Devil Cares: Chapter Three

May 7, 2008 at 5:00 pm (Devil Cares) ()

There’s a bit of news on my LJ today that my readers might be interested in. It’s the last paragraph. Link’s in the blogroll, as always.

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The four days until the funeral passed in a fog of despair and misery. Wesson walked around the house like a zombie. For once the kid who was normally never parted from his cell phone left it turned off in his room. He and Barrett had barely exchanged words since the day it had happened. Since the day their parents had died.
People usually described death as an absence inside of them, but that wasn’t how Wesson felt at all. It was a weight, a solid presence of grief and a feeling of nausea twisting around inside his gut. At times it seemed the weight was physical as well. On Saturday he never left his bed. He’d stayed home from school on Monday, not wanting to face the pity of his classmates.
He knew Barrett wasn’t coping any better than he was. His brother was not usually a big drinker, but he’d smelled Barrett’s favorite whiskey on him whenever they’d crossed paths. It had crossed the teenager’s mind to sneak a bottle and drown his own sorrow, but that seemed…unfaithful, somehow, to his parents’ memory. As if trying to make the pain go away before it was ready was somehow dishonoring them.
Idly, Wesson contemplated that if he were a character on a TV show, he’d dress in black and listen to angst-filled music really loud. He’d given up that notion rather quickly, deciding that would only make himself feel worse.
On Monday Barrett had gone into town to get groceries, mostly to occupy himself, probably. He’d returned quickly with milk, toilet paper, and a bottle of some yellow-brown liquor Wesson couldn’t name. According to Barrett he’d given it up when every person he came across stopped to ask him how he was doing.
He’d then stuffed the milk in the fridge, left the toilet paper on the bar, and beat a hasty retreat with his alcohol. After that, Wes had realized he hadn’t eaten anything yet, so he poured himself some cereal. His appetite had died with his parents, he discovered, and he found himself unable to finish it.
Barrett put in another appearance that day, telling Wesson to gather up his black suit so he could go to town and get it dry-cleaned. Wesson only wore it every Sunday when they went to church, and they hadn’t gone this week, so it didn’t really need cleaning. He could tell this was another of Barrett’s missions, though, so he handed over the suit without a word.
When Wesson dragged himself out of bed a little past ten the next day, the suit was hanging on his door handle fresh from the cleaners.
“Oh, hey, you’re awake.” Barrett was standing in his doorway, already dressed in his own suit. “The service starts at half-past eleven, but we should probably be there at eleven straight up so try to hurry in the shower.”
Wesson didn’t want to think about how long Barrett had been awake to have already made a trip to town and back, showered, and dressed. Numbly, he headed off to the shower.
They pulled into the church parking lot at a quarter after eleven. Even Barrett’s speeding hadn’t gotten them there on time. Many of the pews were already filled as they walked into the church. They walked to the front row and sat down in the pew reserved for them.
The reverend began the service by discussing how well loved Colt and Cheyenne Mossberg had been in the community. Next he moved on to how they’d met, fallen in love, and gotten married (“…In this very church…”) before brushing over some other highlights of their lives. When that was over, the choir sang “Amazing Grace” while the people shuffled out. Dimly, Wesson remembered that his mother hated that song.
At the family crypt, on the far side of the Mossberg property, all the people gathered around the caskets while the reverend began the official ceremony to lay them to rest. Wesson became aware halfway through that tears were running down his face. Blinking his eyes, he looked up at Barrett to see him staring resolutely forward. If he was hearing one single word the reverend was saying, it would be a surprise to Wesson. Not that this was really unexpected. If there was one thing Barrett would not do in public it was cry.
Then, just like that, the service was over, and people were expressing their last sympathies before heading to the community center. The typical dinner that followed a funeral was being held there, but Barrett wanted to stay until the caskets were lowered into the ground. It’s not like the people could start eating without them.
When they started packing the dirt back on, though, Barrett decided it was time to leave.
Wesson took the ride to the community center to get himself together and wipe the tears off his face. He was sad Kimber hadn’t made the funeral, but his brother probably hadn’t found a flight on such sort notice this close to Christmas. Wes knew that Barrett hadn’t spoken to the middle Mossberg since the night he’d moved out, but even back then Wes’d had an email and they’d kept in touch.
They arrived at the center to find everyone milling around talking. The guests shuffled the brothers through first before helping themselves. Wesson loaded his plate with raspberry Jell-O salad and a heaping pile of those cheesy potatoes that were usually at funerals. At his brother’s look he added a few pieces of fried chicken to his plate. Barrett shook his head but didn’t do anything else.
