Author Topic: Shred Hoopla's Story  (Read 4228 times)

hoopla

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Shred Hoopla's Story
« on: January 06, 2015, 09:42:05 pm »
I was about to begin rewriting an older story, when the Wiser Joe thread from Apple Talk popped into my mind.  I realized that I could use that sort of story shredding for this troublesome little tale, which I have hammered out about six times over twelve years.  It started off as a very very short story, then I rewrote it into a long verbose story nobody would ever want to read.  I eventually ended up with what follows, but I've never been happy with it.  Here's what I'm going to do... I'm going to post it, then respond with what I think some of the problems are.  Please feel free to be as direct as everyone was in the Wiser Joe story... I have no darlings in this race anymore; it's all possible fodder for the chopping block.  Maybe the whole story is.  We shall see.  Also, formatting on this forum doesn't really jive with how fiction looks, but here's the best approximation.  if you are able, just ignore the formatting as much as possible.

PS: "OHIP" is Canadian health care.
PPS: This story has nothing to do with discordianism.







SMILES: FREE

           Lou had told Gerard several times that surely it must be a very small thing and could be easily corrected.
           His desk backed onto Gerard’s desk so that they faced each other all day, every day.  Lou had stared across the desks at him for hours on his first day in the office; still, it had taken months for him to finally mention Gerard’s mouth.  Gerard, used to polite silence, had mumbled it away.  He fell into an old habit: rubbing the bottom of his nose to surreptitiously hide it.
           The problem was this: from the nose down, Gerard always appeared to have just started melting.  His mouth was a soft crumple.
­­           –In my country, Lou said one day, –my aunts would have taken you to the islands in the south.  They would have taken you to see the witches.  Here, you don’t need witches.  You should talk to your doctor.  Fix it.  You’re young!
           –It’s complicated, Gerard said.  He stared at his monitor, trying to concentrate on the page he was reviewing.  QC was a serious work.  These documents would be used in courts of law, and should be treated with respect.
           He could feel Lou staring at his mouth.
           –You are so young, Lou continued. –if I was your age I wouldn’t want to be wasting my time blaming something like that for all my problems.
           Gerard looked up at Lou, opened his mouth, then closed it.  After a minute he looked up again.  –It’s a.  It’s a complicated issue, that’s all.  There are.  There are factors to consider.
           –What factors?
           –A smile is an extremely complex procedure, Gerard said.  He mumbled and slurred ever so slightly as he spoke, due to the limited motor activity he could perform with his lips.  He spoke very little at work, very little in transit.  He spoke little at the doctor’s office.  He spoke very little in general.  Only when he needed to.  –There are lots of elements to a genuine smile, he finished.
           –What elements?  A smile is a smile.  Women like a good smile.
           –No, there are many elements involved.  Anyway, I can’t afford it.
           – OHIP would not cover it?
           –No.  he said.  When his coworker continued to stare, he added:  –It’s considered a cosmetic procedure.
           Lou blinked, smiling slightly.  This was beginning to annoy Gerard.  He turned back to his monitor.
           After a few moments, Lou asked: –Is it name?
           Gerard looked at him.
           –Is it name?  Lou repeated.
           –Is what named?  Gerard asked.
           –The problem.
           Gerard looked back up at Lou.  He still had that look on his face. –It isn’t a problem.  he said, slowly. –For me.
           –But, is it name?
           Gerard sighed loudly.  He picked up a pen and looked at it. –They don’t really know what it is.  But my doctors call it Acute Idiopathic Facial Palsy.
           –Idiopath . . .
           –Yes.  Gerard said, and turned back to his monitor.
           Daisy, another coworker, approached their desks and asked Lou a question about the order of the pages in the current document being set up.  She was from the same home country as Lou, which seemed to make him think this made the two of them friends.  Before she could walk away, Lou asked her:  –What do you think of Gerard’s mouth?
           Gerard stared at Lou, then at Daisy.  His face went hot.  He could feel his pulse beating in his ears.
           Daisy scratched at her cheek. –What do you mean?  she asked. –It’s fine.  she said.
           –Fine, but could be better, right?  Lou said.  He was smiling at Gerard.
           –Lou,  Gerard said, but could think of nothing further to add.  He wasn’t certain what the company policy was, pertaining to arguments between co–workers.  He didn’t want to get into trouble over this.
           –No, he’s fine, don’t be so mean Lou, Daisy said, laughing slightly.  She made brief eye contact with Gerard, he rubbed his nose again.  Daisy smacked Lou on the shoulder softly and returned to her desk.
           –See?  said Lou. –It isn’t hard to talk to girls.
           Gerard pushed out his chair and left the office.  He walked into the men’s restroom in the hallway, entered a stall, and sat down with his pants up.  He rested his face in his hands.  His face was throbbing heat.
           Gerard sighed through his crumpled mouth.
            There was a vent on the upper wall of the men’s restroom, connecting it to the women’s restroom.  Through this vent everything on the other side of the wall could be heard, sometimes to a somewhat disconcerting degree.
           Gerard became aware of two female voices chatting on the other side of the wall.  –Lou was making fun of his mouth, the poor guy.  You should have seen his face, he looked like he wanted to curl up and die.
           Another voice, probably Sherri from marketing, said: –That’s so sad.  I’ve always wondered if it was a condition, or if he was just . . . you know . . .
           –Lou says it’s a condition.
           –The poor guy.
           Gerard flushed, and left the restroom quickly.  He didn’t want to be seen in the hall.  Back in the office, he briefly visited the break room, stood nervously for a half a minute, then grabbed his coat and told the receptionist he was not feeling well and was going home.  She told him she would pass it along to Carol, staring at his mouth the entire time she spoke.
 
