Fan Fiction—Why So Bad?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: why waste time on Wattpad reading bad stories? Well, it’s called not having a book or desperate times, etc. Don’t judge me! At any rate, I’ve read a couple ‘stories’ starting one of my favorite bands (back off!) and the sheer awfulness is incredible.

Horrible writing (acknowledged bu the author but not fixed), same plot (crush falls in love with her, want to have sex but gosh they need to get married first or at least engaged and then they do it but shucks the birth control failed and now she’s pregnant, he’s happy), blah blah blah.

And these types of stories are celebrated on the site and or turned into published books and/or movies. WTF? I mean, seriously.

Maybe there’s decent writing on there, I don’t know. It’s a young person’s site, feels like.

NaNoWriMo Aftermath

I won–yay me! 50+ thousand words that won’t ever go anywhere! Who’s with me??  Ha ha But seriously–it’s pretty much a character study, if I’m being kind to myself. I like the characters, but as far as plot–my writing has always been character driven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make life a bit difficult sometimes.

It’s fairly easy for me to develop a character and even a backstory (ha!) but when it comes time for the guy to do something and wrap it up, that’s where I seem to falter. Unless I make a huge effort to outline or otherwise have at least a rough idea of where I want things to do. I’m slow.

The other day one of my kids said, “I don’t understand how you’re not published yet.”

Let me tell you kid–maybe I don’t want it bad enough to do all the things my soul shrinks from doing. Maybe I fear the attention, the possibility of rejection, on and on. I would like to see my name on the cover of a book, but what if I don’t. I enjoy the writing that I do, it’s fun and if it doesn’t ever go anywhere, will that be an epic tragedy? No.

Maybe I haven’t found my niche in writing. I have written a variety of types with varying degrees of success. I used to write short stories and writing longer was hard. Now, I can write on and on, and the shorter form seems intimidating.

Anyway–I do plan to get back to The Bloody Ribbon and continue the rewrite, and work on Remnants as well (that one needs more planning/thinking). Right now, though, Mr. Pike keeps hollering for his story to be told (plotless!) and that is where I continue. It’s good practice, anyhow. And you never know what could develop. He’s finally happy and content, so now something bad needs to happen.

 

Character Playlist

It’s November, and that means it’s National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo!  For thirty days, November 1-30, participants write daily in an attempt to churn out a 50,000 word novel. It’s fun, if you don’t let yourself get too stressed about it. I’ve done NaNoWriMo six times and won twice, in 2009 and 2011. Go me!

So anyway, I saw this thing on the site (nanowrimo.org) that mentioned character playlists, and I thought, what? Seriously? That sounds like fun!  I made two playlists not long after. The first was easy, as the character I had in mind I’ve been writing about for years. He’s the main subject of my first novel (the one languishing on my harddrive that I look at occasionally but nevermind) and the songs I chose describe him perfectly. The second, which is about the character I’m writing about now…it was tough. I don’t know him well enough yet. Anyway, here’s the playlist of songs that (I think) describe the main character of my current NaNoWriMo project: (no particular order)

  1. Here With Me–Susie Suh and Robot Koch–I heard this song on an episode of ‘Blacklist’ and it immediately caught my attention with its lyrical and musical longing. Perfect!
  2.  Forever–Aesthetic Perfection–A song of wishful thinking
  3. Bitter Years–Aesthetic Perfection–perfectly describes the childhood of R
  4. The Fairy Queen–Z. 629 Chaconne “Dance for the Chinese Man and Woman”–Henry Purcell–Happy times, few and far between
  5. You Keep Me From Breaking Apart–Apoptygma Berzerk–An ode to love
  6. Drive–Assemblage 23–A  man’s torment
  7. Summer Overture–Clint Mansell–From ‘Requiem For a Dream’
  8. Dress Me When I Bleed–De/Vision--Lover
  9. I’m Not Afraid–Emigrate, feat. Cardinal Copa–He’s not afraid of anything
  10. Ship of Fools–Erasure–People are stupid sometimes
  11. Breathe–Erasure–Obsessive love
  12. Lithium–Evanescence–Mental problems
  13. Hurt–Johnny Cash–Obvious
  14. Destroy Everything–Ladytron–He can’t help it
  15. Numb–Linkin Park–Suffocating
  16. Ophelia–the Lumineers–Hopeful, maybe
  17. Hope–Matriarch–You can break free of the past with hope
  18. Apologize–OneRepublic–Sometimes it’s too late to apologize
  19. Running Up That Hill–Placebo–Loss
  20. Send Me an Angel–Real Life–He needs one
  21. Unchained Melody–the Righteous Brothers–He really loves her
  22. Paint It Black–The Rolling Stones–Things are bad in his head
  23. Without You–Seabound–He can’t imagine life without her
  24. Only When You Leave–Spandau Ballet–Only after she’s gone does he regret it
  25. Ring of Fire–Wall of Voodoo–Their relationship was a burning ring of fire
  26. Standing–VNV Nation–Wishing they’d last forever
  27. Approaching Lightspeed–Wolfsheim–He’s losing her