Barrett’s friend Andy had saved the brothers a spot close to the food table, so they went to sit down. Leave it to Andy to get there first.
Usually funeral dinners were held in the church, but the community center had been the only place large enough to contain all the people who’d wanted to pay respects to Colt and Cheyenne Mossberg. They were in the community center’s ball room, as the old ladies who’d helped them with the planning thought it looked better than the gym and wasn’t that much smaller. He and Barrett could’ve cared less, so they’d agreed to make life easier on themselves. Actually, they really hadn’t had to do that much about the services.
“Oh, Barrett, I meant to ask you.” Mrs. Robinson, the older one, had been about to pass by their table. She held her food in one hand while she laid the other on Barrett’s shoulder.
“Did you manage to contact your brother by any chance?”
Barrett gave her a limp smile and replied, “Yes, he was trying to make it for the funeral, but it’s hard to get a plane on short notice during this time of year.”
Mrs. Robertson patted him on the shoulder and made a sympathetic face. “Such a shame he couldn’t make it, he was always such a nice boy.”
Wesson stifled a snort at that, but Barrett thanked her and she left.
It was actually pretty late when the brothers got home. The community center was full pretty much nonstop the entire afternoon. Then people had started talking. Packing up the food had also taken a while, and so had putting up the chairs and tables and everything. It was mostly husbands of the ladies who had organized that stayed behind to help take down. They’d tried to get Wesson and Barrett to go home, but they’d insisted on helping. Both of them had needed the distraction.
When they made it back to the ranch they had to find places for all the food the ladies had forced them to take. Everything that needed refrigeration or freezing that was small enough had gone inside to the fridge. Stuff that was too big to fit there had gone to the cold room on the back porch. It was a ton of food, but at least they wouldn’t have to go into town for awhile.
By the time they got it all put away they were hungry enough to drag some of it back out, but both of them headed up to their rooms to change first.
Several microwaved platefuls of funeral potatoes later, Wesson and his brother were sitting on the couch in front of the TV in jeans and t-shirts. They weren’t really watching what was on. It was more like they needed the background noise to keep them occupied.
The crazy weather hadn’t improved. It had actually gotten worse. The wind was bad outside. Wes looked out the glass door windows on the wall to the left of where he was sitting on the couch. It was windy enough to make the big tree by the house brush against the glass. A flash of lightning lit up the area.
Wes frowned, his eyes narrowing. He got up from the couch and padded toward the window.
Barrett glanced at him. “Hey, what’s up?”
“I don’t know,” Wes replied. “I thought I saw something moving out there.”
His brother shrugged. “It’s probably just some animal trying to get out of the storm.”
Wesson leaned forward, pressing his face close to the glass and shielding his eyes with his hand.
More lightning cracked at just that moment, and it was only this that saved Wesson’s life. He saw the creature leaping toward the window.
Wes dove to the side, shouting out, “Barrett!”
Almost instantly, his brother was out of his seat and running toward him. The glass of the windows shattered before he got far. Barrett slid to a stop, throwing up his arms to protect his face from the flying shards.
The creature took only a second to find new footing before leaping up at Barrett. It was skinny and pale, almost skeletal. Its proportions were human shaped, but its hands ended in claws and its face narrowed almost to a point. As Wesson scrambled up on his elbows he saw the creature was covered in dead plants and leaves. A closer look revealed the foliage was actually coming out of the thing’s skin.
Pinned underneath it, Barrett struggled to dislodge it, but it was too strong. His crossed arms fended it off, but that wouldn’t last long. It snarled as it slashed at his face, its long, finger-like claws trying to slice into him.
“Barrett, where’s the key to the gun cabinet?” Wes called.
“It’s in Dad’s room, the bottom drawer!” his brother shouted back.
Suddenly a pale blue glow lit the room. The creature threw back its head and howled. As the light intensified, smoke began rising from its skin. Howling turned into a full fledged wail, and it released Barrett and bounded out the window into the night.
Barrett lay on the ground where he’d been left, gasping for breath until he heard Wesson.
“Hey, Kim.”
“Hey, Wes,” answered a voice from the doorway.
Barrett struggled up to his elbows to see his middle brother standing in the doorway. His hair was much, much lighter than Barrett’s and even Wes’s. It might be even be considered blond. His eyes were a soft gray. As often as Barrett was compared to their father, he was to their mother. His face possessed the same sloping bone structure as hers had. He was wearing tight jeans, a t-shirt and button down, and a jacket. One hand was outstretched, and providing the source of the pale glow. Barrett assumed it held a cross, though his grasp was kind of wide for an ordinary cross. More like it was holding something circular, but Barrett dismissed that thought.
Above those gray eyes a slender brow arched.
“Hello, Barrett,” Kimber’s drawling voice said. “Getting rusty in your old age?”


