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Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


IN

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Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


The Astral Plane
(1074 words)

The city lay before them. Strange how a single star can steal the eye, and change the shape of the night. Paul sat on the edge of his chair as the roof party continued unabated all around him, unable to stop staring at the single star overhead that had somehow managed to penetrate the orange haze of the urban night sky. The man next to him, who he seemed to remember was some distant college acquaintance, turned to start up a conversation, but hesitated when he saw how Paul had his head thrown back and was gazing skyward. Paul could feel the man’s eyes on him, and the idea of having to suffer through even a minute of conversation with this semi-stranger sent a shiver down his back. It was clear the man had just finished a conversation with someone else and was now desperately looking for anyone he vaguely recognized whom he could subject to 15 minutes of casual conversation. No doubt the only significant detail about Paul’s life the man remembered would be his degree in music, and that would invariably lead to a conversation about Paul’s career. And whenever Paul’s referred to his slight achievements as a “career,” it was all he could do to force the years of half-baked cantatas, unfinished jingles, and reams of wasted staff paper that littered his apartment like newspaper lining a bird cage. Would Paul admit to this man that it had been almost four months since he had touched his piano, or any instrument for that matter, or would he circumvent the truth in favor of the much used and suitably ambiguous “I’m doing fine.”

Paul, to his benefit, most likely could have weathered such an encounter, but could not draw his attention away from the star because right in that very moment, the star had begun to sing. The notes through Paul’s head were unlike anything he had ever heard. Paul also somehow knew it would slip out of his mind if he averted his gaze from the star. This sudden realization, that had materialized as quickly as the alien music, filled Paul with untold dread, and he imagined he would be willing to wring the man’s neck if it meant he could have so much as a kazoo to replicate the heavenly music. Paul suddenly became frantic. He could still hear the unearthly melody, but how long could it last? All of a sudden, Paul shot up out of his chair, pushed the semi-acquaintance aside, and heaved himself over the edge of the roof onto the fire escape There was a moment of shocked silence as the dinner party guests watched Paul disappear over the edge, but their sudden cries of surprise were barely audible to Paul, who had already climbed down four stories and was nearing the street. All the while, Paul kept his gaze locked on the single, shining star.

Paul hit the pavement and rushed into the street to hail a cab. He knew he would barely be able to afford a ride even a couple of blocks, but the subway was out of the question. Up ahead he saw a garbage truck stopped at a red light, and after a moment of hesitation he rushed down the street jumped onto the back of the truck as it lurched forward into the intersection. He gripped the handle on the back of the until his knuckles turned white, and he felt his panic momentarily subside as he could keep his eyes on the sky as the truck careened downtown.

The music continued on unabated as Paul sprinted the final block to his building. There was nothing particularly unfamiliar about the individual notes that comprised the song, but he could make little sense of their particular arrangement. All he could do was hum along with the tune that in his apartment he could find some way to make the alien melody unforgettable. He pulled out his keys and fumbled with the locks on the front door of his building. The astral music was quickly fading as he rushed past his overstuffed mailbox and up the stairs. He was in a near frenzy by the time he reached the fourth floor landing. The music was only a faint murmur in the back of his mind at this point, and he was close to tears as he struggled to whistle those parts of it he remembered. However, in his blind determination to reach his apartment door he had failed to notice the yellow “wet floor” sign the janitor had left out and as soon as his feet hit the hallway he was sent sailing through the air. The next split second was a painful blur as crashed full tilt into the radiator at the end of the hall. In his last moments of consciousness he managed to slowly turn over onto his back, and he was amazed to see that there, bright as ever and visible through the small window above the radiator, was his singing star. The melody roared back into his head, bringing a smile to his face as he slipped into unconsciousness.

When he awoke his hazy memories of the night before seemed like nothing less than a dream. However, as he hauled himself up from the floor and let himself into his apartment, he recalled the faintest hint of the strange melody. The brief snatch of the tune escaped his lips as an unconscious whistle, but as soon as he heard the notes he was positive they must be the last traces of the forgotten song. Without taking off his coat or even closing the door to his apartment, he sat down at an electric piano with a sheet of paper and quickly sketched out the few fragments of the melody that he remembered. All that morning he worked tirelessly trying to reconstruct even one more bar of the alien song, but try as he might, he could not dredge up another note.

Paul was tired and he had not yet bandaged up the gash on his head, but as he sat in his kitchen brewing a pot of coffee and listening to the thrum of the city slowly coming to life, he couldn’t help but feel grateful for the small scrap of the song he had managed to recall. The sun rose on a new day, just like any other. It was done. Not well, but close enough

Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


IN. I got my first taste of getting whooped in TD, and I'm ready for more.

Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


Is it too late to ask for a crit for this week? I'm not exactly sure what the guidelines are.

Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


Creek Run

(1599 Words)