 

 

NaNoWriMo

Haven’t done this crazy 30-day writing for some time. It’s fun but stressful at the same time. Winning means nothing except you have 50,000 words of something that could turn into a real book, if you’re willing to put in the time.

I decided to do it this year because I’m feeling pretty stuck with Blood Moon The Bloody Ribbon but still need to write. So, nothing serious, just stretching my ability.

Continue reading “NaNoWriMo”

Let Them Eat Cake

In honor of Halloween…

 

LET THEM EAT CAKE

By W.S. Ribelin

It was October 30, our father’s birthday. Traditionally, all of us kids gathered at the family mansion to celebrate the day, birthday cake and all. It was something I had always dreaded, especially since Mother had passed on. Father had become even harder to deal with. But now, God rot him, he was dead as well, and today was the reading of the will.

Missy hadn’t wanted to read the will on that day, saying something about bad luck. She always was the nervous one. Not that he didn’t make me nervous. On the contrary, I think I walked around with a permanent hunch to my shoulders, anticipating a blow or sharp word.

Anyway, James and I managed to convince our sister that Father’s birthday was the logical choice, as it would be exactly a year since he departed and also, he’d set it up with his lawyer that way, so it didn’t really matter what any of us wanted.

I arrived last, as befitting my position as the youngest, parking my late model clunker next to the others in the driveway. Father had been firm in his belief that his children make it on their own with no help from him or his money. Selfish bastard.

Rain pelted the top of my head, plastering my hair to my skull. I couldn’t help glancing over at the family cemetery, my eyes drawn to the last stone on the end. Strange. The grave looked disturbed…I shook the thought right out of my head. That was such impossibility it did not even deserve attention. The rain was playing a trick, that was all.

Inside I handed my dripping coat to the butler whose name I could never remember, and walked down the hallway, my heels loud on the polished floor.

The library door opened beneath my hand, and the familiar smells of cigars and old leather filled my nostrils.

James and Missy were there, standing in opposite corners, unhappy looks on their round faces.

“What the hell took you so long?” James demanded, raking a hand through his thinning hair. He looked the business man in his three piece suit.

“I’m here now, so let’s get started,” I said, and took a seat. Missy gave me a horrified look.

“What are you doing? You can’t sit in that chair,” she hissed, eyes almost popping out of her head.

“Sure I can. Who’s going to stop me? Father doesn’t need it anymore.” I grinned, and my sister made a noise and covered her face.

“L…leave her alone,” James said, and I shrugged. I stroked the smooth leather of the armrest, thinking I might have to take it with me. I could use a chair like that in my office.

“Ahem.” Mr. Jennings cleared his throat. “If we could get started now?” Mr. Jennings had been my father’s lawyer for the last thirty years, and he was one cold S.O.B.

My sibling pulled out chairs as far away from me as possible, and Mr. Jennings stood by the fireplace and opened a folder.

“Let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we? You three are here because of your inheritance.”

“Of course we are,” James said, leaning forward. “So let’s get on with it.” He rested his palms on his thighs and waited.

“Very well,” Jennings said, placing a pair of reading glasses on his patrician nose.

“As you know, I’ve been your father’s legal advisor for a very long time. And, if I may take the liberty, I have also been his main confidant.” I rolled my eyes, trying to look bored. My shoulders were tight, though, because I knew my father wouldn’t pass up one last chance to screw us over.

“His last request to me was… how shall I put it?” Jennings paused and looked at each of us in turn. His eyes were so black the pupil wasn’t visible. Creepy.

“Come on, Jennings,” I interrupted, tired of the melodrama. “Out with it. What do we have to do to get our hands on the cash?”