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8 Comments

  1. Yahrlan said,

    0.0
    *tries to think of what myth that thing could have been*
    And yes…that most surely is a cross glowing blue and orb-like in Wes’ hand @_@

    Devil Cares Chapter Playlist

  2. Yahrlan said,

    Er… Kimber’s hand. not Wes…blerg

  3. Zappaz said,

    Ooh! A creature! *can’t wait to find out what it is*

    <_< Also, I like Kimber already.

  4. jekloneo said,

    Circular… Hmm. I wonder what that might have been.

  5. yinyang said,

    “He and Wesson had barely exchanged words since the day it had happened.” Since this is from Wesson’s perspective, you mean “he and Barrett,” right?

    “His brother was not usually a big drinker, but he’d smelled Barrett’s favorite whiskey on him whenever they’d crossed paths. It had crossed the teenager’s mind to sneak a bottle and drown his own sorrow, but that seemed…unfaithful, somehow, to his parents’ memory.” Repetition again. I would change it, but I know some people aren’t as bothered by repetition as I am.

    “Idly, Wesson contemplated that if he were a character on a TV show, he’d dress in black and listen to angst filled music really loud.” –> “Idly, Wesson contemplated that if he were a character on a TV show, he’d dress in black and listen to angstfilled music really loud.”

    “On Monday Barrett had gone into town to get groceries, mostly to occupy himself, probably.” –> “On Monday, Barrett had gone into town to get groceries, mostly to occupy himself.” The sentence reads just as well without the comma, but I tend to want to put commas where the sentence flow suggests them, to give it a more definite structure. So, you’ll notice that some of the changes I make are just me being comma happy. I also removed “probably” because it was awkward having two adverbs modify the same verb.

    “According to Barrett he’d given it up when every person he came across stopped to ask him how he was doing.” I don’t know what that means, “given it up.” It sounds like he gave away the alcohol, except really he did the opposite. Do you mean that he gave up trying to avoid buying any alcohol? Then the sentence would better read, “According to Barrett, he’d given up when every person he came across stopped to ask him how he was doing.”

    “Wesson only wore it every Sunday when they went to church, they hadn’t gone this week, so it didn’t really need cleaning.” –> “Wesson only wore it every Sunday when they went to church,and they hadn’t gone this week, so it didn’t really need cleaning.”

    “When Wesson had dragged himself out of bed a little past ten the next day, the suit was hanging on his door handle fresh from the cleaners.” The “had” before “dragged is unnecessary. To quote one of my favorite fan fic writers, “Less words, same meaning = better.”

    “Next he moved on to how they’d met, fallen in love, and gotten married (‘In this very church.’) before brushing on some other highlights of their lives.” –> “Next he moved on to how they’d met, fallen in love, and gotten married (‘… in this very church‘), before brushing over some other highlights of their lives.”

    “Not that this was really unexpected, if there was one thing Barrett would not do in public it was cry.” –> “Not that this was really unexpected; if there was one thing Barrett would not do in public, it was cry.”

    “It’s not like the people could start eating without them” –> “It’s not like the people could start eating without them.” You just left the period off here. It happens to the best of us.

    “Barrett’s friend Andy had saved the brothers a spot close to the food table, leave it to Andy to get there first, so they went to sit down.” –> “Barrett’s friend Andy had saved the brothers a spot close to the food table leave it to Andy to get there first so they went to sit down.”

    “Barrett gave her a limp smile and replied, ‘Yes, he was trying to make it for the funeral, but it’s hard to get a plane on short notice during this time of year.'” A “limp” smile? That’s a very odd description, as I don’t think smiles can be limp. They can be “weak,” though, which is what I’d put there instead.

    “They’d tried to get Wesson and Barrett to go home, but they’d both insisted on helping. Both of them had needed the distraction.” Just some more of that repetition. 🙂 Removing the first “both” would solve it nicely.

    “They weren’t really watching what was on, it was more like they needed the background noise to keep them occupied.” –> “They weren’t really watching what was on; it was more like they needed the background noise to keep them occupied.”

    “Wes looked out the glass door windows on the well to the left of where he was sitting on the couch.” –> “Wes looked to his left, out the glass door windows.” The well wasn’t relevant to the stormy weather, and I rearranged the sentence because the description was confusing otherwise. If you want to put the well back in, something like, “Wes looked to his left, out the glass door windows and beyond the well in their yard,” or, “Wes turned his head to the left, looking out the glass door windows at the well in their yard,” would work better for me.

    “He got up from the couch and padded toward the window.