           Dr Galambos sat across from him, his fingers resting on his clipboard.  –Well, Gerard, I have to admit, this is something of a surprise.  A pleasant surprise, of course.  I’ve been trying to convince you to pursue some therapy to try to correct the problem for so long that I’d almost given up hope that you would try it, and now . . .  He looked up at Gerard and shrugged.
           –I want an operation to fix this.  Gerard said firmly.
           –Well, Galambos said.  –I don’t know if an operation is the way we want to go about this.  There are excersises, and–
           –No.  No excersises.  I’m sick of looking like this.  I want an operation.  I can afford it.
           Dr Galambos took off his glasses. –Gerard, the situation isn’t any different than it’s ever been.  Without knowing exactly what the problem is I think we would be doing you a grave disservice by being overly hasty and jumping into any sort of operation.  Bell’s Palsy has a way of working itself out, and–
           –But this isn’t Bell’s Palsy, Gerard corrected.
           –No, strictly speaking, it isn’t Bell’s Palsy.  But it’s something very similar, and for the time being I think it’s safer to treat it as if it were Bell’s Palsy.  The conditions are almost identical.  Bell’s Palsy is an idiopathic unilateral facial nerve paralysis, and so is whatever we’re dealing with here.  Except in this case, unilateral means the upper and lower halves of the face, rather than the left and the right.  It may very well still be the same condition, Gerard.
           –But we don’t know.
           –No, we don’t.
           –And it may be permanent.
           Golambos sighed.  –Quite possibly.
           –Doctor, has it ever occurred to you that I’m not getting any younger?
           Dr Galambos looked up at him from the clipboard, but said nothing.
           –This condition doesn’t make getting to know girls easy you know.  I’ve already had it for twenty years.  I think its time to try other options.
           Dr Galambos looked at his hands. –Then, you’ve gotten over . . .
           –Yes.  I have.  It’s nonsense.
           –Good.
           –You said so yourself, after all.
           –Yes, I did.  You, on the other hand, were quite emphatic that you thought it was some sort of–
           –Well.  That seems silly at this age.  I would like to try the operation.
           –All right, Galambos said, somewhat wearily. –I have to tell you, of course, that the operation doesn’t promise what most would consider a genuine smile.  A true smile is an extremely complex procedure.  The human face has fifty-three muscles and a smile utilizes almost every single one to some degree.  We cannot even begin to compete with that, even with modern medicine what it currently is.  We will, however, be able to manipulate the Zygomaticus major and minor muscles into simulating the rictus movement commonly associated with smiling, but it will not be, in truth, a genuine smile.
           –Doctor, Gerard said in a warning tone.
           –I just want you to be aware of the limitations.  This isn’t a miracle cure.
           –I’m aware.  How soon can I get it?
 