Jennings wrinkled his nose at my crudeness. “Simply eat a birthday cake,” he said, and motioned behind him. The butler hurried in carrying a large silver tray. On the tray was a cake. A cake covered with blood-red frosting.

“Eat that cake? That’s it?” Missy sounded amazed, and relieved. She sat up a little straighter in her chair and actually smiled at me. I didn’t return it.

“That’s it,” Jennings said, smiling unpleasantly. “Although there is one thing you should know about this particular cake.”

“What’s that?” James asked warily. He, too, suspected something. Our father was fond of practical jokes, the malicious kind that made people cry.

“Your father insisted on being a part of the cake, if you’ll pardon the pun.” Jennings laughed, and James grabbed his arm, wrinkling the elegant black suit.

“Quit playing games, old man, and tell us.” Jennings narrowed his eyes and yanked back his arm. James didn’t back down, though, and I felt a moment of admiration for my brother. There was a backbone in there somewhere after all.

“Very well. In order for the three of you to receive the money, you must consume the entire cake–every single crumb.”

“And if we don’t?” Missy asked, eyes darting nervously. She twisted a strand of her mousy brown hair around a finger, a childhood habit our father had tried in vain to break. One of the only times he’d ever failed.

“Then your share will be divided between the remaining siblings, provided they meet the terms.”

“So there’s a chance one of us could get all 50 million,” I said slowly, and Jennings nodded.

“Minus my fees, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Oh, and there is just one more thing,” Jennings said, and he was really enjoying this. “As I said before, your father wanted to be a part of this, and he is. He’s at the center of the cake.”

“At the center….you don’t mean….” James stuttered, face white.

“Yes, I do mean. The cake was baked with your father’s head in the center.”

Missy screamed, fingers tangled in her hair. James’s mouth was an O of disgusted surprise. Me? It didn’t surprise me. Or at least not much. It was just the kind of nasty, tasteless joke my father had always enjoyed playing on his children.

Fascinated, I went closer, unable to take my eyes off of it. Even Missy crept closer, hand pressed to her mouth.

Across the top of the cake, piped in white frosting, was a message: Love, Daddy. I wondered who had actually dug up the grave and baked this nauseating dessert.

“He can’t do this, can he?” Missy pleaded, tugging on Jennings’ sleeve.

“Madam, he can do whatever the hell he wants.”

“I hope its chocolate,” I said, feeling a grin playing around my mouth.

“I can’t do this,” Missy whispered desperately, digging at her face with her lacquered fingernails.

I picked up the knife the butler had provided and brought it down right through the center of the cake. The blade made a loud clunk and Missy moaned and swayed.

James looked at me grimly. “Let’s get to it.”

“Righto, brother. One piece of birthday cake coming up.” I sliced him a thick piece and tossed it on one of my mother’s antique china plates. James picked up the plate and stared at it. Chocolate had never been his favorite.

“It’s your mother’s recipe,” Jennings commented, and Missy did faint then, falling to the carpet with a muffled thump. Neither of us looked around.

“I’m going to win,” James told me, eating his piece in two bites. I ate mine in one and dug into the cake with my hands, stuffing my mouth. The cake had a funny taste, but I’d eat anything for fifty million dollars. Hell, I’d lick the plate clean for that kind of money.

“You haven’t the balls,” I said, and he tore off half the cake, exposing part of the head. Rotted skin, now cooked through and through, clung in places to the forehead. The bone shone wetly in the dim light and I heard James swallow hard.

“What’s the matter? Gonna toss your cookies?”

“Bite me.” My brother grabbed another handful, and this time what was left of our father’s face stared out at us. Yellowing teeth grinned through bits of chocolate, and I laughed.

“Hey, look! Dad’s enjoying the cake, too!”

“You’re disgusting,” James said, nostrils flaring. He kept swallowing, choking down the vomit I knew rose in his throat every time he took a bite.

I have to give my brother credit, though. It wasn’t until a long, grey hair got caught in his teeth that he gave in and puked all over the priceless Persian rug. But I didn’t mind; you can buy a lot of rugs with fifty million dollars.

Now my father’s skull sits in the center of my desk in the library. It is very shiny and very smooth. And when I take it in my hands and lovingly run my tongue over the coolness, it tastes ever so slightly of chocolate.

