’d heard them before, or some version of them. He had pretty much been uninterested in anything but philosophy since he took his first class all those years ago.
The ideas and thoughts and logic of the past four thousand years was constantly bouncing around in his mind, and his pure undivided attention was constantly on that. Pondering and wondering. Thinking and reasoning.
Timothy had a notebook where he kept pictures and comments. Little shreds and bits of information that he eventually thought would help him in the screenwriting process. His whole view of Planet Earth changed when he would doodle away at the notebook. The cries for help from Africa, the depleting ozone layer, the pollution and over population, the whole world just went away.
His friends, mostly Johnny, often wondered if there was a screw or two loose. Something just never made sense with Timothy. In all actuality, that is just the way he presented himself. One step behind the rest.
He scrawled a few shapes and figures into the notebook. Hoping that some ultimately amazing wonderful tidbit of dialogue would come pouring outward onto the paper. Some great quote that college kids, and adults alike would continue saying for years afterwards. Something inspirational, and spine tingling.
His getting longer by the day black hair was at his eyes right now. He loved the way it blew in the wind, even if everyone he knows did not. He was slightly chubby, but nothing a doctor would recommend a safer diet over.
Most of the clothes he wears are two sizes too big, and he only shaves when he absolutely has to. Yet he cannot grow a full beard at this point. More like sporadic spots of hairs. A “chin strap” is what some up tight sorority girl had called it last semester.
His school nurse, and his eye doctor all decided he should wear corrective lenses. He never does, except when he’s behind the wheel of a car. The glasses he has now are the same ones he got in junior high.
He writes in his notebook: The fate of your life is directly affected by the fate of those around you.
“That’s the worst quote in the history of quoting.” He says to himself. He ponders lighting up the old bubbler. Let rip a few quick hits of the wacky tobaccy before he sails off to watch the other version of Macbeth.
He draws a man drowning at sea with a bubble above it screaming help. Next to that he draws a big boat and writes TITANTIC along the side. The guy in the tower has a bubble now too. It says “sorry pal, can’t stop for nothing.”
He laughs to himself and closes the notebook. Another day at the office he assures himself.
Jocelyn is walking down the aisle of the auditorium, the weight of her bag to her side. If someone was observing her from the backside, they would think she was having a seizure the way she was walking. She could truly care less though.
Abortion was an idea that she hadn’t really thought about at all. She remembered in the weeks after she told Johnny she was pregnant, she could see it in his eyes. Those eyes that were begging for an abortion chit chat. It seemed to her that he was just waiting for her to bring it up.She had wanted to talk about it, but every time she saw that he was eager and willing to get rid of this child, it angered her, and made her want it that much more. And now, she insisted it was too late.
She remembered when she was an undergrad, and walking along Forbes Ave, some old lady was holding a great big poster, depicting an abortion at twenty-three weeks. The picture was disturbing but effective in one aspect. She stopped and yelled at the old woman, declaring it was a women’s right to choose. She even attended a march for Female’s Rights a few years back. She had always argued in favor of it, but now, when it was her child, she couldn’t help but cradle her belly and imagine the life she planned to give her child. Whether or not Johnny was going to be apart of it, was debatable.
In the last ten minutes of each hour, the hallways filled up with students from every area of the globe.
Johnny had come from a suburban white man’s paradise. Coming to Pitt was the biggest culture shock he had ever received. A lifetime of one type of person, and suddenly inserted into the throbbing heart of the idea of America. He had savored every moment, unlearning everything K through 12 taught him.
Public Education, he declared in an essay, was flawed. It was one dimensional. He considered the pledge of Allegiance. Writing about the pledge, he realized he couldn’t even remember it.
We spend thirteen years, reciting the Pledge daily, to leave it behind once we leave high school.
He had not said it once since then. And it was a system of control. Implemented by men in suits far away trying to curb individualism. Or so he had wrote.
“Hey.” A voice called from behind him. It was Justine. He turned to see her smiling and eager to talk.
“Hiya.” He replied, smiling. Justine was a nice break from the going to be a father routine.
“Boring class.” She said, slugging her book bag over her shoulder.
“Is it ever exciting?” he questioned.
“You damn philosophers, always asking questions but never coming up with any real answers.” She laughed. Johnny leaned in real close to her, almost directly next to her ear.
“That’s what makes us so attractive.” He laughed, and so did she. It was a I-Want-You laugh. But both of them knew the reality of Johnny’s situation. Both of them knew that on it’s way was a boy or girl, and for the next eighteen years or so, Johnny would be busy cradling, raising, and sending off to college a child.
“You wanna go get a cup of coffee?” She asked. He shook his head. He wondered what they were brewing down at the French Press.