           Gerard stood looking into his bathroom mirror.  He was smiling at himself.  There was still no feeling in his cheeks or lips, but now when he ordered his face to smile, it smiled.  His lips pulled back away from his teeth and stood at attention.  Now, with practice, his lips didn’t twitch much anymore.  He was really smiling.  It was strange seeing so many teeth.
           Looking at his teeth in the mirror, he thought back on his childhood dentist, Dr Botner.  At the age of nine his two front teeth had already been missing for over a year, but no adult teeth had moved down to replace them.  The dentist could see them up there, but for whatever reason, they weren’t budging.  He had suggested that they lance the gums, so that the movement could begin.  Gerard was opposed to the idea; he hated the idea of surgery.
           “But, Gerard,” his mother had said.  “the dentist thinks the space in your teeth might adversely affect your speech, honey, and you don’t want to lisp like one of those fairies your whole life, do you?”
           Gerard had stomped out of the house, despite the fact that he was supposed to be helping his mother wallpaper his room in a Star Wars theme, to go to the playground.  On the way, he took glee in chanting to himself “Step on a CRACK . . .  break your mother’s BACK!” over and over as he stomped on every crack in the sidewalk.  He ran images of his mother’s back being broken in various ways over and over through his mind.
           In the playground, sitting in a tire swing, Gerard heard sirens but didn’t pay any attention to them.  They were clearly quite far away.  Someone else’s concern.
           On his way home, Gerard again indulged in stepping on many sidewalk cracks, thus, in some manner, encouraging the paralysis of his mother.
           He didn’t get to see his mother when he arrived home, but his father was there, weeping into his sister’s shoulder.  Gerard’s mother had already been taken away to the hospital.  Million to one chance, he had overheard an ambulance attendant say.
           His mother was doped up when he got to see her.  She was sitting up in bed, her head lolling around; her hair was ratty.  She smiled when her eyes focused in on him, giggling like a child and began to sing “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth . . .” then reached out, caressed his face with her cold fingertips, and squeezed his cheek.  A sharp stabbing pain, a flash of light before his eyes, and a brisk popping sound accompanied the squeeze, then Gerard couldn’t feel the bottom half of his face anymore.
           His mother’s smile faded slowly.  “Gerard?”  she asked, slurring slightly.  “Gerard, what’s wrong with your face?  What’s wrong with your mouth?”
           He shrugged.  She began whimpering.  The whimper slowly and horribly gurgled into a shriek.
           Afterward, they forgot all about his two front teeth; they eventually grew in on their own, but by that point it was useless to argue whether the lisp was from the missing teeth or from other matters.
           Gerard smiled now, staring at his two front teeth in the mirror, smiling, finally smiling.  If only his mother could see him now.
 
           He was quiet until almost noon, then finally he cleared his throat and said:   –Lou . . . do you have a pen?
           –Hm?  Lou asked, not taking his eyes from his own monitor.
           –A pen.  Do you have a pen?
           –Uh . . .  Lou said, in a distant dreamy voice.
           He continued to stare at his screen.
           Gerard waited.  He licked his teeth.  He wet his lips.
           Lou finally turned to him. –Sorry.  What?
           –Pen.  Gerard said, making a writing motion with one hand.  –Got an extra pen?
           –Oh.
           Lou fished under some pages, and pulled out two pens, both with the caps excessively chewed. –Black or blue?  he asked.
           –Mm, black.  Gerard said.
           Lou tossed him the pen, then turned back to his work.
           –Hey.  said Gerard, on a whim.
           Lou looked back at him. –Hm?
           Gerard couldn’t think of anything to say. –Hey.  Did you watch anything funny on tv last night?
           –Mm, no.  he said.  His eyes were beginning to be pulled back toward his screen again.
           –I did.  Gerard offered.
           –Oh?  Lou asked, offhandedly. –What was it?
           –What was it . . .  Gerard pondered.  He couldn’t think of anything.  –Hmm.  I can’t remember the name.  God, it was funny though.  Just thinking about it.  Ha.
           Lou looked up.  –You don’t remember what it was? he asked.
           –No.  Can’t remember the name.  Still: Ha ha.
           Lou stared at him, then turned back to his monitor.
           Gerard returned to his work.  It was difficult to concentrate.  After some time had passed he said to Lou: –I guess you were probably wondering why I was away from work . . .
           –Vacation? Lou asked, without looking up.
           –Recuperation.
           –Mm.
 
           In the men’s restroom, Gerard stared at his face.  Nobody had said a word about his new mouth. He tried to imitate what his old mouth used to look like.  His old sad crumpled little mouth.  Then, in a flash, he would spring open his new improved smile.  It was utterly dazzling.
           He heard a toilet flush on the other side of the wall, in the women’s restroom.  As the roar of rushing water through old pipes died down, he became aware of female voices drifting through the vent.  The first words he caught were: –mouth was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen.
           His heart stopped.
           –I know I know I know . . . came the voice of Sherri.
           –It’s so sad.  said Daisy.
           –I know. It’s haunting.
           Gerard turned taps on.  Full force.  He couldn’t hear the voices on the other side of the wall.  Looking in the mirror again he pulled his lips back and smiled.  He stared at his mouth.  Witches, he thought.  Cold water ran over his wrists.  He smiled.