Graphic Novels

For the last month or so, I’ve been consuming graphic novels mostly. If you were to look at my Goodreads challenge, you’d see that the last 15 books have been graphic novels ranging from Vampire Knight manga (1-15) to a Batman and Superman video game offshoot to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t know why I  can’t find an actual novel I want to read. Must just be a phase I’m going through.

What about you? Do you make room for a graphic novel?

Book Review–Winston Graham’s Poldark

Most people have heard of the BBC series “Poldark” on the streaming channel Prime. It’s a drama set in the 1700’s and concerns a soldier named Ross Poldark who comes home to Cornwall from fighting in the American War of Independence, only to discover that his sweetheart believed him dead and is to marry his cousin Francis. How he deals with that rejection and scratching a living from mining, along with love and all the rest, makes for a very entertaining period drama.

But we’re not gonna talk about all that! No, we are going to talk about the source material, the first 7 books in a series  by Winston Graham.

The first book, Ross Poldark, introduces our hero, Ross, as he’s travelling back home to Cornwall, scarred in both face and mind. He goes immediately to his uncle’s home, and crashes dinner. There, he is delighted to see the lovely Elizabeth, but that delight soon turns to heartbreak, as he learns she is to marry his cousin Francis, a weak-minded man whose jealousy of his good looking cousin will destroy whatever happiness might have been possible in the marriage.

Ross returns to his crumbling home, bereft of both the love that kept him going through the war and immediate family, as his father has died while he was away. Proud to a fault, Ross is quick to anger and a man prone to violence.

The second book, Demelza, covers the time after Ross and Demelza are wed, and shows the struggle of two people struggling to live together amid starvation, heartache and death.

Jeremy, the third book, is a slim volume that while good, feels a bit like a filler. Also, for some reason the author chooses not to show the shipwreck but instead we only see the aftermath, which I found to be a bit annoying. Still, this book takes the reader further into the lives of Ross and Demelza Poldark, where misunderstandings abound and mistakes are made, just like in real life.

Warleggen, named after Ross’s chief enemy George Warleggan, stirred up some strong emotion from me. I was so angry at Ross in this book (he can be a real jerk!), and it is a good author who can make me feel that long after I close the book. I have been very impressed with the quality of the writing in this series.

The Black Moon deals with the aftermath of Ross being horrible and so undeserving of Demelza, who while not a saint, definitely is a person of forgiveness and standards. So is Ross, but his pride often leads him astray.

The Four Swans, book 6, shows the reader the four women who are in Ross’s life: Demelza, his wife; Elizabeth; Caroline, Dr. Enys’s love; and Morwenna, a cousin of Elizabeth. I’m not quite sure why she’s included, as she had very little contact with Ross, but ok.

Book 7, which I am reading now, is named The Angry Tide, a fitting title. I’ve not been impressed with Graham’s titles before now, as they always felt lazy to me and had little to do with the actual book. But this time, it is an excellent choice. There is a lot of anger between Ross and Demelza in this book.

After this book I am going to take a break, because I have so many books lying around that I want to read, and need to before I have to return them to the library. I’m also watching the series, and most likely annoying my husband with my comments of “It wasn’t like that in the book! Too fast!” etc. Ha ha

I highly recommend these books even if you don’t watch the Amazon series and especially if you do. The person adapting these books for television is doing an amazing job.

Overall, the Poldark saga is a  solid five stars.

Change of Heart

This story is another assignment for the writing course, a sweet, doofy story that makes me cringe now. But, whatever! Gotta start somewhere, right?

 

Change of Heart

I watched Kyle drooling over Sheila Connor with distaste. What in the world did he see in her? Okay, maybe she was blonde and blue-eyed and maybe she did look great in her cheerleading outfit, but weren’t brains important too? I mean, the girl was total fluff.

Kyle and I were buds. I mean, we were tight. He told me everything and I did likewise. That we were of the opposite sex never came up. Maybe he wasn’t aware that I was female. Tall, skinny and flat as a board, sometimes even I had trouble believing it. You couldn’t get away from the fact that Kyle was all male. Tall and wiry, his biceps bulged out of the tank tops he always wore. Bottle green eyes and sandy hair topped it off. To die for!

And so, after years of hanging around together, playing baseball, dunking each other at the neighborhood pool, I had a problem: I was totally gone on him. Now whenever I saw that fantastic grin of his I longed to kiss those wonderfully kissable lips. But he hadn’t a clue how I felt.