“Alright, but I insist on you buying.” He laughed again and they took to the steps.
Johnny this is masturbation.
Well, you’re a child, and this is the big boy’s menu.
Jocelyn stopped to talk to one of her students waiting outside the auditorium. Her name was Tammy, and she nearly waited everyday outside the door. Tammy always asked the most interesting questions about psychology. She seemed generally interested in it, and Jocelyn assumed this girl would eventually declare psych as a major.
She just hated the idea of her waiting till after class to ask the question. Tammy was obviously shy. But the questions she was asking were ones the whole class could benefit from.
“Ms. Everett, hey, how are you.” Tammy said. She was still holding her notebook, and glancing at it as she walked up.
“I’m pregnant.” She replied, solemnly. She hoped the question would be simple. She wanted to go lie down and eat a half pint of ice cream.
“Oh, really, I hadn’t noticed.” Tammy smile, nervously. “Anyway, I just have a quick question.”
“Ummm, not quite. I was looking through your page on the school’s website.” She started. Jocelyn felt suddenly violated.
You looked at my website, for what?
“I saw that you were a part of a undergraduate research project.”
Christ, this is going to take forever.
“And I was curious how one gets involved in such things.” She was just a curious student, curious like she was when she started school. Interested in how the great big gray matter could produce feelings of love, hate, and complete and utter dissatisfaction with life.
“Tammy, I have to head to a OB appointment. Can you stop by my office tomorrow around 11. I’ll give you all the details, and introduce you to the researcher involved in that.”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” She laughed, but it was filled with anxiety, and embarrassment. Jocelyn didn’t really have an appointment, at least not today. But she was exhausted, lugging her bag of education all around campus. She never envisioned doing this while pregnant.
She suddenly was jealous of her friends from high school. They were either engaged or married to men who were going to take care of them for the rest of their lives. Till death or divorce do them part.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Tammy hurried off. Jocelyn watched as she walked away and headed out the door. Was Tammy so much different then her three years ago? She wondered if she had just shattered a girl’s dreams of making a difference. She always said the biggest problem with the youth was no one wanted to make a difference. Perhaps it was because there were so many problems that the aspect of making a difference was such a loaded issue. Global warming, overpopulation, health care, mental health. There were more problems than solutions associated with those.
And now it was her generation’s responsibility to correct all this. The past fifty years of American Hedonism and unilaterialism had pretty much destroyed any prospect of America in the future. And now, when her generation failed there would be nothing but cynicism towards her.
She imagined her child, starving to death, or dying of an uninsured illness saying “Thanks a lot, Mom. Thanks for letting me die.”
She felt like crying. And maybe as she was watching t.v. and eating Ben and Jerry’s she would. She would let a small river, or creek of tears stream down her face and try and be optimistic.
Timothy burnt his thumb lighting up his bubbler. He usually did, especially when trying to take a big hit. Smoke billowed up from the marijuana, and he held in the lung-full hit he had taken.
He could feel it lingering in his lungs.
A little longer.
He could see the gray color sinking into his lungs, and the smaller molecules journeying to his brain. He could see the smaller molecules binding to his neurons, and completely fucking him up. Joceyln had explained it all to him one time. One day when the two of them were stoned, she told him exactly what happened upstairs.
He always liked getting stoned with Jocelyn, but she hadn’t smoked in a long, long time. Ever since she decided she wanted to be a doctor. But only lately had she become the uptight chick she was.
At this point, he just felt bad for Johnny. He could see the way Johnny looked at her and knew his friend didn’t want that. But the two of them were far past breaking up at this point.
Even if they wanted to, they had been brought up to respect the idea of the American family. Raised in a house with a mom and dad. The sad part was that neither of them were completely sure of it.
Johnny had never said anything, but it was the way he acted around her, or didn’t act around her. He did not respond to her like he used to. It used to be she said jump, and he was in the air. But now, it seemed it was all Jocelyn could do to keep him around.
He remembered one night he’d come home from class, and there was a note one the table saying he was going away for a little bit, to clear his head. Johnny had just up and left. But he was back by the next day. When Timothy asked him what was wrong, he just said he was stressed and left it at that.
Another big hit, and he could feel the drug kick in. Everything became heavy and light. It felt like his conscious was trying to keep up with reality.
Answer by Nest Freemark
Excellent so far… but cut out the X-rated words and keep your attention to the larger audience.
Terry Brooks is a master at keeping his books readable by all. I feel you have the flare for writing and holding your audience in words alone and the x-rated words you did use seemed to be out of context for your writing abilities
Keep us the good work
Give your answer to this question below!