It had been 6 hours since he had burned down the gas station and there was still a faint smell of the fire about him. As he hauled himself up and over the guard rail of the old covered bridge he thought he heard the sound of a police siren in the distance. After a slight moment of hesitation he relaxed his grip and dropped into the stream below. It was mid-July, and the air was dense and humid. The cool water that came up to his chest eased the ache in his bones and washed away the sweat and dirt that was caked on his skin. Downstream of the bridge the water was shallower, and for the next hour Joe Dalton scrambled down the creek bed until he was further from his home than he had ever been before.
The land Joe Dalton grew up on lay a quarter mile north of the town of Andersonville. His childhood home had once been part of a large plantation, but no one had worked the land he and his father had lived on for a generation or more. One of the last things Joe's father had done before his death was build a large carport with a corrugated steel roof so he'd have someplace to put his dying Ford pickups and a pair of dirtbikes. Joe's father died when the boy was nine, shot in the woods north of Andersonville for poaching on private land. No one ever told Joe what his father did for money, but before he died he had taught Joe how go fishing with an old car battery and a set of jumper cables.
There were more than a few folks who, as Joe grew up into a mountain of a man not unlike his father, couldn't help but notice that the boy had a proclivity for wrongdoing. As a freshman he was already the largest boy at the local high school, but instead of pursuing football or wrestling, Joe dropped out after a semester and could often be seen driving along the backroads in his father's truck, with the rack full of his father's rifles. He was a keen shot. However the few times he went out hunting with the sons of his father's few friends they complained that he drank too much and had no interest in shooting anything other than beer cans or birds. By the time Joe Dalton would have been a junior in highschool, his homestead on the old plantation had become a place few people in Andersonville ventured, not out of any outright fear, but rather of the deeply unsettling presence that had seemed to settle over the place. The trees around the property were covered in thick, dense spanish moss that blocked any view of the house from the main road. Occasionally a neighbor would drive by and hear the sound of a 12 gauge go off or the revving of a dirt bike engine, but over the years people saw less and less of Joe.
When the Sunoco on North road burned down, Joe was not the first suspect. Had the young sheriff not acted simply on a hunch, or a premonition, or whatever you would call it, Joe Dalton might have had a head start he could have made something out of. Instead, the young sheriff arrived at the Dalton place only a few hours after the crime to find the place empty. The Fords and the dirt bikes were in the carport, and none of the guns seemed to be missing, but what the sheriff did notice was the absence of even a single pair of shoes in the house. Furthermore, in the early morning air, when the damp humidity sets down on Andersonville like a thick quilt, smells have a habit of lingering in the air long after their source has absconded. And on this particular morning, Joe Dalton's house was still filled with a distinct smell of burning.
Joe Dalton moved out of the creek and onto dry land and listened. No sirens. That was good. He reckoned he was still close enough to a road that he would hear approaching squad cars, but that he was deep enough in the woods that the only choice the sheriffs would have would be to hunt him down on foot. And Joe was certain that there were very few men left in Andersonville who could stalk game the way his father had taught him, and of those few, none of them were sheriffs.
For an hour Joe walked along the shores of the creekbed. When he came to a split in the stream, he turned east and walked into the forest. He followed an old, overgrown path for a mile until he came to a clearing that was almost completely hidden by the thick moss that hung from the trees. In the clearing, the dirt path turned into a long sandstone pathway that led up to the porch of a large, white plantation house that was covered in thick tendrils of ivy. The windows along the first floor were boarded up with sturdy wooden planks. Joe pulled a heavy, iron key out of his pocket and unlocked the front door. Inside, the foyer led to a series of large, high ceilinged room that had long been emptied of furniture. The house had been used by Joe Dalton’s father as a secluded place to stay when he went out hunting in the woods around the county. Joe had hoped there would still be canned food and guns in the house, and he was lucky enough to find a Marlin rifle and some canned tuna in a box inside the old fireplace. He slung the rifle over his shoulder and picked up the crate of cans. He then went upstairs into the old master bedroom that looked out on to the front walk. Joe went back downstairs and pulled down one of the old canvas window curtains and went back upstairs and wrapped himself in the curtain and went to sleep.
Burning down the Sunoco had never been Joe’s plan. He had only broken into the station to empty the cash register. But at the moment he was short on patience and not thinking clearly. Of course, Andersonville had never brought out the best in Joe, and on that night he felt as if the dark presence of all his father’s animosity towards the town was hanging over him. After Joe Dalton emptied the cash register, which he had smashed open with a fire extinguisher, he grabbed a box of matches and some lighter fluid and burned the building down. As he was running down the road in the direction of the bridge he turned around only once to watch the flames licking at the overhang of the front awning.
The two sheriffs had crossed the bridge and circled back around Andersonville twice, but still they found no sign of Joe Dalton.
“He ain’t getting far on foot” the older of the two men said. He had a paper dixie cup in the cupholder for his tobacco spit.
“Any dip?” the younger officer asked. The older sheriff pulled a tin of Skoal out of his breast pocket and handed it to his partner.
The younger man had been in favor of going door to door around the town, seeing if anyone might be hiding Joe.. But the older man knew that there wasn’t a single person in Andersonville who would shelter a Dalton.
On their second trip around the town, the older man took a sharp right off of the main road and on to a dirt path that was choked with Spanish moss. After several minutes he switched off the car headlights and eased off the accelerator. He took one hand off the wheel and pulled down the shotgun from the ceiling rack and rested it across his lap.
“We ain’t bringing anybody back to the station” he said. The younger man looked off down the dark road ahead. A bead of sweat formed on his forehead and ran down the side of his head and dropped onto his lapel.
Joe Dalton knew that the sin of his father were also his to bear. After he had grown out of his childhood naivete, he soon came to realize that for many people in Andersonville were happy to have a new Dalton man to hate. Joe had done himself no favors in this regard, and his proclivity towards poaching and other crimes had left him with no friends in the town. Now, sitting huddled up in the bare bedroom of the crumbling old house, the rifle held to his chest, he thought about the town. He could not remember a time where he hadn’t walked the streets of Andersonville without the feeling of stormclouds hanging over him. The dark presence that filled the fields and streams and woods of the county had always been a comfort to him, and like his father he often sought refuge in the dense woods and the old, overgrown plantations. He felt a desire to go to sleep like he had never felt before, as if in doing so the soothing uniformity of the surrounding darkness would envelop and subsume him, making them one and the same. He allowed himself to close his eyes for what he thought was only a moment, but he snapped back awake when he heard a sound from the front of the house. It was a sound that he could only describe as boot heels scraping on sandstone.

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Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012


I know this is late, but sebmojo, your crits are phenomenal. Thanks a lot.

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