I had to let him know my feelings had changed. But how? Guys had always been just people to joke around with and tackle during a touch football game. But, I told myself, some things are instinctive. I then observed some girls in action and got an idea.

“Hey, Kyle, do you like to go canoeing?” I asked, all innocence. We were working on his beloved ’76 Nova, up to our elbows in grease.

“Oh, yeah, Lily. That really gives me a workout.”

“You know, my cousin has a canoe. He lets me borrow it anytime.”

“Hey, do you think you could get it Saturday?”

“No prob, Kyle.” Yes!

“Great, cause me and Gary have been dying to go down Crystal River.”

Total bomb out. Okay, I’d use my feminine wiles. I wasn’t sure exactly what those were, but I think it had something to do with the way Shelia Connor looked in that short skirt. I ransacked my room, searching for something feminine and sexy. Jeans, flannel shirts, and baggy T-shirts, that was it. Not exactly Fredericks of Hollywood. But all was not lost. Maybe in Mom’s closet…

Yes! I found a black leather skirt from her wilder days and a shiny, white silk top, black nylons and black heels. Perfect. “You look as good as Shelia,” I told my reflection.

I clumped down the sidewalk in my ensemble, headed for the park where Kyle was shooting hoops. A few kids stopped and stared but I figured they were impressed with my new look and ignored them. The only bad thing was I caught one incredibly high heel in a crack and almost fell on my keister.

Once there, I parked myself against a tree, head thrown back as I waited for him to notice me.
In a flash he dropped the ball and came running. It was working already!

“Lily, is that you?”

“Of course,” I purred. “What do you think of my new look?” I held my arms out and turned slowly so he could see for himself how feminine and sexy I was. Instead, he burst out laughing.
Not the reaction I was hoping for.

“What is so funny?” I demanded, looking down at my clothing. Nothing seemed to be out of place.

“Ha, ha, ha! You, Lily. You’ll definitely win first prize with that costume. Where’s the party?”

“Oh, just testing Halloween costumes. It’s never too early to start, you know.” I laughed weakly. Snickering, he went back to his game.

Obviously that didn’t work. I tried not to let it bother me, ’cause I knew I’d shocked him. Back home I flopped down on my bed and tried to think. Hmm. Maybe if I just went for the direct approach and kissed him. No, I couldn’t do that! My face burned just thinking about it. I guess the only thing to do was go over and talk to him. I mean, after all, we were friends, weren’t we? And friends can talk about anything, right?

When I reached Kyle’s house, the hood of his Nova up and all I could see was his backside. That was okay, but I really needed to talk to the other side.

“Kyle, I need to talk to you.”

“Now? Can’t it wait? I’m kind of busy here.”
He didn’t even look up, the creep. Now what? Yell at him? Wait? I didn’t think so. I stepped boldly forward and grabbed his shoulder. When he looked up, surprised, I planted a good one right on the kisser.

“You kissed me!” He stared at me, touched his mouth.

I nodded, gulped loudly. My face flamed. I hadn’t planned on doing that, but when those green eyes turned my way, all my carefully rehearsed words flew out the window.

“I can’t believe you just did that.” Kyle turned away from me.

To my horror I burst into tears. I never cried, but I was going all out now. I covered my face with my hands, too embarrassed to face him. I’d blown it. Totally. Now he’d never want to be around me again.

“Lily, don’t cry. I’m sorry. I’m a jerk.” I felt him touch my arm and peeked through my fingers.

“You just surprised me, that’s all.” Kyle pulled my hands down and lightly kissed my lips. “Here,” he said, handing me a wrench. “How about giving me a hand?”

I took the wrench and hunkered down beside him, grinning like an idiot.

Joyride

This is the first story I posted to Writing.com, which was the start of my writing journey. That site helped me grow so much as a writer.

 

Joyride

 

Adrian yanked open the door of Marc’s green BMW and climbed into the back seat. As the car sped away from the curb, he saw his mother watching from the kitchen window. Her eyes were sad.

Ever since his father took off, she’d been moping around the house, hardly cooking, wanting to know everything Adrian was doing and who with. It was getting pretty annoying.

“Your old lady give you a hard time?” Marc asked. Beside him, Gordie giggled.

“Yeah, did you have to ask your mommy if you could go for a ride, Adrian?”