« Last Edit: January 06, 2015, 10:02:37 pm by Hoopla »
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman

hoopla

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2015, 09:47:40 pm »
Ok, some of my problems with it:

-The title doesn't make much sense anymore.  It's a reference to a menu McDonald's hasn't used in at least ten years.  And doesn't really have a lot to do with the story.
-I'm not certain we ever feel like we know Gerard all that much.
-It lacks major subtlety.
-I'm not certain it has a point?
-Possibly boring
-The part with the mother lacks something major, but I can't quite out a finger on what I'm missing.  One of those moments when you open a drawer looking for scissors, and can't see them when they are right in front of you.  I know it's there, but...
-Possibly has a slightly racist tone, but almost every word the Philippino characters speak in the story are direct words old coworkers used with me, or very close alterations.  So, I dunno.  Why do they have to be Philippino? They don't.  But Philippino fictional characters don't get enough work.

I will post more if I think of them.  I know I had other problems.  They will occur to me.

All comments and suggestions are very much welcomed, and I thank you in advance for spending your time helping me.
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman

Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2015, 10:26:54 pm »
Some thoughts:

Why is dialogue preceded by a dash instead of enclosed in quotation marks, except during the flashback sequence? Just when I got used to it, it changed. And then it changed back. I found it distracting.

It seems like this story is about witchcraft, and it almost works, but not quite. The stepping on a crack/breaking his mother's back, the all I want for Christmas is two front teeth, the mother being the apparent source of the palsy -- none of it really ties together or makes sense. What to the teeth have to do with the palsy? Why is the mother in the hospital, did she slip or did her spine spontaneously snap?

While it's not clear that Lou is Philipino, "She was from the same home country as Lou, which seemed to make him think this made the two of them friends" is a nice touch, because it illustrates that Lou is a bit of a clueless ass.

I think the end, in which he has a surgically-created (and presumably horribly creepy) permanent smile, could probably be made more impactful. The whole thing feels a bit like you're hinting at something that you don't want to come right out and say, but won't just show us either.

Needs more visuals. What are we looking at? Why? What's happening? None of these elements are clear.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2015, 10:54:45 pm »
This is a tough one, Hoops. It's disjointed. You said you wrote it over a long period of time? Was it a long enough time that your writing voice changed between segments? I think just rewriting it now would do it a lot of good.

I like the story. It's strange. It's maybe pointless but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it doesn't feel like it's trying to be anything profound.

The bizarre formatting really gets in the way of trying to read it, though, as does your use of passive voice in a few odd spots. It's hard to follow some of the dialogue when it's laid out in bullet points. Point of view seems to switch first from Lou and then to Gerard, but maybe that's just me.

Those are the broad strokes. It would really benefit from some fine tooth comb editing for little things like "Daisy, another coworker, approached..." Here, "another coworker" isn't necessary. There was more than one instance and I think if you rewrite it you'll probably pick it up.

It's all just polish, dude!
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hoopla

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2015, 11:06:29 pm »
Some thoughts:

Why is dialogue preceded by a dash instead of enclosed in quotation marks, except during the flashback sequence? Just when I got used to it, it changed. And then it changed back. I found it distracting.

It seems like this story is about witchcraft, and it almost works, but not quite. The stepping on a crack/breaking his mother's back, the all I want for Christmas is two front teeth, the mother being the apparent source of the palsy -- none of it really ties together or makes sense. What to the teeth have to do with the palsy? Why is the mother in the hospital, did she slip or did her spine spontaneously snap?

While it's not clear that Lou is Philipino, "She was from the same home country as Lou, which seemed to make him think this made the two of them friends" is a nice touch, because it illustrates that Lou is a bit of a clueless ass.

I think the end, in which he has a surgically-created (and presumably horribly creepy) permanent smile, could probably be made more impactful. The whole thing feels a bit like you're hinting at something that you don't want to come right out and say, but won't just show us either.

Needs more visuals. What are we looking at? Why? What's happening? None of these elements are clear.

I didn't even notice on this reread that the flashback used quotes.  I don't remember doing that, but it must have been an ill conceived idea to separate it from the rest of the story.  I agree, it is jarring.  I will likely use traditional quotes upon rewrite.  Thanks Nigel.

Oh and the mother was supposed to have fallen while hanging wallpaper, but yeah it is way too vague.  The flashback is the worst part, I think.
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman

hoopla

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2015, 11:12:57 pm »
This is a tough one, Hoops. It's disjointed. You said you wrote it over a long period of time? Was it a long enough time that your writing voice changed between segments? I think just rewriting it now would do it a lot of good.

I like the story. It's strange. It's maybe pointless but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it doesn't feel like it's trying to be anything profound.