    “Barrett glanced at him as he got up. ‘Hey, what’s up?'” More repetition; too many “ups.” And, as annoying as it might be for you that I keep bringing it up, that’s how annoying repetition is to me. I’d recommend either removing “as he got up” entirely, or replacing the second “got up” with “stood.”

    “Its proportions were human shaped, but its hands ended in claws and its face narrowed almost to a point. As Wesson scrambled up on his elbows he saw the creatures was covered in dead plants and leaves. A closer look revealed the foliage was actually coming out of the thing’s skin.” –> “Its proportions were humanoid, but its hands ended in claws and its face narrowed almost to a point. As Wesson scrambled up on his elbows he saw the creature was covered in dead plants and leaves. A closer look revealed that the foliage was actually coming out of the thing’s skin.” In addition to the bold items, I removed a stray “s” from the end of “creature.”

    “Pinned underneath it, Barrett struggled to dislodge it but it was too strong. ” –> “Pinned underneath it, Barrett struggled to dislodge it, but it was too strong. ”

    “It snarled as it slashed at his face, its long, finger-like claws trying to slice into his face.” –> “It snarled as it slashed at him, its long, finger-like claws trying to slice into his face.”

    “But suddenly a pale blue glow lit the room.” –> “Suddenly a pale blue glow lit the room.” If you want to keep the but, you could say something like, “But, it wasn’t needed, as suddenly a pale blue glow lit the room.”

    “As the light intensified smoke began rising from its skin.” –> “As the light intensified, smoke began rising from its skin.”

    “His hair was much, much lighter than Barrett’s and even Wes’s. It might be even be considered blond.” Is his hair blond, or isn’t it? There doesn’t seem to be any reason for ambiguity here. If it is, then this would be suitable: “His blond hair was much, much lighter than Barrett’s and even Wes’s.”

    “More like it was holding something circular, but Barrett dismissed that thought.” –> “It seemed more like it was holding something circular, but Barrett dismissed that thought.”

    I suggested a lot for this chapter, too. Most of this is over little things, like a change in punctuation here and there where I feel it improves the flow. I’m really enjoying this story so far, and I’m interested in seeing where it’s going.

  6. yinyang said,

    “Next he moved on to how they’d met, fallen in love, and gotten married (‘In this very church.’ ) before brushing on some other highlights of their lives.” –> “Next he moved on to how they’d met, fallen in love, and gotten married (‘… in this very church‘ ), before brushing over some other highlights of their lives.”

    Grr, smilies.

  7. Seth Gray said,

    As with the previous chapter, I’ve kept some of the things you suggested to change, and for the same reason. I realize I sacrifice some technical correctness to write the characters’ voices in such a way, but it seems truer to me. I did take some of the suggestions for semi-colons and turn them into separate sentences.

    “I don’t know what that means, “given it up.” It sounds like he gave away the alcohol, except really he did the opposite. Do you mean that he gave up trying to avoid buying any alcohol?”

    It actually has nothing to do with the alcohol. This sentence refers to the shopping. Barrett gave up his attempt when he was met by the flood of sympathy. He didn’t want to deal with it so he left.

    “A “limp” smile? That’s a very odd description, as I don’t think smiles can be limp.”

    I’ve seen limp smile in other written works before, and it was always a description I liked.

    “The well wasn’t relevant to the stormy weather, and I rearranged the sentence because the description was confusing otherwise. ”

    Part of the reason this was confusing is because it was a “wall” and not a “well.” My bad.

    “Its proportions were humanoid, but its hands ended in claws and its face narrowed almost to a point”

    I doubt Wesson knows the word humanoid exists, much less ever use it in a sentence. Again, technical correctness versus character voice.

    “A closer look revealed that the foliage was actually coming out of the thing’s skin.”

    My sage teacher Aunt once told me the word “that” was useless clutter that could often be omitted. As you say: less words, same meaning equals better.

    “Is his hair blond, or isn’t it? There doesn’t seem to be any reason for ambiguity here.”

    There actually is a reason. Color is more subjective than one might think. I’ve always held that my natural hair color is blond, but I’ve met several people over the years that swear it’s light brown. If Kimber’s hair is significantly light enough to be blond is up the reader, I don’t particularly care how they view it. Indeed, there will be another chapter where two characters express different opinions on the color.

    Don’t sweat the amount of suggestions, the little things often make the most difference. As I’ve hard it said, the awesome is in the details.

  8. yinyang said,

    “It actually has nothing to do with the alcohol. This sentence refers to the shopping. Barrett gave up his attempt when he was met by the flood of sympathy. He didn’t want to deal with it so he left.”

    Oh. Well, the “it” is confusing, because the nearest object is the liquor. I would change the wording to make it clear that Barrett is referring to the shopping.

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