“Shut up, Gordie,” Adrian muttered, trying to find a comfortable place to put his long legs. He knew it was stupid, but just once he’d like to be the one in the front seat with Marc. It was like the place of honor, so why was Gordie always up there? He was a total and complete imbecile. Everybody knew that. Marc didn’t seem to mind, though, so there wasn’t really anything Adrian could do about it.

“What’s the plan for tonight, Marc?”

“Something special, Adrian. Show him, Gord.”

Gordie grinned, flashing teeth desperately in need of an orthodontist, and reached into his jacket. He brought his arm up and over the seat and stuck a huge black pistol right in Adrian’s face.

“Cool, ain’t it, Panzer? Cool! Too cool for you!”

“That’s enough, Gordie,” Marc said, grabbing the gun away. Adrian sagged, adrenaline rushing through his body.

“What he hell was that? You trying to kill me, you ignorant ape?” Gordie flipped him the bird, dark eyebrows pulled down over his black eyes, lip pushed out. Adrian’s pulse beat so hard in his head that he could barely hear Marc talking.

“Listen, Adrian,” he said, glancing in the rear view mirror. “You know that convenience store on Elm Street? The one Jed used to work at?”

“You mean the One Stop Shop?”

“Yeah. That’s it.” Marc smoothly turned a corner, and Adrian marveled at how smooth the expensive car ran.

“What about it?” As soon as the words left his mouth Adrian knew. It just clicked in his mind, and for a minute his brain stopped working.

“We need beer,” Marc continued. “And I don’t have any money, so…” His voice trailed off, cold eyes watchful in the mirror. For Marc to say he had no money was a joke. Adrian would have laughed if his mouth weren’t so dry. Marc ALWAYS had money. You only had to look at his clothing and the car he drove to know he was just rolling in dough.

“I’ve got enough for a six-pack,” Adrian began. “We don’t have to–”

“That’s not the point, Adrian,” Marc interrupted, and the temperature in the car dropped. “The point is, hitting that place is our caper for the night, get it? Unless, of course, you’re afraid of what your mommy might say.”

Adrian chewed the inside of his cheek. There was a lot riding on this, he knew. His whole reputation hinged on this prank, that much was clear.

“He won’t do it,” Gordie jeered. “He’s too much of a goody-goody.” He pursed his thick lips and folded his hands. “Maybe he needs to pray about it,” he mocked, and Marc laughed.

The blood rushed to Adrian’s head and he spoke through clenched teeth. “Let’s do it.”

Marc parked across the street from the gas station. Adrian felt a weird sort of excitement, something forbidden.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” Marc said, and Adrian tore his eyes away from the store with an effort. “Gordie, you get the money. Nothing fancy. Just tell him to put it in a bag.”

“And if he don’t, bang! Bang!” Gordie mimed shooting the gun and Adrian shuddered. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck although the evening was cool.

“Adrian, you’re the lookout. I want you to case the store first. Keep the clerk from getting nervous, you know.”

“I don’t know, Marc,” Adrian said, and Marc raised his eyebrows.

“What is it you don’t know?”

“Panzer is a pansy, Panzer is a pansy,” Gordie chanted in a sing-song voice. Adrian flushed.

“I mean, a gun?” He meant Gordie with a gun, but Marc either didn’t understand or pretended not to.

“Yeah, Adrian, a gun. Kind of hard to rob a store without a GUN.” Adrian gave up then. The scorn in Marc’s voice cut him too deeply to ignore. He knew if he chickened out, it would be all over the school tomorrow. Gordie he didn’t care about, but Marc was the one who mattered, and if he decided Adrian wasn’t cool anymore, then Adrian wasn’t.

“So, are we all going in there?” Adrian tried to smile but his mouth wouldn’t work. Marc smirked.

“You and Gordie. I’m the get away car.”

Gordie and Adrian got out of the car, Gordie capering like the idiot he was, waving that big black gun around.

“Put that away, you idiot,” Adrian hissed,earning a dirty look. But the ape stuck it in the waistband of his baggy jeans at least. Gordie strutted across the street, chin up, swaggering proudly. Adrian followed more slowly, each step harder than the last one.

Inside the clerk hulked behind the counter, eyeing them as they entered. They were the only ones in the store. Gordie made as if to go right up there and Adrian yanked him down an aisle.

“Hey! Leggo me!”

“Listen, jackass,”Adrian whispered. “If we don’t act like we’re going to buy something, the clerk will know something’s up.” After a minute Gordie nodded and grabbed a six-pack of Miller Light and shuffled back up to the front.

