Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Unreliable Third

Write a 500 word fragment of a story from the point of view of an unreliable narrator--third person limited (or attached) narration. As the writer, you'll have to both believe the lie and show it to be a lie--the trick of all good fiction, in the end.
(from prompt #3 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

The walk from his house to the liquor store is one cigarette. It matters when he lights the cigarette; sometimes he can make the cigarette last too much longer than the distance, and she stands in the cold waiting for him to finish. He doesn't have money; neither does she, but she pays for things for the two of them. Everyone knows what is going on, in this situation. He left his home, his wife out in Arizona and he came here with needs to be met. She meets them. He yells a lot, he projects loudly and often. He's the guy you hear before he's entered a room and long after he's left, he leaves a mark, but really, he doesn't leave a hole in his absence. His presence stretches, and when he's gone things relax back to normal. He's too much, he's excessive, he lives that way and he pushes that way. At the liquor store he pushes. He suggests, actively, what might be nice. Orange juice, for example. Rum. Chips. Beef jerky. All might be nice, if she wanted to be, but of course she doesn't, she never wants to be nice to him like he is to her. Or so he says, so he thinks. It's written all over, all over their body language. He's taking advantage of her and they both know it, everyone knows it.She buys his little treats, some cold beverage and a snack, she tells him to let her know if there’s anything else. Like a little boy and his mother, he knows how to be good for her. He kisses her with a “Thanks babe!” and its cigarettes he wants. He keeps his hand on her ass and she feels pretty, the prettiest girl in the liquor store, at least. She knows a little about the wife but only as much as he wants her to know. The way he tells it, the wife tricked him into it all, the mean old lady put him down and made him feel stupid and might as well have cut off his balls, she was so emasculating. He left and he ain’t looking back, oh no he ain’t. He’s all about manifest destiny, now; he went west to conquer, to be a man again. No more wifey holding him down and coddling him; he’s got a new girl, a good girl, but everyone knows—he knows it best—she’s too good a girl, too good for him. They head back from the liquor store, he sings a little bit, he lights the cigarette too late and she’s going to be stuck out in the cold with him, keeping him company in the driveway while he inhales and exhales. He sings and even from a distance his voice is heard, singing about freedom, until she does all the world a favor and shushes him, quiets him, stops him from singing his redemption song. Quite rightly, she's embarrassed, embarrassed by his exuberance, his constant needs, his frequent pleas for love and attention, she tells him not to be dumb, not to sing his stupid songs, to be a quiet little boy and let her hold him. And he complies, and things go back to normal, with his very presence finally gone.

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