The bizarre formatting really gets in the way of trying to read it, though, as does your use of passive voice in a few odd spots. It's hard to follow some of the dialogue when it's laid out in bullet points. Point of view seems to switch first from Lou and then to Gerard, but maybe that's just me.

Those are the broad strokes. It would really benefit from some fine tooth comb editing for little things like "Daisy, another coworker, approached..." Here, "another coworker" isn't necessary. There was more than one instance and I think if you rewrite it you'll probably pick it up.

It's all just polish, dude!

I have a tough time weeding out passive voice, but I will make a run through upon rewrite looking for just that, so that I am certain to catch them all.  It IS disjointed, I agree.  This particular version would have been written in one go, but the story has been around in my head for some time, that may have made my narration somewhat laxy in certain parts. Also, part of the disjointedness may have resulted in the way I went about telling the story, which was to deliberately leave certain things out, as I think thats how Gerard has lived the last 20 years of his life.  The narration is ignoring what he refuses to pay attention to.  See how he tries to distract himself from the women at the end?  But as Nigel said (wisely) in another thread: if I have to explain it, it probably doesn't work.

I don't think the POV switches in the beginning, but then again I didn't think there was passive voice, and was obviously wrong there.

This has helped me pin down a lot of the issues I wouldn't let myself pay attention to (see whut I did thar?), thanks guys.

And anything else anyone else would like to pick apart, have at it!
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman

hoopla

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2019, 02:06:24 pm »
OK, here is another one. Believe it or not, I am still working on that first story, but in the meantime here is another story to shred. I apologize for any formatting fuckups.


REDACTED --- so that the story will not show up in online searches, and possibly appear to be "previously published".
« Last Edit: October 09, 2019, 08:57:52 pm by Hoopla! »
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman

Fujikoma

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2019, 06:58:11 pm »
I like both stories. The newer one with the way Tyson leaps to the couch terrified of a little mouse before Cynthia non-nonchalantly squishes it, moral seems to be: "Do not mistake kindness for weakness". I like the story about Gerard as well, my impression of Gerard at first was stoic, but quickly melted, like half of his face, to shallow and petty, given his tendencies. Perhaps more of the story could illustrate how Gerard had changed after the lesson of "be careful what you wish for" until eventually having to relearn that lesson the hard way AGAIN.

My only real beef with the first story, besides a few missed opportunities to display more character development for Gerard (something you seem to have already recognized by saying "it seems like we don't get to really know Gerard"), is the lack of quotation marks, using dashes instead, makes it hard to separate where characters speaking begins/ends and narration begins. That part is easily fixable. I like where the story seems to be leading when he says "witches". Definitely leaves a "to be continued" vibe.

EDIT: I had hoped in some strange way Tyson was going to integrate the toothpaste, condoms, and razor blades into some freakish homemade mousetrap with hilariously disastrous effect. Apparently, Chekhov's Gun does not apply here.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2019, 07:03:08 pm by Fujikoma »

hoopla

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Re: Shred Hoopla's Story
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2019, 10:28:06 pm »
I like both stories. The newer one with the way Tyson leaps to the couch terrified of a little mouse before Cynthia non-nonchalantly squishes it, moral seems to be: "Do not mistake kindness for weakness". I like the story about Gerard as well, my impression of Gerard at first was stoic, but quickly melted, like half of his face, to shallow and petty, given his tendencies. Perhaps more of the story could illustrate how Gerard had changed after the lesson of "be careful what you wish for" until eventually having to relearn that lesson the hard way AGAIN.

My only real beef with the first story, besides a few missed opportunities to display more character development for Gerard (something you seem to have already recognized by saying "it seems like we don't get to really know Gerard"), is the lack of quotation marks, using dashes instead, makes it hard to separate where characters speaking begins/ends and narration begins. That part is easily fixable. I like where the story seems to be leading when he says "witches". Definitely leaves a "to be continued" vibe.

EDIT: I had hoped in some strange way Tyson was going to integrate the toothpaste, condoms, and razor blades into some freakish homemade mousetrap with hilariously disastrous effect. Apparently, Chekhov's Gun does not apply here.

Thank you for taking the time to read both stories, Fujikoma.

The story with Gerard is a toughie I am still working on. I am trying to produce a version without flashbacks, as I don't love them as a literary device, particularly in short stories. I feel there is a story there, but I haven't chipped away enough to reveal it.

As to the mice story, I do wish what Tyson brought home from the drug store had somehow figured into his trap......... what I will say is that I don't feel what he came home with, other than the trap, was included without purpose. But I would prefer to say no more than that.

Again, thank you for the feedback. It is much appreciated.
“Soon all of us will have special names” — Professor Brian O’Blivion

"Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." — Bob Dylan?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" — Walt Whitman