Adrian drifted to the doors, checking the pumps.
Good. Still empty. Marc’s car idled across the street. When he turned toward the counter, the clerk was asking Gordie for some I.D.

“Here’s my I.D.,” Gordie crowed, and pulled out the pistol. The clerk’s eyes got big.

“Hey, I don’t want any trouble.”

“I want the money. Put it in a bag. Now.” Gordie waved the gun in the guy’s face.

“Okay. Just a minute. I gotta get a bag. There’s one right down here.” The clerk reached beneath the counter.

Adrian went cold. “Gordie! He’s gonna–!”

But it was too late. The guy whipped out a sawed-off shotgun and pulled the trigger. BOOM! Gordie flew backwards into the Dolly Madison display, spilling snack cakes across the floor.

For a second Adrian thought Gordie was okay, maybe shot in the shoulder or something. Then he saw it: a red pool leaking from beneath his head, spreading in an ever-widening circle.

His stomach twisted and he went down on his hands and knees, spewing his supper. One of his hands landed in the wet and he uttered a strangled cry, scooting backwards until he hit the wall.

“Don’t you move!” The clerk screamed, pointing the shotgun at him. “You stay right there or I’ll blow your freaking head off, just like your friend over there.”

He’s not my friend, Adrian wanted to say, but the words eluded him. He heard screeching tires and knew Marc was cutting out. He scrubbed his hands on his jeans over and over, trying to get the red off.

The cops burst in a minute later, stepping over Gordie like he was a piece of furniture. One of the officers slammed Adrian down hard on the cold floor and wrenched his arms behind his back. His face was inches from Gordie’s destroyed head. A coppery smell filled his nostrils. His stomach lurched, and he puked again.

The officer yanked him roughly to his feet. He seemed to be talking or something, but Adrian couldn’t hear past the roaring in his ears. He just kept remembering his mother’s eyes as he was led to the waiting patrol car. He knew her eyes were going to become even sadder.

Later, after the humiliating experience of being fingerprinted and photographed, Adrian was led to a small, box like room. Two men in white dress shirts and ties waited inside.

“Sit down, Adrian,” one said. He was tall, with a receding hairline and a goatee. He smiled at Adrian and indicated the folding chair drawn up to a small table. The other man, stocky and blonde, glowered and said nothing.

Adrian sat down on the hard chair and swallowed hard. No one spoke for a moment.

“Okay, Adrian,” Goatee said. “Why don’t you tell us what went down tonight?”

“Am I going to jail?” Adrian couldn’t believe the tiny voice that came out of his mouth belonged to him.

“That depends,” Goatee answered.

“On what?”

“On what you tell us. If you don’t tell us everything, or you lie to us, things could get really bad for you, Adrian. Real bad. You could be charged as an adult, you know. Your friend was killed. His parents could sue.”

“He wasn’t my friend, and I didn’t kill him!”

“If he wasn’t your friend,” Blondie said, “then why did you hold up that store with him?”

Adrian stared at the table. He didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know about Marc; should he tell them?

“We’ve already talked to the D.A., Adrian,” the blonde detective said suddenly, getting in Adrian’s face. “She wants to charge you with armed robbery and send you to Oak Dale. You know what Oak Dale is, don’t you?”

Oak Dale was the juvenile detention center in the next town, known for its violent reputation.

“Yeah, I know,” Adrian said, chewing his lip.

“A pretty boy like you would get chewed up and spit out,” the blonde detective said smugly.

Adrian stared at the table and made his decision. “There was someone else,” he said slowly, and began telling them about Marc.
** *** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Adrian walked out of the courtroom with his mother, totally humiliated. The judge had made him feel like a coward and an idiot. He knew he ought to consider himself lucky he wasn’t going to Oak Dale, but it was hard.

“Don’t worry,” his mother said, taking his arm. “Three years probation isn’t so bad. It could have been a lot worse.”

“I know,” he muttered, jerking his arm away. But it could have been a lot better if he had a rich father like Marc. Marc’s dad had hired a hot shot lawyer who’d convinced the judge it was all a huge mistake or something, and Marc ended up without any probation at all. The robbery had been his idea, too. It wasn’t fair.

Adrian didn’t realize he’d said the words out loud until his mother smiled sadly.

“Nothing’s fair, Adrian, especially for people like us.”

Adrian stepped out into the warm sunshine and took his mother’s hand.